Monday, 11 October 2021

Beta Readers: Why You Need Them


By Marilyn Forsyth

When my first timeslip, Gwenllian’s Ghost, was (finally) finished, I was advised by an editor that it was 45 000 words too long to even be considered by a publisher (100 000 max for a debut author).

Well, I culled those 45K words. The problem was, I knew that story so well it was impossible to recognise whether I’d cut out scenes and chapters that were vital to the story. I needed to find readers who could look at my story with fresh eyes and give me objective feedback on what worked or didn’t work in my manuscript.

I needed beta readers.

What is a beta reader?

“A beta reader is a test reader of an unreleased work of literature or other writing who gives feedback (to the author) from the point of view of an average reader...This feedback is fix remaining issues with plot, pacing, and consistency. The beta reader also serves as a sounding board to see if the book has the intended emotional impact.” (Wikipedia )

How do you find beta readers?

My crit partners, family and friends, and members of my writing group, had all given valuable feedback along the journey. But I needed the point of view of readers who belong to my target audience—who actually read and love the timeslip genre—and who wouldn’t be concerned about hurting my feelings. My ego was not important; all that mattered was that the story was authentic and enjoyable.

I chose to go with a paid Beta Reading Service, and I could not have been happier with the result.

The Historical Quill  guarantee comprehensive feedback from at least 6 readers (I ended up with 8). I wrote a short premise of the story and readers were selected from those who indicated they’d like to see the whole manuscript.

The feedback was amazing!

Overall, it was very positive, (except for one reader who hadn’t read a timeslip before and thought the contemporary story unnecessary). After reading through all 8 critiques, I let the comments percolate for a day or so before I went back to my story.

I made note of each reader’s comments (positive and negative). If two or more commented negatively on the same thing, it was obviously something that needed working on. If one reader didn’t like something that another reader liked, I went with my gut in deciding what to do about it. I was lucky that some of my betas were from Wales and they were able to point out mistakes I’d made (with geography - Google maps is not infallible).

Like I said, I couldn’t be happier with the History Quill service. It was fast (6-week turnaround) and efficient, and most of the negative comments were constructive. They’ve helped me make Gwenllian’s Ghost the best it can be. I’ve asked for 5 of those beta readers to be on my ‘street team’ when my story gets published. Now, all I have to do is get Gwenllian’s Ghost out there.

Have you used a beta reader service? How was your experience?

Love to Love: Spring! The Botanic Gardens at this time of year are magical.

Love to Learn: my way around One Stop for Writers. Genius! (And they have an article about where to find beta readers here.)

All images are free to use.

Monday, 20 September 2021

Guest Post - Katrina Coll -

by Enisa Haines

Please welcome Katrina Coll - an Aussie who fell in love with an Irishman and let her heart lead her to the Emerald Isle. With that in her history what else would she write but romance, or as she says "kissing books that leave you wanting"? Winner of the Contemporary Romance Writers Stiletto Award she is now celebrating the release of her first published romance novel, A Match Made for TV, and giving us a little insight into her life.

What is one 'must have' when you are writing?

My Macbook. I literally can't write without it so it goes everywhere I go. Always.

What are you reading at the moment?

I've just finished Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale. I have Playing it Safe by Amy Andrews pre-ordered and that'll be my next read.

Name one thing you're scared of. 

Something bad happening to someone I love.

Like to share something that recently made you happy?

We visited a fairy garden last week that was pure magic.

Who is your favourite literary crush? 

Weirdly, I can't say I've ever had one as a reader. As a writer, though, I love my heroes so hard it hurts to let them go.

What is the last photo you took with your phone?

A screenshot of a Duolingo question. I'm trying to learn some Irish and the spelling is mind melt. I'm slowly getting the hang of it but don't ask me to say anything: the only thing worse than my spelling is my pronunciation.

If you were a main character in your favourite book, who would you be?

If I had to be a character in any book, I'd have to say Lizzie Bennet in Pride and Prejudice because she's marvellous and nothing too awful happens to her. But my favourite book? I love too many to choose one.

What is the premise of your latest book?

A celeb with a secret. A doctor with a dilemma. Faking they're in love makes for good TV. But whose heart will break when reality bites?
Available as an e-book worldwide.
Buy links:

Ria DeLorenzo is a damn good doctor. Or was. Burnt out before she's begun, a three-month paid vacation as the medical consultant to a reality TV show is just what she needs to recover her mojo.

Cancer survivor and headline grabber Griffin Stromberg is desperate to reboot his ultra-macho image. Typecast by years of fame, showcasing his softer side with a picture-perfect relationship should do the trick. Until Ria breaches show protocol and gets Griff fake girlfriend disqualified.

