Friday, October 28, 2016

Sue Shepherd: Could you repeat that please?

Thank you to Sue Shepherd for this delightful piece about the use of our favourite words.

During the final, final edits of my latest novel, ‘Love Them and Leave Them’, it became apparent to both myself and my editor that there were certain phrases that I really liked to use. Of course I’m not unique, every author has their preferred words that they constantly return to, we just can’t help it.

What I found interesting about mine was the fact that not only had I often used them in the narrative
, but my characters had also used them in their dialogue. I knew all my characters very well, I could picture their mannerisms, I could hear their voices and accents, and yet, occasionally, out of nowhere, one of them would utter a phrase that simply wasn’t them at all, in fact it was 100% me.

What was happening there? Why were these characters, who I knew as intimately as any of my real life friends, suddenly saying something that was so completely ‘Sue Shepherd’?

I could only conclude that somehow, subconsciously, my own voice was determined to be heard. This reminded me that even though these people are real to me, so much so that they wake me at night and demand to be heard, the truth is that they all came from inside my head. It makes no difference who they are, male, female, old, young, goodie or villain, they all have a little bit of me inside them. (Yes, I’m now rubbing my hands together in true Doctor Frankenstein fashion!)

In some ways I’m rather pleased they take after me, I’m extremely fond of some, and even the baddies have wormed their way into my affections. But I remain very grateful to my editor for pointing out my duplications and for making me aware when my characters spoke out of turn.

It does make me wonder what words other authors can’t help repeating? What did Agatha Christie find herself having to keep a check on? Did J K Rowling’s editor have to break the news to her that she’d gone overboard on a certain phrase? Once we, the writers, are made aware of our little foibles, we can do our best to minimise the usage in future. But words are a part of our upbringing, a part of our everyday lives, indeed, they’re a part of who we are. Our favourites are stubborn little buggers, and they will slip out!

Here are some comments from our members about their ‘favourite’ words:

“I ‘just’ ‘actually’ ‘obviously’ know what you mean. And also (hanging my head in shame) I will admit that my characters swear a lot in my first drafts, because I swear a lot. Oops!”
Alison May.

My characters ‘just’ do so many things ‘abruptly’ or ‘suddenly’ that I dread to think what they look like in the reader’s imagination.”
Sue Moorcroft.

One of my books had a character who ‘raised his eyebrows’ about 17 times. Though I have removed some of those eyebrows since then.”
Colin Garrow

“My headmistress sleuth, Harriet Quigley, not only raises her eyebrows, she shrugs a lot and bites her lip far too often! I have to do a check before I let her go.”
Nicola Slade

“My characters are constantly pulling things. I don't mean they're on the pull, but they pull doors, pull on coats, pull away. When I edit I have to remind them to tug, drag, grab and other more interesting words.”
Kath McGurl

“My word is ‘though’ at the end of sentences. It’s especially noticeable when I write in the first person. I have to go through at the editing stage and remove a lot.”
Jennie Bohnet.

About Sue:
Sue Shepherd writes contemporary romance and enjoys creating novels with heart, laughs and naughtiness. She doesn’t pull any punches when choosing her subjects, but manages to handle her characters’ challenging situations with sensitivity and humour.
Her debut novel 'Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret?' was published by Corazon Books in March 2015.  It reached the top 10 UK Kindle chart, and also topped the romantic comedy, contemporary romance and humour charts. It became available in paperback on Amazon.UK in November 2015.
Sue’s second novel ‘Love Them and Leave Them’ was published in September 2016.
Sue lives on the picturesque Isle of Wight with her husband, two sons and a standard poodle.  Her passions in life are: her family, writing, the seaside and all the beautiful purple things her sons have bought her over the years.  Ask Sue to plan too far in advance and you'll give her the heebie-jeebies and she'd prefer you not to mention Christmas until at least November!

Love Them and Leave Them:
Sometimes you have to leave the one you love … sometimes you’re the one who’s left behind. The new heartwarming and heartbreaking romantic comedy from the No.1 bestselling author of Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?
On his way home, Ed makes a split-second decision that changes the lives of all those who love him. Six years on, Ed’s daughter, Jessie, is stuck in a job with no prospects, her dreams never fulfilled. It will take more than her unreliable boyfriend, Chris, and temperamental best friend, Coco, to give her the confidence to get her life back on track.
But what if Ed had made another decision? It could all have been so different …
Six years on, Ed’s daughter, Jessica, has a successful career, loving boyfriend, Nick, and a keen eye on her dream home. But when new clients, a temperamental Coco, and her unreliable boyfriend, Chris, walk into her life, Jessica’s perfect world soon starts to unravel.
Love Them and Leave Them is a story of love, families, friendship and a world of possibilities. Whichever decision Ed makes, the same people are destined to come into his daughter’s life, sometimes in delightfully different ways. And before they can look forward to the future, they will all have to deal with the mistakes of the past.

