Thursday 26 January 2012

The Blank Page...

I’ve been away for a couple of weeks but now that I’m back - I’m excited to tell you that I’m just about to embark on a new and longer journey - I’m about to face the blank page once again and start writing a new novel!

So, my dear friends, do you think you might be interested in travelling with me on this exciting new novel journey? Do you want to find out exactly what it takes to write and publish a novel from start to finish? Perhaps, if you are a reader, you’ve always wanted to write a book yourself?

My first book was traditionally published in paperback but I have since gone on to self-publish my second and third novels as e-books. These have gone on to be bestsellers on Amazon’s Top 100 lists and are currently selling well all over the world. Would YOU like to get involved in following the progress of Book Number Four? Over the next weeks and months I’ll be discussing the ups and downs of my writing and regularly seeking out your opinions and advice from right here on this blog. Then, later on in the year, we can discuss matters such as editing, formatting and cover design, and everything else that takes us from an idea to a finished book.

So far, I’ve done the extensive research that I advocate as the best way to ‘know my characters’ and I have two such people now firmly embedded into my head. I’m not entirely settled on their names yet, but one is a hot-shot female lawyer, an eco-warrior and passionate green campaigner. The other protagonist, and the love interest in the story, is an ambitious industrialist.

What now? Well, they will meet in chapter one and I think I’m going to open the first scene in his point of view (POV).

I’ve always been a bit of a ‘pantser’ - this means that unlike writers who prepare a carefully planned story outline - I just start to write and hope the ideas will pop into my head. It’s a risky strategy. I mean, ideas can (and do!) dry up and this can put you right back to that intimidating first blank page. I suppose I have blind faith in that somehow, perhaps on a subconscious level, it will all come together in the end and that by allowing my characters to tell the story (rather than it being plot driven) it will emerge fresh, pacy and engaging. Well, that’s what I’m hoping anyway!

Next week, I hope to have names for my first two characters. Do you have any suggestions? What do you think is fashionable right now and can you think of a name to suit my beautiful lady eco-lawyer and her handsome nemesis, the industrialist businessman? Perhaps we could have a poll and vote on the best name suggestions? As I don't have a title yet either - we might have to do the same for that too!

You will see from my sidebar that this blog has just been nominated for a Top Writer Blog Award. This is a huge honour as it comes from an educational website and if you have a moment to spare I’d love you to consider voting for me. Your support would be greatly appreciated. No signing up necessary - just a click through from the sidebar button to the nominee list and press the Vote button. Thank you!

See you next week…?
Janice xx

Did you know? I also have a fun and regularly updated Facebook Author Page - please visit me there too - for all my latest day to day news, reviews and interviews!

Friday 20 January 2012

Author Showcase – Nancy Volkers

Nancy Volkers is an American writer and when I heard she was on tour promoting her new book ‘Scotland by Starlight’ I jumped at the chance to ask Nancy a few questions about her life, her writing, and why from so many thousands of miles away, she chooses to set her novels in Scotland?

Tell us a little about yourself Nancy and about your life as an author.
I’m a 40-something mom of two who grew up in Western New York in a very small town. I started writing stories when I was about five years old. In addition to novels and short stories, I’ve written nonfiction articles, poems and plays, and am working on a screenplay. I have degrees in biology and communications, and in “real life” I write and edit medical information and manage websites. Besides writing, I like reading, running, kayaking, skiing, hiking, multiple crafty pursuits (quilting, sewing, knitting), and am starting to get into cooking. I don’t like tomatoes, hot weather, littering, closed-mindedness or dusting.

A Scottish Ferry Tale was the first novel I completed. I had some external pressure from joining National Novel Writing Month, a contest that takes place each November. I wrote much of Ferry Tale during November 2008. I had absolutely NO time to do such a thing – my kids were 6 and 3 years old, and I was working a full-time job, a part-time job and doing all the other things you do to get through daily life. And yet I found the time… which reinforces the idea that time is relative. If you want to do something badly enough, you’ll find the time to do it!

As an American writer what has inspired you to set your novels in Scotland?
I wanted to send Cassie on a journey to a new place, both literally and figuratively. Travel forces you to see things differently, and she was at a place in her life where she needed that. I chose Scotland because I’d been there before, and it seemed like the kind of place where magical things happen.

