Saturday, March 31, 2007

Publication Date - and Covers

As an aside from the Letter to A Wannabe, which I will continue with Part Three later -

According to Waldenbooks, my latest Presents novel - Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride - has been on the shelves - somewhere - for a week. According to Amazon it's out on April 1st.

But apart from the fact that I find it hard to believe the book is actually released on a Sunday, if I was to announce its publication tomorrow, you might think it was just an April Fool. I have no intention of doing any April Fool tricks but all the same I thought I'd better just annouce that Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride is officially published in April and will be on sale . . . er - from now?

But as I have said already - and perhaps this is where the April Fool does come in. When you see the book out there in the shops, please ignore the picture of the hero on the front - this is not Guido. The fact is that the real Guido looks like this.

Or this

Well that has at least made Mags happy for the day!

However - on I(Heart)Presents there are some covers that someone seems to think look like Harlequin covers - to me they're more like the old-fashioned 'bodice ripper' covers.

But then again, maybe I should do a hero with an eye patch????

I'll be looking at covers again later - but what do you think?

Have the men/male models on the covers become less manly - or do you like the way the artwork is being handled. I mean - there's Guido (poor Guido) on the April book.

And then there's his brother Vito - about whom I have no complaints - coming in June/July.
Looks pretty manly to me.

An Open Letter to a 'Wannabe' Part Two

More of L's questions

How many hours does it really take to write a book?

How long is a piece of string?
I have written books in a month or less. I have struggled with books that take months and months and months . . . I am contracted to write a minimum of 3 books a year so I tend to take about 3 months or so on each – but that’s me. Some people write faster some write much slower. Some books ‘write themselves’ other books are blood sweat and tears all the way – pulling teeth would be easier. But how many HOURS? - hours and hours and hours – until it’s done and then some more on polishing and editing it before you send it to and editor, then more on revisions when the ed asks for them.

Just try writing 1000 words - 4 pages of 250 words. You need to write 50 times that to get the word length - and that's without any time for making the characters work, the dialogue sparkle, the plot make sense. . .

To give me an idea of length, how many pages on Word is an average Harlequin book?

A Harlequin romance is 50,000 words - in Word, if you set up a page with 25 lines, about ten words to a line – 250 words a page - that’s 200 pages. But counting the pages is the easy part. Some people find filling them with words easy too – it’s filling them with words that an editor wants to read, that excite the readers, make them care about the characters and so make it worth their while parting with good money to buy it – that’s the tricky bit.

How profitable are they?

The old piece of string answer again. And if this is your main concern, your main reason for wanting to write for Harlequin then you need to be realistic. Writing is not a fast track to making money - even if you were accepted straight away then a book would not be published for a year or more (setting up the printing etc takes that long) then the money only comes in on sales of each book - that can take six months to a year and it all depends on how many you sell and where you sell. The UK market is tiny compared to the American one. Each author gets only 6% of the cover price of each book that sells - not a huge amount!

You can earn money writing for Harlequin – but what amount of money?

Don’t ask me.

I know what I earn – and it’s very nice thank you. It's an imcome that means I don't have to have a day job and it's better than I would have earned if I'd stayed working as a Chartered Librarian (UK) - but that’s after 20 + years of writing, coming up to 50 books, building up a reader base, selling internationally. And Presents is openly acknowledged as the best selling line that Harlequin has. Other writers are more popular – they’ll earn more than me within this line - other authors are in other lines (Romance, Meds, Historicals) some are popular, some less so – some earn ok some don’t.

In the UK, the Society of Authors reckons the average fiction writer’s income at £5000 or less –( $10,000?) a year. But that’s the average. Some earn way more than that, some less some way less. Don’t listen to the stories of big advances, huge incomes, they’re the exception. The JK Rowlings of this world are rare. Very rare.

How difficult is it to be published?
How long is a piece of string?

Some people are accepted with the first thing they write – they are exceptionally lucky. Most people try try and try again. Some never ever make it. Some shouldn’t ever make it – they can’t write but they don’t see it. Some should make it because they are brilliant and original and amazing writers – but they never do. Famous books like Watership Down, Harry Potter 1 were rejected over and over again – others were straight in there with fanfares and trumpets - but how many of them stayed the course?

To have a career in writing, specially in category romances, you need stamina and staying power. You need to keep on writing, keep on being published, keep on pleasing the public, keep on keeping on . . .

Friday, March 30, 2007

An Open Letter To A 'Wannabe' Part One

OK , so many people know that I love helping new writers – I love answering question, watching them learn their craft, seeing lightbulbs go on in their heads and shining through their eyes when they get something and see why it has to be there or how to implement it in their own work. I run courses, give talks, critique manuscripts, I have written a couple of how to books. Some – like minds and would-be authors - love this . Others, for reasons I really just don’t get criticise me for training up the opposition – for telling innocents and stupids that writing is easy, that they’ll make good money – that yea, they’ll be published and it will all be wonderful.

I’m helping to flood the market with 2nd class, 3rd class books, I’m leading those innocents astray by not giving them the hard facts of the writing life. Oh yes, and I’m only doing this cynically because I have those how to books to sell.

Well let’s get one thing straight from the start – if I was expecting to make enough money to retire on with the 12 Point Guide then I’d really need to be certified. Yes, it’s sold well – for a ‘How To’ guide – but I won’t be troubling the tax man with the income. If it was all I had from my writing I’d be in real trouble! It wouldn’t even pay my gas and electricity bill.

