Thursday, 3 January 2019

Book Release News and Writing Plans for 2019!

Happy New Year everyone, hope you all had a fab Christmas. I spent the week in gorgeous Northumberland, drinking prosecco, celebrating an 80s Wham Christmas (as well as the real thing), watching The Greatest Showman with my mum, doing a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, eating too much and visiting the best bookshop in the world (Barter Books in Alnwick, in case you need to know) - so doing all the important stuff, basically.

2018 was a good writing year for me and as a result I've already got 3 new Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern books written and scheduled for release in 2019... Yay! (Sometimes I even amaze myself?!)

Book Releases for 2019 (so far):

Carrying the Sheikh's Baby - January 2019 (that's like, now, folks!)

Hired by the sheikh… And expecting the royal heir!

When shy, academic Cat Smith is hired as a researcher by Sheikh Zane Ali Nawari Khan, she’s thrilled—and completely dazzled by their overwhelming chemistry! Cat knows a fling could compromise her professional credibility, but resisting Zane’s sensual caress feels utterly impossible. Until their passionate encounter has lasting consequences… Now carrying the heir to the kingdom means one thing—Cat must become Zane’s queen!

Claiming My Untouched Mistress - April 2019

I’ve drawn her into my world… And she’s mine to awaken!

Walking into my casino, Edie Spencer seemed like a spoilt heiress—until she agreed to clear her family’s debts by posing as my temporary mistress. My plan? To use her to expose my business rivals. Yet discovering Edie’s innocence has led to greater temptation than I could have imagined. Our chemistry is spectacular—now I’ll claim Edie for so much more than pleasure!

Contracted As His Cinderella Bride - August 2019
No blurb/cover yet... But here's my teaser trailer:
When London cycle courier Alison Jones delivers a wedding ring to French property billionaire Dominic LeGrand one rain-soaked night in Bloomsbury, they can't keep their hands off each other. It is the beginning of a tumultuous ride that will include the chance to realise her dream of becoming a fashion designer ... If only she can stop herself from falling head over heels in love with her new husband of convenience!!

Writing and Other Plans for 2019!

January 14th: I'll be doing a Take Over Day at The Pink Heart Society's Aspiring Authors Group on Facebook, so if you have questions about writing you want to put to me go join the group!

February 25th: I'll be starting a new run of my 7-week online Writing Romance Course at the Professional Writing Academy... If you want a taster session for the course, check out the week-long free workshop I'm running on the PHS AA group in February on Creating Compelling Characters... Another great reason to join this wonderful FB group for aspiring romance writers... I'll have more details of that on Twitter and FB when I know the dates.

Kasim and Kasia's Pinterest Board!
I'm already back at the coal face writing my next Presents, which is going to be a sequel of sorts to my January book - Carrying the Sheikh's Baby. So if you enjoyed Kasia and Kasim from that book, you may enjoy this one, suffice it to say there's going to lots of hot desert sex, some jet-setting in London and the Med, an accidental pregnancy and much more in store for these two! Oh my.

My other writing plans for this year include writing more Presents, hopefully another Rodeo book for Tule - featuring the oldest O'Connell brother, Gabe, who appears in The Rodeo Cowboy's Baby. I'm also working on a new women's fiction novel, whenever I can find the time, about a run-down arthouse cinema in Notting Hill, the plucky young manager who has just inherited half of it after the death of her best friend and mentor...  and the movie-hating Manhattan property developer who has inherited the other half... Wish me luck on that!

I love making plans for the new year, how about you? The only think I have to do now is start making them happen!!

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Less Is More: How to write a Short Romance Story

I love writing short stories and novellas and it just so happens that this summer I got asked to write TWO in the space of a few weeks by Harlequin Mills and Boon.

The first was a 2k-word story for Mills and Boon's Places to Fall in Love campaign, which was celebrating the top ten best places to fall in love in Britain. The brief: my story had to be set at #8 in the poll, The Minack Theatre in Cornwall...

The second story had to be 1k words or less (eek!) and was going to be added to an exclusive 3-in-1 for ASDA supermarket next Valentine's Day. The brief: it had to be set on or around Valentine's Day!

Now obviously, you don't always get a brief for a short story. But the challenge of a short story, in romance as in any other genre, is always the same, managing to fit a whole story arc in the space of a few words. With romance that means managing to have an inciting incident, emotional turning points, a black moment and a resolution however many words you have! A popular misconception with short stories is to believe that they're easier to write because they're shorter... Umm, no. If anything the short word count makes them harder. But the really great thing about them, for any aspiring writer - or even a seasoned one like myself - is that they require you to focus on the best of your craft, while also letting your imagination run wild. Structure, pace, Point of View shifts, characterisation, setting, etc all have to be tightly controlled in a short story, but you mustn't allow that to limit the story you tell, quite the opposite really, your craft should help you pack in all that emotion and relationship dynamic in a powerful way...