How do you research and how much time do you put into researching your novels?
I put a lot of time into researching – the theatre, Scotland itself, the language, the people and the customs. I wanted my novels to be factually correct as much as possible – Coll is an actual island, for example, and it really is 13 miles long, and there really are standing stones there. The food that’s discussed in the novels is legitimate Scottish food. And the legend that Ralph recounts about the dog-sized cats that may or may not roam the Isle of Mull is also based on an ancient Scottish legend.

For the most part I used the Internet to research, but I did pick up a few books on Scottish clans and customs. The clan names and mottoes at the beginning of each chapter in Scotland by Starlight are factual, to the best of my knowledge anyway!

Tell us about your new novel - Scotland by Starlight.
Scotland by Starlight is a sequel to A Scottish Ferry Tale… and it does help to have read the first novel, although you don’t necessarily need to. Scotland by Starlight is an account of Cassie and Ralph’s lives after Cassie makes the decision to move to Scotland. I read a review that said “a lot of things happened in this novel, but nothing really happened” – that made me laugh. That’s sort of what I was going for. There are no huge conflicts resolved, and no character goes through major changes. The book is more of a window into Cassie and Ralph’s lives, as well as the lives of Leslie, Rose, Jamie, Saoirse, and other characters introduced in A Scottish Ferry Tale. I had great fun writing Scotland by Starlight and I think it’s a “chunkier” book with more going on, whereas Ferry Tale is more straight-up romance, focusing almost exclusively on Cassie and Ralph.

The epilogue to Scotland by Starlight upset quite a few people. But I can’t apologize for it. I sat down one day and began writing in Ralph’s voice, and went with what he was saying. To me, the epilogue is a bittersweet reminder to live in the moment, appreciate what you have when you have it. Don’t procrastinate when it comes to joy!

Buy the book:

Next week I’ll be back from my writerly retreat and I’ll be chatting about the process of starting a new novel – facing that blank page and either following a carefully constructed plan or flying by the seat of your pants. As I’m a pantser myself I’ll let you know exactly how I got on. See you next Friday!

Janice xx

Friday 13 January 2012

Author Showcase – Sue Johnson

I’m delighted to introduce you to Sue Johnson, a wonderful and talented writer whom I’m known for several years through the Romantic Novelist’s Association and now as Associates at the innovative reader/writer website Loveahappyending.

Sue was born in Kent and has had a variety of jobs during her working life including training administrator, vicar’s secretary, cinema usherette and running her own patchwork quilt-making business. She is now a writer, artist and musician and most of her work is inspired by the stunning Worcestershire countryside where she currently lives. She is a Writers’ News Home Study Tutor and also runs her own brand of writing courses.

Her short stories have appeared in Woman, My Weekly, Woman’s Weekly, Chat: it’s fate, Take a Break, The People’s Friend and That’s Life – Australia. She is published as a poet – including a joint collection with her partner Bob Woodroofe entitled ‘Tales of Trees.’

Sue has produced four booklets and two CDs in her ‘Writer’s Toolkit’ series, designed to help writers of all levels of ability. Her first novel ‘Fable’s Fortune’ was published by Indigo Dreams in August 2011. ‘Creative Alchemy: 12 steps from inspiration to finished novel’ was published by HotHive in October 2011.

FABLE’S FORTUNE is a modern romance built on a fairytale structure. The back cover blurb reads: Fable Mitchell is born under a roof of stars in a Kentish plum orchard, and her early childhood is spent in a house called ‘Starlight’ where she lives with her mother Jasmine and Gangan the Wise Woman. However, her life is not destined to remain like a fairytale. When she is ten, she is abducted by her estranged father Derek, now a vicar, and taken to live in his austere vicarage at Isbourne on the banks of the River Avon. Fable is unable to escape. When she is sixteen, she falls in love with Tobias Latimer but he dies in mysterious circumstances and Fable’s happiness is once again snatched away from her. She tries to rebuild her life and marries Tony Lucas because she thinks the omens are right. Fable soon realises he is abusive and controlling, but is trapped because she fears losing contact with her daughter. Nearing her 40th birthday, Fable hears Gangan the Wise Woman’s voice telling her to ‘be ready’ – magic happens.’ That is certainly true, but does Fable have the necessary courage to finally seize her chance of lasting happiness?

The story (originally called ‘Star Dragon’) began life in 1998 following my own marriage break-up and divorce. I didn’t do any planning and completed 85,000 words in less than two months. It was extremely therapeutic and helped me get through a stressful time without needing tranquillisers or taking to drink!

Having finished what was a very scrappy first draft (I didn’t really know what I was doing!) I put it on one side for several years while I went back to University to do a creative writing course. During that time, I wrote a lot of poetry and short stories – many of which were published in women’s magazines. I was taken on by the agency Midland Exposure who sold short fiction to women’s magazines.

