The Little Bookshop on the Seine
La Vie En Rose
Bookshop owner Sarah Smith has been offered the opportunity to exchange bookshops with her new Parisian friend for 6 months! And saying yes is a no-brainer – after all, what kind of a romantic would turn down a trip to Paris…for Christmas?
Even if it does mean leaving the irresistible Ridge Warner behind, Sarah’s sure she’s in for the holiday of a lifetime – complete with all the books she can read!
Imagining days wandering around Shakespeare & Co, munching on croissants, sipping café au laits and watching the snow fall on the Champs-Élysées Sarah boards the plane.
But will her dream of a Parisian Happily-Ever-After come true? Or will Sarah realise that the dream of a Christmas fairytale in the city of love isn’t quite as rosy in reality…
A deliciously feel-good Christmas romance perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Julia Williams
My email pinged and I dashed over to see who it was from. That’s how exciting my life was sans Ridge, an email was enough to make me almost run, and that was saying a lot. I only ran if chocolate was involved, and even then it was more a fast walk.
Sophie, a dear Parisian friend. She owned Once Upon a Time, a famous bookshop by the bank of the Seine. We’d become confidantes since connecting on my book blog a while back, and shared our joys and sorrows about bookshop life. She was charming and sweet, and adored books as much as me, believing them to be portable magic, and a balm for souls.
I clicked open the email and read.
I cannot stay one more day in Paris. You see, Manu has not so much broken my heart, rather pulled it out of my chest and stomped on it. The days are interminable and I can’t catch my breath. He walks past the bookshop, as though nothing is amiss. I have a proposal for you. Please call me as soon as you can.
Poor Sophie. I’d heard all about her grand love affair with a dashing twenty-something man, who frequented her bookshop, and quoted famous poets. It’d been a whirlwind romance, but she often worried he cast an appraising eye over other women. Even when she clutched his hand, and walked along the cobbled streets of Paris, he’d dart an admiring glance at any woman swishing past.
I shot off a quick reply, telling her to Skype me now, if she was able. Within seconds my computer flashed with an incoming call.
Her face appeared on the screen, her chestnut-colored hair in an elegant chignon, her lips dusted rosy pink. If she was in the throes of heartache, you’d never know it by looking at her. The French had a way of always looking poised and together, no matter what was happening in their complex lives.
“Darling,” she said, giving me a nod. “He’s a lothario, a Casanova, a…” She grappled for another moniker as her voice broke. “He’s dating the girl who owns the shop next door!” Her eyes smoldered, but her face remained stoic.
I gasped, “Which girl? The one from the florist?”
Sophie shook her head. “The other side, the girl from the fromagerie.” She grimaced. I’d heard so much about the people in or around Sophie’s life that it was easy to call her neighbors to mind. “Giselle?” I said, incredulous. “Wasn’t she engaged – I thought the wedding was any day now?”
Sophie’s eyes widened. “She’s broken off her engagement, and has announced it to the world that my Manu has proposed and now they are about to set up house and to try immediately for children –”
My hand flew to my mouth. “Children! He wouldn’t do that, surely!” Sophie was late-forties, and had gently broached the subject of having a baby with Manu, but he’d said simply: absolutely not, he didn’t want children.
The doorbell of her shop pinged, Sophie’s face pinched and she leaned closer to the screen, lowering her voice. “A customer…” She forced a bright smile, turned her head and spoke in rapid-fire French to whoever stood just off-screen. “So,” she continued quietly. “The entire neighborhood are whispering behind their hands about the love triangle, and unfortunately for me, I’m the laughing stock. The older woman, who was deceived by a younger man.”
I wished I could lean through the monitor and hug her. While she was an expert at keeping her features neutral, she couldn’t stop the glassiness of her eyes when tears threatened. My heart broke that Manu would treat her so callously. She’d trusted him, and loved him unreservedly. “No one is laughing at you, I promise,” I said. “They’ll be talking about Manu, if anyone, and saying how he’s made a huge mistake.”
