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.

Advertisements

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside … but perhaps when it’s a bit warmer!

Seastrand

Over the past couple of years, I’ve undertaken a few library talks and even visited a local writers’ group to speak, but I had an opportunity to participate in something a little different yesterday …

Agenda BlackboardA friend tagged me in a post on Facebook. A café in Scarborough was going to be hosting a Writers’ Day where they were looking for local writers and poets to talk about their work, their journey, and/or read from their work. And this wasn’t just an “ordinary” café. The Seastrand is based on a corner on the seafront with amazing views. But it’s not just the views that are amazing. The café itself is pretty amazing because it’s actually built at the base of a disused cliff lift! The cliff lifts can still be seen further up the cliff and the tracks run into the café, as do the metal steps. The kiosk is what I’m assuming was the ticket station. Very quirky!

Empty RoomThere were once five cliff lifts in Scarborough connecting the town or cliff top to the sea front but there are only two in use now. The Seastrand is based at the foot of the St Nicholas Cliff Lift. It opened in 1929 but sadly ceased trading in February 2007 when the council couldn’t afford to spend the amount needed to bring it up to new health and safety standards. Their loss was The Seastrand’s gain. Tess and Stuart have been running the café for 2 years and have expanded the space to include a roof terrace with stunning views. Sadly, the very, very cold wind meant we couldn’t use the terrace yesterday but the writers had a cosy setting inside.

Table Set Up CloseMy worst fear for any talk is whether anyone will turn up. I knew I was guaranteed an audience when I spoke at Scarborough Writers’ Circle because having guest speakers is part of their session plan, but I’ve always had a modicum of nerves when a library talk has approached in case of no takers. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with an audience each time. Phew!

Jessica with Steven BearFor my event at The Seastrand yesterday, Write Romantic, Sharon, kindly came along to support me. So did another Scarborough-based writing friend, Sarah, and her partner. Which is just as well because nobody else did! Poor Tess did her best to coax in some passing trade, only there really wasn’t much passing trade. I think the grey day and the bitter winds had put paid to that. Eventually she talked two women into popping in. They said they only had ten minutes to spare, sensibly buying themselves an escape route. I was therefore extremely flattered when they stayed right until the end and said that they’d found it very interesting. Who knows? Maybe one or both of them may download one of my books, borrow one from the library, or spread the word to their friends.

View to CastleIt’s disappointing that there weren’t more and I have to confess that, for a brief moment, I nearly cried. Then I pulled myself together and reminded myself that it’s just one of those things and it was nothing personal. It helped when Sarah said that J K Rowling had nobody turn up for her first few book signings. I also managed to convince myself that the slot I’d gone for wasn’t the best. I’d picked 1pm because my daughter goes to drama between 12-2pm so this meant I could do the drop off, do my talk, and be finished to pick her up. This also meant that I was speaking bang on lunchtime. I suspect that part of the reason there was no passing trade is that people were on the seafront munching their fish and chips!

Jessica Outside LandscapeDespite the limited audience, I still really enjoyed myself. Tess couldn’t have done more to make me feel welcome and it was a really lovely and unusual setting. I know this is the start of what they hope will be more involvement in creative activities, and perhaps I might speak at a future one to a crowded room instead. I’ll definitely go back on a warmer day, though, to have a drink and a cake on that roof terrace, soaking up the sun and enjoying the views.

My next talk is in a couple of weeks’ time at my local library. Here’s hoping for a slightly bigger audience!

Hope you’re all having a fabulous bank holiday weekend.

Jessica xx

The Summer of New Beginnings

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the Write Romantics’ Blog!

Spring is well and truly upon us and so it’s time for some warmer weather and beach reading.

Today is publication day for my 7th book!  The Summer of New Beginnings is available as an ebook via Amazon and I hope to have it available in paperback within the next few weeks. I’ll be spending publication day with my family but I’m sure I’ll have time for some chocolate and fizz in the evening to celebrate!

For this book I’ve travelled back to Australia, at least in my head. Set in the fictitious suburb of Primrose Bay, the story promises plenty of sun, lots of conflict and of course, love. Read on for the blurb below…

I’m delighted to share this book with you all!

Helen J Rolfe x

The Summer of New Beginnings

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon

They say trouble comes in threes…

Headstrong and organised, Mia is a single mum who wants to fix the world – but the one thing she can’t fix is her family. Responsible older brother Will has fled Primrose Bay, unable to forgive and forget after the ultimate betrayal. And Jasmine, no longer the wayward baby sister, is determined to prove to her brother and sister that she’s just as capable as they are.

