Since I last posted any news I have been wrestling with revisions for my 21st book, "In Bed With The Duke" which will be out in May 2016.
Although...I have skived off on a couple of occasions for book launches with my lovely Novelista friends.
First, in November, Trisha Ashley and I celebrated our Christmas themed books. Trisha was in charge of the goody bags, and I baked and iced a Christmas cake, then sent away for an edible version of my book cover to stick on the top, from a very useful little company called "eatyourphoto.co.uk"!
Trisha's book, "A Christmas Cracker", has since gone on to become a Times best seller, and mine has sold out in paperback on the Mills & Boon website, too, so we're both really pleased (to put it mildly).
And just yesterday, after finally sending in my second round of revisions to the Duke, I went off to celebrate another book launch with the Novelistas (we're all very busy!).
This time the book is by Anne Bennet, and is called Another Man's Child.
We were all able to buy advance copies from Anne, which I'm really looking forward to reading.
Now that my revisions are done, I'm going to have to get started on my Christmas shopping. Thank goodness for Amazon, and the postal service.
I hope you all enjoy the upcoming holidays, however you celebrate them. I will be sending out my next newsletter in the New Year, with more publishing news and exclusive gifts for subscribers. If you'd like to sign up, you can find a form on my Newsletter page.
During my half term travels (because, being married to a teacher, all my holidays are governed by the school calendar) I took the opportunity to pop into the new Mills & Boon offices at London Bridge, and catch up with my editor.
I was interviewed by Becky, about what made me start writing for Mills & Boon to begin with, and how I keep fit now that I'm doing it full time. You can read the interview on the Mills & Boon Blog
Then it was off to lunch, and a deep discussion about what books I should be writing in the future.
I brought several vague outlines to the table, and with Pippa's helpful suggestions - and a bottle of wine - we ended up planning two trilogies and a couple of stand-alones! Now that I'm home I'm going to have to sit down and write serious synopses for these, because I think they're going to be great, and can't wait to get started on them.
But for now, it's back to revisions for "In Bed with The Duke", and then the Christmas novella which will be out in winter 2016. That is, after I've written my monthly blog for the Novelistas, which is going to be out on Friday 6th. I've been rambling through the life of an author, alphabetically, and this month I've reached "S". Which will probably stand for "Series or Stand alone" (since that chat with my editor got me thinking about ways to link books to make those trilogies!)
As for the verdict on 'Elizabeth is Missing' my real life book group's November choice. Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey, won the Costa prize for 1st book in 2014, so I thought it would be a good choice for us to read, but I appeared to be the only one of my book group who really enjoyed it, marking it 8 out of 10. Though at least the lowest mark awarded was only a 3, which isn't bad going for us! However, it did give us a lot to discuss, since it dealt with the topic of Alzheimer's, and many of us have experience from either our family or neighbours. Thought-provoking, if not always enjoyable, was the verdict. (Except for me - I DID enjoy it, and found it very cleverly written).
Next month we're going to be reading and discussing 'Enchanted April' by Elizabeth von Arnim. I'm looking forward to this as I watched a tv adaptation some time ago, with Michael Kitchen and Alfred Molina in it, and thought it was lovely.
I have been off on my travels again. This time to a wedding in sunny Lanzarote.
I've also hosted my Real Life book group at my house, where we discussed The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and devoured the very first carrot cake I have ever made. Not very fancy looking but absolutely delicious, and I will definitely be making it again!
I've never read anything by Wilkie Collins, who was a contemporary of Dickens. At the time he had as much popularity, but has since fallen out of favour. Yet nobody in my book group gave a mark lower than 8 out of 10 (which is astonishing, as usually there is at least one of us who hates the monthly choice and only awards a grudging 2 points) If you ever want to investigate the beginnings of the detective/thriller genre, then I can heartily recommend having a go at The Woman in White.
Next month we'll be reading "Elizabeth is Missing" by Emma Healey, which won the Costa Prize for first book in 2014. I'm hoping not too many 2s are awarded, since, as host this month, I got to pick next month's read.
My publishers Harlequin are doing some very interesting marketing at the moment. They are allowing Vintage Wine estates to use some of their retro covers as labels.
The book cover for "Pardon my Body" now graces a cabernet sauvignon and "Substitute for Love" a chardonnay!