This morning I got up to find an email in my inbox - from L a college student in America. L is graduating with a Psychology degree in a month or so. She had just picked up a copy of Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride at the store as a reward for studying for a ‘killer chem exam’. And she’d thought about writing – and she asked for advice.

I get lots of letters like this – and I don’t have time to answer them all in detail. Usually I have some basic notes that I send and a list of books to look at. But I thought I’d answer L’s questions here so that other ‘wannabe’ writers can have the answers too. And no – I’m not going to say that everything in the garden is beautiful and you’re on your way to fame and fortune, because you’re probably not.

The answer to L is going to be quite long - so I'm goingto spread it over several days or you'll be reading for hours.
So – L’s questions –

I've been reading romance, all sorts, since I was too young to be reading those kind of books. I feel like I could write one if I put my mind to it.

Well that’s a good start. A reader has a genuine love of and understanding for the genre. Readers know the differences between the lines, the type of stories each one deals with, the types of heroes and heroines, the range of conflicts. I always advise new writers to read read read – and then read some more. In your case, this bit’s been dealt with.

But – can you write one? Well let’s get one thing straight – I don’t know if you have any talent. I don’t know if you can write lively, easy to read narrative, create characters who live and breathe in the readers’ minds, add in vivid dialogue, a love people can believe in, create a conflict, maintain the pace, work it through and bring it all to a conclusion all in 50,000 words. I haven't seen a nything you've tried so I don’t know if you can write.

And if you don’t have talent then I can’t help. I can’t teach that. I can’t put in what isn’t there. I’ve had some very rough manuscripts to critique – some will never, ever make it. Some were rough through inexperience and lack of focus – they had a raw writing talent underneath. I could help them and as a result some of them have succeeded.

Because they could write.

What does it take?

Talent, dedication, hard work, commitment, the ability to learn, to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again when you get a rejection. The ability to work with editors, to do revisions, to stick at it when things are going wrong and the Crows of Doubt are circling, cawing for your blood. And the ability to accept criticism from an objective (editorial) reader. Oh and an understanding of people helps – and experience of life – and courage . . .

And talent

More tomorrow

Thursday, March 29, 2007

That delivery man again

So no sooner had I written yesterday's post than the delivery man was back at the door with more books. If he has to come to the house any more this week then the neighbours will be talking.

This time it was a huge box full of the 3rd editions of the Straightforward Guides - my Writing Romantic Fiction and the BM's Creative Writing, Freelance Writing and Writing Perfomance Poetry. As I said in a previous post, the 3rd edtion of Writing Romantic Fiction is expanded from the 1st ed but the same as the second. But the other books are expanded specially The Straightforward Guide to Creative Writing is which has an Active Writing section of exercises. It's always fascinating to see what a 'new look' will do to a cover - and these have come a long way from the way they first appeared in 1998.
I had to look that up - I didn't know it was quite that long ago that we originally wrote them. The novels I had out in that year were The Temptation Game, Wife for a Day and Fiancée by Mistake. And Wife For A Day was my 25th title.
Another delivery was a parcel of foreign editions - from Hungary, Germany and Korea where they had a very festive edition of The Christmas Baby's Gift.

Obviously red was the theme of the day for book covers.


As it's coming towards the end of March, just a reminder that my current contest to celebrate the publication of Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride is still running. Entries are accepted until April 15th and the prizes (2 of them) are:
An autographed book from Kate's backlist;
A Kate Walker book bag;

A beautifully crafted Shamrock bookmark as pictured here.

Details and the trivia question you need to answer can be found on the Contest page of my web site of over on My Tote Bag where lovely Lee Hyat is helping me with my contest entries. While you're there you can read the first interview with Abby Green whose very first book is now out in America and already on the Waldenbooks list.
And on I(Heart)Presents the discussion is about Sheikh romances - do you love them or dislike them? I've only written two sheikh stories myself. Desert Affair and At The Sheikh's Command. Well - three if you count the Writing Round Robin I worked on on EHarlequin and then I had some great unpublished authors to help me (Kate waves to any 'Hoods' who might be visiting.)The reason I wrote them was because the story called for a sheikh hero.
My own personal favourites are by my special friend the brilliant Michelle Reid who wrote the fabulous The Sheikh’s Chosen Bride and The Arabian Love-child. I was so intrigued by Rafiq who had a secondary role in the first that I was thrilled to see him get his own book in the second. And The Sheikh’s Chosen Bride is a brilliant example of the way that a great writer can show how two people can be totally in love with each other from the very first page and yet the conflict can tear them apart simply because each one of them is trying to be honourable.
What about you? Do you have any favourite Sheikh stories? If you want to join in the discussion you'll find it here

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

'im indoors

I’m never quite sure whether delivery men and women and the postie love us at this house or hate us. One thing’s for sure is that they see a lot of us and so for the self-employed delivery man we provide plenty of work on a regular basis. If you don’t count the number of books we order from Amazon and other on line bookshops (and I’d really prefer not to count them – I don’t want to know the truth!) there are still plenty of parcels of our own books – mine and the BM’s - arriving at the door in cardboard boxes. Yesterday was a bumper day, even by our standards. There were American edition copies of my April book (well, I say April, but I see from the Waldenbooks listing it’s actually out already) Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride. They came early in the morning.

Mid morning brought proofs and picture images for the BM’s upcoming Heroes Villains & Victims of Leeds. Not quite a book box but substantial all the same.

