Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Liz Taylorson: Write better, you will, with a mentor…

Today, we welcome Liz Taylorson to the RNA blog.

When I was offered the chance to take part in a novel writing group run by Writers’ Block North East (based in Middlesbrough) part of the experience was individual mentoring sessions from a creative writing tutor. I’d never been mentored before, and I didn’t know what to expect. In my imagination, my mentor was going to sit next to me as I wrote, encouraging me when it was going well and sympathising when it was going badly, as well as deducing exactly what I should do when I got stuck. Perhaps an occasional cup of tea and a cake would be involved along the way too? I envisaged someone who would be a cross between Yoda, Miss Marple and Mary Berry.

Laura Degnan, my mentor, looked nothing like Yoda, Miss Marple OR Mary Berry. Before we began, she asked to see the first few pages of my current work in progress and a summary of the plot, chapter by chapter. This meant that I had to write a proper summary of the plot that could be understood by somebody other than me… and suddenly, before I’d even had a single mentoring session, I was beginning to see the weaknesses and flaws in my plan for myself, the places where I hadn’t considered how I was going to get from event a to event b, the parts where I was telling, not showing and the bits where, frankly, it was a bit dull. The first mentoring session had effectively taken place before we’d even shared a single cup of tea!

When I did get to sit down with Laura, we met in the tearoom of the local art museum which was a perfect setting. It was casual enough to feel like two friends chatting rather than a teacher/pupil setting, but had ample space to work at a table and plenty of light to work by – and plenty of tea! I opened my notebook, took up my pen and waited for Laura to tell me what to do next with my novel; how to brighten up the bits where it felt a bit dull – only she didn’t actually tell me anything. She asked me questions. Lots of questions. Questions like: “Why does your story have to take place in this place and time?” “What else is your heroine prepared to do to succeed – how far could she go?” or “What are the dramatic consequences of her reading those letters?”

Instead of the truthful answer which was: “Well, the dramatic consequences of her reading those letters are that I get to put in a nice historical parallel to her situation in Chapter 4,” I suddenly began to realise that perhaps the answer should be more along the lines of: “Well, the dramatic consequences are that this is when she realises that the priceless painting in the library is a forgery AND I get to put in a nice historical parallel…”

Without giving me a single idea of her own, or actually telling me to do anything at all she encouraged me to raise the stakes for my own characters and suddenly my story started taking off in several different directions at once. Instead of talking about a problem to a third character, the protagonists were fighting about it; instead of worrying endlessly about what she should tell her ex-boyfriend, my heroine was telling him the wrong thing only to have him turn up and confront her about it; instead of looking at a beautiful house in the distance and wishing they could visit, my characters were exploring it.

So, in my experience, being mentored didn’t mean I was told what to do (or even what not to do), it meant being guided to discover what to do for myself. It was a wholly positive experience, I enjoyed every minute of it and came out of my sessions buzzing with new ideas. Yoda, Miss Marple and Mary Berry had better watch out …


Liz's debut novel, The Little Church by the Sea is available now.

Isolated and unwelcome in the picturesque seaside village of Rawscar, Reverend Cass Fordyce has lost her faith and her home. Christmas is coming, and she isn’t looking forward to it. Then she meets attractive local man Hal - twice divorced and with a reputation as a ladies’ man he’s everything that a celibate vicar like Cass should avoid... especially as Hal is hiding secrets of his own, including his past with the mysterious Anna.

Can Cass ever find her way in Rawscar? What secret does Hal have to hide? And is there ever such a thing as a truly fresh start?

Find out more about Liz here:

Liz has always surrounded herself with books. As a child, she was always to be found with her head in one and she still has a bookcase full of her childhood favourites to this day. (She once read The Lord of the Rings thirteen times in a row, cover to cover!). All through childhood and adolescence she wrote - mainly historical romances involving impossibly perfect heroes. All this reading and writing led to a degree in English Literature (and another book-case full of books) and then a job as a cataloguer of early printed books for a major University Library. 