Terry Wheatley, the Executive Vice president of sales and marketing for Vintage Wine estates has said: "It's a special experience to sit down with a good book and glass of wine. We look forward to offering Harlequin readers that moment of everyday indulgence."
But it isn't just for harlequin readers. If you live in America you can get the wine from Amazon.
I'd really love to try "Wild at Heart", but sadly it isn't available in the UK where I live.
I have also done my regular monthly blog for my local writer's group, The Novelistas. I've talked a little bit about my time at RWA in New York, and called it "R is for romance..."
I've also done my first blog for oapschat, where I'm complaining about all the times I've been mistaken for the much more successful author Annie Barrows.
This week I'll be sending out my regular quarterly newsletter, and I'll be giving away a copy of my next book (which has just arrived) to one subscriber. So if you want to have a stab at winning there is still time to sign up at my newsletter page.
And when I've done that, I'm off to hunt for decorations for my Christmas cake, which I'll be making soon, since it will take from now until Christmas to mature.
Hurrah! I got my latest book into my editor before she returned from her holidays! And I have deadline dates for my next four stories for Harlequin, so I will need to shut myself away in my study soon and start planning my writing schedule... In the meantime, I have been out to visit with my writing friends, the Novelistas again. It was a much reduced meeting this time, due to holidays and various illnesses, but there was still much to celebrate as we shared our writing news, so of course we had a cake. I would have posted a picture of it, but by the time I thought to get my camera out of my bag this was all that was left:
I also managed to get in my monthly blog over on our blog page which seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people. Just how many books should we try to write each year?
Somehow I also managed to create a pinterest board. I only went to the site because fellow Harlequin Historical author Cheryl St. John said she'd posted the December covers there and did we want to have a look. As I have a book out in December, I did want to see who my shelf buddies are going to be. And before I knew it, I'd put up half a dozen of my own covers and followed several other boards too
It's been a long time since I've updated my news page because, as you may have noticed from facebook and twitter, I've been off on my hols.
To start with, I attended the 35th Romance Writers of America conference in New York.
At this point, you'll probably expect a report on the workshops and industry gossip. Well, I have a confession to make. I only made it to 2 workshops! I did go to several seminars from my publisher, Harlequin, where I learned about various aspects of the business, and new initiatives to attract more readers - one of which is the Rewards scheme, which is up and running in America.
I also went to one breakfast meeting with other historical authors, and one with RNA members who were in New York. Not to mention an afternoon tea hosted by the head of the historical team at Harlequin, and a private dinner with same to discuss my career and sample the white wine spritzer.
One of the most exciting things I did was a booksigning of "A Mistress for Major Bartlett", where I got filmed and interviewed. My mind went blank. I have no idea what I said, nor where the film is going to be posted. (Probably a bin somewhere)
I also took some time to do a bit of sightseeing before heading north along the coast to Newport for a week of sun and relaxation.
Newport was a magnet for wealthy people in the late 1800s and many of them built holiday homes there. We walked along the cliffs, admiring most of them, but were tempted into the Marble House, which was owned by the Vanderbilts.
Alva Vanderbilt hosted "Votes for Women" rallies on the back lawn, and divorced her own husband in a bid for emancipation, but she also married her daughter off to the Duke of Marlborough in spite of Consuelo's reluctance. Fascinating place - I could go on about it for ages. In fact I probably will be blogging about it over at a new blog about Women's Suffrage
Unfortunately, the people of Newport decided to host a jazz festival at the end of the week I was staying there, so we had to move on to Boston. Being a lover of history, I of course had to visit the Boston Tea Party museum and Plymouth Rock.
Since I've been home, I have done about 10 loads of laundry (but only 2 sessions of ironing!) and am now desperately trying to get my latest book finished by the deadline of August 31st. Hope is dwindling by the day, but fortunately I happen to know that my editor is going away on holiday herself soon, so she may not notice if my next book doesn't land on her desk until she returns...
The launch party for two of the Novelistas - June Francis and Valerie-Anne Baglietto - was great fun. We tried to dress in a 1950's style, to go with the setting of June's book.
But somewhere along the line we all got sidetracked by the fairy-tale themed goodies from the party bags Valerie-Anne provided. There was a battle of the wands at one point, and we all ate our lunch wearing tiaras. Well, doesn't everyone want to feel like a princess every now and then?
