Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The RNA RoNA Awards...the pictures...and the shoes

The RNA RoNA Awards at the RAF amazing night with Richard and Judy!
Jane Costello

Jane Costello's shoes

Susanna Kearsley, Charlotte Betts, Nicola Doherty and Liz Fenwick
Victoria Connelly, Susanna Kearsley and Belinda Jonez

Scarlet Wilson's shoes

Veronica Henry's shoes

Veronica Henry

Jan Springer and Giselle Green

Mary Nichols and Carol Townend

Janie Millman, Jan Jones and Jo Thomas

Evelyn Ryle's shoes

Lesley Cookman, Hazel Cushion and journalist

Rowan Coleman's shoes

Mandy Baggot and Lin B Halton

The Transworld team and Belinda Jones

Kate Furnival on the right

Abby Green's shoes

Matt from Waterstones and Jenny Colgan

Judy Astley and Janet Gover

Bernardine Kennedy's amazing bag!

Susam Lamb's shoes

Sarah Mallory receiving the RoNA Rose award with Judy and Richard

Katie Fforde receiving the Contemporary Romantic Award with Judy and Richard

Rowan Coleman receiving the Epic Romance award with Judy and Richard

Charlotte Betts receiving the Historical Romance award with Judy and Richard

Tony Muliken, Liz Harris and Luigi Bonomi

Victoria Lamb 

Victoria Lamb receiving the award for Young Adult Romance with Judy and Richard

Jenny Colgan receiving the Romantic Comedy award with Judy and Richard

Sophie Kinsella receiving her Outstanding Achievement Award

Sophie Kinsella's shoes

Sue Moorcroft, Liz Fenwick, Susanna Kearsley, Brigid Coady, and Pia Christina Courtenay

Jenny Colgan with her publishing team

The room beginning to empty

Caroline Hogg- Pan MacMillan, Charlotte Betts and Cath Burke - Sphere

Susanna Kearsley's fabulous bag and shoes

Friday, February 22, 2013

Interview with Sheryl Browne

Sheryl Browne grew up in Birmingham where she studied Art & Design. A partner in her own business, a mother and a foster parent to disabled dogs, she was thrilled beyond words when her debut novel was accepted. Sheryl has since been offered a further three-book contract under the Safkhet Publishing Soul imprint. Describe your journey as a writer and the excitement of getting that call. 

Suffice to say, the road has been a bit bumpy. My first book got picked up by an agent but, sadly, not by a publisher. The bug, however, had bitten. Being a passionate soul who would wither and die without writing, I kept at it, enlisting editorial help, thanks to the Romantic Novelists’ Association who kindly recommended an editor. Eventually my current lovely publisher, Safkhet Publishing, liked my style and commissioned me to write RECIPES FOR DISASTER. It was shortlisted for the Innovation in Romantic Fiction Festival of Romance Award. 

Your latest book, A LITTLE BIT OF MADNESS, is set in an old folks home. An unusual setting for romantic comedy. 

Without going into too much detail, I once took compassionate leave from work to nurse my mum through early onset Alzheimer’s. Losing my mum in my twenties was devastating, but I found my way of coping was to remember the hysterically funny moments we had. I suppose my writing was a sort of catharsis. In A Little Bit of Madness, I aimed for a multigenerational read, combining younger ‘boy gets girl, despite all obstacles’ romance, with the lives and loves of older people, or as Celia, our heroine, prefers to call them, her elderly independents: A cast of colourful, sometimes eccentric people who still have lives to live and something left to give.

Where did you find the inspiration for the hero and heroine? 

My heroes tend to be men who have suffered (who doesn’t love a man who’s suffered?) and have grown through that suffering. Of course, a nice pic on my desktop helps. Current crush: Ben Affleck (I can’t help it!). My heroines tend to have a vulnerability that comes with caring, a feistiness which drives them to protect those they care about, and ultimately end up realising it’s okay to be who they are. I admit I take inspiration from my girlfriends and online writing friends, whose support has been unstinting.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer wishing to break into the romantic comedy market?

