Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. During November, people all over the world come to together to try to write 50,000 words in a month. There are forums and support groups both online and in real life, there are word sprints on Twitter, and the whole thing has a great feeling of mutual understanding and suffering!
I've taken part for the past seven years, as well as CampNaNo, which is run by the same organization in April. It was the first time I did it, back in 2010, when I really learned how to put the self editor aside and throw myself into the story.
Since then, I've honed my writing technique, and now I write on average around 40-45,000 words a month, every month. Sometimes it's a little less if I'm editing a book, but usually I write 10-15,000 words a week.
So today I got up at my usual time of 6am (when the dog wakes me!), sat at the keyboard, checked my emails, and by 6:15 I was in full flow.
Like every muscle, the creative one gets better with exercise, and if you want to be a writer, you have to write every day. I find that if I don't, I lose my train of thought a little, and it takes longer to get back in the flow.
Thinking of doing NaNo yourself? My biggest tip is that I clock my word count at the absolute latest at 4pm, and usually earlier. Then, if I do get more words down after this, they count toward next day's total. That way, I always sit at the computer with words on the page, and usually I'm at least 5-600 words into that day's total. Mind games, I know, but it works for me!
If you follow me on Facebook, you'll know that I've had a spate of migraines lately that have been giving me trouble. Well I'm conscious that I spend a lot of time at the computer, and this might be a contributory factor. I've invested in some glasses for watching TV - my eyesight isn't terrible, but they definitely sharpen up any text on the screen. It's important to stay healthy when you have a sitting down job, so as soon as this headache goes, I'm getting back on my treadmill!
Would anyone like a real-life Ragnar Lothbrok in their stocking this Christmas? :-D
Thought I'd tell you a bit about my new release, out November 4. If Kisses Were Snowflakes takes place on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which is in the north-east of England, near the border of Scotland, in a county called Northumbria.
I've been to Holy Island several times, and it's a magical place, which is separated from the mainland twice a day when the tide comes in and covers the causeway. This is a gorgeous pic of the castle, don't you think?
Angel, our heroine, loves the place because she's an archaeologist specializing in the Viking period. This was the first place in England that the Vikings invaded in AD793 - can you imagine how scary it must have been for the monks that lived here to see the longboats landing on the beaches?
She also loves the medieval monastery on the island - you can see it here, with its beautiful 'rainbow arch' in the background.
The story follows what happens when Angel visits the island and miscalculates the time it takes to cross the causeway as the tide comes in. Around once a month, someone makes this mistake, and there are refuge huts along the causeway for stranded travelers to hide in. This one is similar to the one that Angel climbs into. Imagine having to sit in this in the middle of the night, in winter, with the sea all around you!
It's a gorgeous place, and magical at Christmas, when it feels like a floating Brigadoon - a town that only appears once every hundred years! Anyway, here's a snippet of the story, where our hero, Halvar Carlson, known as Hal, rescues Angel from the refuge hut. Enjoy!
EXCERPT FROM IF KISSES WERE SNOWFLAKES
The lights of the Toyota RAV4 shone on a sheet of water across the tarmac, but the white lines in the middle of the road were clearly visible. He checked his watch—it was 12:17 p.m. The official safe crossing time was 12:25 p.m., but Hal had a four-wheel-drive and knew the tricky points, plus it was less risky splashing through water on the outgoing tide than on the incoming one. If it looked too deep, he’d just leave the car idling and wait ten minutes.
He set off, keeping up the revs, thinking about what he’d have to eat when he got indoors.
The car’s headlights glinted off something to his right, one shining point in a literal sea of darkness. Here, the water was only a few inches deep, the tide rapidly receding, so Hal stopped with a frown. He dug his flashlight out of the glove compartment and shone it through the window.
It was a car. The sea had carried it off the road, and although the water level now only reached to its wheels, it had obviously been almost fully underwater at one point. Luckily, it had swung around and become trapped against the legs of one of the refuge boxes out on the Pilgrim’s Way, otherwise it might have ended up a few miles down the coast.
Hal got out, his boots splashing through the water, and walked to the edge of the road, shining the flashlight toward the other car. The sea was still too deep for him to reach it. He bent and tried to look inside, but couldn’t see anyone. In case they’d gotten out and climbed into the refuge box, he flashed the light up there and shouted, but nobody appeared.
Maybe it was an elderly person who’d been unable to climb the ladder. If they were lying down, he wouldn’t be able to see them. Should he wade in and swim to the car to see if they were inside? He hesitated, slipping his hand into his pocket to find his phone. The most sensible option would be to call the police or coastguard and get help. But if they’d been caught by the incoming tide, they would have been out in the cold for four or five hours. They needed help now.
