Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Sad Loss to Romance

    More years ago than I care to calculate, I went to my very first ever Mills and Boon Author Day - back in the times before we had the Association of Mills and Boon Authors Lunches. I didn't know anyone - except an editor or two. My then editor promised to introduce me to another of her authors, a lovely lady from Liverpool called Jennifer Taylor who, at that time, was writing for the Romance line but later became a real superstar of the Medical Romance

    Jennifer Taylor receiving her award for 75 books.
     Jennifer and ...I -two Northern Lasses - took to each other from that start - and later that day we also made friends with the fabulous Michelle Reid - another writer from up North! Later we formed our own 'Northern AMBA' (known affectionately as the Nambies - with Jacqueline Baird and, occasionally, with Roger Sanderson (writing as Gill Sanderson). Many times we met for a long, laughter-filled lunch at Huddersfield (a point midway between everyone's home towns) and Jennifer always used to arrive in her smart little red sports car, much to everyone's admiration.

     Later the Babe Magnet and Jennifer's smashing husband Bill used to join us - and Michelle's husband - when we got together in London for the official AMBA.

     There were times when life was far from kind to Jennifer, family tragedies, losing Bill, and her own health problems knocked her hard but she always wore her wide bright smile and shared her wicked sense of humour in spite of everything.

    Jennifer wrote 85 medical romance novels over almost thirty years, entertaining millions of readers and capturing their hearts with her heartwarming stories set mainly in GP surgeries, country hospitals, or in the Mediterranean, a place she loved.

     The last time I saw her was when we both met at the Harlequin Offices to meet with our editors last year. She was fighting her illness with grace and courage and refused to feel sorry for herself. Instead she carried on writing and publishing and the legacy of books she left behind are a great tribute to a strong and brave personality who refused to be knocked down. Her daughter and her grandchildren brought an extra sparkle to that smile and it was wonderful to see her enjoying being a grandmother so very much.

    Sadly Jennifer recently  lost her battle with myeloma but she will always be remembered by her family, her friends - fellow writers - and of course the thousands of readers who loved her romance stories.

    Rest in peace, dear Jennifer - you are someone I will never forget.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Another 'grim' day

 I'm  just setting out on  another day as PA the the other half of the 'Crime and Passion' duo. The Babe Magnet is speaking today at the Ilkley Literature Festival - in a discussion about  Crime in Your Back Yard   with fellow Yorkshire writers Liz Mistry   and A A Dhand  (at the Playhouse at 5pm  ).

I'll  be the back up team this week  - next weekend I'll be the one doing the work at the Writing Fiction That Sells weekend course at Keele University.

Looking forward to that, but the treat this week, is that we get to have afternoon tea  at Bettys in Ilkely - no doubt we'll bring home  Fat Rascals (and I'm not talking about DH!)

The weather is supposed to be untypically mild - so long as this storm Ophelia doesn't hit us  so I'm looking forward to the trip.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Tote Bags Day

The 12th of every month is the date that I write a post for the Tote Bags 'n' Blogs  Blog. 
So that's where I have posted today . 
(well - a couple of days ago - I've only just  caught my breath to remember to come and post here to tell you about it!)

Anyway, I've written about being one of two writers in the family and how my DH - aka the Babe Magnet  is a writer of  Local History and True Crime - and the history of Crime.

So you'll find out about him on Tote Bags  - and about his new books coming out - that's Write Your Self.  

And then  The Crime Writers' Casebook with his friend  former Detective Inspector in the murder squad Stuart Gibbon.

This weekend we're off to Ilkley where the Babe Magnet if speaking on writing true crime and crime history at the  Ilkley Literature Festival.  So I'll be acting as PA   then and letting him do the speaking and greeting.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Big News from MIlls and Boon UK

There's an interesting article in The Bookseller  this week - revealing the big news about the complete revamp of the covers and the whole look of Mills and Boon Romances which is coming in January.

Mills & Boon (M&B) has revealed a “huge” relaunch lined up for January, the first face-lift for the brand in a decade. The rebrand features a sleeker logo and revamped covers, refreshed point-of-sale material, a beefed-up book club and the brand’s first engagement with the blogging community. 
There will also be a raft of commercial partnerships and retail promotions for the romance imprint which will go live on 1st January.

If you want to read the article about the relaunch and  get a sneak peek at some of the newly designed covers then you'll find the details here.

And look out for the new covers designs appearing on Amazon/ the Mills and Boon Web Site and in the shops for the new year.

catching up 1

Sorry - I thought I had posted since I was away in Liverpool,  but just checking on things I find that a few posts have been stuck in me  pending tray and I need to  make sure they appear  here as  well as Facebook! Soory!

Had a great weekend in Liverpool at the Jack The Ripper Conference with H Division True Crime Club. So many interesting talks and a special dinner and presentation with Fred Dinenage. Thank you to everyone for the warm welcome.

