Monday, April 30, 2007

Writing Romance Course in July

WORKSHOPS AND COURSES

I promised to pass on the information about this course that I'm teaching, together with Julie Cohen, in Leicester in August , as soon as I had more details - so here's the info that I have now.

Arts Training Central presents residential Write Away Courses for Summer 2007

Beyond the Hearts and Flowers:
Writing Romantic FictionFriday 17- Sunday 19 August, 2007

Romantic fiction writing is big business, making up almost half the paperback fiction sold and generating billions in sales worldwide. This course is intended to provide information and advice for anyone who wants to learn how to write it, from initial research to the final submission of the typescript. With advice and exercises, you will be guided through creating realistic characters, sustaining pace and conflict, packing emotional punch, writing sex scenes and crafting a satisfying ending. If you’re just starting out writing romance, or you’ve written a manuscript or two but are not yet published and are interested in honing your skills, this course is for you.

Tutors:

Kate Walker has been writing for Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern Romance since 1984. During that time she has had 50 novels published, many of them best-sellers, with three new titles contracted for 2007/8. She is also the author of the award-winning 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance (Studymates 2004). Kate has an MA in English from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and worked as a Children’s Librarian before concentrating on writing full-time. She is an experienced tutor, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Romance Writers of America.

Julie Cohen writes sexy, emotional, romantic comedy. She writes romantic comedies for Headline's Little Black Dress imprint, and novels for Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern Extra. Julie studied English at Brown University in the USA and Cambridge University in the UK. She has an M.Phil. in English literature (University of Reading) and has taught secondary school English in the UK and US for ten years. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and her 2005 workshop on ‘Writing the Sexy Bits’ was aired on the BBC's Page Turners programme.

In association with Literature Network

Courses are £170 for the weekend, which includes all meals, tutoring, catering and accommodation.
There are a limited number of bursaries for writers on low income.

To reserve a place, request a full brochure or for more information, contact Arts Training Central on 0116 242 5202 or email them at info@artstrainingcentral.co.uk

Saturday, April 28, 2007

RNA Awards lunch catch up

I am back – really I am. I was back home on Saturday actually, but a migraine that hit hard on Saturday morning and made the journey home pretty difficult , stayed around on Sunday too and so I’ve had to avoid working and looking at the screen until it eased. So I’m late reporting back from all the glamour and glitz of the Savoy and the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards.
Many other authors who were there have already reported so most of this isn’t news – but I promised I’d tell you so . . .
<- Jenny Haddon & top table


First of all, London was fun – and warm, with lots of sunshine The BM headed off to research the City of London police and connections with Jack the Ripper and other things grim and gruesome on the Thursday and I got plenty of exercise along Oxford Street while doing a little Retail Therapy. I managed to avoid the fire that broke out there just after I left to head back to the hotel. I suspect it was my credit card catching fire!

Friday was the Awards Lunch so we dressed in our best and headed to the Savoy. Arriving is always a bit of a muddle – so many familiar faces – people to say hello to – and as you’re hugging someone, you miss someone else. The first person I met was Jenny Haddon (Sophie Weston) elegant in mocha lace, and from then onwards it was ‘Hello . . .’ And ‘Hello . . . ‘ and ‘Hello .. .’ Luckily the HMB group and drinks table was just inside the door so I was able to find them quite easily. The Editor looked stunning (no I’m not just saying this because she’s got my tweaked Spaniard on her desk – she really did) with a brand new hairstyle and weight loss. Very glamorous. Other editors – lots of authors – Julie Cohen, Catherine George, Susan Stephens, India Grey, Sharon Kendrick who managed to make even the plaster cast on her broken wrist look elegant as its purple covering toned with what she was wearing. I introduced the BM to Guy Hallowes the HMB Managing Director and then was caught up in congratulating and wishing luck to all the Romance Prize nominees – Jessica Hart, Catherine George, Michelle Styles. I missed Natasha Oakley until the end and Nicola Cornick was on holiday in Scotland so she wasn’t there. Michelle Styles receiving her rose ->

Lunch was served at 12.30 – if you’re interested in the food, the menu was –
Onion tomato tart tatin with orange and melted goat cheese

Stuffed breast of chicken with wild mushrooms, potato cakes with almonds, mousseline of spinach and baby winter vegetables

Or – for vegetarians like me and the BM
Riccota-spinach ravioli with mushroom cream and parsley salad

Treacle and raspberry tart with vanilla ice cream


Heidi and India


Our table was at the front but a long way away from the part of the platform where the main speaker was and where the announcements were made, so most of my pictures came out rather dark – sorry. At the table, were Guy Hallowes, Sharon Kendrick, Susan Stephens, editor Jenny Hutton, Writers’ Forum’s John Jenkins and two of the brand new jewels in HMB’s stable of authors (hmm – can I have jewels in a stable? Perhaps I should say brand new thoroughbreds in the stable?) India Grey and Heidi Rice whose first book Bedded by A Bad Boy is out this month. India's first book, The Italian's Defiant Mistress is out in July.

Rosie Thomas accepting her prize ->

The announcement of the Main Award followed immediately after lunch with the award going to Rosie Thomas for her book Iris and Ruby. Every author short listed was presented with a cream rose – as were the runners up for the Romance prize. The main speaker was Dame Tanni Grey Thompson – who has 16 Olympic medals. 16! She gave a lively, witty and thoughtful speech and talked about how important reading was to her as she travelled so much for her sport.

Finally the Romance prize was awarded – the adjudication narrowing the short list down to a final three books – The Millionaire’s Runaway Bride, Accepting the Boss’s Proposal an

d the eventual winner Marrying Max by Nell Dixon – published by People’s Friend Library. It was wonderful to see Nell win – and to see just how stunned by disbelief she was that she could hardly move from her seat. Nell was one of my ‘RNA Virgins’ a couple of years ago and I’m so pleased that she is now not only one more of that special group who is published but also the RNA Romance prize winner. –

Nell Dixon and me

Many many Congratulations, Nell – and good luck with the M&B Medical submission that you’re working on.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On the road again

Well - on the train actually.

The Spaniard is tweaked and back with my Editor and the BM and I are heading for London today. Friday is the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award and the presentation of the Romance Prize. And on Thursday the BM is taking the oppoprtunity of being in the big smoke to do research into things grim and gruesome for one of the history books he has a contract to write. I believe this will involve following the trail of Jack the Ripper and finding out about police in London including a Police Station that once featured heavily in an episode of The Professionals. So that should keep him busy while I do a little research on my own - into Retail Therapy.


And Friday we'll be at the Savoy Hotel for the Awards Lunch. This time the Main Speaker is Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson who is also the Chair of the judges.
The short list for the main award are these titles:
A Step in the Dark by Judith Lennox
Beyond the Blue Hills by Katie Flynn
Iris & Ruby by Rosie Thomas
Learning by Heart by Elizabeth McGregor
The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook by Matt Dunn
Welcome to the Real World by Carole Matthews

You can read more about the shortlist for the Romantic Novel of the Year here.

And then there is the shortlist for the Romance Prize
Accepting the Boss’s Proposal Natasha Oakley, HMB. .
An Improper Companion by Anne Herries, HMB Historical.
Her Ready Made Family by Jessica Hart, HMB Romance.
Nicola Cornick, HMB Historical.
Marrying Max by Nell Dixon
The Gladiator’s Honour by Michelle Styles, HMB Historical
The Millionaire’s Runaway Bride by Catherine George, HMB Modern/Presents.

Most of these are written by friends and authors I respect - but I'll admit I do have a favourite - though I'm not going to say which one! They'd all be worthy winners.

Anyone like to have a go at picking the two winners? Post your choices while I'm away and let's see if anyone gets both right. There might even be a prize in it - but entries have to be posted before the end of Thursday. It's no good coming in after the results are announced.

