What is it that authors even do?

Believe it or not, I get asked this question a lot – and I kind of understand it. After all, most of our images of an author is someone like Jane Austen, scribbling away on a tiny desk, or Oscar Wilde, resplendent in his elegant clothes while mocking the very class that he comes from.

Nowadays, not so much.

Let me take you on a journey of this weekend as an author, bearing in mind that I work a full time job as a Marketing Manager Monday to Friday.

Saturday morning

It’s a glorious day! It’s also a day when I take stock of where I am, and what I’m behind on, because I’m always behind on something. After running through my Trello boards (sort of like magical online to-do lists that ping me emails every time I’m late for something), I decide that doing a deep plot of my next book is the most urgent thing.

I head somewhere quiet because my poor husband also has work to do, and cosy up. With a little concentration and six hours, I’ve deep plotted (that’s written out a play by play for each chapter) an entire novella. It’s 8000 words. I have pasta.

I then turn my attention to my glorious reader emails. I probably get about 25-30 a day, and so I try to reply to them each day otherwise they pile up, but I’ve been busy. I take the time to reach each one, and reply to most of them.

It’s 4pm. I head home, and decide with my man to ignore work (as much as possible) and enjoy the evening together.

I respond to three more emails and post twice on Facebook before bed.

Sunday

Typically I’d head to church, but it’s one of the few days that I actually get with my husband (who works shifts), so we decide to take a lazy day. I have writing to do, and so I get up at 6am and bash out 7600 words before my husband gets up.

I shower, and apologise to the husband for continuing on. I’ve got the mother of all admin to do.

First I print, read, sign, photograph, and email a publishing contract that I’ve been meaning to do for weeks (sorry Emmanuelle!) for a super secret book project that I’ll be all too excited to announce soon! I pop over my manuscript to her too, and then start the uploading process of a paperback to Amazon.

This takes forever, so while it’s doing that, I respond to five new emails that have popped into the inbox, and update my sales spreadsheet to see how my new release, Drenched with a Duke, is doing. The reviewers love it! I give myself a pat on the back, and remind myself that I need to do four more things before lunch.

I update my bio on Audible, update two images on my newsletter, and realise that Amazon isn’t loading my paperback, so save where I got to. I email another publisher about the paperback of a different series, and drop an email each to my cover designers.

And then I started writing this blog.

Is it what you imagined?

Being an author isn’t always staring into the distance with a clever look on your face and a quill in your hand. When you’re a hybrid author – that’s one who has publishers and publishers their own books – you are not just a plotter, writer, researcher, and editor. You’re also a proofreader, publisher, marketeer, administrator. You sort out the finances and the emails, you chat with the fans and swap ideas with other authors.

It’s exhausting and wonderful and terrifying and amazing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Want to see the fruit of my labour? Just check out my seventeen books here!

Shipwrecked with a Suitor is published!

I’m so excited to say that my latest Regency romance, Drenched with a Dukeis published!

drenchedwithadukeA woman fished out of the ocean, and a man looking to ruin his reputation – and neither is expecting to find answers with each other…

Alexander, the Duke of Caershire, wasn’t expecting to drag a half-drowned woman from the Thames, but there seems little to do but help the bedraggled woman home.

Teresa Metcalfe, courtesan to the rich and famous, knows a fool when she sees one, but her instincts to rob him melt away as she discovers just why he was walking the docks that night.

As the night continues and time forces honesty from their lips, will Alexander relinquish the reputation that he has worked so hard to maintain? Will being drenched with a duke give Teresa a man not just for a night, but for a lifetime?

The reviews have been flying in, and you know what: I couldn’t be more thrilled!

I was left drenched, panting and wanting more. Besides I needed to find out what happened to the elusive Courtesan, Teresa Metcalfe. Well it turns out she couldn’t make her appointment because she was shoved into the Thames by a jilted suitor! She’s saved from drowning by the Duke of Caershire. That’s where this fantastic romance begins. — Sewanee

And here’s another one:

This author has found a lovely and unique way to write a fun, interesting, thoughtful and sometimes steamy, romance. I always think intertwining stories but keeping them separate are wonderful ideas if you can do them correctly and not tell the same exact story. This author is able to pull it off wonderfully!! — Tracy B. Smith

(She means Lost with a Lord, by the way, the first book in the series. Grab it here!)

And there’s more!

