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Writing London: Romance and Sarcasm in the City

I am a proper Londoner. I don’t make eye contact with people, march through crowds of tourists like it’s a Mario Kart race course, and whilst I will get up on the tube to let someone have my seat, I’ll do some with a terrible English awkwardness, in fear of the older/pregnant person being offended.

 

London is home, and it’s been home for all my novels. There’s nothing quite like the conversations you have on the nightbus, rambling along listening to drunk teenagers talk to tourists, everyone so drunkenly sincere. I love 2am kebab shops, and shabby chic coffee shops where everything is overpriced, but you pay because the environment is so lovely.

 

I love Hampstead Heath on sunny mornings, and the shops in Highgate village. I love the nostalgia of passed out punks in Camden market on Sunday mornings, and having lazy conversations on Primrose Hill as it starts to get dark.

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People set romcoms in London for a reason, but it’s usually peppered with shots of Big Ben and the London Eye, people all somehow affording to live in these flats in the centre of town. It’s the same with New York. People love a city, they love the possibility it affords: today you might meet someone who changes your life. That’s not really how it happens in the countryside, unless an alluring new stranger comes to town.

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But that’s not why I write about London. Sure, I love the prettiness of it, chic fashion and historic architecture, but my characters love London like I do- because it’s home. They don’t talk about wandering down to the Millenium wheel, because that’s not what Londoners do. My characters visit the places that I have been, the little secrets of the city that I’ve made my favourites. In The Last Word, Tabby and Rhi live in Tufnell Park, because that’s what I’d love to do. They alternate between snazzy cocktail bars in Covent Garden, and backstreet old man pubs that just appear out of nowhere, hidden away and perfect in their dim light and beer-drizzled carpets. The Type offices are set just off Regent Street, in the offices where I interned for Vogue. 

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London is this massive sprawling living thing, beating and breathing, and I hope that my books will always give a little of the ‘real’ London, the London of Londoners. At least until I can find an excuse to set a book in Italy, and then I’ll see you later, London!

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On Developing a Thick Skin: The Writer’s Task

 

You’ve slogged away at a book, you’ve received a publishing deal, or have put the effort into self publishing. You’ve written blog posts, updates, tweeted, talked everyone’s ears off about it, and you want people to buy it.

 

But what about when people do actually read it? What about when they review it? I hadn’t really thought about this part up until now, so focused on trying to drum up interest, secure reviewers and bloggers, that I didn’t think about what would happen when I get my first (inevitable) bad review.

 

How can you respond to the idea that someone doesn’t like what you’ve made? Well, in an ideal, rational world you understand that not everyone likes the same things, and you try to ignore it and remain proud of your work. But much as the internet has given us so much, reviews are fast and thick and from everyone. You don’t have to wait for the papers to give you a write up, instead you’re almost overhearing the conversations people are having about your work. 

 

Having looked at other author’s responses to bad reviews, seeing how they’ve almost felt personally attacked, and then had to shake it off, and try and continue, is powerful and admirable. I’m really nervous that a bad review will knock me down from what I’m writing now.

 

Writers (like all artists) are a strange mix of ego and self-doubt. We want to forge forward, secure in the knowledge that we’re making something we like, that has had some good response. That we are justified in doing what we’re doing. But half of us knows that we’re terrible, we’re no good, nothing we create will stand up to judgement, and what’s the bloody point anyway?

 

In these times, it’s good to remember two things: 

 

You’re doing this for you. You wrote your book for you. The process, the outcome, all of that was to make you feel something. Or simply because it was something you needed to do.

 

Also, Fifty Shades of Gray and Twilight are bestsellers. So bollocks to all of it, really.

 

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Regardless of my own personal fear, reviews are welcome (and necessary!) if you want to get a review copy from netgalley- click HERE and if you want to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk, then go ahead. It’s released in ONE WEEK!

 

 

 

 

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My Mum Might Read This…and Other Issues With Writing a Sex Scene

In theory, I have no problem writing sex scenes. The first story I wrote that got any recognition was about a girl having sex with a guy she just met, in a disabled toilet, at her aunt’s funeral. I am not squeamish. But that’s literary fiction. That’s when sex serves a purpose, to show the breaking down of walls, or the attempted escape from reality. Sometimes it’s symbolic of trying to feel alive. I can write sex scenes when they’re symbolic.

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But when I first started writing The Last Word, I had to consider what level I wanted to write at, in terms of sexuality. I’ve read a lot of really explicit stuff, and I’ve read things that fade to black. I tried for somewhere in between. The truth is, sex is weird. It’s a lot of strange mechanics and actions that are difficult to write about, because you have to imbue some sort of passion and emotion. If you’re just writing ‘then her hand goes here’, that gets to the point, but doesn’t make the reader care. Some of the best sex scenes I’ve read come from really old novels, where the build up is the most important thing. And I think that’s true of chick lit too- sex is the pay-off for many chapters’ worth of sexual tension. If you write a book where your love interests are at it before they’ve even interacted at all, well, I’m not really interested. 

