Author Archives: Joanna

Swanwick Conference : forgetting how a newbie feels

Swanwick main buildings and gardens

Last week, I attended The Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick for the first time. I must say that I’d forgotten what it’s like to be a writing conference newbie — I’ve been going to the RNA Conference for more years than I’m prepared to admit — and it was salutary to experience newbie-dom all over again.

(At my first RNA Conference, I wasn’t published and didn’t really know anyone. But I met loads of writers whose books I’d read and loved. I remember chatting with Nicola Cornick who was then one of my writing heroes, and still is. The RNA sort of enfolded me, from that point on, it seemed.) Continue reading

Read aloud : an author’s critical editing tool?

Read aloud: as writing tutors advise

Almost every writing tutor — including Sophie and Joanna of this parish — will tell aspiring writers that it’s a really good idea to read aloud during the editing process, in order to judge whether the manuscript needs more work. Basically, if you fall over your prose while trying to read it aloud, you haven’t got it right. Yet.

Apparently, we and all the other tutors are guilty of logocentrism. (Is that another of those incomprehensible words that Dame Isadora was ranting about, a few weeks ago? Maybe, but I haven’t been able to ask her, because she’s off in one of the wilder parts of the world, advising some government panjandrums about communication skills. I imagine her audience is still reeling…)

Logocentrism — wot?

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Explicit Sex in Romances : how often, how necessary?

woman in bed uncorks exploding champagne, metaphor for explicit sexExplicit Sex in Romances: none, lots, somewhere in between?

Explicit sex in romances is a complete turn-off for some readers. They like the bedroom door firmly closed and refuse to read any romances where it is not. That, of course, is absolutely their choice. And I have written some romances that, in my opinion, worked very well without sex scenes. Indeed, one of them — Rake’s Reward — has been called “fizzing with sex” even though it contains no explicit sex at all.

But, equally, I’ve written romances with a lot of explicit sex on the page, even though that is bound to have lost me some potential readers.

So, are there any guidelines for authors here? Continue reading

Spring colours : yellow and blue?

Spring colours : daffodils in flower among trees

Spring colours — and all aspects of spring, as we said a few weeks ago — gladden the heart. But have you ever noticed that Spring flowers are mostly yellow and blue? Think daffodils, like those above, grape hyacinths, a drift of bluebells…

mist of bluebells among trees

Spring colours: is white included?

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Easter : Just Chocolate and Fluffy Bunnies?

Easter bunnies and eggs

Image by annca from Pixabay

If we believe the torrent of adverts, Easter is just a foodie challenge, mostly directed at children (and their parents).

How much chocolate can you eat and in how many different shapes and sizes?

Monster chocolate rabbit anyone?

Easter Eggs

Straw-decorated Easter eggs, image by Jan KameníčekEaster traditions vary across the world, though a lot of them feature Easter eggs, like these beautifully straw-decorated eggs from the Czech Republic. Like jewels, aren’t they?

Not surprising that eggs feature, perhaps. Not only do eggs symbolise new life and rebirth, they were a forbidden food during Lent. There probably wouldn’t have been many about, early in the year. The old stock of eggs would have been gobbled up on Shrove Tuesday, in yummy pancakes.

Fabergé Coronation Egg by Miguel Hermoso Cuesta [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia CommonsThink of those amazing Fabergé eggs, given as gifts to the women of the Romanov family after a Russian Orthodox Easter service. Of course, Easter would usually have been later there than in non-Orthodox countries — most years, the Orthodox Easter is later than the Western Christian Easter. In 2019, the dates differ by a week. But in 2025, the dates will be 31 March and 5 May. (Children in places like Cyprus may get Easter eggs twice over, if they have friends from both communities.
Good, eh?)

