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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Prize Draw: Facebook 'Fan of the Quarter'

Every Sunday evening, at about 9PM UK time, Facebook chooses a 'Fan of the Week' from all the fans and followers that have interacted on my Facebook page over the course of the week.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
These weekly winners are then manually entered into a 'Fan of the Quarter' prize draw, using RandomPicker, with a quarterly winner being drawn at the end of each Quarter as detailed on my website, along with the terms and conditions.

To support my fellow authors in the Breathless Press family, the prize for this Quarter (Q4 2012) is any eBook - available in a choice of formats - up to the value of $5 (USD) from the current Breathless Press catalogue.

Prize draw will take place after 1 January 2013, with the winner drawn using RandomPicker, and announced on my website, blog and Facebook page.

GOOD LUCK!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Writing Outside the Comfort Zone

This past week or so, I've been busy getting my pre-edits done and sent back for Christmas is Cancelled but I've also been working on a project that pushes me well outside my comfort zone...

I've been writing an erotic romance. Shock horror!

Believe me, nobody is more surprised than me to be writing in this genre but I saw the following submission call:
Serviced Anthology: Our Serviced anthology is an ongoing submission call. Stories must be under 10k, have a heat rating of at least 3, and be original stories. There is no other theme besides having something to do with the army, military, navy, or air force as well as being romantic/erotic in nature. We will be doing two a year, one with a focus on m/m stories, the other on m/f stories. The anthology will consist of 10 stories each with M/F published Mar 8th, 2013.
At first, I thought nothing of it, but then my own editor at Breathless posted on Facebook to say they were short on submissions and it got me thinking... wondering... could I actually step outside my comfort zone and write a suitable story? Once the challenge was set in my mind, almost like a dare, I knew I had to give it a go.

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have been one of the many voters helping me choose an alternate pen name - so that I can keep the 'erotic' side away from the 'contemporary romance and young adult' side adding an extra division so that I don't have to make my 'Aurelia' Facebook page and blog settings 'over 18' considering I will also be writing young adult at some point.

So, earlier this week a new writer was created called Allie A Burrow, see Introducing Allie..., she even has her own website, complete with blog, and Facebook page:

Allie A Burrow

So what of the story?

I hit send today! If you want to find out what happens, you'll have to keep an eye on Allie's Facebook page and blog for any updates...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My New Website

I am delighted to be able to unveil my brand new website, here's a screenshot...

www.aureliabrowl.com
It all came together really quickly and today saw the redirecting of my domain name from my blog - now a sub-domain - to my official website (which unfortunately means all my old shared blog links no longer work *sigh*). It contains some of the elements from my blog, and then links back to here for others, so both sites will be active and worth a look.

ETA: And you see that snazzy toolbar at the bottom (if you're using a computer)? You can open my website from there, using the links button, without needing to leave this page.

Anyway, it's all online and ready to browse so why not pop by and take a look? Don't forget to let me know what you think...

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Road to Publishing: Pre-edits

I woke up this morning to discover an email from my Editor in my inbox, complete with a pre-edit checklist detailing the things I must do before it gets to the actual editing stage; such as 'Americanising' the spellings and formatting. There were lots of other things on the checklist but I do them already, thankfully.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos

During the creation of Christmas is Cancelled, I learnt a good tip for speech marks and have implemented it for all new manuscripts but it wasn't in time for this one.

Typically, English publishing format for speech marks is single (like 'these') yet American publishers require double (like "these"), but I have now switched to using "double" ones regardless of the intended publisher. It is far easier to do a find and replace on ", which is generally only ever used for dialogue, than it is for ', which is used for apostrophes, pluralising and quotes etc.

I will continue to write in English UK though, not US, as it would disrupt my flow if I tried to write in anything else - I will never write 'color' instead of 'colour' and using 'z' instead of 's' naturally, but it's something I can amend once it's written, if necessary.

Oh, and I've seen quite a few of the Christmas release authors receiving their cover art through already so I'm now getting very excited as it can't be long until I have mine too!

Anyway, with the impending deadline for a short story I'm in the throes of writing (expect a blog on writing outside the comfort zone soon!) and a quick turnaround on the pre-edits - on top of the usual family weekend activities to work around - I'd best get cracking...

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Pen Names: What's In A Name?

Created with Scrabble Doodle & GRSites for background
I've come across a few blogs and 'expert' opinions recently which suggest using a pen name is more hassle than it's worth and, quite frankly, a bit of a waste of time. They recommend you use your real name, or at least a form of it, because using a pen means you're more afraid of failure. Or something like that anyway. So why do I use a pen name?