My Pinterest Board for The Fundamental Things!

So here are my suggestions for figuring out how to do that while deconstructing a 6k-word story I wrote several years ago called The Fundamental Things for the Romantic Novelists Associations Truly Madly Deeply collection.

When attempting to write a short story or novella in the romance genre, the most important thing to do first of all is make sure the story you want to tell is suitable for a shorter word count. That's really the main guiding principle. Ask yourself several key questions: How much do your couple have to resolve? Can you establish and resolve those conflicts convincingly in a shorter word count?

So, for example, you could go with a shorter time frame (eg: my ASDA story takes place in a super-market check-out queue). Or simply finish the story at a positive place so the reader knows this couple will sort out their existing conflicts because they have the will to do so...

But don't think that means simplifying or lessening your couple’s conflicts, in fact the reverse can be true.

Here's how I developed The Fundamental Things structured around that principle: The first thing I decided to do was have the story happen all in one scene - so literally over about thirty minutes in real time - and in one location (so no need for lots of lengthy setting descriptions!). I didn't want any other people involved, because I wanted to keep my couple totally focused on each other, so that led me to the idea of using a 'forced proximity’ narrative - basically I had them get stuck in a lift together... Now obviously, if this had been two strangers it would have been very hard, if not impossible to tell a whole story arc in half an hour, so I decided to give them a massive back story to resolve! Namely they had been lovers as teenagers - which was 20+ years ago now - she had gotten pregnant, they'd agreed she would have an abortion, but he had left her at the clinic and then he had never responded when she told him she had decided to have the baby. And they never saw each other again, until they get stuck in the lift and much to her horror he recognises her. What she doesn't know is that he was shipped off to Italy by his mother and never got any of her letters (luckily this would have been the early 90s so no social media, email, mobile phones, etc - which was why I put them in their late thirties!!) so he doesn't know she's had the child or that he's a father! So when they got stuck in the lift together - her thinking he'd deliberately abandoned her and rejected their child and him still feeling guilty about the abortion he thought she'd had which he hadn't supported her through - it led to LOTS of things to resolve. But it could be convincingly done, because of course once the misconceptions were cleared up, and they'd both gotten over the initial shock, all the feelings they'd had as teenagers for one another, before that 'accidental betrayal', could be revisited but with their newfound maturity and the newfound knowledge of what had actually happened between them. He hadn’t deliberately abandoned her or their child – in fact, the reason he left the clinic was because he couldn’t bear to be there during the termination. The hero, of course, actually had more to resolve than the heroine - having always wanted to be a father (his marriage had eventually broken down several years before when he came to the realisation he wanted children and his wife didn’t) - to discover he is one and has been one for 20 years is both shocking and devastating and wonderful all at the same time. By the time they're let out of the lift, we know he's going to meet his now grown up son, and they do share a tender kiss which gets a bit heated, so there is also the suggestion that they still desire each other, but obviously there's still a lot to work through, because she's been a single mum all these years, she lied and told her son his father was dead because she didn’t want him to know his father hadn’t wanted him but also because it was too painful for her to talk about that betrayal, he doesn't know his son and has missed his son’s whole childhood, etc. But I left them in a place where hopefully the reader knows that they will both work really hard to make the most out of what they have found together again...

The important thing to remember with this example is that the more conflict you have, the easier it can sometimes be to keep the story focused and emotionally intense – which will also lift pace and reduce the need for long descriptive passages, lengthy examinations of internal thought, etc.

In other words, the most important thing is to construct a story that will benefit from that shorter word count, not be confined or restricted by it. Don’t attempt to concertina a story which needs more exposition, internal thought, secondary characters, etc into a shorter format or your story will feel rushed and incomplete.

When actually writing your story, the shorter the word count the more you need to keep a handle on your craft, make it work for you. But here are a few of my top tips to keep you focused on telling your story in the most focused way possible:

  • Make sure you start on a point of action, so you're not wasting words on lots of back story or internal thought or scene setting.
  • Only tell the reader exactly as much as they need to know, ie: they don’t have to know everything you know as a writer about your characters, they just need to know enough to understand their goals/motivations/conflicts.
  • Remember less is more when it comes to description. Hone your writing to make those passages really pop in the reader's imagination. ie: – if the setting is integral to the story, find ways to describe it in concise evocative ways using more than just what it looks like. How does this place smell, sound, feel, too? Use dialogue and physical cues wherever possible to get your characters establishing and confronting and resolving their conflicts through their interaction with each other rather than in their internal thought.
  • I find it's easier to use a shorter time frame for this format - having the action take place over a few hours, night, a weekend, a few days, etc. - because it keeps the action intense and focused. But that's just a personal preference of mine (and because I always like to make things as easy as possible for myself!)

