Thursday, August 31, 2006

Losing my heart - and being in the pink

This morning I discovered I’d lost my heart

No, not in that way. Anyone who knows me and knows the BM, also knows exactly where my heart lies. But I noticed that the little dancing heart I had in the sidebar . . .

had gone missing.

And I couldn’t have that – not when the reason he’s there is about to take on even more importance from tomorrow. You see, that little heart is the symbol for The Pink Heart Society.

What’s the P H S? Well, on New Year’s Day, 2006, Irish romance writer Trish Wylie wrote in her blog:

‘I read romance’ or more specifically ‘I read category/series romance’ seems
almost as embarrassing a thing to say these days as confessing to being a
cross-dresser might have been in the 1940’s. The genre is constantly run down by
people who see it as a lesser form of writing and of reading. People who believe
that a shorter format automatically means lesser writing and a weak plot. Yet
these ‘lesser’ books still sell millions of copies world-wide! I have read
category romance since my teens and have never had a problem reading them in
public or passing them onto friends when I find one I particularly enjoyed just
as I would with more ‘mainstream’ books that critics would see as more
acceptable reading. And I am still in my thirties, I still go clubbing and play
sports and have a varied group of ‘Sex in the City’ type friends...I guess what
I’m trying to say, in my long drawn out way, is that there are so many amazing
books out there that we have all read and enjoyed and for every person that
tries to run down what we enjoy… there should be ten of us to say well,
actually, we love it!

And to give a voice to those of us who read, write, and – shock horror – enjoy category romance – she formed the PHS. Other authors joined in – we all posted the dancing heart (well, some of us could get it to dance, some couldn’t) on our blogs/ or websites . We all declared ourselves proud of being romance writers, romance readers, romance lovers.

Well, now the PHS is taking another step out into the cyber world to spread that message as far and wide as we can. The Pink Heart Society Blog has been set up and the big launch party is tomorrow September 1st

So why not come along to the grand Pink Heart Blog Launch Party tomorrow. You’ll meet other authors, be able to read weekly updates to the Hero Database/articles/reviews/Blogs of the Week/Romance destinations/Rom-Com reviews/Romance Tips/Nominations for Shipper Shows. There will be Competitions & Giveaways/Challenge of the Week and much much more...

I’ve already booked my guest spot for October 6th – that’s when my newest title is published – but don’t wait till then. Visit The PHS blog and join in the celebration of romance novels the world over.

I’ll be there - I may be a little late because tomorrow the great office makeover really gets underway so I’ll have to unplug and move the computer while the carpet arrives and is laid, then there are the bookshelves to assemble and fill, the computer to move back in and reassemble, the papers to file, the cats to settle and appease with a little smackeral of something . . .

But I’ll be cheering the launch and joining in the celebrations just as soon as I’m back on line and have time to breathe.

See you there!

And I’ve got my heart back.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How NOT To Write A Romance - Part 3

Okay, here's the last of the list

12.Travelogues – or ‘I’ve been to Greece/Spain/Italy . . . you know'
Background detail should always stay in the background
The romance novel is not a travelogue, or a history lesson
Don’t use novel as polemic – to preach a cause you believe in, however deeply.
It’s a romance – the story of a relationship

13.The unbelievable Other Woman
I've mentioned her briefly above - but if you are going to go ahead with the overworked and overwritten 'Other Woman' then:

If your heroine believes the hero has another woman, give her good reasons for doing so – not just because :
She see them together for one moment
They were together in the past – but she will need evidence in the present
The other woman says she is
Seeing them together when he said he was somewhere else
Other people say she is
Because she’s icily beautiful and a bitch – does this man have no taste ?

14. Too much
Too much trauma trying to mean emotion
Too much of scenes with friends/mothers/aunts/ etc
Too much narrative
Too much description – food, clothing etc
Trying to use every hook all at once

15. The Incredible Disappearing Hero
Long sections with the hero and heroine apart - this is usually when she spends page after page talking to her friend/mother/aunt etc (see above)
The hero who never explains where he’s been
The husband/lover/one night stand who wasn’t there the next day –but we don’t know why - and of course she’s pregnant

16. Point of View problems
I don't mind 'head-hopping' - changing POV in a scene - or more than once in a scene at all
What I do mind is a change that isn't signalled in anyway - where the reader has to pause and work out 'who thought that' or 'who said that?'
And if you are going to put in a hero's POV - please make it sound like it might be the POV of a man.
Would a man really think that 'her eyes were the blue of the pattern on Delft china?'
If you let your reader in on what your hero/heroine is really feeling - make sure you also tell them why he/she isn't the other character that

And don't show a hero coming to realise just why he loves the heroine in long narrative passages of his thoughts - but neglecting to explain this to her. And then when he suddenly announces that he loves her she just accepts it.

17. Watch your language
Don’t write the sorts of clichés that mocking critics like to pick up and declare are easily found in romance novels – avoid things like :
Heaving bosoms
Fainting heroines
Heroes who say ‘You silly little thing’
His throbbing thighs
His pulsing/throbbing/ anything manhood
Rosy tipped peaks
His surging man root (!!!)

And yes, I have seen all of these in genuine manuscripts - one poor heroine fainted so often I was convinced she had a brain tumour at least - but then the way she behaved left me convinced she didn't have a brain to have a tumour on.

