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On 14th January, I'll be blogging in my regular monthly slot at authorsoundrelations.

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Sunday, 21 December 2014

No (Writing) Lessons Today, Just A Christmas Carol...

By Xavier Romero-Frias 
Merry Christmas, and/or a Happy Holiday to everybody! Writing goes on all the time, but this week there's a bit of wriggle-room so Part Two of Birth Of A Book will here in the New Year. You can catch up with Part One in the series here

I’m not sure how many people actually wait until 26th December (officially the First Day Of Christmas) to start singing The Twelve Days Of Christmas. Otherwise known as Boxing Day (when you pack up all your old stuff) or St Stephen’s Day, it’s always been a popular time for getting busy: that's when Good King Wenceslas went out, for a start.  For more about him, sign up at the "Subscribe" section above to follow this blog—his Majesty will be making a guest appearance in a few days' time.  

Just in case there’s anyone who isn’t familiar with the song The Twelve Days of Christmas, it begins...
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me
A partridge in a Pear Tree.”

For the next eleven days, the author's generous present-giver showers their true love with gifts, from the practical to the bizarre. Here’s the rest of the shopping list: 

Partridge, by Keith Williamson
2 turtle doves, 
3 French hens, 
4 calling birds, 
5 gold rings,
6 geese a-laying, 
7 swans a -swimming, 
8 maids a-milking, 
9 ladies dancing, 
10 lords a-leaping, 
11 pipers piping, and finally... 
12 drummers drumming. 

Five gold rings would be a great present, but if the Queen can manage with only one piper piping to wake her up each morning, eleven  of them must be far too much of a good thing. 

Actress Penelope Keith once appeared on BBC Radio as Miss Sarah Truelove, whose Alpha male Bill had the bright idea of sending her everything on the list, day by day.  Chaos followed: the neighbours went mad, the lords and milkmaids got too friendly with each other, birds got trampled by the cows, and the only winners were Messrs. Sue, Pillage and Plunder—the law firm brought in to sort it all out.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AChristmas_tree_bauble.jpg
By Kris de Curtis
If any of you fancy copying the gesture—be warned, it will cost. When a financial institution added up the items listed in the song a few years ago, it came to over fifteen thousand pounds ($24k dollars)! It might sound like a romantic gesture but think of the noise, the smell, and the amount of room all those animals and people would take up.


On balance, I think I’d prefer my twelve daily gifts to come in the form of chocolate.  It’s quiet, sweet, easy to handle, and it’s loved by just about everyone.

Happy Christmas!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Four Tips To Help New Writers Succeed...

These ideas will start your writing career off on the right page:

MAKE THE EFFORT...
Turn up and write. Do it every day. The only difference between someone who dreams of writing a book, and the author who produces one is a plan. Decide your SMART goal. That’s something Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and with a Time limit. "I’d like to write a book" is a dream. "I’m going to write a 70,000 word crime thriller by 31st December 2015" is a dynamic resolution. You’ll either do it, or you won’t, so stop dreaming and start work. Hint: failure is NOT an option.

...THEN GO FURTHER
Put in the hours, do the research, check everything, then have an unbiased reader go through it all. Make any revisions they suggest, then repeat the whole process. Make use of feedback, employ an editor and in short, do everything you can to make sure anything with your name attached is your best work.
Start a journal. If you do nothing more than download the notes or tag the selfies you made during the day (and you do carry a notebook or phone with you everywhere, don’t you?) it’ll be something you can flick through for inspiration when your ideas aren’t flowing.

WORK SMARTER, AS WELL AS HARDER
Make a commitment  to study a different type of writing for half an hour a day. That could mean newspapers, social media, non-fiction, fiction, long form work or short. Take classes, whether ‘real’ or online. Visit your local library to discover groups for readers and writers, and check out online sites such as http://romanceuniversity.org. Join groups such as The Romantic Novelists’ Association (http://www.rna-uk.org/) in the UK or Romance Writers of America (http://www.rwa.org/) for information and contacts. If you want to sell your work, research markets and target your work before you write a single word.

And finally, the most important tip of all...

NEVER GIVE UP
Start with a good story, use all your skill to hone your craft, and you’ll always find an outlet for your talent. Never put restrictions on your creative writing. If you get frustrated with your novel, don’t give up. Try turning the basics of its plot into a short story. If your novella gets out of hand, see if you can develop it into a longer work.

