Happy New Year and a huge thank you to my readers who’ve stayed with me last year to now. 2023 is galloping by as did 2022, my head is still a, whirlwind of last year’s events I’m hoping this one will be calmer.
Emotionally and physically 2022 was a year of ups and downs. Family life provided many challenges and my dystonia has fought back which had an impact on productivity with projects I wished to complete. They’re still holding on to their work in progress status. But thanks to the advice from Bestseller Experiment by writing a little most days progress has been made, the word count has increased and plots have been formed so I take that as a win.
Writing wise despite challenges, I’ve had some uplifting and encouraging news these last few months from positive feedback from possible agents, the Cheshire Prize writing competition, meeting a zoom writing buddy in person for the first time in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside, to being shortlisted in the TLC mentorship. Also I received a big unexpected boost from a guardian angel which will be revealed later this year.
I’m seeing 2022 as a foundation year. My writing has changed, my confidence is more grounded and I’m able to battle the demon of self doubt easier thanks to the writing community around me. Support from fellow writers is invaluable. With thrilling news in the pipeline about their own work, 2023 promises to be littered with happy events and I can’t help feeling uplifted because of them.
The deadline to finish A Blend of Magic, a story of the Witches of Whitby may have been delayed but the characters, Willow Anderson, Amber and Rosa have taken fate into their own hands and started blogging and causing potential mayhem on social media. They share their love of books and catch up with authors at their Monday Merry Meets. Last year they caught up with Heidi Swain, Alys West and to name a few and there will more to come in the next few months. Subscribe to their blog so you don’t miss out.
I’ve read many good books and added more to my TBR pile thanks to recommendations, East Riding library service and Miranda Dickinson Chatty Things Facebook live. Her book chat and bookish community have helped the lows of life and boredom of still shielding. Books really are the ideal form of escape.
Enough rambles for now. More soon but you can keep updated on my writing journey on Instagram, Facebook and possibly Twitter – I really don’t know what’s happening there.
I’m excited to hand my blog over to historical fiction author, Rachel Brimble today for her views on whether writing gets easier the more you write. As an unpublished author with one novel written and another in progress, I can’t wait to find out the answer.
Does It Get Easier The More Books You Write?!by Rachel Brimble
I recently attended a local book fair where I was selling my books as well as advertising my First Chapter Critique service (https://rachelbrimble.com/first-chapter-critique-service/). There was a nice level of interest in my books, with many lovely historical readers complimenting my book covers or asking questions about my Edwardian and Victorian romance series. Yet, the most frequently asked questions asked were 1) “How did you start writing?” and 2) “Does writing get easier the more books you write?”
I love that so many readers dream of becoming writers as I was one of them for so many years and it seems the advent of phones, iPads and Netflix has not lessened peoples’ love of a good novel!
So, let me answer these questions…
I started writing because it was something that I had wanted to do ever since reading Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series, around the age of eight or nine. On and off through the years, I would write articles or short stories and send them to magazines and online story websites. After some success, I was encouraged enough to write a novel. So, when my youngest daughter started school full-time, I got serious about publication!
After a few rejections from other publishers, the book was accepted by The Wild Rose Press in 2007. I have been lucky enough to have at least two books a year published ever since.
Question number 2…
Unfortunately no, writing does NOT get easier the more books you write – I wish I could say differently, but I would be lying!
Writing is hard work. It is something that takes discipline and commitment. It means walking around with the skin of a rhino and smiling through the disappointments and long, long, LONG waits for publishers and agents to get back to you. It is sitting your butt in the chair in front of a blank screen, finding the words to fill it and then repeating the process 360 plus times until you have a finished novel.
Writing is HARD!
BUT…it is also the most rewarding vocation in the world (notice I say vocation, not job – this has to be the pursuit of your heart’s calling, my loves!) and it is something that gives bucketloads of satisfaction whenever an author receives a book contract, a great review, their box of paperbacks in the mail or, of course, a royalty cheque…
If you are an aspiring writer with a burning desire to write a romance or women’s fiction novel but unsure where to start, then feel free to check out my First Chapter Critique service (https://rachelbrimble.com/first-chapter-critique-service/) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about you might have about the service. I am a multi-published, bestselling romance author on a mission to help other romance writers achieve their publishing dreams! So many other writers helped me when I started out, I love paying it forward.
If, on the other hand, you are a reader rather than a writer, why not check out my latest series? If you like the Edwardian era The Shop Girl series will be for you or, if you’re more of a Victorian lady, check out the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy.
Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of 29 novels including the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin). Her latest novel, Victoria & Violet is the first book in her new Royal Maids series with the Wild Rose Press and releases 17th October 2022.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.
Today, I’m excited and pleased to pass over my blog to author, Emma Bennet to discuss starting her YouTube channel. Over to you, Emma.
Starting My YouTube Channel
Being an author is without a doubt the best job in the whole wide world, but it is a job in an industry which has changed very rapidly in recent years and is showing no signs of stopping – only recently Kindle Vella has emerged as a brand new, and very exciting opportunity for example.
There’s a huge amount of information for writers to keep up to date with nowadays, particularly if you’re an independent or hybrid author, like me.
Over the last few years, I’ve self-published some of my contemporary romance novels while others were taken on by traditional publishers. I’m extremely lucky to be able to do this, and it’s a career which simply wouldn’t have been available to me, or at least as readily available to me, even ten years ago.
Being a hybrid author means that I get all the advantages of having a toe in two parts of the publishing industry, such as the fact that my publisher spends money marketing the books I publish with them, and the higher royalties and control I have over the books I publish myself. However, there are also some disadvantages, and one of those is having to negotiate and understand twice as much as an author who is either traditionally or independently published.
I’ve learnt a huge amount over my years as an author, and am continuing to learn. Sometimes I haven’t found it easy to quickly find the information I need – I don’t want to have to wade through a four thousand word blog full of so many ads it won’t load on my laptop, or watch an hour-long tutorial. Working by yourself can also make you feel like you’re the only person experiencing the things you are, and alone in dealing with the problems and issues a lot of authors face. And so, I decided to start a YouTube channel to help other writers with these difficulties.
My aim is to provide support, advice and encouragement to aspiring as well as veteran writers. I’ll be sharing my own publishing journey as well as plenty of short (and to-the-point) how-to videos, book recommendations (particularly books on the craft of writing), and generally letting you know that I’m just as weird as you and things like weird clauses in a contract you don’t understand, and Amazon messing up formatting your paperback happens to the best of us!
Emma grew up and lived in London, before falling in love and moving to Wales to marry her own hero. Emma now lives with her husband, 4 children, and many animals a few miles outside of a small Welsh market town. She can often be found in rivers attempting to control two overexcited chocolate labradors.
Seven charming romances are currently available from the Amazon bestselling authoress:
Number 1 Australian kindle bestseller, ‘His Secret Daughter’, is the heart-rending story of Iris, a woman falling in love with the father of her child. The only problem is she never told him they had a daughter.
The beautiful landscape around her home gave Emma the inspiration for ‘The Green Hills of Home’, a tale of love and duty in which country girl Gwen struggles to save her family home and avoid her feelings for her handsome, suave new boss. Is he quite all he seems?
‘Snowed in for her Wedding Day’ is a novella picking up Gwen’s story as her wedding day approaches, but with terrible weather, and an absent groom, will she have the happy ending she so deserves?
‘Just Desserts’ is a novella about confused chef Leah, who’s falling for her handsome French co-worker Jean-Claude, but meant to be marrying to Dan in just a few weeks! Who will she choose?
‘Her Perfect Hero’ was released in July 2015 as ‘I Need a Hero’, it’s a lovely comic romantic read for anyone who’s ever searched for Mr Right (and failed to find him!). Despair of Bronte, a romance writer, incapable of spotting when the perfect man is right next door! Full of horses, country houses and dentists, just beware of the foul-tempered cat Mr Darcy!
‘Starstruck’, proves that falling in love with a rock star is harder than you’d think! When newly divorced Kate finds school friend, now super famous rock star Joseph Wild, on her doorstep, her whole quiet, ordinary life is thrown into disarray. Is the attraction between them enough to make up for all the hurdles they have to cross if they want to be together?
Latest release, ‘Her Sister’s Baby’ is a beautiful and emotional story about grief, the promises we make and finding love in the most unexpected of places.
Emma likes (in no particular order): cake, books, Cary Grant films, prosecco, chocolate, guinea pigs, knitting, quilting and happily ever afters!
Thanks for popping over Emma Bennet. I’ve subscribed to her channel, have you?
It’s Monday! This means one thing – it’s time to meet an author and I’m excited to introduce Christina Courtenay, author of Whispers of the Runes to my blog, who is loved by myself and those who visit the Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf.
