Filling in the gaps

Greetings!

I haven’t blogged since May and it’s now September, and where, exactly, did the summer disappear to? Mind you, if you do follow my blog you already know my output is sporadic at best!

Contrary to my lack of activity on my blog, it has been a busy time for me, so here is a whiz through my summer.

I’m delighted to say I signed another two book contract with Harlequin Mills & Boon at the end of April, plus a contract for a Regency novella which will be released for Christmas 2017. The deadlines for the 2 books were 31st August 2016 and 31st January 2017 – which seemed doable as I had already prepared outlines (unusual for me) – until I realised the deadline for the novella was 14th February 2017, just 2 weeks after the deadline for book #7!

So I have had my head down since then, writing book #6 (provisionally titled Duke in Disguise). It was hard going for a while and more than once I feared I would never make the deadline, which happened to be just two days before my husband and I set off on holiday, leaving me no room to manoeuvre. But I made it. Phew. Now my nerves are being soundly wracked as I await my editor’s verdict.

In the spring I was interviewed on our local BBC radio station as part of their community takeover event. I met Maggie, the interviewer, through a talk I gave to a writing group at my local library, and she asked if I would be willing to be interviewed by her on the radio. It took place at her house rather than at the radio station, which would have been more intimidating, and after our initial bout of ‘um’s and ‘er’s we managed just fine.

You can listen to me bumbling away here, if you so wish.

13450233_1069924789764564_7041841818167580376_nIn June I took part in a Love at the Library event at Harbury Library, with Ellie Darkins, who writes for the Mills & Boon Cherish line. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves despite our nerves beforehand. We spoke about the history of Mills & Boon and how we came to be writing for them (I’ve blogged about my journey before – you can read about it here) and then we held a Q&A session. The audience were lovely!

Then in July I sat on a panel at the inaugural Evesham Festival of Words with fellow local authors Alison May and Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn.

j-a-me-cropped1-250x1521Our event was ‘Inside the minds of three authors’ and, after each reading an excerpt from our work, we discussed why we write what we write and our different approaches to writing. Again, the audience were fabulous which helped to settle my nerves.

I found with all three events that my nerves vanished as soon as I got going, and I realised the same thing happens with many of life’s challenges – perhaps it is the surge of adrenalin as I swing into action ;-).

Does that ever happen to you?

Until next time,

Janice x

 

 

Exciting news…

I’ve known this for a few weeks now but having the news made official somehow makes it more real:

From Wallflower to Countess has been shortlisted for the RoNA Rose Award!

Yay!

To say I’m excited is an understatement. But I am also very honoured to be listed among so many talented authors, not only those in the RoNA Rose category – which is for the best in category/series and shorter romance – but also those who have been shortlisted in the five other categories.

Here are the five books shortlisted for the RoNA Rose.

2016 Rona Rose

A special mention here for my good friend, Alison May, who is also shortlisted in the RoNA Rose category, and who I met through the Birmingham chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). You can read her blog on being shortlisted here.

The RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards) celebrate the best in romantic fiction. They are awarded every year by the RNA and it is fair to say that without the help and support of the RNA and its members, I would not be celebrating today. The generosity of experienced, already-published members in helping, guiding and encouraging new writers is extraordinary.

Until I joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in 2012 I had never even spoken to another writer. I had no idea how much I didn’t know about the craft of writing a novel. But I was willing to learn and – with the help of Regency writers such as Sarah Mallory and Louise Allen – I was eventually offered a publishing contract by Mills & Boon. Until ‘The Call’ in November 2013, I had hardly even dared to dream…

Which brings me neatly to my publishers, Mills & Boon, and the fabulous UK editorial team, who sent me these beautiful flowers today!

image1

The tickets for the RoNAs also arrived in today’s post, so I thought they deserved their place in the photo too 🙂

All I can say is – roll on March 7th, and Awards night. Good luck to everyone who has been shortlisted – it’ll be an evening to remember, whoever wins. For there is another truism about the RNA – we sure know how to party!

I also wrote a book this summer!