And I'll be back with the result and the report at the weekend

Monday, April 23, 2007

Happy Birthday Shakespeare

April 23rd is St George's Day - George, the slayer of dragons is offically the patron saint of England. So although the date isn't usually celbrated very actively, today some English people will wear red roses in their buttonholes and some flags of St George - the red cross on the white background - will fly on official buildings.

But unlike St Patrick's Day or the 4th there won't be major marches or fireworks. It will all be pretty low key, even if it's remembered at all.

I've often wondered why some brave Roman soldier who protested against the torture of Christians and died for his beliefs was chosen as the patron saint of a small island far away from Rome. Apparently his popularity stems from the early Crusades when it's said that the soldiers saw St George in a vision and then went on to be victorious.

So George is rarely remembered much but the man who was believed to have been born on St George's Day 1564,well he merits a very different sort of celebration.

William Shakespeare's birthday is generally believed to have been on April 23rd 1564 - though all we really know for sure is that he was christened on April 26th of that year - and traditionally Elizabethan christenings took place 3 days after birth. The big birthday celebrations are held in Stratford on Avon on the Saturday closest to the 23rd - this weekend there will be a procession through the streets, the unfurling of many flags and the laying of floral tributes at Holy Trinity church.


Last year the BM and I spent a wonderful couple of days in Stratford with Anne McAllister and her husband . We visited all the Shakespeare sites - particularly his birthplace right in the centre of the town. And in the evening we went to a brilliant production of 12th Night in the Swan theatre. It was a production that reminded me that not only is Shakespeare remembered because he was a brilliant and prolific dramatist - but also that he had an unerring popular touch.
Not only that but he gave the world some of the greatest romantic couples of all time - Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra, Othello and Desdemona.

But even in those days, very few of his plots were actually new - they were gathered from other sources, revitalised and rewritten in his own style, to suit his times. That's something I always remember when I'm struggling to find a new plot or to write something different - as Vladimir Propp once said, there are only a limited number of plots in the whole of literature, and all books & plays use those plots and rework them again and again. I thought about this last night as I watched a TV programme celebrating the 40 best romantic movies - all of them reworking the tried and tested themes and creating something just that little bit different every time. And yes, Romeo and Juliet were in there - as was Will Shakespeare's own fictional love story Shakespeare in Love and Ten Things I hate about You is of course based on The Taming of the Shrew written by one W Shakespeare. 40 great films, almost all of which made me want to go out and rent the DVDs and watch them all over again - just as soon as the Spaniard is tweaked into submission. And 40 variations on a set of basic plots that show how, in the hands of a creative writer, the same old same old themes can be revitalised and reworked and appear looking fresh and exciting even if they've been done a hundred times already.

It's like I always tell would-be romance writers. You'll find it almost impossible to be truly original - but what you can be is authentic to you - you can write it your way. Don't copy the greats, look at their plot ideas and make them your own, write them in the way that could only come from you. That's what will give your work that special individual 'voice' that an editor and a reader is looking for.

After all, what Mr Shakespeare did with those limited number of plots is still vivid and alive today, over 400 years later.
Happy Birthday Will!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Reviews and Ratings

Still tweaking that Spaniard but I just wanted to touch on Reviews again – because this morning something intrigued me. I found a review that I knew nothing about. Over on Once Upon A Romance, Connie Payne has reviewed Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride. I’m not going to quote all of the review – though it’s a thoughtful and considered one – but after the review I quoted a couple of days ago, it’s fascinating to compare two sections from each.

So here is part of Connie’s review:

Amber and Guido’s rocky road to reconciliation will have you wondering if they’ll ever find their happy ending. At times the fierceness of their pride, the unrelenting attitudes appear to overshadow, but when we’re hurt it’s a way of self-preservation as it is with the heroine and hero.

There was much to touch on and explore in this story with little time to do so. The conflict was long, the resolution quick. Amber and Guido’s story would have made a great single title, giving the time to explore these things.

Everything about Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride, from the emotions and feelings to the miscommunications and misunderstandings, is intense, heated. Kate Walker has penned quite the passionate story.



And here is the one from Romance Reviews Today.

The first ninety-five pages span less than one full day and are filled with miscommunication, misunderstanding, and angry sexual tension. I found I didn't care for either character because their internal monologues were so out of sync with their actions. I also found it very difficult to believe that a woman so much in love would leave her husband, first without a fight, and second without confirming if their marriage is real or not. I also had a very hard time reconciling Guido's undying love and passion for Amber with his leaving her on her own for a year and not coming after her until she's at the alter to marry another man . . . The "big misunderstanding" is often used for conflict in novels, and if not drawn out too long works well; however, in this case a simple conversation and a dollop of common sense would have alleviated most of the problems facing the couple

What I found fascinating was the way that they were so obviously discussing the same novel and yet one found a lot to enjoy and comment on positively in exactly the same things that the second reviewer found unsatisfactory.

There’s one line that’s repeated almost exactly:

RRT : filled with miscommunication, misunderstanding, and angry sexual tension.

OUAR: Everything about Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride, from the emotions and feelings to the miscommunications and misunderstandings, is intense, heated.

But the vital point, as I said earlier and as Connie recognises is that:

At times the fierceness of their pride, the unrelenting attitudes appear to overshadow, but when we’re hurt it’s a way of self-preservation as it is with the heroine and hero.


Which changes nothing. But to me it’s intriguing. It’s like that comment about belief - To those who believe, no proof is necessary. To those who do not believe, no proof is possible.

The style of writing and of romance in the Presents line tends to divide the readers – and very often many of the authors into fiercely for or against lines. To those who see the Presents hero as solely bullying, domineering and arrogant, then no explanation for his behaviour will ever justify it. And in the same way then those who don’t enjoy the strong focus on the emotional story, the ‘emotional rollercoaster ride’ that is a Presents novel, then such a story will always disappoint because


RRT . . .for me there was simply not enough plot to keep my interest.

Devoted Presents readers and those who understand and appreciate the emotional development and the strong, intense feelings will always love them – and, I think, love them for all the things that their critics dislike about them.

I’ve always felt that Presents is the line that readers in a way have to learn to read. They need to pick up on the clues and the cues that a lot of readers don’t see or don’t accept. Personally I’ve always loved the strong conflict, the intense emotions, the forceful hero, the defiant heroine. And that’s why I write what I do.

But as I said before, in the end it’s always just one person’s opinion. And that’s why there are so many different lines and styles and types of romance and romantic fiction. Horses for courses – or that plain and simple fact that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.


PS Remember Domenico? The Groom from my February book? Well I was intrigued to see that on Amazon.com and on Amazon.co.uk this weekend, The Italian's Forced Bride is back at #1 on each of their bestseller lists.


Guido's up there too in Sicilian Husband Blackmailed Bride and in the UK at least his brother Vito is coming up fast in The Sicilian's Red-Hot Revenge. I'm used to competing with other authors' books to see who gets to the #1 slot but 3 of my own heroes battling it out makes for interesting viewing.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tweaking Spaniards and Tracking down Sicilians

I have a Spaniard to tweak - poor guy. My editor loves him - apparently he's wonderfully commanding and deeply sexy but as always - always - there are tweaks.

I've said this before and I'll say it again as it bears repeating. Just because I'm a multipublished author it doesn't mean I never have to do any revisions on a book (I wish!) . That's the great thing about having an editor. An author gets too close to a book to see it perfectly clearly and in a short romance novel the concentration is so intense and the word count so short that a single sentence can have much more impact than you'd expect from the number of words in it - or the fact that a sentence is missing, that you've not written it, can throw a scene, a character, a book, out of balance. Plus authors always know what they meant to say, and because that's in their mind - because they know exactly what's going on and why - and they need a cool editorial eye to tell them if they've actually communicated it as clearly and perfectly as possible. This editor and I have been working together since I wrote my current book, Sicilian Husband Blackmailed Bride, and the reviews - okay most of the reviews - for that book indicate that we make a great team.


