Friday, 31 July 2015

The obligatory post-RWA round up

Coastguard Beach, Cape Cod

Me. Signing. Eek!
There are many things that I dreamed about when I was an aspiring author. Many of them are still pie in the sky; I don't live by the beach, I don't write full time, I still don't know what I'm doing, I still procrastinate and I have yet to buy a chaise longue on which to while away my days eating grapes and dictating golden words. But last week one dream did come true when I attended the 2015 RWA Conference in New York.
View from our room
I didn't intend to go. Flights were astronomically expensive, it was the school holidays. I didn't have the time and 101 other excuses, reasons and problems. And then I got an email from my fellow M&B author Christy McKellen; she'd booked and did I want to share a room?
Of course I did! But I couldn't. Could I?

Not the first or the last
The wonderful Starlight Suite at the
 Hotel Astoria
Fast forward several months and it was clear that not only could I but I very definitely was. In fact I extended it to include three wonderful, relaxing days in Cape Cod with old and much loved friends before plunging into the glamorous, crazy world of Conference. In one day I attended talks by Julia Quinn, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jennifer Crusie. I drank numerous cocktails, ate pizza on street corners, cheesecake in Juniors and ordered my eggs over easy in a diner over on eighth. I did my first book signing desperately trying to get the right balance between welcoming smile and needy eyes 'please want a book. Please, please...' I cheered on friends at the RITAs and met in person people I'd only ever chatted to online.

Yep. It tasted as good as it looked.
And I dressed up in black and white and, like Cinderella, I did go to the ball. Not just any old ball, the Harlequin ball at the Waldorf Astoria. Free dessert bar, free ice cream bar, free drinks bar, a crowded dance floor in the most wonderfully glamorous surroundings filled with people who loved to write romance. It was completely, utterly wonderful.

Next year it's in San Diego. There's no way I'll be able to make it.

Central Park

Friday, 8 May 2015

Wearing my heart upon my sleeve

You may be aware that the UK held a General Election yesterday - or as the US media called it a 'US Ally election'. You may also be aware that the result was a bit of a shock and left a of people feeling battered, bruised and disenfranchised - myself, my family and the vast majority of my real life and social media friends amongst them. Which I guess proves that we really do surround ourselves with like minded people!

One of the interesting things about politics is how many people feel it is a dirty word, that it shouldn't be talked about, that it's private. It wasn't always so; Anne Shirley famously said the a beau had to agree with a girl's father on politics and her mother on religion!

Obviously it's important that people feel free to vote the way they choose according to their own convictions but how can we grow, develop and learn without standing up for our choices and being open to debate and alternate points of view? After all, the choices we make at the Ballot Box have ramifications far beyond our own lives. And if debate is stifled whether through social mores or something more sinister then abuses of power become easier and easier as history shows over and over; my own great uncle spent his too short life in a concentration camp in Poland after distributing anti Nazi literature.

I have often seen other writers refuse to discuss politics in order not to alienate readers in an increasingly polarised political world - on both sides of the Atlantic, the Pacific and throughout Europe. I understand that; after all, as the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants I would be disappointed to find out one of my favourite authors belonged to a certain anti-immigrant party. And yet...

And yet our beliefs help shape us, help shape the worlds we write. My own politics would be seen by some as dangerously communist, by others as depressingly middle of the road.I believe in equality, in free education right through to advanced degree level, in free healthcare, free social care. I believe a child brought up in care should have equal life chances to the child of a Prime Minister. I believe education is more than facts and figures. I believe in social housing for all who need - or want - it. I believe that transport, energy, mail, water should all be run by the state and profits ploughed back in to make them better. I believe in overseas aid, equal marriage and I am a feminist. I believe climate change is real and we need to stop it. I also think we should have tennis courts in every green space and roving coaches so it is no longer the sport of the rich. That will be found in no manifesto, sadly but I still believe it.  I am proud of my beliefs.

