Posts Tagged Choc Lit
How to Write a Novel Series by Anni Rose
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Authors, Books, Writing on March 3, 2023
Series of novels are loved by both publishers and readers. On the commercial side they build brand loyalty and returning customers. For readers they offer the chance to spend longer with favourite characters and are a pain free way to choose books without gambling on a new author or standalone novel. Anni Rose is a master of series writing. Her latest book, Recipe for Mr Ideal, is book 4 in her Recipes for Life series and is published by ChocLit. It can also be read as a standalone novel. I’m delighted that Anni has agreed to share some of her writing wisdom with us today.
Thank you, Sally, for inviting me onto your blog today to give advice on something I really enjoy: writing a series of novels.
In my opinion, there are two areas that series writers need to be aware of before they get stuck in: organisation and characters.
I use Plottr software to help me plan a book. It has some really useful templates and I like being able to assign characters and places to as many books as I want and keep notes of important details. I remember reading a series of books by one author and being amazed by how often details changed. I am sure I don’t always get it right, but hopefully there are not too many inconsistencies.
However, I don’t find it easy to write in Plottr, so I export everything to Scrivener then Word. Word is the writing program I’m most used to, but when I’ve finished a section I post it into Scrivener as well, because I like being able to move scenes and chapters around and see, at a glance, different points of view etc. and how many words there are in each section or chapter. Scrivener keeps the technical side of my brain happy.
I like to include little details from a variety of sources. When I’m out and about I might hear or see something and must make a note of it there and then in case I forget, but this does mean my notes can be in more than one format and place, so once a week I try and sit down and sort them all out in various lists or link them to a character or place. If I don’t then months later, I come across maybe a sentence and can’t remember why it seemed important at the time.
What I love most about writing a series is getting to know the characters. Writing a series, you are developing long term relationships with them. Often you find someone you thought to be a minor character in one novel, has a much bigger story that you have to tell later on.
The hardest job for me is deciding on character names. I try to pick names which fit with the characters I’m writing about, because I have to feel comfortable with their name before I can begin to make them come alive. I use local towns as inspiration for surnames – an idea I stole from J K Rowling.
Pay attention to ages. If you’re writing a series, then it stands to reason it’s going to be over a period. Sadly, they will age. It happens to us all. How many times have you read a series and the main character stays at the same age for many books. I give my characters a date of birth rather than a specific age. That helps with music choices, events in their lives etc.
Having said all that my current work in progress has two of the minor characters who have appeared before in the series and have very similar names to two, who were minor characters in a more recent book but now feature quite heavily in this one – there was nothing else for it, I had to send them off on a cruise. They’re having a ball and will be back!
Thank you, Anni, for some great advice. Now let’s find out more about your latest release and you!
Recipe for Mr Ideal
Would you settle for Mr Less-Than-Ideal for a chance at happily-ever-after?
Registrar Maddie Winter has overseen enough weddings to know that marriage is not just for Christmas (or Valentine’s Day) – it’s for life, and regardless of whether the ceremony involves specially trained owls, dinosaurs or the police, it should be only the beginning of a story that will end in happily-ever-after.
Saying that, Maddie’s own married life is far from perfect – her husband, David, is more interested in his phone than in her, and when he suddenly walks out, Maddie’s long-held beliefs are put to the test.
Except Maddie knows David was never really her ‘Mr Ideal’; that was sweet, funny, motorbike-riding Josh Diamond – although obviously not that ideal, as he did dump her to move to the States. Even so, when Josh unexpectedly rides back into town, Maddie begins to wonder whether her happily-ever-after could still be to come …
Book 4 in the Recipes for Life series but can be read as a standalone novel. It is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Kobo and Google.
About Anni Rose
Born and raised in Berkshire, Anni emigrated to Wiltshire six years ago, where she lives with her husband, sister and two dogs.
As a child, she could usually be found either reading or writing fiction, producing reams of stories over the years.
On leaving school, the need to earn a living sort of got in the way and her writing was limited to financial reports or employees’ handbooks, but a local writing course and an encouraging group of writing friends re-ignited the fiction flame many years later and Anni went on to have several short stories published in various magazines.