The eloquent words flowed off the page and deeply immersed me in a romantic tale of a lonely nobleman rescuing a beautiful courtesan from being murdered after she was pushed into the river by a scoundrel. The pair spend a lot of time talking and connecting. The dialogue was superb. I quickly loved both characters. I absolutely adore this book, and I am definitely read the next one in the series. I highly recommend this novella to all Regency romance fans. — Diana

I cannot wait for you to read Drenched with a Duke! If you want to get your hands on this delectable romance – now’s your chance. You can buy it on ebook, paperback, and audiobook by clicking here!

Medieval vs Regency

I started out as a medieval writer; someone who knew and loved the medieval period completely and utterly.

I studied History and English at the University of York, UK, and the majority of that ended up being medieval and Early Modern. I revelled in what I learned of the medieval period, and I truly loved learning about the history, the politics, the food, the fashion, the literature, and the language. I knew that the medieval era was something that I really wanted to immerse myself in.

So I continued at the University of York, and I studied my MA in Medieval Studies on a scholarship. There are still times when I really miss academia, and the time I had just enjoying the research and the reading. In fact, I loved it so much that even in my spare time, I ended up thinking about the medieval era – and so I decided to write a book about it.

One book was followed by its sequel, and then I wrote a bridge novella between the two. Soon enough, all three books had been put together in one collected edition, and I was already half way through another series.

And then my publishers gave me a call.

They wanted to commission me to write a Regency novella – specially based around Christmas. Now, I love Jane Austen, and I’ve read a huge number of Regency novels and novellas, but this wasn’t something that I had a huge amount of research knowledge in. Could I really make the transition? It was only about 700 years difference . . .

I threw myself into the task, and I can now proudly say that I’m a rather successful author of both the medieval period and the Regency period. Do I have a favourite? I still think that my heart truly belongs in the medieval era, but I’m now mid way between writing two series, one set in the tenth century and one set in the nineteenth – so who can say what will come next!

It’s hard to believe that the last of my Regency romance series is now published! A Harvest Passion is now available to read, and completes the series of four novellas, with A Christmas Surprise, A Valentine Secret, and A June Wedding all coming before it. Make sure that you read them and let me know what you think!

Hello, I’m a writer . . .

So, I went to a hen party over the weekend, and it was a total blast. Between eating far too much, wandering around in picturesque Cambridge, England, and punting (and not falling in!) I had the traditional problem that almost all of us writers have: how do we introduce ourselves?

Now, I know that sounds a little bit strange. After all, we were all taught from the time that we were very small exactly how to say our name, and a little bit about ourselves. But for people who are creative and move within fields such as writing, the lines are a little more blurred.

I used to introduce myself with the title ‘writer’. That was what I did, after all, and it was a nice sort of cover all for all the multitude of things that I wrote. But then my first novel was published.

Then I started calling myself an ‘author’. I was. I was an author. But that seemed a little too vague for me, which is why I then chose ‘novelist’.

Which worked perfectly until I published a novella. And I have a screenplay complete. I’m not a scriptwriter. But was I?

Poet, novelist, author, writer . . . does it really matter? Each of them have their own indiosyncracies, their own methods, and their own status. A writer is too vague, but a novelist can sound pretentious – but never more pretentious than a poet.

That weekend, I had to introduce myself to around ten people, none of whom I had ever met before, and inevitably the question came up: “What do you do?”

I still haven’t worked out the answer to that.

If you are a writer/author/poet, then check out my popular series on royalties, and discover some secrets of the industry about why no one is buying your book. You can also read three of my most popular blog posts: whether an author should disappoint their readers, writing hated characters, and the inconvenient facts that often crop up for historical fiction authors.

A Website Every Author Needs!

So, I’m not usually one to brag about discovering something fantastic (especially when I’m usually told about them), but I really want to dedicate this blog post to a website that I’ve started using which has been INCREDIBLE for me as an author.

Intrigued? Carry on.

I always find it irritating that I never know how many ebooks I have sold until my 6 monthly report comes from my publishers. I know that they are super busy, and that it is simply not possible for them to let me know how many ebooks are sold every month, but it bugs me. Probably more so because, as I self-published the paperbacks, I get a daily report on how many of those I have sold.

At the end of April, when my publishers were probably sick and tired of receiving another email from me asking how a particular promotion went with one of my ebooks, they suggested that I take a look at Novel Rank. And so it did.

And it has changed the way that I see my ebook sales forever!

