Saturday, September 30, 2006

Another chance to win

Special message to everyone in America reading this blog

Heather and Terescia from We Write Romance have just told me that they are running a special Kate Walker contest and offering my Alcolar Family trilogy as a prize - The Alcolar Family (The Twelve Month Mistress, The Spaniard's Inconvenient Wife and Bound By Blackmail) was such a success in America that the 3 books all sold out on eHarlequin and Amazon and I think this prize is one of the few chances you'll have to get all three books together as a complete set.

Why not check out the contest in the We Write Romance Forums. All you have to do is to post to win.
You have until October 5th to enter. And why not take a look round this great Romance site while you're there and read the articles and reviews.

I'm sorry, but in accordance with WWR's contest rules, you can only enter this contest from USA

And a PS on my Back To School Contest (which you can enter from anywhere in the world) - You certainly can rise to a challenge. We're halfway to another 100 and another prize book on offer. Sid & co are looking very pleased.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Sunday is Sid's day

Sid is getting excited - doesn't he look excited in this picture?

Saturday is September 30th and the 30th is the closing date for my latest contest - the Back To School Contest - that's on my web site at the moment. So of course that measn that Sid is going to be busy choosing the names of the winners - and he's just taken a look at the entries . . .

There are 400 of them! Which, allowing for the fact that some people will have to be disqualified because they haven't answered the question I asked - they've just sent in a name and address when the rules clearly state that I need an answer to the trivia question - still means that there will be at least 375 names to choose from.

And that means 375 crunchies! Which is fine in Sid's book!

But he's never had to deal with 375 crunchies before - and even for A Cat of Superior Breeding like Sid, that might be something of a challenge. I think it's something of a record for entries to my contest - so I'm going to do something about that.

You see, I only have 3 prizes . 3 sets of Back To School stationery - and a signed copy of one of my books - all packed into one of my special bookbags.

But I have almost 400 entries. And by Sunday morning, when Sid gets called in to choose, I may have even more.

But I'm celebrating this week - as I said in an earlier post, At The Sheikh's Command spent two days at #1 on the bestselling Presents titles list. And in the UK they only have 2 copies left on - and just now I've just discovered that it's at #1 on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list too. So that makes me happy - gives me something to celebrate. And as regular visitors to my blog know, when I'm celebrating I give things away.

So - here's the deal. The Contest closes tomorrow. When I wake up on October 1st, Sid will be ready to pick the prizes - the 3 main prizes.

And then because I'm celebrating, I'll add in some extra prizes of a signed copy of a book from my backlist - one for every 100 entries in the contest.
So right now that's an extra 4 prizes. An extra 4 chances of winning something.
If I get another 100 entries, there will be another prize added to the total.

But even if Sid thinks he can cope with this all on his own, I reckon he'll need a little extra help so I'm going to call in the other cats to assist him.

So here are Bob and Spiff sitting about in the garden, waiting to be called in to do their share of the choosing

And here is Dylan, being distracted by Anne McAllister until he gets to have a go at the crunchies . . .

So why not give them all a chance to have a few more treats? The more entries I get, the more crunchies the furry guys have to go at. . .

The contest is on the Contest Page (obviously) on my web site. Sid & co will thank you for it.

Just don't forget to answer the question!

A Message from Anne McAllister

Writing about Carson Patrick in my last post made me think of Anne McAllister who has a grandson named Carson.

Which reminds me – if you’ve been visiting Anne’s blog and found that she hasn’t made any entries recently – and you’re tired of reading about Great, Middle and Lesser Heck – then I should tell you that she’s in Cornwall, doing genealogical research (or ancestor bothering as Sophie Weston describes it). She doesn’t have access to a computer so she can’t post any entries, but she ‘ll be heading back to America next week and normal service will resume as soon as possible.

In the meantime you’ll just have to put up with the Hecks.

Sheikhs and Round Robins

I ‘m at the ‘is my book published or not?’ stage with the latest novel.As you’ll see from the sidebar, my current book - At The Sheikh’s Command - is out in both UK and USA in October. (My lovely Aussie readers will have to wait until November – but I believe you can order it from the M&B Aus site from October.) I haven’t yet seen it in any shop anywhere when I’ve been out and about – but it has been selling on In fact it spent a few days as Amazon’s #1 bestselling Harlequin Presents , has only 2 left in stock – and as I said earlier, it was at # 4 on the Waldenbooks bestsellers list – so it is selling somewhere!

I was going to blog about the lasting attraction romance readers have for Sheikh stories to mark the occasion of the publication of this one, but the lovely ladies of the Pink Heart Society asked me to write about that for my guest blog over there next week, so it will appear there instead. On Thursday I believe – Ally said she had me pencilled in ‘for Thursday 6th October’ but I suspect she means the 5th – she’s in Australia so the time zones must be getting to her.

So that’s when the ‘Sheikh’ blog should appear. Instead I’d like to take this opportunity to say Hi to all the Writing Round Robin members – aka The Hoods – who might be reading this blog and who, indirectly, are the reason why I ever wrote At The Sheikh’s Command anyway.

Hi Hoods!

Last year I was asked to run a Writing Round Robin on the eHarlequin boards – and I was specifically asked for a Modern Sheikh story please. If you don’t know how these WRRs work, the idea is that a published author starts off a story - a romance, naturally, by writing the first Chapter. This is about 1000 words. Then there is a contest for the members of the Learn To Write section who all submit a potential 2nd chapter. The winner has their chapter posted on eHarlequin – and the contest to write the third chapter starts. Finally the author comes back in to round everything off and finish the story with Chapter 6.

So there I was, needing to think up a story to write my first chapter. And that was tough. I had to create a story opening, one that grabbed the readers and spoke to the writer in them. It had to make then want not only to read on but to write on – to continue the story and enter the contest. For the WRR, I had to create a first chapter that would open a story, establish a couple of characters, create a setting, set up a conflict, sketch in a background, leave enough threads of development dangling so that the writers who followed on could take them up and weave them into their own writing as they created the next chapters – and all in 1000 words. Phew!

