Friday, November 30, 2012

Candlelit Christmas by Elizabeth Beacon

“So what sort of plot are you looking for?’ I asked my editor in October 2011 when the call came to write a Christmas Regency for Mills and Boon.

“Oh, we’ll leave that to you.”

Which should be music to a writer’s ears, but with all the great Regency Christmas books and stories that had gone before, it seemed to me that some very choppy waters lay ahead of me as I sat there wondering what on earth to do.

First step had to be investigate a Regency Christmas. Right; strip out tinsel, Christmas trees, jolly, fat Santa. Subtract Christmas cards, crackers and a huge Christmas dinner. Carols? So Victorian darling! Twelfth Night more important to Regency revellers than Christmas Day? Oh, surely not?

Left with Christmas-lite, I only needed to write, pass over for editing, revise and proof read a book by the end of March. It felt a bit like trying to reassemble the turkey from the wishbone up. Most historic houses were shut for winter by then and none seemed quite right anyway, so I went for a walk with the dog and saw the local manor house, built on the side of a hill and miles from the nearest village. Tweaked and set back in time, Hearstease Hall now awaited as much Christmas cheer as I could get away with.

Being snowed in the Christmas before last helped, but I needed a hero – needed one then as well, but no disgruntled, passionate and sexy hero stumped in when I was snowbound. A romance couldn’t develop fully in the time it takes a southern whiteout to melt, so my hero and heroine had a past and suddenly the story sprang into life. A few hours off from winter to salt the story with the heroine’s midsummer memories and by Christmas the hero and heroine were finally cooking with gas. The result was published this November as Governess Under the Mistletoe and Linda Sole, writing as Anne Herries, is the author of the other half of Candlelit Christmas Kisses.

Although Linda and I had no contact whilst writing our respective books, somehow we both produced heroines who lost everything then had to work for a living. Our heroines also rejoice in very dark hair – which could come as a shock to our readers, as the cover shows a blonde beauty, clearly very happy to be swept off her feet by those Christmas kisses.

Would I do it again? I’m not sure it could work twice and my editor may be regretting that conversation even as I write. It made me think very hard about Christmas and what it means, even while stamping about doing a Scrooge, complaining about the whole rigmarole and panicking about that rigid deadline.

If anyone else gets the call, I wish you the best of luck and understanding friends and lovers. I’m glad I did it, and equally glad I haven’t got to do it again this year!

Available from:

 Mills & Boon


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Independent Releases for November

Is any relationship strong enough to survive a string of secrets?

When Maryanne Paynter is ten, her beloved mother dies and she is taken by her great uncle to live with the Reverend Mr Cudlipp at Beckford. Her life is unexceptional until, a little before her twenty-first birthday, Viscount Danbury takes her to Castle Cedars, the country estate of the Duke of Wiltshire where she is taken to see the Dowager Duchess. It is the beginning of a new and bewildering life, not made easier by old scandals and the occasional reappearance of the intriguing man she met in the wood, who seems to have a string of pseudonyms and disguises. There is mystery and danger, a proposal and more scandal and Maryanne, in the thick of it, does not know whom to trust.

13th November
Do you have an idea for a romance story but don’t know where to start? How To Write A Romance Novel will show you how to get ideas, shape them into a story that’s unique, and guide you on steps to creating memorable characters. It also covers two crucial aspects of the genre, emotion and sexual tension. Whether you want to write for Mills and Boon/Harlequin or pen more erotic stories like Fifty Shades of Grey, How To Write a Romance will get you started and help get you published.

Victoria Connelly Postcard from Venice and Other Stories
11 November
The third collection of short stories by the author of A Weekend with Mr Darcy and The Runaway Actress.

7 November 2012
£2.55 (launch price 77p)
When Tara Lambert appeals for help from a stranger, it's an "out of the frying pan" moment and things go downhill from there when she encounters him for the second time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Interview with Frances Brody

Frances Brody’s crime novels are set in 1920s Yorkshire and feature Kate Shackleton, a First World War widow turned sleuth. Writing as Frances McNeil, Frances published four sagas and won the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin Award for the most regionally evocative saga of the millennium with Somewhere Behind the Morning. She has written extensively for radio, theatre and television, and was nominated for a Time Out Award. Frances lives in Leeds and when not writing, she reads, watches television, practises yoga, walks in the Dales, and spends time with family and friends.

