Celebrating Romantic Fiction

SportsdayChristina here. You know that saying, “It’s not the winning but the taking part that counts”? That’s a hard lesson to learn when you’re little. How many times have we said it to ourselves, our children or our friends when someone lost at something or didn’t win some competition or sport? I know I repeated it to my daughters until I was blue in the face, but it didn’t stop the disappointment on their faces as they came away emptyhanded from yet another school sports day.

“Mummy, can’t we buy a medal?” my oldest asked once, obviously not having grasped the whole concept of such competitions at all. And clearly, she had already learned that a lot of things in life can be bought, which wasn’t a lesson I wanted her to absorb at such a young age. Thankfully, we eventually begin to understand the saying as we grow up and it makes perfect sense.

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Dressing Up

Viking meChristina here. This past weekend Wench Nicola and I have been attending the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual conference. It was held in Telford this year and the day before we took part in a special meet-the-author event at the local library. There were twelve of us, all authors of historical romance, fantasy, timeslip, time travel, sagas or alternative history stories. And some of us decided to attend the event dressed in a costume befitting the historical eras we were writing about to make it more fun. For me that meant a Viking outfit of course, and I’d made part of it myself.

As a little girl, I loved to play dress-up and I still do. If anyone says they’re having a masquerade or costume party of any kind, I’m in. So whenever there is a chance to dress up in historical costume to do with my books, I get very excited. During the pandemic I decided to put together a Viking outfit on the off-chance I would ever get to do author events again and I’m very glad now that I did. I could have taken the easy way out and just bought one online, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, I started to look at how I could do some of it myself. It was great research, if nothing else, as some of my heroines have to make their own clothes.

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The Language of Romance

Award Ceremony 2018Nicola here. Today I’m talking about the sort of words that people use to describe romance and romantic fiction. In four days, I step down as Chair of the UK Romantic Novelists Association. It’s been an interesting couple of years, sometimes challenging, always busy, but incredibly rewarding to be a part of an organisation that is so involved with the business of romantic fiction. I love the RNA and I love the fact that organisations like it exist to support, celebrate and promote the romance genre. Together with readers, bloggers, writers and all fans of the genre we make up a very loyal band. We’re lucky; we have discovered the joy that reading romantic fiction can bring.

One of the issues of which I have become hyper-aware over the last couple of years is that of the Ming_Dynasty_Wardrobe
language that is used by critics to describe romantic fiction. I’ve always been aware of romantic fiction’s literary reputation – at the very start of my writing career a friend told me how she covered my books in brown paper bags because they were a guilty pleasure. (At least she was eco-friendly about it!)   This is hardly a new phenomenon. My grandmother used to hide her genre fiction at the back of her wardrobe. The RNA itself was formed 60 years ago next year to try to tackle the prejudice that there was in the press towards romantic fiction.

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Confessions of an Award Ceremony Organiser!

WinnerNicola here, and today I am talking about award ceremonies, those amazing, glittering, special occasions that always run like clockwork, right? Hmm…

I love a good award ceremony. The glamour, the excitement in the air, the love in the room… And hopefully The empty room no mistakes when it comes to announcing the winners! A couple of weeks ago I was in a taxi heading across London to the Romantic Novelists’ Association 2017 award ceremony in the beautiful location of the Gladstone Library in Whitehall Place. When I arrived and threw open the doors to make my entrance… The room was empty because it was three o’clock in the afternoon and the awards didn’t start until six and between now and then an awful lot of things had to happen. In fact it was a transformation worth of Cinderella!

Of course, all the planning starts a long time in advance. The room was booked last year, the refreshments ordered, the seating plan organised, the trophies engraved and the photographer engaged. So really it was a question of bringing it all together: Decorating the room, greeting the guests and ironing out any little issues along the way. And there, of course, is the fly in the ointment, because something unexpected is always going to happen whenever you organise a big event.

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Ask A Wench – Plans for 2017!