And of course there was a talk by one Stephen Wade. Lots of books to be signed afterwards too. Just discovered that some of these are now on Kindle for only £0.99 so there's a real bargain.

Next event is the Romantic Novelists' Association Afternoon Tea in York - life certainly has so much interest - and such contrasts!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On the road - or, rather, the train, again.

So after last week's trip to London and  my time being the  romance writer   who lunches - and then parties - now we're back and I've got all the laundry  washed and dried  (in spite of the rain) .

This weekend we're at another writing event - but it's a very different one.  This weekend the Babe Magnet is speaking at the Jack the Ripper Conference   in Liverpool.

So this weekend it's my turn to step back and let him take the spotlight while I play the part of the PA to true crime writer and crime historian Stephen Wade.   He was supposed to  be able to display his new title Murder in Mind, but unfortunately publication on that has been delayed - so instead he'll be talking about researching  the true crimes  and criminals of the past -  and possibly his collaboration with ex detective (from London and Lincolnshire) Stuart Gibbon   on a new book planned to help writers get those important factual details right in   crime fact or fiction.

Parties and Pins

One of the very best moments from the Harlequin Author Party on Friday evening - being there to applaud   Michelle Styles  when she was presented with her special pin for publishing 25 Historical Novels. So pleased for her - and the fact that I played a tiny part in her career when I encouraged her not to believe the people who said HMB would never publish a novel with a Roman hero - they did - and the fabulous Viking heroes Michelle wrote after that. . . It made my night to be there to applaud her.
Congratulations again Michelle!

And another very special moment at the Harlequin party on Friday night - Kate Hardy receiving her award for her 75th title - what else can I say but Congratulations Scary Kate!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Busy busy . . .

The week is crazy busy - and now I'm packing for a trip to London and the annual Association of Mills and Boon Authors lunch with a reception afterwards at the Harlequin offices - just hope the weather is rather better than the icy showers we have here - it's only September!

 One bright spark in the cold dampness has been the arrival of a bundle of new foreign translations - German, Dutch, French and several from Japan - including my favourites - two brand new Manga editions.
One of these is The Return of The Stranger which seems to suddenly have had a new lease of life with people talking about it (and it being on sale at £0.99p) on Amazon. The other is The Antonakos Marriage. Great to
see these older books getting a new lease of life.

Now it's time to pack and head for the big city! I'll be back at the weekend.
Waving to everyone I'll see there - travel safe and I can't wait to meet up again.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Courses coming up 2

So having written about the course that is fully booked - now on to one that still has places available. I was going to write about this yesterday, but my post got delayed by - guess what - another two people enquiring about making a booking for the course, So if you're interested in

'Writing Fiction that Sells -with KATE WALKER

Now's the time to make a booking for this one.
Dates: 20-22 October 2017
Venue: Keele University Management Centre Staffordshire
Cost £249 - including accommodation and meals - and tea/coffee breaks.
Check out Relax and Write with Lois Maddox

Although not specifically about writing romance- this will deal with so many things that are important for writing romantic fiction - characters, conflict etc
Writing Fiction that Sells also includes
- Know your market
- Knowing yourself as a writer
- Hooks
- Your ‘brand’
- Tried and tested – adding a new spin
- Spotting the ‘band-wagon’

Relax and Write want me to do another course in Cirencester in April this will take the form of a writing retreat (I think!) - where you have written several chapters and I discuss those with you and give you ways to work on problems - and you have time to write and discuss with the rest of the group. I don't have full details of dates yet but hope I soon will have. The thing with these courses is that they need the demand to run them!

Unfortunately the basic Writing Romance course I ran every year in July in Wales has now ended as the whole Writers' Holiday in summer had ended.

Courses Coming Up 1

Ok so, I said that I would give some details about the courses I have coming up in case anyone was interested in joining me on one of them. But then it seemed that as soon as I mentioned that, bookings took off with the one just on the horizon - so -

The Advanced Romance Writing Course in February in Fishguard is now totally booked up.Writers' Holiday just in case.
The last two places were allocated this week - so if you wanted to put your name on the waiting list you can - contact Gerry Hobbs  at

 I believe that most of the February Weekend is also full or filling fast - so if you want to consider
Poetry with Alison Chisholm
Short Story writing with Della  Galton (though that may be filled as well!)
Novel Writing with    Rachael Thomas              
Writing Feature Articles with    Simon Whaley
or Painting and Drawing with    Susan Alison 

It will be a good idea to at least make an enquiry with Writers Holiday right now.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

And another bargain book . . .

Life has been so hectic lately that I've not had much time to breathe. And I've had my head down, mind focused, practicing BICHOK  (bum in chair, hands on keyboard) in a determined effort to
 finish  The Book That Would Not End.   What's that some people say about giving birth to a pineapple - there's a vivid (and apt) description!