Back home, I had a bit of a tidy up in my study. This tends to happen whenever I reach the end of one draft of a book, while I'm psyching myself up to start the next one. I dug out all the foreign editions of my books that my local library said they would accept. And later, I went into town to drop them off. Which resulted in a bit of a detour through Debenhams, to buy a swimsuit for my holidays.
And while I was in there, I also saw this brooch,
which is just what I need to brighten up the black jacket I'm going to wear to the Rita awards do.
This week I managed to complete a second draft of my latest book, which I'm calling "The Duke in Disguise" although it will probably not have that title when it comes out. I was relieved that I got it to 64,900 ish words, because, as you may know, my 1st draft was only 43,000 words, which is 30,000 short of the target of 75,000!
In the break before launching into my third draft, I pitched a couple of ideas to my editor, who responded with great enthusiasm and the offer of a 4 book contract. So I am going to have to come up with a couple more ideas for stories...
Then I went shopping, with a view to finding something to wear to attend the next Novelistas lunch and launch. Two Novelistas are celebrating publication in the month of July - June Francis with 'A Daughter's Choice'
...and Valerie-Anne Baglietto with 'Four Sides to Every Story'.
They are vastly different stories - 'Four Side' being a modern day fairytale, and June's book being a family saga - but both have a link to vintage clothing, or the 1950's. And so I have unearthed a dress from the back of my wardrobe with a kind of 50's feel to it. At least, it has a full skirt with net petticoats!
I have also spent some time online learning how to apply eyeliner like Audrey Hepburn. I will probably end up looking like a panda.
If you check my page regularly, you'll notice that I didn't post an update last weekend. Which is because I had a bit of an adventure. On the Friday, I went along to the launch of Sophie Claire's debut novel with Accent Press, 'Her Forget-Me-Not Ex'.
As you probably know, a group of local authors, calling ourselves the Novelistas, get together to celebrate our successes, or to hold each other up through our not-so-successful times. Well, this was definitely a time to celebrate. Sophie not only baked a cake for us to share, but also brought party favours in keeping with her book.
So we had seeds, and flower pots, as well as tiny bottles of nail polish, since her heroine is not only a florist, but also very keen on nail art. I've already downloaded the book on kindle, but couldn't resist purchasing a paperback copy as well, so that Sophie could sign it for me.
Well, that was the fun part of the day. The rest was a bit nightmarish. A lorry had jack-knifed across the motorway while we were eating cake, closing it completely. And I got stuck in the resulting jam. For 5 hours. It was the kind of traffic jam where people turned off their engines, got out of their vehicles, and strolled around chatting. Eventually, some people started nipping behind bushes on the embankment to "commune with nature". At one point I very nearly asked if I could possibly make use of the empty Starbucks cups that the mini-van driver next to me had stacked on his dashboard.
However, the queue began to move at that point, and I discovered that it is possible to drive with your legs crossed. I was very, very relieved when I made it to Chester services (in every sense!) However, I was that frazzled, it took me the rest of the weekend to recover, and then I developed one of my 3 day tension headaches.
Anyway, normal service has been resumed.
This weekend, I'm all fired up about attending the RWA conference in New York. I've just heard that I will be doing a book signing, so if any of you are there, do come and say hello on Friday morning, July 24th, in the West Side ballroom of the New York Marriot Marquis.
This week I had a big day out in Manchester. I met up with Sarah Mallory to discuss the next two blog posts we will be doing to promote our Waterloo Brides series. Yes, I know we could have done it online, but it is so good to get out and have a chat over a glass of wine and a meal. Sarah's latest venture is the reproduction of some of her backlist as ebooks. Writing as Melinda Hammond, she has a story out in an anthology of traditional Regencies, called a Regency Quintet Summer Edition.
Besides, I felt like celebrating, since Monday was Royalties day. On wading through my statement, I discovered that I have another book translated into Russian. I got in touch with my Russian contact, asking if he could find out what the cover looked like. And he came back with the news that I have not just 2, but 3 books available in Russian translations now!
I also think I've got a Russian web page, though I'm not sure...
After all that excitement, I had to get back to wrestling with the closing section of my book. I'm hoping to get this draft finished by the end of next week.
