Creative Writing workshop, Part Two, RNA, RWA, So You Want To Write A Book?, Writing

So You Want To Write A Book? Part Two…

1. Read as much as you can. Don’t restrict yourself to the genre in which you write. Try everything, from classics to pulp, new to old, fiction, faction or non-fiction. For instance, how many of these have you read? That’s this week’s homework! 😉

2. Join a class in creative writing, whether ‘real’ or online. It’s where I got my big break. Visit your local library (in this age of cuts to budgets, they need all the support they can get) to find out about local groups for readers and writers, and check out online sites such as

3. Join groups such as The Romantic Novelists’ Association ( in the UK or Romance Writers of America ( who provide lots of useful information and contacts. The Marcher chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association has been a great help to me. The support of other writers, and the constructive criticism provided by writing workshops is invaluable.

To make sure you don’t miss any of my top tips, follow my blog using the sign-up form on the right hand sidebar of this page. I send out a newsletter a couple of times a year with news about my writing, country life, competitions and offers—join my mailing list here.

Her Royal Risk, His Majesty's Secret Passion, Lindsey Debout, My Dream Guy, RNA, The Romance Reviews

This Writing Life: There’s A Busy Week Ahead…
Only a short blog today as I’ve got a very busy week ahead. I’m editing my new thriller to a tight deadline, trying to get round to beta reading my friend Lindsay Debout’s second collection of Warming Tales, and on Tuesday there’s  a meeting of my local RNA group to discuss, among other things, our next workshop. 
I hope summer still has a while to run, but my short romance, My Dream Guy, is published tomorrow, Tuesday, 15th September. You can reserve your copy of My Dream Guy from Amazon by clicking on this magical link:

I had some great news a few days ago. Both His Majesty’s Secret Passion and Her Royal Risk, the first two books in my Princes of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press are up for nomination in The Romance Reviews Readers’ Choice Awards, Winter 2015.

His Majesty’s Secret Passion is my idea of escapist romantic fantasy, with an exhausted businesswoman and a king in disguise finding fun in the sun at a luxurious spa. There’s sun, sea and secrets to be discovered in the ultimate in getting away from it all.

Her Royal Risk pits a perfect personal assistant against the boss from hell in a new job that’s nobody’s idea of heaven. It’s only when Krisia and Athan are faced with a disaster they discover working together is a lot more productive than pulling each other apart…and it’s pretty romantic, too!

You can find out more about both books by clicking here. I’d be really grateful if you could cast your vote for His Majesty’s Secret Passion by clicking here, and for Her Royal Risk, here. Thank you so much! 
earnings, Money, RNA, RWA, SOA, Writing

How Much Money Is Your Writing Making…

By Antonio Litterio

…For Other People?

It used to be almost impossible to get published. Hardly any publishers would look at unsolicited manuscripts. Unless you had an agent, you couldn’t get anywhere. Agents had such a huge pool of talent to fish in, they could pick and choose whether or not they even answered your enquiry.   If you were desperate to see your work in print, the only other option was vanity publishers, who wanted a lot of money from you, then delivered very little.

The explosion of self-publishing and the huge presence of Amazon has changed all that. Getting your name on the cover of a book is practically obligatory these days, and to upload your work in the hope your blog (or ebook) goes viral costs nothing. Or does it?

I’m not talking about the cost of stationery, computers, writing courses, and subscriptions to group such as The Society Of Authors, The Romantic Novelists’ Association, or the Romance Writers of America. All these are vital, practical, tax-deductible, and in the case of stationery and local group meetings, recreational. (I’m a kid in a sweetshop when it comes to browsing round anywhere like Staples.)

It’s the little extras that add up to big deductions. The 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey discovered that over three-quarters of writers earn less than £600/$1,000. If you can bear to see the painful facts, read more here. When you consider that even big publishers expect you to spend money (or at least plenty of time, which comes to the same thing in the end) on publicising your book, you’ll see it’s important to spend carefully.

If you go the route of conventional publishing, all the editing, production and artistic costs should be covered by the firm. Some tiny independents may ask for a sub. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a vanity outfit—they may just be keen to get some help with costs, which will secure your devotion to their cause. Get your contract checked by The Society ofAuthors or a literary attorney, to make sure.

If you decide to self-publish, join a group such as The Alliance Of Independent Authors, and do plenty of research. Spend money on getting your work professionally edited, and in hiring a good cover artist but beyond that, think carefully about whether you really need all the dozens of other lovely services on offer. Always remember, the definition of an expert is only a person who knows 3% more than you do! Keep your eyes and ears open: word of mouth is as good a way to find reliable editors and artists as it is to find good books.

