Sunday, June 25, 2006

Patron Saints for Writers

In one of those desultory ‘just wondering’ conversations over breakfast, for some reason the BM and I were discussing the whole idea of Patron Saints – and we debated who might be the patron saint of writers. We were unable to come up with any ideas, so I checked out the web site devoted to the whole topic.

I never expected there would be a patron saint of romantic novelists – and there wasn’t. But not even novelists get a look in! There are patron saints for Bookkeepers, Bookbinders, Booksellers, book trade . . . but not the book writers it seems

Poets in general have a choice - Brigid of Ireland , Cecilia , Columba ,David – Cecilia is also the patron saint of musicians so I suppose that’s linking poetry and music. And there's a really wierd story of poor Theodore the Written-Upon who had a 12-line iambic verse cut into his forehead
So – not novelists – but writers in general have some possibilities: Francis de Sales, John the Apostle, Lucy, Paul the Apostle

What a strange bunch –
Francis de Sales 1567 – 1622 was a priest, preacher and writer on theology. But I did find a quote of his that might be appropriate to romantic fiction writers –

Perfection of life is the perfection of love. For love is the life of the

John the Apostle was originally a fisherman but he left that to be with Jesus. As an author - he wrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and possibly the Book of Revelation.
I couldn’t find any quotes from him but I did find this amazing traditional story –

Emperor Dometian had him brought to Rome, beaten, poisoned, and thrown into a
cauldron of boiling oil, but he stepped out unharmed and was banished to Patmos
Perhaps that’s a metaphor there for the writing life – you might go through the torments of the damned writing a book, but when it’s finished, it looks as if you’ve just ‘stepped out unharmed’.

Lucy – well, I have a sister named Lucy so the grim story of Saint Lucy is one I (unfortunately) grew up on

Lucy vowed her life and chastity to God so her rejected pagan bridegroom, Paschasius, denounced Lucy as a Christian to the governor of Sicily. The governor sentenced her to forced prostitution, but when guards went to fetch her, they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. The governor ordered her killed instead. After torture that included having her eyes torn out, she was surrounded by bundles of wood which were set afire; they went out. She prophesied against her persecutors, and was executed by being stabbed to death with a dagger

Romance ? Er – no ? And the traditional picture of poor Lucy with her eyes on a dish in her hand is not one I’ve ever like to study too closely.

Paul - or Saul - the Apostle. Well I’ve had a hero called Saul and one called Paul so perhaps that's a better start - Saul is the man who had the dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus and then travelled extensively, preaching. He also wrote many Letters which are collected in the Bible. But Saul/Paul was not very keen on women and he constantly preached that women should be subject to their husbands - though he did tell husbands to be faithful to their wives and ‘do not be harsh with them’.

So which one of those would you choose for a Patron Saint for you as a writer? It might be worth knowing who are the appropriate saints to turn to in case you want to pray for success in your writing – though none of them really seem to me to fit with being a romance writer.

I suppose though that as at the moment I’m wrestling with a recalcitrant Sicilian whose home is Syracuse, the most interesting one for me right now is poor Lucy with her eyes in a dish. Her dates and place of birth and death are – born 283, died 304 – in Syracuse, Sicily.

So maybe I should send a quick prayer to Lucy to help me with Vito.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bag of Books Contest - Just to remind you .


These are the books that my wonderful writing friends have donated to the Bag of Books contest.

They come together with your choice of one of my signed books all packed in one of my special bookbags. There are two of these books bags on offer, each with a copy of all of these books inside.

You have just one more week to get your entries to me. After that, Sid the cat gets to work on picking winners. (There have been so many entries that I'm adding in a couple of extra runners up prizes of one of my signed books .)

So if yu want to enter and haven't done so - check out my Contest Page soon. Sid is waiting for your names!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Celebrating Writing Friends 6 - Michelle Styles

I suppose I could say that Michelle S was a virgin till I deflowered her! If you’ve read my post about Julie Cohen then you’ll understand this reference a bit more. But for those who haven’t – I founded a scheme of support and information for newcomers to the RNA annual Conference. The RNA Virgins. 2004 was the last year that I was actually actively involved in this scheme as the ‘Virgin Mother’ and that year , when the conference was held at Leicester. Michelle was one of my Virgins. She is also, I’m delighted to say, one more of my Virgins who I have seen become published authors.

Michelle writes Historical Romances. But, being Michelle, she writes them with a difference. She has launched her career with the first Roman romance that HMB have published. And this is in spite of everyone telling her that M&B would never accept a Roman story. As someone who became a writer in spite of (or perhaps because of) so many people who told me that I would never become a novelist. This appeals to me and I’m thrilled to have seen Michelle prove them wrong with not just one Roman accepted but three, with more in progress as I write.

Like Julie, I met Michelle through the eHarlequin message boards and then through the RNA. We had already been in contact by email for some time before I met her in Leicester. So I knew that although she lived in North East England, she was in fact born in America, near San Francisco, California and she had lived in Britain since 1988 when she married. So I knew that she wanted to write Historical Romances and I also knew that she had an idea based around a Roman Gladiator. But this was the book that she had been told M&B would not publish. I knew that HMB were expanding the historical line and that they were accepting a wider range of time periods so when I met the Senior Editor in charge of Historicals, I was able to ask if it was worth Michelle submitting. The answer was a very definite yes, so I’m delighted to feel that I played a small part in getting Michelle’s first book The Gladiator’s Honour on its way towards publication.

Michelle tells me I did more than that - she says:
You were involved in it beyond just speaking to Linda. Way back in August 2003,
you gave me some valuable advice. Basically to concentrate on writing for the
line I really wanted to. Also when I first started writing, you put something on
eharle about voice and conflict (looking at the conflicts Prince Charming could
have) Light bulbs started flashing in my mind. And I was off.