Anni would describe her writing these days as mainly modern romantic stories with a healthy dollop of humour thrown in. Away from writing Anni can usually be found behind a camera, walking the dogs, enjoying one of her husband’s curries or one of her sister’s bakery treats.
You can catch up with Anni on her website www.anniroseauthor.co.uk, on
Twitter – @AnniRoseAuthor, or on her Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/anniroseauthor
Anni Rose, Choc Lit, Plottr, Recipes for Life, Scrivener, series writing
Marie Laval’s Top 6 Writing Tips
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Authors, Books, Writing on February 16, 2023
I am delighted to have Marie Laval as a guest on my blog today. Marie is published by Choc Lit and writes both contemporary and historical romance. In 2021 she was shortlisted for the RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense Award. She has kindly agreed to share with us her top six writing tips. Over to Marie:
Thank you so much for welcoming me on your blog today to share with you my writing tips. Every writer is different and I don’t pretend that my tips will suit everybody, but they have worked well for me so far. So here we go!
- Write every day, even if it’s only a few lines. I know it’s not always possible, and I have myself found it extremely hard over the past year and a half and my writing has suffered. I try to scribble something about the story or the characters on a notebook before going to bed if I haven’t had the chance to do any ‘proper writing’ during the day.
- Be completely in love with your hero. It may sound corny, but you are going to be spending many hours with that person, so it is essential to feel a connection to him!
- If like me, you don’t plan a lot, you should at least work out what the motivations of the main characters are before you start so that you understand why they behave the way they do.
- Research the setting well, or even better, visit the locations in order to experience the landscapes, the colours and the smells so that when you describe them the readers feel they are actually there with the characters. It’s not always possible to travel, of course, but there are brilliant videos on YouTube, such as walking tours of a town or a historic building which can help you get a good feel for the place.
- Be patient. Sometimes you get stuck but things always work out in the end. Go for a walk and talk to yourself aloud to experiment with dialogue, even if it makes you look a bit silly.
- Be kind to yourself. Sometimes we judge our writing far too harshly, or we take a critical review to heart and feel discouraged and ready to give up. I love writing. It helps me escape from daily worries and it brings me a lot of joy. And that’s what matters in the end.
Marie’s latest book, Captured by a Scottish Lord, was published last month and sounds intriguing:
Can a Desert Rose survive a Scottish winter?
The wild Scottish landscape is a far cry from Rose Saintclair’s Saharan oasis, although she’ll endure it for Lord Cameron McRae, the man she married after a whirlwind romance in Algiers. But when stormy weather leads to Rose’s Scotland-bound ship docking on Cape Wrath – the land of Cameron’s enemy, Bruce McGunn – could her new life already be in jeopardy?
Lord McGunn was a fearless soldier, but his experiences have made him as unforgiving as the land he presides over. He knows McRae won’t rest until he owns Wrath, and the man is willing to use brutal tactics. Bruce decides that he’ll play McRae at his own game, take the ship and its precious occupant, and hold them hostage.
Rose is determined to escape, but whilst captured she learns that there’s another side to her new husband – and could her supposedly cold and ruthless kidnapper also be concealing hidden depths?
CAPTURED BY A SCOTTISH LORD is available on Amazon and Kobo and other platforms.
About the author
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in Lancashire and writes historical and contemporary romance. Best-selling LITTLE PINKTAXI was her debut romantic comedy novel with Choc Lit. A PARIS FAIRY TALE was published in July 2019, followed by BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC in November 2019 and bestselling romantic suspense ESCAPE TO THE LITTLE CHATEAU which was shortlisted for the 2021 RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense Award. Marie’s historical romances, ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, QUEEN OF THE DESERT and CAPTURED BY A SCOTTISH LORD, all feature members of the Saintclair family and her short stories are published in the bestselling Miss Moonshine anthologies. Marie is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors, and her novels are available as paperbacks, ebooks and audiobooks on Amazon and various other platforms.
