Thursday, 11 January 2018

Her Last Lie - Guest Post Amanda Brittany

Today, I'm delighted to welcome Amanda Brittany to my blog. Amanda is a fellow magazine writer and this week her debut novel, Her Last Lie, was published by HQ Digital. What makes this story so wonderful is that all proceeds from the sales will be donated to Cancer Research in memory of her younger sister.

I hope you'll enjoy hearing more about Amanda and her writing in this interview.

You first started your writing life as a women’s magazine writer. How difficult was it to move to something longer?

Hi Wendy. Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog. I think the main difficulty for me, is keeping the faith in a novel for so much longer than you would with a short story.

Women’s magazine fiction is known for being gentle and uplifting. How difficult was it to change genre?

Although I’ve written many gentle, uplifting stories for magazines, and really enjoy writing that kind of story, I have been known to go over to the dark side when writing short stories, and really enjoy writing twisty-turny thrillers for That’s Life! Australia, and Take a Break Fiction Feast. Maybe I was destined to write a psychological thriller. I know plotting short stories in that genre helped me a lot with my novel.

What were you like at school? Would your English teacher be surprised to see that you have become a published author?

If I’m honest, I was a bit of a dreamer at school. My English teacher was actually my favourite teacher, and she always said I had a great imagination, but she would get frustrated that I never applied myself. I think she would be shocked about my book, but I like to think she would be pleased too.

How long did it take you to write your novel?

I wrote the first draft fairly quickly. In six weeks, in fact. But the rewrites and edits took me a lot longer.

I love the cover. How important do you think the cover is to a potential reader?

I’m thrilled with the cover of Her Last Lie –the designer is amazingly talented. I think covers are very important. If they are eye-catching they can really draw the reader in, and also give the reader a good idea of the kind of genre the book is. In fact, I know someone who buys books purely based on the cover – so hopefully I’ve made one sale. J

Tell us something about the main character that will make us want to read more about them.
Six years ago, Isla Johnson survived an attack by a serial killer, and I hope readers will feel for her and the potential trauma she had been through, especially as she is now convinced the killer is out of prison and stalking her. But I also think the reader will feel conflicted by Isla’s present-day behaviour towards her partner the kind and caring Jack.

Are you a pantster of do you plot?

A bit of both, I think. For novels, I have a brief outline of the main plot, and where I want to go, and then I tend to let my characters take me there. I admit, it does mean I occasionally lose my way – characters can be naughty like that – so when I feel myself heading off on a tangent, I stop and reassess my plot and where I’m heading. For short stories, I sometimes have an outline, but often I write a whole story purely based on something I’ve heard someone say.

What have you found to be the most difficult thing about writing a novel?

The hardest thing when writing a novel, in my opinion, is keeping on keeping on, and, as I said earlier, not losing faith in what you are writing. I find the hardest moment is about halfway through, when I suddenly wonder if it’s any good at all. And the other difficulty is the temptation to keep on going over and over the first few chapters until they are perfect, instead of getting the first draft down.

What next for Amanda Brittany?

I love writing short stories, and hope to write more in 2018, but I’m not sure what the future holds for novels. I guess, for now, I’m taking it one step at a time.

Amanda Brittany lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two dogs. She loves travelling, and visiting Abisko in Sweden inspired her to write 'Her Last Lie'. 

She began writing fiction nine years ago, and has since gained a BA in Literature, a Diploma in Creative Writing, and has had 200 stories and articles published in magazines globally.

When her younger sister became terminally ill, Amanda’s hope was to write a novel where her royalties went to Cancer Research. 'Her Last Lie' is that book, and all of Amanda's royalties for downloads will go to that charity. 'Her Last Lie' is her debut novel.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Writing Targets for 2018

It's that time of year again when teacakes are eaten and writing goals are set.

On Monday, writing chum, Tracy Fells, and I met up in our favourite cafe. We ordered teacakes and coffee and went back over 2017 to see whether or not we'd achieved last year's goals (you can read them here). We also set new targets for the coming year. It's the fifth year we've done this as we've found it's a great way to keep us focused in the months ahead. 

Without further ado.... here are my 2018 writing goals. Hopefully I shall:

  • Continue to submit two stories a month to magazines.

  • Submit something new to the RNA New Writers' Scheme reader for a critique in August.

  • Continue to submit to agents/publishers with a view to having my first two novels published.

As with last years goals, I've tried to make them manageable ones. Also, you never know when life's going to throw you a curve ball and you have to change your plans (I certainly wasn't expecting to lose my agent last year and have to start again along that route). 