Can I remind all would-be NWS entrants that the closing date is 31st August this year - not September.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Dirty Weekend

I've just had a dirty weekend - a very very very dirty weekend.


Where are your minds!

Not that sort of dirty weekend - actually, I would never call that dirty anyway.

No. the reason I've been so very dirty this weekend is that I foolishly decided it was time to renovate my office.Well past time really. The carpet was here when we bought this house (17 years ago) and I don't know how long it had been down then. Years. Lots of them. And since then seven cats (three now deceased), one roof cave-in as a result of snow and a leak in the roof they put up to replace that one, haven't exactly helped keep what was already elderly looking anything like respectable. Add in inadequate amounts of bookshelves and an ever growing collection of books - that's the problem with writing for a living - you keep getting copies of the books you write - and then you get international copies - and then lovely people you know who also write for a living give you signed copies of their books . . .

And so, last week, I decided I'd had enough. I couldn't live with the mess any more. A trip to the carpet sellers discovered a half price sale - which concentrated my mind pretty rapidly. And once the carpet had been chosen, measured up and ordered, I was committed. Which meant that if the new carpet was to go in, then the old one had to come out.

And if the old carpet had to come out then the seven bookshelves (each with six shelves inside them) and the books - that's 42 shelves of books - some (okay, many of them) doubleracked that had to be moved out and stored elsewhere until the carpet goes in.

And there's all the papers and stationery, and the bits and pieces . . . It clearly wasn't going to be done in a single day. So that was how I spent the Bank Holiday weekend.

When we took up the carpet, it was to find that the underlay was so ancient it wan't even there - The whole underlay had disiintegrated and there was just dust. Lots and lots and lots of dust. There was more dust behind the bookshelves - more dust on the books. Books just attract dust, no matter how many times you clean. There were box files of research, there were CDs, there were piles of paper to sort - my filing 'system' tends to end up on the floor.

And there were the books to prune. Nothing is going back into the 'new' office that I don't really want to keep. And I actually managed to collect up a big bag of discards. So I might have a little more space on the shelves.

So now I'm sitting here in a room that feels as large and echoing as an aircraft hanger. There is a concrete floor (this room once used to be the garage), there's my desk, a phone, a chair and of course Sid on the window sill. And that's it.

But it feels wonderfully airy and light - and clean and in another 3 days there will be the new carpet beige/rust) and the new bookshelves (birch) and all the books etc etc will come back in. And so will all the papers andsome - most of the clutter. But if I get the time that I plan this week even that will be pruned and - fingers crossed - sorted.

So if the principles of Feng Shui (whatever happened to the great Feng Shui craze?) work, it should be a brilliant time for a fresh start.

Which will be just perfect with a new book, a new deadline, and the next 50 titles just waiting for me!

Next - How NOT to Write A Romance Part 3

Saturday, August 26, 2006

How NOT to Write A Romance Part Two

Okay, here are some more painfully common mistakes that I've found in so many of the scripts that I've read -

Perhaps I should have titled these posts 'Things I wish I would never ever have to read again in a would-be-published romance.'

8. Non-Sex scenes – or How Wasn’t It for You?
Lovemaking scenes that mean nothing but are there because ‘They always have a sex scene in a Presents/Modern Extra etc romance - don't they’
Don’t have sex scenes that:
Go nowhere – sex always changes things – the build up to a sex scene is important but so is the vital ‘afterwards’ – when your characters see each other in a totally different way because they have been so intimate
Fade to black – if you can’t bring yourself to write one that don’t just cop out with ‘and then everything became hazy .. .’ Write what you are comfortable with and don’t try and dodge the issue
Have no emotion
Change nothing – I repeat - sex always changes things between two people- it’s not the sex it’s the before and after that matters
‘She just couldn’t help herself’ – please make your heroine a realistic woman with realistic feelings and a sense of self-preservation and her own worth.
Sex scenes in impossible places – on a beach? In the back of a car? Are these erotic or just plain uncomfortable – and what if someone else was to appear?
Ecstatic sex – again make it likely that it would be that way – not just instant ecstasy with no real feeling.
Don’t put in too many sighs and groans in one go – vary the language

9. Unsafe Sex and Secret Babies
This is the 21st century and you are writing about adults so don’t make them behave like children
Don’t have:
Heroes who never take responsibility
Heroines who don’t protest at the above
Heroines who never take responsibility
Heroes who never protest at the above
Heroes and heroines who take risks no one with any sense would ever take
The instant baby – virgin/one sexual experience/one baby scenario

And yes, this does mean that that tried and true plot device the 'Secret Baby' becomes much more difficult - as it should do in a time when not taking sexual responsibility for yourself and your partner can almost get you up on a charge of attempted murder . But this is one where you have to get deep inside yuor characters' heads and really think out the reasons why.

It's another reason why the before and after matter so very much.

10. Dialogue that says nothing
Make the dialogue say something - make it further the relationship/the conflict/ the resolution – not just talking that goes nowhere
Not just talking heads – have your characters doing something so that the reader can ‘see’ them as well as ‘hear’ their dialogue.
Avoid circular arguments that always come back to ‘I don’t believe you’!! If she/he doesn't believe then nothing is ever going to change - and do we (the reader) believe them when later they say they're madly in love?