“No, no.” A bitter laugh escaped her. “I look like a fool. I simply cannot handle when he cavorts through the streets with her, darting glances in my bookshop, like they hope I’ll see them. It’s too cruel.” Sophie held up a hand, and turned to a voice. She said au revoir to the customer and spun to face me, but within a second or two, the bell sounded again. “I have a proposal for you, and I want you to really consider it.” She raised her eyebrows. “Or at least hear me out before you say no.” Her gaze burned into mine as I racked my brain with what it could be, and came up short. Sophie waved to customers, and pivoted her screen further away.
“Well?” I said with a nervous giggle. “What exactly are you proposing?”
She blew out a breath, and then smiled. “A bookshop exchange. You come and run Once Upon a Time, and I’ll take over the Bookshop on the Corner.”
I gasped, my jaw dropping.
Sophie continued, her calm belied by the slight quake in her hand as she gesticulated. “You’ve always said how much you yearned to visit the city of love – here’s your chance, my dear friend. After our language lessons, you’re more than capable of speaking enough French to get by.” Sophie’s words spilled out in a desperate rush, her earlier calm vanishing. “You’d save me so much heartache. I want to be in a place where no one knows me, and there’s no chance for love, ever again.”
I tried to hide my smile at that remark. I’d told Sophie in the past how bereft of single men Ashford was, and how my love life had been almost non-existent until Ridge strolled into town.
“Sophie, I want to help you, but I’m barely hanging on to the bookshop as is…” I stalled for time, running a hand through my hair, my bangs too long, shielding the tops of my eyebrows. How could it work? How would we run each other’s businesses, the financial side, the logistics? I also had an online shop, and I sourced hard-to-find books – how would Sophie continue that?
My mind boggled with the details, not to mention the fact that leaving my books would be akin to leaving a child behind. I loved my bookshop as if it were a living thing, an unconditional best friend, who was always there for me. Besides, I’d never ventured too far from Ashford let alone boarded a plane – it just couldn’t happen.
“Please,” Sophie said, a real heartache in her tone. “Think about it. We can work out the finer details and I’ll make it worth your while. Besides, you know I’m good with numbers, I can whip your sales into shape.” Her eyes clouded with tears. “I have to leave, Sarah. You’re my only chance. Christmas in Paris is on your bucket list…”
My bucket list. A hastily compiled scrappy piece of paper filled with things I thought I’d never do. Christmas in Paris – snow dusting the bare trees on the Left Bank, the sparkling fairy lights along the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Santa’s village in the Latin Quarter. The many Christmas markets to stroll through, rugged up with thick scarves and gloves, Ridge by my side, as I hunted out treasures. I’d spent many a day curled up in my own shop, flicking through memoirs, or travel guides about Paris, dreaming about the impossible…one day.
Sophie continued: “If you knew how I suffered here, my darling. It’s not only Manu, it’s everything. All of a sudden, I can’t do it all any more. It’s like someone has pulled the plug, and I’m empty.” Her eyes scrunched closed as she fought tears.
While Sophie’s predicament was different to mine, she was in a funk, just like me. Perhaps a new outlook, a new place would mend both our lives. Her idea of whipping my sales into shape was laughable though, she had no real clue how tiny Ashford was.
“Exchange bookshops…” I said, the idea taking shape. Could I just up and leave? What about my friends, my life, my book babies? My fear of change? And Ridge, what would he have to say about it? But my life…it was missing something. Could this be the answer?
Paris. The city of love. Full of rich literary history.
A little bookshop on the bank of the Seine. Could there be anything sweeter?
With a thud, a book fell to the floor beside me, dust motes dancing above it like glitter. I craned my neck to see what it was.
Paris: A Literary Guide.
Was that a sign? Did my books want me to go?
“Yes,” I said, without any more thought. “I’ll do it.”
