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!

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.

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!

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!

Planning a historical romance series

One of the biggest challenges of being an author is planning a historical romance series. I know that there will be people who disagree with me, but I think this is true for three reasons:

  1. Planning a series, any series, is complicated. You have way more characters to keep track of, you need to ensure that things like time of the year or even years in a decade don’t get all loose, and that your characters’ descriptions don’t change!
  2. Writing historical fiction is complicated. Depending on the level of detail you want to bring into your books, there’s a huge amount of research that you have to put in before you can even think about writing a word!
  3. Creating believable romances is complicated. This is especially true for a series because romance readers always want a ‘happily ever after’ – so how do you get them interested in reading the next book?

Put all of that complication together, and what have you got?

Yeah. It’s complicated.

But planning a historical romance series doesn’t have to be something you avoid, just because it’s complicated. What you need to do is have a really clear strategy to combat those three problems. Here is how I make sure that planning a historical romance series doesn’t need to be the end of your writing career – before it’s even begun!

Keeping track of everything

For me, it’s spreadsheets. For some authors, it’s notebooks. I’ve even got an author friend who has a whole wall whiteboard that she sticks post-it notes on! The point is, find out the best way that you need to keep track of everything – from character names, ages, descriptions, and emotional arcs – and treat that as your Bible.

Have more than one copy of it. And then never let it go.

Commit to the research

Especially true if you’re writing a series, if you know that you’re going to be creating 3+ books in the same historical time period, remember that all the research that you’re doing is essentially divided by three because you can use it as least three times. That makes all those hours worth it.

I’d also recommend typing up your notes so that you can use the ‘Find’ function to hunt down slightly remembered details. You’ll thank me later.

Link your books together

There are a whole bunch of different ways that you can do this for romance series. I’ve used seasons of the year, siblings, and secondary characters becoming primary characters. I’ve read childhood friends and neighbours on the same street. Whatever you pick, it will need to be something cohesive enough to make it clear to your reader that there’s more of your ‘world’ that they can explore, without being so restrictive that your readers get bored of you.

So is that it?

I wish. Planning a historical romance series is one of the most rewarding and challenging things that I think an author can do. Think I’m wrong? Tell me in the comments below!

It’s Almost Spring!

You know, I can’t be the only one who is desperately waiting for the summer. I love the sun, I love the heat, I love the sound of laughter as picnics spread across green grass, I love birdsong…

…yeah. You get the general idea. I just love it.

So when I start to notice the signs of spring coming, I just can’t help but start to get a little happier. The nights are a little warmer, the sun lasts a little longer in the evenings, the swallows start to return, and I can think about putting away the winter coat and getting out the spring jacket (I mean, this is Britain. It can still be miserable in the middle of summer!).

And yet something in me is a little sad. Because I love being outdoors so much, I find that I want to spend less time at the keyboard and more time topping up my tan.

But this year I have so many amazing book projects that I can’t do that! I have three more books in my Ravishing Regencies series coming, along with a super secret project that I can’t talk about right now, but I will in a few weeks…

So I am trying to get as much done as possible while the days are chilly and frosty, so that you, my lovely readers, have lots of nice books to read!

My ‘keep writing’ secret

One of the questions that I’m frequently asked as an author is: “Where do you get all of your inspiration from?”

And you know what? Sometimes that is a really difficult question to answer.

Don’t get me wrong, I am one of those people who drives their spouse insane by waking up in the middle of the night with a fantastic idea and having to get their phone open, dazzling screen ablazing, to write it down in ‘Notes’ – only to wake up the next morning to see:

andt he gloves not white but henot care

(An actual transcription from my ‘brilliant 3am ideas’ notes.)

I am also one of those authors who has, at the time of writing:

  • a twelve book series plotted out
  • a four book series plotted out
  • another twelve book series with the first three written
  • a five book series plotted out
  • and an eight book series with the covers designed, but no plots at all.

And you know what? I still have moments at my keyboard where I have no idea where my characters are going.

It can be frustrating, especially when (as I do), you are an author that works full time at another job. Carving out writing time is a real challenge, and I don’t even have the excuse of having children!

So when it comes to writing, I just want to sit down and go: no distractions, no hesitations.

