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Wednesday 18 February 2015

Guest Post: Merryn Allingham, Author of 'The Girl From Cobb Street'...

My guest, Merryn Allingham
Today I'm interviewing Merryn Allingham, who is the author of the Daisy's War series. Book One, The Girl From Cobb Street, is out now.

Thanks for dropping by, Merryn. Where did you get the idea for The Girl From Cobb Street?

It started with a marriage certificate – my parents’ - which I unearthed from a pile of papers at the back of a cupboard I was clearing. My mother travelled to India in April 1937 and was married in St John’s Afghan Church in what was then, Bombay. Even now India is exotic, hitting you in the face with its difference. But in the 1930s, the journey took three weeks at a time when most people rarely ventured far beyond their home. I tried to imagine how it must have been for a working class girl who had never been further from London than a day at the Southend seaside, to travel to what was an alien world, thousands of miles away, and marry a man she hadn’t seen for some time - six years in my mother’s case! And so my heroine, Daisy Driscoll, was born, facing the same hazards in her new life as my mother had - and then far more, with a deceitful and desperate husband who threatens her with disaster.

How long did it take you to write?

Much longer than I expected because one book turned into three. I think it took me around two years to write the whole of the Daisy’s War trilogy. I found I couldn’t leave my heroine at the end of The Girl from Cobb Street. I knew she was going to have more adventures, but I also knew that eventually she would reach a safe harbour. 

Who is your favourite character, and why?

It has to be Daisy. She was the character that pushed me into writing more books than I intended. She is such a mix of vulnerability and strength, someone who at the beginning of the trilogy is still being formed. Bad things happen to her, but she fights every inch of the way and by the end of the third book has become the person she was always meant to be.

Have you ever had any rejections in your writing life? How did you cope?

I’ve been very lucky in having every book I’ve written published but, of course, along the way there have been plenty of rejections. Sometimes it’s been a resounding ‘no’ and other times a  tantalising near miss. I think you have to remind yourself that it’s not you personally that’s being rejected, but your story. Either it doesn’t appeal to the person you sent it to or it doesn’t fit what they’re looking for at that time. Writers put so much of themselves into their work, though, that it can be difficult. 

What's the most useful piece of writing advice of your own you'd like to hand on?

Writing can be a lonely business, never more so when rejections start to flow in, but you have to continue to believe in yourself and keep writing. Determination and patience are essential. If you look at the biographies of many of today’s most popular novelists, they’ve often been writing for years. As Lee Child said, ‘It took me ten years to be an overnight success.' 

Who's had the most influence on your writing life?

I would have to say Georgette Heyer. When I began writing, I had a daunting background of academic research and teaching and hadn’t a clue how to begin writing popular fiction, although I knew I wanted to. Then one morning I woke up and the idea was there. I would start where I felt most comfortable - in the Regency with a book along the lines of Georgette Heyer, who I’ve read and reread a hundred times since my teenage years. And so I began writing as Isabelle Goddard and published six Regency romances before deciding to broaden my scope into mainstream women’s fiction. But GH definitely got me going. 

What's next for you?

I’m toying with writing another trilogy, three separate stories set in 1914, 1941 and 1965, but linked together by the same house and its various occupants. It sounds like quite a challenge and at the moment I’m not sure just how it will work. But it’s an idea that keeps buzzing through my mind and I know it won’t let go until I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I even have a rough title for the three books: The Summerhayes Saga!

Good luck with The Summerhayes Saga—I'll look forward to interviewing you when it's finished! 

Here's an excerpt from The Girl from Cobb Street, to give us a taster of your latest release...

Nandni Mata was as beautiful as she had been days ago. Daisy stroked the shining black stone with gentle fingers,willing the goddess to come alive. It was foolish, but this statue was the only connection she had with her mother, this and a creased photograph. Lily must have bought the brooch in a shop or from a market stall, as Grayson had suggested, but what if the connection were closer than that? What if the brooch had come from here, from this very place? What if her mother had been here? It was a fantasy, she knew, and she traced the necklace once more with her fingers, smoothing the stone pendant over and over, trying to feel her mother’s presence. But she could not. All she could feel was the still, suffocating heat. 