Anyway, the Pineapple has finally allowed me to finish it,  it's with my editor now so I have a  moment or two to draw breath and look at the  huge To Do list, together with the mound of correspondence that has piled up.  I'm working my way thought that at the  moment  - my apologies to important people who have been waiting for me to get back to them!

Several of those are people who have been asking about any courses that I have coming up - so I'll write a post about those just as soon as I can.

In the meantime, the fact that I have raised my eyes from my computer screen has meant that I've discovered that Amazon has another of my backlist titles available at a bargain price right now. So if you don't have a kindle version of  the 2009 book Kept For Her Baby then it's up on Amazon at £0.99 right now. Not sure for how long but it's a bargain price if you want to read it.  Like The Return of the Stranger which is still at £0.99 too.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Return of the Stranger - at a bargain price on Kindle

Yesterday on Facebook  Ali Williams  who is both a romance editor and academic writer  was asking about romance novels based on classic romantic fiction and Michelle Styles was kind enough to Laura Vivanco on Teach Me Tonight - a talk at the Haworth Festival of Women's Writing (speaking in a schoolroom where Charlotte Bronte herself had taught) and the Bronte Parsonage Museum put a copy of The Return of the Stranger permanently in their library amongst the fiction inspired by the Bronte sisters' writings.
mention the mini series 'The Powerful and The Pure' which was brought out in 2011 (was it really that long ago!) in which several Modern Romance/Harlequin Presents authors created romance novels to 'Modernise' some fabulous classic novels - Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Emma. My own contribution to this series was a reworking of Wuthering Heights (chosen for me because I'd written my MA thesis on the childhood writings of Charlotte and Emily Bronte) It was a fascinating experience and led to some interesting results - an interview with

Because of this several people wrote to enquire about the book and I had to go hunting to see where they could find a copy. As a result, I discovered that Return of The Stranger is currently on sale on kindle for only £0.99p.   (Not sure if this is the same on as it's not showing kindle details for me there)
So if you're interested or you have been looking for a copy of this novel - now's the time to grab a bargain! I've sent the only re
maining paperback copy I had on its way to Ali, so I think this is the best way to get hold of it now.

And if you're interested in  any of the posts I write about  this book and the talks in Haworth etc  back in 2011 when it was first published - put Return of The Stranger or Wuthering Heights  into the search box and they should come up.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Book deliveries

    Sometimes there are no book deliveries to this house - and other times, there are more deliveries than we can cope with! This week has been sort of average - but most of the book boxes have been for the Babe Magnet who seems to have half a dozen new titles publishing in the next couple of months, So we have Write Your Self which arrived this week. I
    love this cover.
    And talking of covers - there's this translation of one of my more recent titles - but it's a little worrying! The Translated title is Mork, Vacker, Mystik. Now in Yorkshire that 'mork' is not a flattering description! In the slang dictionary too, it's defined this way:
    mork n. someone who is completely witless. a low level nincompoop who rarely sees things in perspective.๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ™„
    Not sure that's how I'd describe my hero - if it is the hero they' mean!
    Anyone able to tell me how this title actually translates into English? If you can and you'd like the spare copy of this translation - please post and let me know!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

One of the best parts of summer.

As you probably already know, I spent a  fabulous week in  July at Writers Holiday in Fishguard. Yes,
I was teaching a course - and so was my husband - but there is so much more to Fishguard than the teaching and the courses, there's the friendship, the laughter, the after-dinner speakers, the food, the massages (yes - we have a lovely lady who gives fabulous back and shoulder massages - just what you need after a day's teaching!) the music - the Cwmbach Male Choir - perhaps a little bit of wine - the conversations, the new friends,. . the husbands.  (yes husbandS)

Sadly, this summer's event was the last on in Fishguard in July - though, thankfully, the February Writing Weekends are still continuing - thank heaven or I'd pine away completely.

One of the unexpected delights of teaching with Gerald P Hobbs Writers' Holiday every year is that some years back I unexpectedly acquired another 'husband' !๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜ฎ (It's a long story - and a case of mistaken identity!) Interestingly both husbands have the initials SW - Stephen Wade and Simon Whaley. Not only is Simon (Husband 2) great company and an inspiring teacher, he's also a very talented photographer and he's responsible for a wonderful assortment of photos of the last night of the last summer holiday at Fishguard (sob!๐Ÿ˜ช )  - if you can see them on his Facebook page

So many times I'm asked why I travel all that way to Wales for this week in the summer - and again in February - well, take a look at these photos of that last night - the friendship, warmth, affection and sheer family atmosphere of Gerald P Hobbs Writers' Holiday shines out of them. More than worth a few (OK - a lot) of hours' driving, and besides that I get to spend a week by the sea with a whole group of friends. I'm only sorry I won't be doing that next summer - but there will be February 2018 (and Husband 2 is teaching a course there.)

