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Tag: romance

Me and Bridget Jones

bridget-jonesThis weekend, we went as a family to see the latest Bridget Jones film in the series, Bridget Jones’s Baby. I say ‘latest’ in the hope that this isn’t the final film but I know in reality it probably will be. It’s been 12 years since the last one so we’ll all be in our dotage if another 12 years go by 😉 All the actors have remained the same over the years since the first film came out in 2001 and some of them are getting on a bit now, making it difficult to keep that same cast together for much longer.
The first film came out in the same year my youngest daughter was born. This weekend, as we went to see number three, she was watching it as a teenager! How time has flown 🙂 As we watched the film, and loved it too, there were some lovely reminders of other films we’ve shared as a family. Patrick Dempsey (swoon!) plays the other love interest in this film and there’s a moment when he helps Bridget put her shoe back on, saying ‘It fits!’ We all laughed at the joke and I knew everyone was thinking of Enchanted, a film we all loved and still enjoy watching to this day.
On the way home, we decided that Colin Firth has provided us with some of the best TV and film entertainment of our lives. Of course, I mentioned Pride and Prejudice. Where would I be without it? But no-one else in the family is that bothered about that one, strangely. Still, we have watched him together dozens of times in Love Actually and we all cry at his declaration of love for Aurelia, in Portuguese, no less. He has cornered the market in stiff, upper lip romantic leads we decided and our lives are all the richer for it.
By the end of the film, we were all in tears. It was a great film, with a perfect romantic plot, and it rounded things off nicely for Bridget, a character we have all grown up with and have wished the very best to for a good few years. It was also the end of an era, much like when we watched Toy Story 3 and High School Musical 3. Toy Story 3 was on the TV over the weekend and we happened to catch a bit of it as we were switching over to something else. My older daughter was desperate to carry on watching it (even though we have it on DVD and can watch it any time) but it was only a couple of minutes before tears were in our eyes and we moved swiftly on. It was too much to watch it when we know that she will be leaving home soon to go to university: the end of another era.
I’m glad that we have so many happy memories tied up in the hundreds of films we have seen over the years, even when some of them make us cry. It was especially sad this week to see that Charmian Carr, who played Liesl in The Sound of Music, passed away, aged 73. This film came out in the year my husband and I were born but I have loved it my whole life and introduced my children to it as soon as they were able to understand it. We know all the words to all the songs, still, and in happy times or sad, it is a great comfort to us all. I remember forcing my husband to watch it when we were first dating, many moons ago, and after kicking up such a fuss, he was soon engrossed in the story. Now, he will usually well up at the Edelweiss scene without the slightest hesitation (sorry, Simon!) It is a film that bears watching again and again. The music is wonderful and never fails to have me joining in.
It has been one of those weeks, as you can tell. September is a bit like that, even when you’re as old as I am. It still heralds the start of the new year as children go back to school, teenagers go off to university or to start college, or maybe even a new job. As a parent, of course, all you want is for them to be happy because that makes you happy too. I wish you luck with your new year, whatever it may bring and I leave you with one of my favourite songs from The Sound of Music.

Author Spotlight on Jennifer Young

My guest in the Author Spotlight this week is Jennifer Young, author of romantic fiction. Welcome to ‘My Writing Life,’ Jennifer.
Looking_For_Charlotte_by_Jennifer_Young_500
Looking for Charlotte – Jennifer Young
Divorced and lonely, Flora Wilson is distraught when she hears news of the death of little Charlotte Anderson. Charlotte’s father killed her and then himself, and although he left a letter with clues to her grave, his two-year-old daughter still hasn’t been found. Convinced that she failed her own children, now grown up and seldom at home, Flora embarks on a quest to find Charlotte’s body to give the child’s mother closure, believing that by doing so she can somehow atone for her own failings.
As she hunts in winter through the remote moors of the Scottish Highlands, her obsession comes to challenge the very fabric of her life — her job, her friendship with her colleague Philip Metcalfe, and her relationships with her three children.
Excerpt:
She walked alongside the rutted track on the springy heather. This was where Ally had driven in his hired car, alone and knowing himself to be his own daughter’s murderer. How must he have felt? Lonely, of course. Even in the best times of his life Ally was always lonely, resisting all attempts to understand him and his problems, fighting against his perceived failures, his mental weaknesses. She knew them well. She had loved Ally, for a long time. She’d dedicated years of her life to making him happy and then she’d realised that she couldn’t do it. And by then she had a baby, another helpless being, but this time one who couldn’t do anything for herself. So instead of living her life for Ally, she’d lived it for Charlie. And now she had no-one to live it for but herself.
She stopped at the edges of the digging, looked down reluctantly. The house lay a few hundred yards beyond; a dog barked, but no-one came out. She was alone. Perhaps Ally had killed Charlie because he was jealous of the attention lavished on her. Perhaps he felt emasculated by a helpless child. And if he had, then that made it her fault.
‘It wasn’t my fault,’ she said aloud. ‘I did everything I could. I won’t be blamed.’
His silence — of course he was silent, he was dead and she was glad — accused her. She clenched her hands in her pocket and looked down at the non-grave where tiny white flowers had already begun to re-colonise, reaching out into the wet earth from the overturned clods. ‘Ally, you bastard!’ she shouted. Her voice disappeared in the wind but she believed he’d hear her. ‘You selfish, murdering bastard!’
As the tears welled up, she dug a hanky out of her pocket and suppressed them. Her phone was in there, too, so she fished it out and tried again. This time there was a signal, though faint. She rang her mother, but there was no answer and she didn’t leave a message, because everything had changed and she knew she would cry.
She tried Karen, not expecting an answer, but got one. ‘Hi Sue. All right?’ ‘You’ve got your phone on.’
‘Bad form during a wedding, I know, but I thought you might ring. I switched it off during the service, though. Where are you?’
‘I’m up where they found Ally.’
‘Oh God. You poor girl. Do you feel better?
Suzanne looked around her. ‘I don’t know. I can feel Charlie. Is that silly?’
‘Oh, Sue.’
‘I don’t mean I think she’s up here. I just think she’s with me. I always think she’s with me.’
‘Sue…’
Suzanne didn’t want to talk any longer. She held the phone face down and shouted to it, ‘I’ve hardly got a signal, Kazzy. But I’m fine. I’ll ring you tomorrow, okay?’ And she ended the call and slipped the phone back in her pocket. Then she began to walk back down to the car. It was true; it was as if Charlie was with her, walking beside her with her tiny toddler’s steps, stooping to touch the flowers and reach out for the butterflies. She would have loved this place.
She reached the car, got in, pulled down the mirror again and looked at her sad, old face. Love? What was love? And where was it, buried, deep and lost forever?