She looked at the statue again and the goddess stared back. Her look was baleful. Daisy hadn’t noticed that before. A strong impulse to leave was flooding over her, for the temple hadn’t brought the peace she sought and she didn’t know why. It was as though the spirit of the place had withdrawn and left her exposed. Yes, she must definitely leave, and leave now. She backed quickly away and walked through the regiment of columns to the top of the temple steps. A sudden noise above her head made her look skywards and there, held in suspension, was a stone, a very large stone, hurtling through the blue, hurtling towards her. She stepped back into the shelter of two columns a second before a deafening crack shattered the stillness of the arena and a rock lay in splinters on the steps below.

Thanks for sharing with us, Merryn. Good luck with The Girl From Cobb Street! 

You can find out more about The Girl From Cobb Street here.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Guest Blog—Sydney St Claire: Snow And Her Huntsman

Sydney St Claire
Today, I'm welcoming Sydney St Claire to my blog. As well as telling us something about herself, Sydney is giving us a taste of her erotic romance, Snow And Her Huntsman. This is part of the Once Upon A Dom series. The theme is Fairy Tales Your Mother Never Read You, and it's another new title from The Wild Rose Press.

About Sydney...
Sydney St. Claire is the pseudonym of Susan Edwards, author of 14 Historical Native American/Western/Paranormal romances and the author of the popular “White” Series. 
Sydney takes her readers into the world of erotica romance where her characters come together in explosive passion as they solve life’s problems and find true love along with the best sex our hero and heroine have ever experienced. 
Sydney’s office is quite crowded with three dogs at her feet and five cats to keep her company while she writes. Three cats always insist on beds on her desk, barely leaving enough room for her monitor and keyboard. Life gets fun when all five insist on supervising…
A Little About Snow And Her Huntsman...
Rylee Kincaid’s business is about to go under. Lucky for her, she’s found an investor. Ready to sign papers, she learns her knight in shining armor is Hunter Finnegan, the man who once gave her multiple orgasms then crushed her young, tender heart. Her world comes crashing down as it becomes clear the rich businessman intends a hostile takeover and to cast her out. Then he agrees to discuss a new deal, but only if Rylee will play Snow to his Huntsman at a BDSM fairy tale event.

Hunter has never forgotten the weekend of kinky sex he shared with Rylee in college. Unfortunately, he had to let her go to keep peace in his family. Now he’s back to claim the only woman he’s ever loved. He’ll stop at nothing to make the black-haired, fair-skinned beauty hear the truth of what happened so long ago, even if he has to tie her up. And that’s exactly what he does. But as the Huntsman reawakens the submissive in Snow, Hunter isn’t so sure he can do the same to Rylee’s heart.
Available from http://bit.ly/17aXsY9
And here's a little taster...(PG13)

Rylee couldn’t believe what she’d done. She’d totally lost control, something she’d never done with another man but Hunter. Sex between her and her husband had never come close to the heat level between her and Hunter. Her hands dropped from his shoulders to his chest. Palms flat, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to push him away or bunch her fingers in his shirt and draw him even closer. God, what must he think of her? One kiss, and she’d gone up in flames, like a desperate and hungry woman. 
Which was true. But to show it and behave in such a manner horrified her. “I…” She didn’t know what to say. 
Hunter stepped away, she assumed to give her time to adjust her clothing. He picked up the invitation from the gray carpet. “My limo will pick you up at two on Thursday.” 
“Thursday?” Damn, her mind and body felt as though she were swimming through a thick gel. 
Handing her the invite, along with a large envelope he snagged off his desk, he held her gaze. “I’ll see you at Pleasure Manor. Your costumes will be delivered to your office this afternoon.” 
He tapped the envelope. “Instructions and rules. I suggest you go get your bloodwork done this afternoon. You’ll need to bring the results with you.” Hunter handed her the briefcase and her purse and hustled her to the door. 
Rylee blinked in confusion. Damn the man for being in complete control while she was a quivering mass of need. Her orgasm hadn’t eased her ache for this man. But she hated being manipulated, and he was a master. He’d lured her in with hopes and dreams of saving her business and probably used Glorie to make her mad enough that she’d confront him. Now, he’d had the nerve to use her own body against her. “Dammit, Hunter, I never said—” 
Hunter halted her with the single lift of his brow. “Your body spoke for you.” He lowered his head and kissed her hard, swallowing her protests. “Thursday. And don’t bother wearing panties.”
Wow—nobody ever read fairy tales like that to me! You can find out more about Sydney and her work here: 
Trailer:             http://youtu.be/ap0UHxLoFCA
Website:         http://sydneystclaire.com
Twitter:           https://twitter.com/Sydneystclaire
Blog:          http://sydneystclaire.wordpress.com