That’s one of the slightly scary things about Michelle – she remembers stuff! I’ve had lots of conversations about writing with her and most of it I’ve forgotten - but she’ll come back at me with something that she’s remembered that I said years ago. One thing I do recall saying though is that if you want to write romance you should write from the heart and this is something that Michelle has very taken – well, to heart! She has taken a favourite historical period – one that isn’t generally well represented in romance fiction - created a vivid and powerful fictional world, peopled by living and believable characters and so stamped her own mark on the category of fiction she writes for. The Gladiator’s Honour has a background of detailed historical accuracy but it also has those believable characters and the emotional appeal that draw in the reader to care about the characters, no matter which century they live in. What more could anyone ask of a Historical Romance?

I asked Michelle why she first chose the Roman period to write about:

One of the main reasons I decided to start writing historicals is that you told
me -- to look into my heart and aim for the line I really wanted to write for. I
had always thought Roman historicals could be very popular but the one ST title
I had read wasn't done very well and I became determined to try.

I’m convinced it’s that ‘look into my heart’ bit that matters. Writing Romance isn’t something you do cynically or because you believe it will make you a lot of money – though there are plenty of people who will try it because of that - it is writing from the heart that makes a book sing and I’m so pleased that the books that Michelle has put her heart into have worked and are now being published.

The book in the Bag of Books is Michelle’s first Roman title - The Gladiator’s Honour (which is also out in Audiobook format, on CD)and there are more titles coming up. A Noble Captive is a UK paperback in January 07.
Sold and Seduced is a UK paperback in April 07. Both of these will also be published in America, but there are no confirmed dates yet,

Sold and Seduced is a book I’m specially looking forward to reading. Last October, I spoke at a Day Workshop that Michelle part organized in Newcastle. During the day, we had a discussion about a book that I had written and that was due out in December – The Antonakos Marriage. As a result of our talk, Michelle went away, thought about the plot line I’d mentioned, and wrote Sold and Seduced. This is how romance writing works. It’s not plot stealing – there are few, if any, romance plots that haven’t been used by someone else already. But it’s taking a plot, working on it, putting your own individual spin on it, using your own ‘voice’ and turning it into something new and something that is authentically ‘you’ that creates a great romance story that readers enjoy.

That’s writing from the heart – and Michelle’s great Roman books show how that really works. Good luck Michelle. I’m thrilled to see Historicals trying new things so that the line is not just the Regency Romance line. And I’m delighted that you had the courage of your convictions to really ‘write from the heart’, break into the market with something different and so a less easy ‘sell’ and put your own special vision into the Historical Romance line. Romance writing is a living, growing genre. It needs new ideas and new blood to keep it that way and Books like Michelle’s, like Julie Cohen’s, are at the heart of that growth and so the genre’s survival. I hope the Romans – and the Viking books that I understand are coming up next - are as wonderfully successful as they deserve to be, for Michelle’s sake and for the strength of the line in the future.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day Treat

I still have one more Writing Friend to celebrate and I will get to that just as soon as The Sicilian lets me out of the vice-like grip he currently has on my imagination.

But yesterday was Father's Day and to celebrate the BM and I and the Offspring and his lovely girlfriend went to Sheffield to see the wonderful Dylan Moran live at the City Hall.

As a result of the evening, I now know just why laughter is considered great exercise - for some muscles anyway. I ache from laughing and I will remember the 'bedtime story' and 'trying to tell a woman she has PMT' for a long time - and smile.

For those of you who don't know Dylan Moran's anarchic humour, and for those who do and would like to enjoy a clip from the wonderful show Black Books, I offer this link to a scene that will resonate with all writers who have experienced the dreaded Rejection Letter.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Celebrating Writing Friends 5 - Michelle Reid

Tuesday April 4th 1995. I am in an elegant London Hotel, dressed in my brand new Lady Novelist peach linen suit, and I am shaking in my elegant beige suede shoes. Harlequin Mills & Boon are holding their very first author day and for the first time ever I am meeting other writers who work for the same company as me. There are so many people. So many women - and one or two men. There are big names here – huge names – huge personalities too. Charlotte Lamb, Penny Jordan, Anne Weale . . . I feel as if I have stumbled into Wonderland where the names on the books I have read for so many years have become real people in front of me.

But I don’t know any of them! My editor greeted me at the door, told me where the Ladies was, where I should go for my first discussion group of the day and she would see me later. I’m on my own. Then I spot one familiar face. Mary Wibberley, someone I met a couple of years before when we both attending a Writing Day in Eccles. We’re in the same group so we head for the right room together. Mary still smokes (I’d given up 4 years before) so we stand at the back of the room where ashtrays are provided. Suddenly a voice says ‘Oh can we smoke in here!’ and the accent on the words are wonderfully, reassuringly Northern. I turn and see a dark haired woman, hair cut in a sleek bob, black jacket, black and gold pleated skirt. The name badge says Michelle Reid. I didn’t know it then but I had just met one of my favourite people in the whole world and the woman who was to become one of my very best friends.

At the time I was so nervous I could barely focus. I just know that the name was familiar, ringing bells like mad. I’d read her books – loved them – there was one . . . but the name escaped me and I just couldn’t remember it. (Later when I’m at home, I check my ‘keeper’ shelves. There it is – Passionate Scandal, published 1994. A book that hit me right between the eyes as I read it and has stayed in my mind ever since) At the end of that Author Day, I have Michelle’s address in my diary and as soon as I get home (and when I realise which book it is she wrote) I send a card saying how much I enjoyed meeting her. It crosses with her letter to me saying how she enjoyed meeting me - and, well, basically, we’ve been talking ever since. We started with letters, moved on to emails and phone calls – long phone calls – long, long phone calls. When I rang her one evening, Michelle’s husband once brought her a bowl of cereal and a bottle of milk – for the breakfast she would need before we’d finished talking.

