Wednesday, September 28, 2011

free book from M&B

Current work: admin day
Listening to: (trying not to get distracted by the piano in the dining room)
Reading: next on TBR

Busybusy here – a week full of school meetings, DH being home on holiday (aka painting the windows, as we are indeed having the promised Indian Summer – and that means constant interruptions for me), a very nice day yesterday having lunch out with one of my RNA friends (lots of talking about books, good company and good food - waves to Lizzie Lamb), finally working out where the new idea is going (thank you, Maggie Kingsley, for letting me bounce ideas off you), and… oh, it’s just busy.

So instead let me give you a link to something brilliant for anyone who wants to write M&B – a free e-book, giving seriously excellent tips on writing (including some from my mates Liz Fielding and Fiona Harper). And you know what? I learned a ton from the book, too! (Doesn't matter if I am playing with my 51st book - there's always something new to learn, and I also believe that new writers can teach experienced writers things, too. Sharing experiences can spark off all kinds of things.)

The book’s here – though please note it’s in epub format, so you’ll need Adobe digital editions to open it. (Or, if you’re using an iPad, the Bluefire app will sort it for you.)

Very best of luck to those entering New Voices.

If you’re in Norfolk, there’s still time to book a place on my workshop on Tuesday 4 October - call 01953 452319 or e-mail or

Monday, September 26, 2011

the play’s the thing…

Current work: new book – beginnings and seeing where it takes me
Listening to: Del Amitri
Reading: next on TBR

The Madness of George III was absolutely excellent. Real roller-coaster stuff – you went from laughter (witty banter between George III and Pitt and some fairly pointed commentary on politics) through to shock (the bit where George was restrained and the entire cast was singing ‘Zadok the Priest’ – and the scene where the doctor prescribed ‘cupping’ – I had to cover my eyes) through to laughter again at the end. And there was some very sharp commentary in between – the equerry who double-dealt was promoted, and pointed out to the equerry who was kind during George’s illness (and wasn’t promoted at the end) that ‘a blind eye’ is the only thing that gets you forward in politics. (Deeply unjust, but it reflected the zeitgeist. We might think politics is corrupt, today, but it was much worse back in the 18th century.) And I loved the inclusion of a bit of King Lear.

Very, very well acted by the entire cast, but David Haig in particular was superb. If it’s touring near you, I’d really recommend getting tickets.

Dinner beforehand was also very nice; and the pudding was beautifully presented. The smartest ‘Eton Mess’ I’ve ever seen. (Foodie daughter thinks that the one at Delia’s has better meringue and a better proportion of strawberries. Bless.)

Today I’m a bit unfocused, mainly because I’m waiting to hear back from my editor – I know I should just get on with it, because it could be a while yet and I'm just wasting time being fidgety, but this is the bit I find really sticky. Big-time antsy. And I’ve realised that all the work I did yesterday has to be scrapped because the premise is completely wrong. So. Backup outline, because I think lovely ed will nix one or both outlines? Admin? Nerdy side projects 1 or 2? Sigh. Time to switch on the kitchen timer...

Friday, September 23, 2011

the best sort of weekend

Current work: experimenting with form (aka craft stuff)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Kristan Higgins, The Next Best Thing (excellent – and was very shocked to realise that not only are her books written in first person (which usually puts me off as I like third person, dual viewpoint – lazy of me perhaps, as that’s what I tend to write), they’re written in present tense (which nearly always puts me off because I feel it makes the writing feel self-conscious). However, the characterisation is so strong and the storytelling’s so good that to me it reads like a third-person past tense - highly recommended).

Have some great news from lovely ed, yesterday: ‘The Ex Who Hired Her’ (aka the department store story) will be released in the US next April. Excellent.

She's planning to come back to me re the outlines next (aka I have a temporary reprieve from revisions, which was what I thought I might be doing this weekend). So today I really should be doing my backup outlines in case she hates them as much as I think she might. But the sun is shining and my head is saying, ‘Friday: day off, time to play’, so I’m experimenting with form. Writing outside my usual box will hopefully make my work a bit deeper.