The Little Paris Collection:
The Little Bookshop on the Seine
The Little Antique Shop under the Eiffel Tower
The Little Perfume Shop off the Champs-Élysées
Also by Rebecca Raisin
The Gingerbread Café trilogy:
Christmas at the Gingerbread Café
Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café
Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café
The Bookshop on the Corner
Secrets at the Maple Syrup Farm
Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1LfJJzO
Amazon US http://amzn.to/1KR2Wck
is a bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in various short-story anthologies, and in fiction magazines, and is now focusing on writing romance. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous men who have brains as well as brawn is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships, and, most importantly, believe in true, once-in-a-lifetime love.
Follow her on twitter @jaxandwillsmum
The Same Deep Water by Lisa Swallow
Phe wants to die.
Guy’s time is running out.
Two lists stand between them and the end of their lives.
Nineteen-year-old Phe moves to the opposite side of Australia to begin a career in a world she fights against being part of. Since the tragedy that stole her family when she was a child, she’s battled the push and pull between life and death.
On the edge of making the decision to end her life, Phe meets Guy.
Guy has too much money, a bucket list to complete and not much time.
He persuades Phe to write her own list and they pledge to be travelling companions through the life they both have left by completing their bucket lists together. Learning how to live in the moment and step outside of life’s constraints, Guy and Phe become closer.
Until Phe discovers the truth about what’s killing Guy and how he’s betraying them both.
I was so excited about the concept of this book—two people completing their bucket lists together. It’s something I haven’t come across before.
I read the blurb, and it’s no great secret this book also deals with some pretty heavy subject material, but the issues the characters face are so nicely handled that it’s never too much to bear. I was instantly swept into their story, finding myself filled with emotion at the thought of how this book was going to end. I thought I knew exactly where the plot was going but not everything is as it seems. Towards the end I realised there was so much more to the story than what meets the eye. I won’t say any more at the risk of revealing spoilers but I thought this was a wonderfully thought provoking novel about the power of love.
Book Title: Maid for the Rock Star
Author: Demelza Carlton
Genre: New Adult/Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 3, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
A maid at the exclusive Romance Island Resort, Audra knows how to handle rock stars, billionaires and celebrities. She keeps their secrets, cleans up their mess and makes sure their holiday is a memorable one. There’s just one rule: no relationships with guests.
And Audra never breaks the rules.
Jay Felix is rock royalty and he knows it. When one of his bandmates threatens to break up the band, he goes into hiding at the Romance Island Resort. Looking for a distraction, he sets his sights on the unattainable Audra. But what’s a rock star to do when the girl he wants is the one woman he can’t have?
Welcome to paradise, where the romance is as hot as the weather and the tides aren’t the only thing surging under the surface.
She reached the door and paused to take a deep breath. Patience, calm and don’t kill the VIP, she told herself. Then she rapped on the frosted glass door. “Maid service, Mr Felix.”
It wasn’t, so she swiped her wristband, waiting for the intercom to beep as it had earlier.
The door hissed open. Audra swallowed her surprise and strode inside. She should be used to automatic doors by now.
Audra followed the sound of his voice to the theatre room, where he lay sprawled across the modular sofa in his black boxer briefs and nothing else. He reached down to scratch his sizeable, cotton-clad bulge.
Clearing her throat, Audra began, “Reception said you were having trouble with the TV?” She crossed the floor so she could focus on the screen and not the chiselled man tempting her like a bar of the best chocolate. The dickhead had a body that rivalled Serge’s. Speaking of Serge… “If you like, I’ll arrange to get a repair crew from Engineering out here. I could arrange some other activity for you in the meantime. Perhaps book you a session with the personal trainer in the gym…” She squinted at the screen. The picture seemed to be just fine, if a bit blurred. It took her a moment to realise what she was seeing projected across the wall. Then she didn’t know where to look. “I take it you don’t want to watch the adult movie channel?” Audra enquired, trying to keep a straight face. She’d heard every excuse in the book for why hotel guests had accidentally accessed the channel. She wondered if he’d have a new one.
