Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Dear Blog Readers

Wishing you all a relaxing and
happy holiday, and 
a 2012 which brings you 
good health, happiness and success.

I'll be back in early January with news of my current manuscript and interesting articles 
from writer friends and colleagues.  

Keep safe, and for those of you who write, 
nurture your muse.

Happy Christmas


Monday, 29 August 2011

Writers Conferences - how to get the best nourishment.

Back in July I was fortunate to attend the Romantic Novelists’ annual conference in Caerleon, South Wales. This is the first genre specific conference I’ve attended, and while I’m no expert on the conference scene, I was keen to mingle with my fellow romantic suspense authors, listen to industry professionals and agents.

My conference pack offered a cornucopia of workshops, agent appointments, and industry panels, and I was hard pressed to choose which suited my needs best. Was my time best spent listening to a published author share techniques for developing your story hook? Or would it be better listening to a lecture on time management? All of which made me think what advice I would give to a first-time conference attendee.

Often when you sign up for a writers conference, which let’s face it, aren’t exactly inexpensive, few details, other than the venue and date, are available. The name of the keynote speaker and details of the workshops and agent appointments are sent with the conference pack after you have paid the fee. Personally, I find this a little disconcerting. After all, you wouldn’t order dinner in a restaurant without first looking at the menu or go to the movies without knowing what was showing.

So, when attending a writing conference whether genre specific or not, you need to focus carefully on what’s available. If you have any doubts on whether the conference will be suitable for your style of writing and genre, contact the organiser before you pay the fee. He or she should be able to give you some more details, even if the some of the speakers are yet to give details of their workshops. Select the sessions that fit your needs. For example, if you’re struggling with the plot of your novel, your time is best spent in a session dealing with the technique rather than pitching the idea for your as yet unwritten novel. Know the content of each session before you arrive at the conference venue.

Conferences, especially those in the USA, are filled with editors, agents, publishers and booksellers. Take time to talk to them, although I don’t recommend accosting an agent in a lift and pitching your book. But do listen to what they say. These are industry professionals. They know how the market works and what is selling and what is not. Ask any well thought-out question and note down the answer. Many presenters offer hand-outs, a list of key points from their session.

Take time to meet your peers and identify a potential mentor/critique partner. He or she can give you feedback on your writing and help you when your plot stalls. A good mentor will not write your book for you, but should give you constructive criticism.

Don’t be afraid to approach published authors and ask them how they did it and where they get their inspiration. Many are willing to share such information when asked politely, but again, pick your moment with care. No one wants to be cornered in the ladies room!

Avoid comparisons. Comparing your writing progress with that of other delegates serves no useful purpose and will only depress you. Remember, every published author was once like you, only dreaming of seeing their writing in print. And besides, just because someone boasts about their completed a manuscript there is no guarantee that it will be accepted for publication.

Finally, enjoy yourself. Most conferences present opportunities to socialize and make friends.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Latest Review

My third novel, Ring of Lies has just been reviewed by You Gotta Read Reviews. This is what they had to say:

Review - Ring of Lies by Victoria Howard
Title: Ring of Lies
Reviewed by: Val


When accountant Daniel Elliott dies in a car accident, his widow, Grace, is overcome with grief...and panic. Daniel was controlling and their marriage loveless, but he always took care of her. Or so she thought. Grace soon discovers Daniel kept secrets: an alias, mob ties, a list of numbers, a mysterious beach house in Florida...and a girlfriend who looks like Grace. Swallowing her fear, she flies to Miami to claim the house Daniel left her. But the price of her curiosity is peril. Underworld figures stalk her. And handsome, troubled FBI agent Jack West has crossed precarious paths with Grace before. With little to go on and danger at every turn, Grace must depend on Jack to help her navigate the criminal world of south Florida, and find the truth behind the Ring of Lies.


Ring of Lies was such a fun book to read while taking a little time for "me". Grace was an intriguing character and is faced with an incomprehensible loss. She's facing not only the loss of her husband but everything she's ever known to be true. Her entire marriage was a deception. She suffered at the hands of her husband both mentally as well as emotionally. As the book progresses, Grace begins to find out who she really is. This was one element of Grace's character that impressed me because she was not the type of woman to just lie back and let life steal her soul and will to live.

I fell in love with Jack's character immediately. His loyalty to his baby melted my heart and the scenes where he took care of her really bonded me with his character. I love to see the softer side of my hero. His character was flawed which made him all the more relatable to me. The sexual tension between Grace and Jack is palpable. Sparks flew from the moment they met. I enjoyed that this book didn't rely heavily on the romance but rather on the suspense of the book. What draws the reader in is the constant push and pull between Jack and Grace. They want a relationship but, for one or the other, circumstances don't allow it.

