Friday, August 28, 2015

Lynne Shelby Wins the Prize!

We are joined today by Lynne Shelby whose novel, French Kissing, won a publishing contract and a writing holiday.  She’s still reeling!

It was 8th January 2015, a typically cold, grey winter afternoon, when my phone rang – a call from an unknown number. I answered it, expecting it to be someone anxious to sell me double glazing or fix my computer if only I’d give them all my bank details. Instead, it was a call from Accent Press, to tell me that I’d won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition, and my novel French Kissing would be published later in the year… I’ll never forget that moment of total delight and amazement – to be a published author was my life-long dream.  

It was back in 2014 that I spotted the Accent Press and Woman competition for new, unpublished contemporary women’s fiction writers, with a prize of a publishing contract with Accent Press and a writing holiday at Chez Castillon, a writers’ retreat in south-west France.  The judges were Katie Fforde, Jane Wenham-Jones, Jo Czechowska from Woman Magazine and Cat Camacho from Accent Press.

As an aspiring author, I’d found entering competitions, with the need to meet a deadline and keep to a word-count, a good way to hone my writing. I’d won a couple of small flash fiction competitions, but I’d never before entered a competition of this size – or one with such an incredible prize. In November, I sent off my entry – the first three chapters and a synopsis of my novel about two childhood penfriends, Alexandre who is French and Anna who is English, who meet again as adults when their friendship could become something more – and told myself not to think about it. And then, in the New Year, I got that long-dreamt-of phone call – which was followed an hour or so later by another call, this time from Woman, to interview me for the magazine. By now, I was so thrilled and excited that I may not have been the most coherent of interviewees!

I must admit that I was so ecstatic to be signing a publishing contract and sending off my completed manuscript, that I hadn’t thought much beyond that, but during the following weeks I experienced an extraordinary number of highlights as I continued along the road to publication. Seeing a photograph of the cover of my book for the first time was incredible (I adore the cover!), as was watching the video trailer on YouTube. In May, as the other part of my prize, I spent a wonderful week on a fantastic writers’ course taught by Jane Wenham-Jones at the fabulous Chez Castillon, where I also met Katie Fforde who was so very generous with her encouragement to this new writer. In June, I received the edits of my book from Cat Camacho, my brilliant editor at Accent - another step towards being a published writer – and a few weeks later I was sending back the final proofs.

As I write this in July, French Kissing has a publication date of 20th August. Next month, I will actually be holding a copy of a book I’ve written in my hands. Sometimes, dreams do come true.

Twitter: @LynneB1

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Lynn. It’s been lovely reading about your success. Good luck with French Kissing

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

FOCUS ON: Leicester Chapter

This month Lizzie Lamb gives us an insight into the Leicester Chapter and how it functions.

To begin with perhaps you could tell us a bit about your Chapter
The Belmont Belles has been running in its present form for about five years. We usually meet once a month but break in July and August.

Do you have a regular meeting place?
The Belmont Hotel, Leicester – hence the name.

How many members attend your meetings?
We have about thirty five ‘on the books’ and usually about 20 attend. Our meetings usually include a meal. The hotel serves full meals and bar snacks, so members can order what they want from the bar and a waiter brings it to the table.  

That sounds like an ideal way to enjoy a meeting. Is your chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
Yes, some of our best attendees do not belong to the RNA (working hard on them, though). Our meeting usually run from 12 noon until about 3pm

Can you give an outline of speakers/guests you’ve had in the past year?
Our meetings tend to be pretty informal and give writers a chance to get out and unwind. Although the ever lovely Carole Matthews was our guest for lunch and gave us a fabulous uplifting talk.

They've been busy, haven't they!
We have our October workshop, organised in-house - ‘Readers, where to find them and how to keep them!’ We may have some other speakers if time allows, but we like to keep things open ended and fluid.

What would you say makes your chapter of the RNA so special?
Everyone in the chapter, whether full member, NWS, associate, traditionally published or indie author all want to write and sell books, grow their readership, celebrate each other’s successes and take their writing to the highest level. We are all firm friends and every time we meet it’s like a class reunion.  

That sounds just like we would all like our meetings to be. Does your chapter have a website, Facebook page or Twitter account?
We have a ‘secret Facebook page’ where members can post anything they like about their writing, ask for help and generally keep in touch. Any new members who join the chapter would be added to this page.