For more writing tips and insight, follow my blog at christinahollis and my author page on FB at http://on.fb.me/1Ee1urM

Monday, 8 December 2014

Birth Of A Book, Part One: From Thinking To Writing...

By Antonio Litterio
Where do you get your ideas? is the question every writer gets asked, all the time. The answer is so simple, once you discover what it is you'll never believe it was so hard to find. It's in your bath. Or at the top of a tree, the bottom of a bucket, or...anywhere, and everywhere. You get the idea.

Think about the person who asked that question. They'll have channeled a million thoughts between getting up in that morning, and putting an author on the spot. Any one of those thoughts has the potential to become a funny story, a furious rant, or even a novel.

Imagine you got caught by a traffic warden, because you were five minutes late back to the parking bay. You were delayed because you couldn't catch your dog. If you wanted to write a romance, imagine a handsome guy came to help you. Your dog bit him, and...

...Or if you wanted to write a thriller, maybe your dog ran away because he got the scent of...what? Drugs? A body? An escaped tiger?

There are three or four embryo ideas developed from an everyday situation that could happen to anyone.

Coming Soon...
The only difference between someone who writes, and someone who quizzes writers is that one notes everything down to use in evidence...or at least, for inspiration. Get yourself in the right mindset, and you'll find inspiration everywhere. The internet, TV and radio are good launch pads. The lyrics of a song that make you think, a local headline that intrigues you but never makes the nationals, they're happy hunting grounds for the author.

His Majesty's Secret Passion, the first book in my current series, The Princes Of Kharova, sprang from a competition asking for the first ten pages of a romantic novel. I'd just read this article in Time Magazine about an alternative heir to the English throne. The real-life Mike Hastings wasn't remotely interested in staking his claim to Queen Elizabeth's crown, but I couldn't help wondering how unhappy he'd have been if he was forced by circumstances to take on the job. Escapist romance demands exotic locations, independent women, heroes with issues and an aspirational feel. My initial idea soon developed into an overworked career-woman forced to take a holiday for her health, who is thrown together with a dedicated doctor who had to abandoned his studies for the sake of family loyalty.

By making loads of notes, I developed my initial thoughts into the basic framework of a novel. This all happened in my spare time, before I sat down at the computer. Once there, I had to flesh out my hero and heroine. The best way of doing that is to create character sheets for each of your major characters. I'll cover that next time. Until then, keep up to date with  His Majesty's Secret Passion and the other titles in the Princes of Kharova series by visiting my Author page on Facebook, and clicking on the "like" button.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Writing A Book In A Month: The Final Countdown...

Worth Every Minute...
The alarm's just gone off for NaNoWriMo 2014. That's it: the deadline was midnight on 30th November, no excuses.  If you've read Writing A Book In A Month, Parts One, Two, Three And Four, this is the big reveal. 

I put off reading through the whole of my NaNoWriMo project, Tasting The Peach until the last possible moment, in case I had a crisis of confidence and didn't submit it. I was relieved to see the story all hung together (although there are some big gaps I'll have to fill in during second, and subsequent, drafts). My characters mostly turned out the way I hoped they would, although as they came to life for me they developed and grew in ways I hadn't expected. 

I sent Tasting The Peach for validation on 29th of November, and my total word count was logged at 55,295 by NaNoWriMo central. I've printed out my personalised Winner's Certificate, and now I feel wrung out and quite honestly, a bit emotional. What am I going to do, now all the pressure to finish is off? Read on, to find out...

Coming Soon...
NaNoWriMo is an invaluable hub and resource for writers. You'll find mentors, tips and pep talks, shoulders to cry on and writing buddies to help you celebrate. It doesn't matter whether you're starting out, or an old hand who's trying something new. Everybody learns from the experience, and has a good time in the process. For an investment of around £6, I got a month's writing retreat right here in my office, but away from all other artistic distractions. It gave me the chance to dedicate an exclusive block of time to a project I've always had to sideline through pressure of other work. Sometimes you have to say "No" to requests. That's always hard, but being able to say "Sorry, I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year!" made it a bit easier. 

The NaNoWriMo writing marathon each November is an international event that keeps on growing, but maintaining the site and networks takes money. They rely on donations, so read the testimonials here, then make a resolution to join NaNoWriMo 2015.

