Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sara Craven 2

As a tribute to the wonderful Sara Craven who sadly died yesterday, I thought I'd just repost the tribute to  this fabulous writer and friend . This is a post I wrote for the Pink Heart Society when I was one of their columnists and I was asked to write about a favourite category romance novel. 

I'm happy to know that back in  August 2007, I was able to show Sara this article and know how much it had  thrilled her to read my tribute to her.  So I'd like to share it again in her memory.

PINK HEART SOCIETY 30/08/2007

My favourite category romance? Uh – no - can’t do it. Just can’t do that. My one working brain cell has fizzled and fused just at the thought. I mean – one favourite category romance in an umpty-ump year lifetime of reading category romances . . .

No – sorry . . .

But I’ve been asked to write something. And here with my lovely brand new Pink Heart Society Columnist logo all sparkly and fresh, I want to do the job that Trish and Ally have given me – so I have to think of something to say.

OK then, I can tell you about a favourite category romance author. A writer whose books I snatched off the shelves if I found one in a bookshop in the days before – and after – I was first published. When I got my first rejection letter from Mills & Boon, the then Senior Editor Jacqui Bianchi advised me to read certain authors who she felt wrote the sort of book I could write - and then try again. I read those – and saw what she meant. They were romances I could write. But then I picked up a book by Sara Craven – and I read the sort of romances I wanted to write. Sara Craven’s romances reached out, grabbed by the heart and the brain and they just made me want to be part of the company who published her work.

Sara was one of Mills & Boon’s stars back then in 1984 – and she’s still one of the big names in the Modern/Presents line up today. Incredibly, she’s been writing for M&B since 1975. That’s an amazing 32 years of writing top class contemporary romances - and she’s still selling. I’ve lost count of just how many books she has actually written.

I have a collection of older Sara Craven novels – starting with The Devil at Archangel in which Christina Bennett takes a job on an island in the West Indies where she meets the disturbing and charismatic Devlin Brandon. But having been warned to ‘Beware the Devil at Archangel’ - can she possibly trust him?

But the two books of Sara’s that really live in my memory, etched there from the moment I read them – so much so that I don’t even have to go and fetch my elderly and battered copies to remind myself about them – are the 1980 title Fugitive Wife and the wonderful Comparative Strangers that was published in 1988.

Fugitive Wife is singly responsible for my addiction to romances in which the couple are snowed in, trapped in an isolated cottage, cut off from anywhere else. In Sara’s story Bryony, a rich man’s daughter, young, (so young she’s fresh out of school!) falls for and marries the older, cynical, foreign correspondent Logan Adair, but the marriage fails and she runs to her Aunt’s isolated Yorkshire cottage to lick her wounds. She’s there all alone, determined to recover from the break down of her marriage when in the middle of a wild snowstorm another key turns in the lock, the front door opens,





. . and then the hall light clicked on and the words shrivelled and died on her lips as she looked down into the face of the man standing below her.
For a moment they stood in silence, staring at each other.
Then, ‘Hello, wife,’ said Logan with no expression in his voice whatsoever.


Oh dear – just writing that makes me want to go and read it all over again. I know what happens after that – how the snow comes down even more heavily and they are stuck in the small house together and they have to face the strains and the problems that wrenched them apart in the first place. And how Briony has to do some growing up – fast - both physically, as Logan insists that she shares his bed, and emotionally as she discovers the truth about her husband’s relationship with sophisticated Karen Wellesly.

But if you really forced me – at gunpoint – to choose just one, desert island, absolute favourite Sara Craven novel, then it would have to be the brilliant Comparative Strangers. It’s a book I bought twice, once in the original printing – and then sadly lost it. So I was overjoyed when in 1993, the story was reprinted as a Best Seller Romance and I was able to replace my missing copy with this new edition.

Comparative Strangers opens with Amanda, the heroine, on the verge of suicide, feeling she has nothing to live for because she has found her fiancé, Nigel in bed with another woman. She is rescued by Malory Templeton, Nigel’s older half-brother. And here’s where Sara Craven’s brilliance is shown – because to Amanda Malory isn’t the man who is so stunning that women fall at his feet as soon as they see him - to Amanda he has always been a ‘vague disappointment , because she supposed she’d been expecting an older edition of Nigel, with the same outgoing charm and rakish good looks.’ Compared with his younger half-brother, is shorter, paler - Amanda even sees him as ‘colourless’.

At first.

Because from the moment that Malory rescues her, stopping her from jumping off a bridge into a river, he takes charge of her life. When in order to save face in front of Nigel, Amanda declares that she is going to marry Malory instead, he reacts quite calmly, but with total control.