Finally, could you tell us who prospective new members should contact?
Lizzie Lamb – 0116 2217468
June Kearns –

It’s always nice to hear about our close-knit groups who represent so much of the ethos of the RNA. Thank you for joining us.

Links: Lizzie Lamb’s recently published book, Scotch on the Rocks

The RNA blog is brought to you by 
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If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mary Nichols: We'll Meet Again

We are thrilled that Mary Nichols has found time in her busy schedule to join us today. Even more so as she is writing about her latest work which is set around Bletchley Park. Welcome, Mary.

We’ll Meet Again is about the secrets people were expected to keep in WW2, secrets they could not even tell their nearest and dearest.

The story surrounding the Government Code and Cypher School or Station X, better known as Bletchley Park, is fascinating, awe-inspiring and almost incredible. Thousands of people worked there, everyone of whom was sworn to secrecy. That the secret was kept by so many for so long is truly amazing.

They were recruited from all walks of life and were a mixture of civilians and people from all three services. They ranged from incredibly clever mathematicians, linguistics and puzzle solvers to typists, telex operators, messengers, cooks, cleaners and motor cyclists. The motor cyclists were an important part of the operation. They brought in coded German messages from outlying radio listening stations to be deciphered at Bletchley, travelling at high speed in all weathers, often through the night. No one was allowed to receive mail at Bletchley Park, it all had to come through a box number at the War Office and no post left Bletchley Park. It was taken by the motor cyclists all over the country to be posted. Imagine the puzzlement of your family receiving letters from you posted all over the place. It would make them wonder what you were up to, wouldn’t it?

Bletchley Park
The work was done in huts built in the grounds of the park, and each had a separate function. The enemy used a very clever machine called an enigma to encipher their messages and it was the job of the decoders at Bletchley Park to unscramble them. They used a modified Typex machine made to work like an enigma, and other more complicated electro-mechanical machines called bombes. They couldn’t work unless they had a crib to start them off, things like call signs, transmission times, the length of the message and the mistakes of the German operators. One apparently habitually used the name of his girlfriend.  Without those there were 58 million, million, million possibilities.
The work was further complicated because there was no universal setting, every section of the German intelligence services, army, navy and air force, all used different machines and different settings and they were changed every twenty-four hours.  Then everyone had to begin all over again.  How on earth did they manage it? It needed the genius of men like Alan Turing, ‘Dilly’ Knox, Gordon Welchman and a host of others, to come up with the answers. The intelligence gathered was sent to whoever needed to know, but the recipient was only told it came from ‘a reliable source’.  It won battles, sunk enemy ships, tracked u-boats and saved thousand of lives. All in secret.

Since the secret was revealed in the 1980s There have been many books written about it and I acquired a few of them. Hut Six by Gordon Welchman was the one that broke the silence. It goes into some detail about how the enigma code was cracked with logic, though mathematics certainly came into it. I tried to follow it but figures have never been my strong point and though I could see vaguely how it was done, that was as far as I could go. It did not stop me enjoying the story it told and wondering what it must hve been like to have a secret like that and not be able to tell a soul, not even your nearest and dearest. There is a tale of a couple being shown round the Park by a guide, at the end of which the lady said, 'Very Good. You’ve almost got it right.’ Her husband turned to her in astonishment and said, ‘You were here?’ and when she confirmed it, he said, ‘So was I.’ It was the first that either had known about the other. Hard to believe, and it may be apocryphal, but who would not be fascinated by it, especially an inquisitive writer looking for something to write about?

The work done at Bletchley Park is mentioned frequently in other books I have researched for my WW2 stories. Its influence on the conduct of the war was far reaching, but its legacy is even more widespread. The first ever computer, a huge affair called ‘Colossus’ was built at Bletchley Park. Today’s computers, microchips and the hundreds of gadgets we use every day, were born in the huts of Bletchley Park.

We’ll Meet Again tells the story of two girls who work there, Prue, the daughter of an earl, and Sheila, a girl from the East End of London who has lost all her family in the first big air raid of the blitz. Together they face the challenges of wartime Britain and the secret they must keep.

We’ll Meet Again is published by Allison and Busby and is available from bookshop and online. Paperback ISBN: 9780 7490 17040.


