Sunday, 7 December 2014

New Cover excitement...

And then, as the release date creeps nearer, it becomes new and exciting again. First I get a link to the North American cover, later I see the UK cover. They are always really different and, as an ex marketing geek, I really love to see the way the books are packaged for different markets.
There's such a glorious feeling to getting a new cover - like unwrapping a present. The book was finished several moths ago, it's been edited, I've done the copy edits and then it's gone. Out of my hands. It's no longer my responsibility, it belongs to the proofreaders, to the cover designers, to marketing.

All I can do is start the next one.

Then I get a delivery of a box of actual books - cue much squealing. And more nail bitingly the Romantic Times review comes in. I'm waiting right now for the review of The Heiress's Secret Baby. I think it's the most emotional book I've written yet and I am very nervous about it...

I may not have the physical book and it hasn't been reviewed yet *panics* but I do have the covers and the blurb. The Heiress's Secret Baby comes out in February and it's my first sequel, a follow on from my October release His Reluctant Cinderella. Set in London, Provence and Paris I absolutely adored writing about my younger French hero and his boss, Polly Rafferty and spending more time with the entire Rafferty family. I hope you do too!
'Heiress Polly Rafferty is pregnant and her new vice-CEO Gabe Beaufils is the only one around to help. But, as she sees an unexpectedly protective side to the avowed bachelor, Polly can’t help wishing he’ll stand by her for more than nine months!'

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Deadline dramas

When I started this blog it was a way of letting off steam. There was quite a lot of whinging, a little moaning and more than a bit bewailing. Occasionally I'll read an old entry and immediately I'm back there, back failing to final in yet another competition, back filled with excitement for the competition after that - only to plummet again when once again I got nowhere.

And then there are the highs,  the coveted NWS second reading when I realised that maybe, just maybe, the whole idea wasn't a total waste of time after all.

Now blogging feels like a procrastination. If I'm putting words down they should be words on my work in progress. Writing time is both a luxury and a necessity, I can't afford to waste a moment *whistles and ignores Twitter habit*. But I miss this blog, my diary of the last four years. And I wonder, if I was a full time writer, living my fantasy life in a cottage by the sea, rising late (I am no lark) to walk the dogs, then baking bread (wholesome fantasy life alert) before sitting down to a productive day of writing, would I really have no time pressures?

The truth is I have a real love hate relationship with deadlines. Obviously they cause me stress, panic, they make me yell at my family and collapse in a not-at-all dramatic fashion. Sometimes I actually wail, a little like a banshee.  Deadlines are responsible for at least a third of my wine intake and well over half of my biscuit intake yet contribute nothing to exercise or the eating of vegetables.

And yet... they sharpen me, crystallise everything I am trying to achieve. I have contracts to deliver four books this year, and I wrote the vast bulk of each and every one of the finished three near the delivery date - I can trick myself with a fake delivery date, that works as well. The first few weeks I have such good intentions - I sit there, during my allotted writing time, page open and fingers ready to go. And my word count is pitiful.

But, during that time, I am learning. Learning who my characters are, what makes them tick, how they'll react so when I'm up against the a looming deadline it's all there in my head, ready to be transferred onto the page.

It's not the most efficient process but it's my process - for now anyway. I just wish there was more time for baking and blogging. Maybe when I get that cottage by the sea. One day.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Happy Calliversary to Me...

