Joan Hessayon Award

The House on the Shore is a contender for the 2009 Joan Hessayon Award presented by the Romantic Novelists Association. The Joan Hessayon NWS Award is presented to the best debut novel each year to have come through the specialized and highly selective New Writer’s Scheme and been accepted for publication by a recognized publisher.

Distinguished winners have included Marika Cobbold, Norma Curtis, Linda Taylor and Donna Hay. Many other popular authors owe their start in the industry due to this (unique amongst professional UK writers’ associations) facet of the RNA.

The award is generously sponsored by Dr David Hessayon, in honor of his late wife Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of the New Writers’ Scheme.

The Winner will be announced on the 13th May 2009.

March is Small Press Month

What exactly is a small press? The term is used to describe publishers who have annual sales below a certain limit, or who publish a limited number of titles each year. Small presses make up half the market share of the book publishing industry, and present an opportunity for new writers to break into publishing. They should not be confused with vanity publishers or subsidy presses who require their authors to pay for the privilege of having their book published. Small presses make their profits by selling their books to consumers and not to their authors.

What are the advantages of being published by a small press?

1. Small presses have more freedom. They are not restricted by the same economic values and constraints as the large publishing houses.

2. They can take advantage of modern technology and publish a comparatively smaller run of copies, a practice deemed too costly for the large houses, who must sell large numbers of books in order to earn back their advances.

3. They can specialize in specific genres, such as historical non-fiction, poetry, romance, and erotica.

4. One of the major advantages of working with a small press is that an author can expect to be fully involved in the publishing process, from advertising the book, to deciding on a cover.

5. Small presses respond more quickly and often accept unsolicited manuscripts, whereas larger publishing houses will often only consider manuscripts recommended by an agent.

6. Sometimes it is easier to have a manuscript accepted by a small press than it is a larger publishing house, and for a new writer, that has to be good news.

Can small presses compete with the big houses?

Admittedly, it can be more difficult for a small independent publisher to obtain shelf space in bookstores, partly due to the fact that the larger houses often pay for prominent displays for their top of the list authors. But that’s not to say that it’s impossible.

There are many distribution networks willing to fill the needs of the small press, such as Baker and Taylor’s Distribution Solutions Group, Small Press Distribution and the Publishers Marketing Association. There is nothing to prevent small presses signing up with Neilson Book Data or Gardners Books here in the UK. The Internet is also an effective marketing and sales too.

So come along and help celebrate small press book by visiting your local bookstore, or better yet, take a look at Vanilla Heart’s website.

www.vanillaheartbooksandauthors.com/VHP_Bookstore.html.

You might be pleasantly surprised at the range and number of titles available.

Head hopping: to hop or not to hop!

Have you ever read a scene in a novel and suddenly wondered, ‘Who is thinking this?’ Quite often, it means that the writer has hopped into another character’s head and you, the reader, didn’t follow the shift. When this happens, readers will most likely lay down the book, never to pick it up again.

Some well-established romance authors, such as Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, Julie Garwood, and Lori Wick have mastered this style. But not every author has their expertise or quick-switch style.

For the new writer, mastering the point of view (POV) switch takes time. Just so you know what I’m talking about, let me define POV. Point of view is simply the perspective from which your story is told. This can include first, second or third person, omniscient, limited third person or whatever else is out there.

Head-hopping is not to be confused with multiple points of view. Most books on the craft of writing state that you should only use one POV per scene. However, sometimes it’s necessary to bend the rules. Editors, especially those of category, single title, and suspense romance, are looking for vividly created three-dimensional characters they can relate to, empathize with, or, if necessary, hate. Including both the hero and heroine’s viewpoint not only gives the reader insight into both sides of the developing relationship, it’s also a way to create and maintain, tension, conflict, and suspense. Being able to switch smoothly from one character’s POV at a pivotal moment hooks the reader and keeps them turning pages to find out what happens next.

That said, I’m not saying you should go out and write every paragraph from a different POV. Good writing is important. Too many changes and your readers become confused or just lose interest. They need to bond with your characters, and they can’t do that if you don’t give them enough time with them. Remember; if you must switch POV during scene make sure the switch is smooth.

When you understand the rules, then you can make the right choice for your story, and decide whether you want to be a POV purist, or a head hopper.

To find out which one I am, you’ll just have to read my book!

Valentine’s Day Release

What a busy three months! Life has been on big rush ever since Vanilla Heart accepted my submission for The House on the Shore. Not only did the cover and synopsis appear on Amazon.com and other online bookstores, but it will also be available in libraries in both the UK and USA. WooHoo!!!

The House on the Shore

Set in the Highlands of Scotland, this visually magical tale takes the reader on a journey from the remote shores of Loch Hourn to the singular beauty of Cape Cod.