In my last blog, I was all set to tell you what I have been up to all summer (writing-wise, I mean). Instead, it turned into a confession about my tendency to procrastinate and a (very) late snippet about the RNA summer conference.

So, back to the book I was writing, which is the second of two linked books published under the tagline Men About Town, Traders in Temptation… (shameless plug – the first, Return of Scandal’s Son, is out in October. Read the first chapter here).

There were times I despaired of finishing in time for the July 1st deadline. It’s strange, because it was a book I wanted to write. I knew the set up, and where the characters had come from, so in theory it should have flowed. It did not. I wonder if the mistake I made was in trying to plan it too much. I like the idea of planning – it seems the sensible, grown-up, professional thing to do – but when the incident I had planned to come towards the end of the book insisted on taking place in the middle, I decided to abandon the plan and follow my instincts as I have in the past and, finally, the story began to emerge. I managed to hit my deadline and sent it off to my editor with much trepidation. I was so close to the story by then I couldn’t view it with any objectivity and I didn’t have the time to allow it to ‘stew’ before the final read through.

Fortunately, my editor loved it. Inevitably, there were revisions.

Now, just to continue with the ‘this book did not behave as I expected it to’ theme – I looked at the revisions and thought ‘they’re not so bad’. Normally, I read the revisions and have a little cry and a little swear before knuckling down and discovering they’re better than I feared. These turned out to be trickier than I anticipated. The simple request to change the timings between two scenes quite early on in the book proved a real challenge, with changes of points of view and all that entails. There was also a new scene to write in the middle of the book and an epilogue to add, as well as the usual minor queries. I was asked if I could get the revisions back to my editor before she went on holiday, giving me a little under two weeks to get them done.

I started them in a state of calm confidence. By the time I finished them I was a gibbering wreck and my husband was treading very carefully indeed! But, luckily, my editor loved them and so, dear reader, my fourth book is now done and dusted. It is called Saved by Scandal’s Heir, will be out in the first half of 2016, and it will feature some old friends, so watch out for it!

Working with an Editor, Part 2

Last time I blogged, I had just submitted the manuscript of my third Regency to my editor and I was wondering how many, and how onerous, the ‘tweaks’ might prove to be. As it happened, I needn’t have worried as I’m pleased to say no major changes were required, just the fairly customary request to bring more emotional depth to the story. When I read my editor’s comments I was actually pleased to realise that she had picked up on a few aspects of the story that I knew, subconsciously, had become rather lost in the action.

With a series romance for a publisher like Mills & Boon, the story is driven much more by the inner conflicts of the hero and the heroine than by any external plot. I tend to do a lot of work on the back stories of my characters before I ever start to write so I know there is enough emotional depth to sustain the story. I also learn how they are likely to react in different situations – although they do sometimes surprise me! The problem is, I decide on something in, say, the heroine’s past that will stand in the way of her ‘Happy Ever After’ with the hero, but I then fail to make that ‘barrier’ seem important enough to her. So a gentle reminder from my editor that this is a strong part of her emotional conflict then prompts me to bring it to the fore.

Fortunately, my editor approved my revisions and the manuscript has already been line edited and is now with the copy editor. The last time I see it will be for the Author Alterations (AAs), when I will read it through carefully and make any final changes. It is expected at this stage that any changes are minor, and I treat this as a final proof read before finalisation.

The book has been retitled Return of Scandal’s Son, and it will be published in October 2015, meaning I’ll have two books published this year, which is great. I’m hoping that, with the change of title, there will be a hunky hero on the cover! I can’t wait to see who they choose!

Meanwhile, the publication date for From Wallflower to Countess is drawing ever closer, and I have a deadline of July 1st for book 4 – not only, as yet, untitled but also (apart from 3000 or so words) unwritten.

Yikes! I’d better get writing!

 

Working with an Editor

Book number 3 has left the building! By that, I mean I have submitted the ms of my 3rd Regency, The Baroness and the Black Sheep, to my editor and, no doubt, it will shortly wing its way back to my inbox with a list of ‘tweaks’, as editors seem fond of calling their suggestions.

I’m still in the early stages of my writing career, and I’ve been pondering the whole ‘working with an editor’ process. I have been through the process twice now, each time with a different editor.

