Paperback giveaway of That Certain Something

FREE paperback!

And an excuse to talk about beautiful women…

The classy and beautiful Cate in That Certain Something is inspired (in part) by Rosamund Pike. Let me know who your favourite elegant and irresistible actress is in a comment at the end of my blog on Women and Words and I’ll add you into the draw.

http://womenwords.org/2014/06/03/add-a-little-sunshine-to-your-day-with-clare-ashton/

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A bit about That Certain Something and the Writing Process Blog Tour

I was very kindly tagged by V.G. Lee and Sandra Moran for the Writing Process Blog Tour. Authors answer four standard questions about their work in progress and their writing process in general, and then they nominate two more authors to answer the questions the following week.

EdinaV.G. Lee has long been one of my favourite authors. Her Diary of A Provincial Lesbian from 2006 was a very refreshing comic and poignant story of an ordinary British someone at a time when there was very little like it (I would still like more). It is a much treasured bonudgeok. Her last novel, Always You Edina, shows what an accomplished writer she is; it’s a beautifully observed and written novel. Please check out her work and her answers to the blog tour. Sandra Moran is a very interesting author. Her debut, Letters Never Sent, is one of the highest rated lesbian novels on Amazon and won The Rainbow Award for historical fiction. Not one to write to a formula, not even her own, she followed this up with a story of an advertising exec commissioned by God to write and market a supplement for the Bible. Have a look here to see what she’s working on now.

Now, on to the questions.

What am I working on?

When V.G. nominated me I was checking the last version of my romcom, That Certain Something, which was published last Monday. It is still my current love so I will be talking about that.

It’s quite a change from my other novels, Pennance and After Mrs Hamilton, which have been dark, twisting intrigue romances with a few surprises and uncompromising differences.

It was sparked by a conversation on the VLR discussion group where I was larking about answering questions for one of their spot-on weekends. Someone found my answers entertaining and fun and asked if my novels were the same. I had to respond that actually they were rather angst-ridden and miserable, so it had me wondering why on earth wasn’t I writing something humorous?

I had a trial run with a short story in the summer (The Dildo in the Kitchen Drawer) which I found enormous fun. And that set me up for writing a full-blown romcom.

How does my work differ to others of its genre?

cover20aI’m a sucker for British romcom films, Richard Curtis’ in particular. I love the settings, the quirky and very British characters and the wonderful lines and romances. So that is another source of inspiration for this novel: a very British romp and romance, but with an awful lot more lesbians in.

The two main characters appear poles apart. Young, fiesty Pia Benitez-Smith is a photographer and one of those amazing people who sees the essence of what is good in others, life, everything. She definitely follows her heart. She is drawn to the more reserved and thoughtful Cate, who is beautiful and refined, but who also has a naughty streak and a wry sense of humour. The two disagree about the importance of love and money and when Cate claims that her perfect night could only be expensive, Pia can’t resist the challenge and sets out to prove otherwise.

She does so with the aid of a beguiling summer night in London. This novel has a massive sense of place. I’ve loved living through the scenes in some of my favourite hidden parts of London and also researching the more exclusive settings (I would love a tour of a penthouse in the Shard).

Then there are a host of esoteric and very British characters (some forceful older women appear) and a great deal of the humour comes in their scenes. Actually, I found getting the balance of humour and romance right in this novel very interesting. Although I relished the comic scenes, they needed to be held back at times to allow the full ebb and flow of the love story.

I think that’s what has possibly become a bit of a trademark for me: the emotional intensity of my novels. People have found my previous novels harrowing at times, whereas this one really hits those highs, and tickles your funny bone too.

I think all of those aspects above give this novel a lot of flavour.

Why do I write what I do?

For that buzz from the emotional rollercoaster! Doesn’t matter if it’s the suspense of Pennance, the erotic mystery of After Mrs Hamilton or the romantic capers in That Certain Something, daydreaming of the scenes and experiencing the turmoil and ecstasy of the characters is why I write.

How does my writing process work?

A lot of that daydreaming at first. Playing with the glimmerings of a plot, characters and themes. I start jotting down bits of dialogue that I keep hearing in my head and ideas for scenes in a new Moleskin notepad for each book (I love looking back at these and finding scenes and characters that I never used and realising how different the book was when I first conceived it).