If he’d seen someone in the car, he would have dived in at once to help, but it would be dumb to do so with no evidence so late at night and in the pitch darkness, even if the tide was going out. He thought furiously, sweeping the flashlight around. The car would have been on the road when the driver realized they were stuck. The sea had obviously picked it up and carried it onto the sand. If there was no sign of them in the hut on the Pilgrim’s Way, maybe they’d gotten out earlier, while they were still on the road.
He made a decision—he’d check out the hut on the bridge, and if nobody was in there, he’d swim out to the car.
After getting back in the RAV4, he drove the short distance to the bridge, which was now clear of water. Parking by the hut, he got out and shone the flashlight up. He couldn’t see anything, but if they were lying down, they wouldn’t be visible.
“Hello?” He walked to the bottom of the ladder, slotted the flashlight into the top pocket of his jacket, and began to climb up.
When he reached the top, for a moment he thought it was empty. And then he saw the figure, huddled in the corner.
“Hello?” he said again, and pulled himself up and into the hut. He dropped to his haunches before the person, his heart racing. It was a woman, coatless and dressed only in a sweatshirt and jeans, which were both soaked. She was shivering violently—but at least she was alive, and the shivering was a sign that her heat regulation systems were still active.
As he reached out and touched her arm, she opened her eyes, blinked a few times, and stared at him.
“Ragnar?” she said.
He frowned. Confusion was a sign of hypothermia. He removed his flashlight from his pocket and shone it on her. Her face was white, her hair plastered to her head. He couldn’t tell what color it was.
“My name’s Hal. Did you get caught by the tide?”
She ran a hand over her face. “Yes.”
As she straightened, he saw a dark stain on the front of her sweatshirt. Alarm shot through him. “Jesus, are you hurt?”
She looked down, still shivering. “It’s k-ketchup.”
Relief made him give a short laugh, which he stifled hurriedly as she blinked at him. “Sorry. My car’s just beneath the hut. Can you move?”
She stirred, moving awkwardly, obviously stiff from the cold. He slipped off his wax jacket, clenching his jaw as the icy wind sliced through him. “Put this on.”
“I don’t n-need rescuing,” she murmured, staring at the jacket, her teeth chattering.
He raised his eyebrows. “You sure about that? I can leave you here if you like.”
Her eyes filled with tears. “No. I’m s-sorry.” She pulled on the jacket, biting her bottom lip hard. “Some fucking sh-shield m-maiden I t-turned out to b-be.”
A smile tugged at his lips as he helped her do up the zipper. “Shield maiden?”
“Doesn’t m-matter,” she mumbled.
“Come on,” he said softly. “You’ve probably got hypothermia. It can make you confused, and irritable. You need to get to hospital. There’s one in Berwick. It’s not far.”
“No.” She let him help her up, and was able to stand, even if she was a bit wobbly. “I have a c-cottage on the island. If you c-could just take m-me there… George has a k-key.”
“If you mean George Swift, he’ll be well asleep by now. You won’t be able to get the key until tomorrow.” He helped her to the ladder, turned, and backed down a few steps. “Come on. You’ll have to come with me if you won’t go to the hospital.”
She turned and stepped down the first rung. “I c-couldn’t do that.”
He ignored her, guided her down the ladder, and led her over to his car. Once she was in the passenger seat, he ran around to the driver’s side and climbed in, started the engine, and turned the heater up to full.
Flicking on the light for a moment, he made sure she had her seatbelt on and that the jacket was tucked around her. For the first time, he saw her face clearly. Her skin was like white china, and she had large, dark eyes. Her hair, although still plastered to her head, was clearly blonde. The dark eyes stared at him, reminding him of a wounded animal. As a big guy, he rarely felt vulnerable or scared, but suddenly he understood how frightened she must feel, injured, nearly frozen, and alone with a stranger who’d forced her to get in his car.
Something shifted inside him like tectonic plates, and, for a brief moment, it was as if he could feel every piece of the universe slotting into place. He’d been delayed at work so he’d miss the tide, forcing him to arrive at the island as soon as the sea started to go out. He’d been sent there to save her. The feeling was so strong, it took his breath away.
Then she blinked, and it disappeared, leaving him vaguely embarrassed and confused. Jesus, he thought, he must have been out in the cold longer than he realized.
“You’ll have to come with me,” he said, as he put the car in gear and headed toward the island. “The hotel will be closed, and there’s nowhere else for you to go.”