And don’t think that once your book is out in the public domain all you have to do is wait for your £600 to come rolling in.  Not only are there sharks circling before you publish, the virtual high seas are full of pirates. Philip Pullman put it perfectly when he said “Stealing music and books online is like picking pockets”. You can read more of what he said here. It’s not a happy article but as they say on the true crime programmes, “don’t have nightmares”. Writing’s the best job there is. Look on anything you earn as a bonus (but make sure you hang onto as much of the money you get as you can!).

Alison, Christina, Creative Writing workshop, Fay, Georgia, Her Royal Risk, His Majesty's Secret Passion, Joanna, Love On The Run. Princes Of Kharova, Marilyn, RNA

Creative Writing Workshop: Extract from my current WIP

Fay, Georgia, Christina Courtenay, Joanna & Ann
The Romantic Novelists’ Association does a lot for writers, and funding a creative writing workshop for its Marcher Ladies Chapter last year led to some invaluable spin-off sessions. I gave the opening pages of His Majesty’s Secret Passion, a test-run at our first workshop, and the completed book has now been published by The Wild Rose Press.  Ann Ankers arranged another day-long study session at Hereford’s Courtyard arts centre so I submitted the first ten pages of my current Work In Progress, Love On The Run.

You can read about a previous session here, but to recap, everyone submitted ten pages of fiction to Ann. She made sure all the samples were anonymous, before circulating them among the workshop members. We did a report on each, then presented our thoughts on everyone’s work during the day. 

Like His Majesty’s Secret Passion and Her Royal RiskLove On The Run is a contemporary romance set in the fictional Mediterranean country of Kharova. It’s the fourth book in my Princes Of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press. The first two have already been published in both ebook and paperback (you can find out more about those here) and the third book, Heart Of A Hostage, will join them soon. 

Here’s the extract I presented to the workshop, with all the suggestions for improvement put in place. What do you think? To follow the progress of this, and my other writing projects, you can like my author page on Facebook, here.

Love On The Run

Uncrowned king, Leo—
Meg’s bad day was about to get a whole lot worse. The way her employer’s face twisted could predict  a skivvy’s fortune better than one of those cellophane fish from a Christmas cracker.  
“You took your time fetching that champagne. Went to France for it, did you? Huh. Staff these days.” 
Lucida Tipoli didn’t bother to get up from her recliner in front of the TV. She could poke Meg easily enough by sticking out her foot. “Thinks she’s something special, because she lives in the house with us. It never does to let girls get above themselves,” the blowsy, fifty-something woman told her husband.
”We only took you in out of the goodness of our own hearts, remember.” Arturo Tipoli added, without taking his eyes off the coronation coverage. This was the tiny country of Kharova’s 
second king in a year, and the first one to make it as far as the throne. Meg had a sneaking suspicion the Tipolis were only watching in the hope something would go wrong with this royal effort, too.  
You want me to remember your so-called generosity? You never let me forget it, Meg thought. She didn’t know which hurt most—fighting the urge to scowl, or biting her tongue to avoid telling her employers what she thought of them.
Another six months, and I’ll have saved enough to walk away from you forever, you rich, idle bitch. As long as you pay what you owe me…
“If she had more sense, she wouldn’t be living off other people’s charity.”
And…breathe! Meg told herself, I don’t have to take this for much longer. Another one hundred

Athan, The Man Who Made It—

and eighty four days, five hours, then I can tell you both where to stick your job. But until then, I need you as much as you need me.