Meanwhile, over on facebook, The Old School Romance Book group picked their June title for us all to read. Texas Destiny, by Lorraine Heath, is set in (yes you've guessed it) Texas, and deals with the adventures of a mail order bride. Once again, the OSRB introduced me to an author I've never read before. And I'm not sure whether to be glad or sorry. I enjoyed the story so much, you see, that as soon as I finished it I downloaded the next in series. I've a nasty feeling I'm hooked!
I've been busy adding words to my w.i.p this week, which has meant lots of time in my study with the door shut. However, I did go out on Friday, to my local book group. We had chosen to read Thomas Hardy's 'Far from the Madding Crowd', partly because it has just been brought out as a film, again, starring Carey Mulligan and Martin Sheen.
Some of us had seen the film. Others had only read the book. But, which edition? We soon discovered that different editions of the book had extra chapters...the one I had was one which has been on my shelf since University days, and had the extra scene which describes Troy waiting in church for Fanny to come and marry him.
Though I studied Hardy as part of my Eng Lit course, I couldn't remember much about him, or his books. But since I'd kept them on my shelf I guessed I must have enjoyed his stories! And I did enjoy re-reading this one. Hardy has a reputation for being a bit depressing, so I was surprised by the little touches of humour and dry wit peppering the story.
As usual, our group had a lively discussion about the merits of the book. Unusually, most of us scored it highly. Nobody gave it less than a 7 out of 10. I gave it an 8. The only reason it didn't score higher, for me, was all those long descriptive passages of hills. And stars. And the next hill over. Which slowed things down. But then, wasn't the slow pace of life in the country part of what he was trying to depict?
Anyway, now that I've heard reviews of the film, I want to go and see that, too. Which may mean going OUT. But will probably mean renting the dvd!
This week the Novelistas had a social media brainstorming session. For ages, you see, we've been asking each other questions about how to do things on t'internet, and never being able to share knowledge properly because the pub we meet in doesn't have very good internet connection. So, armed with 2 cartons of Sainsbury's Moroccan style couscous (my contribution to the lunch) and my laptop, off I went to the home of Valerie-Anne Baglietto.
Shoes off, slippers on, we started discussing who wanted to learn what. To my absolute amazement, I discovered that there were things some people wanted to know that I could help them with!!! Firstly, I showed Beth Francis how to set up her own facebook page (after she'd signed my copy of her latest People's Friend Pocket Novel, Rainsbow's End)
The only way to do it, though, is to set one up. So I now have an unpublished facebook page under the pseudonym Angelina Baker. Then I went through how to set up a Goodreads Giveaway with Sophie Claire and Anne Bennett.
Then it was time for lunch. Not only are the Novelistas talented writers, some of them also make amazing quiches. I am not one of the quiche makers. In fact, my first 2 attempts at making rice salad resulted in 2 saucepans full of wallpaper paste. Hence the detour to Sainsbury's for the couscous.
After lunch, Louise Marley showed me how to set up a template which would act like a shortcut if ever I want to self publish a book on kindle. (Which I might have to do now anyway, since earlier I'd set up a fake facebook page as a non-existent author whose name popped into my head from nowhere. I wonder what genre she wants to write?) It was great to be able to pool our knowledge, and our cookery skills. I'm so fortunate to have such a talented group of friends.
This Friday I celebrated the publication of my next book, A Mistress for Major Bartlett with my fellow Novelistas in Wales.
Anne Bennet and I clubbed together for the cake and bubbly, since she has a book out too, Love Me Tender.
Once the cake was cut, and the bubbly served, we shared our writing news. I had to confess that my latest book is in trouble. I have finished my first draft, (as I told you last week) and it only has 43,000 words. It should have 75,000. Trisha Ashley instantly suggested that I add another episode, (which is a very good idea). All I have to do now is think one up. Or several, actually, since I need another 22,000 words of love story!
I may need to go for several long walks this week, while I cogitate...
This week I finished the 1st draft of book #21 for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Now to print off and see what I've got! And then the hard work will begin...the editing.
My regular monthly blog on the Novelistas Ink blogspot went out on Friday. I finally decided to use the letter "N" to stand for notebooks.
Next week I will be guest host at "I love Historical Romance" facebook page on Thursday - do come and say hello!
I will also have to go and collect the cake I've ordered for the Novelistas gathering on Friday. This month we are going to celebrate the fact that both I, and Anne Bennet, have books coming out later in the month. Mine is "A Mistress for Major Bartlett". You can find out more about it on the "Brides of Waterloo" page on this website. Anne's is Love Me Tender. "A heartrending tale of love and tragedy during the Birmingham Blitz". When Anne was telling us about the plot for this story, she had us all on the edges of our seats. Can't wait to read it!
