Liz Harris

Author of contemporary and historical fiction

Liz Liz Liz Liz Liz Liz

A Dangerous Heart. Yes, what else?

It’s impossible to describe the feeling when you see for the first time your name on the cover of a published book. It’s a FANTASTIC moment! I wish such a moment on everyone who’s working on what they hope will be their first publication – it’s something well worth waiting for.

Here’s the first glimpse I had of my People’s Friend Pocket Novel, A Dangerous Heart, in a shop in Oxford last week.

My first glimpse of my book - a moment of (qualified) excitement

You’re spot on – there’s something missing. Two things to be precise – the title and my name.

It called for an instant tweak or three.

Aha! Unqualified excitement!

Can you spot the differences? You’re right, that’s much better.

Seeing the book on the shelf, with the title and my name visible, was amazing, but the very best moment of them all – well, that was seeing my book in a reader’s hand, which is where a book should be. It just so happened that when I joined my friend, Heather, for coffee, she was reading A Dangerous Heart. Would you believe it?? And it just so happened that I had a camera in my hand…

Heather, engrossed in my Pocket Novel, totally unaware of the camera

My first Publication Day was a wonderful experience, and it was made that way because I was able to share it with my friends – my friends in real time, on twitter and on Facebook. Thank you, all of you.

Bye for now!

Advice, please!

This is a plea for advice about vocabulary to use when writing novels set in the past.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been pulled up three times about words I’ve used in my current work in progress, A Bargain Struck. Two of the criticisms are correct, I’m sure, but one I’m not so certain about – and that’s where I need your help.

The first of the three criticisms came from the Oxford Writers’ Group. When I read to the group the opening page of A Bargain Struck, which is set in 1891, in Wyoming, I had written that Ellen was wearing a ‘poke bonnet‘. They said that ‘poke bonnet‘ was unfamiliar to readers today and would pull the reader out of the story, and they advised me to say just ‘bonnet’, especially as my mention of ribbons immediately afterwards made it very clear what a poke bonnet was. I took their advice and deleted ‘poke‘.

A poke bonnet

The second criticism came from my Friend in the North, who reads every word that I write. She’s a brilliant reader to have because she always tells me the truth. I had written that the homestead was surrounded by a ‘buck fence‘. This is a triangular style of fencing that is still found throughout Wyoming. She criticised the use of ‘buck‘ for the same reason that the OWG had queried ‘poke‘. So again I took the advice I’d been given and deleted ‘buck‘.

a buck fence, a style of fence that is common in Wyoming

A few chapters later, my FITN questioned the fact that I’d written that Ellen made ‘bean porridge‘ for lunch. She felt that the use of  ‘porridge‘ conjured up images of Quaker Oats, and that I’d be better substituting ‘porridge‘ with ‘stew’. Now, I’m not sure about this.

Bean porridge isn’t a stew – it’s more like a porridge in consistency than a stew and it cooks in less time.  It’s very similar to something eaten widely today in the Midwestern US – cornmeal mush, a kind of corn pudding, or porridge, which is often eaten with maple syrup.

cornmeal mush, popular today in the Midwest

Poke‘ and ‘buck‘ both described something, so could be deleted without any change in meaning, but ‘porridge‘ is the thing itself, and given the circumstances in which my characters found themselves, they are more likely to have had a porridge than a stew.

However, it doesn’t matter at all in terms of the story which they had – it’s just a period detail.

This is a dilemma  that I’m likely to encounter frequently as I write the novel so I’d be very grateful for your advice. Should I stick with ‘bean porridge‘ or should I change it to ‘stew‘?

The Ox Lunch

Multi published author and mentor to aspiring writers, Anita Burgh is a stalwart of the Ox Lunch.

It’s early days in the life of this blog, and in a way I’m still introducing myself.

In my first blog, in which I linked to three posts I’d written before, I introduced me, the author. In last week’s blog, which focused on the presentation of the RoNAs, I introduced me, the RNA member. This week, I’m zeroing in on the aspect of my RNA life for which I’m most visible on our group website; namely, as the organiser of the Ox Lunch.

The Ox Lunch is the Oxford Chapter’s monthly lunch, which is held on the first Tuesday of every month in The Victoria Arms, Old Marston, from 12.30. The Vicky Arms is on the bank of the River Cherwell.

 

In addition to being the chosen haunt of the Ox Lunchers, The Vicky Arms also welcomed Inspector Morse and Lewis on numerous occasions when they stopped by for a drink – a drink usually paid for by Lewis!

The Oxford Chapter's venue for their monthly lunch

'Our' room in The Vicky Arms, with the tables moved together to accommodate us.

 

 

The view from within the pub on a rain-hazed day

The staff at The Victoria Arms always sets aside an area for us, and we push the tables together into a square so that we can all see, and talk to, each other, and move around quite easily.

We rarely have formal meetings or a set topic for discussion. What we do is eat, drink and have a thoroughly good time, laughing and talking with other writers.  Conversation invariably ranges over many topics, but always permeating them is the warmth and support that authors give to each other.

Carol McGrath; Lizzy Edmondson; Catherine Jones; Jane Gordon-Cumming

Nikki Fine; Jean Harker; Carol McGrath;

Mary Nuttall; Sarah Watkinson; me; Heather Rosser

 

Writing is a solitary activity, and one that is taking place in an increasingly difficult world for published and unpublished alike.  The value of a strong, friendly support group cannot be over estimated – and that is exactly what the Ox Lunch is.

One of last year's Ox lunches. Jeev Mantotta with baby Indy; me; Gilli Allan; Annie Burgh; Jane Holland; Katie Fforde; Rebecca Leith; Jane Gordon-Cumming; Carol McGrath; Jean Harker; Heather Rosser. (Back row) Katie Carr; Catherine Jones; Jude Roust; Jules Wake. Plus sundry coats and bags that I should have thought of moving aside

And at the end of the lunch, all that is left is …

… along with some very happy memories.