Interestingly, many of these tips also work for a story with a longer word count, too. And explains why attempting to write a short story or novella is such a great way to hone your craft as a writer...

I once asked bestselling romance author Linda Howard at a conference lecture she was giving about her career how I should go about making the break from writing series or category romance books (ie: books with a 50k word count) to longer Single Title books – something she had been remarkably successful at. Her answer was simple but succinct: ‘write a bigger book’. But what she meant was, not write a longer book, but write one that requires that longer word count. Write a book with a bigger story to tell. Because the most important thing to remember when writing any type of genre fiction, whatever the word count, is that no words should be wasted, each and every one of them is important and should be doing something within your story, no matter how many, or how few of them, there are. For that reason, when writing a short story, you are also learning how not to waste a single word!

If you are an author interested in writing in the romance genre and would like to learn more about the skills required, wherever you are in your writing journey, I tutor Writing Romance, a 7-week online course for The Professional Writing Academy. We do weekly sessions covering everything from how to craft effective dialogue, writing compelling scenes of intimacy, to handling emotional turning points and much more using reading extracts and writing exercises. You'll be learning in the PWA's innovative online classroom with a group of other writers, getting lots of feedback from them, while also getting specific focused feedback from me on your work each week. And we always finish the course with a longer piece of writing - which can be a short story! I love teaching this course, because it gives me so much insight into this fascinating process, as well as sharing the love with other writers. Our next course kicks off on February 25th so why not treat yourself for 2019? 

Friday, 5 October 2018

#TickledPink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

It's Breast Cancer Awareness month n October, so tomorrow (Saturday 6th October) my sister Julia and I are going to be at ASDA in Cambridge (where she actually lives!) from 1-4pm collecting for #TickledPink with the proceeds going to Breast Cancer Now and Breast Cancer Care. Our wonderful aunt Angela has battled breast cancer - and sadly lost both her sisters to the disease - so it's a cause close to our hearts.

If you are shopping in the store that day, or just happen to be in the area do come and find us if you want to chat about writing and/or romance and, of course, to donate (we'll be the two women of a certain age wearing very fetching Mills&Boon #TickledPink T-shirts - which are blue - maniacally shaking buckets).

As it happens Mills and Boon are also donating 10% of the cover price of all pink stickered books sold in ASDA stores this month - so don't forget to pick one of those up while you're at it, too, – happy ending guaranteed! I'll have some of my own books to give away free to people who donate or buy a stickered book!!

Just some of the other M&B authors participating tomorrow include:

Kate Hardy at 10am-1pm ASDA Norwich
Kate Walker at 10am-1pm ASDA Scunthorpe
Pippa Roscoe at 11am-2pm ASDA Bury St Edmunds
Michelle Styles 11am-4pm ASDA Carlisle
Marguerite Kaye 11am-4pm ASDA Govan
Annie Burrows 2-3pm ASDA Westbrook
Janice Preston 1-4pm ASDA Halosowen
Annie O'Neil at 2-5pm ASDA Eastbourne
Liz Fielding at 10am-1pm ASDA Crawley
Chantelle Shaw at 1-4pm ASDA Folkestone
Rachael Stewart at 1-4pm ASDA Shipley
Michelle Smart at 11am-1pm ASDA Milton Keynes
Ellie Darkins at 10am-1pm ASDA Leamington Spa
Christy McKellen from 11am ASDA Bristol Whitchurch

You can check out the full list here..

So come on down and give us some love!!

Sunday, 19 August 2018

My Amazing Summer, With Book Release News and more...

Ready to party at Bestival...
Moi en famille avec chien! At the amazing Chateau Les Arcis
So it's been a long hot summer here in the UK which is finally drawing to a close, and I've had one heck of a fabulous summer - going on a spectacular family holiday to an amazing chateau in Burgundy France (which is definitely appearing in a book one day!) and doing my annual jaunt to Bestival (a music festival in the South West of England) with my sister, our twenty-something kids and my mum's campervan. Somehow or other, in between the eating and drinking and sun-bathing and swimming and bopping to the likes of Rudimental and Chaka Khan and covering myself in glitter, I also managed to find some time to write!