Behind every great event there has to be someone who has worked tirelessly and non-stop to make it right. In the case of Writers'Holiday - those people are Gerald  Hobbs and his lovely wife Anne. This photo will be special to so many  Writers' Holiday visitors, past and present. over the 32 years they have been running this lovely event. You arrive as a stranger, not knowing anyone, and leave as a member of a warm and welcoming family. I should know, the Babe Magnet and I have been part of that family for well over half the time it's been in existence. Without Anne and Gerry planning Writers' Holiday and making sure it was one of the most giving and welcoming writers' events in the country, I'd never have enjoyed some of the most special times of my life. (And as I said   it has to be special to make it worth making the l-o-n-g journey from
Lincolnshire to Wales twice a year)

I (and many many others) am so sad that the summer event has now become unworkable - but there are still the February Weekends, and the Babe Magnet and I will be there as long as we can manage it. Caerleon/Fishguard regulars will know that this is a rare photo - getting Gerry centre stage has been a near-impossibility over the years. We managed it once on the 25th anniversary and now, thankfully, managed it again for this special bittersweet evening.
(and thank you Husband2 for the photo)

To Anne and Gerry - from all the Fishguard regulars - so many thanks for all you've done over the years, and thank goodness you're carrying on with the February weekends or I think we'd all pine away without you and all the friends you've helped us make over the year.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

A Special Memory

More years ago than I care to reckon up,  as a barely 10 year old,  my mother allowed me to spend Sundays watching TV. This was a rare occurrence because as far as my mother was concerned, Sundays were for going to mass, eating Sunday lunch, going for a long walk,  tea, a bath, washing my hair  - and bed.  TV did not figure in that timetable at all.

But this was different - this was the BBC's production of Shakespeare's history plays  in one long sequence - 15 episodes.  I watched the first  and was lost. For all those 15 episodes, my mother and I shared this experience and I was totally engrossed in the drama, the language, the acting.  It was only years later that I realised how much I had absorbed of Shakespeare's power - and how many of the stage and screen's later great actors I had watched on that rather blurry black and white screen.

One of those actors I have always remembered - have never been able to forget  - was the man who played Henry V - and that was Robert Hardy.   Later he became well known as Siegfried in    James Herriot's  All Creatures Great and Small.  He played  Churchill several times and  was known to a new and wider audience when he appeared as Cornelius Fudge in Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix.   But to me he was always the very first Prince Hal I'd every seen - dynamic  and powerful and, in spite of a strange 'pudding basin' haircut, mesmerising and unforgettable.

So I was truly sad to learn today that Robert Hardy has died at the age of 91. Such important memories went with him. And he will always be Prince Hal to me.

RIP Robert Hardy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

RNA Conference weekend

So here’s how the statistics for the weekend stack up:

First and foremost  - people to thank for a wonderful, fantastically well organised and stimulating conference once again  - Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson

Hours spent getting lost en route to Telford 2

Minutes left to prepare/change clothing/brush hair before Wellington Library panel 5

People attending Wellington library  panel  30

Wedding anniversary celebrated 1

Old friends met up with again  100- maybe more

New friends made – 30

Talks/workshops attended 20

Quiz won  - 1 (by ½ point!)

Bottles of wine consumed . . . err – lost count

RNA ex-virgins (from when I ran the first-timers group)and writers now published after my courses/12 Point Guide – Janet Gover Rachael Thomas Brigid Cody Iona Garrett Cathy Mansell

Discussions with past course students after one to ones -   10

Books added to my TBR pile – 15 – with special thanks to Janet Gover, Lara Temple (see above)

Person to thank for all the photographs – 1-   John Jackson

Late nights in the kitchen with wonderful friends – 4

Cats to appease after abandoning them for 4 days – surprisingly, none. The wonderful cat-sitter we  asked to look after them did the job so well we actually had no complaints, no sulks, no retribution when we came home. 

Except – number of mice sacrificed to cats’ need to bring presents for cat sitter – 3

Hedgehogs to feed in the evening after we got back – 4  - that’s including one brand-new half-grown Heck who is currently eating his/her way through everything we put out for it.

Bundles of washing to dump in the machine and get dry before we head out to Writers’ Holiday- 4

Days to go before I have to turn round and head out again towards Fishguard and teaching on this summer’s Writers’ Holiday – 3 ….

Eeek – thank heaven I planned the course well in advance and had only to pack my handouts etc.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Conferences and Covers

Heading out today for the RNA Conference and meeting up with lots of friends and fellow writers - so looking forward to this. But I just wanted to share - sometimes my covers seem a bit 'samey' but every now and then I get a new cover design that really stands out. So I was delighted with this from a French collection that I spotted today.

 And I'm in a collection with the wonderful Sara Craven who was one of the special writers who made me love the romance genre and I learned so much from her! So consider my day made with this.

Now I need to finish packing and get one the road - to everyone I'll see at RNA - travel safely - Oh, and yes, I'll be at Wellington Library tonight so if you're coming to that I'll see you there.