When I eventually went back to the novel (in about 2002) my ideas about the story and characters had moved on. The story had never left me in all the time I’d been away from it – bits kept playing like a film inside my head. Helped by a severe attack of vertigo, I reworked the story (now called ‘Cloak of Stars.’)

By 2005, having written three more novels and failed to find a publisher, I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. I submitted ‘Cloak of Stars’ for a critique and was advised to take out the fairytale element.

I felt a bit despondent – but decided to have one more re-write. It was at that stage that my heroine, originally called Rose, decided that she didn’t like her name! I searched through all the children’s name books I could find + various internet sites, but found nothing.

In the end, I put my jacket on and walked into town, deciding to stop for a coffee at the first cafĂ© I came to and the first woman’s name I heard would be the one I went for. Two women wearing fur coats and carrying wicker baskets came in. As they took their coats off one of them said: “Of course, my daughter Fable…” I paid my bill and hurried back to my computer.

One thing I learned in the process of writing this book was that I needed to be persistent and ignore the negative things some people said. I wish I’d concentrated on finding a publisher rather than wasting time trying to get an agent – especially after one admitted, when I contacted her after a long time of being fobbed off by her assistant, that she’d ‘buried my manuscript under a pile of other stuff and forgotten about it.’ The first publisher that I sent the manuscript to after that episode was Ronnie Goodyer Indigo Dreams Publishing – and he said yes! He now has the complete manuscript of my second novel and I’m keeping everything crossed.

My advice to new writers is:
1.         Write every day even if you only manage five minutes.
2.         Get as much work in circulation as possible.
3.         Create a writing C.V. – a publisher or agent may ask for one.
4.         Reward yourself for the effort you put in.
5.         Don’t stop until you achieve your writing ambitions.

‘Fable’s Fortune’ by Sue Johnson is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing (

Copies of ‘Creative Alchemy: 12 steps from inspiration to finished novel’ published by HotHive Books are available direct from Sue as the publishers have gone into liquidation. Look out for special offers on
Links: Sue Johnson

Thursday 5 January 2012

Getting Connected…

Well, I have to say that we haven’t had a particularly good start to 2012 here at Horton HQ. We have been coping with high winds, persistent power cuts and (shriek) a laptop that refused to see in the New Year with us.

It’s shocking (or it would be if we had any power) how much we (I) now rely on the internet to work and connect with colleagues and friends on social networks, forums, Twitter, Facebook and Blogs. All of these things, together with the checking of ones Amazon rankings (okay, so it’s probably better if I don’t do that more than once a day!) means connecting on-line for at least a couple of hours each day.

I’m only able to be with you now, dear readers, because Mr JH has ingeniously managed to connect my new Touchpad (a present from Santa!) with his mobile phone ‘hot spot’ and made it possible for me to blog to you via satellite – how cool is that?!

So, what news do I bring you may ask…?

Well, my getting connected plans for 2012 of course…!

First off, I’m planning a writerly getaway to connect with writing a new novel!

I’ll be popping in from time to time over the next couple of weeks of course, and have some fabulous Author Showcase features for you, but otherwise I will be making a start on Book #4 or The WIP (work in progress) as it must be called because as yet this new venture does not have a title.

However, in true Horton style I have already done all the necessary and extensive research needed to identify with my lovely lady lawyer heroine, by actually working in a Solicitor’s office to get a real feel for her world!

I was hoping that when I’ve written a brief synopsis of the story, you might come up with a suitable title for me – what do you think? Let’s have some suggestions with something legal sounding in the title – but it’s a romance remember!

And also, to connect with my wonderful writer friends and my lovely readers, I plan to attend these amazing events being organised throughout 2012!

The Loveahappyending Summer Audience is a one day reader/writer event being held on 16th June in Tetbury, Gloucester. As an editor with Loveahappyending and co-organiser of this event, I’ll be posting more information as soon as the information and ticket site is launched in early February.

The Romantic Novelist’s Association Conference is being held over the weekend of 13th to 15th July at Penrith, Cumbria. Information can be found on the RNA Website.

The Festival of Romance is being held over the weekend of 16th to 18th November 2012 in Bedford: more information from the Festival Website.

So that’s my plans so far – what are yours – do tell?

Please pop back next week as I have a couple of fabulous author showcases lined up for you and I’ll be blogging from my secret writerly hideaway - probably via satellite!