Jay laughed. “Babe, I’m a rock star. Porn goes with the territory. I don’t usually watch it alone, is all.”
“Ah.” She really didn’t know what to say. Had he called her to come and watch adult movies with him? She heartily hoped that wasn’t included in her job description.
“Nah, it’s this awesome blowjob the chick did. Here, check it out.” To Audra’s horror, he flipped the movie back to a different scene and made it play. Her mouth dropped open as she watched the male porn star’s genitals disappear down his co-star’s throat, while he grinned beneath his moustache and made a lot of noise to express his evident pleasure. An excruciatingly long moment later, Jay paused the film on an extreme close-up of the action. “There. Can you do that?”
“No.” In fact, Audra didn’t think any normal woman could.
“Aw, c’mon, babe. For me. Give it a shot.” His boxer briefs landed on the floor beside her foot.
Audra took a deep breath, forcing her eyes to face forward and under no circumstances glance at the hot, naked rock star on the couch behind her. If she did, she knew she wouldn’t be able to resist him.
“Babe, once you’ve sucked my cock, you can call me Jay.”
Thank you, coarse-tongued creep for breaking the spell. Two more deep breaths and she managed to find the strength to refuse. “Mr Felix, I think you’ve confused maid service with the services of a prostitute. My job description doesn’t include sexual favours. I can contact Reception and ask them to arrange transport for you to the brothel in town, where you can – ”
“Babe, I’m a fucking rock star. I don’t need to pay for sex. I have chicks lining up to suck my dick. Fuck, they’d pay me for it.”
Reluctantly, Audra turned to face the arrogant prick. She held his gaze, not trusting herself to look anywhere else. “Please don’t swear at me, Mr Felix. And I hate to tell you this, but there isn’t anyone waiting outside. Perhaps your adoring fans aren’t aware that you’re here. If there were such a queue, I’d be able to escort the first lady in line inside to see to your…needs.” She heard the distaste in her voice and changed the subject. “So can I report to Reception that your TV is now working fine and get back to my other duties?”
His eyebrows scrunched up so they almost met across his red nose. In fact, his whole face had turned red. “I just want you to suck my dick while I watch porn. What do I have to do to get a blowjob?”
“I don’t know, Mr Felix. All I do know is that it’s not my job. Perhaps I can ask Reception to call the brothel to send an expert over?”
“I don’t need to pay for sex!” he bellowed. “Is that what you’re after? Money? Fine. How much does it take for a man to get a blowjob from you?” He reached for his wallet and pulled out a wad of bills.
“I’m sorry, Mr Felix.” She wasn’t, but it sounded civil to say so. “It would take flying pigs, a cold day in hell and the sun to rise in the west, and I still wouldn’t do it. Because I’d lose my job.” She forced herself to smile. “I hope you have a pleasant evening.” Audra turned her back and strode toward the front door. How fate could grant an arsehole like him a body so perfect…nothing in life was fair.
“You expect me to deal with this hard-on by myself?” His voice shifted up an octave.
Audra thought she heard a note of desperation. Good. Maybe it was time life evened up the score a bit. For all the nights she’d lusted after him and never been properly satisfied.
“You have two hands, Mr Felix. I understand that’s all a lonely single man needs.” She clamped her lips together and forced herself to remain calm until the door closed behind her. She blinked in the late afternoon sunlight, feeling like she’d been inside a surreal film and the real world was definitely a relief. Sunset tinted the path as she followed the yellow brick road away from the rock star the newspapers called the Wizard of Aus.
Once she’d rounded the corner and Villa Maxima vanished from sight, she broke into a sprint for the main building. She had to get to Dennis before the dickhead called security to get her fired. Or before she turned around and did something she’d really regret.
Demelza Carlton has always loved the ocean, but on her first snorkelling trip she found she was afraid of fish.
She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers and stood on spray-drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below.
Sensationalist spin? No – Demelza tends to take a camera with her so she can capture and share the moment later; shipwrecks, sharks and all.
Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark attack capital of the world.