I love a writing challenge , something that shakes up my writing, makes me think, takes me out of my writing ‘comfort zone’ – and this first chapter of the WRR was just that – a challenge.

And the hardest part of the challenge was keeping it to just that 1000 words – it would keep growing, because my writer’s mind was attuned to the way I work naturally – getting to know my characters well, putting them together, stirring in the conflict at watching how they grow and change – and the relationship develops – as the story progresses. I couldn’t do that with this one – I had to keep it all tight and short and someone else would develop these characters for me.

When I’d written that first 1000 words, and put it up on the eHarlequin site for the Hoods and anyone else who was joining in the WRR to get their teeth - and writing muscles into – I had all these pages and pages of note. The ideas I didn’t use. The characters that the hero and heroine of the WRR weren’t going to become. And I didn’t want to waste them.

So I turned them into a new book. At first I thought it was the book I would have written if I’d been making that first story the full sized book I normally write – but it didn’t work out like that. As always, Abbie and Malik, my hero and heroine, took the story and ran with it and made it their own. And although all the way along, I’d had this working title of The Wrong Sheikh, it didn’t turn out that Malik was The Wrong Sheikh in quite the way I’d anticipated. If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the book. But one thing I did do, because the hero and heroine of the original WRR (Stolen by The Sheikh) had given me such inspiration to write this second story, I gave them a walk-on role at the end of the book so that the Hoods can see how they ended up after their story closed.

And the great thing is that this little story has made an unexpected appearance as one of the launch Mini ebooks over on eHarlequin so that the Hoods and any other readers who want to know about Lucy and Hakim as well as Abbie and Malik, can do so for free if they want to.

So that’s how At The Sheikh’s Command started as too many ideas and ended up as a full book. And it’s dedicated to the Hoods who made the weeks of the WRR such fun with their chatty message and warm welcome to their thread of the boards.

There’s another WRR going on there now, this time run by New Zealand Silhouette Author Yvonne Lindsay, so why not drop by and see what’s going on – and maybe join in if you fancy trying your hand at writing the next chapter and maybe winning a prize.

If you, do, say Hi to the Hoods for me – tell them I was talking about them. And congratulate Ronda on the safe – if dramatic and stressful arrival of Carson Patrick. Great name for a hero that.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More smiles . . .

Smiles for yourself and your own success are one thing . . .

But smiles for someone else who has deserved success and has been waiting for it and working for it for a long time and has finally made it are something else again

Bigger and broader and really happy smiles.

So who and what put this smile on my face ? Check out Anna Lucia's blog and you'll see.

Smiling . . .

Yesterday was cold and grey and wet - but today there are blue skies and the promise of sunshine and warmth in the day.But it wouldn't matter if it was still raining really - I woke to the news that the USA edition of At The Sheikh's Command has gone straight on to the Waldenbooks bestseller list for romance at #4. And that's really at #3 for the Presents new bestsellers as #2 is a Silhouette released 2 weeks ago.

So I'm up there with Emma Darcy and Penny Jordan - both of whom were great favourites and authors I read to learn from when I started out. So I'm honoured both by the position on the list - and the great company I'm keeping!Thank you to everyone in America who bought a copy of the Sheikh to give me this wonderful result.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Writing Course in November

Seeing as I've been talking about helping would-be writers of Romance, I thought this would be a good time to mention the writing course that I'm teaching on in November.


I will be running a Weekend Course on The Contemporary Romance at this event.

DATE: Friday 10th - Sunday 12th November 2006
PLACE: The Fishguard Bay Hotel, Fishguard, Pembrokeshire Wales
COST: £199 fully inclusive

This weekend is run by the wonderful Writers Holiday — the people who run a full week Writers' Holiday in Caerleon in the summer. This Winter Novel Workshop is held at the Fishguard Bay Hotel.

Nestling in rich woodland above Fishguard Harbour and overlooking some of the most beautiful and spectacular coastline in Wales, guests can view Lower Town in the distance across the Bay the setting for Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, when stars Glynis Johns, Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole and many others were in residence. The Hotel was also the base for the filming of Moby Dick. In 1979 the former Great Western Railway Hotel was designated as a Building of Historic and Architectural Interest.

The hotel offers an atmosphere second to none with oak panelled walls, high ceilings and an air of Victorian splendour combined with warm hospitality, superb service and every comfort. Writers' Holiday invite you to join us for the first of what we hope will be annual 'Writers' Winter Warmer Weekends'. The weekend opens on the Friday evening with a leisurely dinner followed by a short Meet the Workshop Leaders session — the rest of the event will consist of six Workshop sessions and time for informal chats in the luxurious lounge.

Single, double or twin roomed accommodation is available so you can bring your partner. All meals are provided plus tea and coffee. The only other money you will need will be to buy a drink in the bar or purchase a book in the Bookroom.

Courses this time are
The Historical Novel
The Crime Novel
Contemporary Romance
Writing Novels for Children

Further details and booking forms can be found here

All guests booking in the next four weeks will receive £10 discount and if they can introduce someone else (who will also receive the £10 discount) they will get an additional £10 discoount for anyone - and everyone - booking and quoting their name as the introductory contact

Maybe I'll see you there?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Congratulations New Writers . . .

One of the nicest things about this trip to London and meeting with so many writers was the fact that in amongst them this time there were so many writers who have recently signed their first contracts or had their first books published. And meeting so many of them for the first time - or the first time since that event - added a very special somethng to the AMBA lunch or the HMB reception afterwards.

As you know, I really enjoy helping new writers and I'm honoured that some of these newly accepted/published authors have told me that they have taken taken the final steps as a result of either my critique in the NWS or their reading of the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance.

So can I make special mention here of the lovely and talented Natasha Oakley - seen here - and who is featured in the Sunday Spotlight over on the Pink Heart Society site today. Natasha was one of the first New Writers I worked with, the first to take the trouble to write to me and thank me for the critique, and if not quite the first to be published, she thoroughly deserves her current success as one of the launch authors for the new Romance line with her current title Accepting the Boss's Proposal . Why not go and read her interview over on the PHS.

