Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One for All, All for One

(Photo courtesy of iMDb.com)

Can you tell I’m still just slightly obsessed with musketeers at the moment?  The Musketeers to be exact, which for those of you who don’t live in the UK is a BBC TV series loosely based on Alexandre Dumas’s original story.  It’s absolutely brilliant and I love the way they’ve taken the basic story and just run away with it!  Having the four musketeers clad in leather (albeit still looking more or less true to the fashions of that era) is also genius, as is the way they’re allowing the women in the series to be very much part of the action and not just decorative.  Okay, I’ll admit I just like everything about it.

I’ve loved the concept of “one for all, all for one” ever since I first read The Three Musketeers – the fact that if you do things together, always standing by your friends, life can be so much easier.  I have found that to be true in every way – here with my fellow Heroine Addicts; when working with the other authors published by the same publisher as myself; in various organisations and recently with a group of friends who all wanted to do the same thing: to self-publish a Young Adult novel.

I’m supremely un-techie so although everyone kept saying self-publishing was 'a doddle' and ‘anyone can do it’, I didn’t quite believe them.  I could have paid for someone to help me with it, of course, but that would have felt like giving in, being feeble, and I didn’t want to be so easily defeated.  Still, it was very daunting and I kept putting it off until I found out that some of my friends had been thinking along the same lines.

Claire Watts, Gill-Marie Stewart and me
Four of us – myself, Katy Haye, Gill-Marie Stewart and Claire Watts – decided to get together and do it as a group.  Not just holding each others’ hands while going through the publishing process and doing the techie bits, but promoting the books together, doing events/talks as a group.  Suddenly, it all seemed doable and it was the kick up the backside I’d needed.  Funny how things are so much easier when you’re not alone!

We’ve each self-published a book now and are working on number two.  It’s been a steep learning curve, but also great fun.  Thinking up a collective name – Paisley Piranha (yes, I know it’s weird, but we liked it :-D) – setting up a website, blog and Twitter account etc.  And just knowing there’s someone you can bounce ideas off is brilliant.

I’ve just come back from Scotland where we held a launch party for our first novels.  One of them was based on movie themes, so we rented a bijou cinema – the Robert Burns Centre in Dumfries – and had a special showing of The Princess Bride, surely one of the best movies of all time!  And there were snacks and books of course.  All in all, a lovely afternoon.  So if anyone else is thinking of self-publishing (or doing anything else for that matter) but you don’t quite dare, I’d definitely recommend the “all for one” approach!  If it worked for the musketeers …

Monday, March 23, 2015

Writers Running!

Greetings from a sore and sunburned Brigid.

Someone forgot the sunscreen and is a little miserable

Yesterday saw Julie and I running the Reading Half-Marathon. This was Julie's first half-marathon and she was running for the Berkshire literacy charity ABC to Read, of which she is a patron. She was running to raise money for the wonderful work they do in schools, teaching the joy of reading to children. In 2014 ABC to Read was awarded the prestigious Queen's Award for Voluntary Service and they are an amazing group of volunteers and charity workers who are passionate about the importance of reading and books.

I decided that I'd keep her company and also help my sister run her first half-marathon (or because I was drunk when she asked) so I signed up to.

It was a brilliant weekend full of running, sunshine, carbs and alcohol at the end. Please give generously to Julie's fundraising page. She ran it in the fabulous time of 2:04 (I took it slow and clocked in at 2:40).

Obligatory Pre-Race Selfie
Obligatory Post-Race Selfie

Post Race Re-hydration
Always Re-hydrate

If you want to donate to ABC to Read then go here:

Monday, March 16, 2015

Romantic Novelists' Association Awards...

Just back *hic* from the Romantic Novelists' Association RoNas where we celebrated Julie's nomination and toasted the winners. It was fabulous to be with the fellow Heroine Addicts and as the amazing Barbara Taylor Bradford put it...'be with our tribe'. As always it was a great time but as it's late I'll let the pictures do the talking...
Liz, Brigid, Julie and Pia
Brigid and Julie
Liz, Brigid, Julie and Pia
The fabulous library
Les, Sue, John and Alison

Brigid with barber Erskine and Carole Blake

Monday, March 9, 2015

Starting On The Ground Floor

A while back I did a post here on my love of the-map-in-the-front-of-the-book, and my own mapping habits while writing. And much in the same way that Winnie-the-Pooh books inspired me to map, I can credit Dame Agatha Christie for one of my other odd habits: the drawing of floor plans.

I think I own every book Agatha Christie wrote, and I loved when she put in the floor plans of houses to show us what rooms were where, and how impossible it was for anyone to have committed the murder in question.