And for those of you who might be considering buying a copy, here’s a short excerpt:

Her concentration was broken by the shriek of frantic barking. She tore her gaze away from the screen and looked out of the kitchen window. A tall, dark-haired man was making his way up the crescent-shaped beach, doing a weird twisting dance, holding his right arm above his head. With his left he pushed off the two boisterous, snapping collies.

“Oh hell,” she groaned. She threw open the door and shouted. “Ensay! Rhona! Heel!”

The dogs instantly stopped snapping at the stranger’s ankles and ran to their mistress. Anna leaned against the door frame and waited while the figure strode confidently across the grass towards her, his well-muscled body covering the rough ground with long, purposeful strides. His jet black hair showed a little grey at the temples, the cut slightly longer than was considered acceptable for a man she judged to be in his forties. But somehow it suited him.

He stopped a foot from her door, close enough for her to smell the lemon spice of his cologne. Now that she could see him more clearly, she noticed the laughter lines around his eyes and mouth, hinting at a softer side to his character. His body was lean, the outline of his muscles visible through the shirt he wore. A faint white scar creased his right cheek, and she thought it gave his face a handsome rugged look. He gazed at her with dark brown eyes and smiled, slow and warm, and for some reason her breathing quickened.

With just one look she knew he was trouble.

“Hi, there. I know I’m trespassing, but do you think you could ask your dogs not to rip off my thigh?”

Anna drew herself up to her full height, which was barely up to his shoulder. “They’re guard dogs and only doing their duty,” she said stiffly. The dogs sat at her silent signal, but their eyes remained fixed on the stranger.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m having engine trouble and I can’t get a signal.” He indicated his mobile phone.

“That’s because there are no transmitters.”

“Oh, then could I borrow your phone? I need to contact the nearest boatyard for some advice.”

“I don’t have a phone.”

He rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “Look, I haven’t slept for twenty-four hours and I’m beat. Sandpiper, that’s my yacht, developed a problem soon after I left Stornaway.” He paused as her words registered. “Did I hear right? You don’t have a phone?”

“No, I don’t, so I’m afraid I can’t help you. I suggest you weigh anchor, turn your boat around, and head west out of the loch.”

“Perhaps I should’ve introduced myself. I’m Luke Tallantyre, from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.” He offered his hand. She didn’t take it.

“Anna, Anna MacDonald. Yachts are always straying into the loch at this time of year. Their crews seem to think this is some sort of hostel. Well, it’s not, and I still don’t have a phone.”

“Okay, so where do I catch the bus to town?” His eyes lingered on her face. “Oh, no. You’re about to tell me there isn’t a bus either. Aren’t you?”

Anna nodded. The motion sent sunlight gliding through her auburn hair. “That’s right. Welcome to Kinloch Hourn, otherwise known as the Loch of Hell.”

“The name fits,” Luke muttered. “What sort of place doesn’t have a phone or a bus service in this day and age?”

“How about the remotest glen in the Highlands? Up here, one man and his dog constitute a crowd. And before you ask, there are no shops either, unless you count Mrs McCloud in the village, but she only opens on alternate days. The butcher’s van calls every Thursday afternoon, and the library service visits once a month. I think that about covers all the local amenities. Oh yes, there’s a mobile bank too, but that only comes once a fortnight. The school closed last year. But you’re in luck…there’s a hotel and it has a phone.”

“So there is a God after all.”

“However, its twelve miles down the road in that direction,” she replied, pointing vaguely to some distant place.

Book Reviews

As all serious writers know a good review not only boosts your self-esteem, its also good for sales! I thought I’d take a break from working on my current manuscript and share the review for my soon-to-be published novel, The House on the Shore.

www.apexreviews.net

The House On The Shore

Victoria Howard

ISBN: 9781935407249

Vanilla Heart Publishing

Reviewed By Renee Washburn

Official Apex Reviews Rating: **** (4 stars)

Anna MacDonald is looking to start over. She’s just been passed over for a promotion that she’s eagerly awaited – and, to make matters worse, her own boyfriend is the supervisor that snubbed her. To top it all off, the lucky recipient of her desired position just happens to be – of all things – his new lover…ouch…

So, in an effort to wipe the slate clean, she retreats to the Scottish shore, establishing her new residence in an old, yet sturdy house owned by her grandparents. Her only plans? Soak up the splendor of her rustic surroundings and fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a published author. Joined by her trusty Border collies, Ensay and Rhona, Anna couldn’t ask for a more opportune chance to start fresh while mending the broken pieces of her still-aching heart.