Is it because I am trying to hide my real identity?

No, not at all, I'd say maybe ninety percent of my followers on both here and Facebook could tell you my real name. I'm not ashamed of writing romance, I'm not embarrassed or desperate to keep it at arm's length, it just works better for me.

Why then?

It's for a few reasons really...

One reason is to add an extra screen, a layer of privacy, to keep my writing persona one step removed from my real life persona. If somebody Google's my real name to find out more about my role as a school governor, or in relation to any other aspect of my life, for example, my political affiliation or religious beliefs (or any other potentially contentious stuff usually banned from the dinner table), I don't want them to come face to face with an excerpt from one of my steamier romance novels.

Another reason is to protect my young children. I have my private profile on Facebook where I can happily post photos and talk about them. Yes, I can apply privacy settings (and do!) but even so, other users can see the pages I like or places I check into amongst other things, so it made sense for me to create my Facebook alter-ego. On the flipside, it also gives my children the option to distance themselves from the writer 'me'. They can choose to acknowledge what I do or not or deny all knowledge because it's not my 'mummy' name printed on the covers of my novels, which could be embarrassing for them when they're older.

And then there's the issue with my actual name being unisex. Seeing as I'm a romance author, I don't really want to be mistaken for a man. Not that I think men can't write romance, it's just that many will adopt a female pen name to do it.

But don't I want to see MY name on the cover of a book?

This will sound crazy, but it is my name being published. Huh?

Have you seen those pictures where there's a printed message and you're supposed to be super brainy if you can read it because of how your brain interprets the right words even though the letters are mixed up? Well, it's just like that. In fact, when I first adopted it, friends didn't even realise they weren't seeing my actual name because their brain saw the letters they were expecting to see, even though they were out of order, and rearranged them automatically. Yes, my pen name is an anagram of my real name so it is my name on the cover, it just so happens the letters are a bit jumbled up.

Isn't it hard work keeping two profiles going?

Nope, not at all, especially since a friend suggested using two different browsers to have Facebook open, one for each persona so I can log into Facebook as BOTH profiles at once. I'm just kicking myself for not thinking of it sooner.

I had the foresight to create my alter ego as soon as I decided to try my hand as a writer so it's been there right fro the start and it's like a uniform I put on when it's time to work. Similarly, I can take the hat off when it's time to be 'mummy'.

I've encouraged all of my real-life friends to like my Facebook page and befriend my alter ego but if they don't want to, that's fine, and by having a separate profile for my professional stuff, I'm not ramming my writing updates down their throats all the time. I am still me on my alter-ego, I behave exactly the same and saying the same kind of things I'd say with my real hat on, so there's not much difference.

Over to you...

What are your views on pen names?
Do you write under a pen name or do you think they are unnecessary?
If you do have a pen name, how did you choose it and why did you decide to use one?

I've Been Tagged: The Look Challenge

I have been tagged by Emma Mills, the fabulous author of YA paranormal series, Witchblood, (where vampires, witches and angels all come together, seen through the eyes of Jess, half witch/half vampire), to take part in the Look Challenge.

The objective is to look at your current manuscript and find the first instance of the word 'look' then post the surrounding paragraphs as an excerpt. Once you've done that, you need to tag five more authors so the challenge continues.

I'm currently working on Their Last Goodbye, another contemporary romance, and it took me longer than expected to find the word 'look' as the earliest mentions were looked, looking etc and I wanted to keep to the objective to the letter LOL.

Anyway, it turned up in the final scene of chapter one so here it is...

Already past the point of no return, she fell headfirst out the door and had nothing to grab onto to save herself. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut - again - and braced her arms for impact, but instead of hitting the outdated crazy paving, her palms collided with something warm and firm. They rode higher until her arms found a neck to latch onto.
She cracked her eyelids open and her gaze fell on Beth, stood to one side with a makeshift lead in her hand and a puzzled look on her face. Adam crouched on the floor beside her rubbing Hufflepuff’s tummy, completely oblivious, which could only mean one thing.
“It’s okay, I’ve got you,” David confirmed her worst fears, the sound of his voice far too close for comfort. His strong hands gripped her waist and held her steady as her legs buckled. The heat scorched her through her clothes. Okay? How the hell did this qualify as okay? 

Can you hazard a guess at what is happening?