Now Ria's only hope of clocking out of reality is to check in to a fantasy by becoming his new partner. Griff, however, wants their relationship to be the real deal, not one of his infamous life-hacks.

Can a man renowned for taking shortcuts prove he's ready to commit to a forever relationship? Or will reality bit once filming is over?

Who would you cast as your main characters? 

Chris Hemsworth and Gal Gadot if she had a Texan accent.

What unique challenges did the book pose? 

Trying to immerse my characters in a reality TV show without making the filming mechanics too intrusive.

What are you working on at the moment?

A follow-up book with the same match-making producer but featuring a cook and a chef. It's a reunion romance during a bake-off.

Are you a plotter, pantser or somewhere in between?

I'm a puzzler. I have elements of the book (part of a plot, the characters, some scenes) and I figure out how they go together as I write.

Do you listen to music as you write? 

I've tried but usually I can't. That said, I have a soundtrack for each novel to listen to when not writing to spark ideas/nail emotions I want to capture.

What do you love to love? Food. I love to love the whole process of cooking but I also love it when others cook, trying a new combination of flavours, sharing meals with friends, eating out. I'm a foodie from way back.

What do you love to laugh at? Comedians/ At a Billy Connolly gig once, I laughed so hard I fell off my chair. Here in Ireland, there's a trio of guys called Foil, Arms and Hog. As a family, we watch their weekly uploads to YouTube every Friday. We even have their t-shirts.

What do you love to learn about? Learning is my absolute favourite thing to do. I'll happily fall down a rabbit hole researching almost any subject. In fact, I used to get paid to research as part of my job as a business consultant. However, history and mythology would be lifetime loves.

Find out more about Katrina here:


Facebook: KatrinaCollAuthor

Pinterest: A Match Made for TV

#novel #contemporaryromance #arrangedmarriage #lovestory

Monday, 9 August 2021

A few things not to say when meeting a romance author!

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

I’m sure many if not most romance authors have experienced this conversation. It could be at a black-tie cocktail party or a backyard BBQ. Someone mentions there’s a romance author present and the reactions vary from, “Really? I love romance novels” to the words, “You write romance?” (the latter accompanied by a snicker of disbelief, a discreet cough and a little titter from someone else). The conversation switches swiftly to romance novels and the same timeless myths are trotted out by males and females alike. 

Anne Gracie wrote an article for the Victorian Writers’ Centre magazine WriteOn about some “Myths of Romance”. The ones she mentioned – “formulaic writing”, “they’re all the same”; “soft porn for women” “cardboard characters, clich├ęs and bad writing” as well as having “absolutely no value to the world”, are still being bandied about by ignorant, and (I think) arrogant individuals. 

Back to the conversation...Barbara Cartland is mentioned and I immediately point out that Dame Barbara sold over a billion books worldwide in at least 36 languages. Then, having written an article on this Breathless in the Bush blog about how romance novels empower women, I launch into my defence of romance novels, all the while wondering how my wonderful hosts can be entertaining people who are so downright rude! 
The conversation takes a personal turn when an acquaintance expresses surprise that I write “those books” because “you’re an educated woman”. I barely contain my eye-roll back at the man. When I ask what sort of person he thinks writes a romance novel, he has the grace to look slightly embarrassed, but then volunteers: “Someone who’s desperately unhappy and can’t find their own romance”. The floodgates open. One negative comment flows after another from ‘sex-obsessed’ (with a wink and a nudge to my husband) to “a middle-aged, unemployed cat lady”. 

Well, thank you very much!

Of course, these people are simply displaying their ignorance and appalling manners. None of their comments are original, but for the record, here are some things NOT to say if you ever meet a romance author.

“How long does it take to write one of those books? A couple of days or a week or so?”

“Are your books like 50 Shades of Grey?”

“Did your publisher give you a formula?”

“Did you have a crush on Fabio when you were growing up?”

“I downloaded your book from a free site, then I shared it to another free site because I enjoyed it so much!”

“Do you have to write a certain number of pages of sex scenes in each book?”

“Do you research the sex scenes with your husband?”

 “Where can I get a free copy?”

Please don’t use the words smut, porn/mummy porn, trash, or bodice ripper and please don’t do what ‘fans’ of Julia Quinn did to her and launch into a long-winded review of why you didn’t like the book and what the author should’ve done differently!

Thankfully the ill-mannered individuals are far outnumbered by respectful people.

Love to love awesome, empowering romance novels.
Love to laugh at the stereotypical images of the romance writer!
Love to learn what experiences others have had in regard to ridiculous comments people have made about romance writers/the romance genre, so please leave a comment below.