Monday, October 30, 2017

Kathleen McGurl: Writing on the move

Today we welcome Kathleen McGurl to the RNA blog.

Kathleen McGurl lives in Bournemouth with her husband. She has two sons who are both now at university. She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time. Eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway. Since then she has published several novels with HQ and Carina UK and self-published another. She has also sold dozens of short stories to women's magazines, and written three How To books for writers. She works full time in the IT industry and when she's not writing, she's often out running, slowly. Her latest book is The Girl from Ballymor, a dual timeline story set in Ireland during the Great Famine.

Over to you Kathleen...

This year I spent six months travelling around Europe in a motorhome with my husband. I was lucky to get six months off work - I work for John Lewis and it was the reward for having done over 25 years with them. But of course, six months off work means six months away from the day job only. No time off from writing, and I wouldn’t want to, anyway!
We left home in early April and travelled through France, Italy, Croatia, Spain and Portugal, arriving home in early October. It was, as you might imagine, an amazing trip.

At the beach in northern Spain

I knew I’d have a new book coming out while I was away (The Girl from Ballymor) and had also agreed to a deadline to hand in the next book. One problem with life in a motorhome is that there’s no space to bring a printer. So I’d rushed to complete a draft of the new book before we left home, printed it, and took that with me as I prefer to edit by scribbling in red pen over a printout.
But the next rewrite, following my editor’s feedback, had to be done on screen with no printout to scribble on. I found that hard as it’s a different way of working. Maybe I should have found a print-shop but I don’t know the word for it in Italian!
I started a new novel after those two edits, and that was easier, although writing about rainy, damp Ireland when I was dealing with an Italian heat-wave was not always easy.

The glorious Dolmites

At home I mostly write in the evenings, outside of the day-job hours. While travelling I tried to write in the late afternoon and early evening, after we’d arrived wherever we were going to park for the night, and before we had our evening meal and the wine that invariably went with it. It wasn’t always possible if we were out for a long day or needed to spend time blogging or planning the next few days, and I made a point of not beating myself up if several days went by with no words written. After all, the trip was primarily about the travelling.
When possible I sat outside to write, trying not to be distracted by gorgeous views over the sea or mountains. As it only rained during the day about three times on the entire trip (and I am not joking!) in theory I could sit outside always. But as anyone who’s tried using a laptop in bright sunlight will know, it’s not always easy to see what you are doing. I must buy one of those laptop sun-hoods before any future trips.
An essential piece of kit was a 12v laptop charger so I could charge the laptop even if we weren’t hooked up to mains electricity, which was often, as we free-camped a lot.

Writing at a Croatian campsite

The Girl from Ballymor came out in early September, and my challenge then was to try to do some promotion for it while on the move. I have a good phone contract with a large data allowance that can be used while roaming, so I was able to use Twitter and Facebook the same as at home. And check Amazon rankings, of course! My publicist asked if I could do a pre-recorded radio interview for Talk Radio Europe. I agreed and then spent many sleepless nights fretting about how best to manage this. I needed to make sure on the day of the interview we would be parked somewhere with no background noise, and I’d need to be in the van with closed windows for quiet, so preferably under some shade so I didn’t pass out with the heat... Of course I was worrying for nothing and it all went well in the end.
Many of the places we went to provided inspiration for future novels. I write dual timeline – a historical mystery resolved in the present day – and love visiting anywhere with a bit of history attached. So – most of Italy, then! Highlights for future writing ideas were Certaldo in Tuscany (home of Boccaccio), the restored lemon groves in Limone, Lake Garda, and Pompeii, of course.

A Tuscan sunset - inspiration for a future book?

I know of a few other writers who write while in their campervans. It takes a bit of adjustment and requires a lot of flexibility, but the rewards are well worth it. Writing is one of those jobs you can do anywhere, and having a campervan allows you to be anywhere. It’s a match made in heaven.

Thank you Kathleen for that insight into an amazing trip and the challenges of writing on the move. 

You can find out more about Kathleen on twitter @KathMcGurl, on Facebook:, and on her website
And The Girl from Ballymor is available now:

Friday, October 27, 2017

October Competition Monthly!

There are lots more competitions to get your teeth into this month. Three of them are free to enter, two of which have an interesting twist.

The Bubo competition wants entries it can add illustrations and music to. Bubo are developing an app that is soon to launch on Apple Store and may be at least one future of literature. When we think of stories with illustrations, it's normally children's tales that come to mind, but Bubo are also asking for adult literature, which brings a whole new challenge. The recent adult animation Loving Vincent, based on Van Gogh's paintings, came to mind as a similar idea. You can find out a bit more about the here.
new app

The New Media Prize is likewise looking at the future of e-literature, this time using images and video clips, among other things. This competition is more likely suitable for those who are particularly computer savvy and worth a go if you are.

For the rest of us, there are plenty of traditional short story comps among this month's selection, with a good variety of lengths. If you're a children's or YA author, the Chicken House competition is offering an excellent prize of a contract, money and an agent. Expensive at £15 entry, but then there's a lot to win.

Happy comping everyone, and don't forget to let us know of any competition success you have.