Writing News

Hot, Hot, Hot! My Pinterest page for Claiming My Untouched Mistress...
So I'm over-joyed to announce that my 26th Harlequin book was accepted a few days ago! It's my first 1st person book - written in the first person of both the hero and the heroine – and was inspired by the film Molly's Game (ie: it opens with a very sexy poker game in the hero's Monaco casino) and my trip to the Cote D'Azur last year. Claiming My Untouched Mistress is scheduled for release next March, but before that I have TWO new releases coming out this month and next month - told you I'd been busy!

My Latest Releases

Bound By Their Scandalous Baby is my next Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern book and is on bookshelves RIGHT NOW! It features hot-as-hell hotel tycoon Lukas Blackstone, desperate virgin Bronte O'Hara, a secret baby (or rather toddler), a marriage of convenience AND an accidental pregnancy (as you can probably tell, Lukas and Bronte are over-achievers!).

The Rodeo Cowboy's Baby is the last book in Tule Publishing's 79th Copper Mountain Rodeo series and hits digital bookshelves on 18th September. It features lovelorn Irish journalist Evie Donelly, and gorgeous calf-roper Flynn O'Connell who have three hot nights at the rodeo that they are never going to be able to forget because... Well, the clue's in the title. BTW if you're a member of the fabulous Tule Book Club on Facebook I'll be taking part in a launch party for the series tomorrow at 3pm PST (which is 11pm in the UK!).

Ever Wanted to Write Your Own Romance Novel?

If you've got your own fabulous romance story locked inside you, or are simply looking to up your romance game as a writer, I'm going to be kicking off a new run of my Writing Romance course at the Professional Writing Academy on September 17th - this is a 7-week online course which I tutor. I cover everything from writing compelling sex scenes to how to develop unique, multi-layered characters and plotting a romance, we use extracts from some of my favourite books. You'll gets lots of feedback on your writing exercises from me and from the other writers on the course. And you can access the online classroom from anywhere on the globe so it's open to you wherever you happen to be. So if you've ever wanted to write a romance novel, check it out!

Newsletter, Schmoozeletter

As you have probably noticed I don't do a lot of blogging anymore - because I'm way too busy writing and bopping and generally being a bit useless about updating this blog. I'll still be popping in here from time to time, but if you want to keep more up to date with my current releases and competitions, etc you can always sign up for my newsletter here or by using the handy little form on the right.

So that's all from me folks, have a fabulous Fall and happy reading.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Happy New Year and a Happy New Look for Mills and Boon!

So I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas and you're all settling in for some equally fab New Year celebrations... Or if you're in Oz you're already hunkering down to work off that hangover!

I had a busy and exciting year in 2017 writing-wise. Managing to publish my first classic Presents, Vows They Can't Escape, in Feb was a major milestone for me. In March I joined up with wonderful authors Kaylie Newell, Kate Hardy, Patricia W Fischer and Jeannie Moon to write the Men of Marietta series for Tule - which kicked off with my book Tempting the Deputy! And then in July I had the digital release of my second longer women's fiction book for HQ Stories, Summer at Willow Tree Farm. In September my second classic Presents, The Virgin's Shock Baby was out and then in October and November, I enjoyed tutoring Writing Romance, my seven-week online course for The Professional Writing Academy, for a new group of writers. With all that going on I'm actually kind of amazed that I managed to finish two more books for Presents - one is due out next April - Captive at Her Enemy's Command is the sequel to The Virgin's Shock Baby - and I've just finished revisions on the second which is scheduled for release in September. I'm still waiting to hear back from my poor over-worked editor on my Nano-Sheikh story which I completed during NaNoWriMo! Needless to say I have big plans for 2018, to hopefully write at least three more Presents, another book for Tule (a rodeo cowboy this time!!) and I'm exploring ideas for several longer women's fiction books I want to write.... And we're also doing another run of Writing Romance kicking off on February 5th, so if you've ever wanted to write romance yourself, or are already a romance writer who is struggling to get your writing to the next level and want seven intensive weeks of writing and learning with a group of other like-minded authors and tuition and feedback from a USA Today bestselling author, then start the new year right and sign up....

Wow! I'm exhausting myself just thinking about all that. But that's the way it should be, having new projects to look forward to is always the best place to be if you're a writer.