Captured by a Scottish Lord, Choc Lit, Fiction writing, Marie Laval, novel writing, Writing Tips
Researching the Past
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Authors, Books, Resources on February 9, 2023
I am delighted to have Choc Lit novelist, Victoria Cornwall, with me today, sharing research secrets from her new WWII novel, Waiting for Our Rainbow. Over to Victoria:
I have an interest in WW2, so researching for my latest release, Waiting For Our Rainbow, was particularly fascinating. From 1942, thousands of American soldiers began arriving in England, many of whom ended up in Cornwall. Who were these men? Where did they come from? What did they do while they were here?
My research began on the internet. I discovered it was the 29th Infantry Division who came to Cornwall, which gave me a starting point. Through Facebook and dedicated websites, I contacted several historians who were experts on the division and the training they undertook after their arrival in England. They answered many of my questions and provided me with lots of information. I also came across the US government’s advice booklet they issued to their soldiers to help them with the cultural differences they would face on their arrival to England.
I’d grown up knowing African American soldiers were also billeted to Cornwall. What role did they play? Why were their camps separate from the combat soldiers’ camps? I was concerned about writing this part of the novel because at the time racial tensions were particularly high. I could not ignore the important role they played, but I knew that if I wrote about it I wanted to remain true to the era and dialogue without contemporary attitudes and pressures making me water it down. Fortunately, I came across a collection of video interviews, where African American veterans recalled their experience of joining the army, the segregation they faced and their frustrations at not being given combat roles at the beginning. There is a pivotal scene in Waiting For Our Rainbow, where a small group of African American soldiers notice Joe, a white soldier, entering their encampment. The scene and dialogue that follows were inspired by those veterans’ memories and experiences.
Next was the local community… how did they feel about American soldiers invading their county? I was able to talk to some people who were there at the time, but I also read archived newspaper articles and a couple of childhood memoirs which were extremely helpful. I also read the BBC’s online memory collection, WW2 Peoples War, which is a brilliant resource.
My final research was to visit some of the places. Fortunately, I live in Cornwall so it was easy for me to do. It was a humbling experience to stand in the same places where American soldiers had once stood. They were young men, many with little to no experience of combat but, along with British and Canadian soldiers, they took part in the largest amphibious military assault in history – but they could not have done it without the help, knowledge and support of many others. Also taking part in the success of D Day were sailors, soldiers and airmen from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland and others. In addition, the skills of meteorologists, scientists, inventors and the French Resistance were used during its planning and implementation.
Waiting For Our Rainbow concentrates on Joe, an American soldier, and Anne, a young Cornish woman. Ultimately it is a normal romance between a man and a woman, yet it is set at a pivotal time in the history of the war that would affect their romance, the decisions they make and the course of their lives for decades to come.
Waiting For Our Rainbow was released as an Ebook on 31st January, 2023. A paperback and audio version will follow shortly afterwards.
About Victoria Cornwall
Victoria grew up on a farm in Cornwall and is married with two grown up children and three grandchildren. She likes to read and write historical romance with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.
Her books have reached the finals of the NEW TALENT AWARD at the Festival of Romantic Fiction, the RNA’s JOAN HESSAYON AWARD, the 2021 RNA’s Goldsboro Books HISTORICAL ROMANTIC NOVEL AWARD. Her books have also been twice nominated for the RONE Best Indie or Small Published Book Award by InD’tale magazine.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Find Victoria on her website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
About Waiting For Our Rainbow
Would you give your heart away if you knew it could only end in goodbye?
It should have been a time of romance and excitement for Anne – but it’s 1941 and the war is raging. So instead, she spends her days repairing spitfire wings and reminding herself that the real sacrifice is going on far away from her Cornish village.
When the news breaks that America has entered the war, it brings cautious hope to Anne and her family. And eventually, as the Jeeps filled with GIs roll in, it seems their little community is to play a pivotal role in the next stage of the fight.
But the Americans don’t just bring Hollywood glamour and optimism, they also bring something more tantalising – so when Anne meets handsome Joe Mallory, she has to remind herself of exactly why he’s there; that any relationship between them could only end in goodbye.
But is the inevitability of ‘goodbye’ powerful enough to stop what has already begun to blossom?
Choc Lit, Historical Fiction, Historical Research, Victoria Cornwall, World War 2
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Authors, Writing on February 3, 2023
At the end of last year, I announced that I’d signed a 3-book contract with Ruby Fiction. The first of those books will be published in a few months’ time and now the edits have landed!