What keeps the reader hooked is the suspense, which this book did not lack in the least. Ring of Lies was a fast paced, action packed book that started out with intriguing scenes and continued throughout the book. With plenty of villains to choose from, you won't guess until the last part of the book who is really behind everything. I won't give anything away but I will say that things aren't always as they seem.

Ms. Howard has done an amazing job of writing in a way that the reader can relate to. She has a knack for knowing what the reader craves and then delivering in such a satisfying way that the reader can't possibly put the book down. Bottom line, you GOTTA read this book, it's not one to be missed.

Posted by lastnerve at 8:21 AM

Monday, 28 February 2011

World Book Night, 5th March 2011

World Book Night is a celebration of literature. With the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day and the BBC, one million books will be given away by an army of passionate readers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland.

Thomas Rotherham College has invited me to take part in their celebrations when they will be handing out copies of Carol Ann Duffy's, 'The World's Wife to their talented students.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


Reviews for Ring of Lies have started to arrive. It's always an anxious time for an author.  Part of you is desparate to read what the reviewer had to say and the other part of you is scared to look.  No author enjoys reading a bad review, after all you've spent the best part of a year working on your novel.  But, and it's a big BUT, you have to remember that reviews, like literary agents and publishers rejection letters, are subjective, and it's not a case of one book suits all.  Our taste in reading matter differs, just like our taste in clothes or wine.

So far, Ring of Lies, has been warmly received and here's what The Romance Studio had to say about it:

Victoria Howard pens a suspenseful tale full of intrigue. Have to admit I guessed wrong about who the culprit was until near the end of the book. The trail gets complicated by Jack's involvement with the FBI. He's also in a relationship that gets pretty nasty and emotional when we see that motherhood doesn't seem to be a part of his girlfriends' makeup in any way. She's one of those characters it's easy to dislike even before we find out how despicable she really is.

This author is excellent in her use descriptive words that bring scenarios alive. Whether it's a flaming car crash or the wilds of the Florida Everglades a reader can almost feel the flames or the heat and humidity. It's fun to see Grace change. She starts as a housewife whose love for her spouse helped her deny the verbal and emotional abuse she has gone through. From there, even though panic attacks incapacitate her at times, she thrives and learns to fight her own battles in a good way. Ms. Howard is an author I want to read again.

Overall rating 4 Hearts
Dee Dailey
Reviewer, The Romance Studio

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Interview Englewood and Charlotte Sun

Following my presentation to the Suncoast Writers' Guild, I was interviewed by Stephen Harrison of the Englewood and Charlotte Sun.  Here's a copy of the article...

Boca Grande’s serenity inspires ‘Ring of Lies’



ENGLEWOOD — Novelist Victoria Howard spends only one month a year in Boca Grande, yet manages to make an impact on the area.

Howard became so inspired by the island’s sunny beaches that she showcased them in her newest novel, “Ring of Lies.”

Born in Liverpool and living in South Yorkshire, Howard spends a significant portion of time traveling and writing.

While in Seattle she wrote Pushcart Prize nominee, “Three Weeks Last Spring,” and in the Highlands of Scotland she wrote, “The House on the Shore,” which put her in the running for the Joan Hessayon Award for romance novelists.

Now Howard has come back with her third romantic suspense novel, “Ring of Lies.”

While enjoying the serenity of Boca Grande, she was inspired to write the book.

“I sat admiring the wonderful homes and started to think how I would feel if, unbeknown to me, my husband, who’d recently been killed in a car accident, left one to me in his will. And thus a novel was born,” she said in a phone interview.

The book was published in 2010 by Vanilla Heart, publisher of romance books.

Howard, 55, started writing novels relatively late in life.

She worked for both the National Health Service in the U.K. and in the offshore oil industry.

Friends who were interested in her short stories encouraged her to write a novel. At first, the task seemed insurmountable, she said, but she broke through and wrote her first novel. Two more followed.

Knowing your audience, researching your novel and being able to relate to your characters are the most important things in becoming a successful author, she said.

“You don’t want to be three chapters in and realize you hate this person,” she said.

While vacationing in the Englewood area with her partner Stephen and border collie Rosie, Howard gave a presentation on character development at a Dec. 18 meeting of the Suncoast Writers Guild.

“She was excellent,” said Edwin Ellis, guild director. “She was very on-target and timely. She explained how to use the basics of character development to introduce support characters and plotlines.”