*****

Please read on for more detail from Jennifer about the setting of Looking for Charlotte

Books come with standard disclaimers. “Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”
Um. I must have had my fingers crossed behind my back. The persons (living or dead) in my latest book, Looking For Charlotte, are indeed the products of my own imagination. So are the events, although I fully admit that they were inspired by things that actually happened. Those things happened, as my all-time real-life hero Christopher Marlowe put it, in “another time, another place, another country.”
Ah. Places. This is where I have my fingers crossed.
In another life I am a scientist. An Earth scientist to be correct. Facts, to me, are sacrosanct, so much so that I tiptoe round scientific near-certainties garlanding them with caveats in case some new evidence turns up or that 1% uncertainty is enough to bring the whole edifice crashing down. But the important thing is that, as a writer, I love places.
Looking For Charlotte is the story of one woman’s quest to find another woman’s dead child, lost and buried somewhere in the wilderness. The original (true) tale on which it was based came from the eastern US, a place I’ve never been and so a place my conscience won’t allow me to write about. As my heroine, Flora, tramps up and down the highland glens, in increasingly desperate weather and increasingly lonely places, she’s walking in the wilderness of my imagination.
I’m a deep hypocrite because when I read a book I like to do it with Google Earth to hand. But if you try and use Google Earth to track Flora’s progress you’ll fail. You’ll find her home town of Inverness easily enough, and you might even think you’ve found the part of town where she lives; but you won’t find her house. Nor will you find her office. And when she gets lost in the deep dark heart of the mountains and stumbles upon a friend, you won’t find that either. Because I made that whole chunk of the Highlands up.
But the broad brush picture is real. The real-life landscapes of the highlands reflect Flora’s quest just as the big themes of the book reflect the real-life themes that affect you and me — themes of loss and redemptions, of mistakes made and good deeds done in secret. Only the detail is different.
Because that’s how writing works. Even fantasy, even complete new worlds, have something in them that is real to us all and to which we can all relate. (Think of Harry Potter.) In my case, it’s the places. But I’m afraid I’m not enough of a scientist to let reality get in the way of (I hope) a good story.
Don’t judge me for that…
 
Thanks so much for being my guest this week, Jennifer and for writing such an interesting post about the inspiration and setting for Looking for Charlotte.
Looking for Charlotte is available to buy now using the following links:
Tirgearr Publishing
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Smashwords
Jennifer YoungAbout the Author I live in Edinburgh and I write romance and contemporary women’s fiction. I’ve been writing all my life and my first book was published in February 2014, though I’ve had short stories published before then. The thing that runs through all my writing is an interest in the world around me. I love travel and geography and the locations of my stories are always important to me. And of course I love reading — anything and everything.
 
Find Jennifer at:
Facebook
Twitter
Website

Author Spotlight on Helen Pollard

This is the first of my Author Spotlights and my guest this week is contemporary romance author, Helen Pollard. Welcome to ‘My Writing Life,’ Helen.
HoldingBack - cover
Holding Back by Helen Pollard
The last thing they’re looking for is love …
Laura Matheson is a natural at avoiding romance, so when she is drawn to mystery guest Daniel Stone while helping out at her friends’ hotel in Portugal, she assumes all she needs is a little extra willpower.
Daniel is at the hotel on business. The demands of work and a manipulative ex-girlfriend mean he doesn’t have the time or energy for romance, but Laura is a distraction he finds hard to ignore.
As they negotiate a minefield of misunderstandings and mutual attraction, will they both continue to hold back? Or will they finally allow love into their lives?

Excerpt from Chapter One:

“Excuse me. You’ve picked up the wrong bag.”

Deep and decisive, the voice startled Laura from behind as she loaded her luggage onto her hard-won airport trolley.

“No, I don’t think so.” She swung round to confront the voice’s owner. Unnerved to find him towering over her, she took a step back, stumbling over her trolley in the process.

With lightning speed, he reached out to catch her arm, his grip strong as he helped her regain her balance. When she was upright again, she took in piercing blue eyes, thick dark brown hair, a hint of stubble on a tanned face—and felt an immediate jolt of attraction.

Laura ignored it. “I can manage, thank you,” she snapped, thinking she wouldn’t have tripped if he hadn’t surprised her like that.

He released his hold and raised an eyebrow. “As I said, you have my bag.”

Pushing away long strands of chestnut-brown hair that had dared escape their ponytail, Laura returned his gaze.