Other new authors I met this time were Chantelle Shaw whose third book The Frenchman's Captive Wife is out this month, and brand new signing Natalie Rivers whose Kristallis Baby will be out in 2007. I worked with Natalie on this book for the 2005 NWS so I'm delighted to see that Natalie's hard work on revisions has resulted in the sale of her fist M&B Modern title. I don't have pictures of Chantelle or Natalie - hopefully next time! But I do have a photo of the delightful Abby Green whose first M&B Modern title - Chosen as the Frenchman's Bride - is out in January 2007 . This picture was taken at the Modern/Presents authors' dinner on ther night before the AMBA lunch and as you can see Abby and the BM are deep in conversation - they formed a mutual admiration society - something to do with Abby being of Irish descent, like a certain Kate Walker that the BM is married to!

The final photograph shows one more brand new M&B Modern author - Christina Hollis (on the far left of this picture) who was also at the Presents authors' dinner and who also has her first book out in January - with the title of The Italian Billionaire's Virgin.

The lady in white in this picture is the internationally best selling author Sandra Marton - and the gentleman seated, busily photographing other authors present is her charming husband Marty.

Finally (for M&B at least!) in this 'roll of honour '- and the newest of the new authors signed this year (there seems to have been a real rush of them recently) - I have to send sincere congratulations to Imogen Grey who received her 'Call' only last Thursday and was kind enough to say in her blog that
I don't know if you keep a record of how many writers you've helped to
publication with the '12 Point Guide'? If you do please add me to the list!

Many many congratulations Imogen and I'm thrilled that the 12 Point Guide played a small part in your success

Oh - no - sorry - this isn't the 'final' success I need to mention. When I got home I found a package waiting for me. It had come from New Zealand and was the wonderful gift of a signed copy of Yvonne Lindsay's very first title for Silhouette Desire - The Boss's Christmas Seduction. I was lucky enough to meet Yvonne in NZ when I spoke at the conference there a couple of years ago - and my advice to her was to be brave and write from her heart. So I was thrilled to receive a copy of her very first book, signed by Yvonne the Brave

Which seems a suitable conclusion to this post. Every author I've mentioned here has taken their courage in both hands, submitted their work to face the scrutiny of strangeers in the form of critiquers like me and, most importantly, of editors. That does take courage because inevitably submitting means risking rejection - but on the other hand if you never submit then you can never ever be accepted and published.

So Congratulations once again to all these new authors just starting out on their new careers as published authors, and to everyone out there who is hoping, dreaming that one day they might join them - then have courage - keep trying - keep learning - and I hope that one day I might be able to list your first books on here as well.

Good luck!

Yet more photos

My dear friend Kate Hardy has sent me on some focused photos that she took on Friday with her own camera - so I can post them here to make up for the unfocused one.

I have to say that the lack of focus of the previous photo was NOT the result of champagne, as she had had nothing but coffee at that point.

Perhaps too much caffeine???

Anyway - here is a photo of Anne and I in Fortnum and Mason's restaurant. If we look a little worn round the edges it's because we were taking a breath in between two rounds of talking!

And here is one of me with the lovely 'Other Kate ' herself. This was taken in the Royal Airforce Club in Picadilly where the AMBA lunch was held - they always look after us very well there.

Another photograph

Or should that be anuffa photograph?

Remember this - Meeting Malik - and the promise I made to sponsor a guide dog puppy?

Well, when I got home from London, the sponsorshop had gone through and there was a photo of 'my' puppy waiting for me. His name is UFFA and he is a German Shepherd/Golden Retriever cross - and here he is . .

Unfortunately my scanner is scanning horribly dark so the picture hasn't reproduced very well. But he is cuteness personified (or should that be pawsonified?)
(The scanner has only just started to do this - and I'm having problems with another picture I really want to show you - so any suggestions anyone? I've tried messing with the brightness and the contrast to no avail. Maybe I just need a new scanner.)

Anyway, my information from The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association tells me that Uffa is just over 6 weeks old. He was born in June. His mother was Onyx - so that's clearly where his colouring came from - and his Dad was Umber. Hie's described as a playful puppy who loves to be cuddled.

Likes - chewing plastic bottles and playing in the garden.

Dislikes - The only dislike Uffa has so far is the sea! When he went to the beach with his puppy walker and saw the sea for the first time, he really wasn't keen.
Well, I suppose the sea is pretty imposing when you're only six weeks old.

I shall get updates on Uffa's progress as he goes through his training - so I'll keep you up to date too. I'll hope that my scanner sorts itself out and I can uppload a much better picture - or if anyone has any helpful suggestions to improve it, I'll be very grateful.

I'm back . . .

I'm back from London - where I had a wonderful but exhausting time. Meeting people is so much fun but to someone who is used to sitting here in almost total silence (apart from the click of the keyboard and the purring of a cat) then talking to them - for hours and hours and hours is exhausting.

The BM and I had a great three days. We managed to fit in a bit of shopping as well as the dining/lunching/champagne drinking (that sounds suitably romantic novelist decadent!) - which of course meant that the BM acquired a few books and I acquired a new handbag and some lovely cosmetic treats.

The guests at the Presents dinner and the AMBA lunch between them sounded like a roll call of some of the very best of the HMB writers with Anne McAllister, Sandra Marton, Jacqueline Baird, Susan Stephens, new authors Abby Green and Chrisitina Hollis at the first and dozens more at the second. I think I need to recover a little and sort out my overloaded brain cell before I can report on that one.

So for those who asked, here is a photo of me and Anne McAllister together.

This was taken at the AMBA lunch by my friend Kate Hardy and as she's not used to the camera it's not totally focused - but when I know she's home, I'll see if she has a clearer one I can use.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Case of the disappearing hedgehog. . .and cat . . .and author

So Anne McAllister arrived in England. At the wrong terminal, true - well, the terminal we weren't expecting her to arrive at - we were at Terminal 1 and she was at Terminal 3 - but we connected in the end (as you can read on her blog) and as with all really good friends it was as if we'd never been apart. I think we stopped talking books and life and - well, more books - when the effects of travelling for what was for her all through the night caught up with Anne and she fell asleep. But we picked up again just as soon as she woke up.