And I tag the following authors/blogs:

Téa Cooper, whose debut romance Tree Change comes out in November.
Carmen Falcone, whose fantastic debut romance A Vengeful Affair is available now.
Susie Medwell, whose debut contemporary romance is coming soon but also writes erotic stories as Zara Stoneley.
Sarra Cannon, whose Peachville High Demons YA paranormal series is one of my favourites.
J Lilley, whose Shalean Moon YA series has stormed into the lead as my favourite shifter series.


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Off Topic: Changing Faces!

Just a quickie...

I happened to be looking at a photo just now and found it quite staggering how different a person can look by just changing one or two things. To prove it, here is a trio of pictures of me, so it's the same person, even the same dress, but three very different images:
Left = August 2010 / Centre = August 2011 / Right = June 2012
How bizarre!

Do you have a set of photos that 'should' be similar but make you think, "Yikes!"?

Are You A Goal Setter Too?

I don't know about you, but I tend not to get into the short-term goals. I don't give myself a daily word count or a task that I must complete every day, or even every week, as I know I will fall off the wagon and struggle to get back on. But I do like longer-term goals...
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos

At the end of the 90's, I came up with a short list of things I wanted to have done before the year 2000, which included things like going to a football match and going to a concert, that kind of thing. I ended up cutting it pretty close but scraped in with the concert in December 1999. Phew! Next came the things I wanted to do before I was 30 and so on. Now another milestone is drawing ever closer...

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos
Yep, the big four-oh. GULP!

Top of the list of things to do before I'm 40 at the moment, is to have 'x' number of books published but I can't decide between a conservative five or a more ambitious ten. Or am I just setting myself up for a major fall by even thinking about it?

I should point out that I still have just over thirty-six months to do it, and writing will become my 'job' from next September when I have both kids at school, rather than something I have to try and find time for. And, of course, I have the first one is in the bag already. So what do you think, five or ten, or don't-go-there?

Are you a goal setter too? 
What kind of things would make it onto your 'Things To Do Before I'm 40' list?

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

I Am A Writer

It's all gone quiet on the publishing front for Christmas is Cancelled over the past couple of days so I've been working on my author bio, seeing as I'll need to have ready prior to publication. Writing about yourself in the third person is actually quite strange and not something I want to have to do too often.

Anyway, here's what I've got so far... (there is actually a longer version too LOL)

Aurelia B Rowl never considered herself a writer and ignored all the evidence to the contrary. Not realising she had a natural, instinctive talent for writing, she knuckled down and got a job after school, becoming a jack-of-all-trades as she moved from one job to the next on a quest to find her ideal career. After a couple of false starts, she found her Mr Right and they married one Valentine’s Day (aww!).
  
 Soon after, she became a stay-at-home mum to their two children, now 5 and 3, and fulfilled a lifelong dream but with her family complete, including a mad rescue mutt, she needed a new challenge... a new dream. She rediscovered her passion for reading and couldn’t keep her muse on a leash any longer. Ten months on, she typed ‘the end’ on her first full manuscript and hit send. A contract arrived in her inbox less than a week later and she finally believed she’d been a writer all along.

Aurelia lives on the edge of the Peak District in the UK with her very understanding family who are already used to her getting too caught up with her latest writing project... or three!... and is guiltily counting down the months until she has both kids at school full-time. Her debut novel, Christmas is Cancelled, will be released by Breathless Press in December 2012.

What do you think?

I've also been playing with my blog, as you may have noticed, as well as cracking on with The Last Goodbye.

It's crazy re-reading what I'd already written and being able to see just how much my writing has come on, practically overnight, almost like a switch being flicked. So many things have clicked into place and I feel more confident in what I'm writing. The whole lot of The Last Goodbye has now gone under the knife to make the story come to life; to make the reader become a part of it rather than an interested spectator. Or at least that's the plan.

If you recall, I'd initially thought about self-publishing it, I even had the cover designed for it and everything, but I think I'd like to try to go the publishing route again. Whether that is through Breathless Press, seeing as I am now an in-house author (oooooh!), or whether I take my first shot at Entangled, all depends on the direction the story goes during the re-write and where I think it will sit best in all the different imprints offered by both publishers.