Thank you so much for visiting the blog today, Mary. We both look forward to reading We’ll Meet Again.

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Janet Macleod Trotter takes the bus to Kathmandu

Janet joins us today with tales of her journey as a teenager overland to India and how it led thirty years later to her novel, The Vanishing of Ruth.

Janet in 1976
Aged 18, I boarded a bus in London bound for Kathmandu and spent four months travelling overland. Over 30 years later, the trip was the inspiration behind my mystery/romantic suspense novel The Vanishing of Ruth. For all of you who enjoy arm-chair travelling or are nostalgic about past travel on the overland route to India, you may have tuned into BBC Radio 2's recent programme, ‘Magic Bus’ (narrated by Tony Wheeler of Lonely Planet fame). It featured music from the hippy trail – what was played aboard the buses and along the route – as well as interviews with travellers such as myself. I contributed with anecdotes and extracts from my travel diary: a teenager’s wide-eyed observations of a vanished world in which young western travellers went east to experience different cultures, live more simply and have fun. I was inspired by stories from my mum and grandparents of their life in bygone India where my grandfather had been a conservator of forests, and my adventurous Granny went out to marry him and live an itinerant life among the Himalayan foothills.

My mum had tales of pacing the length of a man-eating tiger’s entrails and watching soup being sieved through a turban. The head of said tiger greeted us in the entrance of my grandparents’ home in Edinburgh. The Beatles had hung out in India and it had changed their music; books such as EM Forster’s Passage to India whetted my appetite for the mysticism of the subcontinent. India beckoned, and so I went!

The Vanishing of Ruth switches between the hippy trail in the 1970s and the present day.
1976: friends, Marcus and Ruth, go missing in Afghanistan during an overland bus trip to Kathmandu. A generation later, Ruth’s niece Amber, haunted by the disintegration of her family, determines to get at the truth of their disappearance. Was it murder, as her father suspected, or a suicide pact as the police believed?

Tracking down the trip’s bus driver, Cassidy, Amber starts to piece together a lost world - the mystical vibrant hippy trail to India – and colourful characters like Juliet, who imagined herself the reincarnation of an Edwardian traveller. As the mystery surrounding her aunt and the charismatic Marcus unfolds, Amber begins a journey of discovery of her own, that will lead her not only into the dark secrets of the past and lost love, but face to face with a tragedy much closer to home.

This was my first novel as an indie author five years ago (after fifteen years with Headline as a Saga writer) and became a bestselling ebook on Waterstones online in both Romance and Crime categories. My friends in the Border Reivers chapter of the RNA supported me greatly through the transition to self-publishing, and I've since had many best-sellers on Amazon. I'm now a hybrid author, with foreign editions being sold through the Madeleine Milburn Agency who has made me a bestseller in France and Russia!

The Magic Bus programme is available on iPlayer until the end of August:


Thank you, Janet, for sharing your past and present adventures with us.

The RNA blog is brought to you by  
Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman 
If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ask the Industry Expert: Hazel Cushion

Today we welcome Helena Farifax to the RNA blog. Helena is going to be bringing us a monthly blog interview with the ‘movers and shakers’ in the publishing world. Over to you, Helena!

It’s a great pleasure to welcome Hazel Cushion, Managing Director of Accent Press, 
to the RNA blogtoday. Hazel and some of the Accent Press team were at the RNA conference in London this year, taking pitches as well as running one of the sessions. I also have fond memories of their Pimms party by Regent’s Canal. We thought an interview on the RNA blog might be an opportunity for those who weren’t able to attend the conference to find out more about Hazel and about Accent Press, and we’re delighted Hazel has accepted our invitation.

Thanks so much for dropping in, Hazel. Please tell us a little about the history of Accent Press and how you came to start it.
I started Accent Press in 2003 in my front bedroom when my triplets were seven years old. I was effectively a single mum as my husband worked in the Middle East and I wanted to start a business that would work around my kids. I’d just done an MA in Creative Writing and, as part of that, we put together an anthology of our work. Once I knew how to make a book I was hooked! The timing was just right too as desktop publishing and the internet suddenly made it all possible. Needless to say it quickly moved out of the bedroom and we now have offices on a business park north of Cardiff where I employ a team of twelve amazing people.