One year ago today the sun was shining, the sky was blue and I was on holiday in a beautiful part of the country with my family and friends preparing to go to one of my favourite beaches. And my husband was on the Tatty Devine website buying up sale jewellery for my birthday.  Life was pretty good. But I was still yearning for something else and I wasn't sure that it was ever going to happen for me. I felt that I was a crossroads at best but worried that I had come to a complete halt - I had no new work to submit to the New Writer's Scheme, wasn't even working on anything new.
I had no idea what I was going to do next.
Then a couple of hours later, as I was driving along the A1, my mobile rang and everything changed.
After three years of serious trying (and another three of semi serious trying), several submissions, multiple competitions, some tears, a little wallowing and thousands of words I was finally going to be able to say I was an author.
I had a contract. A contract with Mills & Boon.
Fast forward one year and many more words, a few more tears, a little wallowing, lots of prosecco and
FOUR (and 3/4) books and here I am, on holiday again, in another utterly breathtaking part of the country (Tobermory in Mull aka as Balamory to those of you with children of a similar age to mine. We are still reeling from the discovery that Archie's castle isn't actually on Mull and Spencer's house has been painted beige). My third book, His Reluctant Cinderella, comes out in October and Romantic Times called it 'Adorable from start to finish.' Life is pretty good.
Here are some of the things I have learned along the way:
Yes, yes I have a wall of Tatty Devine loveliness. And?

  • Mills & Boon editors and Mills & Boon readers are some of the loveliest, most generous people in the world. 
  • As are other Mills & Boon writers.
  • Writing to deadline is a whole new process.
  • Waiting for revisions is just as nerve wracking as waiting for a submission.
  • I still don't feel as if I have made it.
  • You never stop learning. Or yearning for the next step up.
  • The moment you hold your first book in your hand is overwhelming.
  • I can stand up and talk in public. If I really have to.
  • If I don't write every day I feel guilty.
  • My schedule is insane; four books, one year, one child and a day job.
  • If you must read reviews don't take them to heart; enjoy the good and shrug off the bad. Because there will be both but if you're lucky the former outnumber
    the latter.
  • My Tatty Devine obsession shows no sign of dwindling.
  • I don't want to do anything else...

Thursday, 31 July 2014

New title, new cover - and new WIP

It seems incredible that I am gearing up for the release of my third book - and even more incredible that I am writing book 5!

UK cover
North American cover

I just got the artwork through for Book 3, aka and properly known as His Reluctant Cinderella. I love both of them - and as always really like the contrast between the UK and North American covers. At heart I'll always be a marketing and bookselling geek and find the different images for different markets fascinating.

I also have the epub so if any reviewers want to take a look then please get in touch with me - here, Twitter, Facebook or through my website and I'll email it through to you. Here's the blurb:

 "It's like a fairy tale…" 
Castor Rafferty, London's notorious vice-CEO of glamorous Rafferty's Stores, might have a reputation to uphold, but he's determined to protect his independence. He needs a convenient girlfriend, but his reluctant Cinderella—gorgeous single mom Clara Castleton—doesn't seem to be falling for his charms! 

Clara isn't looking for Prince Charming—only for a life where she's in control. But there's something about Raff that makes her want to open her heart…and to believe in a happy ending after all!

This is released in October and its sequel, The Heiress's Secret Baby, is in Author Amendment stage and will be out early next year. Meanwhile, I am absolutely loving writing the first part of a trilogy for next summer, it's my first collaboration with other authors and huge amounts of fun to plot.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Love, learning and laughter; RNA Conference 14

Picture the scene: it's July 2012. An eager, nervous New Writer Scheme member arrives at an agriculture college in Penrith filled with trepidation and hope. This is it! A whole weekend of writing chat, one to ones and a chance to finally meet some of the people she's been chatting to online for the last two years.

I can see me now; bright-eyed, notepad and pen in hand, ready to absorb as much from the workshops, panels and talks as I could possibly cram in. I came away exhausted, inspired, full of cake - and I knew I still had so much to learn...

Two years later I arrived at a different agricultural college for this year's RNA Conference. I might have finally achieved my dream but I still have as much to learn as I did back in Penrith. I'm not alone - each talk and workshop was filled with writers at all stages of their careers whether brand new NWS members or multi published household names. 

