Five things I wished I’d known before I was published by Rhoda Baxter @RhodaBaxter

As part of our series on this topic, we’ve asked Rhoda Baxter to join us today and share her experiences.  Today is also publication day for Rhoda and there’s more information about her new book, Girl in Trouble, at the end of this post.  So I’ll hand over to Rhoda to explain more… 

Other People Will Read My Books (and have opinions about them)
You’d think this would be a fairly obvious. At some level, I knew this was going to happen, but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer awesomeness of it.
When my first book came I braced myself for negative reviews. What I didn’t prepare for was positive reviews. It somehow escaped me that it was possible for someone I didn’t know to read my book and like it. When I got my first review (which was a lovely 4 out of 5 stars) it was hard to process and I burst into tears.
There have been other reviews, good, bad and indifferent for my books since then and I still have a little fizz of excitement that the thing that was once existed only in my head has now moved, via screen or print into someone else’s head.
One of the most amazing experiences of my writing life was when two colleagues from my day job started arguing about two of my characters as though the characters were real people. Obviously, I feel my characters are real people. I lived with them in my head for a year and I know them pretty well, but to hear someone else discuss them in that way… mind blowing. Also, very cool.

You have to learn about Marketing
I used to think that selling books was about quality. If you write a good book, it will sell itself. Er … no. A good book with no marketing will sink without a trace. A bad book with good marketing, might sell well. The holy grail is a good book with good marketing. I can write. I spent years learning how to do that and I’m improving with each book. But marketing? I knew absolutely nothing about that.
I had assumed that publishers would take care of all that. Maybe, in the dim and distant past, they did, but now they are so stretched and the world of book selling is so competitive, they can’t do all that much.
So now I’m reading marketing books and trying to learn this voodoo that is marketing. One day I might even get the hang of it.

There will be more ideas
It took me three years to write my first book, I thought that was the only book I would ever write. It was, as my first NWS reviewer said, clearly a book of my heart. Write another, she said. Write something you’d read for fun. I had a moment of panic. I’d had my idea. That was it. Story written, that idea was now tied down. How did I find another one? How did you get the muse to strike again? As every wannabe writer asks whenever they get the chance where do you get your ideas from?
I eventually dug out an old idea (and I mean really old, I’d started writing it as a teenager). It was a weak, thin fragment of a thing. All I really had were two characters, one male, one female. She was cooler than he was. Not much of a story, really. I gave him a problem (he wanted a promotion at work). I gave her a problem (she’s hiding from something). I drafted a plot – thin and weak, but it was a start – and sent it to my writing partner. She came back with a load of questions. Slowly, slowly a plot emerged.
Writing book 2 taught me that ideas rarely come to you fully formed. They take work. This was a liberating thought. All those pathetic looking fragments of ideas have the potential to be fully fledged. I may not have many fully formed story ideas, but I’ve got TONS of unformed storylets.
Nowadays I look back at the Where Do You Get Your Ideas From terror of a few years ago with amazement. These days, my problem is not the lack of ideas. It’s deciding which of the half formed storylets that are clamouring around in my head should be developed next.

Writing Friends

I got my head around the fact that you need to network to succeed in this business (thank you Sue Moorcroft for that invaluable piece of advice). I’d always thought of networking as a tedious, superficial thing. Now, several years on, I have a circle of writer friends whom I’ve met only because of my writing. Most of them are members of the Romantic Novelists Association. They are personal friends now and we talk about all sorts of things that have nothing to do with writing. Joining the RNA was probably one of the best decisions I ever made – not just for my writing, but for my happiness in general.

