Things My Draft Novel Made Me Do Last Week #amwriting

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Here are the things my draft novel made me do last week. Do you like how I am blaming everything on my draft novel? I knew you woiuld – ha ha!

I am not going to say the title of it or the premise as it will take away the excitement. I will say that it is a forced proximity romcom (where circumstances throw the main characters together) and it’s crammed full of comedy, chaos and some touching romantic moments. I am currently doing several rounds of edits. This book has been continually revised since last September. It has had more revisions than I have had hot dinners. I am about to swan dive gracefully into the literary agent query pool so I am just dusting off my frilly costume,

Here’s what my draft novel made me do last week:

  1. Add more conflict. I am changing as a writer. In some of my early novels I shied away from conflict. With this book I have had a little devil on my shoulder whispering, ‘make them suffer more,’ and for once I have listened to it. You should ask yourself as you write – am I making life too easy for my characters?
  2. Hack away pointless scenes. I have been a lot tougher with this book than my others. This was something I also used to avoid. I have found the more you hack the deeper you get into your story because you end up being left with scenes which all serve a purpose.
  3. Experience a range of strong feelings 🤣frustration, anger, happiness, joy, sadness and hope were all felt last week as I knocked this story into shape.
  4. Ignore my inner critic at certain times of the day. I should NOT make crucial decisions on my book before 6.30am. My mind is not rational before 6.30am. Even better I should not think about changes until after I have eaten. About 9am I start thinking clearly. This week I saw how my mind and perspective shifts after breakfast. Also I should not make book decisions after 10pm as I am always tired and I will go for the easiest option. A big shout out to all my past stories which suffered because of this.
  5. Go for more walks. Fresh air is a writer’s friend
  6. Cry. I have found that the books you write which make you cry whilst writing they have something special about them. Last week I cried. Historic moment.
  7. Get impatient. I do hate it when draft novels try to hurry you up. They want to be out in the world seeking their fortune but you know there’s more work to do.
  8. Accepting the following with editing: editing can be soul destroying, there will be some chapters littered with typos and incorrect character names but structurally they will work, there will be some chapters where there will be no typos but structurally they will be a wreck and some chapters where even I, the author, won’t have a clue about what’s going on 🤣
  9. Skip some household chores. I do love novel writing when it makes me do this.
  10. Wear a bolder lipstick – hot pink for writers in 2023 👏🏻

Have a good week 🤩

Lucy x

Things To Consider When Writing The Fake Romance Trope #AmWritingRomance

Due to the success of my post about the things to consider when writing second chance romance I thought i would cover a new trope today – fake romance.

As a romance book blogger I LOVE reading this trope. I love how the fake relationship starts out of convenience; pretending to be together for a social commitment, pretending to be in love for a competition or needing to show the world that a secret love interest does exist, but soon the fake relationship starts to change into somethinge else. I get so excited when the chemistry between the characters gets to work and things get awkward. There’s so much potential for good comedy and hilarity.

Most of the time fake romance stories focus on reputation or pride.

Here are the things I think we need to consider when writing this wonderful trope.

  • Both characters need to be unlikely candidates for a relationship at the start. Fake relationships work best if the characters really dislike each other or are very different. I think the best fake romances blossom from a place of dislike, as healthy relationships sometimes do. Under normal circumstances they would never ever consider dating each other. Also remember both parties must benefit from the fake romance.
  • Both chartacters need to be aware of the arrangement and the detail. Things can get tricky if you have one character being unaware of the plan to fake a romance. Fake romances usually mean a few fibs and some acting so its essential they do some planning in advance. Make sure they set their PDA limits. For instance will they just hold hands, give quick pecks on the cheek and never sit too close together? They have to agree pet names for each other. You also need to include some great lines of fake romance dialogue like – ‘can you at least pretend I’m funny?‘ or ‘just so you know, I don’t like you.’
  • It must be easy and enjoyable at the start. Even though they dislike each other they don’t find it too much of a struggle to fake a romance. This is where they become ingrained in each other’s life. It’s an enjoyable stage for the reader because whilst they are busy faking a romance they are also noticing little cute things about the other like their style of wit, their dirty laugh and the way they touch their hair. However there still must be a question in the reader’s mind about whether it will turn into a romance. We all know there’s a risk with fake dating. So make sure they keep reminding each other that it is just an act.
  • Let them get carried away with faking a relationship. These two are putting on such a good romantic show everyone is convinced they are an item. It is essential during this stage they start to chuck common sense and their ‘fake romance rule book’ out of the window. You can include some great dialogue like ‘everyone’s gone, why are you still kissing me?’ or ‘shall we practice kissing lying down on a sofa? Yeah? Great, let’s get practicing.’
  • Things must get tough as they both start experiencing new feelings. This is my favourite part of this trope. It is great to read a fake romance where one person’s feelings start to turn real. Suddenly the simple act of touching hands becomes charged with electricity. Bring on the lingering touches, breathless moments, intense eye moments…over some balls of wool in the case of the couple below. So much good dialogue can be added here. Things like, ‘I’m starting to think you don’t hate me as you say you do,’ or ‘I never thought I’d see this new side to you.’
  • The big reveal. When they are at their most vulnerable one of the characters will have to take the biggest risk of revealing the truth. They will have been struggling with their strong feelings, missing the other before they leave, on cloud nine everytime they are next to them and replaying all their conversations in their head. After all this time hiding, they must find the courage to speak from the heart. This is a great time to add something like – ‘be real with me – how much of this was fake?‘ Will the other feel the same way?