Together in the bay after years apart and a separation spanning three continents, it doesn’t take long for the siblings to clash when Mia calls everyone together in a family crisis. And with jealousy and resentment simmering between them, as well as faces from the past and new loves, the family ties could end up being severed forever.

Sometimes we need to lose ourselves in order to find each other again…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Winter is definitely here and in Hertfordshire we’ve enjoyed some wonderful frosty mornings. The sun has been shining and Christmas is definitely in the air!

During 2016 I knew I wanted to release a Christmas novel and I became so addicted to writing about winter and the festive season that I thought, why not write two books.

My first winter / festive read came out in October and so far readers have loved In a Manhattan Minute so I’m really happy. My latest novel is called Christmas at The Little Knitting Box and it’s out now!

knitting-box-frontcmyk_300dpi-for-printing-bookmarks-etc

Christmas at The Little Knitting Box is available from Amazon as an ebook and the paperback should be ready in the next couple of weeks. I set this one in New York City too and it follows the story of Cleo who moved to the big city from the Cotswolds to run the family’s knitting store. Here’s the blurb and if you feel like taking a trip to New York with me, here’s the link to Amazon… Christmas at The Little Knitting Box

Have a wonderful December and a very Merry Christmas to you all.

Helen J Rolfe x

Christmas at The Little Knitting Box

Christmas is coming and New York is in full swing for the snowy season. But at The Little Knitting Box in the West Village, things are about to change …

The Little Knitting Box has been in Cleo’s family for nearly four decades, and since she arrived fresh off the plane from the Cotswolds four years ago, Cleo has been doing a stellar job of running the store. But instead of an early Christmas card in the mail this year, she gets a letter that tips her world on its axis.

Dylan has had a tumultuous few years. His marriage broke down, his mother passed away and he’s been trying to pick up the pieces as a stay-at-home dad. All he wants this Christmas is to give his kids the home and stability they need. But when he meets Cleo at a party one night, he begins to see it’s not always so easy to move on and pick up the pieces, especially when his ex seems determined to win him back.

When the snow starts to fall in New York City, both Cleo and Dylan realise life is rarely so black and white and both of them have choices to make. Will Dylan follow his heart or his head? And will Cleo ever allow herself to be a part of another family when her own fell apart at the seams?

Full of snow, love and the true meaning of Christmas, this novel will have you hooked until the final page.

It takes a whole team to indie publish a book!

authorpic1

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

 

 

 

On Top of the World.

What a magical time myself and my new writing friends had last week attending an Arvon residential writing course in Lumb Bank, Yorkshire.

IMG_0275

So pretty and picturesque.

Our tutors were the delightful romantic comedy writer, Chris Manby and the exuberant, larger than life Mike Gayle. We also had a motivating and amusing talk from guest speaker Jenny Colgan (who I forgot to photograph, I was so enthralled. Sorry Jenny!)

IMG_0337

Mike in teacher mode!

Lumb Bank is an imposing 18th century Mill house set amongst rolling hills and gorgeous gardens and was once owned by the renowned poet laureate Ted Hughes who very aptly commented that in Yorkshire, ‘only the rain never tires.’

It was pretty chilly for most of the week considering it was July – I think there was only one day without rain at some stage of the day.

IMG_0350

Chris in teacher mode- with wine!

But the inspiration from Chris and Mike was enough to light our inner fire for the whole week, all of us eagerly taking in the offered advice on how to prepare our outline and work our way through the ‘sticky bits’ to finish the novel. Chris shared a chart she always uses to map out her chapters and we all asked for extra copies to make sure we could plan this way when we returned home. Bloody brilliant! How did I not know about this? IMG_0269

‘TURN OFF YOUR INNER CRITIC,’ at least until your first draft is finished, was excellent advice from Mike; words that I could do with sticking above my laptop whenever I settle down to write.

We were all encouraged to start something new, although a few fellow writers wanted to continue with their ‘work in progress’ which was fine.

Thierry had travelled from France to attend the course and was only seventeen years old, as was Tara who has already self-published her excellent short novel This is How I love Henry.

When the sun finally peeked out from behind the rather stormy clouds, most of us climbed the steep, steep hill into Heptonstall to find Sylvia Plath’s grave.

IMG_0280

Two benches for sitting and thinking! It was like being on top of the world.

 

Sylvia, also a renowned poet was married to Ted Hughes but sadly committed suicide at the age of thirty by putting her head in the gas oven at her home, while her two children slept. She is buried in the new church in Heptonstall.

IMG_0290

The old St Thomas’s church in Heptonstall.

IMG_0301

Kinda scary!

Her grave is badly lacking in tender loving care and there has been controversy about its location for many years; fans of Sylvia wondering why she is buried in Yorkshire when she was American.