It is quite a simple system. Firstly, you input the URL of your ebook into the website. It will pick up the same ebook on different versions of Amazon, such as Amazon.fr, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca . . . you get the general idea.

After that, you simply sign up (I used my Facebook account), and then choose which ebooks you wish to follow. As you’ve already put your books in the system, they should be pretty easy to find. And there you go. Each and every time one of your ebooks gets sold, it shows. It even tells you exactly what Amazon ranking all of your ebooks are currently on, and what the highest they have ever been was.

I love it. I’m in love.

Changed My Mind . . . Again!

So, once again, I’ve changed my mind.

(Don’t forget to buy my books on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com!)

This will not come as any sort of surprise to those who know me. I am the one, after all, that really can’t decide what she wants for supper and so has a bit of everything; who struggles to make even the simplest decision about which film to watch; and has once completely opted out of a survey because she couldn’t decide whether she wanted to be Ms or Mrs.

But anyway. I digress.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will have seen recently that I’ve been working on a new novella series, and I got pretty close to finishing the first one…and then I stopped working on it. I changed my mind about what my writing priorities were.

So now I’m working on  the first novel in a four novel series. Becuase of course.

So what prompted me to change my mind? A myriad of reasons actually, and I’ll share them with you:

1. Too much plot!
I was in the enviable position of actually having too much plot to fit into the novella. I had given myself 25,000 words per novella, and I reached the 20,000 word mark without really delving deeply into the narrative, let alone explore the characters and their developing relationships. I got frustrated, and I wanted to go back to novels again.

2. Too much dissertation!
This probably needs a bit more explanation: I actually started writing this novel two years ago, but I was forced to put it on hold because I had my Medieval Studies MA dissertation to finish, and I was finding myself getting distracted – who wouldn’t! I really hated the fact that I never finished it, and it was going to be my next novel anyway.

3. Too much encouragement!
You may be laughing at this one, but it’s true! My husband is super encouraging, but he always wants me to keep challenging myself – and a four novel series that spans hundreds of years? That’s pretty challenging, and that’s what I had put aside that MA year. In his mind, novellas were small fry, and he is right (at the moment).

So: that’s what I’m doing now! I can’t pretend that it’s not hard work, because it is, and I can’t pretend that I don’t doubt sometimes whether I’m a good enough writer to attempt this, because I do . . . and yet I’m loving it. Chapter 8 was finished this evening, and my editor has a few amends for Chapters 1-3. This novel is happening!

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

What have you changed your mind about before – in your writing, or in general? Let me know in the comments, tell me on Facebook, or tweet me!

A Good Writing Day

Now, I hope that this blog post makes sense. I generally don’t plan these things – I just log in, and start writing whatever is on top of my mind at that moment. And right now, I’m thinking about the 6000 words that I wrote of my next novel the other day.

Six thousand words is certainly a lot. It amazed me, actually, when I realised just how much I had managed to write. In fact, it only took my around six hours to get those six thousand words out there on the page. Something inside me just clicked, and before I knew it, it was lunch time, and I had written several chapters. It was certainly a good writing day, and I had been looking forward for one for a long time.

Of course, 99% of the time my writing does not work like that. I can go for days without writing down a single thing of my own, just concentrating on trying to get all of my freelance stuff done. However, that morning I had decided that I needed to sort out my priorities a little better. Instead of working on my freelance stuff first, when I was most fresh, I would start on my own sequel. And goodness, did it work!

But it got me thinking. Six thousand words a day is impressive – how amazing would it be if I could write that every single day? Writing a novel would take about two weeks! If only it were that simple.

Since writing those six thousand words, I haven’t written a thing of my own. And that was five days ago. Why does inspiration suddenly appear, and then suddenly disappear? My muse is always welcome, but she rarely decides to stop over for more than a couple of hours.

Is your muse so fickle? Let me know what a good writing day is for you.

Writing Hated Characters: A Study in Snape

Thank you so much to everyone that gave me such positive feedback on my last blog post – it has certainly been too long! I thought that I would look this week at writing hated characters. How do you go about writing someone who you want your readers to hate, but make them just as engaging as your other characters?

Baddies are fun. They are fun to write, fun to read, and fun to watch. But what readers and viewers rarely ever see is the work that goes into creating such a character. An author will need to make a million choices about their antagonist, and the first is whether or not they are a true villain. Are they pure evil, only wanting death and defeat for the hero of your tale – or do you want them confused, misunderstood, and able to be redeemed? This will completely alter the way that you approach describing your character to your audience.