Enjoy writing your fake romances, writers. They are such fun to read.

Things To Consider When Writing Second Chance Romance #amwriting

This blog post is going to help my writer brain focus on one of my current projects. I do hope someone else out there writing a second chance romance finds it useful.

Second chance romance is one of my favourite romance tropes. I could read these stories all day.

One of my current projects focuses on a second chance romance so I could really do with going back to basics with the trope in order to revise my story.

Below I have come up with a list of all the things to consider when writing a second chance romance.

As I am madly in love with this particular artwork on Canva I am going to use it to pose the questions which I need to answer when writing this trope.

How did they initially connect? Were they childhood sweethearts? Maybe they met at work? The secret here is readers need to see and feel how good that connection was between these two beautiful characters. This breathtaking romance has to be unforgettable for both readers and the characters.

Why did they split up? What made them walk away from each other? Were they too young? Was it a case of bad timing or did one hurt the other? What broke them? Readers need to understand what made these characters go blubber into a box of Kleenex, wedge chocolate into their mouth and go for long solitary walks in the rain.

What personal growth have they experienced? What has life taught them in the years they were apart? What did other relationships teach them? Have they thought about why they have never connected with anyone on the same romantic level as they did with each other?

What made them want to give their relationship another chance? Why can’t they disentangle from each other’s lives? What has made them come together again? Why salvage a broken relationship? The reader must understand and agree with these decisions. There must also be that old connection and the chemistry.

What stuff have they overcome? Have they resolved the old conflict? Readers need to see how these two characters might have had different priorities that caused their breakup. But now that those priorities have changed, so, maybe there is still a chance for them to work it out. It could also be a case of these two characters making mistakes and generally causing an emotional mess. The reader needs to believe these two have changed for the better.

I feel better now.

Do you have any things I should add to my list of considerations?

The Writing Competition That Changed My World In Unexpected Ways #AmWriting

If you follow me on twitter you will know of my pinned tweet. It is about how I got through to the final round of the Penguin Michael Joseph Christmas Love Story Competition and my strong urges to cartwheel with joy on zoom calls at work.

According to the competition FAQs last week was when the winner was going to be notified. At the start of last week I knew of just 4 other writers who, like me, had got through to the next round. I wasn’t looking forward to a tense, nail biting and lonely week which would mostly be spent watching my email with hawk-like eyes, jumping everytime my phone rang, eating far too many penquin biscuits and overthinking every possible competition outcome.

Well, my week did include all of the above (especially the penguin biscuit binge) but it wasn’t a lonely week and it did change my writing world in unexpected ways.

I think it was Audrey Niven, on Twitter who kickstarted things at the start of the week. She tweeted about wishing all the Penquin finalists lots of luck. Then the magic started. Fellow finalists joined in by liking her tweet and by the end of Monday there was a small gang of us on Twitter all sharing writer love and support with each other. By Tuesday our gang had grown some more as a few more finalists had found us. We all started tweeting funny snippets from our days and what we were doing to distract ourselves from the competition waiting game. By Wednesday we had grown from a small gang to a collective and this was when ideas were shared on what we could call ouselves. Bettina Hunt suggested the Penguin Collective and a Twitter list was created by Amy Gaffney. Everytime another finalist made their way onto Twitter and found us we’d all welcome them in.

It was a very different writing competition experience for me. We all tweeted and laughed our way through the week talking about the anxious wait, how we felt like we were in the Big Brother House (Lily Joseph), how some of us had turned to playing Europe’s pop classic, The Final Countdown (Jake G Godfrey) to get through, how some of us were busy ordering Penguin biscuits (Sarah Shard) how we were all looking forward to cracking open the wine on Friday at 6pm and how lucky we were to find each other. There were so many funny tweets over the course of the week, from Jenny Bromham’s thought provoking GIF ‘one more dawn’, Donna Dobbs’s hiring of a geeky IT student, Joanna Knowles Author’s tweet about how she was starting to waddle like a penguin, Rebecca Duval’s obsessive email refreshes, Hayley-Jenifer’s Benedict Cumberbatch’s GIF and Jackie Morrison’s caravan holiday which was spent checking for a phone signal. As you can imagine when Sarah Louise Robinson started a Facebook group for us we all flapped our penguin wings and waddled over there too. It wasn’t just laughter, there were also ideas from Kimberly Adams, Sarah Shard and Amy Gaffney on how we could work together in the future.