The Ocean’s Gift series was her first foray into fiction, followed by the Nightmares trilogy. She swears the Mel Goes to Hell series ambushed her on a crowded train and wouldn’t leave her alone.
Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!
Week 5: The Dark Choir Series
Book One: The Curse Merchant
By J.P. Sloan
Dorian Lake spent years cornering the Baltimore hex-crafting market, using his skills at the hermetic arts to exact karmic justice for those whom the system has failed. He keeps his magic clean and free of soul-corrupting Netherwork, thus avoiding both the karmic blow-back of his practice and the notice of the Presidium, a powerful cabal of practitioners that polices the esoteric arts in America. However, when an unscrupulous Netherworker interferes with both his business and his personal life, Dorian’s disarming charisma and hermetic savvy may not be enough to keep his soul out of jeopardy.
His rival, a soul monger named Neil Osterhaus, wouldn’t be such a problem were it not for Carmen, Dorian’s captivating ex-lover. After two years’ absence Carmen arrives at Dorian’s doorstep with a problem: she sold her soul to Osterhaus, and has only two weeks to buy it back. Hoping to win back Carmen’s affections, Dorian must find a replacement soul without tainting his own. As Dorian descends into the shadows of Baltimore’s underworld, he must decide how low he is willing to stoop in order to save Carmen from eternal damnation… with the Presidium watching, waiting for him to cross the line.
A Louisiana native, Sloan relocated to the vineyards and cow pastures of Central Maryland after Hurricane Katrina, where he lives with his wife and son. During the day he commutes to the city of Baltimore, a setting which inspires much of his writing.
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A huge congratulations to Chris on the release of the new novel – Lord of War!
Lissa Two is a thief of the ocean cities, struggling to make enough money to clear her debts and take care of her traumatised sister, scratching a meagre living as best she can. So she has enough worries without her life getting more complicated…but when a boy named Hattan literally falls from the sky, she can’t just let him drown. It’s a decision she comes to regret, a decision that will change not only her life, but the lives of everyone she loves. If they survive..
It was the cover of this book that initially drew me in. The blurb is short and enticing but it doesn’t reveal much. There was really no way to know what to expect from Medusa without reading it.
I don’t want to give away too much of the storyline, because I think that mysterious allure really works in its favour. But I will say it follows the story of Lissa Two, a young woman struggling to keep her sister safe in a post-apocalyptic world fraught with danger.
Lissa is brave, resourceful and willing to fight for what she believes in. She’s a really strong character, and while she’s completely in control of surroundings, there is also an element of vulnerability to her. She keeps you on side at all times, and when the challenges hit, you definitely go along for the ride.
This story has everything a good book deserves. The storyline is original, the pacing works really well, and there are also lots of subplots to keep you engaged as you follow the characters. There are some unexpected twists and turns, betrayal, redemption and just a tiny hint of romance.
There is plenty of action but it’s well balanced by the detail of the characters, and the depth of the world they live in. I certainly have to give extra points to Tony for such a richly imagined setting. It stands to reason that in a time so far removed from our own, everything would be different, and he didn’t spare any of the finer points. There is added technology, different illnesses, even the language has evolved. It can be really tricky to do, but he took on the challenge and made it work.
If I was going to make any complaints about this book, it would be that the terminology was a little overwhelming at first. But given the difficulty in using alternative language, I don’t think there is any way to avoid it. Although initially a little confusing, it doesn’t take long before everything fits into place. And I think the book wouldn’t be the same without it, because it does, after all, make the world complete.
Finally the writing style suits the mood of the book just right. The words flow really well, and it makes for easy reading. At the same time, I feel there is a dark undertone to Tony’s writing, a sense of creepiness, that isn’t thrown in your face but subtly weaved into the background. It helps build tension and leaves you with a feeling of something sinister on the way. Which is perfect for the post-apocalyptic genre.
Overall, an enjoyable read that I would definitely recommend to sci-fi fans. 5/5 Stars!