Welcome to the RNA Blog, Frances, I believe your writing life started with radio and TV scripts. How did that come about and what were the particular challenges? 

When I started writing, I was thrilled to have my sketches broadcast on The Northern Drift, a programme that gave opportunities to many writers at the start of their careers, produced at the BBC in Leeds by Alfred Bradley. I caught the knack of writing for radio and my short stories were accepted for the BBC Morning Story slot by a Manchester producer, Gillian Hush. My first radio play, THE SUN AND THE DEVIL, was based on the story of the Pendle witches. Setting, characters, plot and a strong idea were all there. Alfred Bradley sent some of my work to a television producer and commissions followed. I also found a niche in BBC Schools and enjoyed writing history and drama programmes. It was good training because often I had to work under pressure, and be very conscious of story structure, timings and clarity.

Your first novels were sagas, tell us about those and why you eventually turned to crime?

My mother’s family stories provided the basis for, SOMEWHERE BEHIND THE MORNING. Perhaps because I was used to scriptwriting, I chose the first person, present tense. (Later changed to past tense at the suggestion of my agent). My sagas are set in the twenties and thirties, in Yorkshire and Lancashire. In SISTERS OF FORTUNE, the daughter of a banker and the daughter of the bank commissionaire take turns to tell the story. If you write about a bank, there must be a robbery. If there is a robbery, perhaps there will be a murder. I turned to crime for the next book, DYING IN THE WOOL.

Does romance play any part in your crime stories? 

Yes! Love and lust are such powerful motivations.

Your crime novels are set in 1920s Yorkshire. What was the attraction of this period and setting for you? 

We are all influenced by the stories we hear as children. I used to stay with an old lady, a courtesy aunt, Amy Barker. The twenties were her period and she never tired of talking about the old days. Although I have travelled and lived in other places, I always come back to Yorkshire – a diverse and surprising county.

Frances sitting at the end of the rainbow.
As a busy writer with many strings to your bow, how do you organise your day? Tell us something of your work schedule?

I usually start work at about 8 or 9 in the morning. It helps if I’ve stopped at a point where I know I can pick up straight away. That doesn’t always happen as I may think of something very urgent that I have to do, such as fill the washing machine or put peanuts out for the birds, and then wait to see which birds come first. I try to press on with the draft as far as I possibly can. If there’s a sticking point, I’ll try to move on and come back to it. At present, I’m reading through a draft of the next novel, with a cruel red pen in my hand.

If you were starting out afresh what advice would you give yourself as a fledging writer.

If someone gives you an opening, or a piece of advice, try and understand what’s behind it. Stan Barstow once said that booksellers were never quite sure how to classify his novels. Be clear about your genre. When I was writing for theatre, a well-known actor asked me if I had ever been to the Riverside Theatre, where she was working on a new project. I told her that I rarely came to London because I had to walk my dog. Oh dear.

Which character from your many books would you most like to trade lives with?

My sleuth, Kate Shackleton, but I’m not as clever as she is so some mysteries might remain unsolved.

Oscar Wilde said he could resist anything but temptation. Which temptation do you find the hardest to resist?

I have a terrible tendency to make soup, whether anyone wants it or not.

Can you tell us something of what you are working on now?

I’m revising my draft of the fifth Kate Shackleton murder mystery, to be delivered early February. I daren’t tempt fate by saying more.

Deirdre Fitzpatrick is married to a man who wants to know where she really goes when supposedly taking care of her sick mother, and calls on the expertise of Kate Shackleton, amateur sleuth extraordinaire, to investigate. 
THE GENTLEMAN Everett Runcie is a banker facing ruin and disgrace. His American heiress wife will no longer pay for his mistakes, or tolerate his infidelity, and is seeking a divorce. 

THE MURDER When a chambermaid enters Runcie's hotel room, she is shocked to find that he is alone, and dead. Suddenly Kate is thrown into the depths of an altogether more sinister investigation. Can she uncover the truth of her most complex, and personal, case to date? 