We find strange coincidences and connections - both of us come from families of 5, our birthdays are just 4 days apart, when we went to London again for an RNA function and stayed in a hotel together, the head waiter at dinner said, ‘Oh you two ladies have to be sisters.’ And our writing minds are scarily alike. So much so that we have to be careful not to talk about plots in too much detail because we might influence each other.

We both believe in writing not so much romance - but as Michelle always says – relationship stories. We both want to write stories with some ‘grit’ in them, stories with heart and we are both in love with the Presents novel hero – and concerned that the way the word ‘Alpha’ is used to describe him narrows that hero down too much – and can too easily be used to mean ‘Alpha as bully’ when we write heroes with heart and integrity.

And that’s why I love Michelle’s books too. They have that gritty conflict that sometimes makes me wonder just how she’s going to resolve this one this time – but she always does. They have sparky, brave heroines who aren’t afraid to fight for what they believe in and to stand up to the forceful, powerful men they’ve fallen in love with. And her heroes are strong, fiercely passionate men, men who sometimes just don’t what’s hit them when it comes to love. They may fight against it and against their heroines – but they’ll also fight to the death for it – and for her when they need to.

Here’s Michelle on that ‘Alpha Male ‘ topic.

The Alpha Man must have an Achilles heel. And our guy’s Achilles heel is
love itself. For me, there is nothing more important in a Presents novel than to
feel his vulnerability to the heroine grow the deeper he falls in love with her.
It might make him tetchy, more arrogant - impossible on occasions, but it also
makes him human, more likely to stumble on his pedestal and therefore more
reachable and easier to love.
Once our
Alpha Man accepts he's found the love of his life he's willing to fight to the
death for her. When he discovers he is loved by return he is not too proud to
say so. In fact he becomes so comfortable with it he's happy to let the whole
world know that he's been well and truly hooked. Finding the love of his life
completes his Alpha-maleness instead of diminishing it in any way.

I have every single book that Michelle has ever written and if I had to pack a favourite it would be almost as hard as choosing a favourite from my own titles. Passion Becomes You, and House of Glass have both won Romantic Times awards. A Passionate Marriage, The Arabian Love Child, The Passion Bargain, The Price of A Bride, The Spanish Husband have all been nominated. I still love Passionate Scandal - have reread The Price of a Bride several times – and if you haven’t read Gold Ring of Betrayal then you haven’t lived as a romance reader. I have a copy of her brand new novel – The Ranieri Bride that she sent me and I daren’t take it out of the envelope – because I know what will happen. I’ll read the first sentence – the first page . . . and before I know it I’ll have been absorbed for hours and read the whole thing. And I have this Sicilian to wrestle into submission. Michelle understands that.

Because the other thing that Michelle is is a great whip-cracker. When I’m fighting with a book and every word is like pulling teeth, then knowing that she’s there, at the other side of the country, waiting for an email with a word count keeps me writing so that I have something to report. An added incentive is knowing that a writer I so much admire is waiting to read the next book of mine – now that’s a great feeling.

And she’ll be expecting a word count from me today so yes – honest, Michelle - I am going to write – now! (But this post is 1,191 words - doesn't that count??)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A back garden romance

As a small diversion from writing topics – but, well it’s a sort of romance –

Yesterday the weather was very hot and muggy and it was obvious that a storm was brewing. Eventually that broke around 5pm - lots of thunder, rain, but very little lessening in the temperature. So at 11pm the BM and I were sitting with the French doors wide open to let in some much needed air and we heard snuffle grunt snuffle noises in the garden.

These are snuffle grunt snuffle noises we recognised. When we moved into this house we discovered that there was a pair of hedgehogs who live at the bottom of the garden. We learned about their presence when they just about marched up to the door and demanded their food. Apparently the daughter of the previous owners had always put out a bowl of meat for them – and they expected us to do the same. So we did. And we have continued to do so ever since. That was 17 years ago and as hedgehogs only live for about 3 or so years, we must have gone through several generations of the Hedgehog family while we’ve lived here.

Which is why we recognise that snuffle grunt snuffle noise so well.

That is the sound of Mr H chatting up Ms H. Basically, in hedgehog terms he is saying ‘You’re looking spectacularly beautiful tonight, my darling. Have you done something with your prickles?’ He’s also hoping that he’ll get lucky – after all, he’s taken her to the best restaurant in town – ie our garden lawn where the meat the cats have left after their tea is lying on a plastic plate to be available to passing hedgehogs – he’s complimented her - the moon is shining – the stars are bright – and now he hopes they can get together and make baby hedgehogs.

I have bad news for Mr H – apparently Ms H demands a lot of persuasion – which again is why we recognise that s g s noise so well. I read somewhere that it takes 4 hours of courtship before Ms H will let him near her. I’m not sure if that’s true but hedgehogs are not quiet creatures - not when they have lovemaking on their little prickly minds. And many many nights we have been sitting with those doors open and hearing the s g s going on and on and on . . .

But at least that means we’re hopeful of having another generation of baby hedgehogs to continue the tradition into next year and the year after

This time, I happened to have my camera nearby so, here are Mr and Ms Hedgehog enjoying a tryst beneath the magnolia bush.

Or perhaps I should title this picture The English Hedgehog's Secret Mistress

Monday, June 12, 2006


And the winner is . . .