**Closing very soon**
The London Magazine Short Story Competition
Theme: Open. 2,000 words max
Prize: £500 / £300 / £200
Closing date: 31 October 17
Entry: £10

**Closing very soon **
Arkbound 2017 Annual Short Story Competition
Theme: Time. 1,000 words max
Prize: £100 / £50 / £25 / 3 x £10
Closing date: 1st November 17
Entry: £3

**Closing very soon **
Scribble Annual Short Story Competition
Theme: First line: 'The bicycle was in its usual place'. 3,000 words max
Prize: £100 / £50 / £25
Closing date: 1st November 17
Entry: £4

**Closing very soon **
2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize
Theme: Open. 2,000 – 5,000 words
Prize: Regional Winner £2,500. Overall winner £5,000
Closing date: 1st November 17
Entry: Free

Words and Women Prose Competition (open to women only)
Theme: Short prose, any theme. 2,200 words max.
Prize: National prize: £1,000 and up to one month's writing residency. Regional prize (East of England): £600 and mentoring session
Closing date: 15 November 17
Entry: £10

HE Bates Short Story Competition
Theme: Open. 2,000 words max.
Prize: £500 / £200 / £100 plus £100 for Northamptonshire writer.
Closing date: 4 December 17
Entry: £6 / £10 for 2

Bubo Short Story / Your World, Our Music Contest
Theme: Adult or Children's literature, 2,000 – 4,000 words.
Prize: Winning entries will be published in an ebook with synchronised music and illustrations created specifically for them.
Closing date: 15 November 17
Entry: Free

The if:book New Media Prize 2017
Theme: Fiction and nonfiction specifically for delivery and reading / viewing on a PC, Mac, Web, tablet, phone etc.
Prize: £1,000
Closing date: 24 November 17
Entry: Free

1000 Word Challenge
Theme: 'This Time'. Max 1,000 words
Prize: £100 / £50 / £25
Closing date: 30 November 17
Entry: £5

The Times / Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition
Theme: Full length novel suitable for children / YA aged somewhere between 7 and 18.
Prize: Worldwide publication contract with Chicken House, royalty advance of £1,000 and representation from a top children's literary agent.
Closing date: 8 December 17
Entry: £15

Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers' Award 2018
Theme: 20,000 – 30,000 words of a work in progress. Open to those not previously published.
Prize: £10,000
Closing date: 13 December 17
Entry: Free

Flash 500 Flash Fiction Competition
Theme: Open. 500 words max.
Prize: £300 / £200 / £100
Closing date: Quarterly – next is 31 December 17
Entry: £5 / £8 for 2

Francesca Capaldi Burgess has been placed or shortlisted in a number of competitions including Winchester Writers' Conference, Retreat West, Meridian Writing, Wells Festival and Writing Magazine. She's had stories and a serial published in magazines worldwide and in three anthologies, including Diamonds and Pearls and 100 Stories for Haiti. She is a member of the RNA New Writers' Scheme and the Society for Women Writers and Journalists. Francesca runs a writing blog along with RNA member, Elaine Roberts.
Write Minds Blog

Thanks Francesca! Good luck to everyone who enters.

This blog was prepared by blog team member, Louisa Heaton.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Caroline James: Follow your dreams

Today we welcome Caroline James to the blog. Over to you Caroline...

It’s never too late to follow your dream.

A blog post here a little while ago suggested that hotels make great settings for novels. Having spent a life-time in the hospitality industry, I completely agree.
It began way back, when as an unhappy teen at an all girl’s grammar school, I left home, much to my parent’s horror and for a couple of years’, waited tables on the south coast. Deciding that hotel life was for me I studied, worked hard, took relevant jobs and eventually ended up owning my own pub, followed by a lovely country house hotel. I’d always wanted to write but having had a poor start with education, which I endeavoured to put right along the way, I thought I wasn’t good enough and that no one would want to read my work. Life was busy too, with a demanding job, frequent disasters, family to care for and many responsibilities. There was little time to indulge my fantasy of writing but the hotel was a perfect setting with an ever-changing cast as guests came and went and I never knew who was going to walk through the door or what would happen next. Confidences were shared over cocktails and as a hotelier, I learnt to be discreet, little knowing that ideas had been subliminally planted in my writing brain. The beautiful old building was a character too, constantly demanding in its upkeep and changing moods as the seasons came and went.

Five years ago, with the years creeping on, I had an epiphany. Start writing! A story set in an hotel had been in my head for a long time and would no longer be silenced. It demanded to be written and determined, I glued my rear to a chair and began. It was frustrating, exhausting and difficult as I snatched hours early in the morning and late at night until eventually, Coffee Tea the Gypsy & Me was born. Next, I trawled through publishers and agents but no one wanted to know and in frustration, I self-published. I’m no expert in publicity, nor did I ever imagine that the story would take off but shortly after publication, it did. The book went to number three in women’s fiction on Amazon, was E-book of the Week in The Sun and a small publisher signed me for a follow-on. Three novels later and thrillingly, I have recently signed with the award winning independent British publisher, ChocLit, under their new imprint, Ruby Fiction.

My next book is all about mid-lifers making their boomer years the best. I want my characters to mentally run down the road to happiness as the years’ advance, not hobble through the fog of thinking they’re past it. The Best Boomerville Hotel is a retreat that offers courses from Clairvoyance in Midlife to Sharing with the Shaman, alongside Boomer’s Boot-Camp and a plethora of studies to enliven later years. If I still had my lovely country house, I know exactly what I’d do with it, a real-life Hotel Boomerville would be created. In fact, I’d want to be the first guest checking in.