But enough about me! Also in the new year is the long awaited Mills and Boon Makeover in the UK... Mills and Boon authors learned all about the new look for our books in September at a top secret meeting after our annual author lunch. I'm not gonna lie, I LOVE the new look. Clean, cool, and fiercely contemporary, the new cover design says everything that needs to be said about Mills and Boon in the 21st century – that while it may be a heritage brand with a long history that authors and editors alike are justifiably proud of for supplying readers with that shot of escapism from their every day lives – there's nothing old school about the content of these little books with a big heart! We write smart, sexy, fiercely contemporary stories for today's readers, so I'm super excited that the look of the books will now reflect that. I hope it will attract a whole new readership to our stories who've never realised before now how much they are gonna love these stories!! Because seriously, what's not to love about reading stories where women (and men) get what they want and, perhaps more importantly, what they need out of positive, empowering relationships? Life can be hard in today's world where everything seems to move so far, so fast, and it sometimes feels like there's not nearly enough compassion, enough empathy, enough kindness (especially on Twitter!). So why not take a break from all that real-life angst and enjoy watching two other people work out their problems knowing they are guaranteed to get their happy ever after (if they work hard enough for it) and you don't have to lift a finger!! Do feel free to tell me what you think in the comments.

I'm so excited about the Mills and Boon makeover I'm putting my money - or rather one of my author copies - where my mouth is and giving away a copy of my first new look book on Goodreads. Call Me Cupid is a By Request 3-in-1 featuring stories by me, the lovely Fiona Harper and the lovely Nina Harrington.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Call Me Cupid by Heidi Rice

Call Me Cupid

by Heidi Rice

Giveaway ends January 05, 2018.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Good luck to everyone who enters.... And whatever happens have a wonderful 2018! Full of love, light and great reading.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

How I Succeeded at #NaNoWriMo2017 in 10 Super-Smug Top Tips!

Before I begin this blog about my startling NaNoWriMo journey this year... I give fair warning to anyone who is still doing it and has only hit 10k (which was me a few years back!) they may want to step away from this blog, unless of course you think my uber smug ramblings will inspire you.

Proof of my Awesomeness...
So, a little context. For the last four years I have done NaNoWriMo... In non-writer speak that's National Novel Writing Month, in which people all over the world attempt to write a 50k novel in a month during the month of November with the help of NaNoWriMo's handy website. To be fair, this fabulous, inclusive, supportive, writerly endeavour is really aimed at people doing a full time job, as opposed to writers like me whose full-time job is actually writing. So I already had a head start. I have all day to write, I don't have to take my laptop to work and squeeze in word count during my lunch break or after work on the train home or whatever.

But even with this huge boon, I have still managed to struggle to write a whole book in that space of time. There are a number of reasons for this.. Sometimes life gets in the way even if you're a writer, sometimes you have to stop to do revisions on another book, sometimes it's just too exhausting - writing all day, every day for thirty days is a marathon whatever way you look at it. But perhaps the most frequent reason I fail at NaNo is.. THE DARN BOOK JUST ISN'T WORKING!! And half way through the month I falter and fall flat on my face (I so need a gif here of a writer faceplanting on their keyboard). When I am simply no longer able to add word count to a heaving pile of poop that I know is going nowhere. And let's face it, that can happen to anyone. The NaNo theory is you just keep writing and polish the turd later into a glorious gleaming golden book and very, VERY occasionally I can do that, but most of the time I can't because I find myself putting words into my characters mouths or thoughts into their heads and I don't know where the heck they are coming from and as a result my story makes no sense, my characters become cardboard cutouts saying what I want them to say, not what they should be saying... And well, you get the picture, continuing to write when that happens is a complete waste of my time. I have to go back and fix it...

That basically happened the first two times I did NaNo. And after crashing out at around 10k the first time and 17k the next I felt pretty despondent, I'm not gonna lie. But then last year, I got a lucky break. I'd been working on this particular book for months already and had the Heidi Face Plant Effect with it, so I decided to scrap it and start re-writing it from scratch on 1st November with NaNo to spur me on.... I raced through that 50k book, I used a few scenes from the previous attempts but at least 45k of it was new writing, and declared myself a winner. Because strictly speaking I was. But I knew I'd had a bit of help, because I'd tried and failed so many times with these two characters and this story already, I knew them inside and out by the time I sat down to write that story... The result was a book called The Virgin's Shock Baby which I ended up loving, the words just flowed during that November, and although I did have to do some revisions on it (because I have yet to manage to write a book which does not require them!) the main bones of the story, the characters and their conflicts, all the key scenes were there. Which is pretty impressive and pretty huge IMHO... *Heidi pats self on the back here* (see what I meant about smug?)

Now as luck would have it, The Virgin's Shock Baby came out this October, so while I was doing publicity for it and I got to thinking at the beginning of October...

Can I do that again? But from actual ground zero this time. Can I repeat that remarkable, uplifting writing experience, with a book that I hadn't even written a synopsis for? Let alone any words? Now at this point, and one of the other reasons why I was considering doing NaNo again was that several things aligned...