Children (and then cats and chickens) interrupted her bibliographic career, and having given up library work Liz started writing fiction and hasn’t stopped since, joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme to try to learn how to write novels properly in 2015. She has also written some short stories, with one "The Second Princess" winning a competition in Writing Magazine which led her to think that maybe publication wasn’t a pipe dream after all.

The publication of her first novel, The Little Church by the Sea, published by Manatee Books in November 2017 is a dream come true.




Thank you for your very interesting post about your experience with a mentor, Liz. Has anyone else had experience of working with a mentor? How did you go about finding yours?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Kim Nash - Book Blogger, and Publicity and Social Media Manager

Thank you to Ellie Holmes for this interesting interview with Kim Nash this month. As you will see, Kim is a woman who wears many hats! So, over to Ellie and Kim...

I am delighted to welcome Kim Nash to the RNA Blog's monthly series where we speak to book bloggers, reviewers and magazine editors and get an insight into their world.

Welcome Kim, tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog – Kim The Book Worm.
I am the publicity and social media manager for Bookouture (digital publisher), and a book blogger at Kim The Book Worm. I am also an independent consultant with Arbonne, an online skincare, makeup, and health and wellbeing company. 

As a book blogger I love to read and review women’s fiction and mix it up with crime and psychological thrillers, and I also love a good personal development book too. 

What made you start to review/blog?
I read a book called A Spring Affair by Milly Johnson.  It was about a lady who read an article in a magazine about clutter clearing and she decided to do it to her house.  When she’d done that, she realised that it wasn’t just her house that she wasn’t happy with, it was her life. 

This story really resonated with me and I wrote an email to the author who responded within an hour, which gobsmacked me as I never really expected an answer.  I’ll never forget her words.  She said “You lady, are the reason I write books!” 

I went out and bought all her other books and we kept in touch.  I had the idea to start a blog and she encouraged me to do it and mentioned it to a couple of her author friends who asked me to review their books.  So my Kim The Book Worm blog was born!   That was in February 2011!  So I’ve been a book blogger for nearly 7 years! OMG!

Has your blog ever won or been nominated for any awards?
Last year I won the RNA Media Star of the Year award.  What an honour and a privilege that was!  

What’s your review policy?
I don’t have a particular policy, I just only review books that I like the sound of.  It wouldn’t be fair on an author to review a book in a genre that I don’t like as it wouldn’t be a true reflection of the book.  Now that I’m working full time for a publisher, I don’t have as much time to read and review books as I used to.

Do you ever get to read just for pleasure or will you always write a review after reading a book?
I very rarely read for pleasure and try to review every book I read but I do sometimes forget! Obviously, I always remember if I’m on a blog tour.  And I do try to be very organised!   But with a manic work and home life, sometimes I’m only human and do drop a ball!

I know you are one of the organisers behind regular book blogger/author meet ups.  Can you tell us a little bit about how you became involved in this?
Author Holly Martin and I just decided one day to organise a meet up in London. It was just before Christmas and around 16 people turned up.  Not a bad turn out, so we organised one in Birmingham too.  It was really well attended with around 50 people and we were cramped for space at that one.  We did another London one and around 80 people turned up! Luckily there wasn’t much else on in the bar we met at as we really did take over the whole place! 

So we periodically do events in Birmingham and London.  We haven’t done a London one for a while though as not many people came along to the last one.  Holly has since moved to Devon so we organised an Exeter meet up in the summer this year, which was great and vey well attended and we have organised another event in Exeter for the end of November.

What’s the best thing about going to a book blogger/author meet up?  If members of the RNA want to find out more about a meet up in their area how do they go about that?
For me, it’s about meeting authors and bloggers that you know and love.  You can build really good relationships with people online, and to then meet them in person, is such a joy! I’ve made so many good friends both authors and bloggers that I know I’ll be friends with for life.
If anyone fancies coming along to our events, as long as they are an author or a blogger, then we’d love to see you.  We do need a rough idea of numbers so it would be great to hear from you beforehand to confirm whether you are definitely coming.   You can get in touch with Holly or myself to get an invite.