There were other finalists still joining the Pengin Collective on Friday; A Novel, tweet by tweet, Writtenbymisshm, Tallie Samuels, Helen Hawkins, Katy George.

The end of the story is that no one we knew about heard from Penguin Michael Joseph on Friday. Someone probaby has heard and we wish them the best of luck. I also hope they come on my blog and talk about their new book in the future.

For me, that’s okay. I got WAY more from this writing competition than I ever imagined; a story idea validated by Penguin Michael Joseph (which is now at 23k), new romance writer friends in the Penguin Collective group and a lot of happy twitter memories from last week.

As Breea Keenan said, ‘this chat has made my week’ and I couldn’t agree more.

Writing competitions which give you so much more than you expected are priceless.

Author Interview – Bettina Hunt @BeautySwot #romance #amwriting

A few creative moons ago I read, Without a Hitch, by a romance author called Bettina Hunt. From the start of the book I loved her humour, her relatable characters and her take on romantic comedy. I went onto read one of her other novels; A Tempting Trio, and laughed so much at her hilarious book I nearly fell off my chair. Since then I have become a bit of a Bettina Hunt author superfan. She still hasn’t managed to shake me off – lol.

In real life she’s one of the funniest people I know and always makes me smile. Now that her fabulous new book, High Heels on the Beach, is out I have persuaded her to come on my blog.

I thought it would be fun to do an author interview so you can all find out more about Bettina Hunt.

Please welcome one of my favourite romantic comedy & women’s fiction authors, Bettina Hunt.

Hello, thanks for having me on your blog, it’s such an honour!

  1. Bettina – can you tell us about yourself?

Such a difficult first question, Lucy!

I’m a forty something writer of romcoms and women’s fiction. I have two young boys and I can tell you that homeschooling them during Covid was certainly not an easy thing as one thing I’ve never wanted to be is a teacher, huge respect to those who are!

I used to work in product management however, at one time I was thinking of becoming a lawyer… that attention to detail that I learnt during my law degree has held me in good stead 😉

As a gemini I have so many interests, I can be known to be indecisive but the one thing I knew was that I always wanted to write in some capacity. I started writing a blog about beauty and afternoon tea when I was at home with my eldest boy and then added a Friday Column so that I could share my poetry and short stories. My first book – A Tempting Trio – was originally a short story on my blog.

I’ve published four books and partially written another five. My ultimate dream is to have at least one of my books made into a film. I would also love to be part of a comedy writing team, writing either comedy sketches or a sitcom (i’m not fussy!) Sharon Horgan is one of my favourite writers and she’s written two of my favourite TV Shows – Catastrophe and Motherland. Most recently I’ve become obsessed with the BBC ONE series This Is My House. It’s a brilliant concept, so entertaining and funny.

Just before lockdown I also discovered Schitt’s Creek which is the ultimate heartwarming, feelgood comedy series. With perfectly written characters that evolve beautifully as the series plays out I laughed and cried. It’s the best series ever.

  1. Tell us about your new book?

High Heels on the Beach is a heartwarming contemporary romantic comedy set in both London and the fictional seaside town of Sunny Bay. It tells the story of Becca who’s used to letting her bestie make decisions for her in a twist on the Choose Your Own Story books that they used to read. When her world comes crumbling down, Becca realises she needs to stop relying on others and take control of her own destiny. Her planned voyage of self-discovery is thwarted by the need for her to return to the one place she’s been avoiding, home. In Sunny Bay she’s forced to take on the running of the family’s B&B, bringing her face to face with old flames and adversaries and meeting a host of colourful residents at the B&B. The story follows Becca’s emotional journey and her struggle between the pull of her old corporate life and a new life in Sunny Bay.

  1. Where did the idea for the book come from?

I actually got the idea when I was on holiday in Spain. I was looking around at the people by the pool and wondered how many of them were not looking forward to getting back to their jobs and the idea spiralled from there. I had planned to start writing it during NanoWrimo in November, however I felt compelled to write as soon as I got home and wrote 30,000 words during the Summer Holidays.

  1. When you are not writing books what do you like doing?

Most of this hasn’t been possible since COVID struck but … I love going out for afternoon tea, eating out and enjoying cocktails. I love going on mini breaks. I love the theatre, the west end shows. I love watching comedy shows on TV to lift my spirits. And I LOVE to sing 🙂 just for me mostly although I do lip syncs on Instagram too.

  1. Best piece of writing advice you have ever been given?

You have to turn on the tap to let the water flow AND you can’t edit an empty page.

  1. How long have you been writing books?

I wrote my first full book in 2015 but i’ve always had ideas bouncing around in my head. Still do. Every day in fact. Especially when I’m doing the washing up or in bed, trying to sleep.