Karen Dindia from California who wins a signed copy of The Twelve Month Mistress and one of my bookbags

Congratulations Karen - and thank you for being the 500th person on my USA mailing list.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

So let's see if anyone's awake . . .

Special message to all American readers reading this

I've just been checking through my email Newsletter list because . . Ah well,I'll come back to the plans I have for that, later

For now, what you need to know is that I just discovered I have almost but not quite reached the magic number of 500 members of the mailing list.

So - if you're a USA reader and you haven't yet signed up for the Newsletter, now's your chance. I think that number 500 deserves marking with a special prize. So the first person to email me and ask to be on my mailing list will win one of those bookbags and a signed copy of their choice of one of my books.

So email me - but don't hang about - there's only one 500th place and when it's gone it's gone.

Sorry - this is only for American readers. The UK/Australian list hasn't quite got that many on . . .yet

Celebrating Writing Friends 4 - Liz Fielding

True confessions time number 2 -
I wish I wrote like Liz Fielding! Every time I open one of her books and I read an opening like :

Fleur Gilbert hesitated on the registry office steps. This was not how her
wedding day was supposed to be.

Funerals and weddings. Sebastian Wolseley hated them both.

I wish I could write with that cool, clear – and somehow very English sort of style. But perhaps I shouldn’t say English as Liz has lived in Wales for as long as I’ve known her. Her writing style – very like the lady herself - is warm, often humorous, and with an emotional depth that grabs you and holds you to the very last page. The tag line for her web site says ‘sparkling, emotional, feel good romance’, and that just about sums it up.

Liz writes for the Tender Romance line. A line that is being revamped ready for a relaunch very soon. One of the problems with this line is that it can have the image of being old fashioned, staid romance. Not with writers like Liz Fielding in it. Liz writes the sort of books that grab hearts, make you laugh and cry in the same chapter – books that win awards. You only have to look at the list on her web site to see that.

The most prestigious of these awards are the RITA in 2001 for The Best Man and The Bridesmaid and the RNA’s Romance Prize 2005 for A Family of His Own. This year, her wonderful book The Marriage Miracle (more about that in a minute) is also nominated for a RITA. Liz is also an innovator. She broke the ‘rule’ that romances are never written in the first person with City Girl In Training which again was nominated for a RITA in 2003.

But in spite of the fact that Liz’s name appears on so many winners and finalist lists, she is one of the most modest, down to earth and delightful people I know. When I asked her if she would like to contribute a book to the Bag of Books prize and asked if there was anything she wanted me to say in this post about her, her reply was:

Apart from the fact that The Marriage Miracle has been nom'd for a Rita and that
I hate the title -- it implies this is a pick-up-your-bed and walk
get-out-of-jail happy ending, when its the second chance at a life that's the
miracle -- I've just blogged about that -- I can't think of anything.

Which really encapsulates Liz and her writing in one sentence. So , as The Marriage Miracle is one of the books that Liz has donated to the Bag of Books The other is The Five Year Baby Secret) - I’ll just say a bit more about TMM as to me it sums up where people go wrong in dismissing Tender Romances as being lightweight and old fashioned. And it also says a lot about Liz as a writer.

When I first read TMM, I wrote about it in a blog I then had on eHarlequin and this is what I said:
And finally, last but not least in a list of good things that I’ve enjoyed this
week – I read a wonderful book. Liz Fielding’s The Marriage Miracle which is
also a December release (in Tender Romance) in the UK.

What a great book – warm, emotional and absorbing. Matty, the heroine, is a very
special lady (no details – they would be spoilers) and it takes a very special
man to win her carefully defended heart. And Sebastian is very definitely that
special sort of man. I loved every page of this book – it’s the sort of heart
wrenching, emotional story that in the wrong hands could become mawkish and
sentimental but, believe me, Liz’s hands are very definitely the right one (or
should I say – the write ones?) for this book. I smiled, laughed, had tears in
my eyes – but above all else, I enjoyed it. The perfect relaxation after working
to meet my deadline.

Thank you Liz – and everyone else, if you get
a chance to read this book – grab it. It’s not a Presents-type romance but
that’s what I love about this genre – there is so much scope for so many great
writers for us to enjoy.

If you want to read Liz’s own story of the way Matty forced her into writing her story - because Liz tells it so much better than I do – then you can do so here.

The point is that Matty is in a wheelchair as a result of an accident three years before the book begins. But that Miracle in the title is so misleading as is the UK cover where the heroine is standing straight and tall at the altar when in fact she has struggled her way up the aisle to the man whose love has given her that second chance at life that Liz speaks of. As she says, Liz writes romances not fairy stories – there had to be a happy ending, not a miracle cure. The real miracle is the love that Mattie finally lets into her heart and into her life - and the miracle of that love that changes Sebastian's life for ever as well.

That’s the sort of book that Liz writes. The sort of book that in her own
words -
Worse, it was going to be seriously Hard Work. It would involve
(which is not my favourite thing) and an intensity of emotional input that I knew would drain me dry

Well all I can say Liz is that Hard Work was well worth it – and I’m not at all surprised that Matty’s story has been shortlisted for yet another RITA. I shall have my fingers crossed that you win. I’ll be jealous of course – but there are few writers and few people I’d rather be jealous of. Good luck!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Bag of Books Contest

Just to remind you that the reason I've been celebrating writing friends in my blog is twofold

One - friendship and good writing is always worth celebrating
Two - all these lovely authors have donated copies of one of their titles to my 'Bag of Books' contest.