I recently watched a movie called Stranger than Fiction. It’s about a man who can hear a voice narrating his life, as though he’s a character in a book. Seeing this idea in action made me realise how familiar the concept was. I live my life just like that, because I’m a writer, and we narrate on instinct. Our lives are always followed by a mysterious voice-over, because the characters in our stories are shaped by our day to day actions. They live with us, and the things they experience are extracts of our real lives.
That’s not to say every moment of every day is lived as a novel. Inside a writer’s mind, sometimes it is quiet, but the story can begin with the most simple catalyst. It could be lying in bed, shopping for groceries, walking the dog or driving the car. It might seem like a menial task, but somewhere inside the author’s imagination, there is a character doing that exact thing. Only their situation might not be as simple as ours.
A car ride might not be a trip home from work—it’s a killer fleeing the scene of a crime, a frightened girl on the way to an orphanage, or the last vehicle with a low fuel tank in the zombie apocalypse. The narrator kicks in, turning the mundane into something magical. The trees arch over the car, the storm clouds turn black with menace. Wind thrashes rain against the windscreen as the wipers creak. And suddenly this simple life becomes a beautiful book scene.
The narrator lays the groundwork in our minds, and sometimes in the car, middle of peak-hour traffic, you fill in the characters’ dialogue (yes I do this, and pretend I’m on a hands-free phone call). The narrator helps us pull pieces of the real world into our stories so our characters have more dimension. And sometimes it’s hard to break away from that imaginary place to face the real world once more. But this world we live in, is an amazing place for a writer, we’re never alone and the narrator can fill us with wonder at any turn. The whole thing might sound a little nuts, but I know all the writers out there will be nodding their heads. It’s just something we do.
Set your narrator free.
Just over a month ago I released the four books in my series, a lot of people asked me what was next and my answer was always, “I’ll just keep writing.” People wanted to know if I would take a holiday, after years of writing and editing didn’t I want some time to relax? The truth is I don’t feel relaxed unless I’m writing, in fact I’m lost without it.
For the first three weeks after the book release much of my time went into promotional work and record keeping but as I got the hang of it all I found myself with spare time again. Part of me struggled with the idea of letting go of The Shadow Series, the thought of working with new characters did freak me out a bit, I felt like I was abandoning relationships with my friends—even if they were imaginary. I realised it might take me longer to adjust than I initially anticipated. And it scared me to think how long it could be before I was ready to work on something new.
I tried not to focus on it too much, but there was this underlying fear; what if the Shadow Series was all I had in me? What if I couldn’t move on? I’d also sent out a lot of review requests to book bloggers and I felt like I needed to be working on something new before the reviews came back. I opened my mind to new ideas, I started recording dreams and taking notes every time a potential plots came to me. I had plenty of inspirations and a few really cool pieces to fit into a book but individually they weren’t strong enough to work on their own.
It didn’t take long for my spare time to turn into immense boredom, there is a quote about writing which explains this perfectly, “Writers don’t take vacations, they are either writing or thinking about writing.” And that is exactly the reason I felt so bored without a project to work on. I can handle not writing if I can at least think about writing. I need those characters alive in my head all the time. I have a pretty active social life, with great friends and family there’s plenty of things I can do to fill my time but it’s the hours in between that kill me. What do people think about when they’re waiting at the traffic lights, exercising, waiting for a friend or trying to fall asleep?
My life feels aimless without a story to focus on so after a few weeks this boredom started to get to me. I decided the time was right. I didn’t have a fully formed plot but I had some cool ideas, I decided I would find a way to fit them all together.
I’ve been reading a lot of ghost stories lately, I loved being scared and feeling as though the story really got under my skin. I wanted to spend more time in that dark world and thought the only way to become more involved is to write it instead of just reading it. I decided that would be the premise for my new story. The Shadow Series is written in first person from the point of view of a female, I wanted to do the complete opposite in my new book, so the main character is male and it’s written in third person. The other elements are a combination of dreams, documentaries and nonfiction books I’ve read.