  1. What book are you reading at the moment.

I’m reading a romcom (not much of a surprise there!) called The Summer Job by Lizzie Dent. It’s made me laugh out loud so that’s a good sign.

  1. Who are your favourite authors and why?

I love Lucy Vine for making me laugh out loud. Milly Johnson’s books are like a cuddle, warm and funny with fantastic characters. John Grisham for page turning suspense – My favourite book of his was The Runaway Jury. More recently I’ve discovered JP Delaney for thrillers. But honestly I read so many wonderful books that I wish I could give them all a shout out.

9.Favourite social media channel?

Twitter I think – I love how instant it is and I love to talk and chat, connect with people 🙂

  1. Favourite romance film?

How can I choose! I love romantic films and even better if they make me laugh… But if I really, really, had to choose – Okay I have 3 films in mind.

Some Kind of Wonderful made me cry buckets and has some fantastic lines in it. My two favourite romcoms are Sweet Home Alabama and You’ve Got Mail. I could happily watch all three over and over again.

Decision shy Becca is used to her best friend making decisions for her, but after a disastrous 30th birthday, London living Becca realises she needs to stop relying on others and take control of her own destiny.

With her life plans in tatters, she’s forced to return home to the quiet seaside town of Sunny Bay and the family’s B&B, where the bedrooms are covered in chintz and her mother is still serving up culinary delights from the 1970s. Adamant that she’s not staying, Becca embarks on a soul-searching trip to Europe.

She’s barely stepped foot abroad before a family crisis sees her back in Sunny Bay and in charge of the B&B. Coming face to face with old flames and adversaries, Becca’s reminded why she left and is determined to get back to her old life in London.

But when the mysterious Madame DoTell, fortune teller to the stars, insists that home is where the heart is, Becca begins to wonder if she should listen…

If home is where the heart is, where is home?

High Heels on the Beach is a light-hearted and fun packed Summer tale perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk.

Book purchase link: click here.

5 Tips For Writing Comedy @AnnaBell_Writes #AmWriting #Romcom

I am super excited because the author of heart-warming and funny romantic comedies Anna Bell has come to take over my blog today. She’s going to share with us her tips on writing comedy and I am hoping she will also tell us about her book which I can’t wait to read as it sounds fab.

Please give a warm welcome to Anna Bell:

Hello everyone,

Here are my top 5 tips for writing comedy:


1 – Belief
One of the hardest things about writing comedy is believing in yourself. Jokes are subjective, and they’re also personal. Sometimes writing comedy and exposing what you think is funny can make you feel vulnerable. But chances are if you find it funny then someone else will too. I don’t think there is anything nicer, both in real life or in your writing, than making someone laugh.


2– First Drafts don’t have to be funny

It’s very easy to get hung-up on making everything you write sound witty, but you have to remember that your readers are there just as much for the story as they are for the laughs. It’s almost easier to add humour on the next draft when you can spot if you’ve got clusters or deserts of funny scenes. On the second draft, when you know your characters better, you’re more likely to understand what pushes their buttons and how they’d react in any situation, making it easier for you to imagine the humorous situations they could find themselves in.


3– There is a fine line between funny and cringey

This is one of the hardest things to get right when writing comedy. It’s also a line that changes from reader to reader too. One person’s threshold for rolling on the floor in hysterics is another’s basis for a one-star review. One of the ways to avoid it being too cringey is to try and build reader empathy with the character, so that if the reader cringes, they cringe with the character, not at him or her.

4 – Make scenarios relatable
Watching stand-up comedians with live audiences is a great way to see what people find funny. Quite often it’s the most mundane things that people find the funniest, the jokes about extended family or ordinary situations that everyone finds themselves in. It’s often easier to relate to humour if you can imagine it could happen to you. It’s worth remembering this when writing. Scenes that are too over the top or unbelievable can seem like they’re trying too hard to get laughs.

5 – Outside the Room
Watching sit-coms can also help you learn how to write comedy. Shows like Frasier give excellent lessons in comic timing and build-up. There is nearly always a final big comedic scene that the whole episode builds up to, but to get the laughs you need to understand what has driven each character to react in the particular way they do. When you are writing a big scene with an ensemble cast, it’s worth bearing that in mind. What has happened to each of your characters prior to this scene? What is their mood? What has led them to the point they’re at? If the audience are in on the joke and understand why the character is reacting in the way they are, it makes it funnier. But you don’t always have to signpost the events that happen outside the room either. If you’ve got a big ensemble scene having someone other than the main characters arrive in the aftermath of an argument, or guarding a secret, can add to the humour and tension too. Usually that storyline would play alongside the big main event that’s happening to the protagonist, and the poor protagonist is left trying to put out fires from all sides, ramping up the humour.

Follow Anna on Twitter: AnnaBell_writes Instagram: anna_bell_writes
Anna’s latest novel is The Man I Didn’t Marry and it’s out now.