For information on Howard and “Ring of Lies,” go to www.victoria For information on the Suncoast Writers Guild, go to www. 

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Vacations and presentations.

While on a vacation in Florida in December, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to promote my latest novel, Ring of Lies and give a presentation to the members of the Suncoast Writers’ Guild, chaired by Edwin Ellis, the director of the Guild.

After my presentation was over I signed copies of my novels and spent time chatting to the members. As everyone was very complimentary on the content of my presentation, I’ve decided to put my notes for the event here, so that any members who couldn’t attend can have access. I hope you find it useful.

Why all books need strong protagonists.

We’ve all read books and been disappointed when the characters fail to meet the demands of the plot. My job as a novelist is to get you totally absorbed in the story from page one to such an extent that you feel as if you are standing in the corner of the room witnessing the action.

So how do we, as writers, achieve that?

The magic key is character development – the one element that can define a book as a success or a failure.

Every work of fiction needs a hero – he may be a detective in a crime novel, an astronaut battling the alien in a science fiction book, the war hero in an historical, or in the case of romantic suspense, he’s the guy the heroine finally falls in love with.

Regardless of the genre, they all have something in common. They have to be someone you, the reader, can identify with. Someone you will care about. Moreover, it’s not just the main protagonists who need to be interesting, the villains should be compelling too. Otherwise, I’m pitting tough, intelligent protagonists against stupid villains which lead to a dull, contrived plot.

The romantic hero or protagonist differs from other heroes in fiction in that he must evolve from being self centered with a closed heart to loving fully, in other words, he must learn to commit.

At one time, he was required to be single, sexy, sweet (although that might not be evident at first), smart, and of course, solvent. But tastes have changed over the years. We no longer want the classical tall, dark and handsome hero of Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte. Although, that said, my heroes do fit the stereotype to a certain degree, only because I’m short and never had much luck with blond haired men.

Bonnie Tyler’s song ‘I need a hero’ sums up the modern romantic hero perfectly. He’s strong, intelligent and somewhat larger than life. Not only is he a good ‘people reader’ and able to see through everyone’s lies, he also has to be human, make mistakes and learn from them as we all do. He’s the guy we want on our side. The one who’s a little bit dangerous, the one our mother warned us about when we first started dating.

His strengths are the qualities that make the heroine and the reader fall in love with him.

But how do I create this desirable male?

Like many novelists, I write a short biography for each of my characters, other authors prefer to use a chart, such as the one to be found on this website :    I include physical attributes, such as height, weight, hair and eye colour, whether they have any tattoos or scars. I also include such things as whether they had a college education, can drive and own a car, what their employment is. Some novelists I know write two or three pages on each character, but I would suggest you add as much or as little detail as you are comfortable with.

But you need to know more than your character’s background. You have to place them in conflict with each other and give them goals.

So what do I mean by goals?

The external goal is usually something simple and obvious – catch the killer or thief, solve the mystery and find the priceless antique. The villain’s goal, on the other hand, might be to exact revenge on the police officer who put him in jail or destroy the small town that shunned him. It is the external goal that drives the plot forward, and obviously, the protagonist’s goal is going to directly conflict with the antagonist’s external goal.

For example, in my latest novel, Ring of Lies, Grace Elliott’s goal is to discover her dead husband’s true identity and find out where the money to purchase the beach house on Gasparilla Island came from.

The internal goal is usually an emotional goal, hidden in the hero or heroines psyche, something which reveals an area of vulnerability. For example, a female police officer’s goal might be to catch the criminal, but her internal goal is to win the approval of her colleagues and family.

For example, in Three Weeks Last Spring, Walker’s external goal is to catch whoever is poisoning the fish in Puget Sound. His internal goal is to overcome his fear of commitment because every woman he’s ever dated has walked out on him when she learns how often he is working away from home.

Whatever the internal goal, the hero and heroine have to change and evolve during the course of the novel and become better persons through their relationship with each other.

The key is to create characters that are strong in their ideals and values, but who are prepared to listen, and if necessary change during the course of 100,000 words. After all, you don’t want to be three chapters into writing your novel only to realize you hate your characters. If you don’t like them, neither will your readers.

But internal and external goals and inner conflict isn’t the only trait characters need. To create tension and excitement, something must impede both the protagonist and antagonist achieving their goals. Without it, there is nothing to make the reader keep turning the page. Every major character must have something to lose as the book reaches the final climax.

It’s the combination of all these factors – believable characters and a realistic plot which makes a novel an enjoyable read. If I can achieve that, then I know I’ve done my job well.