Sid of course was gracious and welcoming in his capacity of host and he rounded up the hedgehogs so that Anne could get her first really close view of them. The very littlest hedgehog (we now have 3 generations of them) came close to the door for his feed of cat crunchies. He has to build up his weight a lot before he tries to hibernate so his need is great and he was quite happy to pose for the camera.

He wasn't quite so happy to appear on Blogger - or, rather, Blogger wasn't quite so happy to have hedgehogs - or cats for that matter - even elegant handsome Cats, cats of Superior Breeding - appear in postings yesterday. Anne and I tried and tried and tried but blogger - and the hogs and The Cat were having none of it. One tiny hedgehog made a fleeting appearance here yesterday - to be spotted by Ms Creativity - but he pretty soon vanished again. So Anne's post had to be without any illustrations of ACOSB or The Littlest Hedgehog. So just in case they don't manage to appear on her blog today either - I have posted both of them here for your delight.

Yesterday was warm and sunny and, after a frustrating morning trying to post pics on blogs - and talking as we did it - we wentout and about and - not suprisiingly I supppose - ended up in a bookshop and bought some books - Anne is already heading for excess baggage I suspect. And we talked all the while too.

Today we will be preparing for the expedition to London where we will meet up with lots of fellow authors and editors . Thursday night will be dinner with other Presents authors. Friday is lunch with even more authors - from all the different M&B lines - so I shall meet up with many friends there. Some of us are going to have afternoon tea together next - And then in the evening there is a drinks reception with Editorial.

Phew! I think I shall be all talked out by then.

If I don't manage to post tomorrow, I shall be packing - or, even worse, ironing before packing - and then travelling. I won't be anywhere near a computer when in London so I don't expect to post then until I get back on Saturday.

So now it's time to post this and see if the incredible disappearing cat - and hog - will appear in public on my blog today. The disappearing author? Well, I have to leave something for Anne to post on hers when she wakes up.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Meeting Malik - a hero in fur

Tomorrow my dear friend, wonderful writer Anne McAllister comes to visit . . .
Correction, tomorrow she comes to visit SID. She says so on her blog - she is flying all the way from America - to visit my cat.

Those who know Sid will not be surprised by this. Sid is A Force of Nature in beautiful black tabby fur. He knows he is special - he is after all ACOSB (a cat of Superior Breeding) - and he sees it as his right that internationally renowned, mutli award winning novelists will fly thousands of miles just to see him.

So today, we have been busy preparing a room for our visitor - Well,I have been preparing it and Sid has been supervising- checking that the bed is comfortable enough, that there is enough space for him to stretch out - with a little bit of room for Anne there as well. The room is ready and Sid is keeping it warm.

Butu this morning I had to go into town to find some food - multi-award winning novelists have to eat, even when they are in the company of ACOSB. And it was in town that I met my hero in fur.

Now Sid has to close his aristocratic ears at this point because my hero in fur was a d-o-g. And Sid and d-o-gs do not mix. He has a friendship of sorts with Anne's d-o-gs - Gunnar, Mitch and Micah, but that is because they stay over their side of the pond and do not invade Sid's territory. Anne's d-o-gs are retrievers - this one was a handsome, elegant and very friendly golden labrador.

And why was he a hero? Well he was my very favourite and admired sort of d-o-g. He was a Guide Dog for the blind. He was sitting with his owner and guidee, together with another lady and her beautiful black German Shepherd Guide Dog and they were all collecting for Guide Dogs for the Blind. When I paused to chat and make a donation, the dogs came forward to say an affable and polite hello. They were two of the most gentle and best behaved dogs I have ever met in my life - and this was when they were off duty. They weren't wearing thier harnesses, as their owners were sitting down, and they were free to relax and be friendly - and receive a lot of fuss, which of course they accepted as their due. Which it was. On duty, Guide Dogs do a wonderful, deeply responsible job. They may be silly and playful when off duty, slobbering kisses all over my hands and bringing an old blue rug to show me - but the minute the harness goes on, all play stops - they are at work and they know that the job they do is important and it shows. Their whole demeanour changes. They are Guide Dogs and they are going to guide to the very best of their ability.

Which makes them heroes in my book. As many of you will know, I had my own sight hugely improved in the past year as a result of surgery to remove cataracts and it has made such a wonderful difference to my life. My sight was bad enough, but at least I could see. I can only begin to imagine how wonderful a gift a fully trained guide dog must be to someone who is totally blind.

But the fascinating moment of serendipity - the real coincidence came when I asked the names of these to canine friends. The black German Shepherd was Farina. And the beautiful, friendly, playful Golden Labrador was Malik. And Malik - meaning King - is the name of the name of the hero in my latest book - At The Sheikh's Command - which is published in October in both UK and America and in November - I think - in Australia. So Malik is the name of both a human hero and a canine one.

I have a sort of personal superstition that if just as a book is submitted or about to be published, the name of one of the characters appears in one of these serendipitous ways, then it's a good omen and the book is going to be a success. This started on the day that I went to London to have lunch with an editor for the very first time and to discuss the revsions they wanted for the manuscript that became my very first book - The Chalk Line. The hero's name in that is Leo Vincent and asI walked to the railway station, a van went past with the name Vincent emblazoned on the side. It's an omen that's worked well for me over the 50 stories I've written.

So I hope it works for Malik - my sheikh. Because if it does then I'm going to honour Malik the furry hero with another donation to Guide Dogs for the Blind so that they can breed and train up other wonderful canine heroes just like the ones I met today. Darn it, I'm going to make that donation anyway - but I hope that Sheikh Malik is a success so that I can make it a really worthwhile contribution

In fact, having just checked out the Guide Dogs for the Blind site, I've decided I'm going to sponsor a guide dog puppy - in honour of Malik the d-o-g - as a gift from Malik the Sheikh.