I’ve learnt during this time not to give up, that it is never too late to follow your dream. My writing dream is coming true and if you are an aspiring writer, whatever your age, I hope that the same will happen to you. 

Caroline’s Ruby Fiction debut, The Best Boomerville Hotel, set in the Lake District, is a fun retreat for mid-lifers and has been described as Britain’s entertaining answer to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It will be published in 2018.

Caroline has owned and run businesses encompassing all aspects of the hospitality industry, a subject that features in her novels. She is based in the UK but has a great fondness for travel and escapes whenever she can. A public speaker, consultant and food writer, Caroline writes articles and short stories and contributes to many publications.

Her debut novel, Coffee, Tea, The Gypsy & Me is set in North West England, at the time of a famous gypsy horse fair.  The book went straight to number three on Amazon and was E-book of the Week in The Sun. So, You Think You're A Celebrity...Chef? was runner up the Winchester Writers festival for best TV Drama and takes a light-hearted look at the world of celebrity chefs as they battle it out for fame and fortune: Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean & Me was runner up at The Write Stuff, LBF, 2015 and is an Amazon best-seller and top recommended read by Thomson Holidays. Jungle Rock, a romcom novella set in Australia, revolves around a TV game show.

In her spare time, Caroline can be found trekking up a mountain or relaxing with her head in a book and hand in a box of chocolates. You can find out more about Caroline at, on Twitter: @CarolineJames12, on facebook: Caroline James Author, and on her Amazon Author Page

Monday, October 23, 2017

Anne Allen: Writing about a place you love

Today we welcome Anne Allen to the blog to talk about her Guernsey Novels series and the influence of the island she loves on her writing.

Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby.  Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.
By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, five having been published and the sixth, The Betrayal, is due out on 20th October 2017.

Over to Anne...

I first visited Guernsey, the subject of all my novels, in 1987 and immediately fell in love. Not with a man, dear reader, but the island. The man came much later… At the time I was a single mother of three young children and worked as a psychotherapist, with no time or much incentive to write. I moved us all to Guernsey a year later, the beginning of a life-long love affair.
Fast forward fourteen years and I’m back in England, missing the island and having left No 1 son behind as a reason for frequent returns. A couple of years later and my last child left the nest and I decided if I did want to write that novel, now was a good time before the brain cells atrophied. Encouragement came in the form of winning a 500-word true-life story competition in Prima magazine. The prize was £500 in M&S vouchers meaning I was well-fed and well dressed during the following months of scribbling.
For me it was a no-brainer to choose Guernsey as my setting for a story. It has all the necessary attributes: beautiful scenery, including golden beaches; fascinating history from Neolithic times; numerous bars, restaurants and cafés for my characters to frequent and a couple of smaller islands nearby offering a change of scene. Add to that a tragic and mysterious boating accident and an old cottage with secrets and ‘Dangerous Waters’ was conceived. The birth took considerably longer than nine months as I wrote and re-wrote the ms, finally joining the NWS scheme on the advice of a friend, Anne Weale, a former RNA president. In spite of all the help I received, I was unable to attract an agent and finally self-published in 2012, through Matador.
My next book, ‘Finding Mother’, was also set predominantly in Guernsey but at this point I hadn’t twigged this was becoming a series, even though characters from the first book popped up in book two. Duh! However, I did set up my own imprint, Sarnia Press, and re-published ‘Dangerous Waters’ under that imprint. A year later I published ‘Guernsey Retreat’ and a series was now established – The Guernsey Novels. I had the covers redesigned to create a branding and each cover has a recognisable (to those who know!) Guernsey scene.
Guernsey, like the other Channel Islands, was occupied in WWII by the Germans, and this has had a profound effect on both the landscape of the island and the psyche of the Islanders. I’ve been drawn to focus on this in all my books, often using something which happened during the Occupation as having a knock-on effect on present-day characters. For example, love affairs ending in tears crop up in some books, influencing the doomed lovers’ descendants.

Although the books are a mix of family drama and mystery, there is always a romantic thread, as befits a proud Independent Member of the RNA. This is true of my latest title, ‘The Betrayal’, my second dual-time novel set in both the Occupation years and the present.  Two separate historical facts inspired the story: Renoir’s visit to Guernsey in 1833 when he painted numerous views of Moulin Huet Bay and the forceful deportation of Jews on Guernsey to concentration camps by the Germans. I’ve intertwined the two by having my WWII character, Leo, of Jewish descent, own an unrecorded  Renoir painting of Moulin Huet, which turns up in a basement over sixty years later.

Thanks to Anne for that great insight into how Guernsey inspires your writing. 

Anne's latest novel is The Betrayal

Treachery and theft lead to death – and love
1940.  Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…
1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return.
1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.
2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth…
Searching for the true owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother's ghost to rest?
Who betrayed Leo?
Who knew about the stolen Renoir?
And are they prepared to kill – again?

You can find out more about Anne on her website, on facebook, or by following @AnneAllen21 on twitter. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Laurie Johnson - Associate Editor, Mills & Boon

Today, in the latest of the series ‘Chatting with Publishers’, we are delighted to welcome Laurie Johnson to the blog.