How do you like to spend your time when not working or reading?
I love doing stuff with my ten year old son, whether it be just hanging out or doing something fun.  I also run a book club in Cannock in Staffordshire.  It’s such a lovely group and we’ve made some fabulous friends and we really do love our little book club!  I love going out for meals with friends.  I also do some family travel reviewing and love that too.  I find reading very relaxing, and as I don’t get much other chance to relax, that’s my real sanctuary. 

We often ask agents and publishers what they consider to be the next 'big thing' - what do you hope to see more of in 2018?
I think we have an incredible mix of women’s fiction and psychological thrillers around at the moment and I hope that continues.  Maybe some different lead characters might be nice.  There are so many brilliant female detective-led novels around at the moment, but it would be good to see some different professions in the mix too.  I do like a cosy crime too.  I love a book that makes me feel the emotions of the characters whether that be getting my heart fluttering with gorgeous lead males, my heart pounding with breath-taking suspense or warming my heart with wonderful stories.  Please do keep them coming authors.  

Find out more about Kim via her Social Media links:

Thank you for being such a fab guest, Kim and for giving us an interesting insight into your world.


About Ellie
Ellie Holmes writes commercial women’s fiction with her heart in the town and her soul in the country. Ellie’s debut release was The Flower Seller. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors, Ellie’s latest book, White Lies is out now.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Maxine Morrey: Why Romantic Fiction Novels Are Important

Today we welcome Maxine Morrey to the RNA Blog. 

Maxine has wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember and wrote her first (very short) book for school when she was ten. Coming in first, she won a handful of book tokens - perfect for a bookworm! 

As time went by, she continued to write, but 'normal' work often got in the way. She has written articles on a variety of subjects, as well as a book on Brighton for a Local History publisher. However, novels are what she loves writing the most. After self publishing her first novel when a contract fell through thanks to the recession, she continued to look for opportunities. 

In August 2015, she won Harper Collins/Carina UK's 'Write Christmas' competition with her romantic comedy, 'Winter's Fairytale'.

Maxine lives on the south coast of England, and when not wrangling with words loves to read sew and listen to podcasts. As she also likes cake she can also be found either walking or doing something vaguely physical at the gym.

You can find out more about Maxine on her website, facebook, or on twitter, instagram and pinterest @ScribblerMaxi. 

Over to you Maxine...

A few months ago, there was an article in The Guardian that alerted us to a new genre of books now proving serious competition for the incredibly popular ‘grip lit’ and its domination of the book charts. This new genre is about empathy, kindness and hope. It’s been christened ‘Uplit’.
Except it’s not a new genre at all. Not really. All these attributes are at the forefront of romantic fiction. The article may have specifically excluded romance in its description but ask any reader what romantic fiction means to them and the most common answer is ‘hope’. And in a dark world, hope is exactly what we need.
For years, romantic fiction has taken a bit of a bashing by those who feel that what we write has no relevance to the world we live in. Which just goes to show exactly how uninformed these opinions are. Romantic fiction is entirely relevant to the world, and it has been offering empathy and hope, love and kindness to its readers for generations.
Romantic fiction is escapism. That’s the point of it. It’s really the point of novels as a whole. They take us to places. With darker fiction it may not be a place we want to go. It’s a place we read about and are thankful not to be there. But romantic fiction is total escapism. We read the words and are absorbed, drawn into the world created so carefully by the author, and we want to be there. We feel a connection with the characters, laughing when they laugh and feeling their pain when hearts are damaged. Romantic fiction authors work hard to create empathy – the exact thing that the article claims as a new aspect in fiction. It’s not new. It’s just been overlooked until now.
What seems to be so misunderstood is the range that romantic fiction encompasses. Some books tackle incredibly deep, traumatic issues whilst others are lighter in tone, but this doesn’t mean they should be dismissed. We want books that explore things but we also want books that makes us laugh. Sometimes we want books that do both. And if we look, we will always find exactly what we’re looking for. The breadth of the genre is expansive.
And the most brilliant things about this genre is something people always accuse it of with derogation in their tone. They call it  predictable. I prefer the term ‘dependable’. If we have a hero and a heroine, we want them to get together. Yes, they will need to work for it. There will be conflict and barriers to that love but in the end, they’ll be together. And that’s exactly what we want. If a reader got to the end of the novel and the hero or heroine just walked out, the disappointment for that reader would be immeasurable!
People accuse the genre of being predictable like it’s a bad thing. It’s not. It’s a good thing. It means we can rely on it. We know these two characters will end up together – the enjoyment comes from seeing how that’s going to happen. That’s what critics of the genre seem to wilfully misunderstand. 
In today’s world, nothing is reliable. It’s dark, and unsure and sometimes downright frightening. It’s no wonder people are turning to books that step away from that with this ‘new’ genre of UpLit. But if they open their eyes – and more importantly – their minds, they’ll see there’s nothing new about ‘Uplit’. It’s been here all along.