If you respect your editor then tweaks are easier to accept. My editor has a sure eye and a respect for what I do so if she says a tweak is needed, then I listen - and I grit my teeth and tweak. Of course I always wish there was never any need to revise anything but I value the fact that I have an editor I can work with - I value the fact that I have an editor at all.


And so I'm busy tweaking Raul so that he will totally please this most discerning of critics because, like The Editor ( I think she needs those capital letters somehow), I want to make this a 'real Kate Walker emotional rollercoaster.'


Besides, I don't really mind having Raul back for the weekend . He's a very sexy hero and one I can happily spend a bit more time with. And I wrote some bits of this book so fast I can't really remember what I did write! For one thing, I want to look back at the ending and find what sent shivers down The Editor's spine. You see - an author really can get too close to a book because that's one of the bits I wrote at white hot speed and I have only the haziest memory of it! It's going to be interesting reading it again.
PS To Karuna who posted in the Comments on New Look x2 - sorry, I don't know who the model for Vito is on the cover of The Sicilian's Red Hot Revenge but I've asked The Editor if she can find out - but I get my hands on him first!

Friday, April 20, 2007

What gets you going?

The UK newspaper The Guardian had an interesting article in its Weekend Magazine on Saturday. The article is called Works Like A Charm and in it “writers reveal what gets the creative juices going”. And it makes fascinating reading.

For Jonathan Franzen, it’s a squeaky chair. For David Guterson, it’s driving (that sounds potentially a little dangerous to me – if I got absorbed in one of my more emotional scenes while driving, I can’t imagine where I’d end up – or even if I’d end up anywhere but in the hospital! Jay McInerney likes to hold a half million years axe in his hand – I can see that working. Just think of all the stories that piece of stone has seen in all its 500,000 years on this planet. Jane Smiley likes hot water – I can relate to that too – but a shower not a bath. There’s something about the activity of a shower – the rush of the water, down on to your head, that stimulates and gets you ready for the day. A bath slows you down, relaxes and unwinds. After a bath I’d fall asleep, not write. And Douglas Coupland likes chocolate. I’ll just bet that lots and lots of authors will relate to that. But not me. Just occasionally, if I’m rushing to a deadline, and I need the boost, and if we have any chocolate in the house, (ie if the BM hasn’t eaten every last scrap of it) I’ll snaffle some and chomp it down. But then it’s wasted really because I don’t even taste it – just get it into my system fast.

These ideas are all taken from a book called How I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors edited by Dan Crowe and it sounds like a great read, especially if you’re one of those nosy types- like me - who just loves to know how other authors do it – where they work, what hours they put in, what gets them going, what music they like to listen to – if they like to listen to anything. I’ve become so enamoured of silence that I can just about tolerate the cats’ purrs. Just.

Of course this made me think about my own writing life and what gets me creating – and of all of these writers, I think I’d have the most connection with David Guterson - though it would be a fiendishly dangerous partnership. You see, I find that long journeys – cars, trains, plane – are what start my imaginative juices flowing. But only if I’m a passenger.

I know this all started when I was a child. Way back in those prehistoric days when my father used to drive us - as an example – over the Pennines from Yorkshire to Lancashire and then on to Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester or perhaps head in the other direction as I did at Easter and go to Scarborough. Long journeys crammed into the back seat of the car with at least two, possibly three of my sisters alongside me. There was no car radio, no ipod to listen to. Reading books made me sick – anything at all made my sister Anne sick - so I needed distractions. I would sit by the window and stare out of it. In the daytime I could watch the streets and houses, the cars and the people go by. In the day time we could play ‘Pub Cricket’ – you watch for a pub sign on your side of the road. If it’s the Queen Mary, you earn 2 ‘legs’ – 2 runs for your team – if it’s the ‘Coach and Horses’ you get at least 8 ‘legs’ and there’s plenty of scope for arguing that this particular coach needs a half dozen horses to pull it. Fox and Geese was another great one. But if you get the King’s Arms or the Maypole then there were no legs, no runs and your turn was up. And the sister on the other side of the car got her go.

But that was in daylight. Often, after a long day out, we would head home in the darkness. And the road over the Pennines, before the motorway was built, was pitch black. No street lights, barely a sign of habitation, or road markings. A few stray sheep that might stupidly wander on to the road from grazing on the moorland – and our car. So I would stare out of the window into the darkness – and make up stories in my head. In my imagination I was an escaping princess – or a kidnapped heroine – and in the car were not my sisters and parents but whoever I wanted to people my imaginary world with. Heroic saviours, dangerous kidnappers, evil stepmothers, loyal servants . . . and out there – beyond the darkness, perhaps behind me, hunting us down, or coming to save me – it depended on the story I was telling myself – were . . . well behind me was anyone and everyone I could possibly imagine. The story could grow and develop and become as big as I wanted – or it could stay small and intimate and just within the darkness of the car.

And I still do that. Put me in the passenger seat of a car – on the way to Scarborough or wherever - and once I’m sure that I have all the travel documents I need and that the BM knows the way – and I’ll drift – off into an imaginary world where anything is possible. I’ve created the seeds of so may of my stories this way. And I always have a pen and note pad with me ready to note down the inspiration when it strikes. I still remember vividly exactly where in Lincolnshire I was when the line ‘So you’d better tell me who you are because one thing’s for certain, you’re definitely not my wife,’ came into my head. And I had to scribble it down fast before I lost it – and then I had to find a story in which to fit it. And the scenes to lead up to it. (Chase The Dawn if you’re interested.)

So that’s one thing that works for me. Lying down with my eyes closed does too. It must be the darkness and me alone with my imagination that does it. I let ideas steep in my mind just as I’m falling asleep and can just about guarantee that when I wake up I’m ready to go and the ideas are there.

I’m heading for London on Wednesday. We’re going to the RNA Awards lunch at the Savoy. So I’m expecting to sit and daydream as I watch the countryside go by. And I really hope I’ll come up with a wonderful new idea. Because I’ll be meeting my editor at the Savoy and I’ll just bet that one of her very first questions will be ‘And what’s your next book going to be about.’
So – the writers out the, reading this – what gets you going ? What starts the ideas flowing? I’m always ready to learn a good tip.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Book Launch Blog Party

No - not mine. But maybe I should have one for that 50th title I keep going on about.

What do you think?

Anyway, you all know - and most of you approve - of the way that I'm delighted to welcome new authors into the world of romance writing. (Those of you who don't approve - look away now - I'm doing it again ;-) )

Today I want to welcome Tessa Radley whose very first book Black Widow Bride is published by Silhouette Desire this month in America.
I 'met' Tessa through the eharlequin boards and then I met her in person when I went to speak at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Sydney.
Tessa is launching her book with a blog party where many authors from Australia, America, UK and New Zealand are guests on her blog - and they're offering prizes to give away too. She's just posted my blog up there - and there are some interesting other posts to read too.
So why not visit Tessa's blog and read all about it. You might win a prize if you're lucky.
And talking of prizes, if you can't get your hands on the USA copy of Black Widow Bride, then I twisted Tessa's arm - ahem - I asked Tessa very very nicely and she has promised me two signed copies of her book to go into this years Bag of Books Contest which will be coming up in the summer again - right after I celebrate that 50th title.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New Look X2

So - do you like it?

The new-look blog? Now that it all matches in with my lovely new web site as well? I love it. I'm so pleased with the result. So I have to send a really special and big THANK YOU to the wonderful ladies at We Write Romance Design and Maintenance Services for their hard work on revamping my blog to make it look this good.




And of course for all the work they put in every month to maintain and update my web site so that it gives you all the information and interest you want.

Thank you Heather and Terescia! I love my great new look and I love working with you. You make it all so easy and so efficient.