Little does she know, though, she won’t have the chance to enjoy her solitude for long. Shortly after her arrival, she makes the acquaintance of the handsome, charming Luke, a successful artist from across the pond, and the chemistry between the two of them can’t be denied for long. Soon caught up in the throes of a passionate love affair, Anna appears to be on the cusp of lasting happiness – but, alas, she eventually learns that bliss and trouble are often flip sides of the same coin, and when an unseen stranger begins escalating his efforts to end her life, she’s suddenly thrust in the midst of a sinister mystery that leaves her wondering just who wants her dead – and why…

The House On The Shore is an enjoyable read. In it, Victoria Howard presents a well-crafted page turner that unfolds at just the right pace, ensuring that the reader’s attention is held captive with each new mysterious development. Howard also does a commendable job of infusing her characters with vivid, palpable personality, framing their inclinations and reactions in the three-dimensional, thus making it easy for readers to relate to them in very real, practical terms.

A quick but compelling read, The House On The Shore is a can’t miss suspense thriller with a surprisingly potent punch, and one that fans of the genre are sure to enjoy.

Finding Time to Write

The question I get asked most often is ‘how do you find time to write’?

In this day and age it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everyday life without the added pressure of writing a book or short story. So just how do you apply the BOSFOK (bum on seat, fingers on keyboard) principle?

The answer is by scheduling the time you have.

Don’t try and fit your writing into your ‘spare time.’ There’s no such thing, especially if you work full time in order to support your family. Study your schedule and designate time when you can concentrate on your writing, but don’t be too ambitious. For example: If you are a morning person try getting up half an hour earlier and using that time to write. Some writers prefer to work of any evening while the rest of the family watch TV, others dedicate weekend afternoons as their time to write. Choose whatever works best for you, and stick to it.

  1. Use a timer when doing research–it’s very easy to become distracted, especially when searching the Internet. A timer will help make your time at the computer more productive.
  2. Limit the amount of time you spend answering and sending emails (unless they are to your editor), and reading on line newspapers and blogs.
  3. Think about what you’re going to write BEFORE you sit down in front of the computer, perhaps while ironing, or mowing the lawn. When you do sit down at your desk, you’ll have the next few pages worked out, plus you will have freed up time in which to write it.
  4. Make use of downtime–those tedious journeys on the bus to work or sitting around waiting for appointments. Carry a notebook and write while you travel or wait. If you spend a lot of time in the car driving from place to place, invest in a voice activated voice recorder.
  5. While you’re watching your children play in the park, work out the next scene or think through a problem. When you sit down to write, the words will generally flow.
  6. If your children have an essay to write use the time they are sat quietly to work on your novel.
  7. Don’t try and write while the TV or radio is playing in the background, it will only distract you.
  8. Instead of taking an hour to eat lunch, use part of the time to write.
  9. Invest in a netbook computer–most are no bigger than a sheet of A4 paper, are lightweight and relatively inexpensive.
  10. Use an answering machine to screen calls during your ‘writing time.’
  11. But most of all, set yourself a writing goal. It could be something as simple as entering one writing contest in the course of a year. And remember; if you write 250 words a day–the equivalent of one page of A4, in a year you will have written 365 pages or approximately 90,000 words–enough for a full length novel. Whatever your goal, stick to it, as it will take the pressure off.

Time management is all about common sense. It’s a matter of understanding your commitments and knowing how you work best, and using that information to achieve your goals.

You’ve come up with an amazing idea for a novel, but what’s next? Part 3.

You’ve written your outline and/or plotted your novel. You’ve named your characters and given them a background, and are itching to put pen to paper, but what about the setting for your novel?

Many seasoned novelists will tell new authors to write about what they know, and its good advice. But most people see reading as a form of escapism from the humdrum of everyday life.

Just as life experiences often given us ideas for novels, places we travel to can often be the source of inspiration when it comes to settings. For example, when I set out to write my first novel, Three Weeks Last Spring, I had recently returned from a holiday in Seattle, Washington. Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands are spectacular. I realised that it wouldn’t take much to upset the ecological balance of the area. An oil spill from a tanker and the wildlife, in particular, the seabirds and mammals, would be facing a catastrophe, equal only to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska. That vacation, not only gave me the setting for my novel, but also the idea for the story.

I knew I wanted to set my second novel in Scotland, but I needed an idea for a story, and a setting. Having lived there for twenty years I had travelled the length and breadth of the country, but I also had first hand knowledge of the offshore oil industry. I recalled a visit to the west coast, and the drive along the single-track road to Loch Hourn, a fjord-like sea loch, and decided it would be a wonderful setting for a novel.

But what to write about?

A little further south lies Loch Kishorn, another sea loch, and the site of the now defunct Howard Doris Construction yard. I tried to imagine how the occupants of the three small settlements on the shore, known collectively as Kishorn, must have felt when the Highland Council granted permission for Howard Doris to use the loch as a construction facility for offshore oil platforms.

From that setting, and my knowledge of the offshore industry, the idea for The House on the Shore, evolved.

