Monday, 27 June 2011

Mr Darcy

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of a finished manuscript must be in want of a publisher. Sorry I couldn’t resist that take on the first line of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

On Saturday afternoon I attended a Worcester Literary Festival event entitled ‘A Weekend with Mr Darcy’. This was a talk by author Victoria Connelly. It was held in the board room at Worcester University’s City campus (co-incidentally where Victoria Connelly studied English Literature). This was a grand room, with the audience arranged on big comfy chairs, almost reminiscent of those musical soiree scenes from adaptations of Austen’s work. The university buildings were very impressive.

Ellie Swoop had accompanied me. Sue Johnson, whose writing class I have attended for over a year, was there (watch out for her book Fable’s Fortune to be published on 1 August). I had gone to meet Alison Maynard, another writer, in advance of the RNA conference and I also met Sarah Broadhurst, who reviews books on her blog.

Victoria Connelly was lovely. It is always a relief to me when authors are normal people – I don’t know what else I expect them to be! Victoria was elegant in a purple dress and had a lovely well-spoken voice. Cue my insecurities in case I ever get published. Can I do elegant and will my Black Country tones stand scrutiny?

It was both heartening and frustrating to hear that Victoria has trodden the path to publication of most authors of numerous rejections. Her first publications were in German and one has been made into a film. These books have not been published here, although watch out for Kindle editions shortly. She is now published in the UK and US with Molly’s Millions, A Weekend with Mr Darcy, The Perfect Hero and shortly Dreaming of Mr Darcy. The last three are a trilogy tapping her knowledge of Jane Austen.

I asked Victoria about her writing habits. She writes 1000 words a day and as she suffers with RSI she uses voice recognition software Dragon Naturally Speaking. I was particularly interested in this, having tried voice recognition software when working on a non-fiction book some years ago. It didn’t seem to like my voice, but was very good at recognising my swear words when I got frustrated with it. Good to hear things have moved on.

It was a lovely afternoon. Afterwards we popped over to Worcester Waterstones, where Victoria was signing her books and bought a personally dedicated copy. We left feeling inspired and uplifted.

Have you any experiences of book signings, author talks or using voice recognition software you would like to share?

Monday, 20 June 2011


My imagination has always been overactive. As a child, I longed to see the Blue Lady at Haden Hall in the park near my home. As I was not allowed there after dark, I never did of course. She was supposed to float around the lawns at dusk (I don’t live near there now, but I suppose she still does). I was inspired by her story - Caught with her lover, a young monk, in the passageway that linked the house and the monastery on the hill, I imagined their cries as her angry father discovered them and had them walled up in the passage. There was a recent search made to try to locate the passage and I couldn’t believe they didn’t find the two entwined skeletons of my youthful imagination.

I searched Glastonbury Tor, convinced that I would be the one to find the Holy Grail. My fertile mind cartwheeled around the stories I had heard and read. The search of Tintagel proved just as fruitless, I couldn’t find Excalibur anywhere. It didn’t stop me feeling the weight of it in my hands and watching the glint of the sun on its blade. We had to go to Dozmary Pool too, reputedly where the sword was given back to the Lady of the Lake. Mom and Dad humoured me, even though they must have been bored watching the surface of the pool for an hour, just in case a hand emerged with the blade.

Reading widely, I was soon imagining myself as Lorna Doon and we visited the small church in Devon where a scene was reputedly set. I could feel the bullet entering my body and the blood pouring down my dress as I was shot at the altar while marrying John Ridd. My heroes and heroines circled around and thus I was never alone, despite being an only child until I was seven. My mind could always transport me to other worlds, as Merlin became my friend and a knight in shining armour always came to my aid in times of trouble.

I sailed the seas in a galleon with billowing sails and lived in a castle high up on a hill. I was the archaeologist who found Sutton Hoo and I knew what it felt like to go down with the Titanic. Big brothers fought my corner at school and in the holidays rowed boats to islands with hidden caves containing treasure boxes full of jewellery and gold ingots. We were menaced by pirates, but lived to fight another day.

What inspired you as a child?

Saturday, 11 June 2011

And the Winner is.....

The winner of the giveaway from my blog post of 3 June 2011, a Pdf copy of Something Blue by Serenity Woods, is Clare Kirkpatrick. Clare if you direct message me your e-mail address via Twitter or Facebook I will get your prize to you. I hope you enjoy Serenity's book.