11.Scenes that ‘are always in a romance’ aren’t they?
The angry meeting
Being ‘undressed by his eyes’
The other woman in his life - who turns out to be his sister or his cousin . . .
The manipulative, vindictive 'ex' - do you really want your readers to think your hero was stupid enough to marry a woman who everyone can see is a total bitch?
The forced seduction
The humiliation at some social gathering
The belittling boss

Readers know that romances are all similar – but they don’t want to keep reading the same scene over and over again

Friday, August 25, 2006

How NOT To Write A Romance - Part One

Okay - so here is the first section of the list of very basic mistakes that I see repeated again and again in so many of the manuscripts I read and critique.

1. Believe in the Formula
Or the rules or that story of the computer that is programmed to write all the romances, just changing the names and nationalities of the characters.

Do I need to say any more?

2. Never, ever read romances before you start
- you'd be amazed how many people say: I’ve never read one but ‘they’re all the same aren’t they?’
Or if you do read any romances, then make sure they were published 5, 10, 15 years ago – because they never change, do they?

Why do so few would-be HMB writers read the books that are currently being published to find out what the editors are actually buying?

3. Write down to your reader
When you’re writing, think ‘It’s ‘only’ a romance, nothing important. It's not 'literature'. And anyway, the readers just wolf them down
They are not at all critical, and they never remember one book from another.

Don’t forget that you are writing to entertain and for your readers to enjoy the book – just because something is easy to read doesn’t mean that it’s easy to write.

4. Make your Conflict just one long argument
So many would-be authors interpret the word 'conflict' as just constant bickering, with the characters arguing over nothing just to keep them at each other's throats until the very last chapter.

Don't have a conflict that is so unimportant it makes the H&h look stupid and immature for even letting it bother them. Conflict that just comes from the way he looks at her and the way she interprets it
Equally, don't make the conflict real trauma that is so OTT the character would be a basket case. Many writers seem to think that constant Trauma = Emotion

5. Your heroine - Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood all rolled into one
Make your heroine a real person – not just the ‘romance’ heroine
Try to avoid writing the cliché romance heroine that non-romance readers think is the one that appears in every book –ie: -
Virgin heroines just waiting for HIM
Pathetic heroines – just waiting to be rescued
Unemployed heroines – just waiting to be kept in the manor and manner to which they’d like to become accustomed
Heroines who believe ill of their hero on no evidence whatsoever
Heroines who put up with every insult/abuse – and fall madly(madly being the word) in love
Heroines who put up with every insult/abuse – then get a brief apology and say ‘Oh, that’s all right then – because I love you.’

6. Prince Not At All Charming
Please get away from the idea that an Alpha hero = brute
Don’t have
Heroes who do nothing but belittle and put down
Abusive heroes – there is a very definite line between being a strong and dominant hero and actual physical brutality
The ‘experienced’ hero – for experienced read promiscuous, no discrimination, a total womaniser – and probably infected with something nasty.
Heroes not even their mothers could love
Heroes who believe ill of their heroine on no evidence whatsoever
Heroines who offer their heroine every insult/abuse – then give a brief apology and say ‘But you know I love you.’

7. Characters With No Character
Stereotypes – characters who ‘always’ appear in a romance and are ‘always like that.’
One dimensional
Have no past history before they appear on the page
Who let their author dictate to them - Characters should not be moved around like chess pieces to fit the plot the writer has decided on – the plot should flow from them and their personalities.
Who learn nothing
Who never develop, never change, never even seem loveable.

More tomorrow

Thursday, August 24, 2006

More on Editing and The NWS

A week or so ago, I posted some reflections on editing - and the way that reading for the New Writers' Scheme made me think about the process.

A week from today is the closing date for all entries to the NWS scheme and so the last chance for anyone who is a member of the RNA to get a professional critique from this service. I've probably done almost all my reading for this year, so I've been reflecting on what the submissions I've received have shown me about the number of people trying to write for Harlequin Mills & Boon - and believe me there are hundreds, if not thousands, if you include the huge numbers who submit without ever going through the NWS scheme or the RNA.

I've been reading for this scheme for six years now - and the thing that worries me is the number of submissions I get every year who all repeat the same basic mistakes over and over again. A couple of years ago, I did a talk at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference about this - entitled How NOT To Write A Romance.

It was perhaps the most fun of any talks I've ever done. There was a lot of laughter in the lecture room. I know that afterwards a member of staff at the hotel asked if we were really having a conference - because no other conferences they’d ever run had seemed to have so much fun while conferring.

I know my audience enjoyed it - but at the same time I think they got the point. I talked to many people afterwards and they told me that as I made each comment about the very basic mistakes I have found in so many manuscripts they were thinking back over their own work and wondering – ‘Did I do that?’

The thing that worries me is that I have written critiques for scripts this year where I could basically take the comments I made on the very first script I read back in 2000 and almost cut and paste them whole into the critique of some of the ones I’ve read this. (I have to say some because there have been some better ones over the years –and there is one in particular where I’m keeping my fingers tightly crossed for the writer.)

Writing category/series/whatever you like to term it romance is nothing like as easy a task as so many many people would have you believe it is. I have more years’ experience of working with books, writing books, buying books (both as a reader and as a professional librarian), studying and criticising books from schooldays through my basic degree and on to my MA, teaching writing at all levels and critiquing through the RNA scheme – and, believe me, writing 50 titles for M&B Modern/Harlequin Presents has been one of the most work-intensive and challenging parts of my career.