But, it will never see the light of day if I don't get it written so... TTFN.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Book Review: Return of the Last McKenna by Shirley Jump

Score: 4 out of 5

Dr. Brody McKenna has just returned home from serving as a medic in Afghanistan, and he has one more mission to fulfill...
Standing outside Kate Spencer's sweetshop, he takes a deep breath. Going through that door will take courage, for he's here to keep a promise made to his dying friend. He's prepared for tears or anger—not the deep attraction he feels for sparky-but-stressed Kate. One spontaneous offer of help later, this hero is surrounded by cupcakes, candy canes—and the greatest enticement to forget his past and take a new kind of risk...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Road to Publishing: Contract

It's official!

The contract has been electronically signed, sealed and delivered...

Copyright All rights reserved by frankselmo
WANA Commons
And I have a confession to make! I found it in my spam folder; it had been sitting there for a couple of days - oops! - but it's signed now.

So what happens next?
"Your editor will be in contact with you shortly to get an editing schedule hammered out. They should also send you a pre-edit checklist to get your manuscript prepped for the editing phase. During edits, our Art Director will send you a cover art form for your input on what the cover should look like. After edits, there will be a round of Line Edits and a round of proofing before it's handed in to layout to produce the multiple formats we sell."
GULP!

I also need to work on an author bio, but at least I've got the cover art request out of the way. It looks like I'm in for an interesting - and most likely hectic - couple of weeks or so getting the revisions and edits through and sent back but I can't wait to see my story take shape and get better with each stage!

In the meantime, I'm cracking on with Their Last Goodbye so that I have something to follow Christmas is Cancelled sooner rather than later. It's not like I can expect a Christmas book to sell all year round now, can I? Back to the grindstone then. But yeah, I'll admit...

I love it!!


The Road to Publishing: Cover Art Request


Dreamstime image
Just a quickie to let you know the next stage of Christmas is Cancelled seems to be racing along at a fair pace. 

Last night I received a cover art request through from Breathless Press. How unreal is that? Especially as I haven't actually received the contract yet.

The Art Director needed details and any thoughts I had about my cover, along with a short summary of the story and any relevant links or images. I answered all of the questions, hopefully with enough information, and inserted my images then hit 'send'. 

Now the wait begins but I really can't wait to see what the experts come up with for my book cover...


Saturday, 8 September 2012

Book Review: How the Playboy Got Serious by Shirley Jump

Score: 4 out of 5

Riley McKenna has led a charmed life—until now! Cut off from the family trust fund, he's out on his ear and fending for himself.
When he applies for a job at Stace Kettering's diner, she's not impressed by his blue eyes and easy smile. She has a strict zero-tolerance policy toward pampered playboys, having learned her lesson once already!
Riley thinks Stace will fall for him like all the others—but he's about to discover that his playboy ways just don't cut it in the real world...

Friday, 7 September 2012

Thank You For Your Support! (Quick Update)


Wow! Thank you all so much for your wonderful messages! I'm really touched that so many of you have left comments, both here and Facebook, and sent texts etc. (See blogDrumroll please... if you have no idea what I'm talking about.)

It still seems unbelievable that I'm on the next stage of my writing journey already - my writing career, in fact! - but I suspect it's all going to get a little bit crazy over the next couple of months as the revisions fly in. I can't wait to see what my cover will look like as Breathless Press do really great artwork and, in my opinion, produce some of the best covers in the business.

Anyway, I can now confirm that Christmas is Cancelled will be published in December as an ebook so I hope you'll all be poised to purchase a copy - whether you have a ebook reader or not (there's an app for everything now if you have a smartphone or computer, so no excuses) - and become a proud owner  of my debut novel.

EEK!

Drumroll please...

It seems quite crazy to think that this time last year, I wasn't writing romance - I wasn't actually writing my Young Adult story either come to think of it - but then, early in October, the idea for a Cinderella themed story was born and took hold. I plotted it all out, scene by scene, I came up with my characters and their GMC (goals, motivation and conflict) and then figured out that I should probably learn 'how' to write - just a slight hold-up(!) - and then, of course, try to put what I learnt into practice.

Even back in those very early days, I knew I had to start building a support network and an online platform, should I ever actually get anything written, so, on the 18th October 2011, I came up with my pen name and created my Facebook page - the same day that I put pen to paper to plot out my Cinderella tale, in fact. Within a month, I had created this blog as well, to plot the progress of my writing journey and also share my passion for reading. (I've discovered I really love blogging and it's a delight to see my page-views clocking up and repeat visitors coming back so thank you.)