Your description of your hated character will in some cases be more physical than emotional. This is because you will need your anti-hero to stand out from the crowd, and because your reader should be able to tell the intimate character of your villain through his or her actions. For example, it is much more effective to have your baddie kill an innocent messenger without provocation, than simply to write: “He was not very fair.”

Other decisions that you will have to make with regards to your baddie include how they are to be introduced, and how much of a back story with your hero you want to give them. Some heroes just happen upon their antagonists, whereas others have a long past together that has brought them to the beginning of your tale. The length of that tale is up to you, and it is also up to you when you reveal it.

And lastly, you as the author needs to decide the fate of your hated character. Will they die, defeated by your hero? Will they be turned over to ‘the Good Side’? Or will their ending be slightly more mysterious – will you leave it open for a potential return?

Let’s take all of the information that I’ve just written, and apply it to one of the hated – and strangely most loved – literary characters of modern times: Severes Snape. If you haven’t read the Harry Potter books by now (and where have you been?) then go and read them before you finish this post! Serious spoilers coming up…

So firstly, is Snape a true villain? Up until the very last, the fans of Harry Potter would argue that he is. He has absolutely no cause to hate Harry, and he kills Dumbledore, obeying his master Lord Voldemort. But Rowling allows her readers to follow this path of thinking before revealing at (almost) the very end: Snape falls into the confused, misunderstood, able to be redeemed category of villain. If anything, he has already redeemed himself through the actions that looked so sinister throughout the books. We make the same mistake that Harry does in the second book.

Secondly, the description of Snape. Again, Rowling follows formula here, and gives primarily a physical description of Snape for her readers – stooping, tall, long black greasy hair, everyone can picture him. But we know almost nothing about him until the sixth book, because Rowling let’s his actions speak for themselves.

The back story between Harry and Snape is never fully explored, until it is revealed (again, spoilers!) at the end of the series that the true back story was between Snape and Harry’s mother. It was the loss of her affection that pushed him towards the Death Eaters, and Rowling is genius in the way that she reveals it.

And lastly, the fate of Snape. Seen by many as incredibly sad, Snape dies, almost completely alone, at the hand of the most evil wizard of all time, unsure whether his sacrifice for the son of the woman he loved has worked. But in a way, his fate is completely different from his actual death scene. His memory is kept alive by Harry, through his knowledge of Snape’s true colours, and through the naming of his youngest son.

What do you think? Do you enjoy writing hated characters, or do you find them difficult? Who is your favourite hated character?

Procrastination, ie, the Muse’s Enemy

I have been attempting to write my next novella – the final in my series of four Regency Romances – for over a week now. My total word count? Less than 500 words. And yet this was the novella which most excited me, the synopsis that I loved more than any other when I first wrote it. What’s gone wrong?

Well, if you ask me, the Muse has left me. I know it sounds a little strange for a modern twenty first century author to be talking about a mythological character from ancient times, but I truly believe that there are some times when I can write really well . . . and other times when everything I try to describe comes out stilted, each piece of dialogue sounds false, and I just can’t seem to put any feeling into my writing.

That is when I say that the Muse has left me.

I’m always conflicted when this happens, because there are two main schools of thought when it comes to the Muse: firstly, that you should immediately abandon writing and wait around for the Muse to descend once more; secondly, that you should doggedly keep at it like a twelfth century monk forced to complete his manuscript.

Neither camp works for me. It’s all very well to put aside your writing at times when you need a new perspective, or some extra research to be done, but that only works in a world without deadlines, promises to publishers, and the simple fact that sometimes if I put a work in progress down, I am unlikely to pick it up again.

On the other hand, to force oneself to write when the writing simply isn’t very good seems rather pointless. I’m just going to have to edit it and delete it down anyway, and I may find that I only have a couple of hundreds words of value from the thousands that were written.

And so I end up here: procrastinating with jobs that I tell myself are just as important as my writing – if not more so – and therefore there is no point in trying to finish my creative piece.

And so days go by, and not another word gets added to the manuscript.

What is the solution? Well, I’m hoping that once I’ve got through my procrastination list, I’ll suddenly have a brainwave about my novella. Poor Leo Tyndale and Hestia Royce. I hope someone rescues them if I can’t.