“No, this is definitely mine.” She was hot, harassed, and late. The last thing she needed was a futile argument over her own luggage!

“Would you mind if I check?”

“Help yourself.” Unable to disguise her impatience, Laura waved at it, adding, “But I am in a hurry.” She winced at the hostile tone in her voice, but she really didn’t have time for this. Tapping her foot in irritation, she waited to be proved right as he crouched over her trolley.

“Would you care to look?” he asked.

Laura’s foot stopped tapping. Recognising undisguised triumph on his face, she read the label over his shoulder with trepidation, but there it was in black and white—Daniel Stone, London Gatwick to Porto. The heat that rose in her cheeks seemed to burn right through her skin.

“But it’s the same as mine!” she blustered, watching with embarrassment as he hoisted the heavy bag from the trolley with ease.

“It’s hardly a unique design,” he commented, shrugging broad shoulders. “If you weren’t in such a tearing hurry, you might have spotted your own on the carousel.”

Laura spun around to see her bag riding forlornly around with the few that were left. Mortified, she opened her mouth to apologise.

But he spoke first. “Personally, I would advocate that old saying ‘More haste, less speed.'” His tone softened a little as he added, “I’m sorry, but you’re not the only hot, tired person whose flight was delayed, you know.” And off he strolled through the terminal, his bag flung over his shoulder, without a backward glance.

*****

And now for my interview with Helen:

1. As I write romances from around the world myself, I’m interested to know what inspired you to choose your setting for your latest novel?
I visited the area of northern Portugal where the book is set a couple of times. It was so beautiful and friendly there, it stayed with me until my imagination came up with the characters and story to go with it.
2. When choosing your setting, how important do you think it is to have been to the place yourself?
For me, it’s very important. Or put it another way – I wouldn’t have the courage to write about a place I’d never visited. I know it’s possible to research everywhere on the internet nowadays, but I like my stories to be as realistic as they can be, so if I hadn’t been somewhere, I wouldn’t have the confidence to know if I was being accurate enough. I’d always worry that I’d made some awful gaff!
Plus, it’s not just a question of describing the facts. If you’ve actually been there, you can give a real sense of the place – sights, sounds, smells, the whole experience. Your characters can convey what strikes them most about it, what they like best or least.
To be honest, it’s a good few years since I went to northern Portugal, but I wrote a rough draft of Holding Back soon after, so I knew that what I wrote back than would deliver the feel of the place. I did do a little internet research to make sure nothing I described had changed drastically, though.
3. Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?
At this stage, I have plenty of ideas whizzing around in my head … it’s finding the time to work on them that’s the problem! For me, a story usually starts with a singular thing, something specific that strikes me – a place or a scene – and then I weave something around that.
For the novel I’m working on at the moment, I had the opening scene in my head for years, but for some reason I couldn’t do anything with it until I came across a possible setting … and then suddenly everything clicked into place. Once I started writing that opening scene, because I could picture the setting so clearly in my mind, all the characters just seemed to come to life and do their own thing!
4. How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?
Like many writers, I have a day job, family, elderly parents … so I would say six to nine months for a first draft.
How many more drafts after that? Don’t ask! I’m a compulsive edit-and-polisher and can spend months honing it. It drives me mad if a sentence niggles at me because it doesn’t sound quite right. I’ll tweak and tweak until it screams for mercy! The up-side is that by the time I send it off, I know it’s in as good a shape as it was ever going to be.
5. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Getting started – the first page, the first chapter. It’s so important to get it right, because you need to hook the reader straight away.
And then knowing when to finish polishing. I need to learn to step away and leave the poor thing alone!
6. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
The unexpectedness of it. I don’t do a detailed outline at the start – I’ll have a basic premise in mind, and certain points or events that I definitely want to get to, but beyond that, I tend to allow my characters to take me where they want to go. It’s more fun and certainly more interesting that way … unless they get too out of hand!
7. Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?
The two books I’ve had published so far are romances, but they are very different in season and setting, and the characters are different in personality. I wouldn’t necessarily hold myself to romance as a main theme in the future, but I suspect an element of it will always tend to creep in.
8. Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, where will that one be set?
At the moment, I’m polishing up a manuscript that I actually wrote before my two published romances. It’s set in the Loire region of France (and Birmingham, but that doesn’t sound as exotic, somehow, does it?) This one isn’t a straightforward romance – I guess it’s contemporary women’s fiction with humour, and just a hint at romance … which makes it more difficult to find a home for. But I personally love it, so I’m going to keep trying.
Thanks so much to Helen for being my first guest and for answering my questions so thoughtfully 🙂

Holding Back is available to buy now using the following links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

Helen Pollard author picAbout the Author:
Helen Pollard writes contemporary romance with old-fashioned heart. She believes there will always be a place for romantic fiction, no matter how fast-paced and cynical the world becomes. Readers still want that feel-good factor – to escape from their own world for a while and see how a budding romance can blossom and overcome adversity to develop into love … and we all need a little love, right?
A Yorkshire lass, Helen is married, with two teenagers and a psychotic cat. When she’s not working or writing, it goes without saying that she loves to read. She also enjoys a good coffee in a quiet bookshop, and appreciates the company of family and close friends.
Find Helen at:
Website & Blog: http://helenpollardwrites.wordpress.com  
Facebook: http://facebook.com/pages/Helen-Pollard/372986142839624
Twitter: http://twitter.com/helenpollard147
Goodreads:  http://goodreads.com/author/show/8647878.Helen_Pollard
 

Our Holiday Adventure From Here to Nashville (part one)