Find out more about Frances: 
Twitter @FrancesBrody 

Thank you for sparing time to talk to us today Frances. We wish you continuing success with your books. 
Best wishes, Freda 

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Interview with Diane Allen

I’m delighted to welcome to the RNA Blog debut author Diane Allen, who many of us know as the General Manager of Magna Books. Diane was born in Leeds and started her working life as a glass engraver. After taking time off to raise a family she found her real niche in life with a local large print publisher. She lives in the Yorkshire Dales with her husband and loves sharing time with her four beautiful grand-children. 

This is your debut novel, Diane, tell us how you got the idea, and what it was that particularly attracted you to the saga genre? 

I’ve always enjoyed history, especially local history and the tales told on my mother’s knee of families past and long since gone. So, it was a natural progression to elaborate and bend the truth into a story. I’ve always had a love of sagas, through my position at Magna Large Print Books and have appreciated the time and research that goes into writing them.

How did you devise the hero and heroine?

Oh, my heroine, Alice, I’m afraid there is a little bit of me in there. I lost my mother when I was not much older than Alice and I remember thinking along the lines of Alice, with my older brother always there for me. I also used to go walking up the fell to do my thinking, like Alice, and still do to this day. These are the only similarities, just thinking about what Alice gets up to in the graveyard further on into the book, believe me, I’ve never done what she gets up to on those pages. Shame on her!

My hero, Jack, is completely fictitious, he’s the perfect boy next door, the lad you never look at but then you slowly realise what a good catch he is.

The book is set in the Yorkshire Dales, was the choice of setting an easy decision for you to make? Did it involve much research?

Setting my book in the Yorkshire Dales was an easy decision. I love my Dales, it is where my heart is and where generations of my family were born. Research came easy with a family that soaks up history and facts like sponges to pass on to the next generations. Of course I had to check dates and fashions but a lot of it was knowledge of the area that had been handed down from past generations.

As the General Manager of Magna Books in Long Preston, how do you find time to write in your busy schedule? Do you have a secret hideaway or special time in which to write?

Through the daytime I give myself 100% to Magna and the Ulverscroft Group. However, once my youngest son left home to get married, I found myself getting bored with long nights of television or reading through the winter months. It was then I decided to try to write. Now I’m strict with myself. If I’m not too tired I make myself write at least two hours in an evening. I’m not always in the right frame of mind, especially if I’ve had a hard day in the office, and those are the days I know I’ll not be productive.

My hideaway I must confess, is my kitchen, I plug my laptop in, sit at my pine kitchen table, make countless brews of coffee and thank God that I’m not watching the football with my husband. It’s partly my husband’s love of football that is to blame for my new career in writing, bless him!

You can obviously call upon years of experience in the book industry, what advice would you give to an aspiring writer? 

Write about things you know, be true to yourself and above all keep your feet on the ground. Remember, that you are only as good as your last books sales.

Do you edit and revise as you write, or after you have completed the first draft? Which method works best for you? 

I do a little bit of both, I’m afraid my fingers and imagination sometimes do not communicate very well, to my astonishment. The blunders I sometimes make are unforgivable, so obvious when you go back to correct the first draft or read the previous evening’s work.

As Honorary Vice President of the RNA, do you think they have been successful in improving the standing of romance, or is there still more work to be done?
I think the promotion of romance has improved over the last few years. However, there is still work to be done and one must not lose sight of the many faces of a romantic novel.

Which was your favourite book as a child? 

I loved the Little Grey Rabbit books by Alison Uttley (showing my age now) and Enid Blyton. If your saga was turned into a movie, who would play the hero? It would have to be a young Sean Bean, because he’s a Yorkshire man, albeit from South Yorkshire and not the Dales.

So what next? Will there be a sequel to FOR THE SAKE OF HER FAMILY, or something new?

My second novel has just been accepted and continues the story of my Dales families, Mrs Dowbiggin the cook in FOR THE SAKE OF HER FAMILY making her appearance in the last few chapters as a young girl. At present it is called FOR A MOTHER’S SINS, but may change. I’m also forty thousand words into a third book, which continues with the same family.