You Never Stop Learning
I’ve written bits of stories since I was a child and I thought I knew how to write. In my mid twenties, after I’d handed in my PhD and got a real job, I thought I’d start writing fiction again. I found the BBC Get Writing site. It was a great place where experienced writers mentored newbies and gave good (sometimes harsh) feedback. I learned how to write at sentence level. I learned about the really important basics like word choice and impact and rhythm. I practised it and practised it until it sank into the bone. My writing improved.
Then I started hanging around the Harlequin message boards. I learned about plots and character arcs, black moments and denouements. I joined the RNA – where I learned even more about theme and resonance and plot. Each of these lessons have made me a better writer. I still read books on writing and go on courses. Essentially, I’m still learning how to write better. The day I stop learning is the day I’ll stop improving. That’s not going to happen any time soon.

Girl In Trouble – Published today! On special offer of 99p until 15th October! 

When the things that define you are taken away, do you fight? Or compromise?

Grown up tomboy Olivia doesn’t need a man to complete her. Judging by her absent father, men aren’t that reliable anyway. She’s got a successful career, good friends and can evict spiders from the bath herself, so she doesn’t need to settle down, thanks.

Walter’s ex is moving his daughter to America and Walter feels like he’s losing his family. When his friend-with-benefits, Olivia, discovers she’s pregnant by her douchebag ex, Walter sees the perfect chance to be part of a family with a woman he loves. But how can Walter persuade the most independent woman he’s ever met to accept his help, let alone his heart. 

Girl In Trouble is the third book in the award nominated Smart Girls series by Rhoda Baxter. If you like charming heroes, alpha heroines and sparkling dialogue, you’ll love this series. Ideal for fans of Sarah Morgan, Lindsey Kelk or Meg Cabot’s Boy books. Buy now and meet your new favourite heroine today.

Buy link: books2read.com/u/4Doy6r

Girl in Trouble is on special offer at 99p until 15th October, after that date the price will increase to £2.99. If you buy the book before the 15th of October you will also get a book of short stories and a companion recipe book (containing recipes from the prequel Girl Having A Ball) absolutely free.

Rhoda Baxter writes contemporary romances with heart and a touch of British cynicism. her books have been nominated for a variety of awards. She lives in Yorkshire with her young family and is on a mission to have afternoon tea in as many cake shops as she can.

You can find her wittering on about science and romance and cake on her website (www.rhodabaxter.com), Facebook or on Twitter (@rhodabaxter). Do say hello.

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It takes a whole team to indie publish a book!

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Even when you indie publish, it’s not something you do entirely alone.

My fifth novel, In a Manhattan Minute, was published on Thursday 20th October. I have been indie publishing my novels for a while now, but contrary to what many people think, it’s not just me sitting in a room until the final novel is finished and then pressing a button. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of sitting at a desk and getting those words written, but once the first draft is finished and I’ve been through the book at least another three, four or sometimes five times to edit it myself, it’s time to involve a few other people.

Usually, by the time I’ve gone through my novel that many times I can’t even look at it and I need to take a step back. Most writers will tell you this works very well and I usually take a step back after my first edit. But then the real letting go comes when I send it for the substantive round of edits.

Substantive edits are thorough. They look at how the story works as a whole, taking into account the plot, pacing and structure. It’s scary to get the substantive report back because it’s usually several pages long, in addition to comments throughout the manuscript. To manage the substantive edits, I take a deep breath, then separate the report into manageable chunks.  I also cross out sections once I’ve been through the entire manuscript to ensure they’ve been dealt with, and it’s quite satisfying!

Once the substantive stage is finished, the manuscript is returned to the editor and it’s time for the copyedits. I find this stage much less scary. Copyedits are a lot more specific. So, for example, does your character sit down for breakfast and then on the next page clear the table after finishing their lunch? Or do they have blonde hair at the start but then all of a sudden their hair is described as ebony?

Following the copyedits and my subsequent changes, it’s time to use the services of a proofreader. I like to use someone different to who I used for the editing, because it’s a fresh set of eyes on your manuscript. This is the least painful stage because by now the big issues have been ironed out and the story is almost ready. The proofreader will particularly focus on grammar and spelling but they will also spot any inconsistencies you may have missed. When the book is 70k plus, mistakes are easy to overlook.

