Monday, July 30, 2012

A final glimpse into the Endless Possibilities of Somerset

Today's inspiring photograph is the last in my Somerset series celebrating the release of Dear Julia. This is the gatehouse of Cleeve Abbey. However, for the purpose of our exploration of the Endless Possibilities around every corner, it can be any place you want it to be.


So what lies beyond the gatehouse, and what is hidden behind the tree?

What period in time are we? Are we monks returning from toiling in the fields, knights on pilgrimage, or landed gentry of the Regency period paying a social call? Or are we in the 21st century - at the start of a murder mystery perhaps?

It's your call ....

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sunday Conference Feedback

This is the final instalment of my adventures at Penrith 2012. Normal blogging will resume next week.

Jane Wenham-Jones – What a Way to Earning A Living 

Whatever I expected of this first session of the day, it wasn’t what I got. It was better!

Jane is so entertaining she could do stand-up comedy. For an hour she regaled us with stories from her life (including her visit to Erotica UK, the time she appeared on Kilroy, and an unfortunate yoghurt and cucumber incident at an Egyptian spa) as well as the upsides and downsides of writing (including suggestions on how to avoid Writers’ Bottom).

There were some valuable suggestions to take away from this talk too. Jane said “nothing you ever do is wasted”. It is all material for our writing. Her whole career has been a knock-on effect, and she recommends we take every opportunity that arises, as we never know where it might lead.

Most uplifting of all, she says the best thing about being a writer (and I completely agree!) is that this is the one job in which every day could be the day your life changes, and in which anything is possible.

There’s a delightful report on this session on the RNA website here: What a way to earn a living

Anne Ashurst – Towards Zero (all about back story)

The title of this talk comes from an Agatha Christie book, Towards Zero, in which zero is the murder that is committed. The journey towards the inciting incident is what matters.

Anne held her audience riveted as she used example after example (including one of her own books) to illustrate the importance of back story and how back story can be drip-fed into the present story.

She also gave practical advice on using flashbacks, and effective writing processes to build the story before even setting pen to paper.

This was perhaps the most useful talk I attended at the entire conference. I have more detailed notes which I’ll gladly share with anyone who is interested – just leave your email address in the comments below.

Chaim Potok: “Everything has a past. Everything – a person, an object, a word, everything. If you don’t know the past, you can’t understand the present and plan properly for the future.”

Sonia Duggan – Getting to where you want to be 

I ended the conference with this workshop by life and writing coach, Sonia Duggan. My full report on this session is now up at the RNA blog, but for me the best things about this workshop was focussing my goals for the next few years and making a new friend. (Hi Brigid!)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's late, I'm tired and I'm going home to cuddle my kids before bedtime. So my fervent apologies, but today's promised final conference feedback will only be up tomorrow.

Enjoy what's left of Thursday!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Saturday Conference Feedback

Here is the summary of my Saturday at the RNA conference at Penrith.

Talli Roland – On-line marketing for writers 

Talli opened the session by looking at the differences between marketing (identifying readers and how to satisfy them) and sales (“Buy my book!”).

She recommends that authors first figure out their brand, and suggested a good way to start is to choose three adjectives that describe your writing. Use these words in your signature, and remember them in all promotions and communications.

She gave blogging, tweeting and Facebook tips, and recommended using social media as a ‘circle’ – feeding through from one unique platform into another. She also discussed Goodreads, Amazon, Google Reader and newsletters. Talli ended by saying that marketing is a long term exercise, not an immediate solution.

Kate Harrison – A Woman’s World: The Future of Women’s Fiction 

Following the negative headlines late last year about declining book sales (based on print figures only, interestingly!) Kate decided to do a survey of women’s fiction readers. Her background is in television, where consumers are heavily researched, so she decided to use her skills to try to understand book consumers (readers).

This talk was an analysis of the responses. The survey covered reader habits, reader types, as well as a survey of authors and book professionals. The one thing that struck me above all else was the number of readers who said their favourite books are those that are thought provoking in some way. Kate will post the results on her website soon.

Juliet Greenwood – Working with an editor 

This talk focussed on Juliet’s experience working with an editor at Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press. She shared the advice given by the editor on how to revise the book, resulting in a vastly improved time-slip book which was then published by.