While the buy links for Snow And Her Huntsman are:
Wild Rose KINDLE           Nook         KOBO             IBOOKS

And Sydney is celebrating the release with a new contest. Prizes include a roomy  "Fairy Tales Your Mother Never Read You" tote bag, 4 GB Flash Drive, Key Ring Light, Notepad & Pen, Mug and assorted other goodies. Find out more here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/09f02d866/

Sunday 8 February 2015

The Birth Of A Book, Part Four: The Basic Three Act Structure For Creative Writing

By Antonio Litterio
Is your story running out of control? Is your character development less of an arc, and more of a ramble? Save time and keep your plot on track, no matter how many threads it has, by finding out how to apply the Three-Act Structure to your work. 
I started out as a pantster—writing novels free-form, with no overall plan. A dramatic scene would come to me. I’d think about it until I’d developed characters and a plot. Then I’d write the first three chapters, followed by the last one, to make sure every loose end was tied up. After that, I’d go back and fill in all the gaps. That worked well, but what sounds like a fast process turned out to be slow in the end. Making things up as I went along meant lots of re-writing and refining. Sometimes I’d have to discard days of work when it didn’t fit with the revised storyline. Often the finished manuscript and my original synopsis might have been talking about different books, with only names and places in common. 
I needed to get organised. The 2014 RNA conference put me onto Scrivener. You can find out more about that here.

Once I got the hang of using this package, I could see the Three Act Structure (which has been used for centuries to create novels, plays and other works) fits in perfectly. The Introduction, Action and Conclusion model provides a skeleton you can build on and articulate, by breaking the action down into small segments. 

I haven’t turned into a dedicated planner overnight, plotting every move my characters make right down to the last cough and sneeze, but it’s definitely easier for me to keep my first draft on track these days. In turn, this saves a lot of time, which I devote to polishing my full manuscript. 

On sale now at http://bit.ly/1C0CxOU and
here in the UK
I’ve created a template on Scrivener which includes divisions within the basic Three Act Structure. Most are self-explanatory. You don’t need to write scenes for all the headings—in fact, it would be a very bad idea to follow this template down to the smallest detail. In trying to fill every box, you’d end up producing the literary version of a painting-by-numbers, rather than your very own Mona Lisa. 

As you write, you’ll find some sections will merge. The order will change, and the lines between some will  blur. You might want to skip some altogether, or change the order within the acts. Do whatever suits you, within the basic story arc of scene setting, followed by action and rounded off by conclusion.

Here are the basic headings I work with:

ACT ONE—This introduces your story world and characters, and sets up all the drama to come. 
Scene setting: The trick is to drip feed information about the who, where and when of your story. Don’t drop it in lumps. Personally, I like to start with a bang, such as the “shark attack” in His Majesty’s Secret Passion.
Inciting Incident: A stranger comes to town is a classic opening. You could also use an accident, a letter, or a misunderstanding.
And So…For every action there’s a reaction, as Isaac Newton said. Keep that in mind as you move forward, heaping up troubles and questions for your characters to confront.
What happens then? Don’t forget to add variety to the ups and downs in your story. Give your reader time to catch their breath, and reflect on what’s been happening.
Pressure Builds: Once you’ve got your characters up a tree, throw rocks at them. 
Force: As you make things worse for them, they are forced to take more action
Plot Twist/Revelation We know where we are, and who we’re dealing with. Or do we? Throw in another development to increase problems for your hero.
George M. Hill Company, Via Wikimedia
ACT TWO—Action stations! This act should make up the bulk of your story, powering it along with increasing drama, and working on the tension.
All Change: This is the point where Alice has gone through the looking glass, and Dorothy isn’t in Kansas any more. There’s no way back. They’ve got to create a new  existence, and fresh ways of thinking.
Learning: Your characters get to know their new world.
Back And Forward: Draw contrasts between their old life, and the new rules they are learning.
Tension Builds: Foreshadow future disasters. In The Lord Of The Rings, Gandalf rages at Pippin for doing something as simple as dropping a stone down a well. We're told that’s not a good thing to do in a place like the Mines of Moria, but we don’t know why. Yet…
Breathing Space: The contrast of action and peace. Your readers and heroes can all take a rest, but just when they least expect it—
Bang! More trouble arrives, and it’s big.
Action Your hero throws themselves into the situation. This is a fight to the death, either physical, mental, or both. It takes all their resources and ingenuity to cope.
Reapplication: This is it: hero must make one last huge effort, and dedicate themselves to getting the ultimate prize of true love, treasure or whatever else you’ve dangled in front of them. This means death—or glory!
ACT THREE—This is the climax and conclusion of your book. Everything has been building towards this point. 
More Trouble/Another Crisis: Things are getting worse and worse.
The Black Moment The point when a romance seems doomed, all projects are heading for disaster and there is (apparently) no way out.
Hidden Powers The hero delves even deeper inside themselves to draw on resources they didn’t know they had.
Last Big Push toward reconciliation, or the final battle.
And Finally… It’s all over.
Look Around: Characters take stock of their new story world, relationships and their changed understanding of themselves.
Climax: the big reconciliation, or reveal.
Resolution: This is the place to give your characters their Happy Ever After moment, or let them announce their determination to stride forward into Book Two of a series. At least give them a satisfying conclusion.