Meet the Author: Christina Courtenay
Welcome Christina, I’m so excited you are here to chat about Vikings and your heroes. Over to you
The word Viking is one most people recognise and it instantly conjures up thoughts of fierce men, hellbent on plunder, rape and violence. But that’s not what I think of when I hear that word, because the majority of the Vikings were not like that. They were determined, courageous and adventurous, and totally fearless. They also had a well-developed justice system that was as fair as it was possible to be. Some totalitarian states of today could learn a thing or two from them!
With my Runes series, I wanted to show a different side to them. That yes, they did go plundering, but not all of them were bad people. They were just like us – some good, some not. And some of the things we think of as bad weren’t necessarily so to them. Also, those people who fell foul of their attacks weren’t really much better – in fact, some of them were far worse in many ways.
The hero of the first book in the series, ECHOES OF THE RUNES goes “a-Viking”, ie. he sets off on a journey with the sole purpose of bringing home thralls and treasure. Yet, he’s not your average marauder because his heart isn’t in it. The only reason he does it is to prove to his wife that he’s not a coward (she’s a horrible woman who knows how to push his buttons). And with the other books, especially WHISPERS OF THE RUNES, I wanted to highlight their intrepid travels across oceans and continents, all thanks to the amazing longships they developed, and their curiosity and sense of adventure. Setting off across the north Atlantic in an open ship, filled with supplies and even cattle, took true courage!
So I guess what I’m really saying is, I wish people would stop giving the Vikings such a bad press and really look at all their amazing achievements, rather than the small percentage who decided to terrorise Western Europe for a while. It would take nearly a thousand years before women in Scandinavia (and elsewhere) regained the sort of rights Viking women had, because once Christianity arrived, they became chattels. And whatever we think of them, an awful lot of us are descended from them because they spread far and wide. So beware what you say – you might be talking about one of your direct ancestors!
Your Runes series is based in the times of the Vikings, what attracted you to write about this time in history?
I’m half Swedish so the Vikings have always been part of my heritage, and of course at school there the teachers paid special attention to that era. There are reminders all around the country – runestones, graves and artefacts in museums – and as I was a history buff from an early age, I also read all the Norse sagas when I was quite young. They made a huge impression on me. Besides, there is something very romantic about Vikings, wouldn’t you say?
Your novels are highly detailed and blend fact with fiction seamlessly, how do you tackle research?
Thank you! Like any author writing historical fiction, I research the background and history in general first, then study particular aspects more in depth. I read lots of factual books, watched TV programmes, visited museums and attended events like the Jorvik Viking Festival. I also travelled to some of the places the Vikings were known to have occupied, and I went to outdoor museums where there are reconstructed houses and/or ships. I try not to get too bogged down in research as I’m always impatient to get to the actual story, which to me is the most important thing, but obviously I try my best to get all the facts right as much as possible.
What inspired you to write time slip novels? Do you write other genres?
Ever since I read one, I’ve wanted to write timeslip myself – it’s my favourite sub-genre. I think it was Barbara Erskine’s Lady of Hay that really tipped the balance for me – it was just such a great story and I loved the premise of having two timelines that intertwine. I have written other genres – pure historical romance and also contemporary YA – and currently I’m writing time travel which is slightly different. (It’s not a dual timeline, instead the protagonist from the present actually physically travels back in time). Timeslip is my preferred sub-genre though and I’d like to continue with that.
Rurik and Sara are your latest protagonists in Whispers of the Runes and Rurik also appeared in a previous book. Did you always intend for him to have his own novel or did the idea develop later?
He was always going to get his own book as I had planned a trilogy for the three brothers. Also, I really liked him as a character. I had to force myself not to let him steal any of the spotlight when he appears as Hrafn’s brother in THE RUNES OF DESTINY because otherwise the heroine might have fallen for him instead. That would have been awkward!
I have a bookcase full of books I will keep forever and regularly reread them. Do you reread books, or do you only read them one?
There are some books I reread occasionally – Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion for one as it always makes me laugh – but mostly I only read them once. There are just so many wonderful stories out there and only so much time, and I wouldn’t want to miss the next amazing one.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading four or five books per week, so it’s a mixture of romance sub-genres. Among them Nicola Cornick’s The Last Daughter, Kylie Scott’s Fake, Kirsty Greenwood’s Big Sexy Love, Sarah Morgan’s The Summer Seekers and Loretta Chase’s Ten Things I Hate About the Duke. A mixture of timeslip, contemporary and Regency this week 😊
If you could go back in time, which era would you go to and why?