Twitter - @thatsueshepherd

Thank you so much for your words, Sue. My husband has just pointed out my over use of the word ‘grimace’ – ho hum!

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016


We welcome Jean Fullerton with this month’s edition of Focus on RNA Chapters.

It gives me great pleasure to feature one of our long-established Chapters of the RNA blog and I'm very grateful to Sheila Daglish for taking the time to tells us about the North Devon Group.

'Small and (almost) beautiful' possibly best describes our North Devon Chapter as we gather for coffee, cake, and a two-hour working session in the spacious and pleasant cafeteria at St. John's
Garden Centre, Barnstaple. We meet approximately every six weeks, although winter dates are flexible since our (currently seven) members must tackle ninety-minute drives across Exmoor, Dartmoor or sometimes-stormy coastal roads.

Our Chapter was formed about ten years ago and we welcome new members, whether or not RNA, because fresh ideas and experiences are always appreciated. We agree and are reassured by the fact that, for all of us, holiday weeks, home demands and crises are inevitable, sometimes rendering a daily writing routine impossible. Family life is so often at the core of what we write anyway and, importantly, we know that, whether actively writing or not, all our members make a valued contribution to discussions around the table.

The last few months have brought successes and new adventures. Patricia Fawcett attended the Writers' Summer School at Swanwick in August, brought us news of current short story writing requirements and has plenty of ideas for these - a temporary change from her regular novels. In the summer she gave a talk at Buckland Abbey, one-time home of Sir Francis Drake, where her audience particularly liked the supporting visual aids she used. Frances Evesham's first two Exham mysteries can now be obtained in paperback, and she reports that internet sales of her other books are doing well. At Ilminster Literary Festival she presented a talk on her other love -
Victorian fiction.

Amanda Robinson is writing regularly, an erotic romance which now needs to be finally pulled together. Anne Holman is working on a Regency tale, having had previous success in this genre, and was happy to see 'The Art of Love', her 24th pocket novel, published in July, hopefully also in Large Print. A further pocket novel is currently awaiting a result - preferably acceptance! Lucy Alexander, our newest recruit, attended the RNA Lancaster Conference and, after a one-to-one session with a M&B editor, was asked to submit the next two chapters of her medical romance. An autumn writing course with Kate Walker at Swanwick should help with the final polish. There's one last success for our Chapter to record and that's Sheila Daglish's 'Dangerous Waters' - a My Weekly pocket novel published in May, and accepted for Large Print.

Our North Devon location and cafeteria venue mean that we can't realistically invite guest speakers but, between meetings, through e-mails we always have someone ready to offer encouragement, sympathy, ideas or opinions. Our Chapter does not have a website, nor has it ventured onto Facebook or Twitter, although individual members often find these useful.

For 2017 we plan more of our well-tried recipe - friendly, supportive meetings, always receptive to new trends and movement in the publishing and self-publishing worlds. 'Small and (almost) beautiful', as you'll see from the above success stories, is a concept that seems to work!

Contact for North Devon Chapter is:
Sheila Daglish, 01271 850006.
E-mail: themalthouse94@

Thank you so much, Sheila, for that comprehensive overview of the North Devon Chapter.

Jean x

About Jean: 
Jean was born in East End of London and spent all her career as a district nurse in East London but is now a full-time writer. Wedding Bells for Nurse Connie, is her current release. Her next novel Pocketful of Dreams, set in the turbulent years of WW2, is due for release in June 2017 and is the first in next East London series. 
Her first series with Orion Fiction was set in the Victorian period after which she jumped forward to post-war East London.

She is a proud graduate from the NWS and passionate about the local chapters, which is why she has taken on the role of Chapters Liaison. 

Thank you to Jean and Sheila for this month’s blog contribution. 

If members would like to be featured on the RNA blog please contact the team on

Monday, October 24, 2016

RNA Parties: The Season to be Jolly…

We are delighted to be able to introduce Anne Stenhouse to followers of the RNA blog. If you want to know more about  our RNA parties and events please read on…

Members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association like a good party.
Timetabled ones are held three times a year in central London using either The Hall of India and Pakistan in the Royal Over-Seas League or The Gladstone Library in Whitehall. Others are arranged by individuals and by Chapters around the country. Yet others take place in Conference venues and might be dubbed Kitchen Parties, but the champagne cocktails can still be awesome!