When that doesn’t happen it can be overwhelmingly frustrating – but I am going to share with you my secret for how I am able to keep going.

tk

Yup, you read that right: tk. The letters ‘t’ and ‘k’ appear together very rarely in the English language, so if you decide to search ‘tk’ in your manuscript then you aren’t going to find many, unless you have a lot of pocketknives in your book.

So whenever I get to a sticking point and I know that it’ll frustrate me and distract me from the narrative, I just stick in tk and then move on.

Can’t think what the name of that piece of Regency clothing is? tk

Need an extra name for a character that is literally only in this scene? tk

Want to check whether that town is a real place, or I need to create one? tk

It may sound weird, but it’s a real simple way for me to keep with the flow of my writing. Then when I come to the end of my creative time, which usually doesn’t reach lunch (I’m definitely a morning bird!), I just stick ‘tk’ into the search, and the places that I need to go back to appear.

I never miss them. My manuscript is always better because of them, because I can then take my time to investigate clothing, find the perfect name, and research eighteenth century geography, without losing precious creating writing time.

So there you have it. YES I have tonnes of ideas. YES I have book ideas coming out of my ears. And YES sometimes my brain grinds to a halt and I have to use clever tricks to keep going.

Happy writing!

Writing a bestseller when sick

My loyal readers will groan when they hear that once again, I’m sick!

I’m known for being very susceptible to colds and this is my third, and worst, of the winter season so far. Along with the bunged up nose, slight earache, and dry throat, I’ve also just come out of a 3 day migraine.

Not ideal when you’re trying to write your next bestseller.

One of the challenges of taking your writing seriously as an author is that when you get sick, everything stops. I had a clear schedule for the book that I’m writing right now, and according to it Chapter 16 should be finished tomorrow.

Trouble is, Chapter 10 hasn’t even been started.

Now, there are two schools of thought when it comes to writing when sick or uninspiring:

  1. Write anyway darnit, it’s your job and you should treat it like that! Push through the pain, grab a box of tissues, and let’s DO THIS!
  2. Don’t bother. You’ll only write something terrible that you’ll have to scrap anyway, so dose up on Vitamin C, grab a box of tissues, and let’s RECOVER!

Now normally I fall into camp 1, but the last few days have just been awful – and I mean crying in the dark, praying that the migraine leaves me alone, awful.

I have barely been able to look at a screen, let alone write fantastic fiction.

So apologies to my lovely readers, but this cold has got me beat. I’m going to sign off now, and hopefully next week’s blog will find me in better health!

What’s in a name?

Alright, I’m just going to come out and say it: naming characters is the worst.

Most of my (non-author) friends think that I’m crazy for saying this. After all, most of us only get to name a few people in our lives, and if you don’t have any children then you never get the pleasure of deciding what someone is going to be called for the rest of their lives.

I haven’t had that sort of responsibility yet, but I have named several characters in my books. In fact, with my seventeenth book coming out in November (pre-order here!) and my twenty third book just returned from my editor, I’ve probably named over a hundred characters.

I’ve had Avis and Cathryn, Hestia and Audrey, even a Margaret. The boys haven’t been left out either: Alexander and Leonard and Thomas have all graced my pages.

But there’s no hiding from the truth any more. I’m running out of good names.

What? I hear you cry. There are thousands of great names – wonderful names, emotive names, beautiful names.

And there are. But when you’re going for a specific part of history, you immediately become limited. You can’t call a character Jack in the 1060s of England, or a Zacharius in the 1400s. Although Alice was popular in the Victorian era and the 1300s, you wouldn’t have found many in the Tudor era, and don’t even get me started on Judas and Delilah.

You’re unlikely to have a Regency noblewoman called Abigail (a servant’s name), nor any Victorias at all. Meredith is a boy’s name until the 1950s, and no matter how much I try to use Emily, I just can’t stomach naming a character after myself!

When you are seeking historical accuracy, it’s a challenge. There are natural limitations, and limitations that I want to stick to…within reason.

So apologies if you’re a Charles, Mary, Elizabeth, or Margaret. You could appear in almost any part of England’s history from 1050 onwards, and I’ll probably end up using you more than twice.

What name do you love? What names do you think are ignored in historical romance? Let me know in the comments below!

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!