 

I suppose that’s a female thing, that we want sex to mean something. That’s a generalisation, but in terms of readers of chick lit, I’d say it’s a safe assumption. Sex should be passionate and engaging and emotional. I couldn’t resist it in this book, that it should become symbolic again. All of my female characters seem to have trust issues, and sex is a form of trust. Letting someone in, being vulnerable, all that character development comes from sex scenes. Plus, I think we have a duty as writers to show what sex is really like. I remember as a teenager watching that Britney Spears movie, Crossroads, when they fade to a sunset after she kisses this topless guy, and thinking: this is clearly not what a first time is like. Doesn’t mean there can’t be love or passion, but awkward and uncomfortable are two big contenders there. And it can be funny, and strange and you can sound different to how you do normally.

 

One of my biggest peeves with Fifty Shades of Gray (of which I have bazillions) was that Christian Gray went from being all stiff upper lip, very ‘proper’ dialogue, to all ‘yeah baby’ in the bedroom. Your characters are still your characters in the sack. Don’t revert to stereotypes just because they’re boinking. Which is clearly not the biggest problem with that book, but was something that jumped out at me.

 

So, I did have trouble, writing the first few sex scenes, and as I got more confident in them,  I explored different situations. Some of them worked, and some of them had to go. One in particular involved such an awful play on words and a reference to oral sex that I actually shouted ‘oh gross’ when I read it through in edits, and scratched it through in red pen five times.

 

Who are your favourite writers who deal with sex scenes, what do you expect from them, and how do you find writing them?

 

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The Last Word- Review Copies Available!

Incase it wasn’t clear how excited I am that my first Carina UK novel is coming out this month, let me express that clearly. EEEEEEP!

The Last Word is available for review on Netgalley, if you follow THIS link. Let me know what you think, and be sure to tweet at @almichael_ and @carinauk

 

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Tabby Riley’s online life was a roaring success. Her blog had hundreds of followers, and legions of young fans ardently awaited her every Tweet. Her real life was a bit more of a disappointment. Living in a shared flat in North London, scratching a living writing magazine articles on ‘How To Please Your Man in Bed’ wasn’t where she thought she’d be at twenty-six – especially when there was a serious lack of action in her own bedroom.

Until she was offered the job of her dreams on online paper The Type – and gained a sexy new editor, Harry Shulman, to bounce her ideas off. Tabby had previous bad form when it came to falling for well-dressed, smooth-talking editors, so no way was she going there again…ever! But had she got a little too used to hiding behind her laptop screen? Perhaps it was time for the real Tabby Riley to come out and have some fun!

 

You can also pre-order on Amazon HERE

 

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GUEST POST: TERRI NIXON- The Tale of the Happy Hybrid

Today I’ve got another Carina Writer doing a guest post for my blog!

 

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Hi, and thanks for welcoming me to your blog, Andi  

 

I’m here to talk a little bit about the publishing route I’ve been lucky enough to be able to choose; that of the Hybrid Author. I write both for myself and for publishers – as long as they’ll have me! – and the sense of achievement is already phenomenal, after less than a year. Not in terms of sales, I hasten to add, because it’s a long, slow process getting the word ‘out there,’ and I’m working full-time as well, so probably don’t spend as much time promoting as I should; writing time is precious enough! But I’m learning as I go, and picking up tips all the time. 

So, having been already signed by a publisher, why did I then choose to put my own work out? Impatient? Control-Freak? Cocky? 

 

I can promise you, it was none of the above. The simple thing is, I wrote a book in 2010 that won a contest in 2012, and was utterly unlike anything I’ve ever written before. It won me a publishing contract with Piatkus, people liked it, and in 2013 it was nominated for an award. I was thrilled. Still am. And very, very proud. That was Maid of Oaklands Manor (formerly Saturday’s Child.)

 

However, the work I’d done up to that point remains my true love; I’d been writing and re-writing The Dust of Ancients since the early noughties, created a whole new interpretation of the history of the Cornish moors, placed my characters within it and watched them grow.

How could I let all that go, and simply follow that rather shady path that had suddenly opened up in front of me? I say ‘shady,’ not because of any hint of wrong-doing, but because I had no notion of where it would lead or what I might stumble over. There was the niggling fear I would be suddenly dropped mid-series (which I was!) and the question of whether I really wanted to be *that* kind of a writer for evermore.

 

My agent has expressed cautious approval of The Dust of Ancients, but says it’s too niche and  prefers to represent me for my historical/romance/drama work, which is absolutely fine by me, because she has just secured me a 2-book deal with Carina (pause to run around the room squealing, yet again!) I am happy to continue writing that kind of book, and have written a second in that series and begun the third … but in the meantime my poor first love had been wilting for want of light. 