At some point I decide to write down an outline. For That Certain Something, I lived through the whole story several times from Pia’s point of view and then from Cate’s. Even though it’s predominantly from Pia’s perspective, I had to make sure that Cate’s emotional arc was right. I made other passes through to look at setting and the comic balance and when I was finally ready with all those notes, as usual, I put them aside and started writing the first draft as quickly as possible.

My main beta-readers then pull that first draft apart and I set about putting it back together again. More refined later drafts go to different beta-readers. Then after a good bit of spit and polish, reading aloud and tweaks, it goes off for a very patient last read from the first beta-readers and for copyediting and formatting.

Then I have a bloody good rest.

Next week

I’ve nominated two wonderful authors to answer these questions:

tumbledownforblogCari Hunter is a phenomenal writer of thrillers and adventure romances. Hers are gutsy stories that will leave you tense with fear for her much-abused heroines, written in perfectly crafted prose (Tumbledown, the sequel to Goldie finalist Desolation Point, being my personal favourite so far.) I’m very interested to hear what she’s been up to.

reviews_SBHLCChris Paynter is the author of the Playing for First series and Survived by her Longtime Companion – Goldie award winner, Lambda finalist and one of my favourite romances. I’d love to know who she was channelling for Eleanor and Daphne. Chris has a wonderful feel for romance and definitely knows how to deliver those gotcha moments – whether tender, heartbreaking or uplifting. She is an author and editor for Blue Feather books and is in the throws of giving birth to a new novel at this very moment – I hope she doesn’t mind stopping between breaths to answer the questions.

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That Certain Something is out now!

cover20aI’m over the moon to announce that my new romantic comedy That Certain Something is now available as an ebook on Amazon (com and co.uk) and Smashwords. It’s a summery novel that has kept me engrossed and entertained this winter. I hope you enjoy it. Here’s the blurb:

Love or money? Follow the head or heart? Pia and Cate seem to be flip sides of a coin. But when they meet, they definitely have that certain something, and these questions aren’t so simple after a night like theirs.

Pia Benitez-Smith has her head in the clouds of ideals and romance. She’s a photojournalist out to prove herself with her compassionate eye and although not exactly accident prone, most days trouble seems to find her. On one such day, she literally falls into the arms of the beautiful Cate. Elegant, intriguing and classy, Cate is Pia’s polar opposite. When the two dispute the importance of love versus money, Cate is adamant that her perfect night will always be an expensive one. Working class Pia can’t resist the challenge and with the assistance of a beguiling summer night in London, she begins to enchant her new friend.

An irresistible couple, a charismatic city, a priceless supporting cast – That Certain Something is a sparkling romcom from Goldie award winner Clare Ashton.

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That Certain Something – a sample

I’m beginning to get like a kid before Christmas with my latest novel. I’m on my final edit, reading aloud and polishing before it goes to copy-edit, and I just want people to read it.

I’ve been muttering about writing a light romance for a while and it’s been very pleasant this winter being able to nip out to a romantic summer London with quirky characters and funny scenes.