A lunchtime delivery was a huge box filled with author copies of The A-Z of Yorkshire Murders and Yorkshire’s Murderous Women. Two more to add to my ‘grim and gruesome’ collection he tells me. And those are just his January and February books – in the coming year, we can look forward to : Revised editions of Straightforward Guides to Creative Writing/Freelance Writing/Performance Poetry, Plain Clothes and Sleuths: A History of Detectives in Britain, Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Grimsby, Spies in the Empire, another (joint) guide to Creative Writing . . . Phew!

Not just a Babe Magnet, you see!

And not just an author of the ‘grim and gruesome’ books either. On my shelves there is special pride of place for the poetry collections, one of which I blogged about last year. This is the result of the BM’s years as Writer in Residence in Lincoln Prison where one of the important projects he was involved in was Storybook Dads where men in prison record a story for their child into a CD and the result is then sent to a little boy or girl and may be the only contact they have with a Dad ‘inside’.

So – as talking to several people yesterday reminded me about this – let me share . . .

Storybook Dads on B Wing

I fumble with the mini-disc player,
Reach high for the socket
(It’s used for haircuts)
The flexes are knotted, and behind us,
As we crouch in a corner,
Cells are opened, it’s like falling timber,
Officers bellow out exercise time.

Dad chooses a story to read and send home.
He’s nervous, choosing between Aladdin
And The Badger’s Bath. Wearing his grey tracksuit
He is not like a dad. At visits though, it’s his face

That matters. Now it’s his voice,
At first quiet, shaky, hesitant.
But now we’re into the badger’s story
I’m not there anymore; it’s him and his daughter.
Hello Rachel, it’s your dad here.
I love you and I want to read you this.
Love, dad.

He reads, then stops. ‘I can’t do this!’
But I urge him on and smile.
He almost chews the mike to hide the noise.

For five minutes, I’m not there at all
And he’s not doing time. Carefree,
he ends with a song.
‘I made that one up. She likes songs.’
I carry away eight minutes of happiness.
Never thought you could measure that.

© Stephen Wade 2006

Yep – not just a Babe Magnet.

And yes, Marilyn (thank you) - very special to me

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Travelling hopefully into the fog

The BM has just set out for work. As I do every day, I went to the door to wave him off and watched as he drove down the road. But I couldn’t watch him for as long as I usually do. Today, he disappeared far more quickly than most mornings and I couldn’t watch him till the end of the road because he got swallowed up in the fog that has come down overnight and is still lingering this morning – waiting for the sun to burn it up and drive it away. The fog is there because it was a beautiful mild day yesterday but overnight a chill descended, bringing a touch of frost and the resulting drop in temperatures has brought the mist.

So the Babe Magnet is setting out to work and he can’t see the road he needs to take very clearly. In fact he can only see short stretches of it ahead of him at any one time. But he has a good car and he knows the route, and so he’s setting out confidently into the fog. And I know that once he gets further away from the low lying land this town is built on that he’ll probably get into much clearer driving conditions – or that later in the day the sun will burn that fog away.

Which is really rather like writing a book. And it’s very like the stage that I’m at with the particular book I’m writing. Yesterday was a pretty good day. Slow to get started, but once I got going the words came down on to the screen with a nice steady pace. I knew where the scenes was going, what was happening – what the characters needed to say – what one of them in particular needed to learn – where I was heading. And I got there. So I went to bed with a nice feeling of satisfaction – and a small niggling worry.

I got my characters from A to D . Now I have to move on from F to – hopefully – J – but first I have to write E and E is the transition. One character has walked out (Raul of course- who did you expect?) and he never wants to see Alannah, the heroine, ever again. But of course he has to or there ill be no story. I know what happens when they get back together – I know just what suggestion she’s going to hit him with and how he’s going to react. But I don’t quite know how that’s going to happen – not yet. It’s in the really foggy bit at the end of my road.

Liz Fielding once described her way of writing as ‘setting off hopefully into the fog’ and that’s how I feel this morning. But, like the BM, I’m not setting off without knowing where I’m going – I know where I’m heading in a general sort of why – I just can’t see the specific turns in the road ahead – and I won’t know what’s ahead of me until I get there. And I have one strong thing on my side.

My characters.

My friend and scarily prolific writer Kate Hardy said to me about her books:
I see mine as a film script so I get the whole lot and I'm a planner so it
works best for me that way. The idea of doing it your way - as a pantster -
sends me into a flat spin!

So, yes, here I am being a ‘pantster’ ie writing by the seat of my pants – but the truth is that I’m not really. I know my characters so well. I know what they want and why they want it. I know what they think they can’t have and why they can’t have it. And, most importantly of all, I know a tiny little secret that they don’t know – not yet. But I know exactly how they will react when they find out about it. And the way they react will take me into the next stage of the story.
The thing I have to do is to get them back together again.

While I’m writing this, I’m also mulling over my options. If he comes back to her, it will mean one thing. If she goes to him, then things will start on a different footing- they’ll get to the same place in the end, but the mood will be different and so the way that the scene starts off will be different – and the way that affects their relationship, at this stage in the story, will be crucial.

So although I’m blogging, I’m really working. (Honest, I am, Michelle Whip-Cracking Reid – and equally whip cracking editor!) The transition stage is at the back of my mind weighing up pros and cons – this way or that. And I think I know what will happen – because there was one tiny thing that happened in the scene I wrote the day before yesterday that means it has to happen this way. I love it when that happens – when you write something that doesn’t seem to have any significance at the time, but now you realise is absolutely vital. You see, in these very short, concentrated books, you can’t waste time and words on something that isn’t going to matter. And remembering what I wrote suddenly brings the sun. The fog is thinning, the road is becoming clearer and like the BM, I find I know just where I’m going.