Right now, Heather and I are working on a set of brand new pages for the web site - pages that will detail all my backlist books, with their covers (UK & USA) and the back 'blurb' and any other information you might need - like which books are linked to each other etc. This is in preparation for the celebrations for my next - my 50th book which will be out in June (UK) and July (USA). As you can imagine, with 50 titles to list, this will take quite some time, but we're getting on with it and hope to have it ready for you to see just as soon as we possibly can.
And new look x2 ?

Well, this morning I receieved copies of that important 50th title . My June book in the UK - The Sicilian's Red-Hot Revenge - is the first of my books to come out in the brand new, revamped cover design for the Mills & Boon Modern Romances.
From 18th May all the Mills & Boon lines will have fresh new look covers so look out for those and see what you think . And for your first sight of one of the new designs - here's the cover of The Sicilian's Red-Hot Revenge as it will appear on the shelves in the UK in June.
I love this cover too - so today I'm a really happy bunny with two great new looks that I'm really pleased with.

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reviewing Reviews

Reviews are strange things . Don’t get me wrong, I love a good review as much as any author, but all the same I remind myself, even as I’m smiling in delight, that this is one person’s opinion and one person’s opinion only. And it’s the same with a bad review.

Oh yes, I get bad reviews – I get reviewers who say my heroine is too stupid to live or my hero and heroine are just not on the same page (mentally – physically they’re almost always on the same page!). And yes, I’m guilty of posting the good ones here or on my web site and ignoring the less than good ones. But I’ll be honest – I haven’t had any bad reviews lately to talk about. Well, that changed this weekend.

A little background – I spent the weekend feeling rotten. Some virus dealt me a vicious sore throat and swollen glands and the feverishness that went with it made me feel dizzy and low. Just the weekend to curl up with some more of my TBR pile (which I did and I’ll blog about later) and preferably not the weekend to get critical emails about my books.

So what did I get? The most unappreciative review I’ve had in - well, in years – and another of those letters. Remember X the reader who told me to write better books? Well I got another of those. Or, I think it was another of those. Quite honestly, I couldn’t make sense of it.

Anyway – reviews - In the interests of honesty and openness because I’ve posted good reviews before now – here’s one from Romance Reviews Today:

SICILIAN HUSBAND, BLACKMAILED BRIDE showcases two characters who often let their emotions rule their actions without thought. The passion between Amber and Guido is sizzling and, though each is angry with the other, they cannot deny their desire. The story starts off with plenty of conflict and drama and an interesting premise; unfortunately conflict and drama drown the reader throughout the book. The pace is slow, the first ninety-five pages span less than one full day and are filled with miscommunication, misunderstanding, and angry sexual tension. I found I didn't care for either character because their internal monologues were so out of sync with their actions. I also found it very difficult to believe that a woman so much in love would leave her husband, first without a fight, and second without confirming if their marriage is real or not. I also had a very hard time reconciling Guido's undying love and passion for Amber with his leaving her on her own for a year and not coming after her until she's at the alter to marry another man -- what if he'd had a flat tire -- or his plane had been delayed? It just doesn't make sense to me.

The "big misunderstanding" is often used for conflict in novels, and if not drawn out too long works well; however, in this case a simple conversation and a dollop of common sense would have alleviated most of the problems facing the couple.

SICILIAN HUSBAND, BLACKMAILED BRIDE will appeal to readers who enjoy the Presents line, but for me there was simply not enough plot to keep my interest.



Well, my first response to this was simply: here is a reader who doesn’t like Presents/Modern Romance. It happens. There are a lot of them out there. And I don’t mind that at all. Everyone is entitled to their preferences in reading. I don’t care for a lot of books and this reviewer doesn’t have to enjoy my work. I’d prefer it if she did – but she doesn’t. And I’m fine with that. And not liking Presents would mean that she wouldn’t like the “miscommunication, misunderstanding, and angry sexual tension.” Because that tends to be what many Presents novels are about – that and the way that “ internal monologues were so out of sync with their actions.” For me, a Presents novel is one where the two characters are so emotionally intensely involved that they don’t think and act at their most rational and sensible. They are people whose other emotions are so involved and complicated that a simple conversation and a dollop of common sense aren’t actually possible until they’ve got a lot of the hurt, anger and distress out of the way. Hasn’t the reviewer ever been so angry or so distressed that they just can’t think straight? Perhaps not. Again, not everyone is the same and not everyone reacts the same to emotions.

So I don’t mind that she didn’t like that. To me, much of the book was that the hero and heroine had to find ways through their pain and anger and to learn how to talk to each other. But this reader wanted more plot – so she wouldn’t enjoy what my editor loved about the book – that it was all in ‘little boxes, confined spaces where they couldn’t get away from each other – that made it so intense’.

What I do have a problem with is the second half of that first paragraph - because, like it or not, as a writer I know I laid down reasons why each of those things happened. (Come on – I bore on about the question WHY being so important often enough, you’d expect me to focus on it in my own work!)

I gave Amber strong reasons for already feeling so insecure in anyone loving her that she wouldn’t have stayed to fight when she found that (as she believed) he’d lied to her simply to get her into bed. Instead she pretends that she’s met someone else. And Guido is a proud male – a proud Sicilian male – sure he’s going to come after her and declare his love when she’d flung that other man in his face (in a letter at least). I have to admit that I can’t quite work out what the comment about the flat tire or the plane being delayed is about. To me, the point was that Guido had planned his reappearance to the last detail – he’d been there, just waiting for the right moment. He was going to get his runaway wife back and nothing was going to stand in the way.

Well, none of that worked for this reader – so she’s perfectly justified in reviewing Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride in that way. It amused me that the review came in a letter that told me to
Please feel free to use either a portion of, or the complete review, for promotional purposes. . .Hmm.

But, I will acknowledge that this review from Romance Reviews Today does explain why the book doesn’t work for her. And if it doesn’t work for her then it doesn’t and I accept that. It’s a reasoned and explained argument, unlike the second email I got over the weekend. Reasoned and explained does not describe this one – I’m still trying to make sense of it. And I have no idea what book it refers to at all.

This is what it said - and believe me, this is all it said - no preamble, no greeting - just straight in with :

Your story book is too redundant and too over acting. I get tired of reading your book. Can you make it a little simpler and not too over dramatic.

Simple answer – no. I can’t. Whichever book this lady didn’t like is published and out there – I can’t change it now. And if it’s ‘too over dramatic’ for her then she probably won’t like any more of my books and I suggest she just avoids them from now on. I write the way I write – there are plenty of authors out there for her to read instead. And I’m sure she’ll be happier reading them.

If a reader writes to me raising particular issues with a particular book – like the RRT review – then I’ll happily discuss it and reply to them. It’s because I believe that every reader is entitled to their opinion that I’m talking about that review today. But a blanket condemnation like the second email is simply saying ‘I didn’t like it’. Fine. I just don’t see the point in sending off a snappy letter to the author. I’m sorry she didn’t like it but I’m writing for the thousands who do enjoy my books. And I’ll be perfectly happy if she never touches one of mine ever again.

But I’ll also admit that I’m human and this weekend it took that extra beat longer to remind myself that these emails were one- two – people’s opinions only.
So to cheer myself up, I’m also posting one other review I received yesterday. This time from The Romance Reader’s Connection.

It's Amber Wellesley's wedding day and she's about to marry dear,
sweet--safe-- Rafe St. Clair in a church wedding witnessed by family and
friends. Just when the minister asks if anyone objects to the marriage,
someone does.

Guido Corsentino.

Her husband.

A year previously, Amber and Guido had met in Las Vegas and married after
just a few days. Amber was gloriously in love with her handsome Sicilian.
But something went dreadfully wrong. Guido only married her to get her
into his bed, it wasn't a real marriage he said...devastated, Amber ran
back home to England and married the man her social climbing mother had
picked out for her. It hadn't been a real marriage, she thought...but it
had been...and her husband had come to stop a bigamous marriage. And he
wanted Amber back...as his wife...in his bed.