There are lots of possible variations on this basic layout, but this one has worked well for me. It’s the way I kept Sara and Leo heading for their happy ever after in His Majesty’s Secret Passion, despite all their troubles, and reversals on the way. 

Do you plan, or write freestyle? How do you fancy working in a different way?

There’s a signed copy of His Majesty’s Secret Passion on offer for a comment picked at random after 16th February.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Guest Post: Angela Hayes—If love isn't worth fighting for, what is?

Angela Hayes
Today, I'm welcoming novelist Angela Hayes to my blog. As well as telling us a bit about herself, Angela is offering a taste of her new paranormal romance, Love's Battle, part of the True Blue trilogy.

Angela's Biography:
A married mother of two, I split my time between bringing characters to life by computer, and yarn to life with needle and hook. You can find me at www.authorangelahayes.blogspot.com and follow me on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/imahayes  and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/imahayes

LOVE’S BATTLE—the blurb
Love Howard has more than a knack for matchmaking. Born from a forbidden passion and a twelve-hundred-year-old promise, she and her sisters can literally see true love. And while Love has no problem bringing other couples together, her own romantic life could use a little help.

Danton DeAngelo has always been well grounded in reality. So it throws him for no small loop when the woman he’s fallen for believes that she’s been reincarnated eleven times and can actually see true love.

Now Danton is faced with the biggest decision of his life. Accept Love for who she really is, or walk away from her forever.


The hand Love pressed to her brow was visibly shaking. “There’s something I need to tell you. I just need you to keep an open mind.”
“What is it? Are you sick?” Danton asked.
“No, I’m not sick.” Her voice trembled on a forced laugh. “It’s something else. Something I‘ve been trying to prepare you for. This would be so much easier if you believed in magic. If you could believe that what I’m about to tell you is the honest truth.”
Turning, Love opened the iron chest, the hinges groaning with the effort as specks of rust littered the floor. From its depths she pulled out a clear plastic bag that she held tight to her chest, eyes closed, before handing it to a confused Danton.
“This is my tartan, my plaid. Before it faded and was dinner for the moths, it was once patterned in checks of green, gray, and brown. The purple and white stripes that ran through the hem identified the wearer as part of the royal family.” Love tapped the plastic, her finger pointing out where each color should be. “It was a gift from my father. The first and only time my sister’s and I met him, he was on his deathbed, we were eighteen. A week later our mother died in the same moment he drew his last breath.” Needing the extra air Love drew a breath of her own. “That day was the thirteenth of February, eight-hundred and fifty-eight AD. My father was Cinaed mac Alpin, crowned king of the Picts and Gaels. He was Scotland’s first king.”
“Eight- hundred and fifty-eight?” That couldn’t be right, she was only twenty-five. “Don’t you mean Nineteen-eighty-seven?”
“No. I was born for the first time in Scotland during the middle of the ninth century.” 

What a hook, Angela! And that's a great cover, too. For more of Love's Battle, here are the links:

And you can find Angela at http://www.manicreaders.com/AngelaHayes/ www.amazon.com/author/angelahayes and https://www.goodreads.com/author_angelahayes.

Thanks for sharing with us, Angela, and good luck with Love's Battle!