Read. Lots. Obviously, not to plagiarize but take a leaf out of other authors’ books and see how they've tackled the issue/genre you might be struggling with. Read your work out loud – into a tape recorder, if you can. It really is a great way of catching all those glitches and getting rid of superfluous narrative. Have a one-to-one with yourself. Be honest and ask is this a burning passion I truly can’t give up? If the answer is an adamant yes, then don’t aspire to write, do it. Employ an editor, if you need to. Don’t be shy. Share you work and get feedback from readers:

Do you have to juggle writing with the day job? What is your work schedule? 

Fortunately I’m self-employed so can be flexible. I tend to get the day’s ‘work’ items out of the way early on and then go on line to catch up with writing related matters. I try to schedule this time to allow for my actual writing, but it’s not easy – distractions abound!

What do you have to say to critics of the chick-lit genre?

I’d say a laugh a day keeps you sane! Seriously, I’m quite happy with the title chick-lit, or romantic comedy, because romance and comedy are the key elements. I strive to convey that, even in what appears to be the most complex or traumatic of situations, there is often an underlying humour that keeps us sane. I hope that when my characters stumble over the obstacles life throws at them, my readers will laugh with them, because they empathise, because they’ve been there.

Sometimes a single life-event can often fire a writer’s imagination enough to write a whole story around it. For instance, my story Somebody to Love was inspired by ‘a lost little boy’, an autistic little boy, who wasn’t lost at all, it turned out, but on a mission to throw his shoes over his neighbour’s garden fence in order to facilitate a meeting with her three-legged dog. To the critics I’d say, read the books. Through the humour, you’ll most often find the author is writing about real people readers can relate to.

Sheryl's co-writer

Have you ever suffered rejections? How did you deal with them?

As mentioned above, I have indeed. Once I’ve picked myself up by my bootstraps, I have honestly learned from them. Think about it, the agent/publisher has taken time out from wading through hundreds of submissions to comment on yours. Be grateful, realise you have something and strive to improve on it is my motto. I really do try to use criticism as positively as I can.

What would represent a romantic gesture for you? 

My partner once planted a rose tree outside our kitchen window bearing my mum’s favourite coloured roses (peach). The simple, thoughtful gestures are often the most romantic.

So what next? Can you tell us a little about your work in progress?

I have two works in progress. I’m currently working on LEARNING TO LOVE, which is very much a working title, but reflects the theme of the story, which looks at love and trust issues. If I had to sum it up in a one sentence, it would be: Separation, arson, attempted murder; bereavement – can two broken hearts overcome such trauma and learn how to love again?

No rest for the wicked. Saving Charlton hall will burrow into your heart. Celia Summers, intrepid mother of two, is too cuddly for sweatpants, she suspects. But then, her class at The Harbour Rest Home are similarly clad. Celia loves her work as an art therapist. She’s proud that she gives her elderly independents something to look forward to, even if her partner, Martin, disapproves of her efforts. He also has other things on his mind - telling complicated lies to Celia so he can sell Charlton Hall, his mum’s house, to pay off his debts. 

Meanwhile, Celia fights to secure gallery space for her geriatric charges’ artwork, and to keep The Harbour from being closed. She’s even ready to abseil from a church steeple to bring attention to the plight of her old people, no matter that she might fall and end up splattered all over the flagstones. When she does fall, however, it’s much more painful - in love with PC Alex Burrows. Will he be her White Knight in Blue and ride to her rescue? 


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

Find out more: 

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: 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Interview with Serena Clarke

Today I welcome debut author Serena Clarke to the Blog. Serena grew up in a family of itchy-footed readers and dreamers – not concentrating, reading the atlas and Narnia books, and planning to escape somewhere magical as soon as she could. When she was 16, she went from New Zealand to live in Sweden for a year. It was the beginning of many travels and adventures – and quite a few disasters! She didn’t know it at the time, but eventually she’d be grateful for all the downs as well as the ups. As writers say in the face of adversity: “I can use that.” She’s now back in New Zealand where she writes stories reflecting her determined belief in magic, possibility, second chances and happy endings. As an NWS member who has recently graduated, tell us about your first book and the excitement of getting that much-longed for acceptance. 