Crystal ball and boardPlans can be a wonderful thing. They can give us a shape and structure for the time ahead. At the same time we’re also all aware of the old saying “Man plans, God laughs.” The best laid plans, as Robert Burns pointed out, so often go awry. Today the Word Wenches are sharing some of their plans for 2017, writing and otherwise, and we’re asking you to tell us what you have lined up this year.

Pat: If I actually stopped to think about my plans for 2017, I’d probably run screaming for the nearest margarita. But I’ve learned if I just sit at my desk every day and pound the keyboard, eventually, it all gets Rice_TheoryofMagic600 done. My plans include releasing three more Unexpected Magic books in 2017, all of which are currently in various stages of development. We will not talk about all the editorial and promotional work that they need on top of the actual writing.

If I stay focused on that keyboard, I hope to have the final segment of the Genius mystery series ready by fall. I have five backlist Regencies in the computer, waiting for a final edit, covers, yadda yadda. So if you enjoy those old Regency stories, they’re coming. Eventually.And for those of you who follow my misadventures in moving, we’ve just sold another house and are tentatively looking around, wondering if we ought to tackle another. We’re not leaving this area, but once we run out of things to fix up, we get itchy for more DIY fun. So until that’s decided, we’re not planning any fancy trips. Yet. The son is showing an interest in New Zealand though…

Susanna here, happy to be starting 2017 closer to the end of my current work-in-progress, Bellewether, and hoping to be able to turn it in to my editors before the snow melts. Fingers firmly crossed. Then, in between the inevitable revisions and copyedits, I’ll be starting work on my very first ever novella, as part of the collaborative effort I’m doing with Anna Lee Huber, Christine Trent, and C.S. Harris—a book of linked novellas (tentatively titled The Jacobite’s Watch) that follows an infamous, possibly cursed pocket watch as it passes from owner to owner over the course of two centuries, carrying secrets. With luck I might be finished that before I head to Portland for the Historical Novel Society’s American conference in June. I have some other travel lined up for the year—it’s mostly conferences: Atlanta in the spring for the Romantic Times convention, Orlando in July for the Romance Writers of America National conference, and Surrey, B.C., in October for the always awesome Surrey International Writer’s conference, but I’m squeezing in a research trip for the NEXT book as well, which should be fun. 

Black SwanAndrea/Cara: I should have asked Santa to bring me an extra 8 hours a day for the coming year as it already feels like 2017 is going to be a very busy time. I have a new Regency-set mystery series coming out—MURDER IN BLACK SWAN LANE releases in July—so there will be a lot of promo things to do. Not to speak of being deep in the throes of writing Book Two! I’ve also been delving deeper into indie publishing. I recently got the rights back to my Lady Arianna Regency mysteries and this month I re-released them in e-books, with new covers and a new low price. It’s been interesting learning the tech side of the business, and I’ve also enjoyed the left brain-right brain engagement of using my graphic design training to create my own cover designs. Also on the To-Do List is to finish the traditional Regency I’ve been noodling in my spare (!) time and getting that up sometime in late summer. Stepping outside the writing cave, another endeavor I’ll be spending time on is serving as a mentor/academic advisor to freshmen at my old college. It’s really fun and rewarding to work with students. Their energy and enthusiasm—honestly, the things they manage to juggle makes ME feel like a slug—is inspiring, and in turn I hope I can give some useful advice. Then lastly, there’s the Wish List—I’m hoping I can somehow swing a trip to London this year. I haven’t been there in quite a while, and I love exploring the city and all its wonderful small museums (like the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.)

Nicola: As 2017 begins, some plans are coming to fruition here whilst others are just starting. Ethel the guide dog puppy is heading Ethel bookshop off to training school next month and all being well will qualify as a fully-fledged guide dog this year. We are so proud of her! I’m completing my third dual timeframe novel, which will be out later this year. This one is set at beautiful Lydiard Park, near Swindon, and the entwined stories are set in the Georgian era and present day.