Harper Collins is a huge organisation split into many component parts. Could you give our readers an insight into which imprints you are involved with and what is your particular role?
I’m an Associate Editor for the Mills & Boon Global Acquisition team within HarperCollins. We work with colleagues in London, Toronto and New York to acquire series editorial for global publication. In London, we work closely with the UK business, including HQ and Mills & Boon marketing teams to support wider UK publishing programmes. Within this role, I acquire and work with authors writing across all UK series: Mills & Boon Modern, Historical, Medical, Cherish and our brand new series, Dare launching in early 2018.

Because readers and writers are a nosey bunch, we’d love to have a pocket history of your career to date.
At university, I studied Creative Writing, which has put me in a good position to be an editor since we had to learn how to give—and take—constructive feedback on stories. I understand how brutal it can be, but appreciate that ultimately it’s a useful process. From there I became a magazine editor, I did this for four years before transitioning into commercial fiction publishing and finding my home at Mills & Boon. I’ve worked for Mills & Boon in the office and as a freelance editor for the last six years.

While this is a question that frequently comes up it would be helpful to know what advice you would give writers wanting to submit their manuscript to you.
Think about your characters. Mills & Boon romances are all about the characters. You could set your story anywhere within any situation, but the emotional journey your hero and heroine go on is what is key. Remember to dig deep into your characters, learn who they are, what their emotional conflicts are, what his/her motivation is, what’s the end goal? Don’t shy away from the emotional, keeping everything external and on the surface; get in there and learn what makes your hero and heroine tick. Use their internal, emotional conflicts to drive the story. Think about how they’re going to come together, what emotionally is going to keep them apart and how they’re going to use what they’ve learned over the course of the story to overcome their conflict and be together.
Ensure you read the guidelines for your desired series and read as many of our titles as possible. These provide the best guide to our readers’ tastes. And don’t give up. It can be disheartening to get a rejection, but do keep trying!

What does a work need to have to make you read beyond that first sentence; that first paragraph?
I look out for a strong, exciting voice that captivates my attention from the very beginning. If there’s an exhilarating story with three-dimensional characters we can’t help but love in there too, then that’s a real bonus. But mainly we’re looking for that great author voice we just want to read again and again.

Following on from the previous question, you may often know immediately when something isn’t right for you. If it is something in the story rather than the writer’s voice, would you encourage that author to submit something different or perhaps even send you a rewrite?
Yes, definitely. If it’s something that can be fixed, I’ll often send feedback so the author can work on it more. If it’s something more fundamental in the story, but the author has a strong voice, I’ll provide advice and ask them to submit another project.

What is the position regarding unsolicited submissions?
Harlequin Mills & Boon does accept unsolicited submissions. For more information, check out the guidelines and send your story to us via:

Do you ever have time to read for your own pleasure; genres other than the ones that constitute your work? What would be your genre of choice?
I’ve always been an avid reader, although admittedly these days with reading for a living it’s a lot less. However, I always ensure I’m reading something for pleasure. This year I’m using the Goodreads Reading Challenge, it’s really helpful to keep track of what I’ve read and what I thought of it.
While I read a lot of competitive titles, which helps to identify trends in the romance market etc., I do breakout of the Romance genre as much as I can. My go to is usually Crime, I love authors like Kathy Reichs, James Patterson and Preston & Child. I also love a good Fantasy; I’m currently re-reading Harry Potter and I’m the proud owner of the entire Terry Pratchett Discworld collection! And an Action-Adventure, such as Thunderhead (Preston & Child again), anything about Atlantis or other lost worlds, always provides great escapism. The only genre I avoid is Horror, I’m a real scaredy-cat!

Have you ever become so drawn to a real place, albeit in a fictional context, that you just had to visit it?
Yes! I once read Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs by Jeremy Mercer, it’s set in a little bookstore in Paris called Shakespeare and Company that sits opposite Notre-Dame Cathedral. I was so excited to see it! It was exactly as described with books covering every conceivable surface, it was bliss to get lost in there for hours. It’s a fabulous bookstore and I highly recommend a visit for anyone who loves books!

If you didn’t do what you do, what would your dream occupation be?
To be honest, this is my dream occupation so I’d hate to be doing anything else!

A lovely thing to be able to say whatever one’s job. Thank you for joining us today, Laurie.

Laurie was interviewed by Natalie Kleinman. Thank you Natalie for a wonderful interview.

Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romantic novels. Her latest Escape to the Cotswolds, is set in the beautiful English countryside and was published by HarperCollins HQ Digital in June 2017.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sophie Claire: Diary of a NaNoWriMo-er

Today we welcome Sophie Claire to the blog to talk about her experience with November writing challenge NaNaWriMo, where participants attempt to write a novel in a month.

Sophie writes emotional stories set in England and in sunny Provence, where she spent her summers as a child. She has a French mother and a Scottish father, but was born in Africa and grew up in Manchester, England where she still lives with her husband and two sons.
Previously, she worked in Marketing and proofreading academic papers, but writing is what she always considered her ‘real job’ and now she’s delighted to spend her days dreaming up heartwarming contemporary romance stories set in beautiful places.
You can find out more at, on Twitter @sclairewriter and on Facebook @sophieclairewriter

Over to Sophie...