1912 in the Yorkshire Dales and Alice Bentham and her brother Will have lost their mother to cancer. Money is scarce and pride doesn’t pay the doctor or put food on the table.

Alice gets work at Whernside Manor looking after Lord Franklin’s fragile sister, Miss Nancy. Meanwhile Will and his best-friend Jack begin working for the Lord of the Manor at the marble mill. But their purpose there is not an entirely honest one.

For a while everything runs smoothly, but corruption, attempted murder and misplaced love are just waiting in the wings. Nothing is as it seems and before they know it, Alice and Will’s lives are entwined with that of the Franklands and nothing will ever be the same again.

Available from all good book shops and many supermarkets, or Amazon.

Find out more about Diane Allen. 


Linked In: 

Thank you, Diane, for sparing time to talk to us today. We wish you every success with your new book.

Best wishes, Freda 

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The RNA Winter Party Pictures

As always it was a glamourous evening in the IMEC Library...

(where possible I have named people and the their fabulous shoes....eyesight and names badges sometimes fail)

Judy Astley, John Astley and Brigid Coady

Fiona Harper

Lesley Cookman's shoes

Freda Lightfoot, Alison Morton and Myra Kersner

Freda's and Alison's shoes

Nikki Goodman and Sue Moorcroft's shoes

Mandy Baggot, Catherine Miller and Sue Fortin

Liz Fenwick's shoes

Carole Matthews and Charlotte Betts

Liz Gill, Anthea Kenyon, Anne Bennett

Eileen Ramsay's shoes

Tony Mulliken of Midas PR and Isobel Dixon of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency

Isobels's shoes

Gillen Green of Ebury, Emily Yau, Hannah Robinson

Alison Morton and Talli Roland
Rowan Coleman, Lizzy Kramer of David Highman and Carole Matthews

Debbie White, Celia Anderson, and Christine Stovell

Add caption
Val Loh and Vivienne Bass

Anthea Kenyon, Mary DeLazlo and Pia Christina Courtenay
Henri Gyland's boots
Pia Christina Courtenay's shoes

The library 
Kim Young's and Gillian Green's shoes

Jenny Barden's amazing tights and shoes

Liz Fenwick, Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann, Pia Christina Courtenay and Alison Morton

Gwyneth Williams

Friday, November 16, 2012

What the RNA has meant to me

Aside from making loads of friends, both virtual and real, and the chance to attend two amazing conferences, the best gift I received from the RNA releases this week.

I joined the New Writers’ Scheme in 2009 and 2010. The first year, I polished my submission and mailed it off with plenty of time to spare. The second year, I was still writing the first draft days before the deadline! It was a light and frothy historical novella and in spite of the mad rush I was pretty pleased with it.

But when the reader’s comments came back, laced with compliments but pointing out that the story lacked substance, I was forced to dig deeper. The result of the reader’s invaluable comments is An Innocent Abroad. It’s still a light, gentle story, but with a great deal more depth, and so much improved thanks to the NWS that my editor at The Wild Rose Press made very few changes between the draft I submitted and the final version that went on sale earlier this week.

Getting less-than-pleasant feedback is hard. But taking that feedback, and using it to turn your story into something you know is so much stronger and better, is an amazing feeling – a feeling that I hope every graduate of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme will share.

And since imitation is the best form of flattery (and since I’m envious of all those living in the UK who are able to take full advantage of all the RNA has to offer) a few friends and I have started ROSA – the Romance writers’ Organisation of South Africa. We’re still new and small, but if we can help romance authors just one tenth as much as the RNA has done, I’ll be really happy.

So I’d like to ask all the RNA members out there – what does the RNA mean to you?

Best wishes,
Rae Summers

(PS: For all those lucky enough to be attending the Winter Party, spare a thought for those of us who, though we might have sunshine, don’t get to don our glamorous shoes to join you.)

