Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Contrast and Compare

Coreen's story is done and dusted and sitting on my editor's desk and I don't even want to think about it for a week or two. Thankfully, I have something to distract myself...

My author copies of Three Weddings and A Baby arrived. Since they are being released in M&B's new UK line, Riva, these books have a very different feel to the North American version - which apart from cover, title and blurb is exactly the same book. I thought it'd be fun to contrast and compare:

Three Weddings And A Baby

When three is most definitely a crowd...

Do you believe in love at first sight? Jennie Hunter and Alex Dangerfield did, and they married just a few weeks after they met! But when Alex disappeared on their wedding night Jennie was left alone - and angry - in her honeymoon suite.

A month later and Jennie has given up hope of ever seeing her runaway husband again. Then Alex returns - with a toddler in tow! Shocked to learn Alex has been married before, her first instinct is to run. Her second instinct - well, even a hard-headed businesswoman can't turn away a tiny girl who needs a nappy change and husband with sheer panic in his eyes... Compared to upteen clients one small child will be a doddle...right?

Millionaire's Baby Bombshell

Mollie's miracle - a mommy!

Catching each other's eyes at a glamorous party, Jennie Hunter and charismatic millionaire Alex Dangerfield knew instantly that they were made for each other. One whirlwind romance and an idyllic spontaneous wedding later, Jennie thought all her dreams had come true! Until circumstances conspired against them...

Now Alex is back, with an adorable motherless little girl in tow. And behind his once-sparkling eyes, Jennie can see Alex's despair. Mollie needs a mommy - and Alex needs Jennie, his wife for better or worse, more than ever...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Now there's something you don't see every day...

There are some days I'm pleased I took the bus rather than the tube, and today is one of those.

Never mind the temperature is only just above freezing in London today, as I was sitting on the top deck of a no.38 this morning, I saw this:

Yes, that's right. A whole herd of semi-naked men jogging along New Oxford Street, wearing only trainers, swimming trunks and hats (and smiles!). Sorry about the blurry picture, but I took it on my phone and I was laughing like a drain at the time - as were the rest of my fellow passengers. It caused quite a to-do!

Anyway, when I got home I did a little research on who these brave British lads might have been. (Never thought I'd have cause to type the words "swimming trunks fun run london" into a search engine in my life, but life often surprises you, doesn't it?)

It turns out this was the annual Smugglers' Run - link to a news article about it here. These brave/eccentric/barking mad (delete as appropriate) souls are raising money for male charities at the same time as raising female temperatures across the captial. Good on yer, lads.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Stolen Snowman

Yesterday, in Chatham, Kent a woman phoned 999 to report the theft of her snowman. Yes, she really did. I'm not joking - click here for the full story.

Now, if you can get past the utter stupidity of asking the police to investigate something like this, when they are probably busy enough dealing with all the snow-related problems this week's unexpected weather has brought the UK, you might want to ask yourself the following:

What on earth did she expect them to do about it?

Seriously. I understand that she was upset about something she must have spent ages creating being nicked, but realistically, what did she want the police officers to do? Did she want the police to canvas the road to see where the missing snowman might be? There must be hundreds of them in front gardens all over Chatham today - if not thousands. How on earth would they know which one was hers? I can imagine it now...

Policeman 1: That's him!

Policeman 2: No. No, it isn't. He's only got three pebble buttons down his front and our missing person had four. And the carrot nose isn't long enough.

Policeman 1: Maybe, but one of the buttons might have come off, and our victim did say the one we were looking for was wearing a distinctive pink and white scarf. The pattern is exactly the same


Which leads my errant brain onto all sort of stupid ideas, such as snowmen identity parades...

Somebody stop me. I've got to get back to work and finish editing this book.

And I'm over at the Pink Heart Society today, blogging about one of my guilty pleasures and justifying my need to slouch on the sofa with a bar of chocolate and a glass of wine...