The London ones are currently my remit as a member of the RNA committee. Last year I ‘met’ many of you through helping Nicola Cornick organise the Awards’ scheme. This year, I’m ‘meeting’ others as I receive your forms and cheques for tickets. It’s shaping up to be an interesting gathering with a great mix of folk from the writing world.

Writers like our distinguished Chair, Eileen Ramsay, will be mingling with editors, agents, book sellers and publishers. There’s still room for you, but don’t wait too long, will you?

Where  - The Royal Over-Seas League, Park Place
When -   Wednesday 16th November 2016
At –         6.30 – 9.30
Price -     £35 members - £40 guests
How –     click here

In addition to meeting old friends and making new, there’s going to be the presentation of our annual Industry Awards. Inaugurated last year, these were immediately popular and so we bring them again. Who will be the best Romantic Bookseller of the Year, or have written the Best Adaptation of a Romantic Novel, or is the Media Star of the Year, the Agent of the Year or the Publisher of the Year for 2016? Be the first to find out by being there.     

About Anne:

Anne Stenhouse, a graduate of the NWS, writes historical romance set in Regency and early nineteenth century Edinburgh and London. Her most recent title, Courting the Countess, is currently available for a mere 99p from amazon. Anne lives in Edinburgh with her husband and dancing partner of many years. They travel a bit and enjoyed a trip to Chile last year where they were guided round forests of endangered species by an expert from Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden. Anne blogs at Novels Now (she used to write plays) which you may find here.

Thank you so much for visiting the RNA blog, Anne. See you at the Winter Party!

If you would like to be featured on the RNA blog please contact us on:

Friday, October 21, 2016

LIZZIE LANE: War Orphans – A good idea!

It is always interesting to hear how author’s come up with ideas for their books. Was it something that had simmered for years? Perhaps a story based on an old family story? Today, author Lizzie Lane tells us about the idea behind her latest story and shows how many people are involved in that idea. Welcome, Jean!

We were having lunch at a very nice little restaurant in Covent Garden, my editor, my agent and me.
Food and wine flowed as they do when the final manuscript of a contract has been delivered and approved and another contract is in the offing.
That’s when the ideas get thrown about. ‘What do you think about writing about an orphanage?’ To which my answer was, ‘Not a lot. There’s loads out there already.’ ‘A Munitions Factory?’ ‘Ditto.’
Actually those were the kind of subject matter I had been expecting to hear but they didn’t happen.
Wearing one of her cajoling, sweet as honey smiles, she asked, ‘I think it would be quite wonderful if you wrote about a puppy.’
I nearly choked on my Pinot Grigio. A puppy? In a wartime saga? What brought that on?
Editors don’t make suggestions about the content of your next book without good reason. Before coming up with this I knew my editor had checked what was selling in non-fiction or with competing publishers, plus, most importantly of all, she had no doubt had a word with the Sales Department. It wouldn’t have stopped there. She would have sounded out anyone whose opinion she respected. In my case this might include her mother who is an avid fan of mine.
It’s all very logical. Rivals sales, non-fiction sales, her own Sales Department, Marketing, publicity and last, but by no means least, someone who regularly reads my books.  All are very relevant.
It turned out that on seeing the success of non-fiction titles, i.e. War Dog, No Better Friend, Judy: A Dog in a Million.
Besides all that, the old adage about writing about what you know comes into play. She hadn’t known it but she was dining with somebody who knew a great deal about dogs.
In another life I used to show, breed, train and judge dogs. It had never occurred to me to write a story about dogs and certainly not during World War Two.
To say it was something of a challenge was putting it mildly. The moment the lunch and the travelling were behind me, I trawled the internet for wartime incidents involving dogs. I only expected small things, dogs in military service mostly. I had not expected to come across one of the most unknown atrocities of the first week of the war.
A government pamphlet advised that once the war began in earnest, food would be in short supply and reserved for human consumption. There was also the likelihood of mustard gas poisoning or dogs going mad when the bombing started. As a consequence of these dire warnings, people panicked and pets were euthanized in their thousands, a conservative estimate is 350,000 in the first week alone. By the end of the war it was over a million.
My editor and my agent were both impressed. Neither had heard of this shameful piece of history. BTW the dog on the cover belongs to one of my editor’s colleagues at Ebury. His real name’s Louie.
Everything was agreed. Lovely! Now all I had to do was build a story around it.

Joanna is an orphan when she finds the puppy she names Harry. Her schoolteacher Sally Hadley is a joy but has no life outside of school and her father still grieves over the death of his wife. When Harry enters their lives, Joanna no longer feels like an orphan, Sally allows herself to fall in love and her father ceases to grieve for the loss of his wife. All down to a puppy named Harry.