My other (non-writing related) news is that I'm taking up a new challenge... I'm learning the violin. Yes, you heard me correctly. The violin. A while ago, I got it into my head that I'd love to learn to play this instrument. I have no idea why and neither did anyone else! 

Imagine my surprise when I opened my Christmas present from my husband and found this...

His present to himself was earplugs and now that I've tried it out I can see why! I'm determined to learn though and my final goal is to be able to play some carols on it by next Christmas. Think I will succeed?

And that's the end of my goals for this year. Do you set yearly writing targets?

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Did I Achieve my 2017 Writing Goals?

It's time to say goodbye to the old writing year and hello to a new one.

Last week I took a detailed look at my writing year which you can read here but, today, it's time to turn my sights to the specific writing goals I set in 2017. In January, best writing chum, Tracy Fells, and I met up in our favourite tea shop for teacakes and target setting. You can read the full post here.

So how did I do?

Well, before I wrote this post, I looked back at my roundup of 2016 and saw that I'd hoped 2016 would be 'the year of the novel'. It wasn't to be and neither has it this year but I've made some big steps towards my goal. Also, my short story sales have moved closer to 300 mark, so overall I'm pretty pleased. Let's look at whether I achieved my specific targets though.

Goal: Complete at least 50,000 words of my new novel by the end of August, for critique by the RNA New Writers' Scheme reader.

Achieved? Yes! I actually finished the 87,000 word novel and, much to my delight, had an excellent critique from the RNA. It also won the Flash500 Novel Opening and Synopsis Competition just before Christmas. It was chosen out of hundreds of novels and this is what the judge, Steph Patterson (senior editor at Crooked Cat books) had to say about it.

'First place goes to The One I Left Behind, which hooked me with a gripping introduction, and a thrilling plot to boot. Early on, the reader is introduced to the main character, and something intriguing about her, which has an impact on her life. The One I Left Behind has the makings of a page-turner. Many congratulations!'

Congratulations also to writing chum, Tracy, whose two novels both did very well in the same competition..

I am now in the process of submitting my novel to agents and have been approached by the commissioning editors of two major publishers who want to read it.

Goal: Write the outline and first chapters to send to my agent before the end of February.

Achieved: Yes... but, sadly (and through no fault of my own) I lost my agent in the summer so it was back to square one.

Goal: Write and submit at least two short stories every month.

Achieved? Yes. I've managed to carry on writing the magazine stories alongside the novel although my output has been less. There have been changes in the magazine world, with both Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman's Weekly changing their fiction staff and only allowing submissions from a list of selected writers. I am grateful to be one of them.

Goal: Attend the RNA conference in July.

Achieved? Yes... and you can read about it here.

... and that's it for another year. I'll be back next week after Tracy and I have had our goal setting teacake session. All that's left is for me to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Monday, 18 December 2017

My Writing Year 2017

Today, as tradition requires, I shall be looking back at all the lovely things (writing and otherwise) that I've done during 2017. Many thanks to those of you who made the journey with me.

January - I started the year with the usual teacakes and goal setting with writing chum, Tracy Fells, and I shall be posting how I got on with them after Christmas. I re-joined the RNA New Writers' Scheme. The People's Friend made a new audio of one of my stories, 'Out of the Dark' which you can read here . Merryn Allingham was guest on my blog talking about her inspiration for The Buttonmaker's Daughter. Vivien Hampshire wrote a guest post for me on how to say thank you.

February -  The sixth anniversary of the day I started writing. Louise Jensen was my guest, talking about psychological thrillers. Simon Whaley was guest on my blog, talking about the business of writing.

March - We had a lovely weekend away in the grounds of a medieval abbey in Dorset and Alex Gazzola wrote a guest post on the mistakes writers make. I went on a ballroom weekend in Bournemouth and started writing my second novel.

April - I wrote an article for The People's Friend about a bread making course I'd been on and wrote a blog post on how to make your hobbies work for you. Margaret Mounsden wrote a post for me on writing pocket novels. Deirdre Palmer was my guest talking about writing a sequel. Went on a jive weekend to Hayling Island.

May - I interviewed Lynda Stacey. Had a wonderful holiday in Cadgwith Cove, Cornwall.

June - Liz Eeles was guest on my blog. I interviewed commonwealth regional prizewinner, Tracy Fells. Went on a weekend to Bath with my daughter to find Mr Darcy. Went to the RNA Summer Party.

July - Took an afternoon tea bus tour of London with my daughter. Went to the RNA Conference and interviewed Susan Griffin about what it was like to be an RNA Conference newbie.