“What would your poor mother say if she could see you now!”
If you treated me well and paid me better, Mum and Dad might even be proud of me again, Meg thought, but paying me more would mean I could escape from this place a lot faster…
“What are you smirking at?”
Meg’s face fell. Who am I kidding? I’m dreaming. I’ll never escape.
This was her reality. Blame and blows. The hardest of those was not hearing anything from Rob for months. 
He should have sent for me by now. Something must have happened. She worried about him all the time. He’d always wanted to fight with the rebels, to make a better life for ordinary people. He left, promising to send her money to tide her over until she got work. Instead, desperate to pay her bills. she’d been forced to settle for this horrible job. It was the only position which didn’t ask for references.  
“Hurry up and open that bottle! We need to toast the king’s first speech!” Lucida snapped.
Meg’s nimble fingers untwisted the wire cage over the bulbous cork, then released it exactly as the butler had taught her. Wasting no more than a sigh of carbon dioxide, she tilted a crystal champagne flute and poured in the golden liquid as words whispered from the television.
“Our live broadcast from King Athan’s coronation has been interrupted by circumstances beyond our control. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, Until then, here’s some music…”
“Damned technology,” Arturo Tipoli grumbled, but the screen was already flickering back into life. His wife was more interested in the drinks.
“That’s no good! Where was the pop? You can’t have champagne without a pop. Go and fetch another bottle. Now!” she roared. Meg leapt aside, but instead of a blow from Mrs Tipoli, she suffered a direct hit to the heart. 
“Good God—what’s happening?”
A disaster was unfolding on the TV, right in front of them. For once in their lives, the Tipolis were silenced. They sat open mouthed, staring at the screen.
“We interrupt this broadcast with a newsflash. An incident during the coronation of King Athan has resulted in the arrest of six rebels. A seventh man, believed to be twenty-four-year-old Rob Steyner, escaped. The security services say he is extremely dangerous, and should not be approached. He’s believed to be heading back to the rebel stronghold in the north of the country.” 
A spasm of shock rocketed through Meg’s body, flipping the bottle from her hands. Mrs Tipoli screamed, but it bounced against the arm of the couch and quick-thinking Meg caught it on the rebound. 
‘You stupid girl! Have you any idea how much that costs? Keep your mind on your job!”
Meg wasn’t listening. A photo of Rob was on the TV. She’d taken it last summer, but it felt fresh as yesterday. Rob was laughing as a sea breeze tugged at his jacket. Her happiest day, reduced to a TV demand for information. So much had happened since that scorching summer. The awful, gut-wrenching row at Christmas with her parents. Rob’s determination to leave the city, and make a new life… 
Where is he now? The single familiar picture became half a dozen strangers. At least he‘s not in a police cell with them. Five of the photos were police mugshots of desperate-looking men. The sixth was an exception, in more ways than one. 
Meg recognised him. He was the new king’s valet. Both men had visited this house, before Athan inherited the throne.  Tirek Kalmend, the TV called him. The name meant nothing to Meg. The Tipolis knew Meg had form when it came to bringing shame down on a household, so they tried to keep her out of the way when they had guests.  They weren’t about to let her wreck their chances with the royal family and their supporters. 
The photo of this Tirek was from happier times, too. He was fooling about with friends at some charity fundraising event. He looked like what he was, a soldier letting off steam. 
“And him the new king’s closest friend,” Mr Tipoli grumbled. “Just goes to show, you can’t trust anyone.”
Thank goodness I can rely on Rob, Meg thought. I think…
Tirek watched a soldier snap the low-tech shackles onto his wrists, and wondered how he’d fallen into this nightmare. Arrested along with the five total strangers he’d helped round up and arrest, his loyalty was turning into a sick joke.
“I’m innocent. Why won’t you believe me?”
“Because that’s what they all say.” The guard shoved him down the cathedral steps toward a waiting police van. “If I listened to all the bs I’m fed, the country’s prisons would be empty, and my pockets would be full.”
“I wouldn’t count on it. Athan’s going to come down hard on corruption.” Tirek growled.
“…says the man who tried to wreck the king’s coronation, and masterminded a plot to overthrow  him.”
“That’s not true. Why will no one listen to me?”
“The daughter of the king’s private secretary stood up in the cathedral and told everyone you were at the heart of the latest plot. That’s why.” 
“I was working undercover. It was supposed to be a—” Tirek stopped. This might be the second worst disaster of his life, but knowledge was power. He’d keep quiet about his inside knowledge until he could tell the only person who really mattered.  
Why bother? No one’s listening. I saved Athan’s life, but he’s cut me dead. After everything I’ve done for him…now he’s king, he’s getting rid of all his trusted advisors and filling the palace with new faces, Tirek thought.  But there’s no time to be bitter. I’ve got to clear my name. That demands cool thinking—and  proof. 
His mind worked fast. Capturing rebel chief Mihail Dukagjini would be the perfect revenge on his accusers. Especially the woman who ruined his life…
Getting his own back on Bella Tipoli meant making a break for it. Tirek clasped his hands together. Swinging his shackled arms in a horizontal blow, he sent his guard tumbling in front of his comrade. As they stumbled, Tirek snatched his chance and dodged down the nearest alleyway. He was cuffed, but knew these back streets like a native. Working and clubbing with Prince Athan taught him the skills of survival long ago. The stakes were sky high. It was a shame this wasn’t a game of poker, but today, the deck was stacked against him.  
What innocent man goes on the run? One who knows he’s going to be stitched up by a show trial. Tirek’s mind raced almost as fast as his feet. He’d been ruined once before, yet clawed his way back to make a good life for himself. Faced with disaster again, this time he wasn’t going to go quietly—wherever he was headed.