PS Perhaps I should say that the title of mine in this collection is Cordero's Forced Bride - which had a rather different cover

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Busy July

July is always a hectic month for me. So the coming week is going to need me to have my head down, nose to the grindstone - in theory this will mean finishing the book I've been wrestling with, for ever it seems.

The there will be the RNA Conference - where I have the appearance on the fantastic panel on Thursday evening 13th July, it's a free event at the local Wellington Library, from 7-8pm, so if you're in the area, and you'd like to come along, everyone's welcome - other fabulous writers on this panel are : Freda Lightfoot, Sarah Morgan, Nicola Cornick, Bernardine Kennedy.

At the RNA - as always - the Babe Magnet and I will be celebrating our wedding anniversary of many, many years but as the conference is always so busy and so much fun, we'll have our private, personal celebrations once we're home.

hen the next week (we have 3 days to turn around, get clean clothes and head out again we're heading for lovely Fishguard in Wales and the fabulous Gerald P Hobbs Writers' Holidays where I'm teaching The Complete Romance Writing course and one Stephen Wade is running a course called 'Make 'em Laugh' - writing humour. (Note to self - must find out if there are any places still availab
le on this year's Writers' Holiday in case anyone's interested.)

So as I know I shall be very busy (understatement ) in the rest of the month - I'm going to be doing something a bit special for the next few days - and introducing you to a new writer. Someone who writes very different sort of books from mine but they're fascinating and great reads - well, I'm partial because I know her! But if you have young readers in your family specially those who love books of fantasy and darkness, magic, menace and a truly terrifying foe - then come along - and there will be a giveaway to enter as well.

So that's coming up soon.  I hope you'll come by and meet this writer.

Friday, June 30, 2017

I haven't mentioned the Hecks for a while

Just been out - in the pouring rain! - to organise the evening's food and water for our family of hedgehogs - affectionately known as the Hecks. We've just realised that since next week will mark the 28th anniversary of moving in to this place, it also marks the 28th anniversary of realising that we had the Hecks in the garden and taking over the responsibility of feeding them from the daughter of the previous family to live here. If we don't remember, they appear at the patio doors to demand their meal!

Not sure how many generations of Hecks we've had since then, but thankfully they do seem to be thriving this year as well. I think that says something about the fact that parts of the garden are definitely left 'wild' for them. They also love the mixture of food left out. Since I'm often asked what to feed them:

A saucer of cat/dog meat – chicken in jelly is a favourite but please no meat in gravy. Not fish
Dried mealworms, crushed peanuts and sunflower hearts.
Cat biscuits
Hedgehog food found in garden centres and pet shops

A bowl of water is really important as many of the hedgehogs that arrive at rescues are dehydrated
Please no bread or milk
-Food and fresh water will encourage hedgehogs to return.

You can find more information at Prickles Hedgehog Rescue   or Hedgehog Friendly Town on Facebook

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Gift from a Friend

      It's a fact (unfortunately) that no matter how many books you've written and had published there is often (usually) a moment or two in the writing of the current one when, no matter if its #6 or #67 - which this one is - the hateful ravens of doubt come circling and you try to remember how you ever did this before - and are you sure you can do it again? Really?

      I have always had a special little message to myself that sits on my
      desk that helps me work through times like this - it's from my dear friend the great Michelle Reid and it says 'Just tell the story'. So that's what I do, and so far it's worked out right.

      But now I have a new message to add to that one - this is on a mug from another dear friend. And it just proves that there are friends who know you and are there to support you even when they're on the other side of the country. Thanks Marie Frances - you're so right - and your mug, filled with tea has been a real boost when the words have flagged

Preparing writing course

I've been spending the weekend preparing The Complete Romance Writing Course for the wonderful Writers' Holiday in Fishguard in July - so now I'm keyed up with anticipation and can't wait to go back to one of my favourite places ever - with a lot of my special friends - and making new ones I hope!

There are still some places on the week/the course that are available if you want to join us. If you'll be a new first timer do let us know so that we can make sure to welcome you. (I needed to add this as the story has got out that I have the nickname Ms Whiplash for Writers' Holiday! It's a joke, honest!)

This course is intended to provide information and advice for anyone who wants to learn how to write a popular romance genre novel. It gives an introduction to all the skills needed for success, from creating realistic characters, sustaining pace and conflict, packing emotional punch, writing sex scenes and crafting a satisfying ending. While the focus may be on romance novels, the techniques – dialogue, characters, tension, pacing, settings, hooks etc. will also be relevant to all forms of popular fiction.

Don't forget there are also great courses run by Carol Fenlon, Simon Whaley, Della Galton, James Morgan Nash, Susan Moody, Janet Laurence, Alison Chisholm, Susan Alison and Stephen Wade on writing humour

Oh, now I really can't wait

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Library Event

If anyone is around on the RNA Conference Thursday evening  13th July, there's a free event at the local Wellington Library, from 7-8pm, with Kate Walker, Sarah Morgan, Freda Lightfoot, Bernardine Kennedy and Nicola Cornick. You'd be very welcome.