There were some truly brilliant talks this year from the scientific - Nikki Logan on the Chemistry of Reading; the terrifying but essential - Claire Mackintosh on self promotion; the thought provoking - Pamela Hartshorne/Jessica Hart on the perils of two identies; and the inspirational - Janet Glover on the importance of place. I hope some people also enjoyed my own ten minute stint in the Mills & Boon workshop; I like to sum it up as 'Me, me and more about me'. The panel on the future of associations was interesting with a rousing exhortation for us to be proud of who we are and what we write. Hell, yeah!

 Other highlights included drinking prosecco on the lawn the first sunlit evening whilst chatting to the lovely Mills & Boon authors, catching up with my very first crit partner, Jane O'Reilly, and plotting a linked series with Sophie Pembroke and Scarlet Wilson. I'm really excited about this story and can't wait to get started.

Sadly Rowan Coleman had to cancel her workshop and Julie Cohen took a year off. They are known for their intelligent and exciting teaching and I can't wait for November when I will be taking full advantage of their weekend retreat to absorb as much as I can. I believe there are a couple of spaces still available so if you can I do urge you to book on. Every year the conference teaches me how much I don't know and this will be an amazing opportunity to learn from the very best...

Friday, 4 July 2014

Luca needs your help...

A few weeks ago I was asked if I would allow lovely Luca Di Tore, hero of Summer with the Millionaire, to take part in a Bachelorette style blog competing against seven other Harlequin heroes to win the heart of the lovelorn heroine.
Luca is quite dignified and rather reserved - plus far too busy for such frivolity (and I'm not sure what Minty would say about it all either) so I am sure he is most uncomfortable with this but I entered him anyway.
And he needs your votes. Simply click and comment...
To help you let me remind you that he looks like this:

 Lives here and makes this...

He is actually pretty perfect. Don't let Brian beat him...

Monday, 30 June 2014

Deadline Day

I've always worked better with a deadline. Without one I tend to find other, more important, things to do.
Like filing. Or baking. Or reordering my bookshelves.
It's not that I don't try. I sit down, type some words. Delete them. Type some more. Read them. Panic that they're flat, lifeless. Delete them. Type some more. Read them. Panic that they're flat, lifeless. Leave them cause I need something concrete to show for my time.
A deadline takes away that luxury. I have to get those words down. Flat and lifeless? So what? They can be rewritten later. Filing? Let it pile up. Baking? Buy it. Bookshelves? Well, a girl has to have some standards.
This last deadline was tight even by my standards. I had three months. That was the smallest amount of time I'd had to turn in a book so far.
So of course I frittered away a month. My bookshelves looked lovely.
And then I wrote five chapters. In a month. Half the book done. Great.
Only they were flat. Lifeless.
So I started again. From scratch. With a month to go.
50,000 words. One month. 12,500 words a week. That was 1700 a day. Written and edited. Easy!
A weekend away with the daughter, some busy days at the day job. The actual day job. RSI (officially tennis elbow. Who would have thought watching tennis could be so dangerous?). All ate into my schedule. The daily word count went up and up.
Until it was 6 days, 16,000 words and a line edit to go.And Wimbledon was on.
Somehow. With late nights, constant words, editing during my lunch time at the day job. No Wimbledon.
Somehow I got it done.
I have no perspective. No idea if it's good, bad or just plain ugly.
It's with my editor. There will of courser be edits. They may well be substantial. But I made my deadline and that feels pretty damn good.
And in time for the second week of Wimbledon... (ignores new tighter deadline.)

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Meet Minty

Oops! Just over a week ago I was tagged by the lovely Janice Preston in a 'Meet your Main Character' bloghop - promised faithfully I would do it that Friday and promptly forgot all about it. I blame my current WIP which I decided to totally rewrite a month before it was due - cue many late nights and total hermiting.

I first met Janice at the 2012 RNA Conference where we shared a kitchen - and I was completely delighted when she sold her historical romance to Mills & Boon; as a failed regency romance novelist I know just how hard it is to do and can't wait to read her first book. Her debut, Mary and the Marquis, comes out in August, perfect timing for my holiday reading list.

