Monday, May 29, 2006

Ratings, Bestseller lists - and not believing everything you see.

I love Amazon. Well, I love any bookshop and given the choice I’d rather have a real bookshop rather that a virtual cyber- bookshop. If I’m actually buying a book I prefer to look at it, pick it up, open it, read a bit, check the blurb . . . And I love to browse, to wander along rows of shelves, picking up books that catch my eye and investigating them. Just lately, I’ve also been trying to put them back down again too. I have too many books to read. I don’t have TBR piles. I have TBR shelves – TBR bookcases. So I’m trying to read those and keep a list of what I want to buy when I have time to read any more. (Come back this time next year for a report!)

But as a writer, a real bookshop doesn’t give me what Amazon does – those fascinating little sales figures that say ‘the sales ranking of this book is xxxx’ now on they’ve added a previous ranking for comparison so you can find out where in the ranking the book was yesterday and see by how many thousands it has leapt up – or slid down – overnight.

Of course the problem is with these rankings – and any others on the internet – that on the right day, on a very quiet day, one sale of one book can make a huge amount of difference. It can make the ratings leap by 100,000 or more – which is a great morale boost to an author, but hardly a great boost to royalties! But at least it does tell an author that a copy of the book has been sold. So, for example, my current book, The Married Mistress was at about 147,500 last night – this morning it’s 42,755 (though that may have changed again by the time you read this) – so thank you to the person who bought a copy. It’s also at 18 on the Amazon best seller list for Harlequin Presents – not bad at all for a Promotional Presents (these books have already been released in the limited reader service only so I don’t expect it to sell as strongly as a brand-new, main run of Presents titles.

Shops don’t show you how many copies of the books are selling –though I’m sure it’s a rare author who doesn’t note when her books are on the shelves and how many were there last time. In this, M&B books have an advantage in that they are all shelved together and you can take a quick look to see how your title is selling compared to all the others. But the M&B books never appear on the ‘This week’s bestsellers’ shelves in WH Smith or any other bookshop (if that shop actually stocks them which is rare) And after reading a report in yesterday’s Sunday Times, I’m not surprised.

I’d always known that those ‘Saga of the Month’ or ‘Can we recommend . . .’book of the week slots didn’t come free but the report this week made me blink quite hard. Apparently Britain’s biggest booksellers are demanding payments of £50,000 a week from publishers to get books on its supposedly impartial list of “recommended” reads in the run-up to Christmas this year. This means that deals are being operated by retailers to promote lists that consumers believe are based on independent assessments of a book’s quality. No authors appear on recommended lists unless their publishers pay the fees, and those refusing to pay may not even find their titles stocked.

Hmm – well no publisher is going to put that amount of money into an unknown or to promoting a book just because they think it’s great. Publishing is a business and a publisher will need to know that a book has the chance of earning them that £50,000 back – and then some – before they’ll invest in buying it a ‘book of the week’ position at that cost.

There are disadvantages to being published by M&B – the short length of time each book stays on the shelf being one of them – but at least in WH Smith in the UK, the reader and buyer knows just where to find them – all in one section, all shelved together, not disappearing into the huge expanse of shelving along with every other book. They are also all displayed uniformly (too uniformly some would say). So there’s a ‘level playing field’ and if a book has sold out it’s because the readers have snatched it off the shelves because they want to read the latest novel by that particular author and not because the publisher has paid the bookshop some outrageous fee to tell the book-buying public that this is the greatest novel since The Da Vinci Code or the new Harry Potter.

When my editor tells me – as she did about The Antonakos Marriage – that a book I’ve written sold at #1 in that month, then the sales figures that tell her that have not been massaged by an extra payment to the shop to promote my book – it goes up against all the other titles on a level basis and that suits me fine.

There’s one other set of results that I check out and again these are sales figures – in America this time. Every week, Waldenbooks put out a list of the Top Ten Romance Bestsellers in paperback and another listing of the series title books (Harlequin/Silhouette). The Married Mistress has been on that list for the past two weeks – at #6 the first week, moving up to #5 last week. Again, these are sales that come from the real people – the people who matter – the readers. Readers who are influenced by their love of a good story and who want to put their money into something they will enjoy, not something that a bookshop has been paid to tell them they will enjoy.

That’s do for me. I’m delighted to be on the Waldenbooks list- and send a heartfelt Thank you to the readers who put me there.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Interesting post today – several foreign editions of books – Dutch versions of A Sicilian Husband and The Duke’s Secret Wife. And a Korean edition of The Twelve Month Mistress. The covers are interesting – A Sicilian Husband reproduces the USA cover, The Dukes Secret Wife is in a ‘duet’ with Carole Mortimer and has an idyllic countryside view on the front. And the Korean editions are deep pink, with a fuchsia edge to the spine – no picture, just stylised flowers all over it.

Which sent me back to look at the covers this book has had before –

Here’s the UK version -

And here’s the American one – this one tends to be the image that appears on most of the foreign editions. It’s on the Japanese edition, for example.