There are two Main Prizes in this contest - each one is one of my special bookbags

And each bag will contain - your choice of a signed copy of my backlist PLUS the following:

Anne McAllister Lessons from a Latin Lover
Julie Cohen Delicious
Kate Hardy The Cinderella Project
Liz Fielding The Marriage Miracle or The Five Year Baby Secret
Michelle Reid The Brazilian’s Blackmailed Bride
Michelle Styles The Gladiator’s Honour

If you want to enter the contest check out my web site Contest Page

I'm not sure what's happened to the pictures of the lions and tiger I added to my previous blog - they were there yesterday. I'll try to repost them and see what happens

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


If you've been reading this blog since I moved here from eHarlequin, then in March you will have read about 'my' lions - the lions Raffi and his mate Anthea who were rescued from appalling condtions in a cage on the top of a hotel and released into comfort and dignity in the Born Free sanctuary in Shamwari South Africa.

You can read my blog about them here - where I said that both lions were becoming elderly and unwell and that, sadly, time was not on their side. Readers then asked me to let you kow how these wonderful creatures were doing if I had any news.

Even more sadly, today I had a letter from the Born Free Foundation saying that time had finally run out for both lions. They had become increasingly unwell and attempts at treatment were not succeeding so the decision was made not to let them suffer and so, when they were both asleep in the sun, and together as they had always been in life, they were given the help they needed to ease their way into a permanent sleep.

I can only be grateful for the fact that they lived their last years in the natural habitat of the wild life sanctuary and not in the miserable little cage in Tenerife from which they were rescued by Born Free in 1995. And that, for a pair that had formed such deep bond, that neither one had to live on without the other.

So that;s the bitter part. But here is the happier part of this message - my 'adoption' of Raffi and Anthea has been transferred to the latest rescue lion for Born Free - so here she is - my new lionness -

ACHEE (pronounced Ah-kee)

Achee wasrescued from a small compound in Romania where she had lived surrounded by concrete and having to cope with freezing winters. Her early diet was deficient in imprtant minerals as a result, she hadn't grown properly, her health was damaged and she will probably suffer from arthritis later in life. These problems made it even more important that she was rescued from the long, cold winters in Romania and kept in more natural surroundings.

Thankfully, in September 2004 Achee was transported to her new life in Shamwari where she will receive the care, freedom and warmth she needs for the rest of her life.

And yes, if you're wondering, I do still have my wonderful adopted tiger - Roque

If you want to know more about the wonderful work the Born Free Foundation does in rescuing animals then you can find out about it here. And maybe adopt your own big cat, or a wolf, or even an elephant.

And while you're there, please, please, vote in the poll against the use of wild animals in circuses in the UK - it's not just in Romania and Tenerife where the conditions are wrong for these wonderful creatures.

In memory of Raffi and Anthea

Celebrating Writing Friends 3 - Kate Hardy

Hmmm - I have the feeling that this post should really be entitled 'Celebrating Writing Fiends'

Okay, so it’s true confessions time. Kate Hardy scares me.
No, I’ll go further than that – she terrifies me.

Not in person. No, in person she is a wonderful warm, caring and generous friend. In person she is a generous and welcoming hostess, a great cook and full of fascinating conversation about her many interests. She’s also happily married, a great Mum to two great children – a boy and a girl – heavily involved with the parents’ side of her children’s schools, a dog-lover, local historian . . . oh, and she plays guitar as well and is taking regular lessons in that.

Now do you see where I’m going? It’s all that activity – all that multi-faceted activity – multi-multi-faceted . . . She’s so busy, so active, so efficient. She accomplishes so much. It’s amazing – and scary – and it exhausts me just to read about it.

Here’s Kate in a fairly typical blog entry –

My ed was delighted to get the MS yesterday (before deadline, note) and we had a
lovely email conversation about future books and the about-to-be-produced
contract. I was shocked to discover how few books I have out next year (five or
six, at this rate). Clearly I’ve been slacking *g*.

Slacking??! Five or six books? I have to go and lie down at just the thought. I feel I’m doing well when I manage my contracted three books, some teaching/critiquing, the conference(s) and maybe an extra like running the Writing Round Robin on eHarlequin – and getting a little bit of a life for myself. The other Kate is a phenomenon. A human dynamo and – notice something missing in that list above? I barely mentioned that she writes as well. Oh yes, she writes . . .and writes . . and writes . . .

When I first met Kate she was a newcomer to M&B and she wrote Medicals. She still does. (Kate has posted about our meeting here if you want to read about it). Now Medicals need research - they’re not just about writers playing doctors and nurses. The medical details have to be accurate, the diagnosis and treatments correct. Kate does that research. She also puts in the emotional intensity that makes her readers – and her editors – cry. Her 2005 Medical Where the Heart Is was short listed for the TNA Romance Award this year.

She also writes very sensually – and that perhaps is one of the reasons why she now has a second romance string to her bow – that of writing for the newest M&B line Modern Extra. Modern extras are not the same as Medicals – they need a very different approach, another ‘voice’, a different sort of hero - and Kate’s achieved that – and how - with her titles in this line. She started with The Cinderella Project which Kate describes like this –

What happens when two workaholics discover there's more to life, but try to
resist it and stay in their safe workaholic cocoons?

The Cinderella Project is the book that’s in the Bag of Books prize list – but since then Kate’s written 2 more – coming in July is my book (the one Kate has dedicated to me) Strictly Legal - and then in October there’s Seeing Stars. (This is along with new Medicals in August and November . . .) And I haven’t touched on Kate the Historian – or perhaps that should be Pamela the historian. Because titles like Norwich, Stories of a City and the best selling and fascinating Norwich Street By Street are written under the name of Pamela Brooks. When this Kate/Pamela and the BM get together it’s like watching a word-factory go into overdrive. They talk local history, true crime, history, history and more history until the air is thick with it. And then they discuss and swap publishers for books they’ve yet to write, books they’d like to propose . . .. In September I hope to introduce Kate H to Anne McAllister. Ardent and dedicated historian and researcher meets equally ardent and dedicated genealogist and researcher . . . I won’t even try to get a word in – just sit back and listen!