The problem with these short romances – the ones the late great Charlotte Lamb called ‘those complicated little books’ is that they are so easy to read that they give the impression that they have just been dashed off in a rush, with very little care or thought. The opposite is more likely to be the case. There is a quote that I have pinned up above my desk – it’s also one that I quote in almost every workshop I ever do and it’s this:

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its
Enrique Jardiel Poncela

So I thought I’d post some of the How Not to . . talk up here over the next few days. It would be great if it helps someone – it would be even greater if it meant that next year I get to read more than the odd one or two mss without these basic mistakes in them. That way I could hope to help the author a lot more by working with something that actually resembles the sort of thing HMB are actually looking for.

And as special answer to Janet who posted a question on the original post on Editing. I’m sorry, Janet I meant to answer days ago but time ran away with me

Janet said:
The NWS is a great opportunity to have an experienced writer's crit on your work. But sadly once you have had a magazine serial or novel published that writer is no longer eligible for the NWS (even if she is striving to get published by M&B and could really use the advice of an experienced M&B author.)

Will the RNA ever extend the scheme to this category of writers? Offer just the crits maybe

The honest answer, Janet, is that I don’t know. I’m not on the Committee of the RNA where such decisions are made – just a reader for the NWS. But I do suspect that the answer is no – you see the reason why the current NWS membership is capped at around 200 is that there just aren’t enough readers available to do any more. The scheme could be oversubscribed by 100% easily but the number of readers is strictly limited – and they are all professionals who have their own writing commitments and deadlines to fulfil. Writing a good, fair critique takes time and time is something that most professional writers have little enough of as it is. So unless there was a huge increase in the number of volunteers to read for the scheme, I very much doubt that there will be any hope of expanding it in any way.

PS I thought I was finished reading for this year but as I was writing this the postman arrived with yet another NWS script.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

This and that

A couple of things to catch up on
1. I've updated my web site with the help of the lovely ladies from HR Web Concepts and so all the details of the new books are up there ( the latest and the new title coming in October are also in the sidebar there -> )

2. There is a new Newsletter too with some photos of - guess who - Sid - and a couple of views of Caerleon where I taught in the summer. They remind me of just how hot it was that week. Looking at the rain thundering down outside, it doesn't seem possible that there ever was the faintest suspicion of a drought!

3. There is also a new contest to win signed books and special writing material – inspired by the thought of how everywhere there are signs about going Back to School

4. And of course there’s a little mention of the Reviewers’ Choice Award for The Italian’s Forced Bride.

5. And the mention of Caerleon reminds me that if anyone is interested in a weekend in wonderful Wales, staying in a comfortable hotel, and learning how to write Romance then on the events page there are details of a way you can do just that. The organisers of Caerleon Writers’ Holidays are now running residential weekends in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire. The first of these is in November - Friday 10th - Sunday 12th – and all the details you need can be found on the Events page of my web site.

Other bits and pieces of good news – I just learned that my August USA release – The Antonakos Marriage - is now on its fourth week on the Bookscan Top 100 listing for bestselling fiction. So thank you to everyone who has bought a copy to help me achieve this fabulous result – I really couldn’t have done it without you.

More good news – Harlequin have recently moved into publishing their novels as ebooks and The Antonakos Marriage is currently in the Top 10 bestsellers of these books. There is also a brand new venture called Harlequin Minis where on line stories Writing Round Robins from the eharlequin site are being published as mini ebooks for just $.99. This week I was thrilled to discover that the Writing Round Robin I ran last year has been chosen to be one of the 15 launch titles for this new project .It’s really great timing too as this story is a sort of prequel to my October title At The Sheikh’s Command.

Just to say . . .

I have a hectic morning ahead of me - dashing here there and everywhere - but if you want something to read and would like to read a great blog on Romance, both the genre and the 'new' revamped Romance line for HMB then go along to Liz Fielding's blog and check out her current post.

I've read it once and noted it down to go back and reread and absorb the really great assesment of what 'Romance' writing is - how the genre has changed and what the Romance line editors' are looking for now.

More than well worth reading.

PS For UK readers - and would-be-published writers, there's also news of a short story competition run by HMB and Woman's Weekly that you might want to know about.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

And we're back . . .

Okay, so - hopefully - the Counter problem is sorted out - hopefully!!
So far it doesn't seem to be messing things up again - or turning my sidebar into a bottom bar

So I'm hoping we're back in business - and that all those wonderful 90 visitors who came by yesterday will come by again and this time I'll be able to see where you all came from.

Fingers crossed . . .

Where's it gone?

Well, that was fun - for a little while!

The counter that displayed the countries everyone came from worked wonderfully - at first. I had visitors from UK, USA, Canada, Malaysia, France, Malta, Poland. Then I went to sleep . . .

And when I woke up it was to find that the connection to the counter had failed. And the faulty connection meant that my sidebar disappeared well, no, it didn;t disappear, it became a bottom bar instead. It's not just me. When I've tried to check the counter's site to get a new code, that's down - so I've found that the best thing is to take the darn thing off the blog again and run with just the cluster map for now.

Which is a pity as I was enjoying seeing how many visitors came from where. When the provider's site is back and running and if I can get the counter back on here without it messing up the blog, I may try again - watch this space . . .

Monday, August 21, 2006

I need some geography lessons

Those of you who visit regularly will perhaps have watched the red clusters on my cluster map in the sidebar register the places where visitors to this blog live. Yesterday, I was doing just that, wondering exactly where all these people came from, checking the map against a world map and trying to decide exactly which countries had the cluster red dot in them.