Monday, June 19, 2017

One of the extra special things about being a writer is the way that I get to meet up with so many readers at such different stages of their reading experience. Last Friday was one of those days when I was invited to hand out the certificates to the readers who had worked hard to earn a completers' certificate in the Reading Ahead classes run by The Reading Agency.

To quote the Reading Agency web site:

One in six people struggles to read. However, research shows that when we ...inspire people to read for pleasure they benefit from far greater opportunities in everyday life, education and employment. Reading Ahead (formerly called the Six Book Challenge) is the gateway to these opportunities. Because everything changes when we read. 

Reading Ahead supports young people and adults by changing their perception of reading, opening up opportunities and building their confidence.

Run through public libraries, adult learning organisations, colleges, workplaces and prisons, Reading Ahead invites participants to pick six reads and record, rate and review them in a diary in order to get a certificate. The programme isn't just about books - it's about newspapers, magazines and websites too. The new name reflects this to help those for whom books might be a barrier to joining in.

I had a wonderful afternoon at a local library, meeting the successful readers, sharing in their delight in a new-found joy in reading and presenting their completion certificates. Thank you to all library staff for their warm  welcome - and tea and cake! - and to those new readers - keep on reading!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Family Connections

I've just come back from a family reunion that was a very special event.  I come from a family of five sisters.   (I come right in the middle of them if you’re wondering.)  My eldest sister is living in Australia  so she’s sadly thousands of miles away, but the next eldest sister – the one between her and me – is having a big birthday this year.   And she invited all the rest of us -  and the next generation – and the one after that – to come together for a very special family  party and overnight stay.

We had a wonderful time. We all live in different parts of the country, have different lives, but it was as if time and distance hadn’t existed.  So there were my other sisters, two husbands, one sister’s daughter, and the birthday girl’s son, his wife and two daughters. So that’s  three generations. And to add to the celebrations, there were two more about-to-be members of the family as my niece and my nephews wife were both expecting babies due to arrive in September.

Since I came home and I looked at all the photographs – specially one that had all of us, each generation, arranged on a flight of steps, it made me think about families both in reality and in books.  And it got me wondering about the families in some of my books.

I’ve now been published for over thirty years, so some of the babies  conceived by or born to past heroes and heroines will be about the age to become heroes and heroines themselves.   The b
aby that pushes Pierce and Natalie into marriage in  The Unexpected Child would be twenty years old now – just old enough to have her own story. And so will the little girl   Rosie who appeared in His Miracle Baby.

Sometimes I create characters who are connected by family or place and  then if I revisit that place, that family,  there is a chance to catch up with the story of the original couple and see how their life has progressed. I did this with  A Question of Honour where the hero and heroine  - Karim and Clemmie  later appeared – with their children -  in Destined For The Desert King .   And  Nabil, who was to have been Clemmie’s original bridegroom in that story, is the hero of this second book, with his new bride Aziza.  I remembered these books particularly as the story I’m working on will  take my new hero and heroine from their homes in Ireland to the kingdom of Rhastaan  where they may well meet up with Karim and Clemmie, Nabil and Aziza . . .and who knows how many children now?
So that made me wonder.  Do you like books were past characters appear, and you learn about their lives later on? Do you enjoy finding out about what has happened to them since their ‘happy ever after’ ending? Are they in fact ‘happy ever after’?  (I should hope so as I try to write characters who are just made for each other.)

Thinking about these earlier books has made me wonder whether it might be interesting to revisit

What do you think?  Do you like to read books like this? Are there any books - mine or any other  author’s  where you’d like to know what happened to a younger character – or just another person – in the future?
families and give them their own family reunion  and a story for the next generation.

I  know I’m looking forward to revisiting old friends in Rhastaan as I take Adnan and Ciara out to that country on their rather unusual honeymoon.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

This and that

Life has been rather hectic and a bit fraught  lately so I've been very bad  at keeping up with my blog. But I'm trying to add some posts that will wake this place up a bit and let you know I'm still alive.
 One of the things I should have mentioned is that I've been asked a lot about the teaching and the courses I'll be running in  the rest of this year.   So  the next one coming up is The Complete Romance Writing Course which is in one of my most favourite places in  the country and one of my favourite events in the whole year.
This of course is the Writers' Holiday in Fishguard in Pembrokeshire Wales.  As  so many of you know, this is one of the highlights of my summer for the past 15+ years . So I'm counting down t
he days before I  go back to Fishguard in July.    As always I will get to meet up again with old friends and hope to make new ones with the  visitors who have never been before,  I know some people are nervous about  being there on their own - but believe me, you won't stay on your own for very long.   Everyone is so welcoming, and the wonderful< Anne and Gerry Hobbs make sure that  things run as smoothly as possible all week.
There are always such great courses too - I'm always really sorry that I'm teaching for oe part of the week, so that I can only choose from the first set of courses when there are so many that I'd love to do. 
Here's this year's selection:

1. Writerly Desire

The ins and outs of writing great sex scenes

Is the thought of your characters’ sex lives too hot to handle? Do you always stop at the bedroom door? Shed your inhibitions as we explore ways to write effective and relevant sex scenes. the focus of the course will be on incorporating sex scenes in a variety of genres tailored to specific readerships, rather than on erotica perse. Suggestions from course participants for specific genres to be covered are welcome.