And so it’s back to life and reality now that our big holiday adventure is over. Oh, but what an adventure it was 🙂 I checked out all the places I referred to in my book and I’m pleased to say that I think I did a good job. For today’s post, I’m going to share those places with you and to tell you some of what we got up to while we were there.
The Journey From Here to Nashville
DSCN0039The first photo I took was at Heathrow where I was pleased to see a branch of Tiffany’s. I spent quite a few minutes with my daughters looking at all the beautiful jewellery there but didn’t find the exact pieces that Jackson buys for Rachel in the book. It didn’t matter though, it was just good to be in there 🙂
 
 
We were slightly delayed on the journey from Heathrow to Chicago and then sat on the tarmac when we got there, watching the window for our connecting flight to Nashville get smaller and smaller. We decided to go with the flow though and not let it bother us too much. We knew there were flights later that evening so we were sure it would all be okay. Some very kind people fast-tracked us through immigration and security but by the time we’d picked up our bags again, we thought we had definitely missed our connecting flight. Then, just as our bags were being retagged, we were told that our flight had been held for us and so we ran all the way to meet it and finally arrived in Nashville about half an hour after our original arrival time. Sadly, our luggage didn’t make it on time but we did get it  before the night was out!
Nashville
Day 1
On our first day, we walked towards the Nashville Farmers’ Market and after some breakfast there, we made our way downtown.
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I had no idea when I wrote my book that the 7th President of the United States was from Nashville. His name was Andrew Jackson and by pure coincidence, his wife’s name was Rachel Jackson, a lovely combination of the names of my two main characters 🙂
 
 
 
 
 
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And as we continued on our way down the hill from the Capitol building, we came across The Hermitage Hotel (named after Andrew Jackson’s Presidential home), and Rachel’s bolt-hole when everything goes a bit awry. The clothes shop in the hotel is called ‘Rachel’s Boutique.’ Such a delight finding out these little things along the way.
 
 
 
 
 
DSCN0085
And here is our first view of The ‘Batman’ building as it is affectionately known in Nashville. Everywhere we went, the AT&T building rose high above the skyline and I thought of Jackson describing it to Rachel every time 🙂
 
 
 
 
 
 
And DSCN0105after we’d had a play around at The Visitors’ Centre, walked the length and breadth of Broadway and had some tasty Tex-Mex for lunch, we went on The Music City Hop On, Hop Off Trolley tour. On our way back to our condo, I led the way past the inspiration for Jackson’s loft.
 
 
 
 
 
Day 2
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And so on to the iconic Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. A wonderful building on both the inside and the outside and we spent hours just marvelling at everything there was to see and hear. We loved the history and the variety of exhibits and memorabilia. Our girls focussed mainly on the Taylor Swift exhibits, of course but they had fun and that was the main thing!
 
 
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It was soon time for our trip to RCA Studio B where so many great musicians have recorded songs over the years. It was a great experience, full of history and memories from another musical era.
 
 
 
 
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And here’s the piano that Rachel sits at, sensing all the greats that have sat here before her, including Elvis Presley.
 
 
 
 
 
Day 3
DSCN0185We were all very excited about this day because I’d managed to reserve us a table at The Bluebird Café where Rachel sings her first ‘Open Mic’ session. It is a very small venue, just about 100 seats in all and I’d been lucky enough to get us a table on my second try at using their automated reservation system. The night we attended, it was an ‘in the round’ session organised by ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). This meant that the four performers were sat in the middle of the audience and they took turns telling us about their songs before performing them. It was a fantastic show, with such talented performers that you will never have heard of I’m sure but I really hope they all get their moment one day soon. If you want to look them up, they were: Ryan Shea Smith, Austin Jenckes, Andrea Pearson and Jonathan Kingham.
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Day 4
I haven’t told you as yet how beautiful the weather was while we were in Nashville but on this day, it actually rained. It was only a quick shower though and we were soon able to get on our way to visit the Parthenon as we had originally planned.
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It is a replica of the real Parthenon in Greece, of course, built for the Centennial celebrations in Nashville and then rebuilt once again at the request of the people who couldn’t bear to see it torn down once the celebrations were over. It was meant to represent Nashville as ‘the Athens of the South’ on account of all its veritable educational institutions. We had a fun time visiting it and reading all about the history of the celebrations.
 
 
 
 
Next week, I will post about all the other wonderful things we did on our trip which I didn’t refer to in my story, including our days in Memphis. If you haven’t read my book yet though and now feel moved to do so, it is on sale this week at 99p! Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/FromHeretoNashville
Lastly, if you’re in the London area on Friday, April 17th, I will be attending the Indie Author Book Fair, hosted by Triskele Books and the Alliance of Independent Authors at Foyles’ bookshop in the Charing Cross Road. It starts at 4.30pm and it’s free. It would be lovely to see you and sign a book for you.
Thanks for reading as always and do please leave me a comment below.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

How to List a Goodreads Giveaway (and Post C2C Festival fatigue!)