What do enjoy most about your job? And least?
Well, the very best bit must be making authors’ dreams turn into reality – when they get to hold their books and see them climbing the charts and on book shop shelves. That is always a magical thing. I also love employing young people and seeing them grow and develop their careers. We’re based in south Wales and there aren’t a great deal of opportunities for young people – I’m very pleased that we can offer permanent jobs to people in such a vibrant and creative industry.
The worse bit is that’s it a tough market and we can’t make it happen for everyone. Trying to sell one book by one author is incredibly difficult – it takes time to build a following which is why we no longer commission standalone titles.

What is it you are looking for when a manuscript lands on your desk?
Brilliant writing, realistic authors and books with commercial potential. I find it really depressing that we have to reject so many submissions because authors haven’t read our guidelines first.

Where do you find your new authors, and how?
Very often it’s word of mouth or by attending events like the RNA conference. We do use agents sometimes but are equally happy to take on unagented authors. We do also actively seek successful self-published authors who are climbing the Kindle charts.

For anyone who missed your excellent talk at the RNA conference, what advice would you give someone submitting to Accent?
Read our guidelines first! Make sure the book is a publishable length and is either a series or that you have or plan other titles. We no longer publish single titles as they are just too hard to get noticed.

What benefits do you feel a publisher offers an author over self-publishing?
Where it works best is when we work as a team with the author supporting them and allowing them the time to develop their writing career. We provide the editorial support and guidance to enable that to happen and also free them up from the business side of selling and marketing their books. Authors are usually happiest plotting, planning and writing, and tend to find the whole pushing and publishing side uncomfortable. These days everyone hopes their authors will engage on social media too but if authors hate it then we say don’t worry about it. Our job is to promote and sell their work – I’d really rather our authors were writing than tweeting!

Romance is the biggest-selling genre in publishing, and yet the one taken least seriously by the mainstream. Why do you think this is? And how do you think romance authors can address the negative perception?
Sadly a lot of publishing folk are ridiculously pretentious and I find that very tiresome. Romance is the biggest-selling genre because it provides brilliant entertainment and enjoyments to the most discerning of readers – women. They are also the largest book buyers, especially the 18-26 age group. Cynical me might say they enjoy romance because they are still naïve and hopeful – and older women love the escape from repeated heartbreak!

What’s your favourite romance novel of all time?
Wow – that’s a hard one. Can I cheat and say what my least favourite was instead? I think some of you may agree if I say the words ‘fifty’ and ‘grey’?

Apart from your own authors, which book have you enjoyed the most recently, and why?
To be honest I tend to listen to books rather than read them, either when driving or before I sleep. One I read though was All Change, the final part of the Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m very creative and messy – I love painting and crafts. My latest thing is felting where I take vast quantities of beautiful and quite expensive merino wool and spend hours soaping, soaking and rolling it into completely unwearable or usable objects.

If you could describe your working-day in just three words, what would they be?
Varied, rewarding, fun.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful answers, Hazel. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you.

You can find Hazel on Twitter and Accent Press Readers’ and Writers’ group on Facebook:

If you have any questions for Hazel Cushion, or any comments at all, please let us know. Hazel will be dropping in again today, and we’d love to hear from you!

Helena Fairfax writes contemporary romance novels. Her latest release is a romantic suspense

novella called Palace of Deception. You can find out more on Helena’s website
Thank you, Hazel and Helena!
The RNA Blog is brought to you by,
Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman
If you would like to write for the blog please contact us on

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

BOOK TOURS: Do you or don’t you?

We welcome Sheryl Browne to the blog today to tell us about her experiences of blog tours.

Have you ever tried to organise your own online Book Tour? I have – and I feel faint at the idea. I lie not. Panic clutches at my insides at the thought of the work involved, let alone how to word those dreaded emails asking overworked – and unpaid – bloggers to read your book when their TBR piles are teetering to the point of plain dangerous. What are the benefits anyway you may ask. Well, apart from the reviews – cue more panic-filled moments – there’s the exposure: getting you and your book noticed where you couldn’t hope to get attention if you exposed yourself naked.