Maxine's latest book, The Best Little Christmas Shop, is available now.

Home for the holidays…
Icing gingerbread men, arranging handmade toys and making up countless Christmas wreaths in her family’s cosy little Christmas shop isn’t usually globe-trotter Lexi’s idea of fun. But it’s all that’s keeping her mind off romance. And, with a broken engagement under her belt, she’s planning to stay well clear of that for the foreseeable future…until gorgeous single dad Cal Martin walks through the door!
Christmas takes on a whole new meaning as Lexi begins to see it through Cal’s adorable five-year-old son’s eyes. But, finding herself getting dangerously close to the mistletoe with Cal, Lexi knows she needs to back off. She’s sworn off love, and little George needs a stability she can’t provide. One day she’ll decide whether to settle down again – just not yet.
But the best little Christmas shop in this sleepy, snow-covered village has another surprise in store…

Thank you for that Maxine. So what do you think? Is UpLit a new phenomena or romantic fiction by any other name? Why do you think romantic fiction matters?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Introducing the New RNA Social Media Co-ordinator

Hello! For those of you who don't know me already, I’ve been a member of the RNA for the past four years. I joined the New Writers’ Scheme initially, after lots of other writers recommended it to me. I've loved every minute of being on the Scheme, and have learnt so much as well. During those four years, I've self-published two contemporary romance novels, with some more on the way, and as a result, I'm just about to graduate from the Scheme to become a full, independent member of the RNA.

I thoroughly enjoy being a member of the RNA and have thrown myself into the social life it offers its members with great enthusiasm, attending conferences, parties, afternoon teas and chapter meetings all around the country. I've also been very lucky to make lots of new friends as a result of being a member, something I didn’t expect to be doing at this stage in my life. I love the way the RNA welcomes everyone as equals, so newbies can find themselves talking to big names, and mixing with writers and publishing folk at all different stages of their careers.

In my life outside writing, I work part-time for a local charity as their communications officer, overseeing their marketing, PR, social media and website activities. I also work freelance as a proofreader, website trouble-shooter and occasional supply teacher – a real Jill-of-all-trades! I live with my husband in Bedfordshire. We have two daughters; one is now away at university and the other is studying for her ‘A’ levels.

Since autumn 2016, I have been supporting Adrienne Vaughan, as deputy editor of Romance Matters, the RNA’s wonderful magazine, and now I’m taking on the role of social media co-ordinator, with responsibility for the blog, Twitter and the RNA’s Facebook page. Elaine Everest has done a sterling job for the past five years, and we’re all very grateful to her and her wonderful team for raising the RNA’s profile in that time.

I have a great blog team to support me and we're planning to keep blogging two or three times a week, with a mixture of regular blog posts about your favourite items – competitions, new releases, interviews with book reviewers and authors – as well as news items as and when they crop up, and some new ideas too. If you have any ideas for features you’d like to see, please do let me know and we will do our best to bring the subject to you.

I look forward to taking on the blog completely from Alison May in the New Year, and to taking it from strength to strength as we move forward. Thank you for all the support you have shown the blog in the past – I hope you will continue to do so for many years to come.


My latest book The Vineyard in Alsace is available now.

Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?

Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.

Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.

Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way? 

A romantic read set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in France.