The photographic covers seem to divide opinion – some love them, some hate them. But I understand that a lot of the artwork for the USA covers is gong to be used over again on the UK covers Anne McAllister has had the same cover on two very different books. Lessons from a Latin Lover USA and The Antonides Marriage Deal UK . It’s a lovely cover – and it looks wonderful on the UK edition – but it’s the same cover and they’re not the same book.

I remember going to a HMB author day where one author was particularly concerned about the covers – why did we have to have ‘clinch’ covers? she asked. Why couldn’t we just have flowers or some such image? Something nice. Tasteful.

And I know there are some readers who prefer not to be seen sitting on a bus, or the tube, reading a book with a ‘hot’ cover in public.

So here I have a cover with just flowers and, believe me, compared to some of the Korean covers I’ve had, this an elegant, attractive one – but to me it’s just that bit too bland – it’s not saying anything about the book – in fact it’s not saying anything at all. Of course, I don’t read Korean – so the title means nothing to me. I can only hope that the author’s name is enough to make the readers want to pick this book of the shelf and see what inside it. I’m not sure if all the Korean books this month look like this – or if it’s a special cover that’s been assigned to the 3 books in The Alcolar Family trilogy – of which The Twelve-Month Mistress is the first part. I’ll wait and see if the others turn up and find out.

But it does make me wonder – once again – about covers and how much of a part they play in selling the book I’ve written. My editor tells me that the cover for my next UK book – At The Sheikh’s Command – is fabulous – gorgeous – and I can’t wait to see it. But I think it has been used before, in America, for some other book – and so I’m assuming that this is only the UK edition and not the artwork that will be on Harlequin Presents edition. So even if love it – it probably won’t appear anywhere else. Which means I'll still be wonderign what will be on the American cover.

It’s all about personal preferences I know but I was wondering – what’s your preference?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Another typical day in the glamorous life of a romantic novelist

So today was planned to be working on Sicilian 2. That was the idea. Yesterday was working on Sicilian 2 as well, but I got to a point where I felt he was starting to talk to me and the phone went. Not Sicilian2 but Anne McAllister who is coming to visit me in September. (Correction – who is coming to visit Sid the cat in September) So we needed to talk dates and times of arrival. Plus other things – like how Spence (her hero) is behaving compared with Vito (Sicilian 2) and other things

So today I vowed, was quality-time-with-Sicilian2-day

Got up bright and early (well – early ) in order to do so.
Remembered it was sister-in Tasmania’s birthday.Working out time zones, realised I needed to phone Sister-in-Tasmania now.
One phone call later – no longer quite so early.
But sun is actually shining – after torrential downpours of past days
Put one load of washing in
Dealt with emails, loops, message boards
Take out one load of washing – hang on line
Put in another load
Realised needed to go into town – bills/shopping
Deal with that
Home at noon. Cats are booked in for booster inoculations 12.10
Hang out second load of washing – put in another
Grab cats (not Sid – this time it’s Bob Redford and Spiffy) and put them in transporter boxes. Actually remember their documentation for proof of injections
Take cats to vet.
Vet is Michelle -the one who saved Spiffy’s life last year when he was poisoned. Michelle and Spiffy have a reunion of heartfelt delight – contrary to usual procedure, Spiffy has to be bribed back into his pet transporter instead of leaping straight back in once the vet has seen him. He even allows her to check his sore eye and put in drops without any fuss – just purrs.
Collect eye drops for Spiffy, Flea drops, anti-worm drops for Spiffy/Bob/Sid/Dylan – pay huge bill for these and booster injections
Take cats home. Release them from transporters
Hang out third load of washing
Yesterday’s discussion about Anne’s visit reminds me I need to discuss trip to London and M&B meeting with Michelle Reid
Phone her – plan dates, trains, hotel . . .
Book these
Put eye drops in Spiffy’s eye – surprisingly without losing a hand. Thank heaven it’s Spiffy who needs this – Redford or Dylan would tear me limb from limb if I tried
BM arrives home – he needs trains/hotel/etc for a conference in June
Book these
Run outside to bring washing in
Get soaked, but manage to rescue most of the washing
Make pot of tea
Settle down at desk to have words with Sicilian 2 – where are you Vito? What’s happening
Realise a. It’s almost time to prepare evening meal
b. I haven’t written a blog

So I thought I’d tell you what I did with my day
Oh yes – and if you haven’t already noticed, the lovely Wendy has recently updated my web site. There are details of new books, pictures of Sid and some handsome Dogs of the Month – and there is also news of a brand new contest – so if you want a chance to win a Bag of Books of summer reading, check out the contest page and try your luck

I shall be busy with Sicilian 2 - I hope!