And did I mention some how to books on writing Advertising copy and newsletters . . .and the upcoming How To Research Local History – exploring archives , done for fun . . .

No, I think I’ve given you a flavour of the human dynamo that is Kate Hardy. Officially, I’m a founder member of the Slowing Down Police – those of us poor, merely human types who stand in awe watching the whirling dervish that is Kate and occasionally put in a plea for a little pacing of things - if only so that we can draw breath while reading her blog.(Waves to fellow S D P officer Diane if she’s reading this) But that’s Kate. And I wouldn’t have her any other way. I doubt if I could catch up with her for long enough to try to change her anyway.

Kate – once again thank you for the lovely dedication in Strictly Legal, and for your friendship. Love from T'Other Kate. Oh, and Mr Tickle and Freeze sends his love too.

Phew! Now I’m going to have to go away and have a stiff coffee to recover from just thinking about all Kate does before I get back to Sicilian wrestling for today.

Celebrating With Writing Friends

Note the change in the title - this one is Celebrating With Writing Friends.

Some of you have already guessed the extra special good news that made me cry last week - but I was sworn to secrecy. But now, seeing as Julie has made it public herself, I can smile openly and celebrate publicly too.

So why not go along to Julie Cohen's blog and read the wonderful news for yourself

And if you need a hint - the books due to be published are not the only creations Julie can look forward to later this year. . .

CONGRATULATIONS Julie, sweetheart! And congratulations to Dave too. Keep well and take care of yourself and the latest and most special WIP!

Monday, June 05, 2006

More on covers

I interrupt this celebration of my writing friends to bring you a small celebration of my own.

This afternoon, the postman appeared with a parcel. Inside were some books – hard back editions of The Italian’s Forced Bride and hardback (library) editions of my next title – At The Sheikh’s Command. The hardback design has changed slightly. It used to be dark, vivid pink with the artwork set squarely in the middle of a frame of pink. Now they are still pink, unfortunately (it’s not a colour I like at all) but on the front, the pink is confined to a flash at the bottom right hand side of the cover - in the same place that the blue flash and the words Modern Romance appears on the paperback edition. But on the hardback, the words say Mills & Boon and there is a pink rose.

I tried to scan the hardback cover in order to post it here, but it didn’t work very well. But luckily my kind editor has sent me a scan of the paperback copy so I can put that up instead. I thiink the colours of the artwork work better with the blue on the paperback edition anyway.

It’s a great cover. The colours are rich, warm and very sensual (like my hero, Malik) and it represents the book very well indeed. And yes, for those who mentioned that they dislike it when the covers don’t reflect the real colouring of the hero and heroine, this heroine – Abbie – is a blonde so that’s just right too.

I’m very happy with this. I think it’s the sort of cover that will make readers want to pick the book up from the shelves and - hopefully – take it home with them.

What do you think?

Celebrating Writing Friends 2 - Julie Cohen

I’m working through these Celebrations in alphabetical order – that must be the former librarian coming out in me. The other thing that I noted as I started to write this post this morning is that yesterday I wrote 1000 words about Anne – 1000 words! That could have been part of a book. It would at least, I think, have got my current hero, Vito, aka Sicilian 2 into bed with his heroine. So he’s not best pleased that I spent more time with Anne yesterday than I did with him. To soothe his outraged pride (he is Sicilian after all) I’ve spent some time with him before I started blogging today.

1000 words? Well no – not yet. But 500 words before breakfast is a start
And is he in bed with his lady yet? No – but I’m using that as an inducement to co-operation for the rest of the writing day.

So that I can talk about Julie Cohen.

Without the internet, I would never have met Julie Cohen. I would probably never even have known she existed. In our other lives – with me living in Lincolnshire and being a generation or so older – and her being an immigrant from America, living in the south of England and teaching there, our paths were unlikely to cross. The BM, in lecturer mode might have connected with her – though Julie teaches in a secondary school and his work is at university level. So we could have lived in the same country, as we did for years, and never have connected, if it hadn’t been for the eHarlequin message boards. Way back when, in 2001 – I remember because I had a book called Rafael’s Love-Child out in America – I ventured on to the message boards on, and my life hasn’t been the same since. When I first joined, the boards were small, intimate – sometimes very crazy – The Teahouse of the Writer’s Moon was a ‘meeting place’ for many would-be writers and the Gonnabeez writing group was formed, later giving me the honour of being their ‘Queen Bee’. As a writer in the UK, I soon discovered that several other posters on the boards also live in England – notably two people called AnnaofCumberland and one Julie Cohen who later became known as Feckless because of her determination to get the phrase Feckless Ne’er do well into her current book. As fellow Brits (well – Brits and an adopted Brit) we bonded and so by the time the 2002 RNA Conference was planned, both Julie and Anna booked to go.

If you’ve read the comments on my first Celebrating Friends post, you will see that Julie has recalled our first meeting. Perhaps I should explain the ‘Virgin’ reference. As I had been to a RNA Conference before, I knew that arriving at the first one, knowing very few people could be a nerve-wracking experience, I wrote to the Brits from the boards (there were two others Pat and Jane) and suggested that as they were ‘Conference Virgins’ we should get together – at least by email and I could answer any questions offer advice etc. This is why, when Julie first appeared at the conference she was ‘another virgin’ – which also led to me being labelled The Virgin Mother! Which was a Virgin too far for the RNA who, having later adopted my casual scheme (can one be a ‘casual virgin’?) after I’d run it for three years, have now decorously renamed it the First Timers’ Network. But that’s sad as no one can now be the ‘First Timers’ Network-Mother.