With the edits has come a deadline, which has turned writing into a whole new kettle of fish for me. Even when I’ve written magazine articles there’s been no specified completion date. In the day job I’m used to being told when something must be finished but writing is different to work, isn’t it? Or maybe not. Every other person involved in taking my book from manuscript to publication is doing it as part of their ‘work’, therefore it makes sense that I must treat it the same way, out of respect for them and in order to get my book published in a timely and professional manner. So I’ve sadly cancelled a couple of social engagements and am also taking a day’s leave from ‘proper work’.
What is my editor asking me to change? The major theme of the edits is the creation of some lighter moments in the text. This will give the reader some respite from the more intense parts of the story and also deepen both the sad and happy moments in the book.
I can’t say too much but some of these lighter moments will involve baking – for which I’ve been doing some practical research, hence the parsnip and ginger cake in the photo (the recipe is from the latest National Trust magazine). I will be cutting it into very small pieces – in case any of you are worrying about my pre-diabetes. I also need to shorten all the chapters and look at a few other things. Plus I’m trying desperately not to panic!
The working title for the book is The Museum of Hope and I’m looking forward to sharing more information about it when I can.
A bonus of becoming part of the Choc Lit/Ruby Fiction family is the access to experienced, multi-published authors and, like the writing community in general, they are more than happy to share the writing tips and methods that work for them. Over the next couple of weeks I will have Victoria Cornwall and Marie Laval sharing advice. And that has the added advantage of freeing me up to get on with that editing!
Choc Lit, Editing, Marie Laval, Ruby Fiction, Victoria Cornwall
A Book Contract!
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Successes on November 8, 2022
Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve had an up and down journey over the past few years in my quest to see my commercial women’s fiction novels published. You can read about some of it here and here.
Now, finally, some good news: I have signed a 3-book contract with Ruby Fiction and the first book (provisionally titled The Museum of Hope, but that might change) will be out sometime next year. Ruby Fiction is the sister imprint of Choc Lit, which publishes stories with romance at the heart. Ruby Fiction publishes women’s fiction such as thrillers, saga, mystery, chick lit, historical, fantasy, etc.
Ruby Fiction and Choc Lit are different from most publishers because all submitted manuscripts are reviewed, in the first instance, by their Tasting Panel who are genuine readers. I was overjoyed when I was told that The Museum of Hope had done well with the panel and the readers felt it was a unique story.
I have been made very welcome by my fellow Ruby & Choc Lit authors within their private Facebook Group and am now looking forward to working with Ruby’s editors and sharing the finished books with you!
And a reminder: if you’re looking for Christmas stocking fillers or secret-santa presents, my latest short story collection, Hit or Miss, is now available in paperback, on Kindle and on Kobo.
Challenge yourself! Which of these short stories were competition or magazine hits and which failed to land on the right editor’s desk at the right time?
Choc Lit, Hit or Miss? 33 Coffee Break Stories, Ruby Fiction
Benefits of Writing Competitions
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Authors, Books, Competitions on February 2, 2017
At the end of January Morton S. Gray celebrated the publication, by Choc Lit, of her first novel, The Girl on the Beach. Morton’s success was the result of dogged perseverance and the culmination of a series of competition successes. Not surprisingly, she is now a great advocate of writing competitions and she’s here today to tell us how they helped her on the road to success:
Innocently entering a writing competition caused me to take my writing seriously! In 2006, a friend started a fledgling publishing business (sadly no longer trading) and she held a short story writing competition to raise the profile of the company. I entered, primarily to support her, and unbelievably won with my story “Human Nature versus the Spirit Guide”.
It was a wake-up call for me. I’d had a baby and not been well for a couple of years, so I was looking for a new direction. The competition win made me look at writing as a serious option for the future and it was relatively easy to combine with a small child still taking naps in the afternoon. I started to take courses to learn to polish my work. I entered several competitions and began to get shortlisted.
In 2008, I entered a Mills and Boon novel competition, the forerunner of their SYTYCW competitions. I quickly decided I wasn’t a Mills and Boon writer, as it is a particular way of writing and much harder than people might think to keep the focus on the main protagonists throughout a novel. However, the competition introduced me to several people with whom I’m still in contact.