August - Wendy's Writing Now had its sixth birthday. Alison Maynard wrote a blog post on her five tips for editing a novel. Sonja Price wrote a post for me on writing a novel set in unfamiliar territory. Finished writing my second novel and it received a glowing critique from my RNA New Writing Scheme reader. I sadly parted company with my agent. My article on the ballroom weekend in Bournemouth was published in The People's Friend.

September - Debbie Howells wrote a post about her latest psychological thriller. We had our annual holiday to Greece - this time to beautiful Paxos.  My novel pitch in the #TellAMH twitter event was a winner.

October - Alison Morton wrote a blog post on what not to do when self-publishing. Vivien Hampshire wrote a post on an insider's guide to a blog tour. It was publication day for my third story collection, Silent Night. I wrote a post on book marketing for dummies. I was a guest on Clare Flynn's blog. The commissioning editor of a major publishing house requested to read manuscripts of both novels. I was on Lynda Stacey's blog, talking about seeing Christmas through other people's eyes. Angela Petch interviewed me on her blog. I was guest on Anne Hamilton's blog. I was interviewed by Debbie at Brook Cottage Books, Emma at Books and Winegums and Rosie Hendry. I was invited to put an extract from Silent Night on Books in the My Handbag blog.

November - I wrote a post on editing out banned words. I went to the RNA Winter Party. I wrote a post on making Twitter Banners and adverts. I was guest on Karen Aldous' blog talking about the five things not to do at Christmas, the RNA blog where I discussed moving from short story to novel and Katrina Marie's blog talking about weaving Christmas memories into my story collection.  Had a week on La Gomera. 

December - I was interviewed by Morton Gray and Anne at Books and Authors. Full manuscript for first novel was requested by an agent. Second novel was shortlisted in Flash500 novel opening and synopsis competition. 

** Since writing this post my novel has won the Flash500 novel opening and synopsis competition! **

I haven't mentioned my story publications in this post as it would have taken too long to find them but I do have two in the Christmas special edition of The People's Friend which is out this week.

I'm feeling rather exhausted now!

And that's it folks. Apart from letting you know that as a special Christmas present (and a reward for wading through this post) I have reduced the price of the ebook version of all my short story collections to 99p for the Christmas week. Yes... all three of them!

Why not treat yourself on Amazon

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Last Taboo - Guest post Jan Ellis

I'm delighted to welcome another guest onto my blog today... the lovely Jan Ellis. Jan is a fellow member of the RNA and is a writer of romcom and contemporary fiction. Without more ado, I'll hand you over to her.

When Wendy kindly invited me to write a post for her blog, I wondered what to write about. Should I tell you about my journey from publisher to published writer? Should I tell you about working in the book trade, an experience that makes me passionate about bookshops and one that comes in handy when writing about my fictitious Devon shop in ‘The Bookshop by the Sea’ stories? No, I shan’t tell you about either of those things. Instead, I’m ready to share with you – dear friends – a deep, dark secret that sets me apart from 99 per cent of people on social media. It is the last taboo; a peculiarity often met with incredulity and shock. Whisper it: I hate Christmas. There, I’ve said it and I can feel the sharp intake of breath across the country as gentle, Santa-loving folk read this. What’s not to like about over-cooked sprouts and the annual family row, I hear you ask? Here’s a handy list.

Things I don’t like:

‘Book now for Christmas!’ signs in August
Adverts for naff sofas
Cheesy supermarket music
Shopping of any kind
Crackers that don’t go ‘bang’
Over-heated rooms
After Eight mints
Cards that arrive the day after ‘last-posting’ day from people you forgot to send cards to

If I was an estate agent or a deep-sea diver, my aversion to Yuletide would not be a problem. However, here in romcom land I feel like the black sheep, the over-looked chipolata at the bottom of the oven, the jar of stinky bath salts. Despite my embarrassing affliction, I have somehow managed to introduce Christmas scenes into two of my novellas: French Kisses and A London Affair. In the latter, my young heroine Kate heads off to Suffolk with friends to celebrate Christmas Eve on the beach.
Here is a short extract:

When they reached their Christmas star, Ned stopped and threw out his arms towards the sea. “Enjoy that fragrance, people. There’s nothing like it.” He breathed in deeply, then waved vigorously with both hands.
“Who are you waving at, darling?” asked Valentina. “I can’t see anyone out there.”
“We can’t see them, but there will be people on beaches in Holland and Scandinavia waving back.”
Kate and Freddy tried not to laugh at their eccentric companion.
“Have you done this kind of thing before then, Ned?”
He turned, his eyes crinkling into a smile. “Many times, Frederico.”
“In England?”
“England, India, Thailand – the sea’s the sea, my friend. Now, let’s make
fire.” Ned knelt on the ground and lit the bonfire, which soon sprang into life. The others arranged themselves on the rugs and gazed into the flames. After a while, Valentina unpacked the champagne and glasses.
“Don’t open that yet, darling,” said Ned. “We need to dip our feet into the ocean first. Come on – get those boots off and roll up your trousers.”
Groaning quietly, Kate pulled off her boots and double layer of socks and stood on the cold sand, shivering. Freddy hopped over and took her hand. “Come on, Kate. Let’s do it.”
“I’m sorry about this. Ned is a bit bonkers.”
Fred turned towards her and laughed. “Why are you apologising? This is brilliant.”
The tide was in and Ned had already run the short way to the water’s edge with Valentina who had rolled up her skirt to her knees. “Hurry up, you two,” she said, laughing. “We must do this together.”
Freddy and Kate stepped gingerly across the sand, then the four of them walked hand in hand into the inky sea, squealing as icy water lapped over their ankles. Behind them the fire crackled, throwing a flickering red light over Kate’s star, which stood like a beacon on the beach.
They dashed back and forth into the water shrieking and jumping over the waves, then separated so each of them could walk alone in silence. It was a spontaneous moment of contemplation under the moonlight: magical, as Ned had promised. Afterwards they dried their feet, put on their boots and lay on the rugs watching the stars and listening to the rhythmic whooshing of the waves. At midnight, they drank a toast to good times and wished each other happy Christmas.
The moon was high in the sky by the time the bonfire had burned down and all the champagne was drunk. Ned’s body cast a dim shadow on the sand as he stretched and stood. “Friends, I think it’s time for bed.”

Reading this again, I realise that there are perhaps one or two redeeming features about Christmas…

Things I do like:

Black and white films on the telly
Carol singing
The smell of cigars
Crackers that do go ‘bang’
Parties with friends in spangly frocks
Dogs in Christmas sweaters
Chilly walks that end in warm pubs
Catching up on the TBR list

On balance, I guess Christmas is okay – so long as it only happens once a year and starts and ends in December. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to open the sherry and put the spouts on. Yo, ho, ho!

French Kisses and A London Affair and An Unexpected Affair and A Summer of Surprises are published in two paperback volumes by Waverley Books. The ebooks (Endeavour Press) are available on Amazon. The Bookshop Detective is a paperback original.

Contact Jan:

Follow Jan on Facebook and Twitter @JanEllis_writer
Jan's Amazon page:

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

House of Christmas Secrets: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly! - Guest post Lynda Stacey

One thing I love about hosting guests on my blog is when they ask to come back for another visit. It means I must be doing something right as a blog host! Today, I welcome back, author Lynda Stacey. It's her third visit to Wendy's Writing Now and it's great to have her back.

Lynda first visited in 2016 when she'd just published her debut novel, House of Secrets. Today, she's back to talk about its sequel, House of Christmas Secrets... the good, the bad and the ugly!

Over to you, Lynda.

When my debut novel House of Secrets was first published I literally bounced around the house for days while watching in amazement as it began to sell. The first days were very surreal, I still found it very hard to believe that firstly I’d fulfilled my dream and I’d written a whole book, and secondly that people were actually buying it.

I would seriously check the ‘amazon sales rank’ at least once an hour to see if it had moved up or down in the rankings and at its best it got to No133 in the whole of the paid Kindle Store and No8 in the whole of Romantic Suspense, for which I’ll be forever grateful. Then, as though things couldn’t
get any better, the readers began leaving reviews. I was totally blown away. I lost count of the actual readers who not only loved it, but also spoke of my characters as real people. They wanted to know what they were doing now and how their lives had turned out. Which got me thinking.... could I do it, could I write a sequel, could I bring all of those characters back to life and if I could, what adventure could I take them on this time?

So, House of Christmas Secrets began.

The good..!

I began the story one year on from where House of Secrets ended. I felt that the characters would have had time to have moved forward with their lives but I didn’t want the story to start so far ahead that things would have changed dramatically.

I loved re-creating the characters. Getting to meet Jess again, along with Jack, Emily and of course Maddie, Bandit, little Poppy and, last but not least, our lovely Nomsa who was still baking, looking after everyone and, at times of both happiness and sadness, always put the kettle on. I felt that all of these people needed to be there for the continuity so that the reader felt comfortable picking the story up again.

The bad..!