I don’t think it was my fault my first editor left, but who knows 😉 ?

My 1st book, Mary and the Marquis, had been through the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writer’s Scheme, and I had revised it with the help of the feedback from an experienced Mills and Boon author, so perhaps the edits weren’t as extensive as they might have been. After one pass at it, the book was accepted. With my second book, From Wallflower to Countess, the edits were more onerous and it took, I think, two passes. It might have been more. Perhaps, like childbirth, the process appears less painful from a safe distance.

It can be disheartening: you slave over your book; produce the very best work you can; you submit it with trepidation, hoping your editor will like it (who am I kidding—you’re hoping she’ll love it!). From Wallflower to Countess came back with several suggestions for improving the book. I read them through and, after the initial resistance and some denial, which I think is normal—it’s my baby, after all!—I began to see that the suggestions would improve the book.

All bar one.

Now, I said at the beginning of this blog that I haven’t much experience with working with an editor. I was still in the mindset that whatever the editor wants, the editor gets. But the change she wanted me to make to one secondary character would have altered the whole story. It would not be the same book. I would have to rewrite the whole thing! Cue despair, and sleepless nights whilst I tried to work out how I could incorporate that change without starting almost from scratch. After a few days of mindless panic, I suddenly thought ‘No! This is my story, and Harriet (the secondary character in question) is who she is’. I responded to my editor, and said I would carry out the edits, but I didn’t agree with the change she asked for in Harriet’s character, and could we discuss?

My editor phoned me. I explained my predicament, and my strong belief Harriet shouldn’t change, and my editor said… ‘Oh, all right then.’

All that angst! I am still of the belief that most changes asked for by your editor are valuable in that they will improve your book. I now know, however, that the editor’s word is not law and that I can argue my corner if I disagree with an editor’s suggestion. That’s a weight off my mind as I await my editor’s response to The Baroness and the Black Sheep.

No doubt some amongst you have decided I’m a wimp for not stating my case sooner – it’ll be my name on the cover after all – but I am what I am. I’m not comfortable with confrontation, which is why I agonised over the changes first.

I’ll let you know how I get on and, in the meantime, I’d love to hear your experiences (good and bad) of editors.

I think I’ve been lucky. So far!

Gagged by the elephant in my room!

I approach this particular post with mixed feelings. There is shame that I haven’t blogged since last August, and that shame is mixed with a sense of failure, plus a whole heap of embarrassment when I see that my last post was entitled ‘Very Inspiring Blog Award’!
You what???
But it’s true that, even then, I was struggling to blog simply because I couldn’t mention the thing that dominated my life. The elephant in the room.
Let me explain.
This last year – 2014 – should have been fantastic. I became a published author! Shouldn’t I have been shouting it out from the rooftops? Doing happy jigs? My cup should have been brimming with joy. And, at first, it was… despite the fear of now having to write book 2; of proving that Mary and the Marquis was no fluke; and the absolute terror of having my work out there, for real people to read and comment on.
But my problems weren’t about the writing.
Real life… sometimes, it just gets in the way.
Just before my book was due in the shops, my husband was made redundant. For the second time in two years. And even that wasn’t the main issue. Yes, it was horrible. It was worrying. No matter what you are doing, it’s there, chewing away in the corners of your mind. At least this time, though, I continued to write, working on book 2 and, more recently, on book 3. Last time, I barely wrote a word for 6 months.
But I discovered something about myself in the latter part of this year. And it is this. I could continue to tell stories, and lose myself in them, but what I could not force myself to do was to blog, and to pretend that everything was hunky dory when it wasn’t.
I found it impossible to ignore that elephant in the room, but my OH (quite understandably) didn’t want everyone knowing his business. He didn’t even tell his family for a few months. So I couldn’t mention it. Even in passing. And it was like being gagged. The feelings were there, bursting to come out, but somehow the damming of those emotions stopped me from writing authentically about anything else going on in my life. And the longer it’s gone on between posts, the harder it’s been to start up again! (or that might just be my normal procrastination at work!)

