Sunday, 26 October 2014

Where I Write by June Francis

My Sacred Writing Space

When I first started writing I had dreams of one day having a room of my own. That was well over thirty years ago and I can still only lay claim to a corner of mine and my husband’s bedroom. The wallpaper might have changed but I have the same old desk my husband bought me when I blurted out that I wanted to have a go at making a career out of writing.

I’ve been grateful ever since that he didn’t laugh in my face. Instead he bought me a second hand desk in a sale of office furniture and it has proved its worth ever since. It is scratched and some of the veneer has worn off in places but it’s a decent size and has one of those trays than can be pulled out to hold a cup of tea and a plate of Jaffa cakes. I wouldn’t exchange my desk for a modern one if one was gifted to me. We’ve been through a lot of writing hours together.

What has changed is the old manual typewriters on which I wrote my first attempts at being published: articles that were eventually published in My Weekly, as well as my first five novels. Alas, the typewriters have gone and were replaced by an Amstrad on which I managed to write a 80,000 word historical romance in six weeks. A one off! On average it takes me six to nine months to write a novel. This was true even when I moved on to the Dell WP with internet access that Pooh bear likes to sit at and pretend to be a writer.

It was my son Tim who persuaded me that I deserved a flat screen Dell computer. I instantly fell in love with it. Not only because I can watch my favourite films, such as Enchanted April and Letters to Juliet in High Definition when I feel like escaping pages of typescript which I am convinced nobody will want to read, but because the flat screen means I’ve more room on my desk for those bits and bobs that I like to have around. A lovely homemade thank you card from a friend who has just read my latest book, It's Now or Never, a glass paperweight presented to me by Crosby Writers’ Club, and a shell and shiny stone from Anglesey, which I like to hold and stroke when I feel fraught. It goes without saying that there is a container of pens and pencils, and a couple of speakers for when I indulge myself listening to Russell Watson or some Gregorian chants.

I have various photographs too. The one of my parents always makes me smile because it was taken in the fifties while on a camping holiday in North Wales. Mam is wearing a wide belt which I remember being red patent leather. Happy Days.

The view through my six-sided little window is of a chimney pot on which seagulls, pigeons and magpies take turns to perch and view the scenery.

Under my desk is a plastic container full of writing memorabilia, such as Piatkus catalogues featuring my earlier sagas and a book containing old newspaper cuttings featuring book reviews and interviews with me. Last, but not least, are the files containing photographs and information to do with my ancestry research.

Much that is precious and sacred to me is held in this small space. It is also here that I have my quiet time where I meditate. There isn’t room for all my books but I haven’t quite given up hope yet of having a room of my own. One of my sons has gone travelling and his room is just across the landing…

Thursday, 23 October 2014

More Good News! by Johanna Grassick

You may remember that in July I pitched my work to three agents and publishers at the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. I’m thrilled to report that one of those – Accent Press – made an offer to publish my book! 

Her Forget-Me-Not Ex is a contemporary romance set on a vineyard in Provence and it will be out in June 2015.

What about the other two appointments I had? Well, one publisher invited me to submit the same novel, but warned me they had a 6 month response time, so when Accent’s offer came through within the fortnight I decided not to pursue that one (I was very impressed by Accent’s speedy response! As far as I know, this is unusual in the publishing industry). And the other appointment was for a book I haven’t finished yet, so I’m working hard on that right now and hoping to have it finished in the new year.

And in the meantime, I have a shiny new website here. Do stop by and take a look!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Where I write by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

The bossy Novelista, Valerie-Anne Baglietto, is next up to show us where she works and to spill the beans on a few of her writing habits... 

Imagine the scene... 

It's 8.30 and the kids have been dispatched to school. I haven't completely emptied the dishwasher yet or put the washing machine on, but I have got dressed in my comfiest jogging pants and T-shirt. One of the things I love about being a writer is the fact I haven't got to slap on make-up, comb my frizz or squeeze into a power suit.

So first things first. Coffee to get my brain in gear. It might sound like a cliche, but it honestly does help me focus and gives my imagination a boost. It also keeps me awake because, after all, juggling the demands of three kids of fourteen and under can be a wee bit tiring. 

I thought it would be easier the older they got. 

Favourite mug!
Hahaha.... *feeble laughter* 


No, it isn't. That's a myth to keep parents going through the early years. 

So, where do I actually write? 

That's what you really want to know or you wouldn't be reading this. Well, the answer is 'all over the place'. When I'm being good and taking care of my poor neck, I'm upstairs at my desk with my ergonomic keyboard. Because of lack of space, though, this room is also my eldest son's den, so I can only use it when he's at school or out with his friends. Thankfully this is quite often. Here's a photo of it looking neat and organised. I have to tidy daily because my son is a) male and b) a teenager, and apparently not a control freak like me.

When I'm being naughty...

My good posture suffers and I take the laptop downstairs to the lounge. Sometimes I need a change of scene. I recently bought this coffee table on eBay from a local seller. I love a bargain and I wanted a nice solid oak table where I could slot in some large baskets for storage and also spread out my paraphernalia on top. (Disclaimer: I do not endorse this writing position, it will leave you with a stiff neck and aching shoulders and possibly harm your long-term writing career.)