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Almost there

Have just written 'The End' in my notebook. (Cue triumphant playing of the Hallelujah Chorus). All I have to do now is type up the last 4000 or so words of the book.

I had a writing frenzy last night and this morning, and I have finally finished. The idea for this book has been in my head for over two years now, and I've loved writing it (hope my editor likes it as much), but I am so relieved to have it out of me. Now I just need to tweak and polish and make it as shiny as can be before I hand it in.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Cover Love - round 2

I have total, total cover love for my next UK release, Three Weddings And A Baby:

How fabulous is that? For those of you who have read Invitation To The Boss's Ball, this is Jennie's story. She was the hero's sister in that book, and she left the hero in the lurch by eloping to Las Vegas, and then returns weeks later without a ring on her finger or a husband on her arm. A plot idea like that was too good to pass up!

Here are the rest of the lovely Riva covers for February 2011:

Sunday, 21 November 2010

RNA winter party

I attended the RNA's winter party a couple of days ago. This being the RNA's 50th anniversary, the party was the last in a long string of events to celebrate that fact. Since we hadn't had anything that celebrated our wonderful New Writers' Scheme, this was a theme for the party.

Anyone who had been published through the scheme was given a brightly-coloured little Christmas bow to wear, and anyone who had won the New Writers' Award (as I had done in 2006) was given a great bit sparkly bow to wear. People commented on mine all evening an then I had to explain why I was wearing it, so it was great advertisement for the scheme.

I took my camera with me, but gave up after a few fuzzy attempts. Thankfully, the RNA had hired a wonderful photographer to do the honours for us, and all the pics in this post are her work (contact details at the end).

Don't we all look as if we're having a marvellous time?

Here are the NWS Award Winners who were present at the party:

Just a fraction of the people who have been offered a publishing contact after going through the scheme:

Photos courtesy of Marte Lundby Rekaa of MLR Photo: http://www.mlrphoto.co.uk

Friday, 19 November 2010

The First Hundred Words

Look! I found my missing blog post (it's a long story I won't bore you with), so here it is:

I attended a great workshop called ‘First Hundred Words Challenge’, given by the wonderful Julie Cohen at an RNA South East Chapter meeting. Most of us took along the first hundred words of our work in progress and Julie read them aloud and we discussed them (constructively and respectfully, of course).

We looked at whether those first hundred words conveyed the type and genre of book, who the main character was and even that short paragraph or so hinted at the coming conflict. And most of the time it did. It was amazing just how much you can pack into such a tiny word count.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about my first hundred words even before I (ver bravely) took my print out to the workshop. I’d dithered between writing my current book in the third person and the first person, and my beginning reflects that. And while I usually start my stories right in the middle of the action with one of my main characters, this time I haven’t.

I tried that approch with the very first version of scene one and it just didn’t work. It felt as if I’d arrived with a bump in an alien world, rather than getting a tantalising glimpse of a character I wanted to know more about. Too much all at once. So I tried something different: I imagined it a bit like a movie scene, where the camera starts off wide and then zooms in slowly on the heroine. (Yes, already I can hear some of you tutting and murmering ‘newbie mistake’, but even slightly more experienced writers can fall into the same old pot-holes – but that’s a whole ‘nother post…)

Here’s my first hundred words as they stand at the moment:

Deep in the heart of Greenwich, under the watchful eye of the Royal Observatory on top of the hill, is a neat row of cream Georgian buildings. The ground floor of each boasts a shop or a boutique of some sort that caters to the diverse local population.

Right on the corner, near the park, is the all-organic coffee shop where the Yummy Mummies hang out. If you go there mid-morning, the floor space is cluttered with high-tech pushchairs and the air is filled with lively debate on the merits of the local private nurseries.