Top Tip 1: Incentivise Yourself: 

At the end of October I had just handed in another book and was waiting to hear back from my editor on it. I had one book to submit left on my current contract which had actually been due at the end of October, but which I was already late with because the first book in this particular 3-book contract had nearly killed me, took a tortuous six months to write and pushed all my deadlines back several months... So if I could get this next book out in a month it would make up for that nightmare book's messing with my writing schedule. It'd still be a month late, but it would put me right back on track. So I had a lot of incentive - money-wise - to commit to NaNo!

Top Tip 2: Brainstorm/Plot Something, Anything, Before You Start

Inspiration - Texas-style
Just to be clear I am a pantser... I don't as a rule plot. But you do need some semblance of an idea before you start.. For me I got round to this as a result of another fortuitous thing that happened in October... I went on a ten-day road trip to Texas with my best mate right at the beginning of the month. We do this every couple of years, because we love each other and we love discovering and re-discovering the hidden corners of the US (we met while doing a Comparative American Studies degree at Warwick, nuf said!) and it's a great way to enjoy just being ourselves - as well as mums, and wives, and workers, etc. (There is a reason why one of our favourite movies is Thelma and Louise - although we always leave out the driving off a cliff bit!) Anyhow, this year we ended up doing a five hour drive one day through the Big Bend then along the border country on I-90 from Marfa to Fort Clark Springs... The desert landscape was rich and evocative and during the drive I brainstormed an idea for my first Sheikh book with my best mate. I'd had an unformed idea mulling about in my head for a book in which the heroine was a ghost writer who was commissioned by the hero... That was it, that was all I had. Now, my best mate is not a writer, or a romance reader but as we chatted about my characters, their backstories, what their motivations were, we refined the story, discovering some of the key themes, the plot points, etc and ended up with a much better semblance of an idea for this book with her playing Devil's Advocate. For example, I'd discovered my hero was a royal personage of some description who wanted my heroine to write a hagiography of his dead father - the former ruler of a secretive oil-rich kingdom. In reality his father was a despot, but the hero wanted to hide this as he brought democracy to his kingdom, but he hadn't counted on my heroine's thirst for truth and knowledge or the insane sexual chemistry that they shared, etc, etc.. These were just a few of the things we discovered about the story
Brainstorming is Us
during our drive...  Which just goes to show folks, if you don't already know this, as a writer you can work anywhere, even when you're driving a car... Unfortunately we got a bit too into our brainstorming at one point and ended up getting pulled over for speeding! At that point, as we sat in the car watching the highway cop saunter towards us with his gun on his hip things got a bit too Thelma and Lou... But luckily the officer who stopped us was an absolute sweetheart and only gave us a caution (he is so ending up in a book one day!)... Anyway, the caution and the 'crapping ourselves' moment was worth it, because when I got back to the UK, I had enough of an idea for this book to slap up a synopsis on my NaNoWriMo page in late October. BTW that synopsis is nothing like the finished book, but it committed me to the process and, perhaps even better, I had a clear idea for an opening scene!

Top Tip 3: Have a Clue for Your First Scene

That first scene is pretty important when you kick off with NaNo on November 1st, because with only 30 days to write your story you have to hit the ground running... If you spend hours, or even waste your first day, trying to figure out what you're going to write for that first scene, you are screwed, because you will already be waging an uphill battle by Day 2, which is going to make it that much harder to incentivise yourself... That said, your first scene doesn't HAVE to be the opening scene for your novel like mine was - that may change during the course of the month anyway... I will cover the non-linear approach to NaNo in Top Tip 5... But before that in my personal NaNo journey this year I have ...

Top Tip 4: Go Off Piste If You Have To

Although I hit the ground running with my first scene and managed to add yet more words to it by Day 2 and was feeling pretty impressed with myself... It all went a bit pear-shaped on Day 3.. Yeah... Day 3! I was flagging because I'd completed my opening scene, I liked it, or mostly liked it, but something was not working. Already. Should I charge ahead and ignore that feeling, or take the time to stop and rewrite the scene, figure out what was wrong? Because I'd been feeling chipper and excited about my great early word count the temptation here was to forge ahead. Bollox if it's not working, I WANT MORE WORDS... But then I stopped to think. And here's the great thing about NaNo, it gives you the scope to do this. Because it gives you loads of stats. You're aiming to write 1667 words per day, which actually isn't very many if you break it down (especially if you've got the luxury of the whole day to write), so if you write extra words some days, obviously you have more leeway on others - and your NaNo novel stats will tell you exactly how much leeway you've got. So here's what I decided... It was early days, I'd got ahead, why not take advantage of that and use the extra leeway to figure out what was wrong, because I knew from my process and my previous NaNos that launching into a book that wasn't really working right from the start was a recipe for disaster which I would pay for later. I didn't get back up ahead of the curve again till Day 9 but taking that break on Day 3 to correct myself meant that I was able to keep up the forward momentum... Which is pretty important in NaNo and something you need to try and do no matter what... Which leads us to...