A role that’s likely to keep me busy from May is Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I’ve been a member since I was first published 18 years ago and I am both honoured and a little bit daunted to be taking this on but I love the RNA and the way in which it supports writers and I will do my very best for it. Finally I’ll be first through the door when Ashdown House re-opens in April, eager to start my guided tours again!

Crystal ballSusan: This year I have lots of irons in the fire and they're starting to glow. I'm looking forward to the release of a new (new!) historical romance, and I'll share more about that in a few months. Just now I'm slogging in the dark, deep deadline tunnel with that one, head down, headlamp on. I've also got a couple of exciting fiction projects in the works that aren't ready for prime time yet, but will be fun to talk about once I have more details! At home, I'm thinking the walls need fresh paint, the basement needs clearing, and some of this Stuff needs to go with its rightful owners, our kids. I love change, so I'll be happily moving furniture and maybe swap whole rooms for the fun (and feng shui!) of it. There's definitely travel in my forecast this year, but that's still under discussion–not sure where yet! The next several months will bring lots of great surprises. Wish I could say more–where's that crystal ball . . .   

Anne: I'm going to be pretty busy in 2017. I've started a new series, and the first one, MARRY IN HASTE comes Marry in Hasteout in May. I'm also hoping to self-publish a couple of short e-books, only one of which is finished so far. I haven't self-published any books before, so it's a big learning curve for me. As well, I'm doing a bit of teaching — running writing workshops in Sydney, Brisbane, and in New Zealand, (see links on my website) and all of those will involve a bit of travel. With any luck I'll add a holiday to my New Zealand trip. It's a beautiful country, and though I've been there many times, it's always wonderful. As well, there are changes on the home front, and though I'm looking forward to the final result, the process is a bit daunting. Stay tuned.

Joanna here, nattering on about her plans for the year. It's a good time for me to be doing this. I just finished — well almost close to about finished except for the copyedits — Beauty Like the Night. This means most parts of my brain are leaning back and thinking around the edges of the next story.

This is the part of my process when I wander around bumping into things, trying to dream up new characters and new places. New adventures. I also talk the ear off anybody who doesn't flee in a determined and convincing manner, asking them things like, "If the protagonists are late teens is everybody going to think it's a Young Adult story?" and "Are you okay with a 'Happy For Now' instead of a 'Happy Ever After'?" and "Does this [insert fairly ridiculous premise] sound plausible?"

BulbsSo I'm planning on writing, of course, and planting bulbs and refinishing a black stone table that has become all scratched and carrying in lots of firewood and writing and finding some type of coffee I deeply admire and enjoy. These are not ambitious plans for refurbishing body, mind, and spirit but they suit me.

Mary Jo here, contemplating my plans for the year. I don't really make resolutions, but January does usually bring a sense of possibilities, and since it's generally a quiet month, a fair amount of work can be done.

For books, Once a Rebel, the long awaited story of the enigmatic Gordon, "Lady Agnes Westerfield's one failure," will be out in September, and I'm now gnawing away at the third book of the Rogues Redeemed spin-off trilogy.   Just in the last few days, I realized that the setting I'd thought I'd use for book 3 simply doesn't excite me.   It's worthy, important, blah, blah, blah, but despite research, I couldn't come up with a single spark of enthusiasm.

So I've jumped the shark into a completely new direction: new setting, new characters, now plot. <g> We want to be excited by our stories because we spend so much time with them!

In other bookly news, I'm trying to revert the rights to three more backlist series. Stay tuned! And this is the year I publish two or Gorgeous island
three backlist collections of my shorter works. Really.   I will!

On the private side, there will be a couple of cruises this year, one quite soon into warm waters and small islands, and a longer one this fall to far northern and much colder islands!

As for the rest of life this year–well, we'll see. New and unexpected things always emerge.   <G>

And now it’s over to you. Are you a planner or do you like to see where life takes you – or a bit of both? Do you have any exciting possibilities heading your way this year, or is a year of peace and serenity the nicest thing that could happen?