So, I opened up the folder, looked over the MS again to see if any of it was salvageable, and decided to let the rest of the world be the judge. So far the light I have given it is like the lowest setting of a three-touch lamp, but that’s got to be better than the total dark of a Word folder, don’tcha think? The bonus, using that analogy, is that the fourth touch can never plunge it back into darkness; the book is on sale, it’s undoubtedly mine, from first word to last, and no-one is going to come along and beat me to it.

 

The biggest plus, of course, is that I can put it out in paperback. I doubt any of my historical dramas will be physical books, sad as it is to acknowledge that. I love the way my self-pubbed book looks, love the way it feels, love the way I can physically pass it over to people who ask about it, instead of giving them a link they’ll probably lose before they get home. The cover is stunning, and the cover for book 2 even more so and I can’t wait to share it! (The Lightning and the Blade is due out in June.)

Running parallel with all that excitement is the knowledge that my WW1 drama (currently titled: Lady of No Man’s Land) will be released by Carina, hopefully in July. So it’s a double-whammy of publication this summer … better get that promotion muscle flexing, eh?

 

 

 

 

Author Website: www.terri-nixon.co.uk 

Follow me on Twitter: @TerriNixon

Author Facebook: www.facebook.com/terri.authorpage 

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00DI8R8K6 

 

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GUEST POST: Carys Jones ‘Where I Write’

I’m excited to welcome Carys Jones, a fellow Carina author, to my blog this week! Her book Prime Deception is available now!

 

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I write all my books on my trusty pink laptop in the study of my house. My laptop isn’t connected to the internet so when I sit up there I am solely focused on my work.

As you can see, my desk is covered in lots of girly trinkets. I have up programs from all the ballets I have been to with my Mom, we usually go twice a year. I have a Little Mermaid snow globe as its one of my favourite Disney movies and the picture in the Minnie/Daisy frame is of my beloved cat Pepper who sadly passed away a few years ago. Behind the picture of Pepper is a picture of me and all my friends on my wedding day. 

There is also a Hello Kitty clock which I’ve had for years and has followed me from my parents’ home to my own house now. I’ve always loved anything Hello Kitty. When this picture was taken I’d finished working for the day, when I’m working there is always a large glass of water on the pink coaster! 

There are more pictures scattered around on the walls but they are out of the shot. I try and make my writing space really personal, my own little area where I am surrounded by everything that I love and find familiar. It means that when I’m stuck, or writing something particularly emotional, I can look up and smile when I see either a picture or a memory of somewhere I’ve been.

On the far left you can see a load of notes from the story I’m currently working on. What you can’t see are all my scribbling’s written all over it as I’m forever changing my mind and altering things from my original plan! 

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Guest Post from author Rebecca Raisin!

Really excited to be featuring news from Rebecca Raisin’s next novella Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Cafe today, and I’m certainly eagerly awaiting its publication on 20th March!

Welcome back to the warmth, cupcakes and hot chocolate of The Gingerbread Café – your home away from home.

Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Cafe

Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café  – the second novella in The Gingerbread Café series –. Released March 20th by Carina UK. 

Chocolate…the most irresistible temptation?

The Gingerbread Café is all a buzz! This Easter, Lily and the rest of the town of Ashford, Connecticut are planning a truly decadent Chocolate Festival. Cooking up a storm, CeeCee and Lily are not just baking a batch of their sinfully delicious chocolate-dipped gingerbread men, but an excess of chocolate truffles, squidgy, cinnamony hot cross buns and melt in your mouth chocolate eggs. The Gingerbread Café staff have definitely enjoyed the tasting process!

Add in Damon’s cute-as-a-button seven year old daughter, Charlie, up for a visit and Lily’s perfect Easter may just be around the corner. Until her ex-husband Joel turns up demanding twenty thousand dollars… Suddenly the future of the Gingerbread Café is not so clear…and Lily finds herself eating far more of The Gingerbread Café’s treats than her skinny jeans allow…

Can Lily concoct a brilliant plan to save her beloved café, convince Damon she has no feelings for Joel and still throw a Chocolate Festival the town will be talking about for years? There’s only one way to find out…

Welcome back to the warmth, cupcakes and hot chocolate of The Gingerbread Café – your home away from home

This is the second novella in The Gingerbread Café series

Christmas at the Gingerbread Café

Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café

Coming Christmas 2014 look out for the next romantic instalment!

Goodreads:

http://bit.ly/1i69MYZ

Find the novella here:

Amazon US http://amzn.to/OFCjw3

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1fKsW7z

iTunes https://itun.es/au/RXigX.l

KOBO http://bit.ly/1dZoayZ

Google play http://bit.ly/1gPMtlb

Find Rebecca here: 

https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaRaisinAuthor

http://rebeccaraisin.wordpress.com

www.twitter.com/jaxandwillsmum

http://www.pinterest.com/rebeccaraisin/chocolate-dreams-at-the-gingerbread-cafe/