Now all I have to do is to write it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Larks and Owls 2

As I said in my earlier post on this topic - I don't mind at all getting up early to work. In fact, I love it (well, sometimes).

What I don't like is getting up early to grab an extra hour or so on the book while everyone else is asleep and then finding that because I'd forgotten all about the fact that the clocks went forward overnight - and I'm actually up an hour later than I thought.

So I've lost a precious hour to work on this book - and I don't care if I will get it back in October because I need it now. My dreadline is now - not then.

So I need to grab back that hour on the book before I can do anything else . . .

Saturday, March 24, 2007

"How To Write . . ." Books - answering some questions

According to Amazon, 25th March is the official publication date of the 3rd Edition of my first How To book - A Straightforward Guide to Writing Romantic Fiction. The new cover is much more attractive than the 2nd edition - and way better than the sickly pink first edition which had a clichéd pen and a rose on the cover too!

I've had several people wondering about this edition and whether they want to buy it so in the interests of accuracy, I thought I'd better clear things up.

Question 1. Is this edition of The Straightforward Guide different from the previous one?

Answer: On the Amazon page for this book, it says that this is the 3rd revised edition. This is not strictly true. If you have a copy of the 2nd revised edition, then the 3rd has not been revised from the second edition (except to do basic changes like returning the line Tender Romance to it's 'new' - and original title of Romance). So if you have the orange and black edition of this book, you do not need to buy the 3rd edition. Unless of course you want one that no longer tells you about the 'invisible heroes' who are listed under the topics on the back cover. These have now become the 'irresistible heroes' I actually wrote about and not the invisible ones the publisher made a mistake about in printing.

However - if you have a sickly pink first edition of the Straightforward Guide - then the third edition is very definitely revised and expanded from then.

The second question I'm getting is - Is the Straightforward Guide the same as the 12 Point Guide - do they reproduce the same material?

The answer is that they are not the same. The Straighforward Guide was the first guide I ever wrote - it was created for a publisher who had a series of short informative guides to all sorts of topics - Book-keeping, Consumer Rights, Speech Writing etc are all covered in the series. The BM was commissioned to write Guides to Creative Writing, Freelance Writing - and he later added Performance Poetry and he suggested I might like to add a guide to writing Romance. The first edition was very very basic - they really were only 'guides' - but by the second edition I added more material including a Q&A I had done on the eHarlequin site (The 5 W's - Who, Where, When, What and Why - of writing romance. A very basic and skeletal description of the 12 Point Plan for writing Romance, and an article on targetting your work) . This is the information that is in the 3rd edition now.

Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is a much expanded and very much more detailed book that has developed from that original 12 Point Guide chapter. It is not just a 'how to' guide but includes questions and working suggestion - things to think about and things to write to develop the skills discussed in the main chapters. It is partly a workbook as well as an information book.

The 12 Point Guide is also the book that has won the Cata Romance Reviewers' Choice Best Book for Writers 2004

Final question - is the 12 Point Guide available in the USA/Canada and Australia and if so where.

Answer - Officially the 12 Point Guide is available in America- it can be ordered through bookshops. Though from the number of letters I've had about it, it seems that most bookshops are saying they can't order it! Hmmmph.
So - a quick run down of information on where this book can be bought:
From Dymocks (inc on line) and other bookshops and to order from Footprint Books

It can also be ordered from bookshops via Trans-Atlantic publications

UK- both books can be ordered from good bookshops and are available at

So I think that's the questions answered and the details on these books are up to date.

Oh - one final point.
The first edition of the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is rapidly running out and the publishers are looking into a second edition. It will be a very slightly different format - basically a smaller sized book - but the same material inside. They hope to get this edition into actual Barnes & Noble shops though B&N say there is no demand for UK authors. So if you'd like to help get this book more easily available for unpublished writers of romance (and not have to wait for Amazon shipping time - and pay their delivery costs ) why not ask for it in your local bookshop - tell them where they can order it from and create a demand?

PS I'm running some courses on the 12 Point Guide this year - one in Fishguard, Wales (details on my web site) and one in Leicester with the Arts Council Write Away courses - details to follow late. If you'd like any more information on either of these, then

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Larks and Owls

It's said that we're all naturally owls or larks - at our best late in the day or in the early hours of the morning. I always used to be a late night sort of person - long hours out with friends or sitting talking, reading ,writing -marked my school days, my time at university. Starting work as a librarian curbed that a bit, but not as much as having my son. I was just starting out on a serious, concetrated attempt at being published and he was a baby who never slept. It was a lethal combination. I can remember working until 3 in the morning, crawling into bed and being woken at 5.30 - not good!

My mother always said that once you had children you could never sleep past 6am anyway - but then she had five of us so I think she must have been very much conditioned by the time she could choose her own waking time. But it's true - I do wake at six or earlier and can rarely if ever get back to sleep. Perhaps I've transmuted from an owl to a lark .Or perhaps that's because my fictional children - my hero and heroine - need me to wake to deal with them and get to work on making their lives happy ones. Whatever, I've learned to love working in the early hours of the day when no one is around and the world is still. I've been up for an hour now and the rest of the street is just catching up - lights going on and cars starting to move along the road .

I wrote my 1000 words yesterday - in fact I doubled it and added another 200 for good measure. Michelle (Reid) was close behind with her 2000- and we've roped in Anne McAllister to join us. We're still waiting for Anne's report - I just hope Flynn was cooperating. The same target is set for today - with both Michelle and my editor cracking the whip, I daren't slacken the pace. So it looks like I'll be 'up with the lark' for a few days to come. At least the mornings are lighter as spring approaches.