One thing Juliet said stuck with me: “Follow your instincts and have the courage to do what you know needs to be done.”

Gillian Green – Boldly going where Ebury has not gone before 

Ebury used to be a mainly non-fiction imprint with a heavy BBC tie-in, but started publishing fiction in 2010 and have gone from strength to strength since.

Gillian Green discussed what they’re not looking for, and showed a selection of their books as an idea of what they are looking for.

Ebury has three divisions: Rouge Romance, Black Lace for erotic fiction, and the Del Rey imprint for Sci Fi and Fantasy which launches in 2013. These are all new lists so they are very open to submissions. She ended her talk with a big push to promote traditional publishing and Ebury in particular, after saying she appreciates authors now have a choice.

HMB Editors – At the heart of Harlequin 

The four editors started the talk by presenting sales facts & figures, then ran through the various lines published out of London.

Regarding the Riva line: in February 2013 Riva will be launched in the US as ‘Kiss’. The imprint’s purpose is to attract new readers to M&B and after conducting a survey they’ve chosen to go with more chick-litty covers.

They ended by repeating exactly what Gillian Green said, kind of like the airline attendants who say “thank you for flying with us, we appreciate that you have a choice.”

The talk ended early and they opened the floor to questions, at which time I slipped out for my one-on-one appointment with Kimberly Young of Mira.

One-on-one with Kim Young 

My ten minute chat with Kim Young flew past very quickly. She was complimentary about my writing, and I came out of the chat inspired and re-invigorated. She gave me a valuable feedback on When September Ends, but the over-riding thing I took away from this chat was that Kim feels my voice is definitely suited to M&B’s Riva imprint and she strongly recommended that I do the revisions they requested. I'd better get working!

Mira Editors: Women’s fiction with a romantic twist 

The talk by three editors from Mira was centred around lists of ‘Ten Things’, starting with Ten Things Authors Hate About Harlequin (an interesting acknowledgement!), then Ten Things They Hate About Us, and finally Ten Tips for Being Commercial.

Kim Young acknowledged their position is more tenuous than in the past, and that authors have more choice than before and that the barriers to entry are less difficult than ever. They ended with a list of all the things they offer and why we should publish with them. (Are you seeing the pattern yet?!)

For my summary of the final day of the conference, check back here on Thursday.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My promised RNA conference feedback

I promised detailed conference feedback here on the blog today, but since I've only just cleared my Inbox, it's heading towards midnight as I type this, and I've just opened an email from my boss telling me to "hit the ground running" tomorrow as they've allocated me to a big project with a tight deadline, this report is NOT going to cover the entire conference, and you're going to have to keep coming back here for the rest!

The conference started for me on Friday afternoon, arriving at the train station in Penrith and meeting a veritable crowd of romance writers on the platform. We shared taxis to the campus and were soon 'checked in' and happily enjoying a cup of tea together. The noise level during the tea breaks was something to behold. Can you imagine 160 romance writers all talking at the same time?!

Just as the Irish Road Trippers (including our own Sally Clements) arrived, the conference started with the welcome talk, practical notes (including a demonstration on how to work the showers!), a sharing of general good news, and a formal handing over of the newly engraved awards presented at the Summer Party earlier this year. Jane Lovering's acceptance speech was certainly memorable!

We then had a panel discussion by four authors (Nicola Cornick, Ruth Long, Janet Gover, Henri Gyland) and agent Carole Blake. The discussion was lively and informative, focussing mostly on the differences between writing for the UK and North American markets, foreign translations (Henri's area of expertise as she translates books into Danish) as well as smaller foreign markets.

With the formal business of the day over, we Minxes retired to Minx House for a Kir Royale cocktail and a natter, before heading to the pub for a drink in the sunshine. It may well have been the last sun we saw all weekend, but at least the weather stayed dry for the conference.

Dinner was a noisy, fun affair, the food pretty good, though the late nights (the sun only set around 10pm) still threw me. After dinner, Sally and I joined the Irish Contingent in their kitchen where (unsurprisingly, since this conference could well be nick-named the Fifty Shades of Grey conference) we ended the night with a lengthy and lively discussion on BDSM. And more champagne.