Competitions give you a framework within which to work. They give you the discipline of a deadline and a word count. Not as many people enter these competitions as you may imagine, especially the smaller local ones. I’ve been involved in running a local competition and I was surprised not only by the relatively few number of entries, but by the fact that sixty percent of the entries were essentially the same story. Tip – think around the set theme for a while and don’t go for the obvious. Your entry will stand out if it is different.
I continued to get shortlisted for flash fiction, poetry, short story and novel competitions. In 2013, I came second in the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference competition for the first chapter of a novel and that resulted in an appearance on the Tammy Gooding show at BBC Hereford and Worcester Radio. All good experience. Later that year, I shortlisted in the New Talent Award at the then Festival of Romance, with another first chapter. I met a different group of writers, many of whom I’m still in contact with in real life and online.
These encouraging signs for my writing kept me going. It is easy to get despondent when writing, as it can be a very solitary occupation. Don’t spend your life thinking no one will want to read your work, imagining that it’s rubbish, not up to scratch, not worthy of anything but the bin. Been there, done that! Keep going, keep writing and get your work out to competitions, send it to magazines, publishers, agents. Writing is a constant learning process and is generally about persistence. You need an imaginative spark, yes, but you also need to be willing to check your work over time and again to make it the best it can be. What is the point of a manuscript in a drawer?
I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme and made sure I submitted a novel for critique every year. I also made a promise to myself to take part in the annual novel writing challenge NaNoWriMo and I’ve managed seven years running to write 50,000 words in November. One of these novels, when edited and passed through the RNA NWS critique service, I sent off to the Search for a Star competition run by a publisher I’d admired for many years, Choc Lit and I won! My debut novel, The Girl on the Beach was published on 24 January 2017.
I suppose the messages here are keep writing, learn your craft, polish your work and get it out into the world. My novel could so easily still be in that drawer under the bed. Competitions are a way of assessing how you are progressing, hopefully you’ll meet friends along the way and who knows, you might win a publishing contract like me.
I love Morton’s encouraging message and I love the blurb for The Girl on the Beach – the novel is now sitting on my Kindle hankering to be read. I think it might tempt some of you too:
When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.
For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …
But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.
Choc Lit, Competition, Mills & Boon, Morton S. Gray, NaNoWriMo, RNA New Writers' Scheme, Romantic Novelists' Association, So You Think You Can Write, The Girl on the Beach
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Authors, Books, Lifestyle on June 12, 2015
Dreams are weird and wonderful things. They can disappear the moment we wake or linger in the mind for days. Sometimes we dream the same thing night after night. Other times we consciously try to re-dream something and it doesn’t happen.
I’ve had one dream recur intermittently for many years. I dream that exam time is looming but I’ve done absolutely no revision. However hard I try to find time to revise, it doesn’t happen and I go into the exam totally unprepared. But I always wake up before I turn the exam paper over and read the questions.
This probably says something deep and meaningful about my waking life.
A bit of internet surfing, brought up a list of the Top 10 Common Dreams and Their Meanings. Number 6, ‘Failing a Test’, correlates most closely to my dream and the meaning given is, “…you are feeling tested in some way in your real life. You may feel that you are unprepared for something or playing the wrong part in life.”
That does tie in with my waking life, I like to be in control and ready for whatever life might throw at me.
Unsurprisingly, the most common dream listed is ‘Falling or Sinking’ and I’ve had that one too, where you always wake up before hitting the bottom. The explanation is, “… you are overwhelmed in life and feel ready to give up.” Maybe I need to get my life in order and then I can have some sweet dreams!
One person who’s put dreams to good use is romantic novelist, Alison May. Her latest novel, Midsummer Dreams, is published by Choc Lit today. Here’s the enticing blurb:
Four people. Four messy lives. One party that changes everything …
Emily is obsessed with ending her father’s new relationship – but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect.
Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he’s hardly noticed he’s not happy himself.
Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers.
Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach.
At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not always the right one.
So Midsummer Dreams promises to be a sweet experience even if your own dream life (like mine) leaves something to be desired!
Alison May, Choc Lit, Dreams, Midsummer Dreams
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