And I'm sure even Sid won't mind that.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Answering Saskia

So Saskia said:

the question I wanted to ask was in what ways did you try to 'keep your hand in'
or keep learning and growing as a writer during the time you were unwell/unable
to write? I have been tooling around doing some outlines and character
development for fun but wondered what other tips you might have for someone who
is still dead keen but currently incapable of spending the true time required. I
don't want to slip backwards because I know my writing has improved in the last
year or so....
Enough waffle! Any advice greatly appreciated!

Firstly, Saskia – you have my sympathy. Two little ones and twins on the way are not the best combination for being at your very best as a writer! I have two dear friends who are both pregnant right now – one with twins too - and those hormones are complicating matters. Obviously the little ones are going to have to be your priority for quite some time to come – specially if you have any more children who never sleep! I have a son who never ever slept when he was little so I understand that too. It’s equally obvious that actual writing time is going to be strictly limited – so what can you do?

Looking back to the time when I was ill and couldn’t actually spend much time writing, I know that one of the things that helped me a lot was just plain reading – I did more reading then than I ever have time for now. And I miss it. Reading fills up your idea banks, it feeds your imagination, it shows you the way that established authors deal with the basics – like character development, conflict, emotion. You can see how an experienced author handles Point of View changes, how they resolve conflict, how they handle potentially controversial themes or rework the tried and true plot ideas so that they seem fresh and different.

So if you can, read. Read specially the authors who are successful in the lines and styles of fiction you want to write yourself. And take a look at the new authors who are what editors are currently buying.

One other very practical thing that I always did – and still do - is never ever to let yourself get more than a couple of metres away from a notebook! I still resort to the old-fashioned way of doing things, just scribbling them down, when I don’t have time to get to the computer. And I always always have a notebook in my handbag. Snatches of dialogue, descriptions, plot ideas – they all get written down. And I make sure I have a notebook and pen in every room – even when I’m cooking or when I was too ill to get up, I cold scribble ideas in a notepad near the bed. Still have a notebook beside my bed and I often wake up in the night and scribble something down in it.

Now there’s something you might not suspect that I’m going to say about finding it difficult to get any time for writing – and that is that sometimes I remember those times with happy memories. You see, I might not have been able to get to my work physically, but I could spend long hours thinking about my characters, planning stories, working out plot details, and so – when I did finally sit down to any work, the words flowed I was so hungry to write, so impatient to get the words down - words that had been growing and stewing in my head for so long - that as soon as I got a chance to write, I couldn’t stop. When my son was small and at playschool, I used to have to walk there with him, thinking of my story all the way, then I’d leave him with his friends and run home – it was about a 25 minute walk – thinking and planning still. Once home, I had barely got an hour and a half left before I had to pick him up again but I would write as fast as I could – because the ideas were right at the front of my mind. These days, I have much more time to write, but actually less thinking time. The times I spent doing washing or the ironing (which I hate ) I could use in the same way. And visits to the park etc gave me more thinking time.

I think you’re doing the right thing – looking at outlines, at character development - and here if I can do some blatant advertising, perhaps my 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance might help. Each section has a set of questions and exercises at the end of it – so you could read through that, work on each one – or even just a part of each one. And you’d still keep thinking as a writer.

One thing that I did when my son was small – I know you have a bit of time before this is possible yet - but my husband and I both write so we worked on a share system – sometimes I would have our son and he would write, other times, he would look after The Offspring and I would shut myself away. Again this time was always very well used because I’d been planning the novels in my head.

The thing is that if you keep using your ‘writer’s brain then it will not grow rusty. Plotting and planning and even daydreaming will help this. I also believe that even just a few sentences scribbled down each day – each chance you get – can mount up. My birthday treat would be time free to write to my heart’s content.

As I got better and my son grew up, I learned that getting up an hour earlier was worth all the effort of forcing myself out of bed. In the peace and quiet before everyone wakes up you can get an amazing amount done. Of course when broken nights are the problem , this sounds like the world’s worst form of torture, but I’ve also snatched time when the Offspring was asleep, or I’ve napped with him – if he ever napped! – and done the writing early in the morning thing. These days I still find that I work well if I get up early, make a mug of tea and start. Ideas are usually there in the morning as I go to sleep thinking over the point I’ve got to in the plot – and often it sorts itself out during the night.

I don’t know if there are any Writers’ Groups near you. If you’re the type who likes to talk about writing then they can help encourage you. Personally, I’ve never joined one – I prefer to use my time for writing rather than talking about writing! You don’t say where you live but here in the UK, the Romantic Novelists’ Association offers a lot of support to their unpublished members – specially at the Conference or through the New Writers’ Scheme which I’ve mentioned before. But these will probably be something that would have to come later when you have a bit more freedom.

Basically, the advice boils down to – a little is better than nothing - don’t let your writer’s mind grow rusty from lack of use. Even if you’re only scribbling down notes, planning out a timescale for a book, building characters – you’re ‘keeping your hand in.’ And ask – okay - demand – time for yourself. It’s amazing how much can be done in an hour – even half an hour - if you use it to write.

I remember when The Offspring was about 3 – I had left him at the playschool and I had a precious 2 hours but first I had to go to the market and buy veg etc. I didn’t have a car and it was a mile to walk home. On the way, I suddenly ‘heard’ the opening of a book inside my head. I’ve no idea where it came from but it was as if someone had spoken the words out loud:

“Rowena, my dear, I really must insist.”
Councillor Stacey slapped a
podgy thigh with an equally podgy hand to emphasis his words.
‘I want
nothing but the best for you and Alan, and from what I hear this Vincent fellow
is the very best, so let’s have no more protests. . . . ‘

I still had to get home before I could note down the words – I kept repeating them to myself over and over as I walked home. And then as soon as I was in the house, I grabbed the nearest piece of paper and wrote them down. I only had minutes before I had to set off again to collect my son – but I had an opening and all through the rest of that day, I was thinking over this idea – asking myself questions – like who was ‘this Vincent fellow’ and what was his past relationship with Rowena who was obviously the heroine. Asking questions, trying to work out what had happened and why and what would happen now – and why – I could do all that while collecting The Offspring, bringing him home, feeding him, playing with him, bathing him . . . and when he was finally asleep again I could get down as much as possible on paper. It didn’t matter if it was rough – as the saying is – you can always edit a bad page, you can’t edit a blank one.