2. Write a Short Story at Fishguard

Sell it when you get home

This course is a practical course which will take you through writing a short story from Idea to completion. To get the most from this course you will need to do some homework during the week. But you should be able to go away with a completed short story and have some idea where to sell it.

3. Writing the Landscape


Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, the landscape around us influences our work, both directly and indirectly. But do we really notice it? This course will show you how to spot detail in the landscape and then bring it to life in your writing. Discover how to turn any interaction with the landscape into a self-contained piece… and be prepared to stretch your legs at some point, because if the weather is good we may go for a wander.

4. Poetry for All

Everything you need to know to produce stunning poems in traditional and contemporary forms.
Anyone can write a poem. James will ensure that you can do it with skill and flair!

5. Painting and Drawing


You can now spend all day Painting and Drawing – either all the week, or just half of the week. Demonstrations of technique will take place in the mornings, and afternoons can be spent out and about if the weather is fine, or in the Art Room with subjects and materials provided.

6. Make ’em laugh: Writing Humour


Ever wanted to write humour? Hit that funny bone with Steve Wade.

7. The Complete ROMANCE Writing Course


This course is intended to provide information and advice for anyone who wants to learn how to write a popular romance genre novel. It gives an introduction to all the skills needed for success, from creating realistic characters, sustaining pace and conflict, packing emotional punch, writing sex scenes and crafting a satisfying ending. While the focus may be on romance novels, the techniques – dialogue, characters, tension, pacing, settings, hooks etc. will also be relevant to all
forms of popular fiction.

8. The Absolutely Complete Course on Writing Crime Fiction

Two experienced crime writers will combine to deliver a course which will be tailored to provide you with everything you need to write your own crime novel or crime short story.

9. All you ever wanted to know about Writing Competitions

Whether entering or running one
Competitions are the pathway to increasing your writing experience and to getting your work published. Among the areas to be covered are:
  • The writing competition scene
  • How to select the competitions to enter
  • Competition stories and novels
  • Competition articles and poems
  • Preparing your entry
  • The judging process
  • Running a competition

10. Painting and Drawing

You can now spend all day Painting and Drawing – either all the week, or just half of the week. Demonstrations of technique will take place in the mornings, and afternoons can be spent out and about if the weather is fine, or in the Art Room with subjects and materials provided.

As always, you can find the details and  ask about availability for rooms in the hotel (or as a day visitor)   at the Writers' Holiday  site

Book now while there is still room!
Incidentally, if you want a bit more information about Fishguard, take  a look at the current People's Friend - there's a great article in there by one of this year's tutors  Simon Whaley

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Inspiring theatre

Back from a couple of days relaxing and enjoying in York - can one have a birthday *month* celebration?

One of the best things while there was attending this great Watermill Theatre production of Twelfth Night  at York Theatre Royal. The thing I love about creativity and creative people is the way that something so often repeated can be replayed again and again with a new twist, a new approach, a new setting and so becomes something new instead of the same old same old.

I suppose I'm very conscious of this because the sort of romances I write are so often dismissed as 'all the same' or - even worse - painting by numbers stories! The truth is that in the hands (and minds) of an inspired writer/director/actor, something you have seen/read/heard so often before can take on a whole new edge and emphasis and while telling the same story yet again can make it new and fresh and as a result parts of it ring sharper and have more impact than before. For example, I'd never have thought that a female Sir Toby Belch would work . . .

This production is reimagined in the 1920s where prohibition is rife and Europe is still reeling in the wake of war. With a great selection of energetic jazz music, and with an innovative approach to staging, the hugely talented cast created a fabulous and fresh version of a play I have seen so many times. So glad we saw it

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

VERY special weekend

Many many thanks to every kind person who sent me  fabulous birthday wishes.  I  was away in the countryside in Derbyshire enjoying a wonderful birthday weekend in a lovely cottage, with some very special friends. We shared so much fun and laughter, writing discussions, walks in the bluebell woods, fabulous food courtesy of Sallyann, a glass of prosecco or two - so much happiness and the joy of sharing friendship. The best birthday present (and there were a couple of wonderful gifts to unwrap too!!)