IMG_0303

Sylvia Plath’s gravestone.

We rounded off the week by reading our new first chapters out loud, numbing our ‘inner critic’ with plenty of wine and ended the night by playing The Hat Game. Can’t quite remember how it goes (due to my inner critic needing excessive tamping down!) but seeing Mike acting out Peter Pan was something to behold.

IMG_0345

I think Mike is actually flying!

Would do it again in a heartbeat!

Jackie x

Location, location, location – it’s all about heavenly Hampstead for Carol Cooper

MSP_8587-Edit-2 cropWe are delighted to welcome back Carol Cooper, a long-time friend of the blog, to tell us all about how she decided on the setting for her second book. Carol is a doctor, journalist, and novelist. She writes for The Sun newspaper and teaches medical students at Imperial College.

After a string of trade-published non-fiction books and an award-winning medical text, she chose self-publishing for her fiction debut One Night at the Jacaranda. Her latest novel, Hampstead Fever, is out in June. Her novels are all about Londoners looking for love, and they’re laced with inside medical knowledge.

Like her fictional characters, Carol lives in leafy Hampstead, North London. Unlike them, she got married again in 2013. She loves a happy ending.

Over to Carol…

Why did I set Hampstead Fever in Hampstead?

Some fiction writers like to invent entire locations, but it’s not for me. I prefer to deploy my imagination on characters and plot rather than geography. It seems an unnecessary headache to make up a whole town. Besides, there’s always the risk that the street map in the author’s head is physically impossible.

Real places already have meaning for readers. Think of Liz Fenwick’s Cornish romances, or Glynis Smy’s choice of EastHampstead Fever FINAL EBOOK COVER London as the setting for Ripper, My Love.

In case you didn’t know, Hampstead is one of the most charming parts of London, and, logically, I also chose it for the title of my novel Hampstead Fever. The area is beautiful, trendy, and has a rich cultural heritage, although, on a Monday morning when Camden Council arrives to empty the bins in my street, you’d be forgiven for missing all of that. On bin day, a queue of irate drivers builds up, many of them turning the air blue because they can’t drop off their little darlings at school without walking a few extra yards.

The area is full of character, but it’s not edgy. Neither are my characters in Hampstead Fever. If you want edgy, you’d be better off reading Irvine Welsh or Chuck Palahniuk.

The people in my books have relatable problems, and Hampstead means different things to each one of them. For Harriet, the area is aspirational. She is a freelance journalist who finds it increasingly hard to pay her bills. Commissioning editors for the magazines she writes for don’t want well thought out features. They prefer pieces like “What’s My Bottom Line?” (the topic is literally pants). Harriet does her best but is overawed by all the successful authors and journalists in London NW3.

At 40, Laure is a first-time mum who panics every time her toddler develops a new symptom. Her partner works long hours and there’s no extended family, so Laure’s parenting guidance comes from books and the uber-competitive mothers at toddler group. Alas, Laure is so wound up in her child that she has little time to spare for her partner.

I think many readers will identify with single mum Karen. Her style is the opposite of helicoptering. I call it submarine parenting. She has four children ranging in age from six to 12 and is facing an early menopause, so energy is at a premium. No wonder Karen lacks the enthusiasm for a suitable relationship.

There are plenty of men in Hampstead Fever too, like Geoff who’s a doctor, and Sanjay who works as a fundraiser. Laure’s partner Dan is now an up-and-coming chef at a new restaurant in the heart of Hampstead Village. It’s the perfect place for a trendy bistro, but Dan complains he’s not paid enough, so, rather than use one of the existing restaurants as a setting, it seemed fairer to make up a new one. But I sited it in Flask Walk, a very real street.

A plus is that I live in Hampstead. Researching a location involves little more than a brisk walk, unlike, say, a writer in the UK who chose Venice as her setting.

I wanted my new author photo to fit in with the locale, but as I discovered you can’t always take one when and where you want. Hampstead Heath proved a little windy and wet on the day, which wouldn’t have been right for a book set in mid-summer.

My photographer got me to pose in the street near the Freud Museum. While the connotations may be a little heavy for my brand of contemporary fiction, the building is attractive. Alas, I hadn’t bargained on the crowds of people arriving to pay homage to the father of psycho-analysis. The Freud Museum doesn’t open till noon, so they were outside, waiting to be shown in to worship at the great man’s couch (yes, it’s still there in his study). One of the prospective visitors had even brought a suitcase, so there he was, on the pavement with his baggage. Now that would have been a great picture.

Hampstead Fever was released on June 30 and available on ebook platforms and in bookshops.