PS If you do want to enter the contest - please note that I ask for books out in 2006 - and that the title Sicilan Husband, Blackmailed Bride on the Home page is the title of only one book - and anyway, it's coming out next year. (There - read my blog and get extra help with contests - I didn't think it would be necessary to explain all that but from the entries I've been getting . . .)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Workshops 2 - the other side of the coin

Okay, so I had a bit of a rant about Workshops – and I’m delighted to know that so many of you agreed with me. Apart from anything else, I’ve been very lucky in my writing career and this job has been very good to me. I’ve gone from being a ‘dreamer’ – a girl who wrote stories in secret in the middle of the night or at the back of the maths class, in an exercise book hidden behind the text book – the girl that everyone said would never get a single book published – to a successful author with 48 fiction and 2 non fiction books on my shelves, a regular income from my work and lots of friends that I’ve made through my writing and the world of romance novels and romantic fiction in general. I’ve traveled – New York, Denver, Auckland, Sydney- met hundreds of fans and other writers – because of my work and I’ve enjoyed 20+ years of it. So as well as everything else my workshops are a way of putting something back into the world that has been so good to me.

So that’s why I do workshops - but today I’m looking at the other side of the coin – I believe in doing workshops but I also believe that those who attend workshops could – should – consider a few points before they turn up at any workshop I’m giving. If only to get the very best out of what I’m trying to teach.

So, let’s consider some of them.

If you’re going to attend any workshop I – or any other Harlequin Mills & Boon author is giving – please read some books beforehand. And make them books that were published in the last 12 months or so. From a selection of different authors. Don’t rely on the fact that you once read one book by Violet Winspear or Betty Neels published in the 1960s that you bought secondhand from a shop for five pence – and consider that that is representative of the whole genre from 1908 when the company was founded until the present day. Romances are a growing, changing, developing genre and the books being published now are not the same as they’ve always been – nor are the Tender Romances the same as the Moderns or the Desire the same as the Medicals.

Don’t ask the speaker (ie me!) ‘So have the books changed much in the past ten/fifteen/twenty years. The answer is YES - but if you want to find out how much they’ve changed then read for yourself. You could be pretty surprised. And you’ll learn a lot lot more that way than you would from my – or any other author’s answer of ‘Yes they’ve changed – and they continue to change.’

Don’t rely on sloppy, lazy journalists who will tell you that

  1. Everyone knows what a HMB romance is like –

  2. That HMB Romances are all the same and have been the same since time began and will be the same until the end of time

  3. That all HMB heroines are sweet innocent virgins who swoon upon the hero's manly chest, with her bosoms heaving, if a man so much as comes near them

  4. That all HMB heroes are arrogant, monstrous Heathcliff-type brutes who do nothing other than treat the heroine appallingly until on the very last page he declares that he loves her – at which point she will swoon upon his manly chest – see 3 above

  5. That all M&B romances are sickly sweet, with conflicts based only on silly misunderstandings that bear no relation to reality whatsoever.

  6. That there is no sex whatsoever in any M&B romance and that all books must slide over these passionate moments with the dot, dot, dot, syndrome – eg ‘He picked her up in his arms of steel and carried her towards the bedroom door . . . ‘

  7. If there is (shock, horror!) any sex in an M&B book it is only a recent development and may only take place after marriage, in the missionary position, in a bed . . . I repeat, read some books.

  8. Above all else do not believe the urban myths that the lazy journo’s spread around – like the existence of the famous ‘formula’ – or, even worse, the guidebook that lists the exact places, parts of the body that may be touched and at what stage in the book – and that no other places on the hero or heroine’s anatomy may be even mentioned at any point.

If you’re in any doubt about these – READ the books! That way at least you will know what the speaker is talking about and it will make a lot more sense to you.

Don't ask the workshop leader if she can 'just' read your book and say what she thinks because it's time-consuming to do it properly and said author has deadlines of her own. Above all, don’t do as it is rumoured one over-enthusiastic would-be author did at an American conference and follow the (in this case editor) into the ladies loo and shove your manuscript under the cubicle door, begging her to ‘just’ take a look at it while she’s in there!

Don't whine about how come author XYZ gets to write about a subject but your book on the same subject was rejected – it’s more than likely that it’s not the subject you wrote about but the way you wrote that was the problem. It’s a fact of life that experienced authors can tackle topics that the ‘rules’ say must never be tackled and make them work.
Which reminds me – don’t believe in the ‘Rules’ – as my editor but two ago said ‘The only rule in romance writing is that you write as well as you possibly can in the way that tells the story in the best possible way so as to make the best book you can create.

If you're targeting category romance, it must be because that's what you want to write - if you try to write it from the head, there won't be any heart in your book and the main point about these books is emotion, emotion, emotion. So don’t turn up at the workshop expecting to learn how to make a very fast and very large buck out of a couple of books that you have dashed off in order to finance your way to something better.

Don’t ask the speaker what she earns from her writing so that you will know what you can expect to earn yourself as soon as you have dashed off that book you know will be so very easy to write. It’s impossible to predict just what any book will earn because it depends on the line it’s published it, whether the readers take to it, how many international countries it’s published in, how long you’ve been writing . . . . Whatever the speaker earns it will probably bear no relation (good or bad) to anything you, or any other author, even in the same line, may earn.