I started writing it on the 6th of June, but progress was slow. It took me a full week to finish the first chapter. It was just so strange working with a new character, after knowing my old characters so well this one felt too superficial. I pushed on but I was distracted. Partly because I was going to be submitting this chapter to my new writing group for critiquing and I was nervous about it. It was a work in progress but the quality of writing from the other members was so high I felt intimidated, I kept thinking, although it was a draft it had to be a damn good draft!
I went to the writer’s group and received my critique. All the anticipation was completely unwarranted. Everyone in the group is really supportive of each other, they gave amazing advice and after spending 3 hours in their company I felt my passion coming to life again. It wasn’t just receiving comments on my own work that inspired me but being involved in their stories as well. Seeing how some scenes affected all of us in the same way and realising the power in those words. I’ve received a lot of feedback on my writing from beta readers but the advice from writer to writer is quite different. It opened my eyes to new concepts and gave me more faith in letting the reader create the scene themselves. I can’t wait to see where it takes me!
So I went home and continued working on my ghost story, it took a little while to find my rhythm but by the end of the week I started to feel really excited about writing again. The character has more depth in my mind, the plot is almost completely mapped out and I have something to think about when I’m waiting at the traffic lights and trying to fall asleep. Everything is as it should be—life after The Shadow Series does go on!
Creating The Shadow Series took four years of my life, close to 18 months of that was spent just on editing. A lot of people underestimate exactly how much editing goes into a book, the truth is it’s more important than the writing. When you’re in the process of penning your story it’s surprising how many stupid mistakes come out, it doesn’t mean you’re a stupid person it’s just that you use different sides of your brain to think logically and creatively. When you’re concentrating on plot there is no way to make sure you’re adding all the necessary commas and apostrophes. The best way is to make as many mistakes as it takes to get that story out and deal with the cleanup after. Which means you can’t neglect the editing process, it should take the same length of time it took to write the book, if not longer.
When I’m working on a new novel I usually spend about six hours writing, stop for a break then spend about two hours going over what I’ve written and making sure the dialogue and characters are coming across the way I intended. During this check I correct obvious mistakes but I focus more on plot than spelling and grammar. Aside from this nightly check I don’t go back to the beginning of the book until I’ve finished the first draft. It’s too easy to get caught up in the first 30 pages, if you start trying to correct it you lose the rhythm and end up trapped in a never ending cycle.
Once the draft is finished I get out a fresh notepad and start at the very beginning. This first pass isn’t to make corrections either, it’s simply to read and take notes. I try to read the story as though I didn’t write it, focusing on how a reader might interpret the plot. My notes usually end up sounding like a bit of a joke, things like; pg 2 – cheesy paragraph, chapter 6 – needs restructure, page 57 characters sound whiny and annoying etc. It doesn’t matter exactly what the notes say, as long as I know there’s something wrong with it and I need to rewrite that section.
The faster I complete this first read the easier it is to notice mistakes in consistency, sometimes you will say it’s winter in chapter 2 and a couple of pages later it has changed to summer. You’d be amazed to know how many times simple mistakes like that slip in. The good news is you get better at picking up on these mistakes and countering them. I learnt a little tip from another author along the way and it has been an incredibly useful tool. When I write a new character or location into my books I create a profile card for that person or place.
It contains just simple notes like appearance, eye/hair colour, name, age, personality traits. The card is then filed away in my profiling folder and each time I refer to them I have a reference. Before I discovered this handy strategy I was shocked how many times a person’s eye colour changed without me realising I was doing it!
Tricks like this make you more efficient but they are things you can only learn with experience, it’s all about trial and error, learning what works for you.