So, what's next? Tomorrow I start a new WIP, but that's quite literally another story. Or rather, two! I'll be writing about this next project in a series of blogs called The Birth Of A Book. If you want to follow the roller-coaster ride all the way from basic idea to publication, click the "Subscribe To My Blog" button, at the top right hand side of this page.

To keep up with the progress of my next big release, His Majesty's Secret Passion, please visit my Facebook Author page here, and click on the "like" button. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Guest Blog: Summerita Rhayne's New Release—Against All Rules

Everyone loves an office romance. Fancy getting swept off our feet by a rich, successful boss? Then Summerita Rhayne's sensual contemporary romance is the book for you...

The efficient PA out of her depth...
Samara knows getting attracted to Tahir is like asking for trouble. Not only is he her boss but he's got divorced recently and has sworn off any commitment. Short term is not on her list but temptation has never been stronger...
The man who doesn't have faith in rainbows anymore
Tahir doesn't believe in enforcing a code of conduct he cannot follow. But Samara might just make him make an exception! An affair at the office might seem a solution to his troubles but how can he avoid treading uncharted territory...?
Here's an extract to whet your appetite:
Coming into her office to ask if everything was ready, Tahir stilled as his gaze found the woman with her neck arched back in abandon in the chair. What the...his jaw went slack focusing on the darting tip of a tongue moistening soft pink flesh and the expression of pure sensual enjoyment on her face. 
This wasn’t his usually staid and prim PA. Muscles clenched low in his body witnessing the sensuous slide of that tongue tip. Like he’d wandered into the live filming of some erotic edgy scene. It only needed her hair unconfined and the prim buttons on her top loosened for the picture of sexy siren to be complete. With her head thrown back like that and her chest thrust forward, full curves straining the buttons, she wasn’t less than a siren now. His gaze moved back to the promise of her lush parted mouth and it required no imagination to picture the feel of it beneath his, to picture capturing that errant tip... He inhaled. Blood rushed through his body at double the speed, surging strategically southward.
Samara became conscious of something different in her surroundings and sat up, guilt flooding her skin with warmth as she saw Tahir looking at her from his six foot vantage point, narrowed brown gaze focusing on her face. The dark brows lifted sardonically, his well shaped mouth with that velvet sheen it had, curving oh so slightly. 
‘I – I was just...’
She stopped, unable to explain and unable to decipher why she felt the temperature of the room increase till a wave of heat bounced around her body. 
He stood feet apart, every inch the inflexible, demanding boss man that he was. He was also jaw dropping handsome, looking like a honed and toned version of a male deo model. Forget the choc√≥, I could settle for a bite of that anytime. That well shaped mouth, with a fuller sensual lower lip, dark eyes, the colour of ground coffee, thickly lashed. Those spikes, he gelled his hair into as a concession to trend. No wonder women chased him any and every chance they got. 
‘I don’t pay you to indulge your time fantasizing in my office.’ He ground out, a curt edge to his deep voice, his eyes still narrowed on her face. 

About the author
Summerita Rhayne loves to write sensual and emotional romance. There's no knowing when some quirky - or sometimes even not so quirky - happening in daily life might trigger her right brain and then she's off craving a new story. She loves writing characters who learn and grow and find their way out of their troubles and emotional hang-ups. Hot, sensual heroes and sassy but sweet heroines mostly fit the bill in her stories. She also believes that a touch of humor never goes amiss in a book.

She divides her time between family, job and writing - and loves winding down with music, movies and the internet!

Or follow via Twitter @SummeritaRhayne
Buy the ebook at :
Thanks for blogging here today, Summerita, and best of luck with Against All Rules.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Writing A Book In A Month, Part Four...

NaNoWriMo 2014 attracts corporate supporters as well as donations from writers. One of these, Webucator, approached writers for their insights into the creative writing process. I'm delighted to get people interested in trying something I've enjoyed all my life, so here's an extended version of the interview I gave to them:

I've written for pleasure all my life, and became a full-time writer in my late twenties. Before that, I worked in finance, then marketing, and finished up in the technical library of a gas-turbine (aero engine) manufacturer. Nobody who read my jet-fighter manuals was interested in happy endings, and the atmosphere wasn't good. Reading was my way of escaping, and I wanted to share that pleasure with others by putting my own stories into words. My wonderful OH offered to support me for one year to see if I could earn my living from writing and luckily, I found I could.