And talking of Spring - this is specially for Anne and for India and her daughter - the Hecks are back! Last night we spotted a hedgehog making his(her?) way across the lawn late at night. This isn't really the best news for a hedgehog as the mild weather earlier has made them think that spring is already here and they've woken from hibernation - but the freezing temperatures of the last few days proves that winter still has some bite left.

So we need to make sure that our little Heck family have plenty food to keep their strength up and so - hopefully - go back to their warm snug hedgehog house to sleep again until the weather is more kind to them. So I shall have to put extra meat and cat crunchies close to the tunnel into Hedgehog Towers so they can get the nourihsment they need without having to venture too far into the freezing night.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

If a picture paints . . .

If a picture paints a thousand words, then this will be a 1000 word blog. I can't do the actual words here as I've promised whip-cracking Michelle Reid that I will get to the magic 1000 today before she does. So to amuse you while I'm busy, I give you the picture.

As you all know, Sid is A Cat Of Superior Breeding - so this picture must be of some other cat - that Fraudulent Feline who occasionally poses as ACOSB

Warning - India Grey's Ruby - look away now - this image of the Object of Your Affections may affect cats (and people ) of a nervous disposition.

Right - back to the word count

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Time challenged

It’s snowing. Outside my window as I write this there is a layer of white covering the garden and the street. My crocuses and snowdrops are covered in it, the polyanthus flowers (polyanthuses? Polyanthi??) and just showing their bright and brave colours in spite of it. This is why I love these little flowers so much. The bitter wind is howling, the snow is whirling, the ice is forming – and they just glow brilliantly and take it. So much for March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb – it’s the middle of the month and the ice lion is very much in evidence.

Though in this there’s a bit of a comfort for me in that it also reminds me that the year isn’t slipping away quite as quickly as I’d thought. We’re still quite early in 2007. And that’s a relief. You see, in this particular sort of writing fiction, when you’re balancing dates and dreadlines and publication schedules - in the UK and the USA and maybe Australia as well then sometimes the actual date and month you’re living in can get away from you. I was thinking about this yesterday when I was looking at the big year planner we have on the wall in our kitchen. We were talking about another trip to Ireland – just a mini one as the BM has people to meet, things to discuss. But – the question was when. Hmmm. We’re deep in plans for June, I’ve just been asked to run another weekend course teaching Writing Romance in Leicester. Can I do July? Er – no - RNA Conference, Caerleon Writers' Holidays . . .August/Sept? Yes – but only early Sept . . .and somewhere in here I have to fit in more dreadlines, more books.Along with dates and places we have to be there are also book publication dates on the calendar – and when you consider that the BM has 3 new books coming out in the next 6 months – and 3 reprints – and I have 3 new novels, reprints of one how to write book (The Straightforward Guide) , possibly another (12 Point Guide) and a book on writing we’ve worked on together, then the calendar gets a bit busier – add in projected books coming in America, those dreadlines and . . .the brain cell overloads.

When I first started writing romances, the books, once bought, could take 18 months or more to appear on the shelves in the UK – some, I remember took 2 years. I’d almost forgotten about them by the time they appeared as printed editions. Now, I feel almost like someone working on a magazine, planning articles for 6 months ahead – ignoring the seasons outside and writing about summer clothes in winter, the new winter coats in the heat of summer.

It makes me feel very promiscuous – moving from hero to hero in the space of a few short weeks. This year is only 3 months – not quite 3 months old and already I’ve had to think about – and hand my blog over to - Domenico from The Italian’s Forced Bride when it came out in America. This month, it’s Guido in Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride in the UK – next month will be Guido’s too when his book appears in America. And the it’s Vito’s turn – and Vito will get a lot of attention with The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge being such a special book for me. And I’ve only just (or so it feels) left behind Andreas when I handed in his page proofs – his book will be here in November. And of course right now I’m heavily involved with Raul . . . His book is planned for - eek - sometime like March 08!

But at least at the same time as the books seem to come thick and fast and the timetables speed up even more there are other ways in which the availability of the books is no longer quite the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ one month on the shelves and then gone. On line bookshops like Amazon and B&N and the eHarlequin site itself now have the titles available for months. Last year’s At The Sheikh’s Command is still available and the USA edition of Domenico’s story seems to be selling well on Amazon UK –so readers are getting a chance to pick up books they might have missed first time around.

But sometimes it all gets a bit frantic and I have to draw breath and think – which book, which hero, which country . . . And that’s when I’m glad of a reminder that it’s still only March - not yet 3 months since I delivered the last book, and yes, I am on track – just.

So today it’s Raul – and I’ve promised him a love scene – so I think he’ll be glad to concentrate on that. And so will I - I don’t think I’ve anything else I should be thinking about!

From Susan Stephens

No - it's still me - I don't have my friend Susan as my guest- blogger but I'm passing on a message for her.

As I know that a lot of the same people who read my blog also read Susan's writing diary, she's asked me to let you know that her holiday has had a shadow cast over it by the sudden illness of her beloved Fin. Sadly sweet Fin had to be put down and naturally Susan feels her loss very badly. They'd been together for years. I'm just glad I was lucky enough to meet Fin in person when I was there last week and she was a very sweet dog.

So if you are someone who normally reads both blogs this is just to let you know that Sue won't be managing to blog now until she gets home - so there won't be any posts from her until Sunday at the earliest. After that she'll be back to talk to you herself.