I came up with a list that may or may not be the most accurate record so far – North America is fine, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile . . . There’s Australia and New Zealand, and South Africa ( I think that maybe Judy is one of those little red dots - hope so – if so – waves to Judy) India is there, Japan, Korea – but it’s when I get to Europe that the countries are so close together and the map so small, even when enlarged, that I couldn’t be sure exactly where everyone was visiting from. I recognise some - the red dot over Malta must mean Julie (Waves to Julie) but I wanted to be more accurate,.

Then last night I had a wonderful visit from a long term friend (I’m not saying old because although our friendship might be old in years, she’s definitely not someone I would ever describe as ‘old’). Duck (her blog name is Little Yellow Duck) is the Offspring’s godmother, she is currently living in Dubai with her web site designer husband – that’s their red dot over on the Persian Gulf in the UAE (Waves to Duck who will be home soon). It was one of those wonderful ‘pick things up from where they were two years ago’ meetings and we crammed a lot into a couple of hours to sustain us until we meet up again. (The Alhambra 2008 – right, Duck?)

Well, Duck has her own blog and she has solved the geography problem with a counter that shows exactly how many visitors she’s had and exactly where they are. So, inspired by this, I’ve set up my own counter and I’m looking forward to reading the results as each day/week/month goes by. I’m hoping Duck from Dubai will be listed there soon after a safe and trouble free journey home.

But what about the rest of you? I know you’re all there – I can see those red dots. But I’d love to know who you are and what part of your country you live in. Every now and then I get selected translations of my books and I know I have readers all over the world. So if you’re from Sweden or the Philippines or Egypt or Estonia, I’d love to see you post a comment. Some time back, I offered free foreign editions to anyone who spoke those languages - those editions were Italian, Spanish, German, Afrikaans and Greek – all countries that have red clusters on them on my map. I don’t have any foreign editions at the moment – a large bundle of those went off to needy causes only last week – but I’m sure I’ll be getting some more soon.

So if you’re visiting from other countries- other continents (other worlds??) why not drop by and say hello? And then, in the future, if I get some translations of my books in your language, I might be able to offer you a little gift.

And it will be great getting to know you better.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Further amended
Current 'made me cry' score for

The Italian's Forced Bride

20 readers
2 editors
and Liz Fielding!
and 2 reviewers

Top that, Sid!

Well, Sid may have taken over the blog – and Anne’s – for a while but today I’m back in business and I’m celebrating – so move over, Sid – I have good news!

And I think even Sid will not mind having is handsome pawtrait superseded by this little graphic:

The Liz Felding for Cataromance Reviewers’ Choice M&B Tender award with The Five Year Baby Secret
Julie Cohen for Cataromance Reviewers’ Choice M&B Modern Romance Extra award with Featured Attraction
Kate Hardy for CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice M&B Medical for Her Celebrity Surgeon
Michelle Styles for CataRomance Reviewers' Choice M&B Historical for The Gladiator’s Honour

Anyone starting to see a sort of link to my Bag of Books offered as a prize a few weeks back? Can I pick them? I am so happy to see so many friends on the winners' list.
Congratulations also to

Lucy Monroe forCataRomance Reviewers' Choice Harlequin Presents: The Prince's Virgin Wife
Lucy Gordon for Cata Romance Reviewers' Choice Harlequin Romance for The Wedding Arrangement.

Oh yes – and there was an award for Best M&B Modern too – that was won by someone called Kate Walker and this book:

The Italian's Forced Bride

(Current 'made me cry score' 20 readers and 2 editors!)

American readers if you're wondering - I just heard that this book will be published in Presents in February 2007 so you haven't too long to wait.

PS - In the light of Liz Fielding's post on the Comments sections - I have to amend the above:

Current 'made me cry' score
20 readers
2 editors
and Liz Fielding! (Thanks Liz!)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Upstaged By A Cat

I suppose it had to happen - give a cat a blog mention and he'll take the whole posting.

Many of you will already know of my cat Sid's bid to become a Cyber Star - and today it looks as if he has achieved his aim.

Not content with appearing with regularity on my web site, with winning bribes and flattery by those who enter my contests and know that it is he who chooses the winners - I have even had promises of tuna or a smackeral of salmon sent through the mail - I found this morning that he has hijacked (or should that be hicatted? Catjacked?) the whole of Anne McAllister's blog posting for today.

So what can I say that would not be supurrfluous? Trying to improve on purrfection is just not possible - and so, dear readers - as I am on my way out for the day and may not have a chance to post again - I leave you in some very capable (and some very sizeable) paws - and I give you


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Celebrating again - Trish and Me

It's the Awards time of year so I am truly happy to announce that another special friend of mine has won a major award -

Fanfare and trumpets . . .

Trish Morey, a lovely Australian Modern/Presents author has won the
Short Romance section of the
Romantic Book of the Year Award (R*BY)

with her novel The Italian Boss's Secret Child
Many many congratulations, Trish! I'm so happy for you.

I'm also feeling smug because when I read this book last year - and it's only Trish's 3rd book! - I remember saying to her that I felt that with this title she had truly found her voice. It seems a lot of readers thought so too.

And today I also have a small trumpet of my own to blow - you see that nice gold star on this post?