I really struggled with the storyline. I really didn’t want to throw anything more at Madeleine, I felt as though she’d had so much trouble already with all that had happened in House of Secrets that I couldn’t possibly send anything else in her direction. Also, because I hadn’t planned on a sequel, I hadn’t really left any loose ends that I could pick up and run with, which meant I had to dig deep. There was only one tiny thread that I could pick up, so our story begins with Jess wishing for a nice, normal and quiet Christmas. However, when two unexpected visitors arrive at the hall, her Christmas turns into everything other than nice and normal.

The ugly..! (but only for the author... me..!)

House of Christmas Secrets began life as a novella, which was 50,000 words. I was happy with the result, I felt that it offered House of Secrets a great sequel.

However, when it went to my lovely editor she read it and emailed me with a short, sharp response that basically said... ‘Too good to be a novella, could you possibly just add 35,000 words and get it back to me as soon as possible... if you don’t mind.’

As you can imagine, I read the email at least twice, gasped, stamped around the room and then I poured the wine, knowing that to add 35k meant that I needed to add a whole extra storyline...!

Saying that, I love it. And as always, my editor was absolutely right. The story is now better, it has more depth and the extra storyline does add moments of laughter and also of tears. Above all else, like always with my novels, I feel that the reader will now go through every single emotion whilst reading. I must admit that there is one chapter that I tend to blubber at every time I go through it. 

Final note: More than anything, I hope everyone loves it as much as I do. xx

This year we’re just going to have a nice, normal Christmas… 

Last year’s Christmas at Wrea Head Hall didn’t quite go to plan which is why Jess Croft is determined this festive season will be the one to remember, for the right reasons. And she has plenty of reasons to be hopeful, she’s going to marry the man of her dreams, Jack Stone, seven days after New Year’s Eve.  

However, as family secrets are revealed in hidden letters and two unexpected guests turn up on the doorstep, Jess is left wondering whether her life will ever be the same again. 

Can Jess and Jack still experience a peaceful festive season that they had imagined or are there some problems that even Christmas can’t fix?


Contact Lynda:

Twitter  @Lyndastacey

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Making Twitter Banners and Adverts plus a Bargain!

I've just come back from a gorgeous holiday in La Gomera and it's time to turn my attention once more to writing and also to marketing my Christmas collection, Silent Night. This is especially important as, for one week only, it's on Kindle Countdown at just 99p and if I don't tell people, no one will know about it. So here I am telling you - you can buy it here!

Since publication day in October, and without the marketing department of a publishing house to do it for me, I've had to think up new and creative ways of showing off my book. There are many tools on the internet to help you and, as I've had a few people ask me recently how I went about making my adverts - especially my Twitter banners - I thought I'd devote this post to explaining what I did.

First of all I needed a picture of my book cover but I also wanted some other pictures to use as backgrounds. I used Pixabay for this as it has a wide range of free to use illustrations and photographs - just right for what I wanted.

For example, the background of snowflakes in this Twitter banner was from the site. 

To get the picture the right size and to add text, I used Canva. Although you can use it on a PC or your phone, I found it worked best on my ipad. Canva is a basic design programme and it's very simple to use - it must be if I managed it! I used Canva to size my adverts to fit Facebook posts, Twitter banners and Instagram pictures (you name it, it can do it.)

But I also wanted to use my book cover in a different way. For this I used the free on-line photo editor LunaPic. I made the book cover graphics below using it. 

I also used LunaPic to add the frosted edge to the title picture and to add the snow effect in my Twitter banner below (you'll find it in 'animations').

I used a different program to add a filter to my pictures to give a different effect. For this I use the photo-editor App PS Express on my ipad. I love the way it changed the tone of my advert below from warm to cool.

While I was searching around for new things to use, I came across another fun site called Lumyer. Again I used it as an App on my ipad to create the heart effect on the advert below. I used this one on my Facebook author page. If you want to remove the watermark, you have to pay, otherwise it's free to use.

Not content with animations and gifs, I decided to try using a little fun App called Boomerang. It does what it says on the tin and makes a few second 'boomerang' movie of whatever you photograph. Clever eh? This is the one I made for my Facebook page and also for Instagram.

And there you have it. Lots of ways to advertise your novel without getting boring. I'm sure there are lots of other interesting Apps and websites out there that can brighten up your marketing. If you know of any, please let me know in the comments.

Which leaves me only to remind you that Silent Night is on sale for just 99p all this week. It's had some fabulous reviews which you can check out on Amazon and, if you're feeling festive and would like to take advantage of this offer, you can buy it here.