“You could be a mass m-murderer,” she pointed out, wrapping her arms tightly around her, still shivering.
“That’s true,” he said, wondering how many times he could get insulted in one night. “I don’t think a mass murderer would have lent you his coat, though.”
“T-true.” She held her hands out to the heater. “I can’t believe I was s-stupid enough to get caught by the t-tide.”
“It happens all the time. The sea comes in fast and by then it’s too late to turn back. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last.” He drove carefully through the low-lying area where the sea was still reaching up to the wheels, then breathed a sigh of relief as the road rose, shadowing the island toward the town. “That’s it. We’re safe now.” He reached out and pulled her hand away from the heater. “Not too close. You’re going to have to warm up slowly.”
She tugged the sleeves of his jacket over her hands. “Do you live on the island?”
“Yes.” He glanced across at her. Her eyes were like saucers. He could only imagine how terrified she must feel after what had happened. “I have two kids,” he added gently, “if that makes you feel any better—they’re in bed at the moment. And my name’s Halvar Carlson, but everyone calls me Hal.”
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I decided to redesign my Like a Boss covers so they're more in line with the popular ones for billionaires / office romances / bad boys. What do you think?
I’m starting a new book today. There's little as blissful as sitting down to a white screen and having your fingers tingle with ideas for new stories and characters. It's the best feeling in the world! I have a great job :-)
This is going to be book 3 in the Between the Sheets series that I started a long time ago. For various reasons, I took a break for these books, but the stories of the group of friends have never left me, and they’ve begged me to tell them!
Here are the new covers - do you like?
If you haven’t read them yet, it’s a good idea to start with the Treats series, because this is where the story starts, up in Mangonui, in Doubtless Bay, New Zealand. Book 1, Treat with Caution, is free on this website (go here). This tells the story of five friends who run a chocolate, coffee, and ice-cream shop, and the gorgeous guys they fall in love with.
The next series takes the action down to the Bay of Islands. The bay comprises the towns of Kerikeri, Paihia, and Russell, and the smaller towns of Waitangi (where the Treaty was signed) and Kawakawa (where there’s a famous toilet – yes really! Read more here.)
Between the Sheets is a cocktail bar based in Paihia, right on the waterfront. I’m going to get some photos of the area soon to give you an idea of where the bar would be!
Tasha and friends from the Treats series feature occasionally in the stories, but the main characters are a new group of friends. In book 1 (A Secret Between Friends) it was Genie and Niall, in book 2 (An Ocean Between Us) it was Danny and Hermione. In the upcoming book 3 (Right Between the Eyes) it’s going to be Jonah and Billie. Book 4 (Reading Between the Lines) it’ll be Finn and Tess, and in book 5 (Between You, Me, and the Bedpost) you’ll finally get to read about Beck and Josie, and their wonderful love story.
I hope you’re as excited as I am to continue this journey! These three books will be released probably February, March, and April next year, unless I really get my typing speed on! So watch this space.
The Silver Fox is in the house, everyone! Talking to us about love and romance...
"You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams." ― Dr. Seuss
I thought I would take a look at the history of ‘romance’ and maybe focus on the time-honoured portrayal of romance and love in the media… literature, cinema and music will be our test subjects, always remembering that these are my personal thoughts…
Firstly, although it might seem like it, Hollywood did not invent romance, nor in fact did books, even though the Greeks were pretty keen on a bit of romance…there are at least 20 ancient Greek writings that deal with love, Chariton's ‘Callirhoe’ from the mid-1st century is one of the oldest. I have never had the pleasure of reading it though :-)
No, I reckon that from the very beginning of time, love has been ‘in the air’… an example would be The Laetoli Footprints in Tanzania, dated to 3.7 million years ago, preserved footprints of a couple of our earliest ancestors strolling along… one set of feet is much smaller than the other, and they are side by side… a young romantic couple walking hand in hand… well, that is my interpretation and I’m sticking to it!
The Laetoli footprints
There are skeletal remains of a Roman couple, showing that the pair have been holding hands for 1500 years! That is something I would like for me and Serenity… not yet though. The 1369 tomb of Thomas de Beauchamp, earl of Warwick has Thomas holding the hand of his wife Katherine Mortimer… ahhh, and there are many more examples to find.
Thomas de Beauchamp and his Mrs
Clearly love and sex are a major (if not THE major factor) factor in human life. We crave love and we cherish love when we have it. It may not always work out in the end, but in the moment, we feel love. The comedian John Cleese once said that his marriages (of which there are a few) are not failures…he had one successful marriage that lasted 5 years, another that lasted 10 years and so on. I think he has a point.