Well yesterday I learned that both The Italian's Forced Bride and The Married Mistress had been nominated for the Cat Romance Reviewers' Choice Awards. this is a real honour - the Cata Romance Reviewers read many many books each year and so even to be nominated as one of the best is a great thrill for me.

Extra good news is that reading through the nominations, I found many friends of mine there too - Anne McAllister, Liz Fielding, Kate Hardy, Trish Morey, Julie Cohen, Michelle Styles, Natasha Oakley, Trish Wylie . .

You can find a full llist of all the nominees here

And the awards ceremony takes place on Friday in a special Pink Carpet presentation on the Cata Romance message boards. They've brought in a hostess, Stacy Dawn (meet her here ) to announce the awards in Oscars style.

This will be a huge event. CataRomance are inviting authors and readers from around the globe (and every group and community on the web) to join them in a day of celebration, fun, and reminiscing the great books they've read this year. And they're giving away goodie bags full of bookmarks, pens and other goodies. So why not come along and join in?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Happy Birthday Anne McAllister

Today is my dear friend Anne McAllister's birthday. She's been fighting with her hero and heroine (Spence and Sadie) for the last few days (weeks) so I hope that as a birthday gift they give her an easy ride from now on and let her have the final chapters without any more struggles.

But why not drop by her blog or her web site and wish her a happy birthday

Happy Birthday Anne! Looking forward to seeing you in September

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Editors and Editing

This week I got a small insight into the way it must feel to be an editor. I read for the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme and this week I’ve been concentrating on the scripts that have been sent to me and so have been waiting while I finished the book formerly known as The Second Sicilian and now acquired as The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge. So I’ve had my ‘critiquer’s hat’ on – which is rather similar to an editor’s hat.

I don’t often see my job from an editor’s point of view. For a writer, an editor is a necessity. I’m always worried when an author - and author says something on the lines of ‘Oh I don’t need to be edited any more.’ We all need that objective eye that looks at our work from the perspective of distance. That sees whether we’ve made our characters believable, likeably, sympathetic and above all, consistent. An eye that notes all the knots and tangles in a conflict and makes sure that we’ve worked them all out in a way the comes from the characters, that can see a sagging middle and suggest ways to deal with it. That can – in editorspeak – ‘Tweak’ the book from the slightly rough diamond we may have created into the brilliant, dazzling solitaire that we were aiming for. We can all get too close to a book, to see in it what we thought we were saying, what we meant to say and not actually recognise quite what we did say. And an editor is there to see what the words we’ve put on paper actually say – or don’t say if we haven’t made it clear.

A good editor is a bonus to an author. Editors are trained to be objective but they are human – they don’t always ‘get’ an author’s individual voice and so sometimes the editor/author ‘fit’ isn’t the best it can be. Some years ago, when I was at the start of my writing career, a very much established author and wonderful writer called Elizabeth Oldfield gave me some great advice.

When she got an letter from her editor, with a request for revisions, she said, she always did 50% without questions – to show that she was professional and cooperative. She discussed, debated, did the other 50% in a different way to prove that she was independent, individual and the creative one!

It’s advice that stood me in good stead over the years as I’ve worked my way through – let me see - Mary, Karen, Mary again, Luigi, Cath, Linda, Marysia, Ceri, Suzanne, Kate, Tessa , Kim and Maddie -
Phew! I’ve been through that adjustment phase with a new editor more times than I care to remember and sometimes it’s worked wonderfully well and other times – no, best not to go there . . .

An editor who is a not quite ‘comfortable’ fit can try to angle your work in a direction that is currently fashionable but not really ‘you’. One who prefers a particular style of writing, of characters, of books, can, perhaps without meaning too, emphasise things in your work that appeal to her/him and throw the balance of what you actually write of centre. A lot of new writers tend to feel – I know I did – that an editor’s comments are carved in stone and must be followed to the letter. The truth is that it is your book and as long as you address the problem the editor as spotted you can deal with it in your own way - if necessary a different one from the one she suggested. You learn to work with your editor – not work for her,

An editor who not only ‘gets’ but sympathises with and loves your voice is a very special gift – someone who does all that and has read all your backlist – and quite possibly knows it just a little but better than you is truly spectacular and just a little scary. I have an editor like that at the moment. Someone I feel looks at my work in almost the same way that I do – but with added cool objectivity so that when she comments she does so from a position of both being totally caught up in the world I have created and from the intelligent critic who wants this book to be the best it can possibly be. That sort of editor brings out the best in a writer because they never, ever want to disappoint or even turn in something ever so slightly 'not quite right.'

And that position is the one I try to work from when I’m reading NWS scripts. I know which types of romance I prefer to read. The ones I prefer to write. The types of heroines I find appealing, the types of heroes who are heroic to me – and the ones who very definitely are not. But I need to try and put that aside and work with the manuscript I’ve been sent – the voice of the writer who has created it – and the world she has created. I need to see if that works. If the characters are believable, if the motivations for their actions convince me. I need to look at paces, emotional punch, dialogue . . .