AsIMG_0057 I mentioned in last week’s post, I was busy this past weekend attending the C2C (Country-to-Country) Music Festival at the O2 Arena in London. And what a great festival it was once again. We attended a special CMA Songwriters Series event on Friday night which was fantastic and a taste of what’s to come when we go to Nashville at the end of this month.
Then we went back to London again yesterday for a full day at the festival. I was really looking forward to seeing Lady Antebellum again, having been lucky enough to see them in a smaller venue last October but I also wanted to see as much British Country Music talent as I could as well. The singer I was really looking forward to seeing play live was Callaghan. I heard one of her songs on Bob Harris’ Country Show on Radio 2 a couple of weeks ago and since then, I’ve listened to her music as much as I can and also followed her to keep up with what she’s doing. She has been lovely and interacted with me a few times so when I was able to see her play yesterday and say hello, it was a real highlight for me. Her story is an interesting one: she’s from the UK originally but went out to Atlanta four years ago at the request of Shawn Mullins, an American singer-songwriter who specialises in folk/Americana music and he helped her record her first album. She’s now based in Nashville. You might see now why her story delighted me when I read it just a few weeks ago! I’m not sure if there’s any romance though 😉
So I knew that I would be tired this morning and that it would therefore take me a while to get going on this morning’s blog post. I had not planned on it taking me quite this long though 😉 If you have ever tried to do anything on Goodreads as an author, you will probably understand why!
During the week, I received the proof copy of the paperback version of From Here to Nashville which comes all the way from the US to authors based in the UK. When it arrived, I was very excited of course, until I realised that the only thing I’d forgotten to include in the copy was the ISBN which I had paid precious pounds for the privilege of using. Doh! Anyway, I quickly amended it and uploaded it to CreateSpace fairly painlessly. It took a few days and then, hey presto, there it was, up on Amazon and linked to my ebook page as well without any problems. I had been expecting some difficulties but I was glad in the end that there weren’t any. If you want to go and buy your copy, here’s the link.
So I decided to write my blog post about listing a giveaway on Goodreads. Before doing anything, I read a couple of other blog posts about it first which were both very helpful and their links are here for you – Catherine Ryan Howard and Novel Publicity. I really would recommend you to read these and to mostly ignore the Goodreads advice on what to do!
Here are the main tips I would highlight for you if you’re planning to list a giveaway yourself.
1. Is your paperback book on Goodreads? The most important thing is that you must have your book in the database before you can list it. I had thought it would automatically upload to Goodreads once it was listed on Amazon but it didn’t so I had to add it as a new edition of my book first. You do this from the existing book’s page and make sure to add a cover file as well. Then you have to combine the editions, which I found I couldn’t do myself so I had to contact Goodreads and ask them to do that for me. They did this pretty quickly.
2. Where are you prepared to send it to? Catherine Ryan Howard’s advice is to list it for all countries which I have now done. This does mean being prepared to send it anywhere in the world but most likely, your winner will be in the US because that is where most Goodreads members live.
3. How long should you run it for? Goodreads suggest running your giveaway for as long as a month but this way, your giveaway will get hidden amongst all the others. The advice from those who have tried running one seems to suggest that shorter is sweeter.
4. How many copies? If you’re self-published, you will be thinking about every penny (or whatever your currency is!) Novel Publicity’s experience from doing a number of giveaways is that it’s not the number of books that matter. You can run several short giveaways (spaced appropriately apart) and offer a copy at a time. The thing to remember here is that the goal is to increase your visibility and you should do that regardless of the number of copies being given away. Do make sure that you highlight the fact that it will be a signed copy too!
5. When will it start? Schedule your giveaway for a few days ahead because it will take a couple of days for Goodreads to upload it for you and you may change your mind about the contents after you have time to think about it.
Hopefully, next week, I will be able to tell you that my giveaway is going really well because I’ve set it to run from Thursday this week to Tuesday of next week. If you’d like to enter the giveaway, the link is below. Remember though, it starts on Thursday.
Have you run a giveaway on Goodreads? What was your experience? If you have any questions or comments, do remember to leave me a message below. Hope you have a great writing week.
 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

From Here to Nashville by Julie Stock

From Here to Nashville

by Julie Stock

Giveaway ends March 16, 2015.
See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Word of Mouth Marketing for Authors

logoI took part in this year’s online Romance Festival again this weekend organised by Harper Collins and the really wonderful thing was that this time, I was able to do so as an author! I was able to submit an author Q&A for display on the Romance Festival site and I also submitted one of my blog posts entitled ‘5 Things I Have Learnt from Writing my Debut Novel’ which you may have read on my blog recently. They were both viewed and shared many times and that felt really satisfying.
Not only that but from 2 – 8pm on both days of the weekend, there were Twitter and Facebook chats, virtually every half an hour by famous authors and industry people with tips to share, and there were also Google Hangouts with a number of different authors. I learnt so much from all these people but most of all, I had a lot of fun! I was struck again and again by how much time these people were willing to give up to help aspiring authors or to talk to their readers. It was not at all sales orientated but you can bet that sales will go up for these authors or business will go up for the trade people who took part because people like me will talk about them to others, just like I’m doing here today.
One of the Twitter chats was actually about Word of Mouth marketing and was run by a lady called Molly Flatt. Her Twitter page is here. She began by saying that WOM marketing is about getting other people talking about you, inspiring their thoughts, rather than just throwing messages at them. She went on to say that an author talking about their book on their Twitter feed isn’t WOM. Others discussing it on THEIR feeds (or at their dinner tables) is. Her main idea is that WOM marketing isn’t really even marketing at all. It’s about building relationships with people and that has to happen over a long period of time of course, it can’t just happen overnight. The phrase that really struck me was ‘You have to give to get’ because I think that so many of us are doing this without maybe even realising it! Just look at #MondayBlogs for example. I have met so many wonderful, supportive friends through having my blog posts shared on Mondays and by sharing those of other people.
So how would this work for the readers you are trying to attract? Well, she suggested that the first step is to find people online or offline who share your subject matter. You can do a Twitter search for this if you’re starting with an online approach. Then tap into their shared passion. I have met a few people because of my love of country music, for example. Once you meet them, let them get to know you and they may check you out as a result and find that you’ve written a book and hey presto! After this, you can think more about what would inspire them to engage with you. I haven’t really explored this yet because I’m really worried about hassling people so this is something I’m going to take slowly but I like the idea of it very much.
There is now only one week to go until my debut novel From Here to Nashville is published and I want to tell you how lucky I’ve been with some of the friends I have made online. Firstly, Emma Wicker, another Indie author featured my book on her blog last week and she’s doing it again for me next week. Then I was able to get a feature on the Alliance of Independent Authors Members’ Showcase which goes up every Saturday. Then I was featured in Sonya’s round-up of book news on her website here. As I’ve mentioned, I also had a lot of exposure through the Romance Festival this weekend too. Today, my RNA friend, Heidi-Jo Swain is featuring me on her blog for #MondayBlogs and I really can’t tell you what a good feeling all this support gives me. I have quite a few other blog posts lined up in the coming weeks and I count myself really blessed to have made so many good friends via social media. This is what word of mouth marketing means to me right now and I look forward to being able to do the same for these friends in the future.
Thank you all for reading and I’ll see you next week on Publication Day!!! Please do leave a comment below if you’ve tried WOM marketing in another way that’s worked really well for you. Have a great week everyone 🙂