Connect with me here:

Monday, November 20, 2017

November Competition Monthly!

There are a number of speculative fiction competitions this month, featuring fantasy, science fiction and the supernatural. Maybe it's because of the long nights we're now facing, but at least it might get you in the mood for writing one of these stories.

It was a couple of years ago now I mentioned record keeping on the competition monthly, so it's
worth bringing the subject up again. I'm certain I'd have got into a right mess with my submissions without my spreadsheets. I used to add the competition entries to the sheet for my magazine subs, but eventually created a new spreadsheet especially for the comps, which I found much more useful.
These are in date order. I also keep a paper system. This is an exercise book set out by story. This does include the magazine submissions and allows me to see exactly where each story has been sent.

Novel competition entries likewise go on the competition sheet, but I also add them to the spreadsheet for each novel. It sounds complicated but really makes everything much simpler. Since at times I've had up to sixty 'out theres' of various kinds, whether competitions, magazine subs or novel subs, it's important to keep control of it all. I'd hate to send a story or novel out to the same place twice, and incur the annoyance of the competition or publisher concerned.

Best of luck with the competitions you enter, and don't forget to let us know of any competition success you have.

**Closing very soon**
The Creative Competitor Temptation Writing Competition
Theme: Temptation, 500 words max
Prize: £400 / £250 / £100
Closing date: 25 Nov 2017
Entry: £3.50

**Closing soon**
Fields of Words Feature / Genre Competition
Theme: Ghosts / Hauntings, 1,000 – 2,000 words
Prize: AUD$500 / $125
Closing date: 30 November 2017 (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
Entry: AUD$20

**Closing soon**
Ink Tears Short Story Contest
Theme: Open, 1,000 – 3,500 words
Prize: £1,000 / £100 / 4 x £25
Closing date: 30 November 2017
Entry: £7.50

**Closing soon**
Writers' Bureau Flash Fiction Competition
Theme: Open, 500 words max.
Prize: £300 / £200 / £100 plus WB course for all winners
Closing date: 30 November 2017
Entry: £5

Creative Competitor 'Storm' Writing Competition
Theme: Storm, 700 words max.
Prize: £400 / £250 / £100
Closing date: 5 December 2017

Writing Magazine Other Worlds Competition
Theme: SciFi and Fantasy, 1,500 – 1,700 words.
Prize: £200 plus publication in magazine / £50 plus publication on website
Closing date: 15 December 2017
Entry: £5 / £3 subscribers

Audio Arcadia's Science Fiction Short Story Competition
Theme: SciFi, 5,000 words.
Prize: 10 winning stories will be published and each winner will receive a royalty percentage of sales.
Closing date: 31 December 2017
Entry: £5.50

Writing Magazine Open Short Story Competition
Theme: Open, 1,500 – 1,700 words.
Prize: £200 plus publication in magazine / £50 plus publication on website
Closing date: 15 January 2018
Entry: £5 / £3 subscribers

Retreat West First Chapter Competition
Theme: First chapter of an unpublished novel, up to 3,500 words. Open theme.
Prize: First 3 chapters, cover letter and synopsis reviewed by a literary agent.
Closing date: 28 January 2018
Entry: £15

The Creative Competitor Now or Never Creative Writing Competition
Theme: Now or Never, 800 words max.
Prize: £600 / £400 / £200
Closing date: 28 January 2018
Entry: £4

Bath Novella in Flash Award
Theme: Open, Adult or YA. 6,000 – 18,000 words.
Prize: £300 / 2 x £100, all 3 published.
Closing date: 29 January 2018
Entry: £16

The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition
Theme: Supernatural, 1,000 – 7,000 words.
Prize: £500 / £200 / £100
Closing date: 31 January 2018
Entry: £8

Writers' Forum Short Story Competition
Theme: Open, 1,000 – 3,000 words.
Prize: £300 / £150 / £100
Closing date: Rolling competition.
Entry: £6 / £3 subscribers

The Writing District Contest
Theme: Open, 3,000 words max.
Prize: $50
Closing date: Last day of every month.
Entry: Free

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 called Write Minds.

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