It’s a challenge and it takes time and concentration. I need to keep that objectivity in place and at the same time - perhaps more so than any editor, I have to remember the person who has worked hard to create this script and send it to the scheme. I remember how it felt to be a newbie, a wannabe, starting out. I’ve kept my first ever submission to HMB to remind me of how bad I once was and show me how far I’ve come. I know that if I’d sent that in to the NWS then a critique of it would have had to slash and burn to be truly honest - and to be of any help. So I try to offer the best advice but I try to do it a way that will make the writer feel I’m offering help not setting out to destroy them. They may never ever achieve publication but they have worked hard, they have done what so many people tell me they are going to do – but never actually sit down to do it – they have written a complete book. Good or bad, with potential, or totally lacking any hope, they have completed 55,000 words of a story with a beginning a middle and an end – and that takes determination and commitment. I want to give them advice that if they absorb it, then use that determination and commitment, they might move on to the next stage in their writing.

They might also be able to use it to polish that rough diamond manuscript to the stage where an editor will want to buy it. I’m really thrilled when I hear that someone whose manuscript I’ve critiqued has gone on to have their first – and more - books accepted and put on sale. It’s happened four times now - four brand new novelists whose careers I was able to help along the way just a little. And I’m hoping for more. Really hoping – there’s one script this time where my fingers are tightly crossed . . .

But I only do this every once in a while. At this time of year usually, when the NWS scripts come in. Editors do it all day every day – and my short stint of reading these mss gives me such an insight into their job that I come away with a new admiration for the good ones - and an appreciation of the contribution they make to polishing up the books I’ve written.

Doing my own bit of editing this way also sharpens up my own writer’s skills. Reading scripts that don’t work, having to explain why, suggesting approaches that might help, makes me look at my own work in a different, a sharper sort of light. It makes me realise how I approach things and how I work to avoid the pitfalls the New Writers fall into. Writing and editing are two very different skills, but in good hands they combine to the best possible effect.

So although I’ve 50 titles behind me, a writing career of 20+ years, and although I may sigh and moan when a revisions letter comes through, I’m deeply grateful for the fact that I do have an editor, someone to look at my work from that objective distance that I know has to go into the critiquing I’ve just been doing.

If you want to know more about the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme – you can find the details here. The scheme only has 200 places and is closed for this year. But you can apply to join in January 2007.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Happy Hedgehog Update

Remember this - Hedgehogs Part II ?

When we installed Hedgehog Towers at the bottom of the garden, I hoped the hedgehogs would use it but I didn’t know quite how we would persuade them. We put the house in a nice quiet spot, put some wood shavings I, placed some cat crunchies where they might tempt a hedgehog or two, and waited . . . For a while nothing seemed to happen but then but the other morning I went out to the garden earlyish - pre 7am when all was quiet, I wandered to the end of the garden where Hedgehog Towers is. All around the hedgehog house was dark brown earth and wood bark - then I suddenly realised that one of the dark brown patches was in fact a hedgehog and as I came nearer it was startled and ran - straight up the hog house tunnel and into Hedgehog Towers. So we could assume that the Hogs were in residence.

Then on Wednesday evening when the Offspring and his Lovely Girlfriend were here, they asked if they might get a chance at seeing the Hogs. I said we could try to sneak a peep and see if anyone was 'at home’. We crept to the Hog House and carefully eased the lid off, not wanting to frighten sleeping hogs. Now the last time I lifted the lid on the hog house, there was a bundle of wood shavings - about an inch deep - on the floor - hoping to encourage hedgehogs in to keep snug and snooze. There was about 15 inches or so between these and the removable roof. But this time when I opened the lid the whole house was packed with leaves, some hay we'd left out, old hedge clippings . . . all dragged down the tunnel and woven and swirled into the snuggest, neatest, cosiest hedgehog nest you ever saw. The whole box is full to bursting with it - except I presume for the hog space at the entrance and room for Mr and Mrs Hodge to snuggle up together in the middle of the nest. They must be so warm and snug in there and it will be wonderful to think of them safe from predators and cosy as can be when the winter comes and they hibernate in there.

They are also tamed a bit now and come for food when we shake the cat crunchie container. We put out crunchies and some left over cat meat (Sid has learned to share just a little) and then we wait. Usually they arrive within about 10 minutes., first one and then the other. We leave the French doors open so we hear crunching and snuffling and when we take a look they are happily settled, tucking into their suppers and completely unfazed by the sound and light from the room.

I’m training them intensively right now because in September my dear friend Anne McAllister is coming to visit. Every other time she has come to stay we have told her about the hedgehogs and she has hoped to see them. Last time she and her husband managed to snatch a single glimpse of one hedgehog as he dashed across the lawn in the distance. But this time, with Mr and Mrs H having taken up residence in Hedgehog Towers, and with a few piles of cat crunchies as an added enticement, I’m hoping she’ll see more.

We're working on it, Anne – and even if the hedgehogs don’t deliver, there’s always the furry hog – Sir Sidney. He’ll make you very welcome.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Birthday thoughts

Today is the BM’s birthday – something which has made me both happy and reflective. The reasons for happiness are pretty obvious. I love preparing birthday presents, treats, surprises. As a result, yesterday we went out for the day with the Offspring and his girlfriend, had afternoon tea in Bettys (but in Harrogate this time, not York) and tonight we will have dinner out too. I have also managed to totally surprise him by presenting him with two books – signed, first editions by James Hanley – an author he much admires.

If any of you read my original blog on eHarlequin, they might remember stories of previous birthday surprises I have arranged for the BM - where the way I got away with ‘hiding’ these was simply not to do that but to put things in obvious places – book on bookshelves for example – so that they were in places he just would not suspect he’d spot this birthday/Christmas presents.