So, here we are, almost at the end of 2014. I am determined to look forward, in the expectation (not just hope!) of a brighter new year. And so I have decided to acknowledge this particular elephant because I can’t allow it to hold me back any longer. My OH has a new challenge in store* and I’m afraid that, if I don’t post this, that bloody elephant will continue to haunt me.
Book 2 – From Wallflower to Countess – has been written, edited, accepted by my publisher, edited some more, and proofread. It will be out in April 2015, and Mills and Boon have offered me another two book contract. I haven’t blogged my way through those processes, as I had intended, because I simply couldn’t.
And now you know why.

*If you’re interested, and are still reading, my OH still doesn’t have a job. He’s reached the last 2 or 3 a few times, but lost out at the end. Ageism? We suspect it has something to do with it (he’s 57) although, of course, no one would ever admit that! He was a sales manager. He was good at his job. He was made redundant this second time because he had increased business by so much his firm would have to invest in more laboratory space in order to handle it. They chose to make him redundant instead, and employ an administrator to handle the business my OH had brought in.
Redundancy is something we never imagined could happen to us and now it’s happened twice. We have both come to the conclusion we wouldn’t ever feel secure again ‘working for the man’, even if he did get another job. So he is now working for himself, having invested in a franchise. It’s a huge leap of faith, but at least his future is now in his own hands, not at the whim of some numpty know-naught!

Very Inspiring Blog Award

inspiring

I’m thrilled to have been nominated for a Very Inspiring Blog Award by Julie Stock, whose wonderful blog My Writing Life can be seen here. Thank you, Julie!

Here are the rules of the award:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  • Optional: follow the blogger who nominated you, if you don’t already do so.

Right, seven facts about me. I’m going for the random approach here:

  1. As a teenager I bred and showed guinea pigs
  2. My debut novel is being published at the age of 58. It really is never too late!
  3. I love chocolate
  4. I drive a bright red sports car
  5. I was in Wyoming on a ranch holiday on 9/11  
  6. I’m a late convert to the music of Led Zeppelin (courtesy of my husband)
  7. I have played midwife to numerous cows and sheep

And now for my 15 nominees:

  1. Sally Jenkins – A Writer on Writing
  2. Morton Gray – Morton S Gray
  3. Linda Chamberlain – Naked Horse
  4. Tora Williams – Tora Williams
  5. Bella Osborne – Bella Osborne Writes
  6. Rachael Thomas – Rachael Thomas Romance Writer
  7. Jessica Gilmore – Sprig Muslin

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice I have only nominated 7 other bloggers. I’m not too hot on maths, but even I can see that if every blogger nominates 15 others we will shortly run out of bloggers. That’s my excuse anyway, I hope I will be forgiven.

WorcsLitFest: Romantic Novelists’ Panel

This time last week I was in Worcester, at the Worcester Literary Festival. I had never visited Worcester before but there was no time to explore this attractive city, so I have promised myself another visit in the near future. The festival ran from 20-29 June, with the theme this year of the 1st World War, to mark the centenary.

After lunch with my writer friends Morton Gray, Ellie Swoop and O’Dwyer_author we visited the Authors’ Fair at the Guildhall. There were several local authors with stands and we were pleased to meet fellow RNA member Sheryl Browne.

My main purpose for attending the Festival on Saturday, however, was the Romantic Novelists’ Panel which was held in the lovely St Swithun’s Institute. Alison May, a Worcester author and on the far left of the photo below, chaired the panel which comprised, from left to right, three prolific romantic novelists:  Sue Moorcroft, Liz Harris and Christina Courtenay, all of whom – together with Alison – are published by Choc Lit. The three panellists all had copies of their books for sale, and I couldn’t resist buying a book from each of them, and getting them signed! Somehow, I don’t think HMRC would view those as tax deductible. Shame!

WorcsLitFest - Romantic Novelists' Panel

The audience was small, consisting mainly of writers or aspiring writers, with at least one blogger/reviewer (see later!). It proved to be an informative, fun session, with Alison very ably leading the panel through a series of questions before taking questions from the audience. The panel coped admirably with the very real danger of strangulation by the microphone lead and both informed and entertained us with anecdotes from their writing lives, along with interesting snippets about their attempts to get their first publishing deals. On a personal note, I was interested to hear that both Christina and Liz started out with the ambition of writing for Mills and Boon but found that it was not as easy to get accepted as they had thought!