I have an excellent weekend lined up (depending on what lovely ed says about outlines). Tonight, am going to the theatre with son. We're both really looking forward to it.

Tomorrow, am going shopping with daughter – mainly to pick up her new guitar book from the music shop, but I have a feeling I’m going to be strong-armed into a bookshop as well.

And then I think I need to sweet-talk DH as I have a real yearning for the sea...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

elsewhere today

Current work: outlines
Listening to: various
Reading: David Nicholls, One Day (enjoying – don’t like the hero at all and think he needs to grow up, but the book is very true to the times and I’m enjoying a trip down memory lane, plus I like the heroine)

I’m over at the PHS today, talking books.

Sorry for lack of content on the blog this week. I overdid it a bit (!) last week, and this week I am a total zombie. A twitchy zombie, actually, because I’m waiting for my ed’s reaction – and I’m not very good at waiting. In the meantime, I’m playing with ideas. The two outlines I’ve already sent in this week might both get a rejection – one because it’s bending the rules, and one because it’s... um, bending the rules as well. So I need backup. Dear Muse, if I make cake, would you please come and party?

Monday, September 19, 2011


Current work: outlines
Listening to: various
Reading: Kristan Higgins, My One and Only (fabulous – made me have a lump in my throat in places – great characterisation); Annie West, Girl in the Bedouin Tent (enjoyed); Lynn Raye Harris, Strangers in the Desert (superb – she’s an autobuy author for me. Love her voice; has warmth as well as passion)

Had a lovely girly Saturday morning with daughter. Started with perfume (as I was down to about two squirts in my current bottle). I nearly, nearly bought a different one, but I did it the sensible way: try perfume, do rest of shopping and have a coffee, then see if I like the perfume’s drydown. Daughter declared that Cool Water was just about OK, but CK1 Shock had gone soapy and the vanilla component was sickly. So it was a another bottle of Addict for me. (Slight panic as Dior has changed the packaging, but very relieved to say that the perfume is that that lovely, non-sickly vanilla bomb.) We also bought new bedlinen and a couple of girly cushions for Madam’s room, and had a lovely bookshop browse (DH, if you’re reading this, please note that I didn’t buy anything for me and I am working through my TBR piles. Really).

And then it was a baking session, mainly because some of my Aussie mates (particularly Amy Andrews and Anna Cleary) have been tempting me with tales of Hummingbird Cake. I looked up a few recipes, but the one that really caught my eye was a BBC recipe (as well as the banana and pineapple, it included mango and passionfruit) and daughter agreed. The icing was a total disaster (first time I’ve ever had icing go runny on me – hmm, perhaps there was a reason why it said full-fat rather than low-fat cream cheese) but the cake was beautiful, very moist.

I did tinker a bit with the recipe – used walnut oil rather than sunflower, added a teaspoon of ground coriander to the cake, and swapped the orange zest for lime in the icing – and we’d definitely consider making it again. It’s very rich and filling, though (and I speak as someone who can be very greedy when it comes to cake). Next time we’ll experiment with it in muffin format. It all goes with the ‘Method Writing’ stuff – unless my ed nixes it…

Plan for today: practise the Mozart piece for lesson tomorrow; finish outline for Vienna book; and work on some other new stuff. I do like this stage of a book – it’s full of delicious possibilities.

Friday, September 16, 2011

lovely review

Current work: outline for new book
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: Fiona Harper, Swept Off her Stilettos (great fun)

Nice lazy afternoon yesterday, refilling the well. And then I had a really nice email from the reviews team at Romantic Times, telling me they’d given me four stars for Italian Doctor, No Strings Attached – and even nicer is what they said: ‘Overall, this is a wonderfully poignant tale of second chances. Readers follow the two characters in their quest for family and everlasting love. This excellent romance will touch your heart and have you shedding tears.’ Many thanks to Nas Dean for the lovely review. It's really nice when someone gets what you were trying to do. And it's gone some way to restoring my rather fragile confidence.