I tend to make all my notes in long-hand but when I'm deep in writing mode I have to bash out everything electronically. I can touch type quickly, so it feels as if my thoughts flow automatically on to the screen. I also don't print anything out to edit these days. I change my work as I go along, as I can't do the first-draft-in-one-go thing. It just isn't the way I produce my best writing. When I'm on a second/third draft I transfer my story to my Kindle to read through it again. It truly is amazing, the errors and discrepancies that pop up when you change the font and the layout of your work. Also, it saves a fortune on ink and paper and stops my printer from blowing up. 

When I'm reading work through on my Kindle I like to curl up in the conservatory, but at the moment my conservatory looks something like this:

We've had to build a new one as the previous timber construction was rotting and leaking. My imagination is coming in handy right now, as I can see myself stretched out on a squashy sofa with my Kindle and mug of coffee, making editorial notes or watching wispy clouds drift across the sky through the glass roof... There are all sorts of fairy tales up there, waiting for me to grab them.

Oh, I love my job. I really, really do! Even on those days when my writing is rubbish and no one in their right mind will ever read it. 

Anyway, I think I've said enough, and I feel an urgent coffee break coming on. If anyone has any questions I'm happy to answer them, just leave a comment below and I'll get back to you.

(That's me being bossy, by the way. Apparently that's what I do best!)
Twitter: @VABaglietto
Facebook: Valerie-Anne Baglietto Author

Monday, 13 October 2014

Where I Write by Annie Burrows

Over the next few weeks the Novelistas are going to be giving us a sneak peek into their writing hovels spaces. First to spill the beans on where she writes is Annie Burrows:  

Not long since, I moved into a new house. I quickly purloined a small bedroom, filled it with bookshelves, and proclaimed it my "study" (doesn't that sound grand).

In one corner, I put one of those ergonomic chairs supposed to support your back while typing. I type on a laptop. On my lap. Though the chair came with a footstool, I only use the footstool for storing my laptop when I'm not typing. The chair is next to a shelf, on which I keep things I might need during the writing process handy: pens, paper clips, toffees, chewing gum, calculator (to work out if my word count is on target!) and a kitchen timer. After one too many trips to the chiropractor, it makes sure I get up every hour, and stretch. (For stretch, read make a cup of tea/load dishwasher/maybe even hoover something if writing is getting too hard).

You will also see lots of translations of my books. These give me the confidence to keep going when things get tough.  After all, people in all these countries enjoyed my stories (or at least, they bought the book).

On a table on my other side I keep the reference books I'm using for my current w.i.p. The books most frequently on this table are a dictionary (in case I use a word the computer queries, and I then wonder if it really means what I think it means) and a handy set of etymology of words and phrases.  I can't have Regency heroines using language that didn't come into common use until the 1940's, can I?

And on the floor you can see the printout of my latest draft, which I'm going through again, attempting to make it an enjoyable read.

Annie's latest release in paperback is with Harlequin Mills & Boon: 
"Lord Havelock's List" is available here
twitter: @NovelistaAnnie

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Getting on the gladrags...

On the first Friday of the month, Novelista Annie Burrows shares insights into the life of a writer - alphabetically.  This month she has reached G is for...Getting on the gladrags

Most of my time is spent sitting in my study, typing away on my laptop.  But very occasionally, I get to go out and do something amazing - because I've become an author.

A couple of weeks ago, for instance, I painted my nails silver, got all dressed up, and went out to the AMBA (Association of Mills & Boon Authors) lunch.  I even booked a seat in a first class carriage, where I was plied with various snacks and drinks all the way to London.

I met up (accidentally) with two other historical authors on the tube train, and together we made for the Charing Cross Hotel.

Then it was drinks in the bar with more of the historical team,
Senior editor Linda Fildew, Carol Townend, Louise Allen, Janice Preston, Sarah Mallory and Elizabeth Beacon
followed by the lunch itself.  A three course

Historical authors Claire Thornton and Annie Burrows
I was sitting in between Claire Thornton, author of a fabulous trilogy set during the Great Fire of London, and the RITA award-winning Sarah Morgan.

Also at my table was Facebook friend and fellow Strictly fan Kate Hardy.
Kate and Annie demonstrating promenade hold

There was a brief lull after speeches from the managing director of Harlequin UK, Tim Cooper, during which Sarah Mallory, Louise Allen and I invaded the Virgin lounge in Eagle Place.
Annie Burrows, Louise Allen and Sarah Mallory
It gave us time to discuss strategy for the launch of our own trilogy next year, which will come out to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of 

Then it was off to the Meridien on Picadilly for the "Author Toast", hosted by the publishers, where authors Julia James and Chantelle Shaw were awarded Tiffany pins for publishing 25 stories apiece.

I drank two Rossini's, which have become my favourite cocktail, before dashing across London to get my train home.
I didn't have a seat booked, which meant I had to join the 300 m sprint for the one carriage which wasn't full, when the gate opened.

Talk about coming back down to earth with a bump!