Above all else, don’t expect the speaker to give you that much famed ‘magic formula’ for writing a M&B/Harlequin Romance – no – hang on - I’ll give you that now, for free – here you are




Easy isn’t it? Not!
If it was then M&B would be accepting 4000 or more of the over 5000 submissions they receive each year instead of the less than 10 new authors a year that they do publish.

So if you do go to a workshop on writing romance, go prepared. Read the books, accept that there is no easy, magical answer – but if you have talent, love the genre, work hard, keep on submitting in the face of rejection, learn from the comments editors or other qualified readers make on your work, and keep trying – you might just make a go of it. I’m not going to trample on anyone’s dreams – people tried to do that to mine and I wouldn’t let them. But neither am I going to tell you it’s easy. No workshop can give you all the answers but you can learn a lot if you go in the right frame of mind, and you give writing this particular genre – the one that the late, great Charlotte Lamb described as ‘those complicated little books’ - the respect and the hard work they deserve.

Good luck!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Workshops - a bit of a rant

Last weekend I traveled down to Kent to give a one day workshop on writing – writing romance, writing for Harlequin Mills & Boon, writing fiction, writing sexual scenes, writing heroes, writing characters . . we covered all that and some more besides. I promised that I would give Elaine and Kelly of Elaine and Kelly’s Writers’ Workshops a mention so I’m doing it now.

But not just because I promised I would but because I enjoyed myself – the workshop was a lot of work but it was a lot of fun as well. I had a great time. I met a lot of interesting and interested people. We had some real laughs. I had a delicious lunch and some fascinating conversations – and I talked about writing. I came home happy and I hope that the women who attended the workshop went home happy too. To judge by the number of email notes I received afterwards, I think they did.

Now there are certain authors who have taken me to task for giving workshops. One has even gone so far as to say that she disapproves of me doing so. I am, so some believe, ‘Training up the opposition’ – writers who will move in on the market, get their books published, take my place – and theirs. I’m also, apparently, giving the wrongful impression that getting published is easy. That all you have to do is to follow a few guidelines and Abracadabra – instant publication.

Hmmmm! And when, I have to ask, have any of these critics ever attended any one of my workshops, real or on-line? When have they heard me say ‘Okay, getting published is easy, all you have to do is A B and C and you’re in – published – just like that’? I’m far more likely to point out the huge odds against getting published, the long waits for royalties to come in, the need to write more than one book, to build up a reader base over several years – in several countries - in order to earn any sort of decent income from your writing. What I always say about writing is that if you only want to reach the goal of publication then you’re likely to be disappointed. But if you enjoy the journey on the way there, then you’re a writer – and I hope you do get published.

The other point these critics make is that I have a ‘How To Write’ book to plug.

Well, yes – I’m not going to deny that. I do have a How to Write book published - two in fact – one of which I’m actually very proud of. In fact, so proud that I’m happy to give it a little plug here too –

Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance has won two awards - the Cata Romance Reviewers' Choice Best Book for Writers and CataRomance Readers' Choice- Best Writing Reference 2004. I’ve also been told by a lot of people who want to write romance - or indeed any popular fiction – that it’s helped them a lot. Which, seeing as that’s why I wrote it, makes me pretty happy.

So there – I’ve now ‘plugged’ my book much more extensively and with a lot less effort than I made traveling to and from this workshop – or any other.

Of course if I do a workshop I’ll mention the 12 Point Guide. I’ll also mention the 48 titles I’ve had published by Harlequin Mills & Boon. Why not? These are my qualifications for giving the workshop in the first place. The reason people come to them – often paying good money to hear me speak. But I’ll not enjoy a workshop any the less if no one buys a copy of a single title. The books are part of why I give workshops but they’re not the only reason.

I like doing workshops. I enjoy the process. I get a lot out of it.

I love talking about writing - about books and the process of creating them. I can spend hours on the phone to particular writer friends who are at the same sort of point in my career as I am. I go to conferences – the RNA, RWA RWAus, RWNZ – to meet up with fellow writers and talk writing.

And I get the same enjoyment from workshops. I like having to look at what I do - often by instinct and, these days, as the result of experience and long practise, and analyze it, break it down into the steps I take without thinking. I like looking at the way the Romance genre has changed (and it has changed so much – so if you’re one of those people who think that reading a couple of books published in the 1980s will show you what’s needed in 2006 then think again). I like talking about what makes a hero for the 21st century - or a heroine – why I put in a lovemaking scene here and not there – and it’s not just because sex sells. I love it when someone asks a question about something that I’ve done so often that I perhaps don’t think about it – or don’t think about it in quite that ‘how do you .. .?' way any more.