Here, in the Libertà hive, we’ve been doing a little research about Easter traditions. Hive members chose their own area to pursue. (And they do not have to come clean about their level of chocolate consumption, either…) Continue reading

Spring gladdens the writer’s heart

It’s the end of March. The Vernal Equinox is past. We can properly talk about Spring.

spring sunshine, trees and snowviolets in springOf course, by the time this blog is published, it may be snowing again, but we don’t have a crystal ball here in the Libertà hive. So…

Instead, to gladden hearts and look forward to lighter, brighter days, we asked each hive member to give us a flavour of the things she most looks forward to with the coming of Spring. Violets rather than snow? Continue reading

Writing Retreats : Pleasures and Pitfalls

woman reading book in hammock against dark sky

Writing retreats do NOT include this. Sadly.

I’ve been on quite a few writing retreats. And as you read this blog, I’m probably off on another one. If you’re reading this blog after 20th March, though, you’re too late. I’m back 😉

This post is about writing retreats in general, and what I’m hoping to get out of this particular one. I’m also looking at some of the benefits of writing retreats and — sorry, but I won’t lie to you here — the pitfalls.

Writing retreats : what are they? what do writers do there?

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Libertà’s Liz Fielding wins Outstanding Achievement Award

Liz Fielding, winner of RNA's Lifetime Achievement Award 2019

Liz Fielding

Libertà author Liz Fielding is to receive the 2019 Outstanding Achievement Award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association at their prestigious award ceremony in London on 4th March 2019.

RNA President, Katie Fforde, said, “Liz Fielding’s books, with their warmth, humour and emotion, have charmed millions of readers. She is a true star of the romantic fiction genre.”

Liz has won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA® Award twice; and she also won the RNA’s RoNA Rose Award in 2005.

Liz’s books have sold over 15 million copies, in over 30 overseas markets and in 27 different languages. More info about Liz’s Outstanding Achievement Award here.

Libertà sponsors RNA’s Shorter Romantic Novel Award 2019

We are proud to announce that Libertà is sponsoring the RNA’s Shorter Romantic Novel Award 2019. All the authors in the Libertà hive have strong connections with this genre. Libertà partner, Sophie Weston explained:

Shorter Romantic fiction is as gorgeous as this Fabergé Renaissance egg

Fabergé Renaissance egg
Sadly NOT the winner’s trophy

At its best, short fiction is the Fabergé egg of our genre — intricate, gorgeous and just a little bit magical.
So Libertà is delighted to sponsor this Award, with love and appreciation of the fabulous practitioners of the form — especially those who have done so much for the RNA and are now missing, including Penny Jordan, Sara Craven, Roger Sanderson, Anne Weale, Elizabeth Harrison, Lucilla Andrews and Rosamund Pilcher (in her Jane Fraser incarnation).

Shortlisted books and more information on the Libertà website page here.

On the Beautiful Blue … Nile? Temples, Gods…and Balloons

Listening to the New Year concert from Vienna, and in particular to the lilting Strauss waltz, On the Beautiful Blue Danube, I was struck by a subversive thought: the Danube isn’t BLUE.
Danube at Budapest and text: on the Beautiful Blue Danube?

(The image above isn’t Vienna either, it’s Budapest. But that greeny/brown river is the Danube.)

And I was reminded of a trip on a river that is actually blue and which has inspired many stories over the centuries. This was my subconscious providing the inspiration. Again.

On the Beautiful BLUE … Nile?

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Inspiration : writing ideas and the subconscious

Readers are fascinated by writers’ ideas. Where do you get them from? they ask.
Over and over again.gothic fantasy woman candle mist ideas

Sometimes we writers know. And sometimes — to be frank — we don’t.

How many of us have woken up in the morning with clear ideas about a new book and no inkling about how those ideas came to be? How many of us have more ideas jostling about in our brains than we can deal with?ideas light bulb

For most of us the difficulty isn’t finding the ideas, it’s turning them into a coherent story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Here’s a case in point.

Ideas? Silver shreds for starters…

It began quite a long time ago. And it was all the fault of my crit partner, Sophie Weston of this parish… Continue reading