The starting point for ALL OVER THE PLACE came from one small encounter, late at night on the Underground. I think the tube provides very rich pickings for ideas! I was fascinated to discover how a story can roll itself out before you – and dismayed at how hard you sometimes have to wrestle with it! Once the first draft was finished, it went off to my reader at the New Writers’ Scheme. I did a lot of rewriting based on her insightful comments and advice. Then I started sending it to London agents. In the meantime, someone suggested trying digital publishers in the USA, which I did – and it was accepted quite quickly by Crimson Romance. This ‘brave new world’ of e-publishing is daunting at times, but so exciting to be part of.

What was the hardest challenge for you in getting published? 

Keeping on keeping on, when I had no idea if I could even finish a book, and if I did, whether it would be any good! Juggling children, paid work, and life in general, it took a long time, and there were days when I had serious doubts. But in the middle of it all I read a poem by the American writer Marge Piercy, that begins:

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand, what
you have is a tedious

And I thought, well, I might be deluded, but I’ll never know unless I follow it through. So I kept on.

How did you hear about the RNA and do you think the New Writer’s Scheme helped you get published?

I heard about the RNA by following one of those endless dances the internet leads you on, from website to website – and I’m very glad I did! Without doubt, the suggestions from my NWS reader made all the difference in shaping All Over the Place, giving it more depth and heart. And she gave me the courage to think that maybe I would get there one day, which is priceless. It’s also been an incredible way to learn about writing and the publishing world in general, and meet some wonderful people. I’m grateful to everyone in the RNA for the generous way they share information and advice.

Can you work anywhere or do you have a favourite place to hide away and write?

When I’m on a roll, I can work anywhere. But mostly I write on my bed, or on the sofa, with my little MacBook slowly scorching my knees. I often have help from my writing assistant, Miss Purdy. She also understands the importance of keeping up with correspondence. (We've upgraded since this picture was taken – she's a Mac girl too.)

Which craft tip has helped you the most?

While I was writing ALL OVER THE PLACE, I read lots of books and blog posts and interviews about the craft of writing. I soaked up as much as I could! And one thing that stuck with me was this famous excerpt from an interview with Earnest Hemingway, in The Paris Review:

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I re-wrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you? Hemingway: Getting the words right.

I’m no Hemingway, and I doubt I’ll ever appear in The Paris Review! But that seemed to get right to the guts of it. There are all kinds of technical things to consider, of course, but in the end you just have to write and rewrite until you get it right. On the tough days, just do what you can, until you get to an easier day and it all flows again. And when you think you’re finished, give it to someone else for their opinion – then rewrite again. Rinse and repeat until someone tears it from your death-like grasp!

Tell us something of the genre in which you write. What is its special appeal for you? 

When I started writing, I didn’t think about genre – I just launched in. It was interesting to discover what kind of writer I actually was! Unsurprisingly, what I eventually ended up with was the same kind of book I like to read: light in tone but with plenty to think about, contemporary and a little bit wry, with a sense of magic and possibility. And definitely a happy ending.

Are you involved in social networking and blogs? Any tips for other writers?

Um, yes. Over-involved might be a better word! But as a new author it’s been a great way to learn, and I’ve got to know so many amazing people. One of the best things, for me, has been joining the Facebook group of authors with the same publisher. Support, advice and encouragement from writers going through the same things – and those above you on the ladder – is invaluable. And sanity-saving at times!

Serena in Trafalgar Square
How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing? 

Sorry, could you repeat the question? Other interests? I seem to spend all my waking hours writing or doing writing-related things – or thinking about it – but it doesn’t feel like work at all. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking something I love so much and calling it ‘work’. Travel. I’ve ticked off 18 countries, but there are lots more on the list. Call it research! Driving in my much-loved Chevy Blazer. Now I understand how some men get about their cars – I still roll down the window when I drive up the levels in a parking building, just to hear the engine! Reading, of course. Watching movies. Hanging out with my boys – the lovely one I married, and our little ones. Cups of tea with my best girlfriends. Simple things.

Who is your favourite hero?

Oh, that’s too hard! You need to do it by category, like the Oscars. Best literary hero: Captain Jack Elliot from These is My Words. Best superhero hero: Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man. Best outer space hero: Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise. Best hero in a romantic comedy: Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal. Best hero genetically altered in a military experiment: Jay Ryan in Beauty and the Beast. I could go on…

So what next? Can you tell us a little about your work in progress? 