This time last year I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo. Why?
Well, for most of October I had been wrestling with the opening of a new novel, but I was frustrated at my lack of progress. I figured if I could complete the NaNo challenge and write 50,000 words in a month, I’d be well on the way to completing a first draft. However, I’d tried NaNoWriMo before with no success, and I’m a slow writer, so I was more than a little apprehensive.
Throughout the month I kept a diary of my progress. Here’s a quick peep to show you how I got on:

November 2016
Days 1-4:
I’m writing 2000 words per day (weekdays only – weekends are too busy with family life) and the first few days go according to plan, but my worry is can I sustain this pace for a whole month? I have a plot outline and three or four characters, but the rest is hazy, as it always is when starting a first draft. However, the doubts which were slowing my progress before I started NaNoWriMo (Does this story have legs? Is it going to work?) are laid to one side as I focus purely on output. NaNoWriMo is unashamedly about quantity, not quality.

Days 5-10:
NaNoWriMo is making me more disciplined about my writing, and I realise that in recent months I had let my standards slip. I would start writing, then check emails. Write a bit more, check Twitter, then Facebook, then do a little internet research – and before I knew it I’d lost hours. Now, however, I don’t allow myself to do anything else until my 2000 words are written. Surprisingly, this can take as little as two and a half hours. I resolve to keep up the strict discipline once NaNoWriMo is over. Then I wonder, is it easier to stay disciplined when you know it’s only for a month? And perhaps there’s comfort too in knowing that thousands of other writers (including friends) across the world are working hard too?

Days 11-15:
I’m prioritising my writing over other activities, and I hadn’t anticipated how satisfying this would feel. I’m totally focused on my novel, and when I’m writing I lose track of time. I’m really enjoying being immersed in my fictional world. It feels as if a love affair has been rekindled.
Also, if NaNoWriMo is anything like new year’s resolutions, then I’d expect the halfway point to be the time when a lot of people give up. I’m still going, however, and proud to have made it this far.

Days 16-20:
I unexpectedly hit a wall and for several days in a row writing is like pulling teeth. I manage to keep up with the word count, but it takes twice as long, and I’m worried: is this the point where my plot will run out of steam? I’ve written thousands of words but are they all rubbish? I tell myself it doesn’t matter; if it fails, I’ve only lost a month’s work. Head down, I persevere.
Then I turn a page and it all begins to flow again. There’s no time to analyse what caused the blip. I keep forging ahead, relieved and thankful that the momentum is back.

Days 21-25:
I’m suddenly reminded that I haven’t done any Christmas shopping and have no prospect of doing any until NaNoWriMo is over so I make the spontaneous decision that, having dedicated November to my novel, December will be a time of catching up with family life and non-urgent jobs, like research and proofreading a friend’s novel. This motivates me to work even harder at NaNoWriMo and I up my word count from 2000 words per day to 2500.

Days 26-28:
I’ve reached 44,000 words and a writer friend emails to say ‘Make sure you get the ending down’. She’s right. 50k words will be an achievement but it’s not a complete novel, so now my focus shifts from meeting daily word counts to racing through the final plot points before I run out of time. The characters are finally coming alive now, and new scenes and twists are coming to me while I’m doing other things like shopping; fortunately I carry a notebook with me everywhere and frantically scribble notes so as not to forget these unexpected ideas. I love this stage: the book is becoming a living breathing story in my head, and I can’t wait to get to my computer each morning.

Days 29-30:
I hit 50,000 words on day 29 – a day early – but the ending isn’t complete so I carry on writing. On day 30 I cross the finishing line with 52,000 words under my belt. It’s rough, it’s going to need a couple more drafts at least, but I have the beginnings of a book. The first draft is always the hardest part of the writing process for me and that’s done, so now I can look forward to reshaping and editing it in the new year. The sense of achievement is huge! My goal was to kick-start a slow-moving project and, thanks to NaNoWriMo, I’ve certainly achieved that.

Sophie x

Thank you for that insight into your NaNo month Sophie. It's fascinating to see how the writing process changes with a new structure or incentive.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

October Releases

Thank you to Sheila Riley for compiling this month’s bumper crop of new releases.


Winter on the Mersey
Saga Romance
Paperback and ebook
Harper Collins
19 October 2017

The dramatic fourth story in the Empire Street Series. 
Full of heartache and triumph from the bestselling author of Christmas on the Mersey.
Kitty has seen her fair share of tragedy and instead of thinking about romance, she is determined to do her bit for King and country. Her life as a WREN means she is kept busy much of the time, but when Kitty finds herself stationed back home on Merseyside, she meets up again with Frank Feeny, the brave young officer who has always held a place in her heart. Britain is on the verge of victory, but will Kitty embrace the future and learn to love again?

Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at The Christmas Fair 
Commercial fiction 
Paperback and ebook 
Simon and Schuster 
5th October 2017

When Anna takes on the role of companion to the owner of Wynthorpe Hall, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, she has no idea that her life is set to change beyond all recognition.
A confirmed ‘bah humbug’ when it comes to Christmas, Anna is amazed to find herself quickly immersed in the eccentric household, and when youngest son Jamie unexpectedly arrives home it soon becomes obvious that her personal feelings are going all out to compromise her professional persona. Jamie, struggling to come to terms with life back in the Fens, makes a pact with Anna – she has to teach him to fall back in love with Wynthorpe Hall, while he helps her fall back in love with Christmas. But will it all prove too much for Anna, or can the family of Wynthorpe Hall warm her heart once and for all...? Join Anna for a festive journey that is festooned with sleigh rides and silver bells and help her discover her happy ever after.

