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.