This month Summer with the Millionaire was released and to my utter joy (and spawning a dangerous new obsession; rankings-checking) it made it all the way to the dizzying heights of number one on the Harlequin Romance list and all the way to 59 in the Series chart - so it I thought I'd celebrate by telling you a little about Minty, my beloved heroine.

So, without further ado here's Minty:

What is the name of the main character? Is she real or fictitious? 
Formally she is Lady Araminta Davenport - but although the press love to use her title she usually goes by Minty and she is completely fictitious. I can't even remember what or who inspired her - I think it was an image I had of a girl weaving her way along a cobbled street at midnight, shoes in hand. That scene was (reluctantly) cut in one of my many, many rewrites but it absolutely set the tone for Minty's entire character and background.

Where is the story set?
In an idyllic Italian summer, mainly in the fictitious area of Oschia, a blend of Tuscany and Umbria. During the book Minty and Luca, the hero, visit some of my favourite places in the world; Florence and the Sorrento coast. It was lovely to write such gorgeous settings.

What should we know about her?
Minty is the archetypal poor little rich girl, beautiful, titled and with a Trust Fund her life seems charmed. But underneath she is desperately searching for acceptance, to prove that she is worthy of being loved. Her mother left when she was little and her father is absorbed in his new, much younger family leaving his fragile oldest daughter to navigate her way through life alone.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
After Minty's third engagement is publicly called off her father finally decided he needs to help her sort out her life - and does so by cutting off her Trust Fund. Emotionally battered and. for the first time in her life, broke, Minty returns to Italy, to the house where she spent many of her childhood summers. Her beloved aunt died several years ago, leaving Minty shares in her husband's company. Minty gambles everything on getting a job - and a home - from her childhood adversary, Luca Di Tore. But Luca isn't at all happy to see the former wild child...

What is the character's goal?
Minty is desperate to prove that she is more than a scandalous headline and a Trust Fund - but is terrified that she might discover that that is all she is. After three disastrous engagements she is determined that she has to make this journey alone, but it's hard when she's sharing a home with the one man who ever really got under her skin.

That's Minty! Summer with the Millionaire is available from all the usual places! I am going to tag two other M&B authors who make their debuts this year: Christy McKellan and Nina Milne. Over to you, ladies. x

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A much needed break...

 We just spent the last week in an incredibly beautiful part of the world. Kippford is a small village on the Solway Firth surrounded by coastal paths and woodland and equipped with all the essentials (two pubs). We were lucky enough to stay in Bell's View which is a fantastic house with spectacular views.
The view from the terrace

Look at all these beauties

The house belongs to the family of Pamela Hartshorne who wrote the amazing Time's Echo and Memory of Midnight (if you haven't read them do so instantly!). Pam also write Mills & Boon as Jessica Hart   and the
bookshelves are full of her books. If romance isn't your thing (in which case why are you on this blog?) then there are another four or five
shelves of classic holiday reading from Sayers and Christie to Le Carre and Mary Stewart. A huge fireplace, stacks of games and puzzles and plenty of sofas ensured we were ready for the rain and cold we confidently expected - we weren't quite so prepared for the blazing sunshine we actually got!

back on the level after some
 strenuous climbs
Five days of walks, wildlife and relaxation was exactly what we needed; with all my daughter's activities, my day job and deadlines and the husband's commute it sometimes feels that we are only just hanging on. A 12 mile walk through breathtaking cliff tops (and breath taking away climbs), the sighting of red deer, red squirrels and red kites (spot the theme), shell hunting on the beach and sitting in front of the pub watching the boats bobbing on the estuary as we supped a pint of the local pale ale was exactly what we needed. One grey day we went second hand book shopping, picking up several Judy Blumes for the daughter, another blazing afternoon we just took a picnic blanket into the garden and enjoyed the novelty of sun beating down on us. And I finally worked out why book 4 isn't working and began a rewrite...