Lily Alone
Women's fiction / domestic drama
Harper Impulse
5 October 2017

What sort of mother would leave her daughter alone? 
Would you leave a very young child at home on their own – knowing that terrible things can happen in the blink of an eye? Lily, who is not yet three years old, wakes up alone with only her cuddly toy for company. She is hungry, afraid of the dark, can’t use the phone, and has been told never to open the door to strangers. In the flat downstairs, a lonely and elderly woman keeps herself to herself but wonders at the cries coming from upstairs. Lily’s grandmother frets that she can no longer see her granddaughter since the child’s parents separated.  Lily’s father hasn’t seen her for a while. He’s been abroad, absorbed in his new job and his new girlfriend. A young woman lies in a coma in hospital – no one knows her name or who she is, but in her silent dreams, a little girl is crying for her mummy… And for Lily, time is running out.

Murder By The Barrel
Paperback and ebook
Accent Press
5th October 2017

The 18th in the Libby Sarjeant series. 
Steeple Martin is hosting its first Beer Festival, which, naturally, leads to murder.

Covent Garden in the Snow
Harper Impulse
Romantic Comedy
Paperback and ebook
20th October 2017

Tilly Hunter has fabulous friends, her dream job as a make-up artist with a prestigious opera company and Felix, her kind and caring husband to be. It looks set to be the most perfect Christmas yet!
But when a monumental blunder forces her to work closely with new IT director Marcus Walker, it's not only the roast chestnut stalls on the cobbles of her beloved Covent Garden that cause sparks to fly

Pictures in Provence
Contemporary romance
Endeavour Press
8th September 2017

Joanna's first love is art, although, to please her mother, she has come to Paris to study music at the Conservatoire. Lured into an art gallery by an exquisite landscape painting in the window, she is astonished to find a portrait of herself among the exhibits. 
The gallery owner, Gilles Ledoux, invites her to the opera but soon leaves for his home in Provence. 
Joanna has an accident and can't play her instrument for a while. She takes a job at Gilles' home where he runs a summer school. He is cagey about the neighbour whose exhibition she visited in Paris. 
Could he be jealous? What's going on?

Scandal and Miss Markham
Paperback and ebook
Mills & Boon
Historical romance
1st October 2017

Glassmaker’s daughter Thea Markham is devastated when her brother Daniel goes missing. Then a mysterious lord turns up asking questions about Daniel and offers to find him. Unsure she can trust the handsome peer, Thea dresses up as a boy and follows him!
Lord Vernon Beauchamp feels his life lacks direction.  Meeting Thea gives him a renewed purpose and when they are thrown together on their scandalous adventure, friendship soon gives way to desire…

The Thief's Daughter
Historical Romance
Choc Lit
3rd October 2017

Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away …
Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, while the gibbet casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers.
Terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as a child, Jenna has resolved to be good. 
When her brother, Silas, asks for her help to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the dangerous world of the smuggling trade.
Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs in revenge for his father’s death. 
Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover their lives are entangled. But as Jenna struggles to decide where her allegiances lie, the worlds of justice and crime collide, leading to danger and heartache for all concerned …

Love Will Find A Way
Linford Romance Library
Romantic Adventure
1st October 2017

When Bethany Burnett discovers her godfather Wendel Nelson holding a garden party in the snow she isn't in the least surprised. What does take her breath away is the sight of film director Sam Richards. His unexplained disappearance fuelled media speculation for weeks. 
Now it seemed he was back and filming a costume drama at Waterbridge Manor, Wendel's country house. When Wendel volunteers Bethany's services as Sam's assistant she fears troubled times ahead.

Annie's Christmas By The Sea
Romantic comedy
Ebook and paperback 
6th October 2017

On the beautiful coast of Cornwall lies the idyllic Salt Bay, where Christmas is the perfect time for bringing family and friends together…
Annie Trebarwith is happily settled in Salt Bay with her beloved great-aunt Alice and gorgeous boyfriend Josh Pasco. Snow is in the air, and Christmas is just around the corner. But when the father she’s never met, ageing rock god Barry, turns up with the half-sister Annie didn’t know existed, life suddenly gets complicated. Barry and Storm are soon clashing with the entire village, and their antics are even driving a wedge between Annie and Josh. Can Annie prevent her new family ruining the festivities and repair things with Josh in time for a cosy Christmas? Or will their relationship end up as frosty as the Salt Bay air? Annie’s Christmas by the Sea is a hilarious and heart-warming story about family, friends and the magic of Christmas, perfect for fans of Lily Graham, Holly Martin and Phillipa Ashley.

A Seaside Escape
Contemporary romance
Ebook and paperback
Aria Fiction
1st October 2017

All work and no love can make for a dull life. But cupid's arrow has a habit of striking when you least expect it... 
A heartwarming, feel-good romance to curl up with this winter. Perfect for the fans of Marian Keyes and Veronica Henry. Mallory Westerman is the successful proprietor of Le Petit Cadeau, a gift shop extraordinaire in thriving Leeds. Concentrating solely on her business, she has almost given up on finding someone to love.That is until she literally falls into the arms of a handsome, intriguing stranger who becomes her Knight in shining armour.The whirlwind romance that ensues changes her life-path irrevocably. However, the road to true love is never smooth and things don't always turn out how you expect...
Shortlisted for the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year 2014. This book was previously published as A Bridge Over the Atlantic.