When the proofed manuscript is returned, I make changes and then go through yet again to check. Next, I pass my manuscript to my husband. I either print a paperback proof or put the book onto my kindle for this. He’s a great final proofreader because he’s not afraid to tell me if there are any mistakes! And again, it’s a fresh pair of eyes. Once he’s checked and I’ve made any necessary changes, I go through yet again and then it’s time to load the manuscript up onto KDP.

During the editing and proofreading stages, I usually get in touch with my cover designer and we discuss my requirements for the book. I may find examples of styles I like, or I may want the cover to tie in with a particular theme. Once we’ve discussed the brief, my cover designer will send me about half a dozen visuals. Usually there’s something there that I either really like, or that we can tweak. It may be a case of taking a font from one, an image from another and putting those onto something new. It takes a few goes back and forth but I end up with a cover I love.

When it’s time to publish, I use Amazon’s KDP. It’s pretty straightforward, especially once you’ve published a few books. You can also read through on the screen again which I usually do, and it’s particularly good to check the layout. I make sure chapter headings are centred, there are no mysterious blank pages, and the cover is as it should be.

I usually multitask too. So right now I’m working on promoting In a Manhattan Minute, I have another Christmas book with my editor for the substantive stage, I’m writing book seven, and I’m thinking about what I’ll do for book eight. It’s hard work but I absolutely love it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

It’s so important, if you’re self publishing, to take the time to get each stage of the process right. It does cost, but it’s an investment and good edits, proofreading and book covers will last a lifetime. By investing in each stage it will also help you to produce a book that is just as professional as those titles produced by a big publisher. And it will give you the best chance of success and great sales.

I hope you enjoyed the blog post…if you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, I have an exclusive giveaway coming in mid-November!

Helen J Rolfe x

 

 

 

In a Manhattan Minute

In a Manhattan Minute is out today! October 20th sees the publication of my fifth novel.

A winter story set in the snow and excitement of the big city, In a Manhattan Minute is the perfect romance to curl up with. And for only 1.99 it’s a bargain price for a trip to New York City…

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Here’s the blurb…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… but when the temperature dips, can Manhattan work its magic?

Jack exists in a world that has seen its fair share of tragedy, but also success and the wealth that comes with it. One snowy night, he crosses paths with Evie, a homeless girl, and it changes everything.

Three years on, Evie’s life is very different. She’s the assistant to a prestigious wedding gown designer, she’s settled in Manhattan, has her own apartment and friendships she holds dear. But the past is lurking in the background, threatening to spoil everything, and it’s catching up with her.

Kent has kept a family secret for two decades, a secret he never wanted to share with his son, Jack. And even though she doesn’t realise it yet, his life is inextricably tangled with Nicole’s, the woman who was his housekeeper for thirteen years and the woman who helped Evie turn her life around.

It’s Christmas and a time for forgiveness, love and Happy Ever Afters. And when the snow starts to fall, the truth could finally bring everyone the gift of happiness they’re looking for.

Grab a hot chocolate, turn on the twinkly lights and snuggle up with this unputdownable heart-warming novel. 
In a Manhattan Minute 

Helen J Rolfe x

 

In a Manhattan Minute

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In a Manhattan Minute… everything can change.

And there have been a few changes over the last couple of months. My first bit of news is that my new novel, In a Manhattan Minute is available for pre-order from Amazon now!

I loved writing this book because it was a leap in setting for me. When I read I love to travel to different parts of the globe and with this story, as the title suggests, I have been living in the world of New York City. And what a lot of fun it has been!

Here’s the blurb…

Jack exists in a world that has seen its fair share of tragedy, but also success and the wealth that comes with it. One snowy night, he crosses paths with Evie, a homeless girl, and it changes everything.

Three years on, Evie’s life is very different. She’s the assistant to a prestigious wedding gown designer, she’s settled in Manhattan, has her own apartment and friendships she holds dear. But the past is lurking in the background, threatening to spoil everything, and it’s catching up with her.