“It’s quite simple,’ he said. ‘You’ve told the world, through Nigel, that you’re going to marry me. So – marry me you will. ‘

From then onwards Malory grows in stature and strength on every page. Subtly, but irreversibly, the reader is brought to change her opinion of this quiet but charismatic man, just as Amanda comes to see his strength and his qualities, his understated sexual appeal – until, when Nigel reappears he seems flashy, immature and downright shallow in comparison. Virginal Amanda had never wanted to sleep with her first fiancé before her wedding night, but he responses to Malory are much harder to suppress.

And this leads to the two scenes that etched this book forever into my brain so that I can almost repeat them word for word. (A skill I discovered that at the recent RNA Conference Sophie Weston shares with me – as we share a love for this book.)

Unable to hold back any longer, Amanda decides to sleep with Malory , but innocent and naïve, she reaches for him touches him, ruining his careful control. As a result her first sexual experience is painful, disappointing and forces from her the stunned question ‘Is that - that – what all the fuss is about?’

There will never be another time, she declares.

But Malory has other ideas. A few days later, he sets himself to a determined and skillful seduction of Amanda, teasing all her senses, awakening all her untried sensuality, bringing her to her very first orgasm. And then, when she is still reeling . . .

. . .The shock of finding herself deposited back on the sofa woke her sharply from her dream. His hands were brisk, almost businesslike as he ordered her dishevelled clothing, pulling her dress into place and reclosing the zip.

Then he got to his feet. He said quietly and evenly, ‘Now that – that – is what all the fuss is about. Goodnight Amanda.’


Perfect. I remember almost cheering out loud the first time I read it. It was the memory of that line that had me grabbing the book to buy it a second time when it appeared as a bestseller - in the treasured copy that Sara Craven signed for me as a fellow author and friend when I met her in person for the second time at the RNA one day Seminar in Bath about ten years ago.


Do you love   Sara Craven's novels?  Do you have a favourite  or one that has a special memory for you?   I'd love to share your memories of this lovely woman  and her books.

Sara Craven - Sad News


When I first started aiming for publication with Harlequin Mills and Boon, one of my most favourite authors was the brilliant Sara Craven. I learned so much from reading and loving her books and if there was a new title out I grabbed it with both hands. Her novel Comparative Strangers was one of my favourites that I read over and over again - but there was also Fugitive Wife. Moth to The Flame . . .so many more that I adored.

I was lucky enough to meet Sara in person many... years ago at an Association of Mills and Boon lunch - the first I think - in London. I admit that when I met her and realised who she was, I actually curtsied in respect of her talent and her achievements. From then on I was honoured to call her a friend and her burning intelligence (she won the UK Mastermind award in 1997) vivid wit and fabulous personality brightened so many days at RNA events and others.  

She loved my husband too and he adored her - in spite of her tendency to stroke his knees whenever he dared to wear shorts at the RNA conferences. I shall never forget my last AMBA lunch with her - and then spending a long, warm chatty evening on a settee together while she told me of all the changes in her life recently - including the 'love of her life' her bright as a button new dog.

So I was desperately sad to learn how seriously ill she was only today - and I am broken-hearted to learn that only a couple of hours after I received that news there came the worst news of all - that Sara had passed away far too soon.

I seriously doubt that I wold ever have become a published romance author without the inspiration and example that Sara gave me. I loved her as an author, as person and as a friend. I'm thrilled to know that she saw the books I produced as we shared our careers for some very happy years - not enough ! And I'll always treasure a note from her after reading on of my own titles (The Twelve Month Mistress) - 'Oooerr Missis,' she said, ' you do build up a head of steam - you made me all hot and bothered.'

That was the greatest compliment from one of the greatest women and writers I've ever known.
Rest in peace dear friend - heaven will be all the richer for your wit, intelligence and wonderful story telling.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Winners . .


And the winners are : Hollie Rebecca and Gillian Emans (with special thanks for the poem!)
A poem for Charlie:
Right Yourself Charlie,
Don’t fight anymore!
Then you won’t need a cone
To go out of the door.
So listen to Daddy
Read his “Write Yourself” now
To keep yourself busy

Is that clear? Miaow


    Charlie was so honoured that so many people were concerned about him and the wound to his neck. So he was happy to pose for a new photo today - without cone ...- without blood! - to show how perfectly fine he is now. Thank you to everyone who asked about him. He enjoyed picking the winners of the copies of Write Your Self - which will be going in the post today - and he's now preparing to celebrate the 7th anniversary of coming to live in his forever home with us. More treats will be expected, I think!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Home again

To catch up - Charlie is fine - thank you to everyone who asked about him and wished him well. The bite has healed up, he has taken all his antibiotics (amazing what some special sauce treats will do!) and he is completely cone-of-shame free. He also had a great time with our lovely cat-sitter who obviously gave him lots of fun and games with the toys to chase and catch. So now he is wondering where she is and why we've come back instead.