Only Dancing
Linford Romance Library
Large Print
1st September 2017

"Why was I hesitating? What was the worst that could happen? That the magic clinging to that crazy, wonderful time would be lost?"
... When Caroline visits the David Bowie Is... exhibition at the V&A museum, she doesn’t expect to be pitchforked into a forty-year-old mystery surrounding her older cousin Jilly, who died in a hit-and-run accident on holiday in Italy. She certainly doesn't expect the bittersweet piecing together of old memories to bring new insights... and startling revelations. Coloured by music, vibrant with Bowie, alive with the 1970s, ONLY DANCING is set in the present day, but journeys through Caro’s flashbacks, gradually revealing a chilling mystery - and its resolution

Love in La La Land 
Romantic Comedy
Paperback and ebook
Crooked Cat
10 October 2017

This contemporary romantic comedy is set in the glittering world of Hollywood where English author, Jane Jones, is thrilled by the prospect of seeing a scene from her novel being filmed. And not just any scene. It’s a bedroom one, starring screen heartthrob, Scott Flynn. Too bad, she is accompanied by the cynical Jack Clancy, the screenwriter who has ruined her story, and seems totally unrepentant. Dazzled by Scott’s film-star presence, Jane is overcome and soon finds herself in a tug of war between a movie star and screenwriter. But do they both have ulterior motives? Is Jane a mere pawn in a game between two fierce rivals?

In the bubble of La La Land’s glittering parties, hovering paparazzi, and powerful movie tycoons, Jane begins to feel adrift. She must quickly learn who can be trusted…and who can’t.

My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend
Romantic Comedy
Kindle & paperback
Soundhaven Books
8th October 2017

‘My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend’ follows the efforts of disillusioned school teacher Adrian Turner to win back the affections of feisty public relations executive Paige Steiglitz who – despite being Adrian’s girlfriend of eighteen months – seems to have one foot out of the door, and may harbour feelings for her amazing-in-every-way-but-still-hugely-annoying ex-boyfriend, Sebastian Tunbridge.

Both aided and hindered by Gary (Adrian’s incredibly bright but naïve fifteen-year-old student), and Nikita (a slightly bonkers Polish Private Detective), Adrian eventually finds himself at a wedding in Slovenia, with Sebastian in the room down the hall, and the serious possibility that he’s in danger of losing his job, his mind, and the woman he loves…

Count the Shells
Riptide Publishing
Historical Gay Romance
Print and ebook
October 2017 

Michael Gray returned from World War One injured, but at least he returned. 
Others were not so fortunate, including his first and greatest love, Thomas Carter-Clemence, with whom Michael had parted bitterly before the conflict began.
Broch, the Carter-Clemence home in Porthkennack, was an integral part of pre-war holidays for the Grays, the two families drawn together in the wake of their sons’ friendship. Returning to the once-beloved Cornish coast for a break with his sister and her family, Michael has to find the courage to face old memories . . . and dare new relationships.
When Thomas’s brother Harry makes an unexpected appearance, Michael is surprised to find himself deeply attracted to Harry for his own sake. But as their relationship heats up, it unearths startling revelations and bitter truths. Michael must decide whether Harry is the answer to his prayers or the last straw to break an old soldier’s back.


Carols at Woolworths
Pan Macmillan
5th October 2017

Carols at Woolworths is a heartwarming novella, and is the prequel to Christmas at Woolworths, by bestselling author Elaine Everest
Betty, Freda and Sarah are determined to make the Woolworths Christmas party as jolly as ever. After weeks of careful planning, the girls are confident that it will be an evening for everyone to forget about the troubles of the war outside. But the war is never far away and when an air raid looms, the girls must usher their guests to safety and find a way to take their Christmas cheer underground . . .
Will it be a merry Christmas after all for the girls of Woolworths?

The Captain's Daughter
Historical Romance
Choc Lit
3rd October 2017

Beware the strength of a quiet woman ...
After a family tragedy, Janey Carhart was forced from her comfortable middle-class life as a captain’s daughter into domestic servitude. Determined to make something of herself, Janey eventually finds work as a lady’s maid at the imposing Bosvenna Manor on the edge of Bodmin Moor but is soon caught between the two worlds of upstairs and downstairs, and accepted by neither, as she cares for her blind mistress. Desperately lonely, Janey catches the attention of two men – James Brockenshaw and Daniel Kellow. James is heir to the Bosvenna estate, a man whose eloquent letters to his mother warm Janey’s heart and whose attention to her when he returns home set her pulse racing. Daniel Kellow is a neighbouring farmer with a dark past and a brooding nature, yet with a magnetism that disturbs Janey. Two men. Who should she choose? Or will fate decide.

Christmas at Butterfly Cove (Butterfly Cove, Book 3)
HQ Digital 
6th October 2017

All she wants for Christmas…
When talented artist Nee Sutherland returns to Butterfly Cove for her sister’s wedding, it’s only a matter of time before she has to face her own bridegroom – Luke Spenser – the man she impulsively married, then left in the middle of the night. Nee hasn’t picked up her paintbrushes in months, a part of her is broken. She knows Luke might never forgive her, leaving him was the biggest mistake of her life – but could coming home for Christmas be the best decision she’s ever made? Maybe all she needs is a little Christmas miracle… A delightfully feel-good festive romance, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley, Rachael Lucas and Hilary Boyd.