At about the same time as creating this new alter-ego, I stumbled across the new talent competition that Mills & Boon were running, called New Voices, but I'd already missed the cut-off for the first stage so even if I'd managed to get anything written, I was too late. But that didn't stop me from joining the M&B New Voices group on Facebook where I have since met so many talented writers, both published and aspiring, and hope that I can count many as friends. I've also met two fabulous authors, Téa Cooper and Carmen Falcone, who have been invaluable as critique partners. Oddly enough, they are on opposite sides of the world with me in the middle, so a big hooray for the internet!

So why is all of this starting to sound like an acceptance speech for the Oscars, I hear you cry?

Well... you see... in the space of ten months - ish - (and with the support of my husband and the understanding of my friends), I have gone from not writing anything at all, to writing something publishable. Yes, I know there was the contract offer a couple of months ago, but at that point I hadn't even finished a manuscript. Now, not only have I finished a manuscript, last week I submitted it in full to Breathless Press for their Holiday Cheer call-out (see blog post: A Week of Submission).


Breathless Press website

I am delighted to announce that my 40k word novella, Christmas is Cancelled, has been snapped up by Breathless Press. Yes, I am going to be published and can strike the 'aspiring' from my job title and become a fully fledged author. Woo hoo! I was going to wait until the contract was signed but that will be a couple of days and it didn't seem fair to keep you hanging on. I don't have any further details right now, but you can rest assured I will be posting updates as and when I can.

Taking up writing has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, and to think I'm only dabbling when I can at the moment, attempting to hone my skills, until Little Miss starts school full-time next year. It's safe to say I have smashed the writing part of my New Year's Resolutions though and it doesn't actually feel real yet...

(ETA: See blog post: Thank You for an update)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Book Review: Much Ado About Magic by Shanna Swendson

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Read more about it on author website
To Do: Manage Magical Mayhem, Save the Company, Save the World
Katie Chandler is back in New York and at Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc. – and just in time. The city’s in the grip of a magical crime wave from spells that wizarding whiz Owen Palmer thinks look awfully familiar, and the rogue firm Spellworks is raising its profile in the magical world by selling protective amulets. It’s Katie’s job as the new director of marketing for MSI to fight this battle of public perception while Owen and the other wizards try to uncover what’s really going on.
What Katie doesn’t realize is that her idea to stage a showcase for MSI’s magical achievements is playing right into a devious plot more than three decades in the making. Now Katie has to do damage control that has nothing to do with marketing. To save the magical world, she’ll have to prove who the real enemy is, and doing that will require digging deeper into Owen’s mysterious past than he wants anyone to go. If she fails, she not only stands to lose a magical war, but she could also lose the man she loves.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Reading List: August 2012

The school holidays put paid to writing plans so it was the perfect time to get through some reading...



Monday, 3 September 2012

Multiple Personalities: To Be or Not to Be?

On the rare occasion that I haven't been writing this past week, I have been devouring the first three books in The Shalean Moon YA series by J. Lilley - and am now champing at the bit to get the next one when it is released on Friday having pre-ordered it already - most of the books that make it onto my favourites bookshelf on Goodreads are YA paranormal fiction, so you can probably guess see that my heart lies in this genre.



Reading this series has really given my muse a wake-up call, like a massive great punch in the arm, and getting me all fired up again. If you've stopped by my Writing Zone at any point since I started this blog last year, you'll have seen my Young Adult trilogy stuck "temporarily" on hold. My characters are sorted, my world is sorted and I have the materials I need for the technical bit of it... so what's the hold-up? It's a combination of a few things really...

1) I'm still very new to writing, learning my craft and honing what skills I have gained so far, and all that... I'm actually really nervous and reluctant to start writing my precious YA story until I believe my writing can do my ideas justice. Does that sound ridiculous?

2) I know the beginning, I know a few major events and I know there is a final showdown but I couldn't quite pull everything together until I read The Shalean Moon. I now know exactly how to play it am very excited that it's not going to be a trilogy any more, but a series with maybe five or so books. 

3) I still haven't done the research, even though I've had the books for ages, but I can give you plenty of excuses as to why. (LOL)

4) I can't quite decide what identity to write them under... do I write them as Aurelia or do I need another pen name exclusively for my YA stuff?

So... on that final note, I could use your advice...

Who else writes BOTH YA and romance (not erotica as that would be a no-brainer for me)? Do you do it all under the same name or do you write them under separate identities? Even if you don't actually write them, what would you do you if you were to crossover genres?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A Week of Submission

No, we're not talking BDSM here, we're talking about sending your little creations out into the big wide world of publishers and opening yourself up to the very real possibility of rejection.

Gulp!