We had a fabulous weekend away - ...in Crickhowell in Wales and visited the gorgeous Tretower Castle with resident robins who should have been posing on Christmas Cards they were so tubby and cute. It's wonderful to spend time with fellow writers who just 'get' what you're talking about. Fascinating conversations, much laughter, delicious food, and the weather was so kind to us, with sunshine and mild temperatures.


And waking up to this view every morning was just fabulous

Right - I need to check on Charlie and get him to pick winners for the copies of Writing Yourself . . .

Thursday, November 02, 2017

A flash giveaway

Charlie thanks everyone who has sent him get well messages.  The bite in his neck is healing well and cleanly  and apart from   boredom which is driving him crazy he is  so much better.  He chased his sister Ruby around the house at  speed in the middle of the night (using our bed as a launch pad!) just to have something to do. It sounded more like a  herd of buffalo than 2 small furry creature. Well, small where Ruby is concerned!
Anyway, I think  he's feeling  so  much better and the cone comes off v soon so that will please him.

While I'm away for the weekend, I'm going to run a flash giveaway to celebrate the weekend. But this time the book isn't mine - remember how I promised I'd try to persuade the Babe Magnet into letting me off  a couple of copies of his  book for writers to share with you - well, he's agreed, and I have two copies of Write Your Self  to give away.

This book got a great 5 star review from Simon Whaley on The Business of Writing.

There are many books about how to write. There is plenty of advice online about how to journal. What Write Your Self does is merge the two together - become a better writer by journalling your journey of exploration, as you discover your inner writer-self.

This is a practical book, packed with exercises, and oozing with examples. Stephen begins by raising a theme, issue or idea, and then follows through with an example. After that, it’s time for you, the reader, to have a go … (top tip: treat yourself to a brand new journal at the same time as you buy this book).

What makes this book different is the way Stephen encourages you to learn more about yourself as a person, as well as about yourself as a writer. Doing so not only helps you explore the direction in which you’d like to go with your writing, but it also helps you mine your wealth of life experience for potential material to write about.

Despite not being a poet, I particularly enjoyed the poetry chapter, and the idea of taking an observation from the day and creating a short haiku from it. Most people can manage 17 syllables, yet after a month of observations you have at least 30 of them in your journal. That in itself is an impressive body of work. But you’ve also learned more about how you, as a writer, observe the world around you.

I’d recommend reading this book at least twice: once right through, to absorb the idea and premise behind the text, and then a second time, with your journal at the ready. Tackle all the exercises within the book and Write Your Self will map your journey from thinker and observer into a thought-provoking writer.



There's a great interview with the author on there too.

To enter, just leave a comment below - sending get well wishes to Charlie, or saying why you'd like to win this book.   Giveaway open internationally; prizes posted next week; nothing to do with FB and all to do with me; you don't have to buy anything to enter; and names will be drawn at random.  

 Charlie will pick the winners - a little something to keep him from getting bored  and an allowance of extra treats on the names of entrants  for him to choose when I get home on Monday. (And then he'll be  able to go outside again!)

. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Cats!

Charlie the Maine Coon has been out fighting again. He has a nasty cat bite on his neck.

 How does he know I've planned a weekend away with friends?

 He wants everyone to know that extra treats (mixed with antibiotics) are no compensation for being kept a prisoner indoors and being forced to look like this:

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Happy Birthday Ruby!


Today is Ruby's 4th birthday.

Well, that's as close as we can get to the likely date, seeing as she was found wandering as a lost stray at about 8 weeks old when we adopted
her from the Cats' Protection League.

 She happily posed for her birthday portrait, but Charlie wasn't interested - wake me when you bring out the birthday treats, he said.

 So Ruby got first go at the special tea - and now is happily snoozing in her favourite spot with her head on the Babe Magnet's feet (rather her than me! But she loves the scent of socks and slippers!)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Great weekend in Keele.

What a fantastic weekend - even though I was officially 'working' - running the Writing Fiction that Sells weekend for Relax and Write at Keele, I had so much fun that the weekend just flashed past in learning, laughter, friendship, enjoyment and fascinating discussions. Thank you so much to everyone who joined us and made the weekend a real delight. The only flaw was that sadly Lois Maddox couldn't be with us. She was missed.

So that's it for my teaching for this year. I need to draw breath and look at my own work now! Next course will be at Fishguard in February with WritersHoliday - the Advanced Romance Writing course but that is already booked up!


So the one after that will be a Focus on Writing Romance - a Writing Retreat at Cirencester in April . Again, numbers on this course are strictly limited - and I know  4 or 5  places are already booked. So if you're interested please get in touch with Relax and Write to get your name on the list.
 

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