The Prince’s Bride
Tule Publishing
13th October 2017

"We needed a Prince Charming. You were the best we could get."
As one of three royal brothers in the Adriatic Principality of San Michele, His Serene Highness Prince Jonas works hard and does his duty. But after a protocol-ridden evening where he's just a prop in a photo shoot, he reckons he's due some private time in his beloved forest. Hope Kennard was the daughter of the Manor in a picture-perfect English village. But she's guarded her heart and honed her survival instincts ever since her childhood ended in financial scandal and the death of her beloved father. 
Now she's just passing through San Michele -- dog-sitting for a month before she moves on to another country, another job. But then a charming Forest Ranger rescues her when she doesn't need rescuing.
And this time her instincts don't help…

The Bridesmaid's Royal Bodyguard
Contemporary Romance
18th October 2017

After being sacked from her job on the gossip magazine Celebrity, Ally Parker is forced to return home with her tail between her legs. She is given a fresh start when her childhood friend, Hope, asks her to work PR for Hope’s marriage to Prince Jonas of San Michele but when Count Fredrik Jensson, head of security for the royal family arrives to check out the village, he makes it clear that her past employment makes her unfit for the role. The fact that there’s a sizzle between them  from the moment they meet only makes everything worse.

The Baronet's Wedding Engagement
Contemporary Romance
16th October 2017

Sir Max Kennard has too much Mr Rochester about him for Flora Dear's tastes but what harm can a pretence relationship do if all it involves is a glamorous trip to San Michele and smiling together at his sister's wedding? Apparently a lot... Soon, it's hard to remember what's real and what's not.

Warwick's Mermaid
Contemporary romance
Tirgearr Publishing
11th October 2017

Having escaped an abusive relationship, Chloe MacGregor is determined to put the past behind her. The little cottage high up on the cliffs overlooking the beautiful North Yorkshire town of Whitby is her safe haven, somewhere she is free to be herself. When the arrival of her new neighbour and boss, Luke Warwick, threatens her peaceful, sheltered life, Chloe is forced to confront her past and to re-evaluate who she really is. 
Falling in love with Luke is not part of her plan but, to her surprise, Luke is falling for her too. The only thing preventing their happy ever after is Chloe herself. 
Will she ever truly learn to leave the past where it belongs?

The Little Village Christmas
Avon Books UK (HarperCollins)
9th October 2017 (paperback 2nd November 2017)

As soon as Alexia's finished managing the conversion of the old Angel pub into the Angel Community Café she's out of Middledip. Until someone runs away with all the money ...


Soul Fire
Romance ebook (paperback to follow)
31st October 2017

Rowan thought she was in trouble, with her art gallery struggling and all her finances tied up in it. But when her path crosses with a Sídhe prince, she suddenly finds herself in real danger. And unexpected, unstoppable passion. While searching for his brother, Daire finds himself trapped in the human world and in the arms of a woman who makes him rethink all he has ever known. Every kiss brings pleasure beyond reckoning, sending him closer to the edge of his inherent dark desires. Desires that act as a beacon for the Dark Sídhe, who would seduce him to their cause. The more time he spends with Rowan, the greater the risk that he will be trapped forever, or lost completely. And with him the realm of the Seelie Sídhe. Because there's more to Rowan than meets the eye.

Girl In Trouble
Contemporary Romance
9th October 2017

Grown-up tomboy Olivia doesn't need a man to complete her. Judging by her absent father, men aren't that reliable anyway. She's got a successful career, good friends and can evict spiders from the bath herself, so she doesn't need to settle down, thanks.
Walter's ex is moving his daughter to America and Walter feels like he's losing his family. When his friend-with-benefits, Olivia, discovers she's pregnant by her douchebag ex, Walter sees the perfect chance to be part of a family with a woman he loves. But how can Walter persuade the most independent woman he's ever met to accept
his help, let alone his heart?

The Swordmaster’s Mistress (Book 2 of Dangerous Deceptions)
Historical romantic mystery
October 2017

Hired to investigate mysterious attacks on Guinevere, the wife, soon to be widow, of the elderly Earl of Northam, Jared finds himself protecting a young lady not from a haphazard stalker but from scandal – and possibly the noose. The instant attraction crackling between them does not help his attempts at a dispassionate enquiry, nor does finding himself embroiled with his own family and a past of betrayal and dishonour he had left behind him to become the swordmaster, Jared Hunt. Solving a murderous mystery leaves him with a dilemma – what can the man he was, and the man he should become, offer a countess with the scars of her own past to heal? 
(Linked to Loving the Lost Duke, Book One of Dangerous Deceptions, The Swordmaster’s Mistress can be read as a stand-alone novel.)

The new releases list is compiled by Sheila Riley. Sheila joined the RNA in 2004 as a new writer. Since then she has written best-selling sagas as Annie Groves. She's a member of the North West Chapter of the RNA and loves to catch up with writer friends at the regular Southport lunches. Her latest release, Winter on the Mersey, is listed above.

The new email address for monthly publications is

Thank you Sheila for another great list - To Be Read piles across the country will be getting bigger today!