A good book tour, with a mixture of reviews and interviews, allows you to flaunt yourself in your best light, your gorgeous book cover, as opposed to your not-so-gorgeous bod. And in tweeting, retweeting and sharing the posts that bloggers have worked so hard to put together, friendships are forged. You don’t just hit RT and toddle off to the next tweet. Mostly, you are so astounded by the thought and effort that has gone into creating those blogs, the content all about you and your book, including links, Rafflecopter giveways and videos if you have them, you just want to kiss the bloggers concerned. Naturally, you thank people, you chat and you begin to realise that bloggers are batting firmly in your corner. They’re shouting about you because they’ve read your book and they believe in you: the author. That’s one hell of a confidence boost.

So, do I think Book Tours are beneficial? Yes, absolutely. Would I organise one myself? Having tried it once, I think I’d rather flaunt myself naked (or possibly not). My advice would be to hand it over to a book tour organiser. I’ve just toured with Brook Cottage Books and I couldn’t have placed my baby in safer hands. Without going into detail and boring you to tears, I have definitely had one of those years. In short, on the major life events front it’s been not so great, and it left me not knowing whether I was on my derrière or my elbow (a quick thank you here to all those lovely RNA members who picked me up, almost carried me to the conference, and proceeded to feed me chocolate and wine and generally buoy me up). Despite my befuddlement and complete disorganisation, Debbie Johnston took over the reins and organised my tour smoothly and totally professionally. I owe a HUGE thank you to her.

The book on tour was for my new release from Choc Lit, appropriately titled The Rest of My Life (here’s to a slightly less frenetic start to the rest of it!). Did I mention the cover? I think I might have a few bazillion times, but just in case you ran screaming when you saw me coming and missed it, here it is:

Isn’t it just divine? *Sigh*
And here’s a snippet from one of the reviews I picked up on the tour, which had me hooting out loud:
THIS Choc Lit book will have you giggling a bit, crying a LOT (I love books that spot up my glasses with projectile tears. This book is brilliant and was very hard to put down. It’s one that made me want to forget about necessary real-life things like peeing and sleep.” Thank you so much: Double-Edged Words

While I’m here, I do have a bit of good news to share: a second contract with Choc Lit for my contemporary romance, Learning to Love. Yay!
The book has a temporary cover at the moment, created by yours truly, which couldn’t hope to live up to Choc Lit’s to-drool-over covers, but it’s not bad, if I do say so myself. All of my romance novels are now sporting new covers and I must say I do think they look rather smart.

Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to share.
Keep safe all.

Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal, Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy, poignant fiction. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for Innovation in Romantic Fiction, Sheryl has seven books published to date.


Thank you for such a bright and cheerful blog post Sheryl and good luck with your next blog tour!

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write for the blog please contact us on  

Angela Britnell: Her Writing Process

Today Angela Britnell tells us about her writing process, describing how her characters insisted she turn a short story into a full length novel.

Once on the reject table, always on the reject table? 
I couldn’t have this coming true for the lovely Maggie and Chad which is why they get their very own perfect HEA in The Wedding Reject Table. My publisher, Choc Lit, wanted a very short 500 word story to be sent out as free treat to tempt readers and this was when Maggie, a Cornish cake decorator, and Chad, a lawyer from Nashville made their appearance. Some characters are so insistent and the beginning of their story intrigued them both so much they refused to leave me alone. By nature I’m as far from a plotter as you can get which meant I didn’t know how their story would go either but I had to find out.

The Wedding Reject Table starts in the same way as the original short story with Maggie and Chad looking at the wedding seating chart. He asks her if she’s been put on the reject table too.

‘The Reject Table’. His deep smooth voice was laced with a delicious warm drawl she could’ve listened to all night. ‘Of course they wouldn’t call it that, they might gloss it over by using the term “Independents”, but we know the truth, don’t we?’

‘Do we?’ Maggie bristled. She refused to admit she knew precisely what he was talking about. She’d endured enough of these ritual humiliations while seeming unable to sustain a relationship long enough to change her Facebook status.

After that it changed dramatically and expanded. I always love writing the first draft because that’s my way of discovering the story. It comes straight from the heart but after that the head needs to get more involved! I transfer the draft to my Kindle and read it through, making notes as I go. That helps me to see if the storyline works and where things need to added/taken away. I then work on the second draft and do the bulk of the hard work. The third draft is usually a question of minor tweaks and hopefully no major rewrites.

My first Choc Lit novella is called What Happens in Nashville and as Chad in The Wedding Reject Table comes from Nashville we decided to link them as my ‘Nashville Connections’ series. There will hopefully be a third one later this year.