Ellie has the perfect life: a happy marriage, a gorgeous daughter and a baby on the way. But when her husband Max develops amnesia, he forgets everything about the last five years . . . including their relationship.
Now the man she said ‘I do’ to has become a stranger, and she has no idea why. Yet Ellie is determined to reconnect and find her Max again – he has to be in there somewhere, right?

As they get to know one another afresh, Ellie finds herself seeing Max clearly for the first time. But then she discovers that before his memory loss, Max was keeping a huge secret from her. Will their new beginning prove to be a false start, just as it seemed they might fall in love all over again?

Amazon
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Didnt-Marry-heart-warming-hilarious-ebook/dp/B086VWRWZY

Writing Romance? 5 Things About Writing Kisses @KileyDunbar

I am so excited about this post. As a huge fan of all things romantic and someone who gets very carried away at the sight of any romance, within a ten mile radius, this blog post is going to leave me lying on my sofa with a cold compress on my forehead. Today we are talking about how to write a good kiss. 

Now, back in the day, when I was looking for love in Leeds (in the 90s) kissing was a big thing. Especially since most of my dating was done in Ritzy’s nightclub and once a male suitor had impressed me with his dance moves, surrounded by clouds of dry ice, we’d go in for the kiss.

The kiss was an important stage – because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with anyone whose kissing skills reminded me of:

  • My washing machine on a fast cycle
  • A plunger for my blocked sink.
  • Snogging a block of ice.
  • Snogging some sandpaper
  • Snogging a Jack in the Box – his tongue was the Jack which popped out when I wasn’t expecting it and made me jump.

Back in the day I thought I had struck gold when my suitor had velvet lips, no crab stick breath, a shy tongue (at first), a gentle swaying action and maybe one of his hands gently running through my hair. Kissing heaven 😂

When we write romance we have to bring the joy of kissing to life and this is tough. We have to get so much right as writers so that our reader lets out a sigh as they read about our characters engaging in a delicious kiss.

So, I have asked fabulous author of heart-warming and escapist romantic fiction, Kiley Dunbarto come on my blog and give us some tips.

Kiley Dunbar

In their last moments on earth nobody every says, ‘you know what, I wish I’d done less kissing.’

In fact, I can guarantee if you think back to your hottest ex, or take a glance at your significant other, you’ll be inclined to agree it would have been nice if there’d been a lot more kissing and a lot less humdrum.

There’s just isn’t enough kissing in the world. Happily, the romance genre has always been around to redress the balance and to inspire us all to perfect our pout, take one step closer and lock lips.

As well as being oh-so-much fun, kisses are an expression of attraction, an opener for intimacy, and they bring reassurance and reconnection when things have gone wrong. Kisses also make for very special moments: first kisses, you-may-kiss-the-bride-kisses, break-up kisses and make-up kisses. There are some kisses you’ll just never forget, and this applies to kisses on the page too.

As romance readers we’re literary kiss connoisseurs. One of my all-time favourites is Pernille Hughes’s divine eight page clinch in Probably the Best Kiss in the World (One More Chapter, 2019) which has lips that linger long enough to rival Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr’s epic screen smooch amongst crashing waves in From Here to Eternity.
I love writing kisses too. Whether you are crafting a slow-burn love story that builds up to one perfect smacker on the final page or a sizzling snog-fuelled steam fest, here are my top five tips for writing kisses your readers will really feel.

1. Consent.

The reign of the grabby hero who stifles a heroine’s protests with a stolen kiss is over.
Long live the considerate, consenting kissers of modern romantic fiction. If it’s not mutual and enthusiastic, it’s not romantic.

2. Desire.

On-page kisses are motivated by wanting.

When your characters’ lips meet there must be the full force of their attraction behind it. Even if your characters are good at communicating with words, their kiss should also speak volumes about their feelings. A kiss is also a good way of showing any lingering internal conflict: can your characters give way to their desire or is the moment less than perfect due to niggling worries, doubts or obstacles that still require resolution?

3. The bubble.

A really good kiss should be powerful enough to shut out the rest of the world.

You can draw readers into the bubble with unique little details that make the moment intimate: eyes locking; Adam’s apple bobbing with swallowed nerves; the steadying grip on the lapel of a sharp suit; fingertips straying into hairlines and thumbs caressing cheekbones as your lovers move closer. Delicious! And never underestimate the magic of antici … pation. Make your kisses worth waiting for and everyone will be satisfied.

4. Kisses add character.

No two couples are alike so no two on-page kisses should be alike.

Does your cinnamon bun hero live up to his adorable, attentive characterisation and deliver sweet nose-tip rubs as a prelude to mouth to mouth contact? Does your sensual couple linger over eyelid, temple and earlobe kisses to make your reader swoon? Does your whip-smart heroine who knows what she wants guide her partner’s kiss so it’s just right for both of them? Make the kiss fit what readers know of your characters and the dynamic you’ve built up between them.