The city was deserted. Everyone was indoors, watching what was left of the coronation coverage after all the excitement. In the distance, the deep baying of hounds started up. Tirek spotted a plastic trash bin, and used it to help him vault onto a recycling skip.  Once he was secure, he leaned down and hurled the rubber bin away down the lane, back the way he’d come. It made almost no sound, and would delay anyone chasing him. He used the skip to reach a high garden wall, bracing himself for a slow, dangerous shuffle, eight feet above ground where any tracker dogs couldn’t catch his scent. 
Tirek looked around, getting his bearings. The house was one of the Tipoli family’s more expensive properties, in the best part of town. Its garden wall was good and wide. He made a crouching run of almost a hundred yards before the boundary kinked left, and his way was blocked by the outstretched arms of an ancient yew tree, leaning out over a lane. 
The racket from his pursuers grew louder. They were hunting him like an animal. This is one lone wolf who’s not going to get cornered, he thought, burrowing into the greenery.
Meg was on autopilot. Her mind worked at a million miles an hour, while her body waded through  treacle. While Rob was on the run, there was still hope for him. For them both. She thought of the life she’d left behind at home.  Things were supposed to improve when she ran away to be with Rob. Now her life was all arguments and misery again. 
All I want is to be settled and happy. What’s so wrong with that?
“Are you asleep girl? Get those clean clothes out on the line while they’ve still got time to air! The king’s supposed to be speaking in ten minutes time. You’ll need to have that done and be back in here with more champagne before then!”
Meg carried the washing basket outside to the airer. Like some other things the Tipolis didn’t want to see, it was hidden from the house by a bank of spotted laurels. The sun was high and hot, but a shiver ran down her spine. She thought she felt eyes, watching her. She looked round, but the place was deserted. She was the only staff member allowed out here. The shed door hung open, but there was nothing but a scatter of tools abandoned inside after the last gardener got sacked for making too much noise. She stepped over the axe he’d dropped, when he stormed out after a shouting match with Mrs Tipoli.
They were lucky he only ran away, she thought. I wish I had the nerve to do that.
Tirek gazed down on the kind of life he’d left behind. Through the Tipoli’s kitchen window, he saw a heavy, dark bottle foiled in gold sitting on the sill. He loved champagne, and could still remember his first taste of the stuff. It was full bodied, enticing his spirits to dance, like the glittering lights in the bright blue eyes of that girl pegging out the washing.  
Raised voices inside the house were another barbed memory from his past. He wondered who his own family were threatening now. The yearning for all the luxuries of his past life shriveled again. As a child, he’d thought money could buy anything. As he grew, he found happiness missing from the shopping list. His own family could buy and sell this Tipoli tribe a dozen times out of petty cash. But for all his relative poverty, the patriarch of the Tipoli family sounded no happier than Tirek’s own father.
A small, stifled sound pulled his attention back down into the garden.
The girl was crying. 
That was too much for Tirek. Behind him, out in the city, the tracker dogs were getting closer. One of two things was going to happen. He could be caught up here, without trying to do anything for the crying girl. Or he could buy some time before his capture by dropping into this garden to do something about her tears before he either got caught, or she handed him over. It didn’t matter to Tirek either way. The way his luck was going, he’d end up a prisoner, sooner or later.
‘Psst!”  he hissed. 
Emerging from an earthquake of shivering sobs, she looked around the garden. 
‘Up here!”
She tipped her head back to face the cloudless blue sky.
The pursuit teams were so close now, Tirek could hear the noises the dogs made even when they weren’t barking. They were straining on their leashes, their handlers cursing as canine claws scrabbled against the cobblestones…
“In the tree!” Tirek whispered as loud as he could.
One of the hounds let out a bloodcurdling howl. The girl shrank, and instead of looking up at Tirek, turned in the direction of the sound. Tirek did the same, looking across to a solid wooden door, let into the outside wall. The great iron ring twisted, and it was shaken furiously.
“Who is it?” the girl shouted. 
“ Police. Looking for an escaped terrorist!”
“This is the Tipoli household. We’re all decent people here,” she said.
His sharp hearing attuned to the sounds of pursuit, Tirek laughed silently when he heard her mutter “those not part of the family, anyway,”
“Sorry to have troubled you, miss!” the policeman shouted, kicking his dog on down the lane. 
Tirek could have cheered. The girl picked up her basket, and was already heading toward the house
‘Psst—I’m up here. In the tree! Believe me, I’m not a rebel—but does that pack of hounds sound like they’d listen to reason?”
She stopped, and turned. “No…” 
Her hesitation was bad news. The sun was behind her, so her narrowed eyes had nothing to do with glare.
“…but why are they chasing you if you’re innocent?”
“I’m the new king’s best friend, whatever lies anyone might be spreading. Do you honestly think I’d take refuge within a hundred miles of a Tipoli residence if I wasn’t absolutely desperate?”
Her sudden smile gave all his clouds silver linings.
“Stay there, while I stall the family and think up a plan,” she said in a low voice.
‘Don’t bother. I’ve already got one.”
She stopped, hesitated, then swung round and headed for the wall where he stood. With a jolt, Tirek found himself looking down between the plump globes of her breasts. If he didn’t have the hounds of hell on his tail, he would have savoured the moment. 
“I like your style, and I need help to get these cuffs off. I never thought I’d thank God Kharovan security was still stuck in the Dark Ages. That cold chisel in the shed might do it,” he nodded toward the building. While she fetched it along with a heavy hammer, Tirek dropped down from the wall, heading for the wood-chopping block beside the shed.
“If you were one of the rebels, you’d know Rob?” She whispered, frowning as she lined the heavy metal blade across the emergency handcuffs issued to every member of the palace guard. 
Yes, if your help depends on it, Tirek thought— but she didn’t give him time to answer.
“He went off to get a job at Castle Dukagjini. That’s more help to the rebels than working in a city garage would be.”
Better and better, Tirek thought.  “Rob? Yeah. Everybody knows him. A good sort.” 
“Do you really think so?”