Workshops stimulate my thought processes as well as those of my students. I get a buzz from them, get new ideas. When I set writing tasks, I work on them myself, thinking of the book I’m currently working on and how I could get to know the heroine better, or the way I could add an extra layer to the ‘onion’ I use to describe conflict. (You’ll have to come to a workshop or read the book if you want an explanation). I come home thinking of new ways to approach things, or having solved a knotty point in the plot. I’m buzzing with enthusiasm and I want to sit down and write, feeling that I love writing even when it’s not going the way I want it to.

It’s a two –way process. Questions, comments, the ‘Can I . . ‘ or the ‘What if . . .’ all renew my interest in what I’m doing, why I do it and how I do it.

Training up the opposition? Well, maybe – if a student from a course learns something that improves their work and they are then accepted (and t it has happened) then fine – but I suspect they would have been published anyway – I just helped the process along. And With those 48 titles behind me they’re not going to snatch away everything I’ve achieved even if they do have a stratospheric rise to success. In my line alone (M&B Modern/Harlequin Presents) the publisher puts out 8 books a month – that’s almost 100 a year. I doubt if any newcomer will fill all those 100 slots, no matter how good.

And what about – my ‘disapprovers’ will ask – what about those who will never get there? Those who will never be published; who just don’t have the talent and the ability? Well, what about them? If they want to come to a workshop and learn some of the realities of getting published. If they want to find out some of the processes and the techniques that go into writing creatively and polishing that creation to make it better – what’s wrong with that? I don’t put a note on my workshop handouts – only those with supreme talent may attend. I talk to ‘hobbyists’ and amateurs – to the wannabes and the gonnabes and the never- ever-in-their lifetime-having-a-chance-to-bes. Why not? If that’s what they want to learn, to know more about, then more power to them. I’ve done courses in Learning Russian - I never wanted to be an interpreter. I’ve studied, cooking, dressmaking and embroidery - it didn’t make me Jamie Oliver or Yves St Laurent or Kaffe Fasset or Stella McCartney – it couldn’t – I’m not good enough. But does that mean I should be turned away at the door? The BM studies guitar – should he stop now because he’ll never be Eric Clapton?

No. Besides, if I started to restrict my workshops to ‘the next Charlotte Lamb’ – or even ‘The Next Kate Walker’ only then I really would be training up the opposition – the ones who would be likely to grab my spot in the schedule and run with it. But I also wonder how would I know? You only have to look at the phenomenal success of J K Rowling to see that no one can ever truly predict what books will take off and when.

So I’ll continue to run workshops when I have time – which isn’t that likely with a four book contract on its way to me. (If you want any details check out the Appearences page of my web site for dates and places) And I’ll continue to enjoy them. And if you’d like to come to one, you’d be more than welcome – whether you’re there for fun or to study writing seriously. Because I know that I’ll get as much back from them as I give out. I’ll enjoy the experience, I’ll possibly make new friends, I’ll see new places.

And yes, I’ll probably sell a book or two as well – Can’t be bad!

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Typical Day?

Anne McAllister has an post on her blog right now that talks about what she does when she’s not writing – or perhaps I should rephrase that -
What she does when she should be writing but isn’t - this is how she puts it -

Sometimes I wonder why whole days go by and I never seem to be a writer. I start
out the day with the best of intentions -- and go to bed with the same
intentions for tomorrow (and with the same words unwritten). What goes on during
those days?

Well, I’ve had one of those not being a writer sort of weeks. I’ve been busy – I seem to have been busy non-stop. I’ve even worked at my computer for hours and hours each day – of most of each day – and I haven’t managed to add significantly to the word count of what I call not the WIP (work in progress) but the WHIP (Work hardly in progress) . . .

Which is why, when I go back to the workshop I did this weekend I remember one particular question – one I couldn’t answer . . .

See there it is again – I spent days preparing that workshop, traveling to it, finding the venue (I seem to have spent hours traveling to it, trying to find a roundabout that the map said existed, that the AA instructions said existed – a roundabout that I never found, not once, in all the times I went back over the route again and again.) That’s time I spent last week and at the weekend doing writerly stuff but not actually writing. Not on paper/screen/keyboard anyway.

And the question I was asked at this workshop was ‘Can you tell us what is your typical writer’s day?

Honest answer? No.

I don’t have a typical day. I don’t write in an orderly, routine sort of way. I don’t plan to write Xthousand words today and tomorrow and the day after . . . until the book is finished. Sometimes I wish I did, because that must be a steady, regular way to work towards the end of a book. It must be a relief to watch those words mount up, see the Chapters get completed, head towards the finishing line. But I’m not a steady, regular sort of writer. I’m an all or nothing sort of writer – I think and plan and mull – letting the story brew inside my head – and then suddenly, one day, it’s ‘ripe’ and I sit down and I write and write and write – and then I can write thousands of words in a day. I can write all day every day. I get up early and go to bed late. I wake up thinking of the story and I go on with thinking of it all day – until it’s done.

I’m always sort of fearful that if I write 1000 words a day and then stop that the reader might read those 1000 words and then stop – putting down the book and not picking it up again. So I write in great lumps of words, words that I write and write until I just have to pause for breath.