Here’s chapter 1 of That Certain Something for a taster. I hope to publish it in May.

~~~

Chapter 1

Pia walked around the edge of the quiet London square affecting an air of nonchalance. She kicked out her boots and hummed a song but, underneath her arm, she kept a tight grip on her camera and long zoom lens. She peered over her sunglasses. No-one walked outside the tall Georgian terraces. No-one sat underneath the trees of the large private garden in the centre of Kensington Square. She wriggled her shoulders underneath her rucksack and, with one last peek around, attempted a nimble jump over the black railings into the garden.

Continue reading

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Some tips on editing

I talked to a group of new authors at L Festive at the weekend, and went through some tips that I’ve found useful for editing and polishing manuscripts after the first draft. I’ve had a few requests for notes on the session so I’ve posted them here for wider use. They’re intended for authors preparing their manuscript for submitting to publishers or self-publishing.

You’ve written your novel – now what?

(1) Get feedback

If you are self-publishing, beta-readers take the place of a development editor. If you are submitting to a publisher, feedback will only help your chances.

  • Get a mix of people to read your story, ideally including other authors and people who read your genre
  • Ideally cultivate a mix of beta-readers who will both pounce on every issue and pat you on the back where you’ve done well (usually different people!)
  • Be brave and listen very carefully to issues – if beta-readers find an issue so will a paying reader or submissions editor

(2) Read through the draft critically for structural and other large issues (forget about style for the moment)

Some common and useful tips:

  • Make sure the start is strong – captivating and gets straight into the story
  • Are the characters distinguishable? This is especially important in lesfic with so many female characters – and don’t rely on the short/tall, dark/blonde distinction
  • Watch out for unnecessary scenes / description / characters that are appealing to the author but not necessary for the story – readers will get bored. Also watch out for your research showing.
  • Pacing and proportion – are scenes overwritten / underwritten given their importance
  • Conflict – is there enough to keep the reader interested?
  • Inconsistent point of views –mainly slips in third-person POV. Some readers hate head-hopping.
  • Is there too much telling and explanation – respect the reader’s intelligence and dramatise scenes to – show don’t tell (but not all the time!)
  • Too many flashbacks? Use with care – slows the momentum of the story and are hated by some readers
  • Any loose ends?
  • Are there too many characters / locations? Too much detail on minor characters (don’t name incidentals).
  • Do the main characters develop over the novel?
  • Ensure there is a strong ending

Note this step usually requires several drafts where you refine and bring out themes, give depth to characters and refine the plot and structure

(3) Line-editing and polishing

Examples:

  • Overuse / underuse of dialogue tags? Simplify most to “said” to avoid annoying readers.
  • Cliches – think of fresh vivid phrases instead
  • Metaphors and similes are loathed by a great number
  • Use precise language for impact and edit out unnecessary words – adverbs for example can be overused and words such as “seems”, “almost”, “then” are usually redundant
  • Watch out for repeated words
  • Also repeated phrases or habits – characters winking, or leaning forwards, describing the hair colour of every single character
  • Vary the sentence structure
  • Strengthen sentences – end powerfully
  • Watch out for overuse of participle phrases, including in dialogue tags. “That’s fine,” she said, sipping her tea.
  • Unrealistic dialogue to progress plot

(4) Read the whole manuscript aloud

  • Extremely useful for making sure the work reads smoothly
  • Great for realistic dialogue

(5) Finally (if self-publishing), get someone else to copy-edit it (it’s extremely difficult to spot your own mistakes):

  • Spelling, grammar, punctuation
  • Factual errors
  • Inconsistencies (e.g. character changes name in places) and plot holes

Finding beta-readers and editors

  •  For beta-readers – make friends with authors of Facebook and ask around on online discussion groups such as the Virtual Living Room. Most beta-readers will give you feedback in exchange for a printed version of the novel. Authors may be willing to swap beta-reads.
  • For editors, ask for recommendations from other authors and The Society for Editors and Proof readers. Smashwords also lists editors (Mark’s List).

 Some recommendations for books

  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Brown and King – extremely good and popular book – pay attention to what it says because others (like submissions editors) do
  • Revision – A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction by Kaplan – difficult to get hold of (available on US Amazon) – but good for practical examples of how to edit for structure, meaning and style
  • Plot and Structure by Scott Bell – very prescriptive but a great way of looking at your story and a way to ask yourself the right questions to help strengthen a novel
  • The Art of Fiction by Lodge – fantastic insight into fiction techniques – stream of consciousness, sense of place, etc. – illustrated with a range of texts
  • Popular lesfic author Jae has plenty of great writing tips on her website.
  • And in general read other fiction critically – what works, what doesn’t and why
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Interview by Ylva Publishing

I had this short(ish) and sweet interview with the lovely people at Ylva publishing . They asked me some great questions and I hope you find the answers entertaining – it was fun to do.

http://ylvapublishing.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/spotlight-interview-clare-ashton/

Ylva are a relatively new publishing company coming out with some interesting books in both German and English. They focus on women writers and aim to be an author friendly publisher putting out quality publications.

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Interview with Diana Simmonds by Clare Ashton

Diana Simmonds, author of Heart on Fire and Forty Love, is an interesting woman. I got to know her when she edited After Mrs Hamilton and she also now has a new book out. Here’s my interview with her on the Women and Words site.

Interview with Diana Simmonds by Clare Ashton.

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