Like lots of people, I’m afraid to say too much about a work in progress – there’s a danger that the magic will dissipate if you say things aloud. But…twin sisters who leave London to join a flash mob movement in California. Matchmaking, bees, Iggy Pop, loss and acceptance, secrets and sandcastles. A hostage drama, people power in a hyper-connected world, true love, and the trials and joys of sisterhood. I’ve said too much already!

Livi Callaway has fled back to London after a reality TV disaster in New Zealand. Safely anonymous in the big city, she’s determined to stay under the radar from now on. But her attempts to build a new life are complicated by unexpected visitors from her old one, and new dangers and temptations lie in wait.

Late one night, she meets a mysteriously sexy American on the Underground – and the events that follow take her from Pooh Bear to the golden lights of Paris, via a trail of rock stars dead and alive. A family in disarray, a determined Swede, a crazed Australian and a childhood friend (who might yet be more than that) have her all over the place as she tries to discover the American’s secret – while keeping her own. With help – and occasional hindrance – from her friends, what she eventually finds is something unexpected...sometimes, running away can lead you to exactly what you didn’t know you needed. 

Buy it here:

Find our more about Serena: 

Thank you for sparing time to talk to us today Serena. We wish you every success with your 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: 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Raising Your Profile

For any writer, raising your profile is important. Here are a few tips I picked up at the Novelists’ Inc conference in New York. 

Social networking: 
You can’t do everything, so choose what suits you and do it well.
Try to find out where your readers are. How are they finding you? Fewer than ever find books in stores now. Sad but true.
Facebook and Twitter. Attract - engage - don’t put people off with buy, buy, buy, or book, book, book. Don’t be philosophical, complaining or negative.
Likes are good, comments better, share is best.
Pure text posts have less impact: Add a picture or link if you can.
Profile pictures should not be a book cover. Use a picture of yourself so people can connect with a person rather than a product.
Involve readers in choices for your books. E.g.: name for a dog you intend to feature.
Talk about the book or writing of it in a fun way. Let your personality shine through.
Check your reach in your stats on the hide part of your Facebook Page.
Use Tweetreach to discover how many people you reach on Twitter.

Goodreads and Shelfari:

Do reviews on Goodreads, but always good ones. Otherwise you could incite trolls.
Do a Goodreads giveaway.
Both these sites are for readers. An author can add bonus material but make sure it’s correct and don't criticise anyone.

Pinterest and Linked In: 
Can be a major time suck as you have to find pictures to pin. There are copyright issues too, so always leave in place the link to the site you borrowed the pic from, or get permission to use. I haven’t tried this one yet. Nor Linked In, so do share if you have any comments on this.

We had an excellent talk from David Wind on how to improve our website. Whether it’s a free Word Press one, done by a web designer, or any version in between, it should have all the important words to describe your books at the top of the home page for best search engine optimisation. (SEO) A good catch-phrase to describe your brand.
Don’t use all caps. The web crawlers don’t pick them up.
Always tag pictures so they can be picked up too.
Keep the site updated.
Add value content such as excerpts with links, or more information about the fictional world you’ve created, or settings for your book.
Add links to FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Blog, etc.
Add a sign-in for your newsletter.
Offer a free short story or download of an ebook.
Put on a counter to check out your stats, or use Google analytics.

Only do one if you can keep it up at least once or twice a month. Don’t forget you can schedule posts in advance. You can also synchronise with FB, Author Central, your website etc. Guest blogs are a good alternative, or you can do these as well. Find and list suitable sites and keep their details in a separate folder for future use.

Liz Maverick
Liz Maverick gave lots of advice on this subject:
Aim to drive people to something on your website first, then on to your buy link.
Have an enticing subject to encourage an open click.
Keep it short.
Quality over quantity.
Aim for a soft sell. Be chatty in your own personal style. Be excited.
Make it feed into your general strategy.
Put the links in the editorial.
Be consistent with your timing, and test the response for the best time.
Keep it simple. Remember it has to look good on a smart phone/mobile.
One column, no side bars, works best.
Have contests and giveaways, but don’t give away chocs or stuff that will attract contest junkies. MailChimp allows you to check your analytics to see which works best for you on click throughs. Compare with your sales spikes.

