Dukes, Viscounts, Earls oh my!

It’s difficult to read a historical romance these days without getting utterly overwhelmed by titles.

Dukes, Earls, Viscounts, Counts: every single man seems to need a title to be attractive, and that can make things complicated.

Take William Lennox, Duke of Mercia, for example (spoilers: he’s a character in a new book that will be published next year!).

To his brother, he’s Will.

To his sister, he’s Bill.

To his friends who knew him before he ascended the title, he’s Lennox.

To his friends who knew him after he ascended the title, he’s Mercia.

This can mean that in one simple scene, depending on who is in the room, he can be addressed as Will, Bill, Lennox, and Mercia…and everyone in the room will understand what is going on.

The question is, do my readers?!?

It’s a constant challenge to make sure that my books are historically accurate but at the same time, understandable to those who are reading them. I don’t want to compromise too often, but there’s no point in writing a book if no one can enjoy it!

So yes: I’ve tried to simplify things. When my characters have titles (and yes, they have them rather often!), I focus on keeping the storytelling simple. They have enough complications with the wild heroines I send them…

Make sure you catch up with all my books here!

Taking stock and stopping writing

Sometimes one of the best things you can do as an author is to stop writing.

Hear me out – I’ve not lost the plot (literally!). It’s more that I’ve been taking stock of many aspects of my life, and to do that you have to stop.

Being an author is a huge part of my life, but it is not the only part of my life. I am a wife, a sister, a friend, even a godmother! It’s really important to me that being an author doesn’t consume the whole of my life because I want to continue giving to those around me who I love.

I won’t go into details here, it’s not my place, but my extended family experienced a bereavement recently. It’s been a sorrowful and yet celebratory time.

And it’s got me thinking. When it comes to the end of my life, what do I want to show for it? Do I want a long list of books, each of them with more reviews, more adoring praise?

No.

I want those who I loved to know that I loved them. I want them to look back on happy memories, time with me, laughter.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing, nothing like it! But it does mean that I’m not going to beat myself up for not cracking out a few thousands words of my WIP (work in progress) because I chose instead to be with those I loved.

So today, as I think about those family members and friends I have already loved and lost, I encourage you to take stock. What do you want people to remember you for? What are you doing now that they actually will remember you for?

My most productive writing day!

I don’t want to jinx it (in case it never happens again!) but I have just had my most productive writing day EVER.

And I mean, ever.

Today, I wrote over 18,500 words. I know, it doesn’t look real, does it? It’s such a huge number, even for me – and I’m quite accustomed to writing around 10,000 words on a good writing day.

But what made this day different? If you ask me, I think it comes down to three things:

  1. I needed to get those words out. I was a little behind on where I wanted to be this month, and as I had a relaxing day with friends and family yesterday, I knew that today was going to be a day I really had to commit to getting the words down.
  2. I was plotting, not writing. I use what I call ‘deep plotting’ as part of my writing process. That means writing out what is going to happen, action by action, thought by thought, in a chapter. It’s not pretty prose, but it makes it a whole lot easier later.
  3. The muse was so with me! Whether it was the cooler weather, the fact that my wonderful husband gave me some alone time, or just that the muse was gracing me with her presence, but it all came together.

What’s next, I hear you ask? Well, I work a full time job so tomorrow it’s back to that – but I’ll be sure to try and get a few hours here and there to keep the story going. This one is due to be published April 2020 so I’ve got a bit of time, but I want to make sure it’s the absolute best!

The perfect ending to a romance

I’ve written over 25,000 words this weekend (!) because I was desperate to finish book 3 of a new series which will be coming out next year. The words were just flowing from my fingertips and although I will of course lose some of them in the editing process, I’m glad to get so many of them down.

And yet the bit I found the most difficult?

The ending. Like, the actual ending.

Not the happily ever after bit – definitely got a gorgeous wedding scene in there. What I found difficult was deciding what the very last word on the page should be.

You see, when I finish writing a book, I want to leave my readers with a strong emotion. Usually it’s a sense of happiness, a feeling of rightness with the world. Sometimes I want to make them smile, and occassionally (!) I attempt to make people laugh out loud.