The Wedding Reject Table 
When Maggie Taylor, a cake decorator, and Chad Robertson, a lawyer from Nashville Tennessee, meet at a wedding in Cornwall it’s not under the best circumstances. They have both been assigned to ‘the reject table’, alongside a toxic collection of grumpy great aunts, bitter divorcees and stuffy organists. Maggie has grown used to being the reject, although when Chad helps her out of a wedding cake disaster she begins to wonder whether the future could hold more for her. But will Chad be strong enough to deal with the other problems in Maggie’s life? Because a ruined cake isn’t the only issue she has – not by a long shot.

About Angela
Angela was born in Cornwall and joined what was then the Women’s Royal Naval Service to work as a Naval Secretary before she met her husband, a US Naval Flight Officer, while being based at a small NATO Headquarters on the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark. They lived together in Denmark, Sicily, California, southern Maryland and London before settling with their three sons in Franklin, Tennessee. Angela took a creative writing course in 2000 and loved it so much that she has barely put her pen down since. She has had many short stories and novels published in both the US and UK.

Amazon US  
Amazon UK   

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If you would like to write for the blog please contact us on 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Planning Masterclass with Jane Jackson

Your intrepid bloggers have attended many talks and workshops in their quest to learn the craft of writing.  An author we will travel many miles to study with is Jane Jackson.  Here Jane explains how to plan a novel using her latest work, The Consul’s Daughter, as an example.  Jane’s forward planning extends to her working life where she can be relied upon to file her blog copy many weeks ahead of publication date. For that we are most grateful!

How to beat the deadline rush, avoid panic, and reduce the risk of that stomach-churning, terror-inducing, spirit-sapping condition known as Writer’s Block.

That’s a bold claim. But if you’re relatively new to writing you might find what follows worth trying.

Some people prefer to set off on a journey with their characters and see where it takes them.  Those who use this method successfully are usually established writers who understand their genre and have highly developed instincts honed over many years.

I’ve done that and been successful. But now I plan. Why?
1. If you have a partner, children, a day job, or fall ill, there will be times when you can’t write.  Without a plan it can be really hard to get back into the story.
2. Putting character profiles, details of location, period and story background, and a plot outline (the sequence of events in which character choices influence the plot and plot action forces the characters to change) onto paper or screen means you don’t have to carry all those details in your head.  

A plan is simply a map: it shows the starting point (just before the event that forces the main character into a course of action that will change his/her life)  the intended destination, and several dramatic high – or low - points along the way.  

A plan helps me ensure my background is rock solid and will support the story. It helps me understand my characters, their strengths and weaknesses, their backstory and baggage, their secrets and hopes. Knowing all this helps me choose situations that will bring out the best and the worst in them.    It gives my book shape and enables me to divide it into sections. 

A very rough example: an 80,000 word book in 20 chapters of 4000 words each. 
Chapters 1-3 – Set-up
Chapters 4-16 - increasing complications leading to  –
Chapters 17/18  crisis and climax when it looks as if the characters will not only fail in their ‘quest’  but lose everything they have gained so far.  
Chapters 19/20 - resolution when the mystery is solved, the characters either do or don’t achieve what they sought, all loose ends are tied up, and any remaining questions are answered. Not all stories need a happy ending, but they must leave readers emotionally satisfied.

A plan is not a cage. It frees you from confusion and makes it easier to work out a timescale for writing the book.  Some people prefer to write a complete draft then revise and edit. Others (and I’m one) revise the previous day’s work each morning before starting; the previous week’s work each Monday morning, then another complete edit once the mss is finished.   Whichever method you choose it’s wiser not to submit your mss until it’s the very best of which you are capable.  Why? Because you’re competing with people who will have taken that time and trouble. Anything less lets down your book.

In The Consul’s Daughter the action is seen through two viewpoint characters:  Caseley Bonython and Jago Barata.

What gave me the idea for the story?

I was reading a biography of Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick in which he spent time in Mexico installing big pumping engines for use in silver mines.  Though some silver is found as nuggets like gold, most is extracted from copper, lead or zinc ores.  The process of extraction requires mercury, and this was shipped out from Spain.

So I looked up Spain in my encyclopaedia and discovered that in 1874, right in the middle of the Victorian era – a favourite period of mine - Spain was in the grip of a series of civil wars over the laws of succession that had killed many thousands and soaked the country in blood.