I'm sure that like me you'll all want to send Sue a cyber hug of sympathy and support

Monday, March 19, 2007

The best part of Mother's Day

Yesterday was the UK Mothering Sunday, now most often called Mother’s Day. But in contrast to Mother's Day, Mothering Sunday is not a celebration of motherhood, but a synonym of Laetare Sunday. During the sixteenth century, people returned to their "mother church" for a service to be held on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This was either a large local church, or more often the nearest Cathedral. Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone 'a-mothering' although whether this preceded the term Mothering Sunday is unclear. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, if prevented by conflicting working hours.

In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and other family members. In today's more secular times, it is generally celebrated as the British equivalent of America's Mother's Day.

And as a Mother I had a very special Mothering Sunday. Not just because of the lovely gifts the Offspring gave me – the CD now playing in the background as I write this and the book that I wish I had time to read. And the card with the silly ‘Perfect Parent’ badge that I was delighted to wear. But the best part of Mothering Sunday for me was the manila A4 envelope my son left with me – or, rather the contents of it.

I’ve always known my son could write. I suppose it was inevitable that he would follow both parents into word-obsession. Heredity will out. But most of the time his interest has been in script writing or thrillers. This short story was not like those. It was very short – only four typed pages long. But I read the first line and was hooked. At the start I thought it was humorous – then I read on and found it was growing darker. There were shadows creeping over the characters, slowly, subtly, the changes sketched in in tiny, beautifully drawn strokes. Soon I had a terrible sense of inevitability – of horror, but even that didn’t prepare me for the ending. Reading that I actually gasped out loud – and I was blinking back tears - tears for the characters, tears of delight and tears of pride.

I can’t post the story here – though I wish I could. It’s fabulous and in my opinion quite brilliant. Yes, I know this is my son I’m talking about and my pride was for that – but my admiration, critical acclaim, my sheer damn delight in reading – that was from one writer to another and it doesn’t matter who it was who wrote that story. I was stunned by how good it was and just so glad I read it.

So although I love the CD - and I wear the badge with pride. And I wish to blazes I was further on with the story I’m writing so I can read the book – the real, lasting, perfect and most wonderful gift my son gave me yesterday was some of the most amazing words I’ve read in a long long time. And a huge sense of joy.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St Patrick's Day

An Old Irish Blessing

May love and laughter light your days,

and warm your heart and home.

May good and faithful friends be yours,

wherever you may roam.

May peace and plenty bless your world

with joy that long endures.

May all life's passing seasons

bring the best to you and yours!


With love to two wonderful Irish writers and friends -




And just for Anne McAllister (and India Grey's Ruby - Here the O'Cat himself

PS And the answer to yesterday's Red Nose Book Question was that the book title was JESTER'S GIRL
Congratulations to Rachel from UK and Donna from The Netherlands who both got it right and win a prize each.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Red Nose Day

Today is Red Nose Day. At least it is in the UK where lots of people do some very silly things to earn cash for the charity known as Comic Relief.

I've tried very hard to think of something silly I could do but my brain cell is deeply involved in the story developing between Raul and Alannah.

I asked Sid if he would do something silly but he said he leaves that sort of thing to the Phraud - the cat who pretends to be him but isn't. A Cat of Superior Breeding doesn't do silly. Not even for Charity.

I started to worry - I wanted to do something for Comic Relief - but I couldn't think of anything.After all, I could wear one of the big Red Noses that are on sale - but I'd be sitting at my desk here all day long and no one would see me. I could tell a joke - but no one (except Sid) would hear me - and actually Sid doesn't have much of a sense of humour. Cats don't.

But then I found a way that I could wear a Red Nose and be seen by everyone who visits this blog- I could Nose-ify myself and look just as silly as I wanted.

So I did

And the BM said he'd take part too - so now you can see what all the fuss is about and why some Babes are threatening each other with Handbags at Dawn over the sheer magnetism of the man.

And in the end Sid decided to join in -
ACOSB has a sense of humour after all.

Okay, so now I’ve made myself look silly I have to think of some way to join in and raise funds for Comic Relief. So as it’s meant to be funny, I thought we’d tell some jokes – if you post a joke the Comments then for each joke (just one joke per person please!) I’ll donate £1 to Comic Relief.

And I’ll start with my favourite ever Writing Joke

A writer died and went up to the pearly gates. There, St Peter asked her whether
she wanted to go to Writers’ Heaven or to Writers’ Hell.

’You mean I get to choose? Well, let me see what each one is like and I’ll tell you where I want to be.’

So St Peter took her down to Writers’ Hell and there she saw all these
many writers chained to their desks, fingers worn to stumps on keyboards as they
wrote and wrote and wrote. And all the time there were devils cracking whips and
lashing them and shouting ‘Write more! Write faster! Faster!’

‘Oh dear,’ said the writer, ‘I don’t like the look of this - it’s much too much like the world I left on earth. Can I see Writers’ Heaven instead?’

So St Peter took her up to Writers Heaven and there she saw all these many writers chained to their desks, fingers worn to stumps on keyboards as they wrote and wrote and wrote. And all the time there were angels cracking whips and lashing them and shouting ‘Write more! Write faster! Faster!’

‘Oh no,’ said the writer,’ this is horrible. It’s really just like Writers’ Hell! How can you call this Heaven?’

‘Ah,’ said St Peter , ‘That’s because there is one great difference between here and Writers’ Hell. Up here we get published.’

So – still on the topic of Comics – to thank you for joining in and sharing the silliness with me, I’ll offer a prize. I’m putting up the cover of a book I wrote that has the closest connection with comedy of any of my novels. The hero was what, way back in 1989, was known as an alternative comedian. And the first person to email me with the name of the book will win their choice of a signed book and a Kate Walker bookbag.