So it's back home and back to the old routine but refreshed, revitalised and with achy legs. We can't wait to return to Kippford - and as Bell's View is available to rent I highly recommend you do too. Books, walks, and good beer. It's a winning combination!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Step back in time

Last week I went to the RNA Summer Party for the presentation of the Joan Hessayon award. This is awarded every year to a writer whose debut novel went through the New Writers' Scheme - and there were a record breaking seventeen contenders this year!
I didn't win - the lovely Jo Thomas did with her novel The Oystercatchers - but it was still fun to catch up with writerly friends, drink some prosecco and get a certificate.
It was also an opportunity to fulfil a lifetime's wish and stay in a London Club. Not a gentleman's club a la Bertie Wooster for hopefully obvious reasons, nor the kind of posh, media club frequented by artists and journalists and full of scandal and debauchery (possibly), not when I had to pick my daughter up from school the day after, anyway. No, I always wanted to stay in the kind of club Agatha Christie heroines and other nineteen thirties literary ladies stayed in when they went 'up to town'.
The RNA had associate membership of the New Cavendish. It's central (near Mayfair), reasonably priced (for London), has excellent pedigree (born out of the First World War as a club for VADS), does a hearty breakfast and is situated in a beautiful building right in the heart of Georgette Heyer territory. Perfect. Sadly, as London gets richer and richer, places like the New Cavendish are squeezed out and it shuts its doors for the final time this week.
So next time I go to an RNA event I can stay in one of the many anonymous budget chains. It will be comfortable and hopefully reasonable. But there will be no sense of history, no link with the past. No personal touch. I'm just glad I got to stay there once before the end.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Spring fever

US & Canada cover
Yesterday Minty showed up on the M&B and Harlequin sites as available to pre-order. You may think this isn't quite so momentous an occasion second time round but you would be totally wrong: The Book of a Thousand Rewrites, The Book with Many Sacrificed Secondary Characters, The Book with Six Different First Chapters and The Book in Which I Slaughtered My Darlings has made it! Minty - and lovely Luca of course - are all grown up and ready to face the world on their own just as Lawrie and Jonas have done *wipes away tears*.

Luckily I have been far too busy to spend my time obsessively checking Amazon rankings and Goodreads reviews (note, this may not be strictly true). Final edits and copy edits are in for book 3, now formally known as His Reluctant Cinderella and it will be out in October, I am working on book 4 which is linked to book 3 (heroine, Polly, is twin sister to His Reluctant Cinderella's hero, Raff. This is new for me and it's great fun to expand a setting through more than one book), and I am planning for a super sekrit project so it is all a teeny bit hectic.

It's not all been chained-to-a-keyboard (or feeling guilty about not being chained) though. Last weekend I travelled down to the very pretty town of Chipping Norton to take part in their fabulous literary festival and gave a talk on writing Mills & Boon to a wonderful group who laughed in all the right places and asked loads of questions. The talk was followed by a literary quiz which we mistakenly thought we might win but sadly other teams were better - the Cheerleaders of Doom (myself, lovely editor Flo, fellow M&B writer India Grey and gorgeous twitter writer friends Amanda Jennings, Rachael Lucas and Claire Dyer) had to settle for respectable mid table mediocrity.

And finally I have been nominated for an award! On May 22nd the RNA will be holding their Summer Party and announcing the winner of the Joan Hessayon  award. This is a prize for new novelists and this year there are a stonking seventeen of us so I am busy practicing my Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars face. I haven't read all seventeen books but nominees include my amazing crit partner Jane O'Reilly and first RNA conference flatmate Alison May. I have read and loved both their nominated books so the standard is scarily high. Good luck to all my fellow contenders and see you there.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Out in the big wide world...

UK Cover
The Return of Mrs Jones is out there. Whether you buy directly from M&B or Harlequin, pick up paperbacks from the supermarket or WHSmiths (UK) or Barnes and Noble or Walmart (US) whether you download onto an iPad, Kindle, Google compatible device or Kobo it's available.That is quite frankly terrifying.