An Innocent Abroad is a coming of age story set on the Amalfi coast of Italy in 1922. Isobel is a young English woman sent to visit cousins in Italy for just one reason: to catch the eye of their wealthy and eligible house guest. But the man who awakens Isobel's passion is not the respectable British aristocrat – it is local Italian Stefano, an enigma who doesn't fit any of the "boxes" she's been taught to expect.

This novella is Rae Summers’ third. Let’s Misbehave and Dear Julia, both set in England in the 1920s, are also published by The Wild Rose Press and are available in all major online retailers. You can find out more about Rae at

Buy links:
The Wild Rose Press:

All Romance eBooks:

Amazon, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble not yet available

Friday, November 9, 2012

Advice on Online Marketing

Louise Rose-Innes writes contemporary romance novels and lives in leafy Surrey. Her latest release, THE ITALIAN INHERITANCE, set on the glamorous island of Capri, is currently available from Louise is an e-marketing consultant and web copywriter who claims to live between two worlds. The most fascinating by far being the world of successful, adventurous men and beautiful, fiesty women, of exotic locations and passionate romance. She loves to travel and is fascinated by interesting destinations that influence the characters or contribute to the conflict of the story in some way. Louise is an e-marketing specialist and also runs a popular marketing blog:

I got a question recently from a fellow writer who wanted to know: What really works in terms of online marketing?

There are so many tactics out there, all of which work in various degrees, but if you’re a busy author, with kids and (in some cases) a day job, you want to hone in on the best strategies that will have the maximum effect.

Social Media Marketing

Everyone has a Twitter and Facebook account these days, but very few truly know how to use them optimally. The power of Twitter lies in reaching large numbers of people in your target market. Short, hard sell promotional Tweets do not work. Instead, concentrate on relationship building. Read up about using hash tags, this helps you to reach like-minded people who may be interested in your work.

Facebook is a great social networking tool.
I’ve made many wonderful, supportive ‘friends’ on Facebook. Because conversations are longer, meaningful relationships are easier to develop than on any other social media platform. The trick is to restrict your networking time to off-hours, so it doesn’t encroach on your writing time! Consider joining groups with large followings, so when you do post, you reach a larger group than if you just posted on your own wall.

Timing also makes a difference. I restrict my posts to once a day on both FB and Twitter, and usually in the afternoon, as that way I know I’m reaching my US market, who are online by then. Smart social media marketing can be very powerful, but don’t let it become an excuse for procrastination!

You need to have a website so you can build a list of fans. These are people that are interested in your books and want to be contacted when you release your next novel. These people are your guaranteed buyers. They’ve contacted you! To this effect, make sure a Contact Me button is clear and visible on your site.

Your website must also provide information on your books such as where to buy them, blurbs and positive reviews. If you plan to do blog posts and interviews have a media kit (containing a brief biography, your book info, publicity photos and your contact details) available for download. List any events or signings that you’re attending so your fans have an opportunity to meet you in person.

Interviews and Guest Posts 
Research and follow worthwhile blogs, especially those in your target market. Ask to be interviewed by the ones you enjoy the most. The same goes for guest posts. Your aim here is not to make sales, but to build your brand, gain recognition and get your message out there where it will be picked up by search engines. Use key phrases particular to your genre, pen name or books in all your articles and interviews so they are easily picked up by online searches.

Take time to respond to your readers 
Your readers are your biggest fans and your bread and butter. If you are lucky enough to get positive reviews, make sure you respond thanking them. Answer every email, tweet or post you get from readers and nurture those relationships. This can take a huge amount of time, but it’s worth it. Set time aside for this. Don’t let it get in the way of your daily writing routine.

Here I’ve covered what are probably the most effective marketing techniques for writers. As you know, there are many more options. Other avenues that may show good results are industry specific platforms such as Goodreads or Wattpad. Research these but limit yourself to one or two. Don’t try to be everything to everyone, it won’t work and you’ll simply dilute your brand and have less time for writing.

The key to effective marketing is niche marketing. 
Take the platforms and techniques you enjoy the most and tailor them to your specific niche. Don’t try to please everyone. Restrict your marketing and promotional endeavours to your target market, which means knowing who they are and nurturing your relationships with them.

Visit Louise Rose-Innes’ author site:
For tips and advice on marketing:
Or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.