For writers, romance has been a central plank in what they do for centuries…metaphysical poets such as John Donne or Andrew Marvell in the 17th century wrote the most wonderful thoughtful poetry… I present a very short snippet of ‘To His Mistress Going to Bed’… you really should look at the rest of it… great stuff, and a bit saucy too… high five John Donne!
Licence my roving hands, and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,
My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Next time I want to ramble about Shakespeare and the regency take on romance…
Today's task was to write 'a poem in reverse'. So I actually wrote the poem from the bottom up, then reversed the lines. The task was to see if it would still make some sort of sense read backwards! What do you think?!
This poem is a tad eerie, but I like the idea of that brief moment when time seems to stop and you can see things that ordinarily you wouldn't be able to see, a shimmer out of the corner of your eye.
This really happened at Opito Bay - we really did find a kingfisher on the deck, and The Silver Fox picked it up, then gave it to the Foxcub, where it sat for a moment before soaring into the bush.
To celebrate the fact that my new holiday romance, If Kisses Were Snowflakes, is now up for pre-order with a release date of November 4, I'm running a new competition, and there are THREE fantastic Kiwi prizes!
First prize is on the left - a signed paperback copy of one of my books, a 2018 Kiwi diary, a pretty little necklace, bookmarks, fridge magnets, and a gorgeous little Pukeko ornament. The other two prizes are as featured - a signed paperback and a few Kiwi knick-knacks!
To enter, just comment below! You can also like or comment on the post at the top of my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/serenitywoodsromance)
BUT THERE'S MORE... The best thing is that everyone's a winner, because book 1, Santa's Secret, is now FREE at all retailers!
The Christmas Wishes series features individual sexy contemporary Christmas romances that you can read in any order and enjoy.
Book 1: Santa's Secret
Book 2: White-Hot Christmas
Book 3: His Christmas Present
Book 4: If Kisses Were Snowflakes
Here's the story of Santa's Secret:
SANTA'S SECRET (CHRISTMAS WISHES BOOK 1)
Having long since lost his Christmas spirit, Rudi comes to Santa’s Secret Village looking to sell the resort. His seven-year-old daughter already knows the truth about Santa, and neither of them is particularly in the mood for the festive season.
Practically a recluse since the death of her husband, Eva’s not looking for romance. Her trip to Santa’s Village is for the sole purpose of making Christmas more festive this year for her young son. But Eva brings an unexpected sparkle to Rudi and Isabel’s lives that renews their belief in the spirit of Christmas.
As the weather grows colder, things heat up between Rudi and Eva. But will the magic still be there when they wake on Christmas morning?
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Serenity_Woods_Santa_s_Secret?id=BdcwDwAAQBAJ
And here's the blurb for the new book:
IF KISSES WERE SNOWFLAKES (CHRISTMAS WISHES BOOK 4)
Nice with a touch of naughty… a new Christmas Wishes romance from Serenity Woods.
When Angel Matthews books a vacation on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumbria at Christmas, she plans to follow in the footsteps of St. Cuthbert and spend some time alone, to recover from the trauma of the past year, and to plan her future.
She doesn’t plan on being stranded by the tide, and having to hide in one of the refuge boxes for five hours in the wintry weather.
She doesn’t expect to be rescued by a Ragnar-Lothbrok lookalike who seems to think she’s his shield maiden.
And she certainly doesn’t anticipate the way he not only thaws her frozen heart, but sends her thermostat soaring.
A relationship with the wounded but wonderful Halvar Carlson is definitely going to put her on Santa’s naughty list. But how can she possibly say no to such a sexy Viking?
So make sure you download your free copy of book 1, and why not pre-order book 4 while you're at it and give yourself an early Christmas present?
Go back to The Magic Button 1: What is a Romance?
If you have the time, take a look at this study from the RWA (Romance Writers of America).
The survey states that in the U.S., the estimated annual total sales value of romance in 2013 was $1.08 billion. Romance is BIG. Nobody can deny that. The statistic I found most interesting was that 82% of romance book buyers in 2014 were women, which means that 18% were men. Everyone adores a great love story!
Why is romance so popular? My personal belief is that romance novels address the issues important to everyone: relationships, sex, family, children, and careers. They help us recapture those magical rites of passage some of us are hoping for, and many of us wish we could experience again—falling in love, getting married, and having our first child. They show courageous heroines and caring heroes working through important issues like looking after aging parents, dealing with illness, struggling to find the right career, and having (or not being able to have) children, things we can all associate with, while at the same time showing that finding a partner and having a happy relationship is an important part of our lives.
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