The same sort of thing applies here. Remember those bookshops we went out to explore in Malvern? Well, that’s where I found these birthday books. And when I presented them to the BM, the response was, as I had expected ‘Where did you find those?’ And the answer is - right under the BM’s nose, while he was browsing through some other books on another shelf, I found these, picked them up, carried them to the counter (with two books I wanted for myself either side), paid for them, put them in my bag, carried them back top the hotel, put them in the care, brought them home . . .and he never even noticed!

But the other reason I’m sort of reflective is the realisation that the BM is now 11 years older than his father ever was. He may not be desperately happy about being umpty ump years old – but I’m sure I’m happy about it. It’s one heck of a lot better than the alternative. And as I’ve been hearing some truly tragic stories this last week about people – young people – far too young, some just children - being taken from this world far far too early, I’m just grateful that he’s here and so am I and that we can celebrate this special day with him.

And so, if the number of Babes who who have wished the Magnet a happy birthday are anything to go by, are a lot of other people.

But at a time when the nightly news seems entirely made up of lists of numbers of people dead in one conflict or another, one appalling disaster after another, today reminds me just how important it is to let those we love know that we love them. No matter how young or old, everyone needs to know they are loved, and we all need to make sure that we tell the ones we care for while we still have them there to celebrate with. I know that’s what I’m going to do.

And that reminds me – seeing as I’m talking about special birthdays, yesterday was the birthday of a lovely (and she'll know why I'm saying that!) friend of mine, author Holly Jacobs. Funnily enough, when I was a child growing up, the girl who was my best friend for years until life, moving away from home and all the other things that come between you when you don’t really want them to, this friend’s birthday was August 8th too. I obviously have some special connection with Leos born around this time. So – Holly, and Josephine West (if by any remote chance you’re reading this) – Happy Belated Birthday to you for yesterday.

And Happy Happy Birthday to the BM today - and anyone else who is celebrating with him!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Giving out some prizes

What happens when you go away for a week? Does everything yo shoud be doing start breeding so that there is so much more of it when you get home again?

I'm pretty sure that the washing breeds in your suitcase. There always seesm to be so much more of it than the sthings you know you've actually worn.

So I've been trying and trying to catch up since I got back from Wales and haven't quite made it. I haven't answered comments for days for a start.

But I offered some prizes and now I need to fulfil my promise.

So - in One Other Thing, I offered prizes for information about what people want on a writer's web site - and the wnners are:

Linda H from Readingissomuchfun

and - well, here I have a problem - just a small one - a greedy cat - a set of names - and I can't actually tell you whose crunchie Sid ate first. So - instead of one other winner, I have two

Lis - and Mags - I think Sid snarfed both of your crusnchies in one gulp so you're both winners!
So Linda, Lis and Mags if you email me I'll organise your prize

Then the Sicilian Names Competition -
The answers were, The Sicilian's Wife and A Sicilian Husband
and the winners here are -

Ms Creativity who wins, appropriately enough a copy of A Sicilian Husband
Nancy Locke who wins The Christmas Baby's Gift
and Kim W who wins Bound By Blackmail

Congratulations to all of you.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Being Officially 50

I’ve just realised that I’ve posted about the 50th book in other places but never actually officially mentioned it here! Duh!

So - here’s the official announcement - my 50th title was accepted by my editor and I now have a title and a publication date. The book will be called The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge and will be out (in the UK at least) in June 2007. It will be the second book in the duet about the Sicilian brothers Guido and Vito Corsentino, the first of which is Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride – and that will be published in March 2007.

So I’m now officially 50 – in titles that is! It’s a great feeling. Some years ago, I wrote my goals for this year, next year, five years . . . I’ve lost the piece of paper on which I wrote them all down, but I know that one of them was ‘Kate Walker’s 50th’. And now it’s here! Of course I’ll have to wait a while before I hold the book with that very special flash on it, but I know the book is completed and bought – and I can start to plan the next ‘milestone’ - 75 books? 100?

And as it’s August 4th, then my latest USA release is actually officially out today – even on Amazon! I posted one lovely review of this book already, but I just received another one - so to mark the ‘official’ publication date of The Antonakos Marriage, I thought I’d post it here today.

THE ANTONAKOS MARRIAGE is a skilfully woven, fast paced and well-structured drama in a long line of winners. With unforgettable characters and a compelling plot, Theo and Skye's story stirs the heart and rocks the soul. A master storyteller, Kate Walker has the wonderful ability to set the page afire with unpredictability and pulse pounding seduction and she proves just how good she is at it with this new book. The emotional intensity is thick and the passion literally sizzles. THE ANTONAKOS MARRIAGE is sure to be a purely delightful read for the seasoned Harlequin Presents fan and a very smart, sexy novel to everyone. ~ Leena Hyat, Senior Editor, The Best Reviews

Thank you so much Lee.

Well, as it’s a celebration day – for me this time – I think I might go mad and give away a special Blog Prize – just to see if anyone’s awake and reading this. So here’s a question

I just had the second Sicilian Brothers title accepted – but some years ago 2002/2003 to be precise, I had two other ‘Sicilian books’ published – I have a signed copy of your choice of my backlist to give away to the first four people who email me to tell me the titles of those books. Because I know all about the different time zones for some people reading this – I shall make special allowance for that.

Please put Sicilian Titles in the subject of your email so that I know which are the entries.
Good luck!

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