Top Tip 5: If a Scene's Not Working, Write Another

Some times you have the luxury of going back and rewriting... Other times you might need a bit more time to percolate a particular scene in your head.. Or maybe you're just bored with the chonological order of the story and you've got this really vivid idea of a scene that comes much later which you want to write first. This happened to me a couple of times during my NaNo story. Ordinarily I wouldn't jump ahead, because I tend to panic that I'll never want to go back and finish the other scene, or the scene I want to write might never end up in the book - I'm a bit of a completest on the sly - but with NaNo you can totally use your dogged pursuit of all things word count to free up your writing that way. And for me that turned out to be liberating.  When I actually ended up incorporating my jump-ahead scenes into the story, I had to change them quite a bit, because stuff that had gone before had changed too in between the time when I wrote it and the time I got to add it on the timeline, which is why I wouldn't recommend doing this too much - I would also advise not writing in capital letters on your ms "ADD SEX SCENE IN HERE LATER" when your son is looking over your shoulder!  But it was still cool having those jump-ahead scenes ready and waiting for me to give me a crucial road map to follow as I filled in the blanks...  For this reason I would also suggest going with ...

Top Tip 6: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

I found that while I was keen to change things up occasionally (Tip 5), and I did stop and re-edit a couple of scenes that weren't working so as not to stall my forward momentum (Tip 4)... It was also invaluable not to freak out too much about the actual quality of my writing. You know, that moment while free-writing a scene when you wince and think, oh crap did her blush just go radioactive AGAIN!! ie: that moment when you realise you've already used that stock phrase about two dozen times before in the story... I'm telling you now, don't worry about that, you can fix all that when you re-read the story, figure out a more original way to describe her blush, or maybe stop having her blush like a nun every two seconds... That's all in the finesse you'll bring to the story later. NaNo isn't about finesse or fine, finished, perfectly polished prose, it's about spewing out that rough draft in a month. And rough in my case meant rough (or even radioactive!)

Top Tip 7: Manage Your Procrastination

Now, as I said before, life sometimes will get in the way. In which case you give yourself a pass... I'm not someone who can write when my kids are sick, I'm sick, my boiler just blew up, or during the myriad other things that might go unexpectedly wrong. That said, I am also someone who loves to procrastinate... Procrastination is not life getting in the way, people. It's you getting in the way of your writing. Now, that said, I also am not someone who can do NO procrastinating at all for a whole month. I would have to cut off my fingers and blow up my modem to achieve that... I love social media, I'm addicted to fricking Instagram at the minute (thank you so much to my sons for introducing me to that handy timesuck) and I also love to go on trips. With that in mind, I made sure I only agreed to one weekend away in November (more on that later in Tip 8) and I also made a concerted effort to limit my social media fiddling... I will admit that it didn't hurt at all that by the middle of the month I was so into Zane and Cat's story I was actually keen to write it, so piddling about on Facebook finding out what my spirit animal was or who I'd been in a former life (Cleopatra btw, if anyone is interested) didn't appeal as much as it usually would, but that won't always be the case. Although having said that, maybe getting into the story was actually a result of abiding by Tip 8...

Top Tip 8: Write Every Day, No Excuses

Write Everywhere & Anywhere
No excuses - except for the life getting in the way one, obviously. For me having to write every day became an issue several times during my NaNo month for a number of reasons. For starters, even though I write for a living I don't usually write on weekends (unless I'm on a screaming deadline) and I don't always write every single day, because I might have other stuff to do instead which I can convince myself is actually writing (even though it actually isn't) such as publicity for a previous book, updating my website, writing a blog. As it happens I was also tutoring my online course in Writing Romance for the Professional Writing Academy, which I love doing, so that was another thing I would happily be doing rather than writing my own story. But despite all of that, during November, I forced myself to write my story EVERY SINGLE DAY until I'd finished my book... This is another great asset of NaNo, it does push you to do this, and I have discovered, the more regularly you write, the more you get into your story and your characters, and because of that ideas start percolating, things start being revealed that only familiarity with your story and your characters can give you. I was actually waking up at night occasionally with a new idea for a scene (to be fair, that got a bit annoying, especially when I couldn't remember the idea the next day - or I did remember it and realised it was pants!). But the one day when I really really struggled to write  was during the one weekend trip I had allowed myself. This was a trip to Manchester, with my husband, who was being interviewed at a special crime writing conference at the University of Salford on the true-crime book he published in July called Hunt for the 60s Ripper. We arrived on Friday night, had a great night out in Manchester, got ever so slightly merry and didn't crash out in our room at the Premier Inn in Salford Quays until very very late... I knew I was not going to be able to write on the train home the next day (because my youngest son has kidnapped my laptop and is holding it to ransom in his uni room in Sheffield), so the only option left to me was to write in the Premier Inn the next morning while my husband headed off to the conference. I'm not gonna lie... That was hard work. Sitting in that room, somewhat hung over (more on that in Tip 10) and booting up my husband's laptop while the big cuddly bed was beckoning and I knew all sorts of cool stuff was going on in the conference. I didn't manage a huge word count that day, but I managed enough to update my word count and stay ahead of the curve... Which brings me to Tip 9.