Obviously, I’d like to visit the Viking era to see if I’ve portrayed it correctly in my books, but I would also quite like to visit the haut ton of the Regency. Only if I ended up in a very rich household, of course, and not as someone’s scullery maid!
What is your favourite book?
Favourite ever has to be Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
Who is your favourite author?
I can’t really choose just one again, but if I must, Georgette Heyer again
Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?
I suppose we are all influenced by everything we read but I hope by now I’ve developed my own style
Where is your favourite place to read or write?
Anywhere I can sit with lots of cushions behind me (I have a bad back)
When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?
I began because I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum to my first daughter and not have to go back to work and leave her at day care, so I decided to try my hand at writing. As it turned out, getting published was a lot harder than I thought so it wasn’t until she left home, aged 21, that I finally made it into print! Good thing I’d been bitten by the writing bug and didn’t give up. I got my first book published following an introduction to an editor at an RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) party.
You can discover more about Christina Courtenay’s new release Whisper of the Runeshere.
Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014) and the RNA Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year 2021 with Echoes of the Runes. Whispers of the Runes (time travel published by Headline 24th June 2021) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).
Recently, I found a book that immersed me into the story from the start with an outspoken, waspish centenarian witch who reluctantly takes a woman under her wing. This is one thing I’m grateful to Facebook for as it kept popping up on my newsfeed making it impossible to resist. Today I am very excited to have The Woman and the Witch’s author Amanda Larkman popping in to to talk about her book, magic, reading and writing tips. My review for her book can be found here.
The Woman and the Witch Blurb
‘I see the wood first. A knitted shawl of green and black tossed across the shoulders of the ancient hills. I take a great gulp of breath, my lungs no longer compressed by cages of contorted bone. I want to drink the cool air like water, scented as it is with earth and starlight.But as I drift close to the house, I falter. Something is wrong. I will myself on, ignoring the whispers of pain beginning to curl up from my bed-ridden body. A ball of dread is growing in my stomach; it is so terribly black and heavy it slows me down. My hands shake. The light is gone.’Nothing ever changes in the village of Witchford until the day a hundred year old, bad-tempered witch falls and breaks her hip, and a fifty year old cleaner decides her life is over. Both are haunted by ghosts, but can Frieda help Angie to find out what her long dead father is trying to tell her? And can Angie help Frieda fight off the wolf who circles ever closer?
Hi Amanda. I am thrilled you could join us today. Your book The Woman and the Witch bring together Frieda a 100 year old witch and Angie, who is in her 50s.They are two very different characters, do you share any of their traits?
I very much identify with Angie. The loss of her child was the way in which I processed the loss of my first son, James, who was stillborn at 42 weeks. But more generally, I wanted to explore a character who had ended up limping along in a marriage that died many years ago. At 50 she has resigned herself to a dull, unloved life that won’t change, her adventures are behind her. Meeting Frieda (as well as her husband’s affair) opens Angie’s eyes to everything she was capable of, getting rid of her self-limiting beliefs.
Frieda is a character I really enjoyed creating, very much based on my grandmother who I looked after for a short time when she was in her mid-90s. Absolutely uncompromising and not interested in pleasing anyone. She was very different to me – I hate upsetting people! – so I had a whale of a time having her go round being rude to people. She’s brave, strong and (despite her outward appearance and behaviour) kind. I hate the way our society overlooks and dismisses elderly people – especially women – and I wanted to explore a character who doesn’t give a stuff about ‘proper’ behaviour, and has the power to back it up, righting the wrongs she sees around her.
Angie is a character I connected to from the start, but she isn’t the young apprentice associated with books where a witch takes someone under her wing. Was this a conscious decision?
Both Frieda and Angie didn’t go down the path they were supposed to. Frieda absolutely rejected the idea of taking on a young apprentice and suffers because of that decision. Because of her father, Angie never discovered what she was capable of until she met Frieda. I supposed I subverted the young apprentice trope as I wanted to celebrate women no matter their age, while passing on and reinforcing the idea that it is never too late. Despite what society tells us, life doesn’t end at 29.
Her story gave me a boost to stop procrastinating and continue to follow my dreams. Frieda is a complex character and not the nicest person making her a joy to read when she gets her revenge however small on people by magical means. What came first the characters or the plot?