I’m also including this book as it has quite the silliest cover of any – just look at that flat cap – that cravat, the matching handkerchief in the pocket of this natty tweed jacket! Yes, that is so much what a young, rising star of the satirical comedy circuit who has just signed a contract for his first TV series would wear while walking on the Yorkshire moors! And don’t you just love the way that he’s holding hands with a woman who must be old enough to be his mother – in a fetching quilted jacket and lavender ribbed turtle neck sweater. Perfect - for Comic Relief Day

Have fun! And if you’re in the UK don’t forget to make a donation –its fun for us but not for the people the organisers of Comic Relief are trying to help.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It takes two to . . .

Remember Abby Green? Well, I'm sure you do - my hostess at the best book launch party in Dublin, the lady who introduced me to two of my all time 'I would love to meet' authors and actors - Maeve Binchy and James Nesbitt - and of course she's a brand new Presents author.

Well Abby has been guest blogging over on Anne McAllister's blog and she's written a wonderful piece about dancing the tango and the way that this sensual, passionate and intense form of dancing is a perfect metaphor for the sensual, passionate and intense books she - and all the other Presents authors - write.

I once wrote a book in which the tango formed a part of a very important scene in one of my earlier books - The Hostage Bride - where the Argentinian hero took the heroine to his home near Buenos Aires and there in one scene he taught her to dance the tango. To write that scene I watched the tango scene from Scent of a Woman over and over again.

If I was writing it now, there are plenty of videos on youtube to choose from to help me try to find the words to describe the dance scene - and of course personal memories of watching Abby dance herself. Or I would have the wonderful tango scenes from Take the Lead or Moulin Rouge - or ask Abby herself to repeat the wonderful description she's written on Anne's blog.

But there's one of those 'you can't quite credit it' coincidences connected with this book, the tango, and Abby - one of those slightly spooky connections that make me almost think that some things are definitely meant. You see, it was reading that book and the tango scene that pushed Abby into learning the dance herself - a dance that I then saw her perform at her book launch in January.

Just the thought that in 2001, when The Hostage Bride first came out someone I didn't yet know but who was destined to become a special person in my life read it and made the decision to learn the dance that I was to watch her perform five years later sends a slightly shivery it was meant to be sensation running down my spine. It's one of those connections that my writing has brought into my life that would never have happened if I hadn't been published.

Oh - and if reading that amazing description of the tango makes you want to read more of Abby's work - don't forget that her very first Presents title is coming out in America next month - so look out for Chosen as The Frenchman's Bride in April.

No smoke . . .

Today is National No Smoking Day which means that it is now 17 years and one day since I had a cigarette. I think I've managed to kick the addiction now!

One of the best things I ever did. And I have the Offspring and my books to thank for it.

The Offspring because at the age of 11 he told everyone that 'My Mum isn't going to smoke tomorrow' and he made me promise I wouldn't - and I just couldn't have coped with the shame if he'd come home and I'd had to tell him I'd failed him.

And my books? Well, I had just moved into this house. I had an office all to myself instead of working in the spare bedroom. I had bookshelves on which all my books were lined up, together with the growing number of foreign editions and translations I was beginning to acquire - and after four years of being published that number was starting to build up.

And then I went to visit a friend - also a writer - and someone who smoked heavily - far more heavily than me. He showed me his office and I was appalled by the way that the smoke had damaged his books - the covers were darkened and stained, the pages browned. I vowed then and there that I wasn;t going to damage my books in the same way. I'd spent so long getting my writing to this point - I wasn't going to ruin these wonderful books I'd worked so hard on.

So I stopped. Cold turkey - no patches no gum, no aids. Okay, I did chew gum - but not nicotine gum; just ordinary chewing gum - Liquorice and menthol, if I remember rightly. The hardest thing was starting work - I was so used to sitting down, lighting up and starting to write - but the gum helped with that. As did chewing a pencil!! Sometimes it was worse than others - but I got there.

And my son was proud of me

And my books have stayed clean and bright, their pages unstained with brown tar

And I don't get coughs or lay down the risks of other nasties in the future.

A good result all round.

I have a friend who also gave up - and every day on No Smoking day he has one cigarette just to how that he can do that and not get readdicted. I don't think I'll bother. I'm just glad that the thought doesn't even appeal any more.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Love Actually . . .

So, getting involved with my current hero is hard work - there are lovely authors offering me parties. (Hi Sue!) . Writing friends and ex-virgins to say goodbye to (And Amanda - I wasn't being polite about your NWS script - I like to think I can spot potential - and you always had it!) New Presents authors to meet (Hi India - and Ruby!) - but I need to get back to work.

So to get myself into the right mind set I did a little research - thanks to my son who last year gave me a copy of Love Actually. L A has plenty of research potential - and no I don't mean Hugh Grant !
There's Liam Neeson who was once the model for Evan in a long ago book called Flirting With Danger. I once saw him on stage too in London and whatever charisma is, that man has it.

But also in LA is the role model for my current hero - Raul aka Rodrigo Santoro - aka Karl in Love Actually. So I did some heavy duty research - hard work but someone has to do it and that helped.

And while I was doing the research, I found a brilliant quote by Richard Curtis, director and screen writer of Love Actually - and it's one I'm going to remember to use the next time someone asks me why I writer those ' trashy novels' when, as someone with an MA, I should really be writing 'proper books' - one that might win me critical acclaim (maybe!)