Top Tip 9: Get Addicted to Updating Your Word Count & Other NaNo Tricks

Updating my word count obsessively definitely worked for me, incentive-wise. It was one of the things that got me sitting my butt in the chair each day, unplugging my internet and forcing myself to put words on paper, because I wanted to see where I was on the curve, wanted to get that little badge saying I'd updated my count five days in a row, or reached a particular milestone, etc. On those days when I had found it hard to write, or my procrastination management took a hit, I got into updating my word count every time I took a screen break, just to convince myselt that I had made some progress. During my normal writing life, I write in the mornings, but because of my word count update addiction, I discovered that on days when I'd been farting around too much I would have to write in the afternoon or even the evening to get those words done. The NaNo site also offers other incentives to writing. Find what works for you - maybe chatting in the community forum, or doing one of your local write ins at a coffee shop.... But whatever it is, use it. And keep updating that word count.

Top Tip 10: Keep Fit and Don't Get Pissed Too Much

View from the morning run!
This is a special tip for those of us (like moi) who do sedentary jobs and are no longer under 25 anymore. I'm not entirely sure how much this helped with my creativity and productivity - because sometimes those things can be down to other factors too, like your characters actually talking to you! - but for me I did two things this November which I think really helped. The first thing I had actually started during the summer and had nothing to do with NaNo specifically. I started running regularly. Don't get me wrong, I am not a runner, I have never been a runner but I discovered that I was rarely using my gym membership, I was turning into a lard ass, and running was the cheapest way to fix that. So in August I downloaded the brilliant NHS Couch to 5k app. If you're in the UK you can download this for free and it's a nine-week guide to starting from scratch and ending up running 5k, with lots of help from your mentor (mine is Michael Johnson, who I am now ever so slightly in love with) - but there are loads of other similar apps available to those not lucky enough to have the NHS. FYI, if I can now run for 30mins three times a week absolutely anyone can. The other thing I did health wise was I decided to stop drinking alcohol at home for the duration of November. This gave me six alcohol free nights a week instead of my usual three - so I was sleeping better, and feeling better in the morning... Of course, it also meant that when I was out and about I tended to drink too much (see Tip 8 and the Manchester debacle)... Obviously if you're not a drinker and you already walk the prescribed 10k steps a day without having to drag yourself out of bed at seven and run in the dark you're already way ahead of me... But just generally speaking, it's good to remember that writing for long periods of time is actually hard physical as well as mental activity, precisely because there's no physical activity involved. 

So there you have it, my Winning NaNoWriMo 2017 journey.... In ten super-smug Top Tips.

I sent the book wot I wrote off to my editor at Harlequin Mills & Boon yesterday, and I've yet to hear back whether she thinks it's publishable or a pile of poop (ie: I might well be feeling a little less smug shortly). But whatever happens, I will always be super proud of my NaNoWriMo 2017 Winner's Certificate. Have I mentioned that already?

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Virgin's Shock Baby is Out NOW!!

My new Harlequin Presents/Mills & Boon Modern, The Virgin's Shock Baby, is out now!! I'm super proud of this story, it has (I hope) all the passionate intensity Presents demands and an alpha hero to die for in billionaire Italian corporate raider Dario De Rossi while Megan Whittaker is a sweet, vulnerable heroine who discovers a strength she never knew she had in Dario's arms. I also had a lot of sexy fun with the Pregnesia trope, something I have never done before but ALWAYS wanted to do...

Here are some of the things readers have been saying about it:

"Overall, a fantastic read. Not to be missed." 5 stars, Brenda, Goodreads

"This was my first book to read by Heidi Rice and I LOVED IT!!!! " 5 stars, Dawn Nicholson, Goodreads

"At times an intense, passionate romantic story with strong characters in both the hero and heroine and both characters deserved the HEA. Loved it." 5 stars, Geraldine, Goodreads

I hope you'll give it a go and let me know what you think...