Anyway – here’s Julie describing the moment we first met
I remember the first time *we* met, Kate W--I recall walking into a very busy dining room full of about a hundred and fifty strangers, and these women suddenly yelling out, "It's another virgin!"

From that point on the Durham Virgins became real and not just cyber friends – and I gained another title that of Cyber Mum. Which is another title I regard as a great honour.

In her blog at the moment, Julie is writing about her third book, Delicious which is out this month and which is the title that will be in the Bag of Books prize. I could have chosen either her previous book Being a Bad Girl or the very first Featured Attraction, which is the one I know best of all. But Delicious is actually the first Julie Cohen book I learned about in those first emails before we ever met in person. I didn’t know it was Delicious then but I do know that Julie described it like this:

>> an intense and sensual relationship, with its ridiculous moments, and quite a bit of repartee.

And that really sums up a lot of what Julie brings to romance writing. Add in some emotional intensity and you have a winning combination. I always knew that Julie could write - I’ve read several versions of Featured Attraction – I had a bit of input on the way to rework that one – and I’ve watched that vital emotional intensity grow in Julie’s work over time so I wasn’t very surprised – but I was so thrilled when on July 20th 2004 I received an email that just said I SOLD. That was the book that became Featured Attraction - Since then there’s been Being A Bad Girl, now there’s Delicious and soon there will Married in A Rush.

I’m so happy to see the list of titles grow – not just because Julie is a friend and my Cyber-Kid - but because I firmly believe that this genre of romance writing that I love always needs new blood. It’s not a question of ‘training up the opposition’ but the fact that Romance writing, contrary to popular believe that it’s ‘always the same’ is a living growing, developing genre. And to keep living, it needs new writers who will take it forward into the future. Julie is, I’m convinced, one of those new writers who will do that. She’s a writer with her own individual and unique voice, a writer who loves romance for what it is and isn’t just writing in the hope of making a fast buck. She has a youthful, modern voice that will bring new readers to the genre and will wake up some of the critics who say that romance is old-fashioned stick in the mud and - heaven help us – not sexy ‘chocolate box’ type romance.

Which is great for romance readers – but also a loss for the teaching profession. Before Julie was a published author she was also the sort of teacher that I wished I could have had teach me Tess of the D’Urbervilles etc. I've been to one of her workshops - on writing sexual scenes in romance - and came away inspired and entertained (And not just because she started the whole thing of showing picturesof Hugh Jackman in a towel - see my post on Anne McAllister below)> So perhaps I ought to say that another honour Julie has given me is that she is the only teacher I know who actually put one of my books on the National Curriculum when she used The Sicilian's Wife in the topic of "Language and Gender" with some of her A-level English language students.

As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been checking back over some of the emails I had from Julie and I find that the one in which she tells me about the book that became Delicious is actually dated 6th June 2002 – so there’s a wonderful coincidence and sense of serendipity to know that the book we talked about then is now actually on the bookshop shelves, exactly four years later. Congratulations on that Julie – and on the other wonderful news that was the other thing that made me cry – with happiness this week.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A PS to Anne McAllister

I can't believe I forgot to say -

If you want on know more about Anne McAllister and the current hero she's trying to whip into line then check out her blog and you'll be able to read about heroes. map cabinets and dogs - all vital parts of Anne's life.

Celebrating Writing Friends - Anne McAllister

Anne McAllister and I met because of Warwick Castle. She asked a question about English Castles on a loop we’re both on, I answered - and the rest is history. But not English History. We never actually visited Warwick Castle together or The Royal Armouries which was another place we discussed. These were supposed to be places for her to travel to with her son on a trip to England. But in the end, the son stayed at home, Anne came to England with her husband and they came to stay with us. And it was as if we had always been friends. The Prof McAllister and the BM hit it off too and most of the visit was spent with the Prof and the BM talking and talking in the front seats of the car and Anne and I talking and talking in the back seat. And in between we visited places like York and Lincoln and Spital in the Street.

But before that, I’d fallen in love with Anne’s writing and her heroes. And I’d got to know her through her books. I can still remember reading a long-ago book called Finn’s Twins and thinking that I was so glad there was room for a variety of romances and heroes in the M&B lines. (The lines weren’t split then).

An Anne McAllister book has a unique flavour - her heroes are strong, competent men, men with backbone and integrity, everything a Presents hero should be – but they’re not the narrowly –defined ‘Alpha hero’ that has perhaps become accepted by some readers as the Presents heroes. What I remember most about reading that book that impressed me so much is that it made me laugh as well as care – smile both in amusement and delight as well as in appreciation of the emotion in the story. As she says, she doesn’t do ‘angry heroes’ - but she does write wonderful ones! Ones I find it very easy to fall in love with.

But then, Anne and I share a ‘first love’ . Way back when, when we were both young and our ‘hero templates’ were being formed – we both fell in love – thousands of miles apart and years before we ever knew the other existed – with the same man. Jess Harper The ‘second’ hero – but to us always the first – of the Western Laramie - acted by the gorgeous Robert Fuller.