In response to critics, Curtis said at the premiere,

"I'd rather make a film that most of the audience liked and some critics didn't, than a film that critics loved and nobody wanted to

Substitute books and read for films and watch and yes, that'll do for me.

Why do I write Romance? . . . It's all about Love, actually!

Monday, March 12, 2007

So I promised you pictures . . .

Well that was a wonderful day. Susan Stephens is a fabulous hostess and the party in her beautiful home high up in the Pennines was a delight from start to finish. Wonderful company, wonderful food, wonderful view . . .. I'm sorry, I was too busy talking to everyone so I forgot to take a photo of the view so you'll just have to imagine the rolling hills, the steep valley, the trees, the green . . .

So, as I said, the party was both to celebrate lovely Amanda Ashby's first book - more of that later - and sadly say goodbye to Amanda her husband and two children because they are laving to live in New Zealand in just four weeks time. (By the way those children are very special - Arthr and Molly are just four and six and they managed to eat their special chocolate fondue - strawberries, marshmallows . .. and not get chocolate all over the room!). I don't have pictures of the children but I do have a lovely one of Amanda and Susan.

I knew the afternoon was off to a great start when we actually found the house without me killing the BM. There was a nasty moment when he was sure we were going in quite the wrong direction, but I persuaded him that Sue would know where her house was, better than most. And of course she did. Her brilliantly descriptive directions - including the 'narrow wiggly road' got us to the right place at the right time. So much at the right time that we arrived at exactly the same moment as brand new Presents author India Grey whose very first book The Italian's Defiant Mistress is out in M&B Modern in July this year.

India is truly lovely - and very beautiful. The BM lost his heart to her from the moment that they met. And if her book is as great as she is then it shoudl be a fabulous read. I know that India reads this blog (Hi India! ) and that she and her children love Sid and the Hedgehogs. (sorry that should read that her cat Ruby loves Sid!) Sorry there aren't any hedgehogs about right now - they're still hibernating - but I hope they'll be back with brand new hoglets later in the Spring.
<- L toR India Susan and Me

After a warm welcome by Susan, her lovely elderly dog Finn and her not so elderly lovely husband - we were able to meet up with the Amanda the guest of honour. As I said yesterday, I first met Amanda through the RNA Virgin's scheme I set up in 2003 for the first time attendees at the RNA Conference. (It's now called the First Timers Group or some such). That was a special year for Virgins and I've lost count of how many of them are published - I know that Natasha Oakley was in that group, Nell Dixon. Olivia Gates . . . (I'm afraid of missing someone - so if I have I hope I'll be forgiven) and now there's Amanda.
L to R India, Amanda and Susan ->
I can still remember the first moment I met Amanda when this striking, dark haired woman tried to get into the hall of residence in which we were staying - through the wrong, locked, door. I have vivid memories of her wide, brilliant smile and her fabulous New Zealand accent - and she's stayed a friend ever since. I also worked with her one a RNA New Writers' Scheme script - which I knew at the time wasn't going to fit into theHarlequin stable but it had a great chick lit humourous tone to it - so I was really thrilled when I learned that NAL had bought another of Amanda's books, the wonderfully titled You Had Me at Halo.

You Had Me At Halo is humorous women's fiction about a woman who dies with unresolved issues and comes back in the body of her geeky co-worker in order to sort them out. Coming August 2007. And for readers of this blog who remember my summer Bag of Books contest, I've managed to persuade Amanda to donate two copies of her book to the book bag booty so two of you will get a chance to read this book hot from the press. (I've also twisted India's arm and she's donating two copies of The Italian's Defiant Mistress too - I think I shall want to win the book bag this summer!)

Another writer at the party was Amanda Grange who writes Historical Romantic Fiction, including the acclaimed Mr Darcy's Diary . Amanda (perhaps I should call her Amanda2) shared with me the news that she is celebrating the fact that several of her books are about to be released in America - so if you love historical romance - and specially if you're a fan of Jane Austen - then look out for those.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur of food, champagne and talk - and as I said, once released from captivity, writers can really talk. We also - being typical writers and being very nosey - explored Susan's beaugtiful house and snooped into her study to see where all her fabulous books are written. Those of you who have visited Sue's web site will know that hse has a great cartoon drawing of herself and her youngest daughter as the heading on there. (A cartoon which, by the way, does not do justice to either of these ladies.) Sue has the original of this on the wall in her office, so my last photograph is of her with the original artework - so you can compare the two!

All too soon the afternoon was over and we all had to leave to drive to opposite sides of the country. I was so sad to asy goodbye to Amanda but we're determined that one day we'll meet up again - and her presence in New Zealand is one added reason for me to try and get back there and see everyone I got to know at the RWNZ conference a couple of years ago.

Amanda - Bon Voyage and good luck to you and your lovely family in your new life in New Zealand. I hope everything goes wonderfully for you. And I'm hoping for every success for You Had Me At Halo - I'm really looking forward to reading that.

India -it was great to meet you and I hope it won't be too long before we meet up again - and The Italian's Defiant Mistress is another book that's on my To Be Bought list. Can't wait!

And Susan - what can I say except thank you for a wonderful day. Your welcome was so typical of your warm and lovely personality. The BM and I had a fantastic time. Thank you!

PS I did mention yesterday that Susan has a book - The One Night Baby - out this month, along with my Sicilian Husband Blackmailed Bride - but she also has her very first book in the Modern Extra Line coming out in May - so look out for Dirty Weekend coming in May - it has a fantastic cover! And I was lucky enough to be given my own copy by Sue - now all I need to to get rid of this Spaniard and I can indulge in a bit of fun reading . . . .

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