It’s okay. It does what I’d intended it to do. The next couple of hundred words describe the other shops in the row until we finally focus in on my heroine. It gives a good sense of setting, a hint at my narrator’s personality, but the more I listened to other people’s beginnings, I realised the one I had wasn’t the one I wanted. I wanted a first line that grabbed. I want the first paragraph to be bursting with my heroine’s character because, for me, Coreen is this story.

Interestingly enough, as we discussed each other’s beginning paragraphs, sometimes we found that a perfect first line was hiding away further down the page. I mulled over this for a few days and then went hunting in my first chapter to see if I had a zingy first line. I found a few that might have potential:

A girl’s gotta keep herself in lipstick and stockings somehow.

In my opinion, a pinkie finger isn’t properly dressed unless it’s got a man comfortably wrapped around it—and I always make sure I’m impeccably dressed.

I discovered early in life that an ample chest and a well-timed pout can get a girl just about anything she wants.

Much better. There's a real sense of who my heroine is, and just how many men she likes to eat for breakfast, right from the get-go. Am I going to use one of these? Maybe. I’m going to go back and tinker with my beginning once I’ve finished my first draft. But whatever I end up with, I want to try and zap readers with a beginning, brimming with personality, that hooks them in and refuses to let them go.

No pressure, then. Sigh.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Me at the Pink Heart Society

Today I'm blogging over at the Pink Heart Society about my one secret obsession. Come on over and find out what it is...

Saturday, 13 November 2010


My husband has a nickname for me. Every time he sees me reading he says, "Alright, Edna?" Edna being short for Edna Book. (If you're scratching your head and saying 'huh?', let me elaborate: if you say this with a broad London accent it could be translated as 'head in a book'.)

Since I've started writing as well as reading, however, I find I am two different kinds of Edna. There's the Edna who can't hear/see anything because she's absorbed by the story she's reading, and there's the Edna who is living so much in the fantasy world of her own book that real-life details starts to get fuzzy and all jumbled up.

I know I've turned into Edna 2 recently because I've started doing stupid things. There are a couple of incidents that have already drifted into the memory fog, but I clearly remember jumping up from my desk one afternoon in the middle of a writing session, and reminding myself out loud that I must not forget to pick my youngest up from school. (Guilty as charged on previous occasions, your honour.)

Like a good little mummy, I put on my coat, picked up my keys and dashed round the corner to the local primary school.
It was only as I came to halt in the playground that I realised I no reason to be there. Yes, my daughter needed picking up - but not for another two hours, as she was attending an after-school club. See what I mean? Edna.

Now I've stumbled on another blip in the space-time-writing continuum. I wrote a blog post about book beginnings after attending a 'First 100 words challenge' workshop taken by
Julie Cohen. Thought of a sequel just now, so I went back to look at the origninal post. Is it up on my blog? Is it heck! I have no idea what happened to it! Swallowed by a black hole probably. And not the one in my head.

Sigh. I know it's not going to get any better before deadline day, so the rest of you might as well just call me Edna too.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Great Covers and Fab News

Firstly, before too many words fill the page, I have to show you this:

Isn't that gorgeous? It's the cover to Blind Dates And Other Disasters, an anothology coming out in January 2011, featuring my first ever book, Blind-Date Marriage, which was not only nominated for two RITAs, but won the RNA's New Writers' Award. Not only that, but it contains Ally's Blakes fabulous first book, The Wedding Wish (best first and last line ever!) and Barbara Hannay's The Blind-Date Surprise, with a seriously sexy professor hero.

And, in other good news, I have just discovered that Housekeeper's Happy-Ever-After has been nominated for Best Harlequin Romance in the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Awards!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Library workshop and New Voices competition!

This autumn Mills & Boon are launching a very exciting competition for aspiring writers! They’re looking for new talent, and have decided to launch an ‘X-Factor’ type competition to find it. The winner will have their entry published and will win an M&B editor for a whole year!

Stage one – contestants upload the first chapter of their M&B novel. Everyone will be able to read them and comment on them.

Stage two – the editors whittle the entrants down to 10 finalists.