Let's talk about sex, baby…

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

This week, I have been mostly trying to ‘sex up’ my story as I continue through my final edits of ‘From Here to Nashville.’ Despite my age and vast experience, it has not been an easy task 😉 It is one thing to have experienced romance, love, kissing, sex (eww, as my teenage daughters would say) but it is quite another to write about it. Not only that but there’s not much help out there for inexperienced writers either.
I had lots of great advice on my blog last week (thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments) and one of the first things I knew I had to decide on was the level of sex scene I am comfortable writing about. How to do this? I know I like to read all kinds of romance, from what I would call ‘closing the bedroom door’ romance to E.L. James, if you get my drift 🙂 However, I know that I’m looking to write something in the middle of these two extremes and I am certain about that. It was clear though that I hadn’t really achieved that in my book as yet.
As I said last week, I went on a course earlier this year which was designed to help writers put passion on the page. However, in a day, we only got as far as kissing! Crikey 😉 Still, I wrote a first kiss scene that I was happy with and it is still in my book almost exactly as I wrote it back in February. Apart from that though, my romantic scenes were very generic – ‘the kiss deepened’ – sort of thing and although I did have a scene where my characters finally made love, it was too far into the story. My editor wanted it to be a lot sooner and a lot more sexy!
I went to find my notes from my course and remembered the handout we’d been given about ‘The Twelve Steps of Intimacy’ by Desmond Morris, from his book ‘Intimate Behaviours.’ You can find the list by Googling it but I’m going to reproduce it here for you to see what I did with it. The other advice my editor gave was to make sure to incorporate each of the five senses in every description of their romantic encounters. This wasn’t new to me. I just wasn’t doing it.
1. Eye to Body
I wrote this into my first chapter as the first time they see each other from a distance. They give each other a quick glance and register an initial attraction. This doesn’t have to be too detailed but needs to give the reader the idea that they want to get to know each other better.
2. Eye to Eye
In the same chapter, my two main characters meet and pick up more details. They now know they find each other attractive enough to begin flirting.
3. Voice to voice
It helps if your male character is from Nashville of course and has a sexy southern drawl. There aren’t many synonyms for ‘drawl,’ I can tell you. Otherwise, they just need to talk to each other and this is where you can really get going on the senses. Again, this all happens in my first chapter when they first meet.
4. Hand to hand
This could be a handshake during their first meeting or it could come later. I do both and it is the touching of skin that is intimate and charged.
5. Arm to shoulder
This one has to come a bit later when they know each other better in my view. It was during my characters’ fifth meeting. During the previous  three meetings, I went through stages 1 to 4 above again to reinforce their building attraction so that by the time he puts his arm round her to comfort her during their fifth meeting, it should seem quite natural. This closeness allows you to bring in things like your male character’s smell and you will find yourself wasting hours on the internet looking for ways to describe him that don’t sound weird 🙂 I liked this article, from Vogue here. It’s called ‘How Women Want Men to Smell.’
6. Arm to waist
I included this in their first kiss which comes on their first proper date, although it is about the sixth time they’ve met each other. She slips her arms around his waist as they move in closer for the kiss.
7. Mouth to mouth
This is their first kiss and needs to build on everything that has gone before. This takes place in Chapter 6 in my novel. Here it is for your reading pleasure:
‘As I looked into his dark eyes, he leaned towards me, tilting his head to one side. My heart beat a little quicker in anticipation of a kiss and suddenly, his warm lips were on mine, brushing them gently at first. His kiss was so inviting that I responded naturally, moving closer, taking in his wonderful masculine scent. I was very aware of his hands, one resting on my hip, the other clasping the base of my neck. I slipped my arms around his waist and the kiss deepened. He traced my lips with his tongue and when I opened my mouth a little, he took the hint and started to explore further.
I closed my eyes, and a moan of pleasure escaped me. He groaned too, pulling me closer. The stubble on his cheek tickled mine and I wondered what it would feel like if he was kissing other parts of my body. My face burned at the thought of it.’
8. Hand to head
The first kiss I have written also includes this step and according to the 12 steps of intimacy, this is really quite high on the list!
9. Hand to body
As Jackson’s hand is on her hip during the kiss, this is also achieved at the early kissing stage. However, it could obviously mean many other things.
10. Mouth to breast/11. Hand to genitals (blushing yet?)/12. Genitals to genitals
I knew for me that this was the point at which I wanted to stop. I don’t want to write about full-blown sex, although my characters do have it. I didn’t run and hide from it either, by closing the bedroom door and leaving it to my reader’s imagination. I just went for somewhere in the middle, leaving the reader in no doubt of what was about to happen. My characters make love for the first time now in chapter 8, much earlier than they did previously and I know that makes more sense.
There is no doubt that this is one of the hardest things for a romance writer to do. For most of us, it’s so personal and intimate that putting it on the page in a way that is enjoyable for a complete stranger just seems a bit strange. However, as romance readers, we expect it and so that means we have to learn how to write it. As I have gone through my novel, I have used these 12 steps again and again to help me write convincing scenes. I have looked up all kinds of things from male scents to signs that your date really likes you. Yesterday’s research was probably the best fun so far though – I was writing about great make-up sex! Oh the fun you can have sitting at your writing desk 🙂
For another useful viewpoint on writing sex scenes, see this post here.
Thank you for reading as always. Please do leave me comments about how you find writing this kind of scene and any tips you have for me or readers of my blog.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Surviving my final round of edits