And in between I do non-writing things. So this week, I’ve done the workshop, I’ve packed and traveled to and from it. I’ve unpacked and washed and sorted (why does there always seem to be so much more washing than the clothes you could possibly have worn in that time?) . I’ve caught up on all the emails that were waiting for me when I came back, I’ve completely overhauled my website (The realisation that it still had the Valentine’s Day Contest on it sort of gave me a hefty kick into doing that). I’ve caught up with friends, family, dealt with more requests for more workshops, spent some time with the BM, fed the cats, paid some bills . . . And now I’m updating this blog – and not before time.

And before I blinked I find I’m back at the day when I left this blog a week ago, saying I’d be back soon – and meaning it! But it just didn’t happen.

So that’s what happens on those non writing days. But the great thing is that while I’m doing all this other stuff there’s a wonderful subconscious part of my brain that is busy planning and mulling and scheming and I’m already feeling that itch that has to be scratched – the itch of words that have to be written in those great chunks and those long, long days. I suspect that those actual ‘writing days’ are what the lady who asked the question about the typical day meant when she asked it - but they’re not exactly typical. They’re only part of it. And just the same, the website updating, workshop planning and giving etc etc days aren’t typical either – they’re all just part of what I do.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t a ‘typical’ day in a writer’s life and that’s what makes us writers. We don’t fit well with routines and planning and discipline – we create. We invent worlds and the people who inhabit those worlds. Our minds are partly in this real world and partly in the fictional one we’ve invented for ourselves. We live our own lives and the lives of these characters who come and whisper to us when we’re trying to concentrate on other things.

Traveling and doing the workshop were times for my mind to let the seeds of the story start to develop. Updating the web site was a very different experience from creating a book - it needed organisation and logical thought and an eye for detail. That, and all the rest of it ‘cleared the decks’ so that I can plunge into my other world – the world where the hot Sicilian sun is beating down and a certain Vito Corsentino is heading for the airport and the plane that will take him to England and the house where the woman he’s been trying to forget is living – where she’s been trying to put her life back together after all that has happened since the last time they met . . .

Oh oh, I think I feel some typical writing days coming up . . .

And the updates on the web site will be up just as soon as wonderful Wendy gets them done.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A second thank you

Do you remember this from a post a few days back? The one about my ancestor Chevalier Charles Wogan?

He was awarded a Baronetcy by James 111 and the Pope conferred on him the
title of a Roman Senator .A number of Novels have been written about the
escapade including The King across the water [1911] a novel written by
Huntly McCarthy a study in a book by J.M.Flood The Life of Chevalier
Wogan ,A Soldier of Fortune [1922]

And if anyone ever comes across those books listed here, please
let me know! I've tried Bookfinder etc

Well, I had a reponse to that request - lovely Sahndre found a copy of the J M Flood title listed in a shop in - of course - Dublin. A quick email order and the one and only copy that seems to be available is in the mail and heading my way. I can't wait to get my hands on it

So a special Thank You goes to Sahndre - thanks so much for your help with this - and I'll see you on Sunday

Thank you

I've said it on the comments section of the last post - but it merits saying again in pulblic here -
a great big THANK YOU to everyone who possted to send me birthday greeting and wish me happiness for the day.

I had a lovely lovely day. Starting with a phone call from my sister in Australia before I'd really opened my eyes - then cards and presents from lots of lovely people - a trip to York, just wandering round and occasionally looking in shops. The BM bought me a wonderful, beautiful embroidered jacket for my present (he has superb taste in clothes when place in front of a shop rail and told 'That is what I'd like for my birthday ' and given a little push)

Afternoon tea in Bettys was delicious - Anna Lucia suggested that I try the brown bread ice cream sundae and I was tempted - but I was also tempted by the berries and ice cream sundae and that one won. Next time, Anna! And maybe you'll share it with me.

My birthday being a Sunday, there were more cards on the Monday - and, from my editor, the best possible gift an ed can give her author - the news that Sicilian 1 is tweaked into submission and is now bought and heading for the UK schedules - is in fact scheduled and Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride will appear in March 2007. So now Sicilian 2 (Vito) and I will have to have some serious words about his story.