I have been a bit of a gadabout this week. On Wednesday I went off to Southport to meet with fellow members of the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) for lunch in the Latin lounge. Freda Lightfoot, our organizer, encouraged us to hand round copies of our latest book, and share any promotional items we had. Possibly not a great idea during dessert. Especially not one with so much chocolate sauce.
After lunch Leah Fleming gave a talk about how she finds inspiration for her books. And passed round a cover image of her forthcoming release, The Lady in the Veil.
I managed not to drop it into my dessert.
Then on Friday I went to my local reading group where we discussed "Stoner" by John Williams. This is a book which has been reprinted recently, and been much talked about. We certainly found a lot to say about it. Not all of it good. But it worked as a book group read for just that reason - it gave us a lot to discuss!
I also sent out my quarterly newsletter. (pic prize) I'm going to be picking the winner of the giveaway this weekend. And also preparing two blogs - one for the Harlequin blog about the appeal of military heroes (since I've created Major Bartlett for the Brides of Waterloo trilogy), as well as my regular monthly one for the Novelistas. As you may know, I'm blogging about the life of a writer (well, this writer) in alphabetical order. This month will be N.
Which should perhaps stand for Nutella.
I started the week full of good intentions to write 3,000 words per day. I managed it on Monday. On Tuesday I wrote 2,845. On Wednesday I went into town to post some parcels. I shall draw a veil over how many words I accomplished in the afternoon. On Thursday I had my daughter's dog to stay for the day. (For those of you who don't know, I decided I needed to borrow a dog so that I would take it out for a walk and get some exercise at least once a week). We had a lovely walk down to the St. Helen's canal where we saw a swan on its nest. And since I'd exhausted the dog, she napped all afternoon so I did a bit of writing. Though I'm not going to admit how many words were added to my w.i.p.
On Friday, I skived off completely, to join my fellow "Novelistas" at a pub in Wales where we meet once a month to support each other through all our publishing highs and lows.
Beth Francis had brought a home-made cake which she'd baked to celebrate her Pocket Novel "Rainbow's End" which is out next month.
And Sophie Claire brought an advance copy of her debut novel with Accent Press to show us. Her Forget-Me-Not Ex is available for pre-order now.
Next week, I am going to write 3,000 words per day. Well, except on Wednesday when I'm going to the RNA lunch in Southport. And Friday when I attend my local book group...
No, you aren't imagining it - I skipped a week. Last weekend, instead of updating my website, I travelled South to visit my newly-married son and daughter-in-law.
Then visited my daughter and fianc√©, taking the traditional gift of my Easter nests:
Then had a day out to Burnley to see the art installation known as the Singing Ringing Tree even though its official title is the Panopticon.
It's made of lots of hollow tubes welded together, and when the wind blows the effect is something like when you blow across the top of an empty bottle. Of course we picked the only day this week when there was hardly a breath of wind to climb all the way up there!
I also hosted a half hour slot in a facebook party, celebrating the launch of another Waterloo themed anthology "Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles: A Celebration of Waterloo". Congratulations go to Charlene for winning my goody bag. Which I will post as soon as I receive my author copies of "A Mistress for Major Bartlett".
In the midst of all that jollification, I also had time to add 8 chapters to my next book, which I'm calling "The Duke in Disguise" at the moment, although I expect my publishers will want to call it something a bit more interesting when it comes out.
And talking of books coming out - I received the wonderful news that my editor has accepted my revisions for my 20th book, and it will be coming out in December 2015 under the title "The Captain's Christmas Bride"
You'll be pleased to hear I got those revisions done this week and sent into my editor on Thursday. Which left me free to go to my Real Life book club where we discussed Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, which deals with the American Civil war from the point of view of the Southern states. It was a big book. And not all the book club members managed to finish it. One even got out a dvd of the film, and watched that instead to find out what happened! However, we all enjoyed it. Nobody gave it a mark below a 7 out of 10, which is amazing, since there are usually a couple of 2s. So it is a book I can thoroughly recommend - if you have the time and the stamina to devote to it, that is.
On facebook this week, I learned how to peel a boiled egg in 5 seconds, and marvelled at the English language.