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Image courtesy of flickr.com

At long last, I am getting back to some kind of normal today. I have missed my last two blog posts and so it feels good to be writing one again. During my absence, I have been busy with my final round of editing of ‘From Here to Nashville’ and I have to admit that I have been finding it really hard. When I first looked through the edited manuscript, I could see that the majority of the edits were straightforward suggestions for improving the story but there were also some major issues which I knew would involve me in some lengthy rewriting. My immediate feeling was one of panic because I had already booked my proofreader for 8th December and I didn’t think I could keep to that schedule if I went ahead with the rewriting. I did the sensible thing and contacted my proofreader and thankfully, she was very understanding so I have now postponed the proofreading until the end of January to give me some more time. If I do keep to this plan, I could be self-publishing my book in early March.
However, one of the issues is that my description of settings is not detailed enough. This is a difficult one. I know that many writers write about places they have never been and so your descriptions need to be backed up with some good research if this is what you’re doing. I have done all this of course, for Nashville, but still my descriptions don’t seem to be quite good enough. So, is it something that would be improved by personal experience or is it just the quality of the description writing? As I’m going to Nashville next April, I have wondered whether I should wait till my return to finish the story so that I can add in description details from my personal experience but in the end, I’ve decided not to wait. If I delay any further, I won’t be publishing until the end of May and I will just be twiddling my thumbs, as far as this book goes, for the first five months of next year. This has been a very hard decision to make but, for now at least, I think it’s the right one.
One of the other major issues the editor has flagged up to me is the narrative voice I have used in the story. In fact, it’s narrative voices and this has been an issue I have worried about and blogged about all the way along this journey. Just to remind you, the first part of my story is written from the female character’s point of view in first person; the second part is from the male character’s point of view, in first person and the final part, alternates between them. The editor has suggested I rewrite it all in third person or rewrite it all in first person from Rachel’s point of view. After I’d got over the initial shock, I tried rewriting a section in third person and I didn’t like it at all, which leaves me rewriting it all from Rachel’s perspective. This would mean losing Jackson’s perspective on Nashville, which is quite a large chunk of the novel. It would have some advantages though, in that I could lose some of the minor characters who are stacking up quite high and it would allow me to lose a lot of words from the story, tightening the pace a bit too. I haven’t reached this part of the story yet to see what the effect of rewriting it would be but I am willing to give it a try and see what happens. The hardest thing is having to make these decisions on your own, without the benefit of advice from a publisher and I have really been struggling under the weight of that responsibility. I have talked it over with a number of people but in the end, it has to be your decision if you are self-publishing and I want to make the right one for my book.
The final major issue is that for a romance, the editor thinks it’s not sexy enough! Following the advice from a partial edit earlier in the year, I did try to inject more emotion into the story but apparently, I haven’t gone far enough. I went on a course last year about how to write passion on the page and at the time, we were given a handout on ‘The Twelve Steps of Intimacy’ by Desmond Morris from his book ‘Intimate Behaviours.’ I did try to use this to help me build up the sexual tension and I had succeeded to some extent with it but I only went so far, forgetting that I need to keep it going all the way through the story. This is another difficult one in that I like to read quite sexy stories myself but writing them is a completely different thing. I don’t want to go too far and alienate readers but nor do I want it to be a so-called ‘sweet’ romance. It needs to be somewhere in the middle and this is not as easy as it sounds. The research for this one is good fun though 😉
I have to admit that I have felt quite despondent over the past couple of weeks because every time I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it moves away from me again. Now that I have started working my way through the edits though, I know I can deal with them. I realised that I would need more time and I’ve built that in. I’ve had to accept that I’m the one making all the decisions, including whether or not I agree with all the editor’s suggestions and comments, and I’ve started making them. For the time being anyway, I can see the light again.
Thanks for reading. Do leave me a comment and let me know how you dealt with your final round of edits. I’d love to hear from you.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Choosing and Working with a Book Cover Designer (part 2)