So you see setting can be used as a plot devise. An isolated Scottish Glen, a bankrupt factitious Laird, desperate to salvage his family fortunes, and an offshore construction company seeking to build a deepwater facility, became the ingredients for a romantic suspense novel. But it’s a novel based on fact.

As a writer you should always be aware of your surroundings – you never know your next vacation or trip to the countryside could be the setting for a novel.

The House on the Shore is due to be released under the Vanilla Heart label next month.

You’ve come up with an amazing an idea for a novel, so what’s next? Part 2

While I out walking with my Border collie, Lucy, the other day I thought about the plot for my next novel. I’ve been working on this manuscript for nearly a year now, and have got no further than Chapter three. No doubt you’re wondering why I haven’t finished it.

There are two reasons.

Firstly, although I had completed The House on the Shore over a year ago and had been submitting it to agents, I decided to revise the manuscript – not once, but twice. This entailed adding some 24,000 words to the original manuscript, so what had started out as a 70,000 word single-title suspense romance finally became a 95,000 word novel. Did I make the right decision in revising the manuscript? You bet! It will be published in February 2009 by Vanilla Heart Publishing.

The second reason for not completing my third novel is due in to the fact that I felt the plot was lacking something. The idea originally came to me while I was sitting on a beach on Gasparilla Island in January 2006. I knew the basic premise was sound. My characters have depth and by that I mean they are not one-dimensional – when I think about them, I can see them acting through the events I have planned for them. I can even imagine snatches of dialogue, and occasionally I dream about them. In other words, I know what makes them tick. They have the personality, wit, and intelligence to overcome the problems they encounter during the course of the novel.

So what was wrong with the plot and how did I rectify it?

By asking myself questions or playing “the what if game.” I already knew, “Who,” “Where” and “When,” but “What and “Why” eluded me. I knew how my story began and how it would end.

My problem was how to introduce my hero and make his meeting with the heroine plausible. Originally, I had planned to have my hero follow the heroine from the airport and then contrive to meet her by accident. But it didn’t feel right.

I put the manuscript to one side and worked on a short story. When that was complete, I emailed a friend who happens to be a fellow writer and we tossed ideas back and forth for a few days. I also tried to imagine what I would do if I were in a position similar to that of my heroine. It was only by doing this and asking myself questions that I finally reached a solution I was happy with. I re-wrote my plot outline – the key events and points I wanted to achieve during the course of the story. When I started writing again the words came easily.

If you don’t have a writing friend, someone you can bounce ideas off, I suggest you put aside your work-in-progress, and spend a few days away from the computer, or work on something else. If that fails, there are a number of excellent books on plotting; Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon, and Holly Lisle’s Plot Clinic are excellent. Both are guaranteed to get the imagination fired up and working.

You’ve come up with an amazing idea for a novel, so what’s next?

Many first time authors just start writing with no clear ending in mind, and then often find themselves grinding to a halt somewhere around chapter five or six. The manuscript gets shoved into a drawer and forgotten about.

So what’s the solution?

The answer is some basic planning. Decide on the length of the book, and which genre your novel fits into. At this stage it’s a good idea to look books similar to the one you are writing to get an idea of overall length. The average single-title contemporary romance is anywhere between 80,000 to 100,000 words long. If you’re writing category romance then check the publisher’s guidelines, as it can vary from line to line. For example: For Mills and Boon Intrigue the word count is 50,000 and 60,000, while their Modern Heat line is 50,000 to 55,000.

Then decide on your cast of characters. I like to cut images from magazines and past them onto “character sheets” for the main characters. I find it a great aid to describing physical attributes. Then I build their background, their skills and personalities. As I write romantic suspense, I also give them some emotional baggage, something that they have to overcome to achieve their goal.

Next I do my research. Say my protagonist is an artist; in that case I need to decide whether he or she paints in oils or watercolours. The local library is a good source of information, although more often than not, I find what I’m looking for on the Internet. Then I choose a setting—let’s say San Francisco. Fortunately, I’ve been there and have photographs and guidebooks to refer to. But if you set your novel in an unfamiliar place, then again, do your research.

Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to sit down and plot your novel or write your outline.

Some writers will tell you that it is essential to develop your characters and plot your novel, chapter by chapter. Others will tell you that they don’t plot per se, but they jot down key points they wish their characters to achieve, in other words they write a plot outline. Then there are the “wingers,” those writers who have a beginning and an ending, but no idea of what will take place in the middle.

So who is right, the plotter, the author who outlines, or those who wing it?

Unfortunately, they all are! You have to find which way works best for you. Personally, I find a tight plot line hampers my creativity and prefer just to work from a four to six page outline. This allows my story “growing room.”

For expert help in plotting your novel I suggest you read Brenda Hill’s excellent e-book Plot your way to Publication. www.brendahill.com