That opening turned out to be the beginning of my very first published book - The Chalk Line

I think you’re going to have your work cut out, Saskia. Four little ones is a handful in any book. So I hope some of these thoughts have helped you.

If the worst come to the worst, you can always do what the famous and internationally bestselling romance author Charlotte Lamb is reputed to have done. With five children, she had trouble finding peace and quiet to write so she bought a large playpen – not for the children – but for herself. From inside the security of the playpen she could supervise the children at the same time as writing. She must have had phenomenal concentration!

Good luck! I hope the twins arrive safely and are fine and healthy – and I hope you manage to find some time to write or at least plan for writing in the near future.
And if you ever do get a book finished – let’s hope for ‘and accepted’ as well - or have any good news about your writing then please let me know.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Where is everything?

There are times when I wish that I'd never started on this office revamp thing. It's created such chaos and unpheaval that I'm constantly losing things I just found and finding things I didn't know I'd lost and losing things I need and finding things I don't need . . .

Which is why – as you may have noticed – that I haven’t yet posted any part of the first ‘book’ I ever wrote – I can’t find it! It’s in here somewhere under a pile of other papers – or filed somewhere – or under a cat . . . under two cats . . .

And then of course Monday got slightly hijacked by Hugh – or should that be Hughjacked?
And the organisation I’d created got unorganised because I bought some more bookshelves and things had to be redone as I moved the books off the old bookshelves . . . You had to be here to believe it.
So – while I’m trying to restore order again - a couple of things –

1. If you remember I mentioned an article about Breaking the Rules – all about those fictitious ‘rules’ that are supposed to be etched in stone for the would-be romance writer. The whole article is now posted at the We Write Romance site – so if you want to read it in full, you can find it here. You might like to take a look around the site while you’re there - there’s plenty going on.

2. In a comment on my post about The Blob, Saskia asked an interesting question that I thought I’d answer here on the blog rather than just tucking it away in the ‘Comments’ section.

So I'll answer that in my next post - back soon!

Hugh + Towel = hits

Okay, so now I've got your measure. I think we've found the level -
Post pictures of Hugh Jackman, especially the infamous Hugh-in-a-towel - and the number of visitors to this blog jumps.

Not surprising really - so it's a pity that today is no longer Hugh's Day.

But if I might just suggest that you follow the link along to my cyber kid Julie Cohen's blog you - if you haven't been there already - you will find some additional delights involving towels and a certain Australian gentlemen.

Julie thinks I don't know about these, but I do, my dear, I do . . .

It's just that I'm so a sweet and generous Cyber Mum, I'll let you share. As a thank you for making me cry - again - when I read the dedication in your latest book.

Monday, September 11, 2006


On a much more serious note - and deliberately posting close to the actual time - I cannot let today pass without remembering how I sat here at my desk five years ago and watched horrific images from the World Trade Centre appear on my screen.

A very dear friend was in New York on that morning - she was due to fly out on a plane that might have been one of the ones hijacked for those terrible attacks. That brought everything so very close to home for me - even though I was thousands of miles away. I sat here, tears streaming down my cheeks and I prayed. My friend was safe, thank God, but so many people were not.

In 2003, I attended the RWA Conference in New York and on our last day in the city the BM and I made a pilgrimage to Ground Zero - just to acknowledge our personal sorrow at what had happened. Our taxi driver was a delightful, articulate interesting and interested man - who joked that we should be afraid to get into the cab with him as he was from Iran. I couldn't have been less afraid - he couldn't have been more friendly and helpful. He even at one point switched off the meter because he couldn't get us to exactly where we needed to be because of traffic diversions and so we shoud have had to pay for the extra trip he made around to approach from a different angle. A little gesture that just added to the poignancy of the day - from a man whose country some might label as the enemy.

At the site itself, the thing that most affected me, blurred my eyes with more tears was the huge, rough made cross made up of broken, twisted metal girders that had once been part of the World Trade Centre. That's the image that I'm posting today. No other words are needed - except


Today's Hugh's Day

Over at the Pink Heart Society they've declared today Hugh Jackman day - and every PHS Member is invited to post their favourite pictures of this imspiration to romantic novelists everywhere so that visitors to the site can go on the Hugh Jackman Tour .

So in the interests of cooperation and joining my fellow novelists in their intensive research and their devotion to the cause of creating the perfect heroes for their readers - and no other reason at all of course - I'll offer a few contributions to this enterprise. It's a hard job but someone has to do it.

But I have to say once and for all - no matter what Anne McAllister may claim - Hugh-in-a- towel is mine!

Now I may have to take a break to recover.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Blob . . .

In her comment on the last post Lidia says:

By the way, I love the cover of your next book "At the Sheikh's Command" -- I
like the M&B version better than the HP. It is essentially the same picture,
but you get more background in the M&B version and for some reason that
makes a greater impact

I agree with her - this is one cover where the background seen through the open tent flap is just perfect. Abbie and Prince Malik have ridden through the desert and come to a camp in an oasis. You can the trees of the oasis outside the tent, and beyond that, the shadowy form of a huge sand dune.

Now that sand dune has a special significance for me because the very first Sheikh story I ever wrote - Desert Affair - had a cover that has gone down in the history of M&B covers as one of the worst of record. It has also acquired the half affectionate (the other half appalled) nickname of The Blob.