Stage three – YOU vote for which ones go through to the next round!

Stage Four – The finalists will write a ‘pivotal moment’ from their novel, then YOU get to vote for the winner!

For full details, and terms and conditions, visit the website: www.romanceisnotdead.com

And a whole host of Mills & Boon authors and editors are going to be giving romance-writing Masterclasses to help you on your way – including me!

I will be at Bromley Central Library on Saturday, 4th September from 11.00 a.m.– 12.30 p.m. Contact phone number: 0208 461 7185

This is (hopefully) what I’ll be covering:

  • Writing for M&B – my story, and what YOU need to know!
  • Submitting to Mills & Boon.
  • Heroes
  • Heroines
  • The essential ingredient in a gripping romance.
  • How to strengthen the emotional core of your novel.
  • Question & Answer time (as long as I don’t ramble on too much!)

So, come along , say hi, and we’ll have a great time talking romance!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

A very sad day

Gillian Johnson
1941 - 2010

Love you, Mum xx

Friday, 25 June 2010

Bits and pieces

I've just heard that Invitation To The Boss's Ball has been awarded a certificate of merit in the Short Contemporary category of the HOLT medallion! I'm so thrilled!

A full list of all the winners and finalists is here.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

New stuff

Well, I popped into my blog to do a new post, and before I knew it I had accidentally applied a brand new template and ended up spending hours tweaking colours and creating a longer banner to fit. Argh. I really should have been writing instead. Having said that, I like the new look and that I can customise more in this template, so it wasn't time wasted, merely displaced.

The Bridesmaid's Secret (which, I have to say, might just be my favourite book so far) is now available online as an ebook and to order the paperback edition in both the UK and the North America. Click on the the 'browse this book' button in the sidebar if you want a sneaky peak at chapter one. (Since mine is the second book in the 2-in-1, the easiest way to read my first chapter is to go to the table of contents when the window pops up, and scroll down to the second chapter one).

But... there's actually a prologue at the start of this book, and if you want a read of that instead you can click here and visit my website for a squizz.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Holiday and surprises!

I've just come back from a much-needed holiday on the South Devon coast. Just look at these pics and you'll see why I'm so rested:

Anyway, I came home to the news that Invitation To The Boss's Ball is a finalist in the GDRWA's Booksellers' Best Award! And I found an honest-to-goodness glass award to put on my mantlepiece for my Golden Quill Award win. Made the tortoruously slow drive home on the motorway worth it!

Now I've just got to knuckle down and write the next book...

Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Bridesmaid's Secret - Inspiration

My hero and heroine in The Bridesmaid's Secret had a summer romance back when they were teenagers. I thought the 'flashback' scenes of Gwen Stefani's video for 'Cool' perfectly captured that wonderful sense of summer sun and first love:

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Golden Quill

Really excited to share that Blind-Date Baby won the Traditional Romance category of the Golden Quill awards. For a full list of finalists and winners, click here.

Writing Grace and Noah's story was a bit of a rollercoaster - I scrapped most of the book and had to rewrite it in a fortnight - so I consider it a bit of a miracle story. It was part of the BlindDateBrides.com mini-series. More info can be found

Friday, 21 May 2010

The Bridesmaid's Secret - Inspiration

This is the first time I've been asked to take part in an M&B contunuity - a series of books all about a family group. Because of the intricate nature of the family history and of the need to make sure everyone gets their facts straight, the editors for Romance come up with an over-arching storyline and a basic plot for each book. It's up to us authors to take the story, make it our own and breathe life into it.

I've realised since I've started writing seriously that two writers can take an identical idea and craft something very different an unique out of it, so I wasn't scared that being given a basic plot would stifle my creativity. I just had to find my way to tell Jackie and Romano's story - and, to be honest, it wasn't difficult. As I read the story outline my brain started buzzing with ideas to bring the rich conflict to life. Ooh, I knew I was going to have fun with this one!