What started them?  When Philip V took the throne of Spain in 1700 he was a member of the French royal family.  But the Treaty of Utrecht forbade the unification of France and Spain. So Philip decided to relinquish his right of succession to France under one condition: that succession to the Spanish crown was limited to his entire male line before it could pass to any female.
In 1830 Ferdinand VII of Spain managed to get his fourth wife pregnant which opened up new possibilities for his direct descendants and six months before the birth he changed the law relating to succession.  This infuriated his brother, Don Carlos, who was next in line to the throne and had ambitions for his son.
Ferdinand’s first and only child was a girl, and when the king died three years later, little Isabella was proclaimed queen with her mother Maria Cristina, acting as regent.
Don Carlos’s son, (also called Carlos) Count of Molina, refused to recognize Isabella as the queen. Instead he was proclaimed the rightful king by those opposed to Ferdinand’s change in the law, and so the wars began.
I started drawing these threads together:
First I wrote character profiles:
Jago Barata:  28, 5’10”, muscular build from physical demands of life at sea. Black hair and close beard, grey eyes.
Half Spanish (father’s family) half-Cornish (mother’s)
From his Spanish side he has inherited self-assurance and determination. He’s ruthless and can appear arrogant. At sixteen he stood firm against his father’s anger and displeasure when he refused to join the family business and chose to go to sea. He started at the bottom and worked his way up to ship’s master at 28.   So he has seen the world. Having worked under captains who were tyrants, rogues and superb seamen, he knows how to handle men and his crew would go through fire for him.
From his Cornish side he inherited a quick dry wit. Behind an expressionless façade he’s perceptive and deeply emotional.
These two sides to his character are often at war, making him hard to read and unpredictable.  
His parents live in Mexico where his father has a cattle ranch and silver mines.  The blockade of Bilbao has held up a cargo of mercury needed by Felipe Barata at his silver mines in Mexico.
Jago owns a schooner, Cara, currently trapped in Bilbao, and has shares in another, Cygnet, part owned by Teuder Bonython, owner of a ship-repair yard and cargo brokerage. His daughter Caseley also has shares in Cygnet.
Caseley Bonython:  21, 5’4”, slim, chestnut hair, green eyes. Youngest of Teuder’s three children and the only girl. She knows that despite his reliance on her, in her father’s eyes she can never replace her older brothers: Philip, who died young, and Richard, a talented artist with no interest in the yard or shipping business he will one day inherit. 
The accident that killed her mother left her with a crippled foot and a limp. In 1874 being a graceful dancer was an important social attribute and offered opportunities to meet potential suitors.
Unable to take part in dancing lessons, Caseley learned Spanish instead and this has proved invaluable to her father who is consul for Mexico.
Responsible, kind-hearted and a worrier, awareness of her flaws means she has little vanity. But her quiet manner masks a strong sense of justice and, despite hating confrontation, she will challenge behaviour she considers unfair.

When Caseley first sees Jago she is shaken by his impact on her.  At their first meeting her cool distance (born of terror that he will see through her pretence that her father is still in charge) irritates then intrigues him.  With numerous problems of his own to deal with he’s annoyed that she sticks in his mind like a burr.

A word about names:  I’m careful to choose names that ‘fit’ the characters, their class, location, and the period of the story. More than once I’ve had a character I couldn’t get a grip on.  After a change of name they sprang to life. Not only could I see and hear them, they arrived with a full history they couldn’t wait to tell me about.

Caseley is an old Cornish surname originally spelt Casley. In the past family names were often used as first names to honour grandparents or perhaps a wealthy distant relative in the hope of being remembered in the will.
Bonython is also an old Cornish name, and the two go well together.  ‘Teuder Bonython’ has a definite ring to it!

The same applied to Jago Lansallos Barata. Jago is Cornish for James, and Iago is the Spanish equivalent.  Lansallos came from his Cornish mother’s family, and Barata is his Spanish father’s name.  So you see how the characters’ names suggest their family histories.

Appearance is really only important when it affects how a character is perceived either by themselves or others.

Assisted by housekeeper Rosina, maid Liza-Jane and manservant Ben, 21-year-old Caseley is responsible for running the house, looking after her sick father, translating foreign correspondence and managing the office while keeping secret from everyone including her two uncles the true state of her father’s health to avoid loss of confidence in the business.   