5. Embodied kisses.

Take the chemistry further than just lips caressing.

The heat of a good kiss should spread through the body. If you can convey hitched breaths, goosebumps rising, hearts beating harder, inner muscles tensing and softening, and the acceleration and deepening of arousal then your reader will be right there in the bubble with your characters.
Right – that’s got me fired up for writing a nice new kissing scene in my Work In Progress. My hero happens to be just-the-right-height-for-delivering-a-forehead-kiss (swoon) and my heroine deserves a truly unforgettable kiss (the kind you feel all the way down) after all the pain I’ve put them through. I hope you’re feeling inspired to get your characters closer too. Now more than ever the world needs the unique healing magic and loving connection of (good) kisses.

Wasn’t that great?

I am going to nip off and start writing a few kissing scenes. Thanks, Kiley, you did me proud with this fab post.

Kiley’s latest romance novel is out and is just a click away.

FINAL Summer at the Highland Coral Beach cover

#BookReview That Night in Paris #romance @sandybarker

I loved Sandy’s first book, One Summer in Santorini and I didn’t think she’d beat that in terms of reader enjoyment but…I was wrong. Oh my goodness – That Night in Paris is now my favourite (sorry Sandy x).

On this blog I like to create new lingo so I think the phrase – ‘I’m going to do a Cat Parsons’ – should be what we say when we want to run away from the problems in our life and go wild. Cat Parsons is our inspirational figure as she went on a fabulous holiday, made some new friends along the way, drank beautiful wine, ate wonderful food, laughed a lot and had a spot of romance in a gorgeous destination.

This is how I see this new exciting phrase being used (post lockdown obviously):

Friend 1: ‘what are you doing this weekend?’

Friend 2: ‘Well, I need to get away from my life right now so I’m going to…do a Cat Parsons.’

Friend 1: *Gasp* ‘Nooooooooo! You’re going to do a Cat Parsons?”

Friend 2: *Nodding* ‘Yes, I think everyone should do a Cat Parsons in their life.’

Friend 1: ‘Gosh I’m so envious.’

Friend 2: ‘I know you are!’ *Squeal*

Here’s the blurb

Note to self: don’t sleep with your flatmate after a curry and three bottles of wine… especially if he’s secretly in love with you and wants you to meet his mum.

Cat Parsons is on the run. She doesn’t do relationships. After ten years of singlehood even the hint of the ‘L’ word is enough to get Cat packing her bags and booking herself onto a two-week holiday.

A European bus tour feels like a stroke of genius to dodge awkward conversations at home. But little does Cat realise that the first stop will be Paris, the city of love itself.

Joined by new friends, Cat has got two weeks, eight countries and a hell of a lot of wine ahead of her. As they discover hidden treasures and the camaraderie of life on the road, will Cat find a new way of looking at love?

Discover the beauty of Europe’s most romantic cities in this uplifting and laugh-out-loud novel for fans of Samantha Parks, Alex Brown and Mandy Baggot.

Here’s my review:

I thought the romance and travel plots were great but for me the standout was the way this book brings to life Cat’s relationship with her new friends on the coach trip. Sandy writes female friendships really well and I loved how each bus bestie had a backstory and a reason for taking this life changing coach journey; Lou and her divorce, Jaelee and the love for her best friend who had just got married and Danielle whose best friend did not invite her to her wedding. I loved the bond these women forged, how they didn’t try to put each other down and how they were like a rock for each other. I also loved Mama Lou‘s hugs What took this book to the next level was that each of these women learnt something about themselves during this coach trip. It wasn’t just Cat who had a life changing experience.

The surprise meeting with friend from childhood Jean-Luc, who was an exchange student and stayed with her family in Australia, was brilliant. He’s grown into a really gorgeous man and YES I had feelings for him. At one point I wanted to move Cat out of the way and ask whether he fancied spending a fictional night in Paris with me instead.

The travel plot was fabulous and it does make you want to go see some of these places. Sandy weaves in so much detail with each place her characters visit and at times you do wonder whether Sandy should host a TV travel show.

This book was brilliant escapism!

Have you ever done a Cat Parsons? 🤣

Click here to find out more about That Night in Paris.

Sandy has kindly done a quick Q&A if you fancy getting to know her better:

Author Photo Sandy Barker

When and where do you prefer to write?

I work fulltime, so I tend to get up early (between 5am and 6am) to get in a couple of hours of author biz before work. A lot of the time that will be writing or editing, but it also includes engaging with other authors and social media―both of which are an important part of being an author.

And I am very fortunate to have my own writing space, a study with my desk and a little couch in case I need a break. It’s also where we keep the wine fridge, though I assure you, that’s just a coincidence.

Do you have a certain ritual?

I tend to check emails and social media sites before I get to writing―although, this can be dangerous as it is a wonderful distraction, especially when I’m in the editing stages.

Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
Tea! I consume two or three giant mugs of tea as I work in the mornings. I should dedicate my next book to tea.

What is your favourite book?

This is such a hard question as I imagine it is for any author. I love To Kill a Mockingbird. When I was an English teacher, I taught it many times and found something new with every read. But I also write contemporary romance, so I’ll choose the book that sparked something in me and made me want to write, which was Lindsey Kelk’s first book, I Heart New York. Reading it was a catalyst for my own writing career (thank you, Lindsey!)

Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?

Yes! I am in early talks with another author about pairing up to write a dark contemporary drama/thriller.

Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?

I do! Many of my characters are inspired by people I know. The main character in That Night in Paris is inspired by my sister, Victoria. And many characters I write are a composite of people I know.

Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?

I should! If I get a great idea while I’m out and about, I will type a note into my phone.

Which genre do you not like at all?

This is also a tricky question for me, because I read broadly. As well as romantic fiction, I love crime thrillers, contemporary fiction, (some) literary fiction, SciFi, historical fiction, and even biography or autobiography. I suppose I don’t read much fantasy, though I never say never, because there are some incredibly written fantasy stories out there.

If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?

Fiona Leitch. She writes these incredibly funny crime thrillers and I’m hoping our idea to write something darker (for both of us) will pan out.

If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?

I write travel fiction, so travelling and research are important to my work―I only write about places I’ve been to. I have a trip to Scotland planned in July as my 5th book is set partially in Edinburgh. I loved our trip there in 2018 and want to refresh my memories before I write that part of the book―such a great city!

Many thanks for having me!

Thank you Sandy and I am honoured to be part of such a great book blog tour.

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Guest Post – Things To Consider When Writing Sex Scenes in Romance Novels by @Lucy_K_Author

I have such a treat for all you romance writers!

Author Lucy Keeling is here to talk to us about writing naughty scenes in romance novels. I have to say I avoided them in my novel, Instructions For Falling In Love Again, because all my saucy scenes had the cringe factor. After writing one I would find myself hiding under my dressing table.

One day I hope to overcome this hurdle so I am going to see what Lucy Keeling has to say…

 
Hi there,

I’m Lucy Keeling and my debut novel Make It Up To You’ has had many lovely reviews, many more than I ever dreamed, but one thing that keeps being discussed is the, ahem, …saucier aspects of the novel.

If the rumours, tweets and texts from friends boyfriends* are to believed, then apparently I can write good sex. (*yes seriously, and no I don’t think I can look at them again)

And so whilst I never thought for one minute that I would be writing a blog post on this topic here I am with the five things I think will help you write good sex.

1. In the mood?

I suppose the seasoned professionals that write sex day in day out can just put pen to paper and go for it. I’m not saying that I need candles, a glass of wine, a quick neck massage and then I’m good to write the steamy stuff. It’s just if I’m trying to get the kids ready for school, if I know I need to deep clean my oven, if my car insurance is due, you know what, suddenly I’m not in the mood. I need a quiet space, a space that’s not likely to be interrupted, and yes, you know what a glass of wine sometimes helps. So think about what’s going to help you write the steamier bits and what’s not, and try to get yourself in the mood… to write.

2. What words can I use?

Ohhh, ok so you’re in the mood to write something a little steamier, but you’re looking at your screen and suddenly it feels like you’re writing a scientific journal of anatomical references. Or maybe, in order to avoid being crude, your work is instead a bit too flowery? Hmmm. For me this is honestly one of the hardest parts, as it were. You’ll have your own words for things that make you cringe, and if that’s the case do not use them. If you’re making yourself cringe you’re going to struggle to continue. It goes back to step one, being in the mood. So, if you don’t like the word Moist don’t use it. I, for one, am not a fan of mounds. To each their own.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you here is to study your contemporaries. Are there words that they don’t use, words that they do. If you know the market your aiming for then write in that tone.

3. It’s all very… textbook

Hmmm ok, assuming that you want your reader to stay with you here, I recommend going back and making sure that you’ve covered all of the senses. ALL OF THEM. What does he smell like… what does she taste like… what does it sound like when he… what does it look like when she… what does it feel like when they… you get it right?

But please make sure that what you’re writing is physically possible. I won’t go into too much detail (the original 18+ blog post can be read on my website lucykeeling.com) but look out for clothes magically disappearing, and an excess of arms etc. For brilliant examples of senses and sex scenes you can read pretty much anything by Talia Hibbert, Alisha Rai and Rachael Stewart.

4. Do I need to write sexy times?

No of course not. A heck of a lot of really good romance books are ‘closed door’. But will a sex scene show a personality insight that would otherwise be hard to get at? Will it move the story along? Will it add another layer, an additional conflict, or resolution? Then yes you might want to think about including it, especially if you’re not going to get these aspects in any other part of your story. Gorgeous stories that don’t include and don’t need to include sex can be found by Kiley Dunbar, Maxine Morrey and our very own Lucy Mitchell.