Presents fans, you're in for a treat with Kate Walker's April SICILIAN
HUSBAND, BLACKMAILED WIFE. This is one hot and intense read that grabs
your heart on the first page and doesn't let go until The End. Guido
Corsentino is a hero to die for: what can be more delicious and exciting
than a Kate Walker alpha Sicilian hero?! If you're looking for an
emotionally and sensually well-written series romance by a veteran
Presents writer, then SICILIAN HUSBAND, BLACKMAILED WIFE is all that and
more!

4 1/2
Reviewed by Debora Hosey

Lovely – thank you Debora – but again it’s just one person’s opinion. But then Debora is one of the readers I’m writing for. The ones who ‘get’ my work and enjoy it. The way she sees the story shows that. For her the pace wasn't slow but hot and intense - So what does this prove? Nothing really except for the premise I started out on - a review – good or bad - is just one person’s opinion. But it did make me wonder – there are so many review web sites on the internet now. There’s Romantic Times magazine – Amazon and Barnes & Noble ask readers to review books on their sites. Do you read those reviews? And if you do – do you take notice of them? Would a good review make you want to buy or a bad one make you decide not to? Do you have special reviewers you'd trust - or ones whose opinion you know you'll never, ever agree with?

Because in the end the only person who can really tell you if you’ll like a book or not – is you!

And I'm still wondering just what 'too redundant' means.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

I am so shocked and saddened by the terrible news of the shooting at Virginia Tech. I send my sympathies and thoughts to all my friends and readers in America. My heart goes out to everyone personally affected by and involved in this awful tragedy.

Please know that I am thinking of you

Sunday, April 15, 2007

PS re Sid - and an apology


PS to all Sid fans (this means you, Rosie!)

As Anne McAllister has been so busy with her latest book she asked Sid to guest blog over on her blog this weekend. He was glad to oblige - he felt that she had written far too much about tortoises!


So if you want to see more of The Cat you'll need to visit Anne - and him - here. You can cheer Anne on towards the deadline at the same time - like Sid, she's pretty sick of tortoises.

PS From SID - I have to apologise to one of my fans for My Mum's mistake.
At the top of this post she had written (this means you Rosie) - this is the wrong Name. My special fan's name is Ruby - and so it should have read 'This means you Ruby'.


In order to make amends, I am posting a photograph of the comely, though not the most literary of cats Ruby (who lives with Presents author India Grey)

My Mum sends her apologies, Ruby.

Reading Memories

Coincidences make life interesting. A couple of weeks ago, a fellow author was asked about a book by one of her readers. The reader believed this was one of the author’s books – the author knew it wasn’t. So she asked if anyone could remember the book under discussion. At the time I thought that it sounded like a book I had read and that had had quite an impact on me way back when – in the days when I had been learning my craft and had been following the advice I give all would-be writers – Read, read, read - to discover what’s being written and how.

But the problem was that I couldn’t recall either the title or the author of the book. The only thing I had to go on was the description the reader had given. The book was about a rich girl who is kidnapped by a man (the hero) and three others. He’s kind to her through the whole thing and s he falls in love with him. In the end she finds out that he was actually working with the authorities and that's why he made sure that she didn't get hurt. She's pregnant and of course there is the happy ending.

I could remember several kidnapping books – one had a hero by the name of Wolf and that was all I could really recall. But then in one of those secondhand bookshops in Scarborough, scanning the shelves of older M&Bs, just where I had rested my hand, I spotted an orange spine, the title Comrade Wolf, the author Madeleine Ker, and I knew I had found the book under discussion.

One of the interesting things about the author, is that Madeleine Ker is the pseudonym of one of M&M’s male authors. He also writes thrillers under the name of Marius Gabriel. When I first read this book, when it was published back in 1984, just as I was beginning my own writing career, I didn’t know this. Reading it again, with that knowledge in my mind, I felt that I could see that it was in fact written by a man. There was an emphasis on the ‘thriller’ aspects of the plot – the kidnapping, the rough treatment of the heroine, and the political reasons for the kidnapping. I’ll admit that also, this time around, I was less convinced by the heroine falling in love with the mysterious ‘Wolf’ - or that it was more than an infatuation that would last beyond the time of her imprisonment. At the time of reading it in 1984, I remember that I was fascinated – and still am – by the syndrome known as ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ which is a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage can show signs of having feelings of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed. Because of this, and because of the intensity of the situation in which the kidnapped victim finds his or herself, the syndrome and the kidnapping situation is one that many romantic novelists have wanted to get their writing teeth into.

But I remember that at the time there were several books published by M&B with this theme. And as they had largely the same set up and explanation – hero infiltrates gang in order to hand them over to the authorities but has to go along with the kidnapping in order to have the villains trust him – I remember looking for a new twist on the situation. What I did was what I often like to do if possible – I turned the story on its head.


Why should it be the hero who kidnaps the heroine? Why couldn’t it be the heroine who kidnaps the hero and holds him in her home? The result was Captive Lover, a book that was published in 1987. The whole story was a lot lighter than Comrade Wolf – the heroine and her brother kidnap the hero as a Rag Week stunt for charity – and then he is not quite the man she believes. Later, I was to return to the kidnapping theme with Hostage Bride.

It was great to revisit Comrade Wolf – which was one of the books that I remember so vividly from the very early days of my writing career. Kidnapping is a tricky theme to handle at any time and looking back at this 1980s version made me realise yet again how much the books have changed and how there are so many things that would probably not be acceptable now – or at least they would need more justification than was needed in 1984. It was fascinating for me to see how much I was questioning – the way the hero and heroine were not together very much at all– a lot of ‘telling’ not showing - that feeling of not really being convinced - and how I wanted to write the story and write it in a different way. Maybe I will one day – not that story, as in Comrade Wolf, because that would be plagiarism – but taking that basic seed of an idea and seeing which way I can take it to make it new, different and very much my own. . .

Watch this space.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Freebies

Would you like a free Kate Walker pen - and a special bookmark designed to mark the publication of my 50th book - The Sicilian's Red-Hot Revenge - coming out soon ?


As you know, I've been working with the lovely - and super-efficient - Lee Hyat of Author Sound Relations. She now helps me with the contests I run ( you still have two days left to enter the one for Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride) and she'll be organising a lot of the special 50th publication celebrations in the next couple of months.


As part of this, Lee now has supplies of the special bookmarks and the brand new design pens to give away to readers in America. All you have to do is to send her a stamped addressed envelope (USA Postage - I think that's about .39 cents)

Send your request to -


Lee Hyat
Kate Walker Goodies
4411, 76th Ave. West # 2
University Place, WA 98466


At the moment this is mainly for USA readers - UK Members of my Newsletter list, I'll try and sort something out for you this end too.


Other countries - Lee says -

Please Note: I'm more than happy to send goodies to readers residing outside the USA. However, for international postage rates, please check with your local post office to get an approximate idea of how much you should send. I cannot provide this information for you since it totally depends on your location. If you decide to send in for goodies, but find sending me an SASE with US postage is a problem, feel free to send a Money Order or make payment via Pay Pal (sorry-no checks/cheques) for the desired postage amount in US Funds. An envelope is not necessary. I can provide one at my end.

Reading Matters

Rachel asked me to let her know what books I ended up reading over my Easter break so this is a sort of follow on post to that.


I finished my own book – writing it – just a week ago – sending it off in a haze after living eating and breathing that damn Spaniard for days – weeks. The next day, as I’ve mentioned, I headed for Scarborough and the problem was which books I was going to take with me. I’m always rather over ambitious when it comes to books on holidays – I take too many and forget that there might be a bookshop where I’m going. I also forget my ‘research reading’ in women’s magazines. I have a very bad magazine habit, It comes from the days when I used to have to share my one and only comic with three of my four sisters (The eldest was too grown up to read comics by then). That’s also the reason why I’m very possessive about my reading matter. The comic was shared between us in a rota – one week my elder sister would have it first, then she would pass it to me – I’d read it – pass it to the next youngest – she’d pass it to the ‘baby’ of the family. So a brand new comic or magazine is something I rarely got my hands on when I was young.