The finalists for the RITA award went up at the RWA site. You can read a full list here.
On Wednesday April 1st I will be putting in an appearance at a facebook party to launch an anthology of Waterloo inspired short stories, Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles: A Celebration of Waterloo.
Finally, just to let you know that I'll be putting up my usual monthly blog at the Novelistas blogspot on Friday. I'm going through an alphabetical stroll through a writer's life, and this month I will be reaching M. What do you think M will stand for? Mills & Boon? Memory? Me? I haven't quite decided yet...
There have been many things to distract me from revising my book this week, which is why I have only done the first 6 chapters. Blogs to read, chores to do, and eclipses to watch.
Ok, then, only one solar eclipse, and that was Friday, but the rest of the week seemed to go by in a blink with hardly anything accomplished.
Well, people on facebook keep posting fascinating articles like this one, for example:
House that inspired Jane Austen for sale! Only 7 million euros
And then there was the next instalment of Louise Allen's road to Waterloo series to read: Napoleon arrives in Paris.
Another really useful article I found, for writers, was this one from Elizabeth Bailey, which she calls Thinking is Writing Too
I also got sent out to fetch a new golf trolley from Somebody's club. Now I know just what it felt like for the stranger in town to walk into a Wild West saloon - conversation hushed. Men paused with their beer half way to their mouths. Stopped chewing their pies. And turned to stare. Just as though they'd never seen a female walk into the bar mid week, at lunch time...unaccompanied!
And to round up this week's news, here is a picture I thought you might enjoy:
This week I went out for lunch with my local writer's group. We call ourselves the Novelistas. We meet once a month, to share what's going on in our lives as writers, celebrating our triumphs, and holding each other up through our...well, not disasters. Let's say, our less than successful periods, because all writers have those.
This week we celebrated some triumphs. Firstly, the launch of Trisha Ashley's latest book, Creature Comforts.
It went straight into the Sunday Times bestseller list at number 13 and is still on its way up. So Trisha was definitely celebrating! She made us this beautiful (and delicious) cake, and handed out little goody bags containing "creature" novelties. My ginger rabbit didn't make it past my first cup of coffee. Yum!
Also celebrating was June Francis.
She has a reprint of A Mother's Duty out at the moment, as well as expecting Love Letters in the Sand on 31st March.
Anne Bennet kept us enthralled when she gave us a brief outline of her next book, Love Me Tender. (I had to check to make sure it was going to have a happy ending, as at one point she had us all nearly in tears recounting the hero and heroine's troubles.) No date for that yet, but you can be sure she will be throwing us a launch party when it does come out.
I was able to share that my editor has got back to me about book #20, and absolutely loves it. I have some minor revisions to do, and then it's on to book #21.
Because I've been concentrating on revisions, and going out to lunch, I haven't spent a lot of time on facebook this week. But I did get time to do a few quizzes (can't resist them!) And this one was my favourite: How Much Common Sense do you have?
This week I started writing a new book, which will be my 21st for Harlequin Mills & Boon. I managed a chapter. One chapter. But every journey has to start with a single step, right?
Anyway, on facebook, my favourite quiz of the week was this one:
I enjoyed it so much I tried to share it on twitter. Only to later discover I was still logged in as Lord Randall, who is the Colonel of the fictional regiment in which the hero of my next book is serving. I then discovered I'd tweeted the purchase of a discounted romance novella in his name too. Result - apologies to the other authors who are trying to promote the mini-series set around the battle of Waterloo which we collaborated in writing. Because Lord Randall is supposed to be tough and manly. And he has no time for romance. He even warns Mary (his heroine) that he won't buy her flowers. So what was he doing buying Regency House by Elizabeth Moss?
My featured blog post of the week is aimed at writers, and poses the question, Why use a pseudonym?
I also blogged on Novelistas (I write a blog for them on the first Friday of every month)- about the need to embrace loneliness. You can find it here.
And then, in spite of blogging about hardly ever going out, I went out. To town. The minute I'd parked my car, a fire alarm went off and the whole building was evacuated. While most shoppers stood shivering all over the pavements, waiting patiently to go in, I nipped into a charity shop and bought some second hand books. Including Remember Me , by Sophie Kinsella.
And then, when the alarm stopped and we were allowed back into the shopping centre, I discovered we have a branch of Roman.