Thank you to Serenity for allowing me to host an interview with her and to all those who commented.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Interview with author Serenity Woods plus Giveaway

Today I am pleased to have an interview with author Serenity Woods. We met in cyber space last year and have forged a link, even though I live in the UK and she lives in New Zealand. The wonder of social networking!

Serenity has had several publication successes. Her paranormal Black Hawke Down was published in e-book by Noble Romance in February 2011, followed by her historical Surrender Your Heart in March 2011. She has sold a contemporary romance to Samhain Publishing White-Hot Christmas, which is due for publication in November or December 2011. Readers in the UK may have come across Serenity’s My Weekly Pocket Novel Bohemian Rhapsody.

Her contemporary romance SomethingBlue has just been released. I can’t wait to read it. Serenity has kindly donated a Pdf copy of Something Blue to be sent to a winner chosen at random from those commenting below by 10 June 2011.

Details of Serenity’s publications can be found on her website here. You will find lots of generous advice about editing on her blog here. I asked Serenity a few questions.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing for a long time—since I was fifteen, in fact (I’m 41 now). I’ve always written romantic short stories, mainly because the short story market is so limited. However, I wrote novels in a variety of genres, from historical to fantasy to thrillers. I never had much luck getting agents or publishers, though, and last year, when I turned 40, I decided if I really wanted to be a writer, it was time to knuckle down and sort myself out. I’d won nine competitions over the years, so I thought I must have some talent. I decided to concentrate on romantic fiction because I’d had some luck with my short stories and seemed to have a knack at portraying relationships. Another deciding factor was that, because the genre is so popular, many publishers—especially e-publishers—accept un-agented submissions.

What do your family think about your work being published?

Everyone seems to be genuinely pleased for me when they find out I’m a writer and am doing quite well. Several members of my family and friends have bought my books and read them, and that’s nice, but I don’t expect them to be to everyone’s tastes. I think some are surprised how erotic the stories are J I don’t like to tell them they’re fairly mild compared to some of the stuff that’s out there.

You have produced a phenomenal amount of work lately. What is your writing routine like?

Finding the time to write and social network (and finding a balance between the two) is a problem I’m sure every writer encounters. I write after dinner and before we sit down as a family to watch TV – usually something like 6pm to 7.30 or 8pm. At the weekends, my family like to lie in, but I always get up around 7am and usually have an hour or two to write then, too. And any other time I can find! Re social networking, that’s more difficult; if I have a spare half hour, I prefer to write. What I do have is an iPad, and I often sit there and surf the forums and comment on Twitter and Facebook while I watch TV. It’s important to keep your name out there, but it’s more important that the writing gets done.

Do you ever get writer’s’ block and if so how do you get through it?

I can tell you with absolute authority that writer’s block does exist. I’ve had it less since I started writing romance. Before, I would often get frustrated because I couldn’t decide what to write, i.e. what genre, and that problem has lifted since I concentrated on romance. Occasionally I get stuck with a book where I realise a plot thread isn’t working, and with my novel No Lies in the Bedroom, I got two thirds of the way through and realised I’d written the dark moment too early, and got stuck. I went on to write another book (Seven Sexy Sins) before I came back and re-wrote No Lies. Both books have since gone on to final in the Harlequin Mills & Boon Great Beginnings competition run by the Romance Writers of New Zealand (RWNZ), and No Lies in the Bedroom came top in the rankings, so it shows that just because you get stuck, it doesn’t mean the end of the book. The top six stories are now being judged by a Mills & Boon editor, so I’m hopeful that maybe she might request a full of one of mine.

My only advice to someone stuck with a plot is either a) keep writing, writing through the pain! Just get words on the page, and hopefully you’ll write through the bad patch, b) jump ahead to another scene you may have in your head, and go back and fill in the bit you missed later, or c) work on something else and let the difficult bit stew for a while.

How do you feel about your work being labelled erotic?

Lol. It makes me smile.

I’d never written a sex scene up until last year. The first long romance I wrote, Bohemian Rhapsody, for My Weekly Pocket Novels, was going to be a sweet romance. But when I neared the end, the characters got to the bedroom and, well, I couldn’t stop there J (They actually cut the juicy bit, lol, but they edited it nicely, so I didn’t mind.) I so enjoyed writing the sex scene that I knew from then on I wanted to write erotic romance. After saying that, I had huge fun with Something Blue, which has lots of kisses, but nothing racier than that.