First up, I had to get to know my characters... Jackie Patterson was never going to be an easy heroine. "Think Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada," the editors said. Ouch. Make your characters identifiable, all the writing books say. And with a M&B Romance, the heroine is supposed to be someone readers would want to be best friends with. I couldn't see anyone wanting to do anything but throttle Jackie. She's high-maintenance, demanding and hard as nails. But... Underneath all of that, there was a headstrong teenage girl who'd had her heart broken, who'd had to grow up fast and had punished herself mercilessly for her youthful mistakes. I knew Jackie's past held the secret to her likeability. The venomous editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine wasn't who she was really - it was just who she'd had to become to survive. And once I worked that out about her, I knew I could make her someone readers could warm to, even if she rarely let down her guard.

I didn't have a picture of Jackie to use as inspiration when I wrote the book, but if I had to find one, I'd say the the actress Jennifer Connelly is the right physical type. She has those refined features and that hint of determination in her eyes that I always imagined Jackie had. If you added honey highlights to Jennifer's long, dark hair, I reckon she'd be a dead ringer for Jackie.

As for my hero, Romano is a fashion designer, and a bit of a playboy. I can't say I always warm to playboy heroes - probably because I think the whole 'double standard' thing is unfair - but I can forgive a hero of this sort if he's got good motivation for being this way, and if he's willing to change once he discovered the error of his ways. Once I got into the story, I quite enjoyed writing a hero with a devilish streak, probably because I knew what was coming! I realised that once Jackie's secret was out, the news would change Romano's life for ever. It would be time to see whether he had it in him to step up to the plate and be the hero I hoped he could be.

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Brides of Bella Rosa

I was very excited when I was asked to contribute to a new continuity within the M&B Romance/Harlequin Romance line - The Brides of Bella Rosa.

Here's the skinny on the new series:
Romance, rivalry and a family reunited.

Lisa Firenze and Luca Casali: for years their sibling rivalry has disturbed the quiet, sleepy Italian town of Monta Correnti, and their two feuding restaurants have divided the market square.
Now, as the keys to the restaurants are handed down to Lisa and Luca's children, will history repeat itself?

Can the next generation undo its parents' mistakes, reunite the families and ultimately join the two restaurants?

Or are there more secrets to be revealed...?

My book is book four in the series, the story of Lisa's middle daughter, Jackie - named after Jackie Onasis, and doing her very best to be as stylish and poised. But underneath Jackie's flawless exterior is a damaged woman, who has too many secrets to hold. It's only a matter of time before they all start spilling out...

Over the next couple of week I'm going to be blogging about the background and inspiration for the story, but if you can't wait until then, you can take a peek at my website, where I've posted some pictures and an excerpt.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

More good news!

I got some more good news! Both Blind-Date Baby and Invitation To The Boss's Ball are finalists in the Golden Quill Awards' Tradtitional category.

I've been working hard for the last three weeks on revising Jennie and Alex's story, so this news was a much needed boost.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Best Harlequin Romance of 2009

I'm thrilled to be able to announce that Invitation To The Boss's Ball has won the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Harlequin Romance of 2009!

Great news to spur me on while I struggle with my re
vsions. I'm a visual thinker, and find it helpful if I can 'see' my story structure. Post-it notes are my best friends. But in an attempt to get my head round my current story, my desk is looking like a scene from Bruce Almighty. Well, sort of...

And it'll probably get worse before it gets better.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

RNA 50th Anniversary Awards Lunch

This year the Romantic Novelists' Association is celebrating its 50th birthday, and yesterday was the annual awards ceremony, held at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. To celebrate the RNA's birthday, the awards have had a bit of a revamp, and are now called the Pure Passion awards, and a couple of new categories have been added.