Which is also the reason why people don’t believe I’ve read half the books on my shelves. They don’t look read. Confession time here - Years ago I worked in a bookshop where I learned the trick of reading a book without breaking the spine or curling the cover – then I could put it back on the shelves. My excuse if that I was fresh out of university, newly married, paying astronomical rent on a flat and the BM was working for his MA so I was the only financial support for the two of us. I had to support my book habit in some way .

So, packing for Scarborough also involved collecting up some of the magazines I’d bought but not read and taking them to read too. Magazines are good for the journey – I can flick through magazines without feeling sick. Reading a book is a different matter. The magazines don’t have to come back home with me either. Once read, they can be left in hotel rooms or in the lounge - so someone else gets some free reading.

So what books did I select? I decided to be realistic. I had the magazines. I had the walk to Anne Bronte’s grave and the Michael Ball concert planned – I knew that I would do what I always do once I’ve finished writing – I’d fall asleep as soon as I sat down to read. So I grabbed a selection of the M&B romances that have been piling up waiting to be read for longer than I care to recall. I picked up Liz Fielding’s The Valentine Bride and loved it. But then I’d always known I would ever since I ‘met’ Max Valentine when he and Domenico and Theo took over the blogs from myself, Anne McAllister and Liz Fielding and set up their Grooms’ Contest back in February. I loved Theo’s book too. And I always admire the way that Liz Fielding writes.

Two other catch up bnooks that I thoroughly enjoyed were Fiona Harper's first title for the Romance - Blind Date Marriage and Natasha Oakley's Crowned: An Ordinary Girl. Both well worth reading. Natasha, as I've mentioned already, is one of the people I've seen make it from my critiques of her New Writers' manuscripts to published author, with another of her boks shortlisted for the RNA Prize. I'm thrilled by the way that she has found a truly personal voice in writing and a following that she deserves. Many of the New Writers' mss try too hard to copy older books and end up only sounding derivative. Natasha is one of the few whose work I think I would recognise easily. Fiona is a new voice in Romance who also cmae through the New Writers' Scheme - and deservedly so. Blind-Date Marriage won the RNA's New Writers' Scheme and is short listed for not one but two RITAs.

What else? Well, then I went back in time with two historical novels. Not ‘historical’ in that they are books set in past times, but books that were published in the past One totally new to me and one a reread. Both were published in the 1980s. The first of these was one that I had tracked down out of interest – because I wanted to read the very first book by the famous Lynne Graham. Bittersweet Passion was published in 1987 and was the only one of Lynne’s books ever to go into the Harlequin Romance line rather than Presents. It certainly read like something out of the 1980s – I wonder what would happen if I put my hero in skin tight white jeans and an electric blue tee shirt these days. I also suspect that this is the one and only LG hero who is actually a blond.

The other book was one of those finds I made in the second-hand bookshops while waiting for the BM to add to his collection of Rider Haggard books – or the Grim and Gruesome collections for his research on the history of crime – or . . .any other of the varied research interests he has at the moment. (One bookshop owner was so glad to see some of the more obscure titles go that he let us have them all for half price if we’d just take them off his shelves) Perhaps if we’d waited a while, he might have paid us to take them.

Anyway, while I was waiting and browsing, I looked through a collection of old M&Bs and found one that brought back memories for me – in fact it inspired one of my own books, in a back to front sort of way. I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Talking of contests . . .

Remember the Groom's Contest?

Who could forget Domenico, Theo and Max and how they took over the blogs. Well, the winner of that contest was Mona from Egypt. I announced that - sorry - Domenico announced that - here on February 11th.


I sent that prize out the day after - that's February 12th.


I just heard from Mona that the prize arrived safely - today! I can't believe it's taken 2 months for them to reach her - and I sent them air mail!
I'm just glad you've received your books, Mona - and I really hope you enjoy them after that long wait. Thanks for being so patient.

I really hope that the prizes for the current contest (see previous post if you need reminding of the details) don't take anything like as long to get to the winners this month. But can I say once again that I will send prizes to anywhere in the world - so if you've been hesitating about entering, thinking she'll never send a prize to Italy or Poland, or even China then yes I will. I mention those countries as they're the ones I've seen a rush of visitors from on this blog just recently. If the post can reach you, I'll send you a prize if you win. It may, like Mona's prize, take a l-o-n-g time to reach you but it will get there.


And talking of Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride - I just received this lov ely review from Sherri at Romance Junkies that I'd like to share with you.


Amber Wellesley was standing before the priest about to become Mrs. Rafe St. Clair, on what should have been the happiest day of her life. But when the priest asked if anyone had any reason why the couple should not be wed, the silence was interrupted by a man’s voice saying ‘I do’. What, who, why, Amber thought before turning around, but in her heart she already knew who was objecting to her marrying Rafe. It could only be—GUIDO!

Guido Corsentino wasn’t about to allow Amber to wed Rafe St. Clair if he had any say in the matter. After all, she was still married to HIM! Sure, their wedding had been a spur-of-the-moment deal in a tiny Las Vegas wedding chapel when they had only known each other less than a week, but legal it was, so she was still HIS wife. A year ago, she had run away from him and now that he has found her again, he isn’t about to let go quite so easily this time around. He wants some answers—and his wife back in his bed! But can Guido convince Amber that’s where she belongs?

International best-selling author Kate Walker has done it again! How this talented author keeps thinking up new stories that keep your attention and make you want more is beyond me, but she does it and quite well too! Sexy alpha heroes with heart and strong heroines with brains are Ms. Walker’s specialty, making her one of my very favorite authors. SICILIAN HUSBAND, BLACKMAILED BRIDE is the first of a duo of books starring two brothers from Sicily that are sure to get any woman’s heart racing. Guido is a man who isn’t about to give up what belongs to him. Secrets and misunderstandings keep the pages turning until the end, but will it be a happy one for Guido and Amber? Shhh, it’s a secret which you will have to read the book to find out. The second book which is entitled THE SICILIAN’S RED-HOT REVENGE will feature his brother Vito and I can’t wait to be able to read his story too. It will be a July 2007 release, and if it is anything like Guido’s story, Ms. Walker’s fiftieth Harlequin novel will be red-hot!

Thank you Sherri - you've made my day.

And talking of Romance Junkies and contests - RJ are just setting up their Summer Splash Contest which will go up in June- there are always plenty of great prizes on offer in any Romance Junkies contest - so look out for that one coming soon.

Competition reminder

You have just five more days to enter my current contest to celebrate the publication of Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride.

Entries are accepted until April 15th and the prizes (2 of them) are:

An autographed book from Kate's backlist

A Kate Walker book bag
and

A beautifully crafted Shamrock bookmark as pictured here.



This book is the first part of the Sicilian Brothers duo and it tells Guido’s story (you can find details of this book here). The second part of this duo is coming up soon. So the question for this contest is:

Question: What is Guido's brother's name and when will his story be published in North America?


Details and the trivia question you need to answer can also be found on the Contest page of my web site of over on My Tote Bag where lovely Lee Hyat is helping me with my contest entries.

Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride is still available in the UK from Amazon and the Mills & Boon website

And it's on sale in America in the Harlequin Presents edition and in Australia in the M&B Sexy edition
Oh and don't forget that Michelle Styles' contest to win a copy of her novel Sold and Seduced and my The Antonakos Marriage is still open until the 14th.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What I did on My Holidays

I'm back - did you miss me?

That was a wonderful weekend. Sun, sand, sea, singers . . . and bookshops of which more later.

Maybe it was because I'd worked myself into the ground to finish the book on Thursday and so I deserved a reward, but from Friday everything went wonderfully. The sun shone, the roads were clear (unheard of for a UK Bank Holiday weekend) and we had a fabulous time. I'm starting with a pic of the view from my hotel - I am so going to miss that. And everything else was just as wonderful.