It was fascinating to hear the  different plotting, writing and editing processes discussed. It goes to show there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write a book. If a process works for you, then it is right! I was particularly interested in the discussion about setting. Christina, having lived in Japan, used that knowledge to good effect in some of her books, including The Scarlet Kimono; Sue has invented a fictional village called Middledip – with other surrounding villages and towns –  which she has used in Starting Over, and several other novel; and Liz recounted her efforts to find something unique for her first book, and how she discovered a place called Ladakh in India, which provided the setting for The Road Back.

The session finished with coffee and truly scrumptious cakes; much kudos to whoever made the to-die-for brownies!

It was lovely to meet some of the other members of the audience, including Sarah Broadhurst, who is a prolific blogger and book reviewer (Sarah’s Book Reviews) and who very kindly accepted a copy of Mary and the Marquis to read and review! I was also delighted to meet Georgia Hill and Elizabeth Hanbury, both of them published authors and members of the RNA and both of whom I ‘know’ online via Facebook, but had never met in person.

It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon, and I left feeling both uplifted and inspired. I do hope Alison (who put much time and enthusiasm into this event) will have the energy to organise a similar panel next year. I, for one, will be sure to attend.

 

 

 

 

‘Meet my Main Character’ Blog Hop

I’ve been away on holiday and haven’t blogged for a while, despite all my good intentions. So, thank you, Alison May, for tagging me to continue in the ‘Meet My Main Character’ blog hop. It’s put a boot up my backside, and here I am! If you would like to read Alison’s blog, or know more about her and her debut novel ‘Sweet Nothing’, here is the link: http://alison-may.co.uk/

So… please meet Mary, from Mary and the Marquis:

What is the name of the main character? Is (s)he real or fictitious?

Mary Vale is the heroine in my soon-to-be-published debut novel: Mary and the Marquis. She is fictitious but, at the risk of sounding a touch precious, she became very real to me whilst I was writing the book.

When and where is the story set?

It’s set near the small, fictional village of Rothley, Northumberland, just south of the border between England and Scotland.

What should we know about him/her?

Mary is a widow with two young children: Toby (5) and Emily (2). She is quiet and pragmatic and, at the start of the story, somewhat inhibited, having spent much of her life suppressing her feelings and opinions.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

When her husband dies, Mary contrives to earn enough to keep her and the children in their rented cottage but, after the death of her kindly landlord, his son makes intolerable demands and Mary sinks into debt. Eventually she is forced to leave the cottage with Toby and Emily. So, her life is messed up even before she meets the hero, Lucas. When her hitherto unsuspected passionate nature starts to emerge, it is in direct conflict with her maternal instincts and responsibilities.

What is the character’s goal?

Mary’s overriding goal throughout the story is the safety and wellbeing of her children.Whilst nursing the injured Lucas, however, Mary’s feelings for him grow and, before long, she is yearning for his love.

So, if you’d like to know more about Mary – and what happens when she comes across Lucas in a wood, you can read all about her in Mary and the Marquis, published 1st August 2014 (but, I’m told, available in the shops from 18th July. Go figure!)

And now, to carry on the blog hop, I am pleased to invite the lovely and talented Morton Gray, who is in the throes of completing her 2014 New Writers’ Scheme submission to the RNA. You can find out more about Morton here: http://mortongray.blogspot.com/ and the equally brilliant Jessica Gilmore, whose 2nd novel Summer with the Millionaire is released this month. You can find out more about Jessica and her writing here: http://www.jessicagilmore.co.uk/

I’m looking forward to reading all about their main characters. Look out for their posts next week.

‘My Writing Process’ Blog Tour

Firstly, I am delighted to have been invited by Chris Stovell to take part in the ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour: thank you, Chris. You can find out more about Chris at her blog: http://homethoughtsweekly.blogspot.co.uk/

The idea of this blog tour is to answer four questions about your writing process and then to tag three or, in my case, two (what can I say? Failed again!) writers, who will reply to the same four questions in their own blogs on May 12th, 2014.