My goals haven't really changed since I began my writing career. I always want to write the best books I can, which help readers to get away from it all for a while. I write about complex men and independent women thrown together in difficult situations, who develop an understanding as they grow toward a satisfying conclusion. Their happy-ever-after is as good for me, as it is for my characters.    

Coming Soon, From Wild Rose Press
I'm very lucky to enjoy writing romance, which is a popular genre. You can find a list of my available titles heremy next book, His Majesty's Secret Passion, is being published soon by Wild Rose Press, and I've also got more titles scheduled for publication in 2015. Of course there's also my NaNoWriMo project, Tasting The Peach. This is a thriller, which is a completely new departure for me so it's a work-in-progress in every sense of the word. Joining up for NaNoWriMo 2014 allowed me to concentrate for one full month on producing the first draft. I'm only formulating the first draft, so there's still some way to go, but I already know Tasting The Peach won't have a conventional happy ending. I'll be posting updates here on my blog about its progress. You can keep in touch by subscribing, using the button above.

I'm lucky in that writing makes me a decent living, but in any case I can't stop. Sad, but true! As well as romance, I've written a lot of non-fiction articles for national magazines. Nature writing has always been  my first love, and I'm still trying to capture the passing seasons with the skill of a Roger Deakin, T.H White or H.E Bates.

My advice to any young person who wants a career as a writer is to find a conventional job that'll pay your bills and give you a grounding in life, but which still allows you time to write after-hours. You'll never produce your best work if you're worrying about making money from it, and you need some life experience before you join a profession whose members spend 90% of their time shut away from reality—you only have to look at politicians in Westminster (with the notable exception of Lord Moynihan, here) to see where that sort of insularity leads! 

Read as widely as you can, and in genres other than your own speciality. Don't just enjoy the story: analyse it, see how the author and editor have made it work. Then apply that insight to your own, original work. Most importantly of all, always write from your heart—readers soon spot insincerity, and they hate it. 

Finally, don't forget to subscribe to my blog (by clicking on the box, top right above) to get my tip sheet of  hints for the career writer.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Writing A Book In A Month, Part Three...

My writing got derailed by vital admin this week, but my NaNoWriMo word count's risen—although in fits and starts.

I've written here and here about how I've been helped by creative workshops organised by the Marcher Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association. The most recent one helped me refine the first ten pages of a new project, Tasting The Peach. I'm now turning this embryo into the initial draft of a full-length novel, using National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2014 to spur me on. NaNoWriMo relies on donations, and as I write this they've raised $1,034,544.78 so far this year. You can click on the figure to contribute, and help support the organisation.

By Monday morning, 17th November, I'd reached a word count of 33,629. The NaNoWriMo website has a load of exciting data, which makes it just right for an obsessive like me. When I update my daily word count, it calculates my average, and from that how long it will take me to reach the 50,000 word target. As the deadline of 30th November gets closer, the stress increases. My daily average is 1865 now, but I had a bit of a slump midweek.

I've never written a crime novel before, but it didn't me take long to work out they are books which are best written backwards. I started on November 1st with my two main characters fully formed in my mind, but only a vague idea of what was going to happen to them. I opened a file, called it Chapter One, and started to type.

I managed to keep my butterfly mind pinned on DI Josh Miller's unravelling of the conspiracy behind a politician's murder, but the plot twists were coming as much as a shock to me as they were to him. Who knew a bacon roll would play such a pivotal...well, role? I didn't, and I'm supposed to be the all-seeing author. I needed to step back and take a long view of where this book was heading. The trouble was, all I could see was the NaNoWriMo cut-off point of 30th November, hurtling toward me.  

Then, courtesy of the publisher Wild Rose Press, I was given the perfect excuse to take a break from working on Tasting The Peach.  The galley proofs for my next release, His Majesty's Secret Passion, arrived. Concentrating on checking everything was perfect before my new book goes to print gave me the change of pace I needed. My daily word count for NaNoWriMo suffered, but by working late and early each day I squeezed in some forward planning on motivations and motives for Tasting The Peach, too.  This allowed me to catch up, once the proofs were checked. I'm now back on target for NaNoWriMo—just about!

If you're working on your own NaNoWriMo project, how are you getting on? If you'd like to keep up to date with the progress of my next release, His Majesty's Secret Passion, just visit my new author page over on Facebook, and hit the "like" button.