Definitely characters. The idea for the book sprang fully formed into my head when I pictured a plumber in a kitchen with a bent over, wizened old woman sitting smiling sweetly in the corner zapping him with invisible darts and making his tools fall to the floor whenever he reached for them. The idea made me laugh and got me wondering what else she could do.
The story deals with magic and ghosts. Have you ever had any supernatural experiences and if so, did this influence your storytelling?
Not really. I think of the magic in the book as being very real. I have read many studies that prove the power of nature, walking in the woods can lower your blood pressure, hugging a tree can help with anxiety… as well, of course, the recognised benefits of herbs and flowers. So. what I did with The Woman and the Witch was to take this to the next level and find a woman who could somehow harness the power and energy of the natural world.
Where did you get the idea for this book?
I think a combination of remembering my grandmother, reading articles on the restorative power of nature, and hitting 50!
What is your favourite book?
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Who is your favourite author?
Oooh impossible to choose! The ones on my list whose books I automatically order without even knowing what they are about (in no particular order) are… Marian Keyes, Sophie Hannah, Nicci French, Jilly Cooper, Kate Atkinson, Jenny Colgan, Liane Moriarty, Maggie O’Farrell, and Lisa Jewell.
It is a cruel question because it is hard to choose a favourite but some of my go to authors are on your list too. What are you currently reading?
I’m teaching Chaucer at the moment, and the whole pandemic nightmare has meant I am finding reading anything challenging really hard. So, I am currently working through Marian Keyes’ back catalogue (again) and am looking forward to re-reading ‘Rachel’s Holiday’.
Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?
Yes, definitely. I read all the time and have to work hard to not let someone else’s style leak into mine. I think I’ve only just found my voice or style and it took my thirty-five years!
Where is your favourite place to read or write?
Bed! And if my family won’t let me stay there, the kitchen table.
When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?
I’ve got drawers stuffed with terrible novels I’ve written every few years since I was about 15. I’ve spent thirty years sending them out to agents and never had any luck. I felt ‘The Woman and the Witch’ had an important message, so I spent three years making it the best it could be. Most of that time was chucking great chunks of it out and re-writing the damn thing! With a full-time job and two demanding children it was very hard to find the time and I had to be terribly selfish.
When I was finally happy with it (and I was really sick to death with it by the end!) I sent it off to agents again. Most didn’t even reply, but a couple said they liked it but as it was difficult to categorise they didn’t think it would sell well to publishers.
This time instead of giving up I thought ‘sod it, what would Frieda do?’ and decided to publish it independently. I was expecting to sell a handful of copies and for it to sink into obscurity, but people seemed to have liked it and I’ve had some lovely reviews that have sent me over the moon! I am so happy people have enjoyed it as well as being kind enough to come and tell me they liked it.
I loved it as you can see from my review here.Do you reread books or do you only read them once?
Re-read old favourites all the time.
Quite a lot of people have decided to write during lockdown. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I can only say what worked for me; everyone is different, so it’s all about finding what works for you. Marian Keyes has put together a series on becoming a writer on YouTube and its brilliant and FREE!
Write every day – I aim for 1,000 but sometimes life gets in the way. But it does get you into the groove. Even if putting a word down feels like climbing a mountain, just keep putting one foot (or word) in front of another. Eventually the brakes will come off and you’ll write a great whoosh of thousands that will tumble out of you. The next day you might be back to one word every ten minutes, but the whoosh will come back.
Get a first draft down. Even if it’s utter rubbish, get the draft down. It’s much easier to work on a rubbish draft than it is a blank page.
Don’t let anyone see it until you finish it. You need to get what is in your head down first and then tweak it. People will interfere and make you lose confidence, which is death to anything creative. Wait until your draft is pretty solid before exposing it to the cold eyes of a beta reader!
I agree with Marian Keyes series, it is wonderful and she is so open and natural in her approach. It can be found here for those wanting to give writing a try or need some advice.
Thank you Amanda for joining me today, it has been great chatting to you and I hope to read some more of your work in the future.
Amanda Larkman was born in a hospital as it was being bombed during a revolution. The rest of her upbringing, in the countryside of Kent, has been relatively peaceful.
She graduated with an English degree and has taught English for over twenty years. ‘The Woman and the Witch’ is her first novel.
Hobbies include trying to find the perfect way to make popcorn, watching her mad labradoodle run like a galloping horse, and reading brilliant novels that make her feel bitter and jealous.
She has a husband and two teenage children, all of whom are far nicer than the characters in her book.