If you want to read more about Anne’s personal contact with Robert Fuller (and yes I am jealous – very jealous) then check out her blog here. So we share an eye for a hero – we did then and we do now. The story of how we both spoke (twice each at each conference) at the Romance Writers of Australia and the Romance Writers of New Zealand a couple of years ago and we both used the same ‘visual aid’ – a photograph of Hugh Jackman in a towel – to illustrate every possible point – has become well known. So we still share an eye for a hero – and we both have very good taste. (But Anne is a thief – she stole the picture of Mr Jackman and took it home to America with her)

Of course, it’s not just me who loves Anne’s books She has won two RITA awards from the Romance Writers of America -- for COWBOY PRIDE and THE STARDUST COWBOY -- and has had seven other books which were RITA finalists. Her books have also been finalists for the National Readers' Choice Award. In 2000 she was named Midwest Fiction Writers "Writer of the Year" and also received Romantic Times' Career Achievement Award as "Series Author of the Year." And every bit of it deserved. Now you’ll see why I’m including one of Anne’s books in the Bag of Books. And Lessons from a Latin Lover is one of my personal favourites of her titles. I ‘lived with’ Joaquin Santiago through emails from Anne as he was being created and the little snippets I heard made me hungry to read his story in its final form - I wasn’t disappointed. Again, it was a book that made me smile, made my breath catch, tugged on my heart, and warmed me with its slow-burn sensuality.

Of course I can’t write about Anne McAllister without mentioning Sid. (That cat can get into any post without even trying.) Sid and Anne are best friends. They ‘met’ by email - apparently when I’m not looking, Sid gets his paws on the keyboard and writes eloquent letters to a select few friends. She appreciates the fact that he is A Cat of Superior Breeding and he is prepared to tolerate a few of the rough edges that belong to the ‘Colonials’ as he is devoted to his ‘Dear Lady Across the Pond’. I am very much aware of the fact that when Anne comes to visit – as she will be doing in September this year that she comes to see Sir Sidney first and myself and the BM very definitely second. Sid knows this too and as The Lady Across the Pond knows of his partiality for salmon and also knows just the right spot to rub him behind the ears, then she’s very welcome to share his bed when she stays in his house.

But then Sid has excellent taste. He knows a good friend when he sees one – as do I. Anne McAllister’s books gave her a special place in my life as a reader and a writer long before I met the writer herself. Now, she has a special place in my life as a friend too (though I know I stand second in line to a large, handsome tabby cat with a good line in head butts). And that’s why one of her books is included in the Bag of Books. Unfortunately, I only have two copies to give away – so if you haven’t tried an Anne McAllister book before – why not check out The Antonides Marriage Deal which is still around and find out for yourself.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Celebrating Writing Friendships

Two of my friends have made me cry this week – in the nicest possible way. One of them I can’t yet share I’ll wait for that story to unfold - but the other is a very special writerly sort of pleasure.

My dear friend and fellow M&B author Kate Hardy sent me a copy of her latest book – well, her latest book in one line! Kate is a prolific and hardworking author who not only writes for M&B Medicals and HMB Modern Extra but creates factual, local history books and ‘how to’ guides – as ‘relaxation’!!! So this was her newest Modern Extra – Strictly Legal.

(Okay - there was supposed to be a picture of the cover here but each time I try to upload it, it failed - so if I can come back later and do it, I will. ) :-(

I was told to look at page six – which is where then tears started. This book is dedicated to me. What a thrill – and honour – and a delight to know that a friendship that has been brought to me by this crazy job that I do has become so special. Thank you Kate!

This is not the only book that I've had dedicated to me by a dear friend. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows about my friendship with American author Anne McAllister. Her book McGillivray's Mistress is dedicated to me and the BM. Okay - yes - it's also dedicated to Sid the cat and his Fellow Felines Bob, Spiff and Dylan. But I would like to point out to Sir Sidney that he may had muscled in to try to take over this friendship but I was the one who met Anne first and introduced 'the finest of feline' to the Lady Across the Pond.

(There's also supposed to be a picture of the cover of McGillivray's Mistress here - but that won't upload either. Oh well! - you can see it here. )

All of which started me thinking back again over my rant on the subject of workshops. I was recently given a card that said what you give out you get back ten times over, and in my experience, giving in the world of writing has very much that effect. Forget the finances earned by my books – in terms of what writing, talking about writing, giving workshops etc has earned me in friendship and other much more valuable (to me) terms - I’m a very wealthy woman.

Which is why, if you’re interested in the possibility of winning good books to read, you might like to know about my latest contest, now running on my web site. This contest is a way that you have a chance to benefit from some of these friendships I've made in the romance writing world.

The prize is a bag of books for summer reading. And some of these special friends of mine have joined me in this to help make the prize extra special. Each of these friends is someone I admire as a writer as well as love as a person, and each one of them has donated copies of one of their books to the Bag of Books – books that I personally have read and enjoyed and would like to share with the winners of this contest.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be writing about the individual authors and their particular books so that you can get more acquainted with them – but for now, here, in alphabetical order, are the authors whose books will be joining mine in the Bag of Books prize, and the titles of the books they’ve donated

Anne McAllister Lessons from a Latin Lover
Julie Cohen Delicious
Kate Hardy
The Cinderella Project
Liz Fielding The Marriage Miracle
Michelle Reid The Brazilian’s Blackmailed Bride
Michelle Styles
The Gladiator’s Honour

You might like to check out some of their web sites and take a look at the other books they’ve written.

If you want to check out the Bag of Books Contest then the details are on my web site Contest Page. The only condition of entry is that you are either on my mailing list or allow your name to be put on the mailing list with this entry.

So why not try entering? There are 3 runners’ up prizes of signed copies of my books too. And Sid the Cat says the more the merrier - as he gets to choose the winners, the more cat treats on more names for him to snarf up, the better.

Home Bio Books USA Readers Writers Contests Events Blog Links

Join Kate's Newsletter

Email Kate

Modified and Maintained by HR Web Concepts