Our illustrius chairman, Katie Fforde, kicked off the proceedings, and then we had a really lovely lunch:

A melon and pineapple salsa starter
Guinea fowl with fondant potato and a confit cabbage
cake (which was much nicer than it sounds!)
Pure Chocolate Passion, the official RNA 50th An
niversary dessert.

And look at how gorgeous it was:

Once we were all settled with our coffees the presentation of the awards began. This year our guest speaker was the charming Barry Norman, who joked about how he was probably past being the "thinking-woman's crumpet" and how we'd probably have preffered Colin Firth to be standing up there on the stage iin a wet T-shirt - but since Colin was busy that lunchtime, we'd have to put up with him instead. I thought he was funny and gracious and I didn't mind a bit that there was no dripping-wet Colin presenting the awards.

People's Choice Award
This was an award to recognise new and developing authors in romantic fiction. Romance buyers selected a shortlist and then romance readers voted for their favourites at http://www.lovereading.com/. And the winner was - Missing You by Louise Douglas.

Next up was the RNA Love Story of the Year, which is for shorter romantic fiction (think Mills & Boon or Little Black Dress) where the focus is strongly on the developing love affair. The winner was Animal Instincts by Nell Dixon. This is Nell's second win for this award, as she took home the trophy in 2007, when it was called the Romance Prize.

There were two RNA Lifetime Achievment Awards given out this year - one to Maeve Binchy, who gave her acceptance speech via video, and one for Joanna Trollope. Here's Joanna giving her speech, after surprising RNA president, Diane Pearson, with a bear-crushing hug:

RNA Romantic Comedy of the Year
Books entered for the Romantic Novel of the Year that scored the highest for their comedy element were shorlisted for this award. And the prize went to The Nearly-Weds by Jane Costello.

The Harry Bowling Prize
This is the first year that the long-established Harry Bowling prize has come under the umbrella of the RNA's awards. The award is for new writers who have not previously published an adult work of fiction. Entries are judged on a first chapter and synopsis and must have an urban setting.

The judges were so impressed with the standard of the writing that they awarded a runner-up prize to John Barfield for his book Sunrise, but he hopped onto the platform and scooped up his award so quickly I only got a very blurred photo. Perhaps the idea of speaking in front of a couple of hundred female romantic novelists put the wind up him! I know Mr Harper found the whole experience nerve-wracking just when he came to cheer me on a couple of years ago. The winner was Fear No Evil by Debbie Johnson.

RNA Romantic Film of the Year
The RNA decided to celebrate the link between film and romantic fiction by asking readers at http://www.lovereading.com/ to vote for their favourite film adapted from a novel that was released in 2009. The winner was An Education, adapted by Nick Hornby, from Lynn Barber's memoir. Lynn, who accepted the award, said she didn't really think of her story as being romantic and that the RNA was generous in accepting it as such. She also said she wished she looked like Carey Mulligan. (But then again, don't we all!)

Last of all it was time to announce the Romantic Novel of the Year 2010!
I managed to read the whole of the shortlist this year, and the books ranged from bright, sparkling chick-lit, to romance with a paranormal edge, to kick-ass romantic suspense, and East-End sagas with delicous villains, but the winner was Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon, and I have to say I was thrilled it won, because it was my favourite of the bunch!
The heroine of the book inherits a dog kennels and rescue centre, and I loved the way that each of the dogs the main characters adopted helped them with the life lessons they needed to learn to secure their happy endings, and (as the heroine of the book kept saying to eveyone) I'm not even really a Dog Person.

Here are a few more of my photos from the afternoon:

The packed ballroom at the Royal Garden Hotel, where we had record turn out for the event.

Love Story of the Year contender Nina Harrington and M&B Senior Editor Joanne Grant.

A table of M&B authors and editors, with Love Story of the Year shortlisted author Natatlie Rivers looking serene in the centre.

Penny Jordan's outrageously gorgeous five-inch red heels, being modelled by M&B editor Meg Lewis (and she's not the only woman in the room who was tempted to run away with them!).