But first I'm travelling - heading out today towards a workshop I'm doing in Kent on Sunday. (Details are here if you're interested - there are still some places). But as the BM is also teaching - in Oxford - on Friday - we're staying there first and then heading for Kent. I'm looking forward to this workshop - it's the first time I've had a full day to teach and talk about writing romance and I plan to cram as much as I can into it - and hopefully have a lot of fun too

So If I don't manage to find a pojnt to plug my computer into anywhere, then I'll see you on Monday - have a great weekend.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Outed - so celebrating

Ah – I see that in a list of comments to my previous post I’ve been outed - and by my family of felines, not less – add a dash of dogs (a cluster of canines?) – and then there’s one Anne McAllister who, I suspect is behind this sudden rush to the keyboard of the furry bodied amongst us. So thank you all, Gunnar (the Great) Micah (who I hope has washed the mud off his beautiful fur) . Mitch – who is THREE and I hope also had a happy happy birthday yesterday. (And I hope that Anne offered some ear rubs from me to celebrate). Thanks also to Bob (who is indeed the King of Cats and at 17 an elder statesman too) Sid – yes birthdays do mean food (for you at least) , dear Ivan and his doppelganger Spiffy – and of course the ‘fiend’ Dyl the Vill (Villain)

So yes – for those who wondered what the ‘special day’ coming up was – here it is. Once upon a time, a long long time ago, in a town called Newark, Nottinghamshire, (see pictures) a little girl was born. My mother tells me I was born at 12.45 – and she knows this because I was born at home and just as I appeared, downstairs, lunch was just being served to my father and my two elder sisters.
So obviously I was always able to appreciate food – even then!

We only lived in Newark for another 18 months so I left when I was still tiny, but when I look at pictures of the place – like the ones shown here – I realise just why I have always loved towns or cities where there is a river, a castle and an old church. So my birthplace must have made a huge impression on me, through the eyes of a toddler, even though I can remember none of it now.

So it seems appropriate that, to celebrate the Big Day (the numbers involved in which are getting way too big for my liking!) that I should be heading for York together with the BM, the Offspring and his lovely girlfriend. York of course has the river, the castle, and the Minster – and it also has Bettys teashop (and no, there shouldn’t be an apostrophe there). In Bettys I shall enjoy a ‘birthday tea’ which makes me sound so much younger than I actually am.

But only yesterday someone asked if I would wish any of the years away – well, the age in years yes – but having reached this point in life I am just so happy with the way things are – with the wonderful family and friends I have the success of my books, the way my career has gone, and the life that I live – then No. If your birthday is a time for looking back then I’m pretty damn happy with the way things have gone – and if the birthday is a time to look forward – then great – I’m looking forward to more of the same!

Which, in my book makes it a Happy Birthday to me!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Publication day - I think?

I love writing for Harlequin Mills and Boon. I really do. I’ve always enjoyed reading the books, I enjoy writing them (well – sometimes – when the Sicilians aren’t being bolshy!). I love chatting to readers, working with writers. I’ve even learned to grit my teeth and smile through the ‘don’t you want to write a proper book?’ or the ‘pink and fluffy’ comments. A long time ago I got used to the fact that the books are only out on the shelves for a month. That has both advantages and disadvantages – the audience of readers out there (is it possible to have an ‘audience’ of ‘readers?) know when the books are out. They’re looking for them. When the new books come in, they grab them. The shelves are always being refreshed, the readers are always coming back . . .But of course you only have that month in which to sell.

Or do you?

Sometimes you have more. Sometimes less. It all depends on the whim of the book distributor, the shopkeeper and the staff they employ to actually put the books on the shelves. If the books have a publication date – as most Modern Romances like mine have - of the first Friday of the month (that’s the official publication date) then you can find the books in the shops any time from the previous week (so pushing off the shelves the previous month’s titles) or – if the shop hasn’t got round to organising it – any time in the next 21 or so day. Why 21 – after all a month has about 30 days doesn’t it? Ah yes, but there are those books that arrive ‘early’ - ie in good time for the next month – and so they take this month’s off the shelves to put the new ones on. So in some places you might just get a fortnight in which to have your book on display.

And then there are the books like my current USA release – The Married Mistress. This is not in the general run of Presents but in a special set of Promotional Presents – a selection of six books that appear every quarter and which are given a different publication date to keep them separate from the regular monthly run. Confuzzled? Yes - I know I was. And heaven alone knows what the bookshops think and when they put them out. I just have to pray they will put them on the shelves sometime.

But then there are the on-line stores, aren’t there? They make it easier – don’t they? Don’t they? They list the books and you can order them and – even better – the books stay in their stock long after the ones on the actual physical shelves in actual physical bookshops. Well yes – but when do they release them? Publication day – or some other day of their own choosing? This morning I had a quick browse in the online bookshops for TMM. The eHarlequin web site has had it listed and has been selling it for a month or so. lists it as being published on May 9th – so it is ‘not yet released’. In fact, it’s so ‘not yet released’ that someone I know who tried to order it via – where it’s also listed as Publication date May 9th – put in their order when it was ‘not yet released’ – and then found that that order was cancelled because – apparently – publication of the book had been cancelled. Er – no! It’s ‘not yet released’ – not never released. And they now have it as available secondhand! Duh??

Meanwhile Barnes And Noble has been selling the book for the past 4 days – so much so that when I looked this morning TMM was actually at #1 on the B&N list of top-selling Harlequin Presents novels. (Pause for small shout of celebration – Yeah!!) And BAMM has it happily on sale too.