I've posted the cover here so you can see it in all its gruesome glory. When my son first spotted this book lying on my desk, he thought I'd spilled ink over the cover. For some time, I wasn't quite able to work out what it was - it's a sand dune, obviously, with a huge dark shadow covering one side and with a scraggy tree down there at the bottom. It was very evocative, I was told (though they never said evocative of what). It was distinctive (it was certainly that) - it would make people want to pick it up. Part of the problem was the positioning of that pale yellow band saying 'Romance' across the top - it would look a lot better on the paperback version.

Well, yes it did - on the paperback version it actually looks like a sand dune - the picture has been reversed, and you can see the top of the dune so it looks right and much less of a Blob. And I suppose I should have been grateful to theoriginal cover because I talked about it so much that when the paperback came out, people took one look at it and said - 'Oh there's the Blob!' And so, yes, it did make them pick it up - the design team were right about that.

So I'll admit that when I wrote At The Sheikh's Command, I was a little apprehensive about the sort of cover I might get. It was such a relief to see the wonderful cover that I've posted here (the USA version is in the sidebar). I've had a lot of messages from friends and readers saying how much they like it - and many of them have added some comment like 'No sign of The Blob' this time.

Ah, but . . .is that really true?

Take another look at the shape of the sand dune in all its glory on the cover of Desert Affair (the paperback version.) Then go back to the UK edtion of At The Sheikh's Command - and look at the sand dune you can see rising up in the distance. Isn't that the same dune? Isn't it really The Blob come back to haunt me?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Just a thought . . .

No, this isn't an insight into the very first 'book' I ever wrote - it's just something that I found as I was ploughing through the paper moutain that needs organising before I dare put it back into my wonderful new office.

I'm always being asked why I like to encourage would-be writers/newbies/gonnabes - whatever you want to call them. I have also, darn it, been criticised for doing this - for 'Training up the opposition'.

Well, I just found a little book hidden in a pile of stuff. One of those little stocking filler mini books - 60 Ways to Feel Amazing. I opened it at random and found:

Be An Encourager
Who do you know who could do with some encouragement right now?
Maybe it's you. One of the surest ways to give yourself hope is to inspire
someone else.
Think of someone who encouraged you.
What did they say? What did they do?
Do the same for someone else.
When you start to inspire another person you will feel inspired

Those are my italics - and that's my answer to those who wonder why.

When you give out, you get a hell of a lot back.

Seems like a fair deal to me - after all, wasn't there some parable about using your talents and not burying them?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Old Beginnings; New Beginnings - Or The Little Girl Who Could . .

Sorting out my office has been interesting in more ways than one. I’ve unearthed a lot of things I didn’t know I had, and reminded myself of a lot of things that had slipped my mind. One thing I turned up was an interesting sort of coincidence.

I was sorting through a file of letters from HMB (or just Mills & Boon as it was then) and I found a letter from my first ever editor. It was intriguing to find that 31st August 1982 was the date on which the revised manuscript of The Chalk Line, the novel that turned out to be my very first published book, was received in the London offices (M&B weren’t out at Richmond then). And now, here I was, almost exactly 24 years later, with my 50th novel published and about to start on the journey towards the next milestone.
(I hope it won’t take me as long. It wasn’t, as it looks, that I wrote about 2 books a year – for over two years after that first acceptance, I was very ill and couldn’t write. My first book was published in 1984, the next 1986.)

So, having already thought about the New Year type of feeling I get at this time of year, I also started looking back over the 20+ years of my second career. – My first was the almost four years I spent as a Children’s Librarian, before I left to have my son.

20+ years, 50 titles, sales amounting to millions of books, several awards, two ‘How To Write Romance’ Guides, not a bad record for someone that was always being told that she should stop dreaming, grow up, find a ‘sensible job’- and put aside all hopes and dreams of being a published author. Hmm!
Anyone who has visited my web site or read the biography on either or eHarlequin, will know that I was almost born telling stories. I was recounting the tale of Drippy, Droppy and Droopy, the Three Little Raindrops, to my two younger sisters at the age of 3 or 4. I wrote my first ‘book’ at the age of eleven. But no one ever seemed to believe that I could do this professionally – and earn a very good living by it.

Perhaps they thought they were giving me good advice, the life of a freelance writer is a precarious and uncertain one. You can try and try and try for publication, submitting manuscript after manuscript and never getting anywhere. And even if you do get accepted and published, there is no guarantee at all that you’ll earn a great deal – quite the opposite, in fact. (I think there was a survey that said that many authors earn no more than £5,000 a year from their writing.)

Well, if the idea was to put me off, it didn’t work. Perhaps they should have remembered one of my favourite stories as a child. There was a book called The Little Engine that Could.
Basically, the story of this was

A little railroad engine was employed about a station yard for such work as it was built for, pulling a few cars on and off the switches. One morning it was waiting for the next call when a long train of freight-cars asked a large engine in the roundhouse to take it over the hill "I can't; that is too much a pull for me," said the great engine built for hard work. Then the train asked another engine, and another, only to hear excuses and be refused. At last in desperation the train asked the little switch engine to draw it up the grade and down on the other side. "I think I can," puffed the little locomotive, and put itself in front of the great heavy train. As it went on the little engine kept bravely puffing faster and faster, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can."

Then as it near the top of the grade, that had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly, but still kept saying, "I--think--I--can, I--think--I--can." It reached the top by dint of brave effort and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself, "I thought I could, I thought I could."

I remember my Mother telling me this story with the sound of the little engine getting slower and heavier as it struggled up the hill – ‘I think I can – I think – I can – I – think – I – can’. And then getting faster and faster, and more gleeful as it went down the other side. "I thought - I could, I thought I could. IthoughtIcould. .. ‘

Seems to me that I absorbed a lesson from that story – and when I was supposed to give in and decide that my dreams were too hard to achieve that I would never make it, instead, I told myself I think I can – and kept on. And on. Until I reached the top of that hill – and had my very first book published.

Of course, it’s not all been rushing happily and easily down the hill ever since – there was that illness, and books that didn’t work. Even now there are times – lots of them – when writing a story that isn’t taking off in the way I wanted, makes me feel like that little engine pulling a heavy engine and a line of freight cars up a steep, steep hill. But there’s always that refrain – I think I can – I think I can. And gritting my teeth and not giving in gets me to the top in the end.