It was also a weekend in which I achieved an ambition. I'm a Bronte sisters addict - I was brought up in West Yorkshire, not far from Haworth where the Bronte family lived in the Parsonage there in the 19th century. I've read all the books, seen all the films, all the TV programmes. I've even written and published articles on the family - and I wrote my MA on 'Fantasy & Prophecy' a comparison of the writings of Charlotte and Emily Bronte from their childhood stories to their adult novels. But - confession time - I've never visited Anne Bronte's grave.


Charlotte, Emily, Branwell, Patrick the father, are all buried in Haworth, but Anne , who died of TB in 1849, at the tragically young age of 26, died in Scarborough and her grave is high on a hill there, overlooking the sea. When I’ve visited Scarborough before, it was as a child, or with the Offspring as a small person so I’ve never made the long, step climb up to the little church in the shadow of the castle to visit where she is buried. This time I was determined to do so. And so on Sunday the BM and I made our way up Castle Hill - the sort of walk known in my family as ‘Good B&L work’ (bum and leg work) up to St Mary’s church where we found the special grave.


After that we visited the Castle itself which stood high on the headland separating the North and South bays. The weather couldn’t have been more lovely with a warm sun, cloudless skies and a mild breeze. And up at the Castle things were a little quieter than down in the town whe


re, as it was Easter weekend, the streets were thronged with families enjoying a trip to the seaside.

We’d done our share or wandering round the streets of the town on the Saturday when we found a few bookshops – the usual ones. The discovery of the map that showed where all the second-hand bookshops were to be found only happened on Sunday so then we had to find as many of them as possible for the BM to look for copies of the titles on his latest research list for potential new books that he’s going to write. And yes, Beverley was full of bookshops too – the car already had an extra bag or two in the boot from when we stopped on the way there. It had a few more bags on Sunday afternoon. I filled in time checking out different bookshelves from the ones the BM was looking at and I found an older M&B that brought back memories – more of that another day.

The concert was wonderful - so many favourite songs and some new ones to enjoy. One song – by Stephen Sondheim has the lyrics
Loving you is not a choice
It’s who I am

reminded me that it was hearing those words in a concert and then on a CD years ago that made me write Constantine’s Revenge. That’s one of those interesting little ‘seeds’ of a story that I could talk about when people ask me ‘Where do you get your ideas from’ – one that I’d actually forgotten until now.

One of my favourite memories of this trip will be of getting all poshed up for the theatre and then walking along the seafront, eating fish and chips from the paper (or in this case the plastic dish) while waiting for the doors to open and the show to start. There’s something very special about fresh cooked fish and chips and sea air that goes so well together.

Yes - a great weekend. I switched off, relaxed, ate delicious food (one night’s caramel panacotta was just out of this world) talked and I even read a whole book right through - something I haven’t done for ages. That was another ‘historic’ M&B - the very fist Lynne Graham ever published. I’d never read it before.

And now I’m home. Today will be catching up on all the washing that breeds while you’re aw

ay - I swear it mates in the case and creates more dirty washing than you could ever have worn. And then the office gets its post-book blitz and sort out and I’ll even (eugh!) tackle the accounts. I have just about 2 weeks before I head for London and the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards and I want everything to be sorted and organised by then – because, guess what – after that I’ll be back on dreadline.


I'll leave you with one last picture of the amazing staircase in our Victorian hotel - stunning isn't it?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Old books

I love it when old books, ones that I've thought were 'dead', get resurected. One of the problems with series romance books is that they are only on the shelves for the month of sale and then gone. These days we can buy the in Amazon and B&N etc after that month is up but when I first started writing there was no way of doing this.


But some books I wrote so long ago only had their month on the shelf and that was it. One of these was The Cinderella Trap. I wrote that in 1988. Which is very nearly 20 years ago. (I was a child writer as well as a child bride, of course!) This book had one of my least favourite covers. The heroine was exactly as I desribed her - she was a model called Clea and the hair and dress were fashionable then. But the hero !!


Oh dear, they'd taken the hero away and brought in his elderly, lecherous uncle to pose instead. No way is that man the Matt Highland I described as having 'a powerfully masculine face, the strong features, square jaw and firm mouth, proclaiming a confidence close to arrogance.'


Interestingly, I can also find out what perfume I was wearing in 1988 - these were the years that the books were filled with designer names and perfumes etc were named - so Clea dabs 'St Laurent's 'Y' - a long time favourite' on her pulse points! I was doing the same.

Disliking the cover as much as I did, I was suprised when it reappeared on the Japanese cover - it doesn't look any better there. Uncle Fred Highland is still posing and trying to come on to Clea while his nephew is somewhere else.

Back in 1988 the books had a 'shout line' on the front of them - this was before the 'buzzword' titles - so this line was to give the reader a clue about the book. The shout line on this book reads 'Who was the real Clea?'I didn't like those shout lines - they seeme dtoo simplistic and could give the wrong impression of a book easily. They didn't last long.
Other books out that month in 1988? Well they were:


Beneath Wimmera Skies - Kerry Allyne
Devil and the Deep Sea - Sara Craven (I loved that one)

Design for Love - Jean Evans

Fetters of Gold - Jane Donnelly

A Lifetime and Beyond -Alison Fraser

Painted Lady - Diana Hamilton

Force of Feeling - Penny Jordan

Only My Dreams - Rowan Kirby

Lord and Master - Joanna Mansell

A Flood of Sweet Fire - Sandra Marton

Exclusively Yours - Leigh Michaels

When Two Paths Meet - Betty Neels

Bitter Judgement - Elizabeth Power

Without Love - Jessica Steel

Beloved Intruder - Patricia Wilson
Of course these were the days before the lines were spplit in the UK, so all of those will have been put together in the same section of the bookshop shelves - no Modern or Romance split for them. It's interesting to see the now famililar names that were, like me, starting out then - and the ones who have disappeared or sadly, like Betty Neels or Jane Donnelly, have died since then.


And that resurrection bit? (Seems appropriate for the Easter weekend) I was started off on this journey down memory lane by the arrival of a reprint of the Japanese version of The Cinderella Trap in a sparkling new cover - no sign of Uncle Fred anywhere! Thank you, Japan!



As it is the Easter weekend, the BM and I are off to Scarborough today. We'll be spending the weeked beside the sea, watching the waves, letting someone else do the cooking, going to a concert by one of my favourite singers - Michael Ball - I'm a sucker for those Musical/Lloyd Weber etc songs - among others.


(Holly - if you're reading, I know you'll be so jealous - but I'll listen really hard just for you)


And of course - as Rachel suggested in the comments to my last post - I'll be reading. Lots and lots of reading. Secure in the knowledge that my editor won't be back in the office until after her holiday, I can read everyone else's books to my heart's content. I already startd - I'm finally catching up on Liz Fielding's The Valentine Bride and I'm loving it. So that's coming with me - and what else? (Kate checks the TBR pile and her eyes glaze over - it's HUGE!) Oh I can't choose. I'm just going to grab a handful with my eyes closed and see what I get - I'm on holiday, the book is finished so I don't really care!
The only problem is that on our way to Scarborough, we'll stop off in Beverley - and Beverley is filled with secondhand bookshops - and the BM can't resist temptation! I suspect we will come back with more books than we started out with.

I'll be back on Monday - so in the meantime be good, Happy Easter and Happy reading!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Adios Raul . . .

And so goodbye to Raul my sexy Spanish hero. He has declared his love for his heroine, set a date for his wedding (tomorrow actually - but then that was already arranged!) and now he's wandered off into his happy ever after.

Well, no - he's actually gone by email to my lovely editor's desk so that she can read him, hopefully fall in love with him, maybe tweak him a little (I've told him it won't hurt) and send him out into the world of publication as The Spaniard's Something or Other Wife/Bride or even Mistress. We shall see.