So what do I conclude from all this – nothing much except that somewhere, some day, somehow, The Married Mistress is supposed to be on sale in America some time in May. If you’re reading this from America and you want to read it, I hope you find it without too much trouble. It is out there – I think!

If anyone actually sees a copy, will they please let me know? I'm beginning to wonder . . . .

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Special days for special friends

Today is an important day for two of the very special friends that my job as a writer has brought me. When I started out, with my first ever book published in 1984, I never thought beyond seeing that book on a shelf in a shop. Since then I've learned that the romance writng community, although far-flung and international, can be very close knit, warm and immensely friendly. Thanks to author meetings and the internet, I have met some of my favourite people in all the world - people I would never even have known existed if they didn't write for - or, in some cases, aim to write for, or work for the same publisher as I do.

As I said, today is an important day for two of these dear friends.

Firstly, Michelle Reid, who is celebrating her birthday today. Apart from being one of my special friends, Michelle is also a writer whose books I truly love and admire. If you haven't tried any of her novels, then I suggest you go out and find some soon! She does have a new book in September so you can spend the time in between then and now catching up on her backlist. (Oh I wish I hadn't said that! Now I want to go and do just that myself!)

Unfortunately, Michelle doesn't have a blog herself but you can always wish her Happy Birthday here, and I'll pass the messages along.

Also today my dear friend Anne McAllister has her second cataract surgery. At first, she didn't believe me when I told her the effect it would have just having one eye done. But now she does - and she's been enjoying seeing things properly after far too long.

So tomorrow, hopefully, when the blurring eases, she will see even more clearly.

And so, for her special delight - seeing as , in her comments on this blog, she has referred to the Fraudulant Feline - the one that pretends to be Sid but appears in guises and postures so undignified that Sid would never deign to be seen in - just so that she can see him in all his glory - here is



And while I'm talking about Anne - sorry I'm a little late with this because a certain Sicilian got in the way - I should have mentioned that her book The Antonides Marriage Deal. Like Michelle, Anne is one of my favourite Modern/Presents auhtors. Her books are very diffferent from Michelle's - which is what I love about the scope of the Modern Romance line at it's best. With Sicilian 1 tweaked within an inch of his life and sent back to my editor who I hope will love him, I spent part of the Bank Holiday weekend curled up with Elias Antonides. No, I wasn't being unfaithful to the BM, just enjoying spending time with the hero of Anne's book. This guy is seriously addictive - once I started, I couldn't put him - sorry - the book - down. I'd lived with Elias, so to speak, from the moment he was a twinkle, or, rather the light of inspiration, in his author's eye, until the moment he too was 'tweaked' into shape and slipped into the publishing schedule. But although I knew quite a bit about him, I loved reading his story as a whole, meeting his sparky heroine Tallie and seeing them fight against their attraction, give into it, and finally head for their happy ever after.

A perceptive reviewer on said that reading The Antonides Marriage Deal

Reminded me of a Kathryn Hepburn and Spencer Tracy movie, the bantering, power
struggle, and sexual tensions

I'd agree with that.

Finally, I have another friend for whom this day is special too, but this year it has a poignancy that will make it difficult for her to get through. Marilyn, I'm thinking of you, and remembering Ron too.

In transition . . . bits and pieces

Short and sweet today as I'm in transition from one Sicilian to the next so I'm catching up on all my administration and finance matters so that I can start again with a clear - well, clearer slate!

So just to say - Congratulations to my friend Michelle Styles whose very first M&B Historical novel The Gladiator's Honour is out this month. I have my own copy beside my bed and I hope to spend some quality time with the handsome and intriguing Gaius Gracchus Valens when I get a break from Sicilian 2. I love the fact that I had a chance to give this book a tiny push towards publication and so it's a special thrill to see it in print and on the shelves - and, much as I love Regency romances, I'm also delighted to see Historicals branch out into other less 'well populated' periods of history. Look out for the book in shops now.

Seeing as I'm not posting much today, those of you who are interested in writing and learning more about the process may be interested in an interview I did with one of the owners of the We Write Romance web site , Terescia Harvey. She asked some really interesting and thought provoking questions and you can find the interview here. I've also done an interview for the WWR site about my next two books in America and that will be up on the site some time soon if you want to check it out. It's a great site to look around.

Thanks to anyone who followed my link from here to the Romance Junkies web site - they made the one million hits record they were aiming for with more to spare! Again if you're interested in writing they had their annual writing contest coming up soon - check out the site for details.

Finally, seeing as I'm passing on information to anyone interested in writing romance - if you live in the UK and are anywhere near Swanley, Kent - I will be running a full day workshop on writing romance there the weekend after next (14th May - They wanted it to be this weekend, 7th May but I have other plans for then!). Anyway, there are still places available for this - details can be found on my web site - Events page - or by emailing the organisers - Elaine Everest or Kelly Rose Bradford. I'm busy preparing for that right now - yet another of my administrative jobs. I think it's going to be a lot of fun - I'm going to cram as much as I possibly can into the day.


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