Kent has kept a family secret for two decades, a secret he never wanted to share with his son, Jack. And even though she doesn’t realise it yet, his life is inextricably tangled with Nicole’s, the woman who was his housekeeper for thirteen years and the woman who helped Evie turn her life around.

It’s Christmas and a time for forgiveness, love and Happy Ever Afters. And when the snow starts to fall, the truth could finally bring everyone the gift of happiness they’re looking for.

***

I loved being in New York City so much that I’m busy penning another novel set in the same place and plans are underway to release this towards the end of the year.

In other news, The Friendship Tree has been given a makeover with a brand new cover and is currently on special normal-jpeg-for-website-use-etcoffer at 99p for a limited time.

Wishing all our readers a wonderful September and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Helen J Rolfe x

 

Summer, chocolates & plenty of secrets …

Summer, chocolates & plenty of secrets … it’s almost time to return to Magnolia Creek!

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The Chocolatier’s Secret is book two in the Magnolia Creek series, and I’m delighted to say that it’s now available for pre-order on Amazon. With The Chocolatier’s Secret we return to the sun-drenched small town of Magnolia Creek, and this is a standalone story focusing on different lives. But … keep an eye out for a few of your favourite book characters from What Rosie Found Next!

I had a lot of fun writing this book. I enjoy the research side and had already completed a major research project on adoption as part of a Masters in Writing so I’ve been able to use my contacts and the information I had at my fingertips to shape this story. I also have my own personal experience of adoption which helped keep the emotions realistic.

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Of course my favourite part of the research was finding out all about chocolate! I spent the day with Lucy and Andrea at Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard and discovered what goes on behind the scenes. I was really excited after my visit because I was able to weave in so many details to my story to make it authentic.

Publication day is Tuesday 28th June so only 8 days away!

If you would like to pre-order The Chocolatier’s Secret, you can do so here.

I hope you like the story … best enjoyed with your favourite chocolate of course! Here’s the blurb…

Will one mistake ruin everything?

Andrew Bennett has an idyllic life in Magnolia Creek, Australia. He runs a chocolate business he adores, is married to Gemma, the love of his life, and has a close relationship with his father, Louis. But when Andrew receives a message from his high school sweetheart, it sends his world into a spiral, and the relationships he holds dear will never be the same again.

Molly Ramsey is looking for answers. After her last attempt, she believes the only way to get them this time is to face her past head-on. But to do this, she has to fly to the other side of the world – and she’s afraid of flying. Her search for answers lands her in an emotional tangle, not only with her past but also with a man very much in her present.

Family is everything to Gemma Bennett and she longs to have a house full of kids, but it just isn’t happening. And when Andrew’s past makes an explosive impact on the family, Gemma must decide whether she can accept the truth and open her heart in a way she never thought possible.

In this story of love, family ties and forgiveness, will past mistakes be the obstacle to a Happy Ever After?

A Year Without Pyjamas…

trifectaAnd what a busy year it has been!

February 24th 2015 signified my official launch as a published author when my debut novel, The Friendship Tree, was released. Since then, my writing life has become even busier and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

I left the I.T. world in 2003 and began writing articles for Women’s Health & Fitness magazines and part of what kept my momentum was my routine of setting an alarm, having a shower, getting dressed, and eating breakfast before starting the day. I’d ensure I was at my desk well before 9 a.m. and I know it helped me to think of freelancing as a real job, even though I was working from home. I seem to have kept the same habit since I began writing fiction in 2011, and I think I work better when I’m up and ready to face the world, even if it’s the fictitious world I’m creating. Mind you, maybe I’ll think differently when my kids are old enough to walk themselves to school!