9397638640_fb0f268225_mA few weeks ago, I wrote my blog post about the process I had gone through for choosing a cover designer for my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville.’ At that point, I had only just started working with the company I had chosen and I promised that I would come back when the process was all over and tell you how it had gone. I now have a professional cover for my novel and I am really pleased with it. It was a learning curve for me though and as always, I would like to share with you the most valuable things I learnt.
1. Use of Photos
The first proof the designer sent me used a photo on the cover. Nothing unusual in that you may say and I was more than happy to have a photo on the cover. Unfortunately, it turned out that the same photo had been used on another book already and although that book isn’t well-known, I didn’t want to use the photo on mine and run the risk of it turning up in competition. What I learned was that you cannot get exclusive rights to the use of a photo without expecting to pay a huge amount of money for that privilege and although it doesn’t happen often maybe, you have to be prepared for someone else already having used the same photo. I realise that maybe I seem naive but I just hadn’t come across this situation before and so it did surprise me. If you want your book to look unique, then maybe it’s best not to use a photo unless it’s one you’ve taken yourself. For some of you reading this, this may not be a concern but it was for me and I have learned that lesson for the future.
2. Choose Three Key Messages
Before the next set of proofs, I had to think very specifically about what I really wanted to see on my cover. To help myself focus, I chose the three key messages I wanted the cover to convey. They were: romance, country music, the Nashville setting. The designer came back with three new proofs for me and the next thing I had to learn was that it’s best not to over-clutter your cover with too many messages. For example, I liked the idea of a silhouetted couple to show the romance element of the story but in practice, this was hard to achieve along with the other messages. So all three proofs had the Nashville skyline, two had a guitar and one had the silhouetted couple on. I can’t show you the proofs because they remain the designer’s property but what I can say is that I loved all three covers in their own way and so I had to choose the elements I liked best to combine for the final cover proof. You will have to wait a little while longer for the cover reveal but I hope you’ll agree that the designer did manage to include all three elements that I wanted in the final design and it was their vision that gave me the opportunity.
3. Have a Strapline ready to use
When the designer asked me if I had a strapline ready, I said that I hadn’t planned to use one as I’d looked at a lot of other covers and I’d seen that it wasn’t something every author did. However, as time went on, I changed my mind about it. I’d been preparing to enter a competition and was trying to distil the essence of my story into a tweet and doing this made me realise that I had actually written a pretty good strapline for the cover. This was my first attempt: ‘Two worlds, 4,000 miles apart, Can music bring them together?’ In the end, I changed it a little so that the words could fit into one line and I am really pleased with the final result. It also helped that I had written my blurb for the story by then because that gave me a starting point to work from.
The company I used for the cover design is called ‘Design for Writers’ and they can be contacted via their Facebook page here. I found them a professional company to work with and I learnt a great deal with their help so would gladly recommend them to other indie authors. In the end, I had to pay a bit more than I quoted last time because of paying for fonts and illustrations but this was all explained to me at the start so was not a surprise. I will be going back to Design for Writers for the print version of the cover because after consulting with a number of other authors, I now see that I should offer a paperback copy of the story as well. When I asked the designer what I would need to provide for this, I was amazed at just how much information they can include on a print cover. This is what he said: ‘The content you require on the back cover varies, but often includes a selection of teaser text, blurb, bio, author image, web url, twitter handle and Facebook page name.’ That will keep me busy for a while 😉
Thanks for reading as always and please do comment with any thoughts or questions.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Writing a great blurb for your contemporary romance novel

DSCN9080After a great break away, it’s time to get back to writing and I always find that this weekly blog post breaks me in gently on a Monday morning. I thought I ought to start with an update of where things are with my writing journey. This photo shows one of the mountains we saw whilst we were away in the French Alps last week and it reminds me a lot of where I am with my writing right now.
Before I went away on holiday, I got in touch with a freelance editor I’d met at the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) conference in July and asked her to do a partial edit on the first three chapters of ‘From Here to Nashville,’ my debut novel. I have sent her the final draft of those chapters so I hope that these represent as close to the finished work as I can make it on my own. I am nervously awaiting her feedback which is due by the end of this month. Dependent on what comes back, I may or may not have a lot of work to do to polish the rest of the story to the same standard as the first three chapters will be after her help.
The other thing I have done is to contact a cover designer and I am all set to go with them this week in starting work on an e-book cover only, in the first instance. They have a lot of experience in book cover design and also in the romance genre and I’m looking forward to working with them. The cover should be ready by mid-September and I will keep you up to date with its progress.
In the meantime, I am still implementing the revisions suggested by my RNA reader following my manuscript assessment as part of the New Writers’ Scheme. This should keep me busy whilst all these other things are going on. On top of this, I have started working on a blurb for my novel, just another one of those seemingly easy but actually quite difficult jobs you have to do as a novelist. I read an interesting blog post at the weekend by Tara Sparling called ‘What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books’ which you can read here on her blog. The three things that came out of her survey that encouraged people to buy were the cover, the sample and the blurb. As I’ve got going on the cover and the book itself is on its way to being professionally edited, I felt it was time to turn my attention to the blurb.
I have had a go at this in the past but found it quite difficult so I did some research and found an interesting piece all about it here, on Digital Bookworld’s site. Their advice is to follow four easy steps to writing your blurb: first, describe the situation your characters are in at the start of the story; then explain the problem; next, tell the reader what the ‘hopeful possibility’ is; finally, describe the mood of the story. I found this incredibly useful and have even managed to produce a first go which comes in at just under 150 words. It’s not as good as it could be yet but it’s a start. I also spent some time looking at blurbs for other books I’ve read and enjoyed on Amazon to see what I should be aiming for. Whilst doing this, I noticed that most blurbs start with a separate line of just a few words which aim to hook the reader in. For example, Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ blurb starts with: ‘What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?’ And ‘Can Baking Mend a Broken Heart?’ from Jenny Colgan’s ‘Little Beach Street Bakery.’ In keeping with this idea then, mine is ‘Can Music Really Make Your Dreams Come True?’ Once again, it’s a first go but it’s made me think about my story and how to hook readers.
Thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts about writing a blurb, do let me know in the comments below. Good luck with writing yours!