My books are fantasies, romances. My heroines are not all me, thank goodness; tea drinking, time poor, introverted bookworms don't make interesting copy. They stand apart from my beliefs, my day job, my family. But I don't want to hide my beliefs in order to sell more books. My Twitter account will remain an eclectic mix of politics, writing and boring on about the dog/scandi drama/cake/what I am reading and my Tatty Devine collection. And just as my political friends and followers sometimes find something of interest in my writing chat so might readers or authors find something interesting in political chat. Or we could have a debate. Because that's democracy...

Now if you'll excuse me I am going to go and watch consecutive episodes of Say Yes to the Dress and gear up for five more years of opposition.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Read All About It!

Things have been crazy recently - in a good way! New books, awards and exciting plans have got 2015 off to a fantastic start. Here are a few of the highlights:
* It looks as if I'll have four books released this year. The Heiress's Secret Baby is out now,
Part one of the Summer Weddings Trilogy
- look out for Book 2 from Scarlet Wilson and
Book 3 from Sophie Pembroke
The Earl's Baby is released in April and A Will, A Wish and A Proposal comes out in August. I'm writing a Christmas themed book right now so if everything works out we should see that this year too. It's a friends to lovers book set in the beautiful Austrian Alps. Pinterest board up and running with loads of lovely snow scenes (and lots of pictures of Eddie Redmayne).
*Expecting the Earl's Baby is currently on Netgallery so if you like the look of it do request a copy - I'd love to see your reviews!
*I am heading to New York *cue Taylor Swift song*. Yep, I am heading over in July for my very first RWA Conference - and to say I'm excited is a massive understatement. I'll be rooming with my fab friend Christy McKellen, will get a chance to catch up with my Summer Weddings writing buddy Scarlet Wilson and finally meet my long term crit partner Julia Broadbooks. If you're planning on attending make sure you head over and say hello. I'm the shy Brit reading in the corner (until I've had a glass of wine that is...).
*And I am VERY pleased to announce that the lovely reviewers at CataRomance awarded The Return of Mrs Jones a Reviewers' Choice Award. It's my debut book and very dear to me so to see it honoured in this way, by people who know and love category romance, is just incredible. Thank you so much.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Books, glorious, glorious books.

There's a radio show in the UK called Desert Island Discs. Celebrities or Persons of Note are interviewed about their lives and along the way choose eight (I think) pieces of music and part of the fun is working out if they chose a very rare Beethoven symphony because they love it or if secretly they wanted Genesis but were too embarrassed to admit to it. They also choose one luxury item (never ending wine, tea or ice cream? It's the eternal conundrum) and one - ONE - book in addition to the Bible and Collected Works of Shakespeare.

Now I like music well enough but to me that's the wrong way around. I'd find it hard enough to whittle my choices down to eight even with some sneaky 'Collected works of...' but one? Austen or LM Montgomery? Heyer or Mantel? Christie or Murakami? How could I choose? Let me have a solar powered kindle instead.

It amazes me when anyone says they don't enjoy reading; to me it is as important if not more so than breathing. The bags under my eyes are testament that I consider it more far important than sleeping. In my house it's not considered rude to read at the table and, no matter how frugal we are being, money spent on books is never wasted.

But it amazes me far, far more when authors say they don't have time to read. How can you be a writer if you're not a reader? If you're not in love with story and words and character? How can you grow as a writer if you don't see how others plot, note they how hook you in, get lost in their worlds?

Lat year I monitored my reading for the first time with the Goodreads reader challenge. I'm a very fast reader and a little obsessive *cough* so I thought I would probably average a book every two and a half days and challenged myself to 150 books. My final total, excluding crit work, was 220 - in part thanks to a Christmas week Anne of Green Gables fest when I ignored everyone and everything for four days until I wiped the last tear away, closed Rilla of Ingleside and reluctantly returned to twenty first century UK.

That's a lot of books, true. But the number isn't important. it's the doing that counts. Or as Stephen King puts it far more succinctly than  I ever could “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”