And it all started 24 years ago this month.So what’s that saying from the song by Paul Simon– Hang on to your hopes my friend. . . I did. I didn’t let those people who told me I’d never do it convince me that they were right. Instead – like the little engine – ‘I think I can, I think I can.’ And here I am, having proved that I could.

And tomorrow – or the day after, depending how long it takes to find it in this new office where nothing is in the same place as it was, I’ll let you into a secret from my past – the very first ‘book’ written by Kate Walker – and that was a lot more that 24 years ago!

PS I just checked on Amazon and The Little Engine That Could is still in print! Blogger is not cooperating so that I can upload a cover - but you can see one here

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Breaking the Rules

I’m always being told that there are rules for writing romances. Rules that must be strictly kept to on pain of total rejection. Rules that you break at your peril.

I was listening to the radio this morning and I heard an interview with Sir Peter Hall – founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company – on the topic of speaking Shakespeare’s dramatic verse and how it should be done properly. The interviewer, Samantha Bond aka Miss Moneypenny in James Bond, had heard the Sir Peter was a strict disciplinarian. That for him the verse had to be spoken properly or else. .

So what, she asked, are the rules . . .

And Sir Peter replied:
There are no rules. More trouble is done by people believing that there
are rules, that there is a way that dramatic verse should be
spoken - it paralyses actors, bores audiences . . .

So, substitute writing romance for dramatic verse, authors for actors, and readers for audiences and you’ll see why I stopped what I was doing and listened.
And cheered.

It reminded me of an article I wrote a while back for the Romance Writers of Australia magazine Hearts Talk – an article I deliberately entitled just as I've titled this blog - Breaking The Rules – but spent most of the article actually trying to find any real ‘rules’ that any editor had ever given me. In that article I ended up saying something very similar to Sir Peter Hall:

Writing by rules or formulas is to lose all originality. It destroys an author’s
voice, creates production-line books, all in the same mould, the same style –
the same. It creates books written by committee and no reader is going to be
satisfied with those for very long.

The only
rule in writing - whether romance writing or anything else - is that there are
NO rules. Would-be authors might talk about them,, critiquers may make out that
they exist but what an editor is looking for is a great story written as well as
possible – written in the way that the author creates the most sympathetic and
believable characters, and tells that story in the best, most exciting,
most vivid way possible. And so the only 'rule' is that the author writes a book
in the best possible way that makes that story the best story it can be

Monday, September 04, 2006

Happy New Year

No – I’ve not gone completely doolally as they say in the BM’s family. I know my dates, and yes it’s still September and January 1st is (thank heaven) several wintery months away. But I always feel more ‘new yearish’ at this stage in the year than I ever do at the end of December. For one thing, on January 1st it’s dark and cold and you don’t really want to resolve to do anything – you still have far too much food – the stuff you bought in that frenzied ‘buying for a siege ‘ mentality before the holiday – there’s lots of lovely wine left undrunk and you’re just enjoying indulging. New Year's Day is just a change of numbers – an arbitrary one imposed by the calendar.

I’ve always believed you can have a New Year whenever you want to. You just have to declare it – "my new year starts tomorrow" – and then you can make resolutions and hopefully put them into action without someone inviting you to a late party or something else, and before you know it, it’s halfway through February and you haven’t lost a single pound, been teetotal for a second, given up the dreaded cigarette. See – that’s how I know you can declare New Year whenever you want. March 14th 1989 – I had a New Year then – I stopped smoking and have never started again. So I have experience that non January New Years do work.

The BM and I have always felt more in the New Year Resolution sort of spirit around this time of year anyway. It comes from so much experience of new academic years – as school children, university terms as students, College terms when the BM was a FE lecturer – university ones again when he was a Senior Lecturer. Evening classes began in September . . .We’ve tended to measure our lives around new beginnings at this time of year. I’ve always loved the autumn - the Fall for those of you across The Pond - and along with the mellowing of the season, the warmth that lingers more softly than the heat of summer and the wonderful changing colours of the trees, there is also the added thrill of that whole Back to School promotion in the stationery shops.

I’ve always loved browsing in stationer’s - looking at fresh, sharp pencils, beautiful pens - pens that might just manage to turn my illegible scrawl into something that could possibly be described as handwriting - and of course notebooks. Piles of wonderful virginal, fresh, clean notebooks, with covers of all colours and size and designs, all untouched and just waiting for brilliant ideas, characters, stories, to be written in them.

I think this is why I’ve finally launched into the office overhaul with such commitment and enthusiasm. I’ve know this had needed doing for ages but I’ve always said, WTBIF (when the book is finished - usually it’s WTBBIF - yopu can guess what that extra B stands for - sometimes it becomes WTBBBBIF) and then of course as soon as the book is finished, there’s something else that need doing . .

But this time the office is done. Well, the physical overhaul is done. The carpet is laid. The bookshelves are built, the books are back in place. It’s all wonderful and fresh and clean and so inviting. It really makes me want to be in here. Which is a good thing, as I have another book to write.

I’d post a picture – may do so later – but it would be best if I could find the photo I took of the ‘old’ office so you could get the full before and after effect.

But first there is the little matter of sorting and filing and organising the paperwork – right now, the office looks extra wonderful because I haven’t yet brought back in any of the paper clutter that mounts up when I’m writing. That has all got to be cleared up and organised – another New Year resolution – this time for tomorrow.

So while I was in this New Year frame of mind, I set up a new contest on my web site. I enjoyed choosing the items to go into the prize package – it gave me a wonderful opportunity to browse in my favourite stationery store - and yes, I came home with some bits and pieces for myself. So if for you this time of year has a New Start feel to it too, and you’d like to win a notebook to record all your wonderful ideas in plus some other bits and pieces check out my Contest page and answer the simple trivia question.

And I wonder what sort of Autumn resolutions you might be planning for yourself?

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