Check back here next week for my report on the main day of the conference. And I'll even try to include pictures.

I will be typing up my detailed notes from the talks I attended, and you're welcome to contact me for them, though I must include the following disclaimer: since many of these conference speakers make a living from teaching, I'll be very cautious about who I share insider information with.

What is not insider information, were the three talks I attended by various publishing houses (Ebury Press, Mills & Boon, and Harlequin's Mira division). Fellow Minx Lorraine Wilson has already created a blog post which will go up on the Minxes blog tomorrow sharing all the major points made by those publishers. Check it out!

Monday, July 16, 2012

RNA Conference Inspiration

Today's post isn't so much about Inspiration, but following this weekend's RNA conference in Penrith, I am certainly feeling inspired!

I'm blogging over at Minxes of Romance about my conference experience, with pictures, and there will be more to follow here on Thursday.

In the meantime, here's a quote from one of the fortune cookies which was my contribution to the conference goodie bags:

You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
- Wayne Gretzky

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My UK trip so far

My UK jaunt started with a pub lunch with the London chapter of the RNA, followed by three days of sitting around chatting, drinking tea and watching telly - see my post earlier this week on the Minxes blog.

Chapter leader Jean Fullerton arranging the next get-together

Pia Fenton, who celebrated her newest release by bringing along chocolates and champagne

 Then late on Monday I moved to Bishops Stortford on the Essex / Hertfordshire border to spend a few days with my oldest friend (not oldest in age, but in how long I’ve known her).

The highlights of the week so far, apart from more chatting and more tea, was a visit to Audley End (the house itself was closed, so we wandered the gardens, servants’ wing and stables) and a day out in London featuring afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason, cocktails at Duke’s Hotel, and ending with blisters and Les Miserables.

Front facade of Audley End

The Jacobean stables at Audley End

The clandestine Pond Garden, which sparked a new 1920s story for me ...

Tomorrow I take the train up to Penrith and the real reason I’ve travelled half way round the world: the RNA Conference. More on Monday.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Magic and Castles in the Air

Yay – I made it!

I’ve spent a delightful couple of days in England, in spite of the dense cloud and chillier temperatures than back home in wintry South Africa. Catching up with old friends, being treated to a Sunday roast complete with Yorkshire pudding, and even a couple of hours of sunshine have got this holiday off to a fantastic start.

My blog post over at the Minxes of Romance today is all about just one of the things I love about England. Please pop over there and feel the magic with me.

And because today is Monday, and I’m sure we all need a little inspiration to kick start the week, here’s a quote from yet another Huletts sugar packet:

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; 
that is where they should be. 
Now put foundations under them. 
- Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A blog post really not worth reading

I'd planned for today's blog post to be about two fantastic books I read recently. Instead, I'm looking at a blank blog post and I'm so 'boiling mad' (to quote The Sound of Music) that I just can't write anything positive.

I don't normally vent in public; that's what my delightful Minxes are for. But I'm going to now.

Last year I cancelled a family holiday to Cape Town because an Accounts glitch at my company (a delay in sorting out discrepancies on my account) meant I wasn't paid in time to make the trip.

I'm now scheduled to fly to London tomorrow night. The plane ticket is paid for, my visa is paid for, the RNA conference is paid for, my promotional items for the conference have been paid for - but until I receive my fees for the last two film shoots I worked on, I'm so broke I won't be able to pay tube fair to get out of Heathrow or buy a cup of coffee.

Why haven't I been paid yet? You guessed it! Another discrepancy on my account that after more than a week has still not been sorted.

So, do I fly tomorrow night in the hopes that a miracle happens and by the time I land at Heathrow I actually have money in my account?

Or do I play it safe, stay home and work with Accounts to fix the discrepancy on my account - and forfeit everthing I've already spent on this trip?

No, 'boiling mad' just doesn't cut it. But I'm not going to swear on this blog. Promise.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Inspiration Monday

It's Monday and time for a little inspiration to start the working week. Since I'm knee deep in revisions and don't have the energy for two inspiring blog posts on one day, I'm going to head you over to the Minxes blog for some sure fire inspiration: click here.

Don't forget to vote!