Oh, I know that this is my goal, that I've been working towards this for several years now but still. Terrifying. 

People I don't know could be reading it right this minute, or possibly
Australian cover
worse, people I do know! It's like sending my first born on a voyage around the world, alone, with just one oar.

My mother is going to read it. My sister. My friends. My colleagues. My daughter took it into school to show her teachers...

And of course, despite all the best intentions I can't help checking rankings and reviews. I know, I know, it's better not to look but goodness me it's compulsive. Just another sneaky peek at Goodreads, a quick check on Amazon UK - and while I'm there why not check Amazon US or Aus?

US Cover
And then last week something really rather lovely happened, something that stopped the crazy compulsive checking behaviour in its tracks, for a while at least. I got an email. It came through my website. it wasn't from a friend, or a fellow writer, or a blogger. It was from a reader. Someone completely unknown to me had read it, loved it and wanted to let me know. I was completely and utterly touched that she had made the effort to contact me. There may even have been a tear.

And then I realised. The Return of Mrs Jones no longer belongs to me, it belongs to the people who read it. Some will love it, some will think its readable and some may dislike it. And that's okay. That's how it's supposed to be. My job isn't to sit here checking reviews and rankings and worrying about my little book, it'll be fine out there on its own. My job is to keep going.

So keep going I will; book 3, now formally known as His Reluctant Cinderella has been accepted and will be out in October and I need to knuckle down and write book 4 which excitingly, will be a sequel to His Reluctant Cinderella.

If you're UK based and want to find out more about writing for Mills and Boon then don't forget I am doing a workshop on April 26th at the Chiplitfest with my amazing editor, Flo. I'd love to see you there!  

Friday, 28 March 2014

A little perspective

There are times when I am really, really guilty of letting life overwhelm me. Yes, I am busy. I don't have the time or the means to socialise much or do cultural things or travel as much as I'd like to. I worry about my daughter, the state of my house (a mess), money, money, money. I never get round to having my hair cut and although I walk every where I need to try and fit in some more exercise in the non existent spare time I don't have.
And every day I wake up to Radio 4 and start the day depressed/angry/convinced we're headed for dystopian hell.
See? Overwhelmed.
Of course the reality is a little different. I have a lovely husband, an utterly brilliant, funny, sparky daughter, the nicest pup in the world, a host of fab, supportive friends, a great job (when the database works) that actually makes a real difference AND my first book comes out next week.
A little different? A lot different. I have a huge amount. I am absolutely blessed.

One of my fab, supportive friends has had a lot more to deal with over the last few years than a bit of tiredness and a few worries. Her original diagnosis of breast cancer came five years ago. The doctors were hopeful then; she was young, healthy, the tumor was small. Five years on, chemo, radiotherapy, a double mastectomy later the cancer is still holding on. The one piece of luck in all this is that even as the cancer tightens its grip the world of research makes more and more inroads. A form of chemo that she can take at home allowing her to work, drugs that keep the cancer from advancing. Not a cure, not yet, but they're hopeful. And if they can keep the cancer from spreading then she can wait for the cure.
It's not fun, she's tired and feels sick a lot. But she can live her life on these drugs.

The drug trials are funded by charities and so her brother wants to give a little back, as a thank you and to help them keep going, keep developing. So he is going to run three marathons in one month. I am in utter awe! Obviously you don't know my friend or her brother - but you will know someone who has or will one day have their own battle with this disease. So if you could support him - and make all those blisters, cramps and aches worthwhile - that would be amazing.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Mrs Jones on tour...

I'm on tour!

This may conjure up images of 5* hotels, whisky and tour buses but nope, it's all from the comfort of my own home. I can travel the world in my pyjamas, just what the founding father of the Web dreamed of.

Thanks to the lovely Shaz from Fiction Addiction tours I am spending the next 11 days dropping in on different blogs - and giving a book away on each one.

Thanks so much to my lovely hosts - please do drop into say hi!