I’ve yet to have anybody criticise me for writing about sex, but I’m sure it will happen somewhere along the way. But I’m prepared to defend it. My characters are always monogamous and they usually end up getting married. The sex is always fun, loving, and gentle; I don’t believe in one character making another feel humiliated or embarrassed (other than in the teasing kind of way). All I can say is that there’s so much unhappiness, misery, and sickness in this world, I don’t see the problem in bringing a little more romance and sex into it.

And if you don’t like the books, don’t read them. J

What would be your best tip for newbie writers?

Don’t give up! The biggest thing I’ve learned over time is that there is no ‘magic button’ in writing. I read so many books on how to write, looking for the ‘secret’, but there really is no one thing you can learn that will get you published. It’s a series of things: learning grammar and how to spell so you’re writing is readable and flows easily; learning how to plot so you have peaks and troughs in your storyline; learning how to write believable characters and dialogue; all this comes over time, the more you read and write. The only real secret, as Superromance writer Katrina Bliss puts it, is Grit. Determination. Call it what you will, it’s basically sheer stubbornness. They say the main difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is that the former never gave up. I actually think the percentages are something like this: 40% talent, 20% patience and 30% determination. Oh, and 10% luck. And maybe the patience should be slightly higher.

Just keep writing, and keep getting your work out there. Enter lots of competitions – I’ve entered hundreds, and the day you get placed in a comp, even if it’s only shortlisted, gives you such a buzz it’s unbelievable, plus it’s a wonderful thing to be able to tell an editor. Get yourself a critique partner if you can – I wouldn’t be without mine. I met Ruthie ( on the Harlequin Forums, and we hit it off immediately. We exchange chapters as we write them, and it gives me such a boost when she comes back and says she’s falling for the hero! Try to write every day if you can; set yourself a target, even if it’s only 500 words, and don’t leave the chair until they’re done. If you get stuck, write through it – just keep going, or jump ahead to the next scene and write that. Don’t give up!

Finally, could you tell us something about your new release ‘Something Blue’?

Of course! This was written as part of a call for a springtime anthology by Samhain Publishing. They’ve released it as an eBook, and will release it with another two novellas as a print book next year.

Here’s my blurb:

Josh Hamnett is Best Man at his mate’s wedding, and he’s determined that nothing’s going to go wrong on the big day. However he hasn’t planned on ex-girlfriend Kate Summerton appearing in the church, and he certainly isn’t expecting her to be the Chief Bridesmaid.

Josh and Kate’s break-up three years ago was so explosive that he can still almost feel the sting on his cheek where she slapped him so hard he saw entire constellations, not just stars. She was the love of his life, but he screwed it up and, after their monumental argument, he didn’t think he’d ever see her again.

Now he’s forced to spend the entire day with the woman who still haunts his dreams, who looks mouthwateringly good in her tight red bridesmaid’s dress. And to top it all, she’s not wearing any underwear. For a man with enough sex drive to power a small city, that’s not going to end well.

What ensues is a sometimes funny, sometimes poignant re-acquaintance of Josh and Kate as they gradually realize that they have both grown up in the three years that they have been apart, and yet the attraction between them hasn't gone away…

This is from partway through the book.

“Kate, promise me you won’t get drunk tonight and do something you’ll regret.”

Kate looked across at Becca. They were standing outside the reception hall, waiting for Alex to join them and start welcoming the guests. “I’m accident prone when I’m not drunk and in three-inch heels—do you really think I’m going to enhance my special abilities, especially on your wedding day?”

“I’m just saying…”

“Becca, you don’t have to. Honestly, nothing’s going to happen tonight. That relationship ended a long, long time ago. I have no intention of starting it up again, even if it was possible, which it’s not.”

The bride snorted. “I saw the way you looked at him—as if he was an ice lolly and you wanted to lick—”


“Deny it. Tell me you weren’t thinking about him in bed.”

“I…can’t.” Kate pouted. “He’s hot, and he was really, really good at it.”

Thank you Serenity. I really enjoyed my first guest author interview. Good luck with sales of Something Blue.

Twitter:         @Serenity_Woods

Books: (Click for a link to Amazon)