And I had to go in and see what kind of clothes they stocked. That "is it blue and black or white and gold" thing has to be the best accidental advertising campaign ever!
This week I launched a new page on Facebook, Waterloo Brides
Please do come and visit the page (and like it too!) to keep up to date with the latest news of the mini-series from Harlequin, written by Sarah Mallory, Louise Allen and Me. Our books will be coming out in May, June, and July, to co-incide with the 200th anniversary of that iconic battle.
I really didn't do much else on facebook this week, because I was busy trying to finish my latest story. I managed to get it to my editor before the deadline, and then to celebrate I went to my Amazon wish list and bought all the books that had gone on sale.
I'm particularly looking forward to reading A Viking for the Viscountess , by Michelle Willingham - the first part of "A Most Peculiar Season" series.
Two of my fellow Novelistas had books released this week. So congratulations to June Francis on the publication of "A Mother's Duty"
And mega congratulations to Trisha Ashley, for reaching the Amazon top 100 within days of her publication of Creature Comforts
Last week I promised I'd update you with what my book club made of this month's choice, "The Story of Lucy Gault" by William Trevor. Unfortunately I didn't even make it off my driveway. The handbrake of the car was glued stuck, and I had to call the emergency assistance chap. While I was waiting for him to arrive, I pondered over the fact that this was a sort of metaphor for the book. Because the characters, I feel, get quite worked up over things which never actually happen. In fact a lot doesn't happen all the way through the book.
Anyway, Allan very kindly got my car off the drive (without making me feel like an idiot) but by then book group would have been well into the discussion and fruit cake, so I went to Sainsbury's instead. The minute I got inside, I could smell doughnuts. And I decided to treat myself to one. But there weren't any left. Which, again, sort of summed up The Story of Lucy.
I've since learned that most people liked it.
I was not one of them.
But I'm looking forward to next month's choice, which is "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell, which I've never read.
This week I have been busy fighting off my third bout of lurgy this winter as well as trying to dodge a looming deadline. Roll on March 1st when the book (which I'm calling A Christmas Masquerade) will have gone off to romance hq, and spring will be well on it's way.
My favourite picture from facebook this week was this one: that pretty much sums me up!
As a comfort read, I dug out my old copy of Dick Francis "Longshot", as you do when you're full of a cold. Next week I'm going to have to bite the bullet, and buy my book club's choice for the month - Lucy Gault by William Trevor. Only trouble is the Amazon review I read that warned people who've just had 'flu not to read it as it's so depressing has rather put me off.
Will let you know how it goes...
I didn't have time to update my news page last weekend. I was too busy enjoying myself at my son's wedding, in the beautiful setting of this country house hotel:
I posted my monthly blog for the Novelistas before I went away. If you'd like to read what I've discovered about writing what you know, then you can find it here:
And...incidentally, I did manage to get in one waltz at my son's wedding, though it wasn't as energetic as shown in this Regency print.
Since I've been back, I've mostly been posting pictures of the wedding on my facebook page - particularly the shoes, the cake, the meal, and the dress:
Though other things have been happening. My favourite blog post of the week (other than mine) was by Rhoda Baxter, on how to find time to write your book.
Also this week, the shortlist for the Romantic Novelist Association awards went up here.
Congratulations to all those who made it to the shortlist!
In real life, the postman brought me copies of the Japanese translation of "A countess by Christmas"
And I changed my facebook banner, so that I will be able to remember the lovely flowers from the wedding, even when the real ones have shrivelled up.
This is what I've been getting up to on facebook this week:
This tweet made me update all my files to dropbox.
This post about book clubs made it hard to keep a straight face at my book club meeting on Friday. We discussed "The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August" by Clare North. We always give the book club choice a mark at the beginning of our meeting, then another after our discussion. At the beginning, I gave it a 9 out of 10 because I'd really enjoyed reading it. Others weren't so keen, though the lowest mark given was a 4. (The record is minus 2!) After the discussion I reduced my mark to 8 and a half, since there were a couple of flaws in the plot I had overlooked in my enthusiasm for the story.
Found this bargain - 5 regency romances in a boxed set for only ¬£1.50! By some great authors.
Regency Quintet: Valentine's Edition
And this was my fave quiz of the week - weird ancient English words...
And no, I don't spend all my time doing quizzes and reading blog posts when I'm supposed to be working. Honestly, I don't!