Writing a brief overview of each chapter allows me to pace the story and avoid mid-book sag.

Ch. 1   Set-up: Teuder’s illness, Ralph’s drinking, Caseley’s heavy responsibilities, her reliance on housekeeper Rosina, maid Liza-Jane and manservant Ben (courting Liza-Jane)

Ch. 2  Scene 1:  Jago with his mistress. His anxiety over Cara trapped in Bilbao. His relationship with his crew and the yard foreman.
Scene 2:  Thomas Bonython (Teuder’s half-brother) has financial problems, henpecked by wife Margaret, hints at money-making scheme.

Ch. 3   Scene 1: Ralph’s hangover, his quarrel with Caseley who overhears Rosina and Liza-Jane gossiping about Louise Downing and her new ‘fancy man.’  Teuder questions Caseley about the business.
Scene 2:  Caseley to shipyard. Sees Jago for first time as he brings Cygnet alongside. To office where Teuder’s other half-brother Richard (manages ship-repair and cargo-brokerage) asks after her father.  Jago Barata walks in.  (Major plot point – end of Set-Up and start of Increasing Complications)

Ch. 4  Jago’s impact on Caseley, her instinctive wariness. He presses to know when Teuder will be back. He wants the senior captain’s post.

Ch. 5.  Scene 1:  Thomas worried about Teuder’s return.
  Scene 2:  Jago’s reaction to Caseley; visits George Fox (consul for Spain) for update on the war.  Jago receives a letter from solicitor – he has inherited his grandmother’s house on Greenbank. Letter from his father – cargo of mercury needed for silver mines not arrived from Spain, can Jago help?
  Scene 3:  Dr tells Caseley her father is dying, advises letting him return to the office.

Ch. 6  Scene 1:  Angered by his dreams of Caseley, Jago discusses repairs to Cygnet with yard foreman Toby who reveals his suspicions that Caseley, not her father, is running the yard.
            Scene 2:  Jago to office. Friction with Caseley as he reveals he knows what she’s doing.  Insists she’s present when her father comes in next day.

Ch. 7  Scene 1:  Teuder and Caseley in office. Reactions of Teuder’s half-brothers, Thomas and Richard. Jago arrives. Teuder agrees to him being senior captain.  Jago blackmails Caseley into refurbishing his house.

Ch. 8  Scene 1:  Caseley and Jago to his house. It’s effect on her.  They share revelations about their pasts. First touch as he wipes away her tears.  Renewed friction – why is he insisting she oversee work to the house?  He won’t admit the truth to himself, let along her.

Ch 9.  Scene 1: Thomas and Margaret – her fear Teuder will leave the yard to Caseley. If she marries Barata what will become of them?
            Scene 2:  Ralph questions her working on Jago’s house. He’s been commissioned to paint portrait of Emily Lashbrook. Caseley delighted/relieved.
            Scene 3:   Jago at hotel packing for voyage to Spain to collect mercury from Santander. Thinking about Caseley. His mistress Louise Downing bursts in having just heard about his house.

Ch 10.  Scene 1:  Teuder and Caseley in office, letters.  She leaves for Greenbank. Calls into shops for fabric samples. Show her feelings for the house, knowing when it’s finished she’ll never see it again.  Louise arrives. Caseley realises she’s Jago’s mistress. Excuse she needs to sever any connection with him.  Writes letter and leaves at hotel.
              Scene 2:  Arrives home. Father tells her of letter from Spaniards in Mexico with interests in both countries. Sealed secret docs must be taken to Spain.  He can’t go so she must.  (Major plot point)
And so on....

When I needed a break from writing the sequel to The Consul’s Daughter  I wrote the third in my series of Polvellan Cornish Mysteries. Now it’s finished and with my editor I will return to the sequel.  Without detailed plan of both the sequel and Polvellan 3 (I also have outlines of the next four Polvellan stories) I couldn’t have done this.   

If you’re already a planner you will know the value. If you’re not, why not give it a try?  It really does make life easier!

The Consul’s Daughter  Jane Jackson  pub: Accent Press  July 2015.
Ebook £2.99  POD paperback £12.99

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 Thank  you, Jane. We will be looking at our WIP's in closer detail now!

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