What am I working on?

The Earl’s Reluctant Bride, my second Regency romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon Historicals. It is the story of Lady Felicity Weston and Richard Durant, Earl of Stanton, whose marriage of convenience challenges their preconception that marriage is for practicality and love is for fools.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Every writer is unique, with their own style, their own voice, their own vocabulary and their own life experiences that inevitably inform the stories they write. In that way, no two writers would write the same story, even given the same basic idea. Although I write Regencies, I try to use a light touch to invoke a flavour of the era without including swathes of historical detail, preferring to concentrate on the characters. I am constantly fascinated by the way messages from childhood influence people’s thoughts and behaviour, and the way they view themselves and the world around them. I like how my characters’ understanding of themselves changes as they negotiate the path to true love.

Why do I write what I do?

I’ve loved Regencies ever since I first discovered the novels of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer in my teens. After re-reading all the Heyer novels I could lay my hands on in the late 1990s, I moved on to the numerous contemporary novelists who write Regencies. Occasionally, though, I would finish a book, and the fateful thought: ‘I could do better than that!’ would pop into my head. I have no doubt that similar thoughts have prompted many a writer to set pen to paper over the years!

How does my writing process work?

My handwriting is horribly untidy and even I struggle to read it at times, so it is something of a chore to wade through any notes I make. I use notebooks to jot down ides but, to write, I mostly work at my computer. I try to write something every day – I find the mornings most productive – even if it’s only a few hundred words.I begin with the hero and heroine – and the reasons why they should never fall in love with each other. Once I have my characters – and a good understanding of their pasts – I think about their journey to Happy Ever After (a must in the category romances I write), and I begin to write.

Every day when I sit down at my computer, I read through what I wrote the previous day, changing and correcting as I go, before moving on with the story.Writers are often told the most important thing is to get the first draft of the novel finished and to resolve any issues during the editing process. I find I can’t work like that. Maybe, in time, it’ll get easier but, for now, there are times when I can’t seem to move forward at all, even when I know where my characters are (or should be) going! After some quiet time away from the keyboard, I usually realise it’s because I have taken a wrong turn and, somewhere deep in my subconscious, I know it. I try to persuade myself I can fix it later, after the first draft is complete, but it’s akin to dragging an anchor behind me. When that happens, the only thing I can do is go back – sometimes right to the beginning – and resolve the issues that are bugging me.

Slow but steady, that’s me!

When my first draft is finally done, I leave it a week or two, then print it out. That’s when the fun really starts – pulling it apart and stitching it back together with the help of post-its, felt tip pens and scissors – until I feel it’s the best it can be. Of course, that’s a delusion and my editor inevitably wants even more changes. But at least by then I feel I’m on the home straight.Well, that is the end of my ‘My Writing Process’ blog. Thank you for staying with me thus far.I’d like to express my gratitude to writers and fellow RNA members Linda Chamberlain and Carol MacLean, who have agreed to continue the tour.

Linda Chamberlain

Linda lives in Sussex with her family and two horses. She’s been a journalist most of her life but is no longer letting facts get in the way of a good story. She’s turned to fiction and is seeking a publisher for her historical novel about one of England’s first vets. It’s a blend of fact and fiction looking at issues of disability for both horse and rider. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and so of course it has a happy ending but be warned…it’s going to be controversial.

Linda’s blog about horses and writing can be found on: –

http://www.nakedhorse.wordpress.com/

Carol MacLean

Carol lives on the west coast of Scotland with her husband, two children and three cats.She has always enjoyed writing and her first story, written at the age of ten, was about a girl called Mhairi who lived with her nine siblings on a small Scottish croft, getting involved in all sorts of adventures. Luckily she’s since lost this masterpiece.

Carol’s interests include hillwalking and enjoying wildlife and nature, along with a passion for reading in all sorts of genres.

http://carolmaclean.blogspot.co.uk

http://thepocketeers.blogspot.co.uk

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/carol.maclean.524