I'm starting a new feature for those of you not on facebook - a sort of "highlights of the week", to keep you all up to date on what I'm chatting about over there.
First up, I found this giveaway from fellow Harlequin author, Marguerite Kaye, on Goodreads:
I read this useful article about how aspiring writers can deal with rejections.
I announced the placing of my book "A Countess by Christmas" in a top ten poll by Japanese romance readers.
And posted this inspirational picture of a dog.
On the first Friday of the month, Annie Burrows shares insights into the life of a writer on the Novelistas Ink blogspot - alphabetically. As we reach the turn of the year, she has reached the letter J...
The kind of stories I enjoy the most are ones in which the main character changes and grows, emotionally, during the course of whatever adventure the author has sent them on. There are various ways of describing this aspect of story-telling. Often writers refer to it as "the character arc". I prefer to think of it as the "emotional journey", (probably because the word "arc" conjures up an image in my head of an object which curves right up, then ends up on the same level as where it started.) I like to think I'm sending my characters on a journey, in which they not only have an adventure, but also learn to abandon their prejudices and hang-ups along the way, and end up better people.
Perhaps the most obvious example of a story like this is "A Christmas Carol", by Charles Dickens. At the start, Scrooge is a miserable skinflint - a man who makes everyone around him almost equally as miserable. By the end, he's giving away turkeys, raising his clerk's wages, and generally spreading Christmas cheer. The story is so powerful, and spreads such a touching message of hope for even the most hardened cynic, that it has been adapted over and over again, for retelling to a modern audience. Over this Christmas season alone, four different adaptations have been aired on TV (that I've noticed) including my family's favourite - A Muppets Christmas Carol. The story of this one man's emotional transformation never seems to grow stale.
It is particularly suited to telling at Christmas time. Don't we all make New Year's resolutions? Isn't the turn of the year the time when we examine ourselves, take stock, and vow that this is the year when we'll do better? Stories such as A Christmas Carol, that show a character overcoming his own flaws and weaknesses, give us hope that we can do something similar. Though I have to confess, I'd broken every one of my resolutions before the end of January 1st! And yes, they did all involve eating habits, and exercise.
Scrooge changed (literally overnight!) because of intervention by supernatural beings - the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. But there are many other classic stories where the central character is transformed by the (often healing) power of love. As a writer of romance, these are the ones that have always particularly inspired me. As a child I couldn't get enough of fairy stories, such as Rapunzel - where the hero's blindness is cured by the tears of his beloved falling onto his eyes, and The Snow Queen, where Gerda's tears wash the splinters of the troll mirror from his heart. (Oh, dear, it's always tears, isn't it?), or Beauty and the Beast, where the heroine learns not to judge by outward appearances, and breaks the curse to find the Prince inside the Beast.
Then, as I grew older, it was stories that contained a more romantic love, that I enjoyed the most. The ones where the hero's character and actions helped to unfreeze the heroine's heart in some way. Or vice versa. I think that is one reason why I love reading Harlequin romances - fairly often the heroine's integrity is what persuades the cynical hero to soften and open his own heart to love. She "rescues" him from a life of cynical isolation.
On reflection that's probably what I love about Rapunzel, and Beauty and the Beast, and The Snow Queen. Although the hero starts out with all the notional power, it is the woman who comes to the rescue in the end. Rapunzel cures the Prince's blindness, Beauty breaks the curse holding the Beast in thrall, and Gerda travels through the Arctic to rescue Kai from the Queen's ice palace.
Gerda is the one fairy tale heroine who goes on an actual journey. My own characters rarely do. It is their inner journey, often from a dark place, that I love to describe. I was half way through writing A Mistress for Major Bartlett (release date June 2015) before I realized my heroine was very like Rapunzel. Although she isn't under a real curse, she has shut herself up in a psychological tower, into which nobody has access, apart from her beloved twin brother. It takes a real shock to jolt her out of her self-imposed isolation, set out on a path to self-awareness, and open her heart and mind to the possibility of love.
Her hero, the Major Bartlett of the title, also has his own emotional journey to undertake. Like the prince in Rapunzel, he has been wandering in darkness for a very long time. And it (sort of) takes the heroine's tears to open his eyes to not only what he is, but what he could become.
Wishing you all the best as you journey into this New Year.