Next week, I’m going to ask you for some advice about an aspect of writing a novel set in the past. But for the moment, it’s goodbye!

At the presentation of the 2012 RoNA Awards

As the title of my blog suggests, I’m going to be writing about my world, or, to put it another way,  I shall be jotting down bits & pieces about my life – and about writing – from week to week.

I’m a writer so it’s not surprising that much of my life centres around the writing world to which I belong. At the heart of this world lies the Romantic Novelists’ Association (the RNA), and since we’ve just had one of the RNA’s annual events, I thought I’d tell you about it today.

My focus is the people there, rather than what was said in the speeches. Shallow? Moi??

First of all, for those who haven’t heard of the RoNAs, they’re the annual awards given by the RNA for the very best in romantic fiction. Six RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards) were announced at the ceremony yesterday.

Five of the RoNA categories are open only to books that are already out in paperback – these are the awards for Best Contemporary/Epic/Romantic Comedy/Historical/Young Adult Romantic Novels.

Each of the five winning books goes to a panel of judges, and the panel selects the Best of the Best. The winning book – The Romantic Novel of the Year – will be announced at the RNA‘s Summer Party in May.

The sixth RoNA Rose Award celebrates shorter/category romantic fiction, either in hardback or paperback.

The venue for the event was the Gladstone Library in One Whitehall Place, on the Embankment, virtually opposite the London Eye. To get to the Library, we had to climb the magnificant circular staircase.

I was early – I usually am – but I was far from the first person there. The shortlisted authors were already there, and were having their photos taken. Whilst this was going on, I wandered over to the window and couldn’t resist taking a photo of the lovely view. Alas, I fear that I haven’t done justice to it.

The view from One Whitehall Place

In addition to writers and photographers, there were also tables of shortlisted books. And pretty soon, there was pink champagne, too.

In the Reception area

Books & other necessities of life

 

 

The line-up of the RoNA Rose shortlistees.

Large numbers of people started arriving, and I wandered around, saying hello to friends, and taking photos whenever I remembered. Annoyingly, I didn’t photograph my friend, Alison, who did sterling work for me, holding my glass of champagne every time I angled the camera. Without Alison, I would have had pink fizz down the front of my top.

Barbara Alderton

Jenny Barden & Jean Fullerton

Fellow Choc Lit authors Margaret James & Linda Mitchelmore

Choc Lit's Christina Courtenay & Myra Kersner

The room got fuller and fuller as everyone crowded in, eagerly taking one of the glasses of champagne or juice proffered by the waiters who were everywhere. Thanks to Jenny Barden, I have a picture of several of us taken before too much champagne had been consumed.

Choc Lit authors Christina Courtenay & Sue Moorcroft, with Choc Lit MD Lyn Vernham

Choc Lit author Kate Johnson & her mother

Richard Fenton, Christina Courtenay, Myra Kersner, Me, Carol McGrath. Photo taken by Jenny Barden

 

We then went into the main room where we had canapés and more fizz during a ceremony slickly hosted by author and columnist Jane Wenham Jones. The presentations were made by Sunday Times number one bestselling crime writer Peter James, who made a lively, entertaining speech.

A slightly fuzzy Julie Cohen, Liz Fenwick & Jane Wenham Jones, plus books

My table – one of the Choc Lit tables – was overjoyed that two Choc Lit authors, Christina Courtenay and Jane Lovering, won the Historical Romantic Novel Award and the Romantic Comedy Award, respectively. Katie Fforde won the Best Contemporary Romantic Novel; Caroline Green, the Young Adult Romantic Novel Award, and Rosie Thomas won the Best Epic Romantic Novel.

The RONA Rose Award was won by Sarah Mallory.

Hearty congratulations to all the winners!

We now have an agonising wait until the RNA Summer Party on 17th May to find out who has won the Romantic Novel of the Year 2012 Award.

When the ceremony was over, a number of people went to the restaurant downstairs, but a large group of us – me included – ended what had been a fabulous evening at the nearby Pizza Express. The perfect conclusion to a brilliant day!

Night has fallen, and the lights from within the room are reflecting against the window panes

At the Pizza Express

 

Saying hello to Kate Johnson's mum & Kate while we wait for the pizza to arrive. Photo taken by Barbara Alderton

 

Next Tuesday, the Oxford Chapter of the RNA meets for its monthly lunch. Since I’ve run the Ox Lunch for over six years now, it’s very much a part of my life, and I think that next week I’ll introduce you to the lunch venue and to some of the Ox lunchers.

Bye for now!

Welcome to my world

It’s time that I started a blog, I thought, and so that’s just what I’ve done.

Liz Harris by Rob WhealHaving made the decision to begin blogging, I had to decide what to say on this my first blog.

But it isn’t my first blog, I suddenly realised. My first blog was a few weeks ago on the Choc Lit Author’s Corner, when I wrote about the inspiration behind my debut novel The Road Back.

What’s more, a few days ago I wrote a second blog for the Choc Lit Author’s Corner. This time it was about the fabulous cover Choc Lit has given to my book.

And that’s not all. A few weeks ago, I sent a blog posting to DizzyC’s little Book Blog. In it, I talked about my current work in progress, A Bargain Struck.

You’ll see that I’ve followed the ‘Why Re-invent the Wheel?’ train of thought, and I’ve linked you to those three blogs, rather than repeat what I’ve already said. After all, writers know that they should avoid repetition, and readers hate to be told the same thing more than once.

Thank you very much for stopping by. I hope to see you again next Wednesday. I shall have been to the presentation of the RoNAs by then, and will have photos.