Tirek didn’t have time to notice the strange inflection in her voice. He was too busy wondering whether he was about to lose any fingers as she lined up the sharp metal chisel on the  short length of chain joining his wrists. There wasn’t much room for error.

To Be Continued…

So far, I’ve only written the first ten pages on Love On The Run. Bearing in mind this is the first draft, what do you think of the opening?
Marcher Chapter, NaNoWriMo, RNA, Tasting The Peach

Writing A Book In A Month, Part Three…

My writing got derailed by vital admin this week, but my NaNoWriMo word count’s risen—although in fits and starts.

I’ve written here and here about how I’ve been helped by creative workshops organised by the Marcher Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The most recent one helped me refine the first ten pages of a new project, Tasting The Peach. I’m now turning this embryo into the initial draft of a full-length novel, using National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2014 to spur me on. NaNoWriMo relies on donations, and as I write this they’ve raised $1,034,544.78 so far this year. You can click on the figure to contribute, and help support the organisation.

By Monday morning, 17th November, I’d reached a word count of 33,629. The NaNoWriMo website has a load of exciting data, which makes it just right for an obsessive like me. When I update my daily word count, it calculates my average, and from that how long it will take me to reach the 50,000 word target. As the deadline of 30th November gets closer, the stress increases. My daily average is 1865 now, but I had a bit of a slump midweek.

I’ve never written a crime novel before, but it didn’t me take long to work out they are books which are best written backwards. I started on November 1st with my two main characters fully formed in my mind, but only a vague idea of what was going to happen to them. I opened a file, called it Chapter One, and started to type.

I managed to keep my butterfly mind pinned on DI Josh Miller’s unravelling of the conspiracy behind a politician’s murder, but the plot twists were coming as much as a shock to me as they were to him. Who knew a bacon roll would play such a pivotal…well, role? I didn’t, and I’m supposed to be the all-seeing author. I needed to step back and take a long view of where this book was heading. The trouble was, all I could see was the NaNoWriMo cut-off point of 30th November, hurtling toward me.  

Then, courtesy of the publisher Wild Rose Press, I was given the perfect excuse to take a break from working on Tasting The Peach.  The galley proofs for my next release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, arrived. Concentrating on checking everything was perfect before my new book goes to print gave me the change of pace I needed. My daily word count for NaNoWriMo suffered, but by working late and early each day I squeezed in some forward planning on motivations and motives for Tasting The Peach, too.  This allowed me to catch up, once the proofs were checked. I’m now back on target for NaNoWriMo—just about!

If you’re working on your own NaNoWriMo project, how are you getting on? If you’d like to keep up to date with the progress of my next release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, just visit my new author page over on Facebook, and hit the “like” button.