The strange thing is that I’ll never find out if I will succeed. My readers span the globe, but (so far) no one has finished one of my own books in front of me. I read the reviews and I am thrilled when someone enjoys my book – but that lasting emotion right at the end of the book. Do I hit the mark?

And that is why I spent two pages trying to finish this book. I knew I needed the right emotional beat, the perfect wording to end a very emotional journey for both my hero and heroine. But it took over twenty minutes to find the right ones, and they may change again in the editing process.

I’ve just got to do the best I can, and continue to improve my craft. After all, the perfect ending to a romance will always be:

And they lived happily ever after.

Writing deadlines

Well, I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m behind. Weeks behind!

I have a writing schedule that I do my absolute best to keep to, but sometimes, you know what, life gets in the way.

It’s just not possible to do everything, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and think that there’s no way that you can ever catch up, and this morning, that’s how I felt. I’m 16 days behind on my writing schedule, and it’s a challenging deficiet.

But you know what? I’m an author. I get down words. I create worlds. I write romances between heroes and heroines, and I’m so grateful for the people in my life who make it easy for me to write.

Today I wrote over 12,500 words, and you know what? I’m now ‘just’ 12 days delayed, and although there’s still a vestige of panic in my old bones, it’s not deep.

Why? Because I’ll catch up. I always do, and that’s the beauty of being an author. You call the shots. Even this series which I’m working on, which is for a publishing house, there’s understanding and flexibility – because they wonderful people there are authors too.

There’s never enough hours in the day, and there’s always something else I could be doing. But I don’t want to be chained to the keyboard, so I’m going to go out and enjoy the sunshine.

A change is as good as a rest

I’ve been on holiday. It wasn’t one of those fancy cruises that you see on the TV, or one of those super glamorous hotels where you can dine on caviar morning, noon, and night, and get lost in your own bathtub.

Nope, I’ve been on what I call ‘an Enid Blyton’ holiday.

It’s the type of holiday from my childhood, and it’s one of my favourites. If you’ve never read Enid Blyton (and where have you been?), then pick up one of her ‘Famous Five’ books and you’ll get a pretty good idea what I’m talking about.

Julian, Dick, George, Anne, and Timmy of course (the dog), spend most of the twenty one books in that series have adventures in the most British way. Cricket, ices, bathes, hikes and camping: nothing is too average for the five, and it’s just what I loved about my childhood holidays.

I did play cricket on the beach. I did have swims in the sea, whether warm or not. We did go on hikes, and visit art galleries, and tour ruined castles, and eat buns sitting on the grass listening to grasshoppers and skylarks and feeling the sun on our faces.

I absolutely loved it, and thankfully my parents still do. We’ve just spent a week doing just that: ruined abbeys, and medieval houses, and Tudor manors, and of course, iced buns.

Taking a step back from my writing for a week was hard, but it’s enabled me to come back to it fresh and ready for action. I’m plotting out the third book of my next series, and I think it’s going to be my best ever! I cannot wait for you to read it – but in the meantime, why not try out the latest in my current series, Beached with a Baronet? 

Rain, rain, go away…

I don’t want to confirm any stereotypes of England…but it’s been raining for the last six days.

In June! SIX DAYS!

It’s so grey here near Bath that I’m finding it difficult to write. All my creativity seeps out of my ears and all I want to do is put my dressing gown on (check), put the kettle on (check), and curl up with a good book.

The trouble is, I want to read one and not write one – and I’ve got deadlines to keep! Thankfully my friends, family, and most importantly readers are getting me through. Their little notes of encouragement keep me putting finger to keyboard to create the next most amazing love story.

And as the last book in my Ravishing Regencies goes on pre-order (which you can grab here!), it’s a nice way to end one era and start to plan for another.

As I sit here on the sofa, looking out of the window at the rain, I’m reminded that there are so many amazing things that happens because of rain.

The trees are now green, that sweet smell of wet earth, and the refreshing of crops – all this can only happen because of rain.