Author photo - Helen J RolfeSoon after I wrote The Friendship Tree, I planned and began Handle Me with Care and I went on to publish this title in June 2015, followed five months later by What Rosie Found Next. I enjoyed writing each of these books, going through the editing process, deciding on cover design and plotting the next story. I also love connecting with readers, authors and anyone else on social media. It can be lonely working away on a draft or editing, and when I hear from other writers, or perhaps readers in other countries who have enjoyed my novels, it really makes my day. I’ve had some lovely messages from readers in Toronto, Connecticut and Australia and it always gives me a buzz to know people overseas can read my books.

Book five is well underway now and I’m hoping to have the first draft finished within the next month… and then the hard work starts! I also hope to have some plans to publish book four very soon, and I will be sure to post my updates on Social Media as soon as I can.

So for now, Happy Reading!

Helen J Rolfe x

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How to research a novel

Author photo - Helen J RolfeI’ve always been what I’d call an ‘over-researcher’ if there’s such a term. Back in the days when I wrote articles for health and fitness magazines I’d read up on a subject using literature and the internet, I’d interview a couple of experts in the field and even for a short article I’d have far more information than I ever needed.

So what about when it comes to writing a novel?

With The Friendship Tree I really took the age old advice of ‘write what you know’. I knew the Sydney location well enough to send my characters, Jake and Tamara, into the city. I’d worked with a PR team, Brewer Creek was a fictitious town and I had enough knowledge to place it in the right area. To make Jake’s job as the local veterinarian realistic I chatted to Write Romantic, Rachael Thomas, who owns and runs a dairy farm.

I’m finding that as I write more novels, I need to do more research. My ideas and my characters are taking on dimensions that I’m not familiar with and I owe it to the stories to get all my facts.

So how do I know when I’ve done enough research?

At a certain point I find that the information I’m uncovering is repeating what I’ve already found, what experts in the field have confirmed, and it’s at that point I know I have enough information to go on. Sometimes questions crop up during the writing process and I’ll do a little more research at that stage, but by then it’s minimal.

So what am I researching now?

Well, for book four, which is in the editing stages, I took myself in to see professionals in the field because I knew it would allow me to make my characters jump off the page. This book focuses on a character who owns and runs a chocolaterie and apart from eating chocolate, I know nothing about what they do each day. Luckily, Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard invited me in for a couple of hours to watch them work and to ask as many questions as I liked. By the time I got home I knew I had plenty of information to start writing and as I got the words down on the page I knew it wouldn’t have been so easy without seeing the work environment for myself.

Of course, part of my research was to taste a few varieties too and bring home some samples. I couldn’t resist!

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I think research for a novel is easy to begin on the internet. There is a plethora of information out there and as long as you’re using reliable sites it’s a good foundation. I think talking / interviewing experts in the field is also really key to good research. For Handle Me with Care I interviewed a specialist who knew so much about testicular cancer. I was able to tell him the situation I’d put Evan, my character in, and ask him if this would happen. I asked him physical symptoms, the emotional trauma patients face. And most of all, it helped keep my story believable, realistic and accurate.

For my novel, What Rosie Found Next, I interviewed a firefighter from Australia and again asked about certain scenarios and technicalities for my characters and situations I’d be putting them in. This was crucial and the firefighter who helped me passed some of my writing around the rest of the team so I could get feedback from more than one source. It helped me make the writing accurate and I was so happy when a few of them said they were desperate to know what was going to happen in the book!

Another way to research is in person. It’s not always possible but I feel it really enhances the way you write if you are able to experience something yourself whether it’s doing a parachute jump (not me!), visiting a foreign country where you want to set your new book, or work shadowing to see how a job is performed and ask questions on the spot.

My first draft of book five is underway now and with it being in a totally different settting, a place I’ve never been to myself, the research is heavy but fun! All I need to do is persuade my husband to let me book a flight over to New York! It’s work-related after all!

Helen J Rolfe.

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If you want to find out more about me or my books, please visit my website: http://www.helenjrolfe.com/

Or you can find me on Amazon:  http://hyperurl.co/pxu978