Once the first read is finished, I have a notepad filled with suggested changes, I then start at the beginning and rewrite all the sections that have problems. Here’s where it gets tricky, the more you rewrite the more inconsistencies that pop up, so when you’ve finished the entire draft you have to go back to step one—read the manuscript from start to finish, take notes and rewrite until everything is flowing smoothly. I find this usually takes three passes, but that’s not the end of it. There will always be problems, things you don’t notice no matter how many times you read it. The best thing is to get a fresh pair of eyes on it. For me this person is my sister. Sarah has been mentioned in various blogs now and the reason is that these books would be very different without her input, she deserves credit for that!
Sarah reads faster than anyone I’ve ever known, she can get through a manuscript within 24 hours and her speed actually makes her better at picking up flaws. Most people would read a few chapters and take a break which means they might not notice an incorrect weather change or a misplaced event. Sarah picks up tiny details I hadn’t even considered looking at, she gives me an overall opinion of the storyline, she notes chapters where the wording seems off and she tells me when a character is behaving in a way that doesn’t suit their profile. Her input is invaluable so I can’t thank her enough for that.
After Sarah’s feedback I make the suggested corrections, depending on the amount of work required this is usually done in two passes. Once that’s complete I send it out to close friends and wait for their feedback. It’s also really interesting how people interpret things, everyone reacts in different ways and hearing various angles helps me gain perspective. It sounds ridiculous but one of the most useful feedback points is when a person tells me a character annoyed them, it makes me realise I’ve overdone something, I can then go back and take out repetitive thought cycles that makes characters seem like they’re over thinking things. For The Shadow Series I received a lot of feedback via email, I printed them all off and kept them in a folder to revisit when I’d finished the entire series.
Completing the final book was an amazing feeling but I knew there was still a lot of work to be done. They often compare a person’s first book to having a child, you love it so much that you can’t see if it’s imperfections, many authors advise that you should cradle your first book until that first love fades away and then if you still think it’s good enough—try to publish it. By the time I reached book four I could see that book one was pretty ugly. I felt the series had the potential to be published but it had been so long since I wrote the beginning, it was no longer an accurate representation of my writing skills and I knew I could do better.
I rewrote book one, essentially the storyline remained the same but I changed sentence structure and took out unnecessary pieces of information. Most authors publish books as they write them, I was lucky enough to be able to go back to the beginning and take out plotlines that were started and then abandoned. I added emphasis to the things that were relevant to the future of the characters and changed all the little details according to the feedback I’d received. I knew the editing process was going to take a long time, I allowed myself a year but it took an extra 6 months.
Before releasing it to the public there was still one final process to get through, so much had changed in the series from when I first wrote it, I needed a final interpretation. I asked my mum to be responsible for the last language edit, the spelling and grammar check. I’d read the books so many times I found it near impossible to see it objectively. Thanks so much to Mum for working through them!
I also wanted one last lot of feedback from Sarah. I did cut the timing pretty fine, she was due to have a baby in March 2013 and I sent her the four books a few weeks before. She can read fast but there were a lot of distractions as she prepared for her first child. The week she was due I resigned myself to the fact that she wasn’t going to get time, words can’t describe my delight when she told me she’d read them during the week that was overdue. She lives on the other side of the world so we spent hours on the phone conducting a full run through. It was the most thorough feedback I’ve ever had, literally down to individual sentences. She went into labour 48 hours later. That woman is amazing, and thanks to her beautiful daughter for hanging in those extra few days!
Editing four books back to back has been a great challenge to my stamina and motivation. It’s certainly been difficult to maintain concentration, there were days when I truly felt like I had nothing left to give to this series but I pushed through it knowing I would never forgive myself if I didn’t give it everything I had. The sense of achievement is pretty amazing, I feel this quote from Claire Corbett sums it up perfectly.
“The novel is the ultra-marathon of the arts. You do it because it’s hard, because you’re easily bored and because you want to find out what happens when you push yourself. Like climbing Everest or raising a child, it’s painful and it can’t be done perfectly and most of the time you’ll feel like it can’t be done at all but when you do it’s exhilarating…”
If you think all that sounds like a lot of effort there was one final hurdle—publishing. Part III Publishing The Shadow Series will be published Sunday 12th May.