5. Consent & Contraception

If you write sex and it’s non-consensual then guess what? I’m not finishing that book. Sex has to be consented to. Simple as. It can be done simply, it can be done sexily, I honestly don’t care how, but it needs to be explicit consent.

On that note can we also talk contraception. If you fail to include contraception in your story, I’m thinking one thing and one thing only. The one with the uterus is getting pregnant, or a sexually transmitted disease. If you think writing Historical Romance gets you out of writing either consent or contraception think again. And if you need examples please see, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan or Virginia Heath.

So, there you have it, off you go and write all the steaminess your heart desires.

Good luck with the words,

Lucy K x

If you want to check out Lucy Keeling’s novel, Make It Up To You, please click here.

Don’t miss my blog tomorrow as I have a very important book review 🥰📚❤️

5 Things Every Romance Series Needs – Guest Post by @sandybarker #Romance #WritingRomance

Oh my goodness, author, Sandy Barker, has written me a fabulous guest blog post below.

Sandy writes gorgeous and funny romances set in far away places. Her heroines go on wonderful journeys of self discovery and experience heartwarming romances. She’s published by Harper Collins and her debut novel plus her latest book in the same series are below.

I have added links to the book covers below so just click on them to find out more. Please read her post first!

One Summer In Santorini - Sandy Barker - Updated (1)

That Night in Paris Cover

So, let me hand over to Sandy Barker.

Hello all, 

Here are the 5 things I think every romance series needs

Lovable and relatable main characters

This may seem a little obvious―shouldn’t all main characters in a romance be lovable and relatable? Yes, absolutely, but even more so in a series, because the reader will be spending lots more time with them than in a stand-alone.

TIP: Think about your closest friends (yes, even the ones who sometimes drive you around the bend) and ask yourself why you love them. Those are the traits you can build a lovable and relatable character around.

If I think of mine, I love them because they make me laugh ’til I can’t breathe, they love every version of me (even grumpy, morose, or self-pitying Sandy), and they show up―no, not uninvited on my doorstep at inopportune times. I mean, they’re there―when I need them, no matter what. And, those are the women I write.

Interesting and well-developed supporting characters

The most wonderful thing about supporting characters in a romance series is that once they have played their supporting role, you can give them their own story, their own romance! And all the work you did to create and develop them in the earlier book(s) will pay off (big time) when they get the starring role. You will already have established the cadence of their speech, their looks, their mannerisms, and how they feel about life, the universe, and everything. They’re already part of the world you’ve created, so a lot of the heavy lifting of creating a person from scratch is already done.

TIP: Create detailed character profiles for your supporting characters as well as your main characters, including their vernacular, style choices, and the minutiae that makes them them.

A thread or a theme

I write travel romcoms, a sub-genre of romance novels that will one day properly take off and be a thing―known across the world to readers everywhere (I digress and yes, I may have an agenda). But what this means is that travel is a prominent thread that weaves its way through all the stories in my ‘Holiday Romance’ series. And, more specifically, it is the transformational effect of travel that acts as a catalyst for my characters’ arcs. Simply, if my main characters stayed put instead of opting to travel, they would not transform.

TIP: Consider what will link the books in your series together―besides the characters knowing each other. Many series are set in one location (e.g. Phillipa Ashley’s ‘Cornish Café’ series). Many series will have a theme, such as ‘the importance of family’ (e.g. Lucy Knott’s How to Bake a New Beginning and its sequel), and many series centre around an overarching story where all the characters have buy-in (e.g. Katie Ginger’s ‘Seafront’ series).

No matter the thread or the theme, ensure it speaks to you. You’ll be spending a lot of time with it.

A thoroughly developed character arc

Yes, here’s another one that is essential to every story, but if you’re writing a series, you have time to really marinade in the main character’s development. In romance, this may mean that the main character gets a ‘happy for now’ ending for one or two books before getting their ‘happily ever after’. And maybe their ‘happy for now’ isn’t about the romance at all. It could be a major decision they’ve made, or a self-discovery. The main thing to remember is that by the end of the series, they will have significantly transformed―even if for some of series they have been a supporting character.

TIP: Even if you’re a pantser, at least have an idea where your main and supporting characters will end up by the time the series concludes.

A good name

What’s in a name, right? Well, my publisher and I agonised over my series title for months (yes, really). And then we realised we were over thinking it. It’s a series about holiday romances, so that’s what we called it.

TIP: Choose something that no one else is using so your series stands out! The brilliant Julie Caplin snagged ‘The Romantic Escapes Series’ before I even discovered her. Otherwise, I would have wanted it for myself.

If you want to check out Sandy’s books here are the links:

Amazon.co.uk – click here.

Wasn’t that fabulous? Huge thank you to the wonderful Sandy Barker!

Author Photo Sandy Barker