Videos, trailers, etc: 
Apparently only 5% actually finish watching a 2 minutes video, so if you make one, keep it short.

Amazon: Dan Slater from Amazon gave an excellent presentation taking us through the tools of promotion.

What drives sales?

Barbara Freethy talking about self-publishing.
Sales drive up the rankings, but encourage your readers to like your book pages. This helps to raise it in the search engines and gets it picked up by Amazon’s algorithms, which will help create sales. Choose the right tags.
Reviews - develop a thick skin, and never respond.
Don’t have fellow authors review your books, Amazon will take them down.
Price strategies drive traffic. Have a promo price that creates a snowball effect by driving traffic on to your normal priced books. With ebooks it’s about the long tail, not how many you can sell in the first month.
Make it easy for the buyer. Link your backlist to Amazon titles.
Author Central. Helps communicate with readers. Fill out your profile, add links to your blog etc. It also offers sales data - rankings - history of rankings which change hourly.
Search inside. These sell 8 - 9% more.
Once you start selling well, Amazon will send out automated emails, recommended for you, customers bought - etc.
Associates: Use links, widgets to do this.

Kindle Owners Lending Library: 
Prime account holders who own a kindle device can check out one book at a time once a month. Amazon says lenders go on to buy books by that author, that KOLL titles grow faster than non-KOLL titles. But the book has to be exclusive to Amazon. I haven’t tried this myself as I am wary of offending my readers if they can only find me in one place.

Support Teams, or lifeboat teams as they are called in the US:
Work with other authors to share and retweet, or you could mention each other’s new titles in your newsletter.
Like each other’s pages.
Some have done an anthology together to promote each other’s work.
If nothing else they can offer emotional support, which we all need at times.

Most important of all: Write the next book! 

Best of luck,

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February Self-Published Releases

Mary Nichols To Win The Lady
ebook for Kindle
available now
£2.17, but free until 6th February

Lacking a son and heir, Mr Henry Paget bequeaths his elder daughter, Georgina, his horse-breeding stables with instructions to take care her young sister. The stables are some of the best in the country; Henry was renowned for his knowledge of horses, which he passed on to his daughter. The problem Georgie soon encounters is that men are reluctant to do business with a woman, until Major Richard Baverstock returns from Waterloo seeking a horse, and her life becomes even more complicated.


Fenella J Miller  A Marriage of Convenience
KDP Amazon e-book
Jan 28, 2013
Eleanor Walters is obliged to marry the irascible, but decidedly attractive, Lord Leo Upminster. A marriage of convenience is better than being destitute, she reasons.
Leo, an ex-colonel, is a man used to being obeyed instantly. He finds Eleanor's behaviour infuriating, her beauty irresistible and their agreement not to consummate the marriage increasingly impossible. It is only when he allows his frustration and jealousy to drive her away that he understands what he has 
Meanwhile, in her self-imposed exile on a neglected country estate, Eleanor becomes embroiled in riots and treachery.
In a desperate race, can Leo save both her life and their marriage?

Vanessa Devereaux  The Brazen Ladies Trilogy
Feed A Read
Feb 1, 2013
Three erotic tales set during the Regency about women who know what they want and aren't afraid to go after it. The stories include Caught In The Act, What The Lady Wants, and Double Her Pleasure. The titles were previously published in electronic form and were bestsellers on both Fictionwise and All Romance E Book sites. Vanessa Devereaux writes both erotica and erotic romances.

Lynda Dunwell  Titanic Twelve Tales - A Short Story Anthology RMS Titanic
ebook and paperback
£2.04 and £3.99

Twelve tales – all with a Titanic theme.
Step aboard the world’s most famous liner with author Lynda Dunwell. A long-standing Titanic enthusiast, she has used her skill as a prize-winning short story writer to craft a selection of tales, including love stories, ghost stories, sci-fi and others. All the tales are fictional. The enduring mystery of the world’s most famous shipping disaster and its aftermath is encapsulated in this engaging short story anthology. Written in the centenary year of the sinking, this anthology commemorates the loss of the most famous ship of all time. Only one tale, Trapped! has been published before, other titles include:A face at the window: a face from the deep, Lover boy,Graveyard gang,The lace-maker’s gift,  Matrix Titanica and more.