My own stories didn’t really call for such elaborate measures, but the more I wrote the more I saw the advantage of using a floor plan as a writing tool. As clearly as I saw some scenes and settings in my mind, I could get turned around sometimes, so I got into the habit of sketching out rough plans of houses my characters lived in. Just a few lines on a page, really, so I didn’t have someone walking into a cupboard when they were supposed to be in the kitchen.

In the photo above you can see, on the right, the rough floor plan of Greywethers I drew when I started work on Mariana, back in 1990. 

I’ve done this for all my books since. Like my maps, these are just for myself, to refer to while writing (although I included a floor plan in Season of Storms, because that house was like an insane warren—as you can see from the picture here—and I knew readers would have a hard time keeping track of the rooms).

Nearly all the houses that I’ve set my books in have actually existed. Sometimes, as in the case of “Crofton Hall” in Mariana—Avebury Manor in real life—the floor plans already exist, and a very nice person at the National Trust will send them to you. And sometimes you have to create them. 

Either way, I begin with photographs. If I can get inside, I sketch the layout of the rooms, keeping in mind I may have to change things around a bit for my own story. If I can't get inside, I do an internet hunt for similar houses of the period and look for floor plans, then cobble those together to make my own.

I’ve done a bit of both for the other floor plan at the top of this post, on the left, which is for the new book I’m now working on: Bellewether. The house I’m using for this book is based on Raynham Hall, a museum on Long Island, and after visiting the house and taking photographs and notes, I went online to search for other saltbox houses of the period to find out how to put the central chimney stack where it would be (Raynham Hall lost its chimney to a Victorian makeover, which also rearranged the entrance hall).

The result is a floor plan that perfectly fits what I need for my story. Not only does it give me a visual reference for the movements of my characters, but it shows me where the windows are and when the sun comes in, and what view would be.

If nothing else, my floor plans give me something I can work on when the words are slow in coming, so I can fool myself into thinking I’m being productive.

What’s your opinion of floor plans in novels? Have you ever done one yourself?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Celebration Time!

The Heroine Addicts have been a bit quiet for while, but now we really have something to shout about so here goes – our very own JULIE COHEN HAS BEEN SHORTLISTED FOR THIS YEAR’S RoNAs (the UK’s prestigious Romantic Novel Awards) with her novel Where Love Lies!!!

We are all so thrilled for her and are breaking out the champagne.  Please join us while we catch up with Julie with a few Q & A’s:-

How do you feel about being shortlisted for the RoNAs 2015?

Absolutely thrilled. I joined the RNA in 2002, when I was an unpublished author, and they absolutely helped me to become a professional author. In 2004 I was shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Award (didn’t win) and in 2006 I was shortlisted for the RoNA Rose Award (didn’t win) and now I’ve been shortlisted for the main RoNA award. I don’t really mind if I don’t break my losing streak … I feel like I’ve grown up. 

Was this book special to you in any way?

WHERE LOVE LIES is very special to me. Most of the time, writing a book is an exercise in making your original vision smaller and smaller and more flawed. But WHERE LOVE LIES is the first book I have ever written where I felt, after it was finished, that I had achieved exactly what I had set out to do. That might sound weird but I think most authors will understand it. 

You’ve sort of switched genres from the type of books you were first published with (steamy, delicious HM&B’s!) – was that something you always aimed for or did your writing just evolve that way?

It’s something I’ve always aimed for. My agent and I have had a strategic plan for my career and we’ve always moved towards it. I’ve gone from steamy M&Bs to quirky romcoms to chick lit with emotion to emotional book club women’s fiction, and I’ve enjoyed writing it all. The most important part for me is to keep feeling challenged.

Are you still writing about blue robots in your spare time?  (Do you even have spare time?!?)

Alas, the blue robots have finished for now as my alter-ego Electra Shepherd is having a hiatus, but I will admit to writing filthy Hannibal TV show fan fiction online when I really should be doing other things.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?

Does it count to say that I came down with pneumonia whilst writing WHERE LOVE LIES and got first-hand experience for all the hospital scenes?

And a couple of quickfire questions:-

Favourite ice cream flavour? - Grape Nut. (It’s a Maine thing.)

Are you used to Marmite yet? - Love it now—though when I first tasted it, expecting chocolate, I got a shock!

Do you collect anything? - I am obsessed with knitting owls.

Which of the four Musketeers would you want for yourself? - Can I have Mads Mikkelsen as the baddy Rochefort? 

Huge congratulations on your shortlisting – now let’s party!

Where Love Lies - Blurb:-
Felicity believes she’s happily married, until she starts to experience a strange phantom scent, closely followed by the overwhelming feeling of being in love—with a man who’s not her husband. The feeling is so strong and urgent that she begins doing things that no one can understand. Where does love lie—in the heart, or in the head?

Christina x