I've managed to get some photos to share - the lovely cottage and the bluebell wood - and a rather special cake! Once upon a time the fabulous organisers of Writers' Holiday let slip the WH nickname of Ms Whiplash for me on-air for a radio broadcast - and the nickname stuck. So now, Gerald P Hobbs
 - and Anne - I am coming prepared for this summer - July 24th-29th - can't wait!!  ;-)

Thank you to everyone who posted birthday wishes - and to

my lovely friends who shared a fabulous birthday weekend - and gave me this cake!

Friday, May 05, 2017

Special weekend

I'm not at all sure where time  has gone - but somehow it's almost the weekend and I've been so looking forward to this weekend.

 Can't think of any way better to celebrate a special day than to meet with special friends - people who care about you - and have a long weekend in a farm cottage in the countryside. I expect there will be a lot of laughter, great food and a really relaxing time . Just what I need to help me ignore getting older . ..

After I posted the great news about Rachael Thomas's brilliant success people have been enquiring about courses and I meant to post details of the ones coming up but time has just s-l-i- p-p-e-d away from me. And now I'm busy packing for that weekend - but I will post more details when I get back - or you can check out Writers' Holiday for the next summer course - Writing Romantic Fiction - if you can't wait. I will be in Derbyshire. . . 

Celebrating a student's success

    Years ago, I taught my very first Writing Romance course at Fishguard Writing Weekends with  Writers Holiday

    In that class was lovely Rachael Thomas who had a dream of becoming a writer of romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon. She was one of the hardest working people in pursuit of her dreams that I have ever met. She tried and submitted, got knocked back, tried again . . . Once she even thought about giving up - but she didn't. 

     What's that they say about... success being able to get up one more time than you've been knocked down - well, Rachael proved that. She never gave up on her dream. And now, today she is celebrating the publication of her 10th Romance - Di Marcello's Secret Son. That's definitely worth celebrating. Dreams really can come true - specially if you work as hard at them as Rachael!

    I'm so so pleased for you Rachael - and so proud of all you've achieved since you were in that very first class (though I miss having you as one of my student!)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Garden birds

Not sure if you can see these photos clearly but I hope you can.

 We have been feeding lots of birds that come into our garden - including wood pigeons and magpies. The magpies are predatory and yesterday they swooped down on a peaceful wood pigeon who was happily pecking at a suet block on the bird table. The pigeon started up and flew away wildly - fast and straight into the patio doors. 

The thud was loud - and the impact with the glass must have hurt. He/she landed on the ground then picked itself up, shook its head and flew off.

But it left behind the imprint of its impact on the door!

 All I can say is  ouch, that must have hurt!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Catch up

I'm sure that 2017  has entered a timeslip.  I do not know what has happened to the days or where they've gone. But they seem to be rushing by at a ridiculous rate.  Perhaps it's because of concentration  -  focusing on work in all sorts of ways.  

I'd just got back from the fabulous Writers' Weekend at Fishguard  and I had to start concentrating on the new book. This is the second book in the duo that I've  called   as my working title - The Scandalous O'Sullivan Sisters.  Incidentally I had such a fabulous time at Fishguard that I really didn't want to come home. I just can't wait till the next weekend course I'm running so that I can have all the fun, the laughter - and the fantastic discussions all over again. (More of that in a moment)

More fun - and more great discussions of writing/plots/heroes/heroines  etc  came   when we were  able to enjoy the great company of the fabulous Anne McAllister when  she came to visit us for a weekend while she was in the UK researching her latest book.   Anne was made extra welcome by the cats - Ruby who is always friendly, and, unexpectedly, by Charlie the Maine Coon. Charlie
 is usually a bit  stand-offish when new visitors arrive, but he  took to Anne straight away.   He even decided that he wanted to become a lap cat now that she was here.  Perhaps Anne might have wished that he hadn't felt that way as Charlie is of course a Cat of Large Proportions so he is something of a weight when he is on one's knee!

Now I'm busy again - with that second part of the O'Sullivan Sisters'  story - and planning the next course I'm teaching. This is coming up just before  Easter  and it's  a  weekend with Relax and Write to be held at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester.   It's a new course, aimed at anyone writing fiction - and hopefully dealing with the  problems that so many people meet when trying to write a novel.
Things like:
 Show don’t tell
When /where to begin
Writers’ block
Sagging middleClichรฉs – tropes
Self-editing/reviewing your work

Because it's a 'examine the problem and  repair it' course I've called it the
and it takes place  the weekend of  7th - 9th April at Cirencester

If you want more details about the weekend  - or if you're interested in booking  a place on this course. there are already students who have booked ahead, but there are still places left if you're interested.  If so, contact Relax and Write on the website here

Now I have to get back to work on the second O'Sullivan Sister and get her story finished  - because as well as the Writers' Repair Shop Weekend in  Cirencester, I have a couple of other trips away, including one that is a very special  trip for me - and for the Babe Magnet - when we head  to  Leicester . . . . but more about that late.


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