So here’s hoping that this rain will bring after it a renewed sense of creativity. I can’t wait to get started on the third (!) book in my new series for 2020!

I love family traditions!

I’m just going to come out and say it: I love family traditions!

This weekend I’m not actually at my desk because I’m enjoying one of my own family traditions: the garden party.

It all started almost twenty years ago when my grandparents decided to throw not one, but two huge parties for their 70ths. On one day they invited over 40 family members and we ate, drank, and made merry. The next day, they invited over 100 people – the entire village – and did it all again.

We all agreed that it was so wonderful that since then, they threw ‘the family party’ on the closest Saturday to June 3rd. It’s been a way for us all, flung across the globe, to come together and catch up. Each year, we enjoy each other’s company and enjoy some more family traditions: three generational games of sardines, huge puddings that no one can finish, and never having rain (nope, not in over twenty years).

Every year there are a few new faces, as people introduce life partners and have babies, and every year there are some missing faces. It’s bittersweet, but I can’t wait to be there.

Do you have any family traditions that you love – perhaps some that you hate? Tell me in the comments below!

The best historical romances

What makes a truly great historical romance? It’s something that (as you can imagine) I think about almost continuously. What’s missing from this? What’s going to make it the best book my readers have ever read? What’s going to make it stick in their minds, stay on their bookshelf, be recommended to friends?

Some say it’s characters

A truly great character, a hero or heroine that stays with you after you’ve put the book down. Foibles and failures, dreams and dangers, surely taking your time over creating memorable characters has got to be the secret, right?

Others say it’s setting

Many readers prefer to stay within a particular time period, so you’ve got to be careful and see what the market is doing. Are readers loving Regency or medieval, is it cowboys or dukes, or has the alpha hero beat them all out?

It could even be a massive twist

Some readers like their romances to follow the same sort of pattern: a meet cute, a disagreement, growing to know each other, starting to fight feelings, a sudden shock which reveals emotions, and the happily ever after. Others want to see a twist, reveal, or shock right at the end.

If you ask me though, it’s all three and so much more. I personally love it when authors naturally bring historical details into the narrative without it feeling like I’m sitting in a lecture. Others like strong female secondary characters, or pets, or an element of mystery.

Whatever it is you love, I’m probably writing it. Why not check out my latest steamy Regency series, my first ever medieval series, or my bestselling sweet Western series?

Keeping Spoilers Secret!

We all have that one book, TV, or film series that we’re desperate NOT to discover the spoilers for the ending. Right now in my house, it’s Avengers: Endgame. We just haven’t got around to seeing it, and we’re having to keep telling our friends not to talk about it when we’re around, just in case they let something slip!

For me personally, it’s Game of Thrones. There are only two episodes left, but because I live in the UK and the episodes come out on Sunday evenings in the US, there’s a difficult 18 hours when I have to avoid all my American friends on Facebook!

And it’s the same with book spoilers, especially when you’re an author. I am a huge fan of writing books way ahead of publication time – so the book that I’m writing won’t be published for 6-9 months.

That means that when I’m doing a Q&A with readers about book 4, I have to be careful not to let slip about anything from books 5-8, because I’ve already written them! My readers would hate that, and I would hate to ruin things for them.

The way I manage this is being incredibly precise with what I talk about. If I’m doing an interview, I typically request the questions ahead of time – even if that’s not possible. If it’s a live Q&A with readers, I make sure to always stop and think before I answer a question, keeping it as closely related to that specific book as possible.

Have I made mistakes? I don’t think so. I think the only slip up I’ve made is mentioning that a character will appear in a later book when my readers didn’t know that, but it wasn’t like I was resurrecting him from the dead or anything – it was just meant to be a nice surprise to see that character again, and they got a heads up.

But right now I have some really exciting news about my next series, and I HAVE to keep it under wraps! It’s honestly one of the most challenging secrets I’ve kept, but I promise you all, it’ll be worth it.

What about you – have you ever accidentally let a spoiler slip? Have you stumbled across a spoiler online? Tell me in the comments below!