I'll miss him. I won't miss the times he fought with me. The times he said 'I'm not doing that!' or 'I wouldn't say that!'

Actually, those weren't so bad. It was the times that he said. 'I'm not moving. I don't want to do that. I don;t want to say anything!' That were the real trouble. But I think he came good in the end. He even told me a story about a old hollow tree trunk that I never knew anything about - not until this morning, The imagination is an amazing thing.

So I'm in this wierd situation. I need to fall in love again and I don't know who I'm going to fall inlove with. Not another Spaniard, that's for sure. The last guy (Andreas ) was Greek - and of course there are those sexy Sicilian Brothers Guido and Vito Cprsentino launching themselves on the world right at this moment in Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride and the upcoming The Sicilian's Red-Hot Revenge. Hmmm -- Italian, anyone? Or an Englishman?

It - or rather, he - will come to me some time - soon, I hope. But in the meantime I can take a break and enjoy myself - and I'm going to read and fall in love with lots of other writers' heroes. I have plenty of choice - you should see the size of my TBR pile!!

But first I think I need to sleep . . .

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Busy busy - and a different contest.


I'm busy Spaniard wrestling - sorting out my latest book and hopefully rushing to the end in order to get it in by the skin of the dreadline. My editor is cracking her whip so if I don't post much in the next couple of days - that's why. Normal service will be resumed as soon as Raul and Alannah have reached their happy ending.

In the meantime here's an interesting contest for you -HMB Historical author Michelle Styles - who has been short listed for the RNA Romance prize this year - has a brand new book out this month called Sold and Seduced and to mark the publication, she's running a contest over on her web site and blog.
Sold and Seduced is a book that I have a special connection with because Michelle tells me that it was while I was talking to her about the plot of my own book The Antonakos Marriage that she got the idea for this story. It's an interesting example of how one idea will go one way for an author and can start off a totally different train of thought for another writer. So Michelle is giving away signed copies of her book - and mine - as the prizes in her contest. So the winner can compare and contrast.
Here's what Michelle says about her contest:
As promised, I have a contest to win signed paperback copies of Sold and Seduced as well as The Antonakos Marriage by Kate Walker. I got one of my seeds of inspiration from Kate's book.
To enter, you simply need to answer the question -- Which song is playing on my Michelle Styles myspace page?
Please email me with the answer to the following question:

Please put SEED CONTEST in the title of your email. I have three sets to giveaway.
The winners will be drawn on 14 April.
If you'd like to learn more about the way that The Antonakos Marriage 'seeded' Sold and Seduced in Michelle's mind then you can find posts about it on her blog now and in the December 2006 section
Good luck with the new book and in the Romance Prize Michelle!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Open Letter to A 'Wannabe' Part Three

Some more of L's questions:


How do you go about it? Do you write your plot on flashcards and organize them on the floor or just have at the keyboard?

Everyone has very different ways of going about writing a book. As I explained in a post earlier. There are plotters and pantsters – people who plan each book carefully, think out each scene – write a detailed synopsis and then work from it. I used to do that much more. I would plan out the characters and their story in more details. Some spend a long working on the ‘backstory’ to their characters, perhaps even writing it out, needing to get to know them intimately before they can start. Take a look at Anne McAllister’s blog where she describes some of the way she’s approached her current book. Some just sit down and start.

My emphasis is on the characters. I want to tell these people’s story. When I first started out I would ask myself questions about each character and make sure I could answer them. I would get my husband to ask me questions – anything from what is his favourite film to what type of underwear does she wear. I needed to know them inside out. These days I probably don’t write all that down but I know my characters - I’ve said that it’s almost as if they come into my office, sit down and tell me their story.

Then, yes, I sit down at the computer and I start. These days I work straight on to a computer. After 50 + books, I have a ‘template’ of a book inside my head – those 50,000 words that I know I have to write and the way it needs to start with conflict and move gradually into resolution and then to a happy ending. But how I write now is very different from the way it was when I started – then I would physically count out the 200 pages I needed to write the story, write it in longhand. That would make me realise when I still had more pages to go – so I needed to come up with more plot – or when I was nearing the end so that I needed to weave in more threads that were going to lead to the resolution.



And I’m almost tempted to come up with that ‘how long is a ball of string’ comment again. Because each book is different. Some go straight from start to finish without a hiccup - oh how I wish they all did – some have false starts and I realise I have either to go back and add in something - or cut the first one/two chapters and start later in the story. Some books are easy, some are blood sweat and tears all the way.

One thing I always do is that when I’m I work onto the keyboard, but I always have a notepad and pen beside me so that I can write notes on it to remind myself of things I need to add in, or I can scribble down notes - an image of a scene, or a scrap of dialogue , something that is going to come in much later – so that I don’t forget it.
If I was starting again now, I’d still start with characters – they are the main backbone of a romance- without characters, even if you have the most wonderful plot then it won’t go anywhere without people to take it forward.

And yes, because I don’t have enough time here to do justice to how to write a romance – or any other novel – I am going to suggest you take a look at my 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance because that is where I wrote down much of what I know about writing a romance and the ideas you need to consider and how to go about it.

What do you wish you would have known when you started your first one?

How long it would all take – to get accepted – get published – for the money to come in. In the comments on Part Two of this, Michelle has pointed out that it takes up to 3 years for a book to become profitable in any way, and she’s right. But if you add in the amount of time getting that book written, read by an editor - submissions can take months to be read because editors are very busy people – revised – accepted – then it’s more like 4 years.

So, no this is not the fast track to riches.

I wish I’d known what royalties really mean – 6% of the cover price means that an author gets pennies, or cents from each book – not, as some people seem to assume, the full cover price of each book. I wish! When I had my first book on the shelves locally, they had ten copies – this was of course 20 years ago. All ten copies sold and I was ecstatic – until someone pointed out that this mad made me less than 50p or $1. International sales – Japan, Europe, Australia etc will all add to this - but not all books go to all territories and that all needs time to build up again – and different authors, different lines will sell at different rates.

Serious money only comes in with a backlog of books behind you and a reader base built up.

I wish I’d known as well as I know now that every author struggles at some point – that when a book goes on the shelves it shows no sign of the blood sweat and tears that maybe went into it – one that ‘wrote itself ‘ looks just the same as a book an author struggled to the death with.

I wish I’d understood the importance of targeting in series romance. That the subtle but distinct differences between the lines matter and you need to know which line you’re aiming at, the type of story they’re looking for, the types of characters .

Finally my real word of advice is –

If you don’t enjoy the journey then don’t set out. If all you want is to get to that destination - Publicationville – then I can’t guarantee that. There is no map, no writer’s course, no critique than can. But if you want to write and you enjoy writing and you keep at it and you keep learning, and if you have talent - then one day you never know – you might get to that destination. And then a whole new journey will start out – that of being a published, professional author and you’ll need to keep doing it again and again and again – but this time with deadlines.

So there are the answers to L’s questions. I’m not sure they’re the ones she or many others want to hear. There is a myth that the HMB ‘formula’ is not one for writing a book but one that goes like this:

Dash off one short romance (they’re all the same, of course) + Sell it to Mills & Boon = Instant huge fortune and a place in tax exile.

Well, if you believe that then you should be writing fairy stories.
I love my job. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. But nine days out of ten – 99 out of 100 – it isn’t glamorous or easy and working to a deadline is not really my idea of fun. It’s a job as well as a delight when it’s going right and blood sweat and tears when it isn’t.

Like I said, the important thing is to want to go on that journey and to enjoy the travelling because you may never get there. The truth is that even if I wasn’t published, I would still be writing – I would have to – how would I get rid of all these people and their stories that are inside my head? They would have to come out either in a published book or just in some computer file that only I would ever look at.

So I'd write, no matter what. I'm truly lucky that people enjoy what I write enough to want to publish it. And then more - many more people - enjoy it enough to pay money to read it. But I'd still write even if they didn't.
 

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