Today: outline for new book. I was going to do it on paper in the dining room, but that’s too close to the piano. However, my guitar lives behind my desk. Hmm. Distractions. Might have to work on the iPad on my bed, probably with a spaniel sneaked up there too…

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Current work: just turned in a book :o)
Listening to: Def Leppard (ha)
Reading: next on TBR (choices, choices, choices…)

Delighted to say that I have finished #50 and sent it to my editor. Guitar lesson this morning; then did a last read-through and tinker on the Rome book before emailing it over.

And now what do I do?

Actually, I do have one of my infamous lists (and there are quite a few tasks on it), but I think I can give myself the rest of today off for a bit of well-refilling. Guitar this morning; so that’s the piano this afternoon before school run, and then a good book for the school run. Which to choose? I have a lot on my TBR pile (DH, if you’re reading this, just so you know I haven’t bought a book for myself for two whole weeks – and no, I’m not confessing what I bought before then!). Decisions, decisions…

I’ve been listening rather a lot to ‘Tonight’ and ‘Love’ (piano version), because they really fitted the book very well. Protests are emerging from the younger members of the family. So I think I might have to make myself a new playlist, too.

Have a nice day :o) It’s cloudy here, but it feels like the sun is shining, because I’m off deadline – whoo-hoo!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Voices is live!

And the first entries are already in! (You can read them here.)

Whether you're primarily a reader or a writer, there'll be something on the website for you to enjoy.

Good luck to all the entrants!

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Voices update

Change of date and time for my workshop For anyone who's booked the workshop on Sept 13 - or who saw it advertised in the local paper - unfortunately, the librarian is poorly, so we've had to change the date.

The good news is that there's still time to go to my workshop before you enter New Voices (or, if you really can't wait, New Voices opens tomorrow! And there'll be lots to see every day over at

Workshop revised details:
Date: Tuesday, October 4
Time: 2:30am - 4:00pm
Location: Attleborough Library, 31 Connaught Road, Attleborough, NR17 2BW

For more information or to book your FREE place, call 01953 452319 or e-mail or

If you're not local to me and you're wondering if one of the M&B authors is running a workshop in your area, there's a list here on the New Voices website. Go check it out!

Friday, September 09, 2011

method writing

Current work: Rome Riva
Listening to: various
Reading: next on TBR

So on Tuesday I mentioned that I was having this baking session and having a go at doing two-tone icing, i.e. following in my heroine’s footsteps.

It was immensely messy, but it was also a lot of fun. First you put a teensy bit of food colouring in the disposable bag (because you will NOT be able to get the colour out of a reusable bag, and no matter how much you wash it, the bag will always look dirty), and then you spread it about so the entire bag has a thin layer of colour – which you can’t see when you hold the bag up, but you can once the buttercream is in.

Lesson from this: use a brush. Don’t be lazy and use your fingers. Getting the colour off your hand involves the use of hand scrub. (And when it’s dark purple… yeah. Hand scrub required.)

Anyway. Then you squeeze the icing through a star-shaped nozzle, and suddenly you get lovely violet edges to the icing. (This is daughter, using an icing bag for the very first time - and she did really well, bless her.)

And when you pipe a spiral onto your fairy cakes, it looks very pretty. Especially if you have lilac glitter sprinkles as well. (This is one of mine and I guess this is a wee bit showy-offy - but in my defence I haven't used an icing bag for nearly 20 years, and I haven't done two-tone icing before, so I was very pleased with the result.)

My ed will no doubt be asking quite how this counts as work. Aha. That depends on whether a certain scene survives in the book or not…

Thursday, September 08, 2011

New voices workshop reminder

Just to remind anyone planning on entering the Mills & Boon New Voices contest that I'm doing a workshop next week. To celebrate the launch of the Mills & Boon New Voices 2011 writing competition, Mills & Boon are hosting a series of writing workshops for aspiring authors to learn the secrets of writing a successful Mills & Boon story.

Details of my workshop:

Date: Tuesday, September 13

Time: 10:30am - 12:00pm

Location: Attleborough Library, 31 Connaught Road, Attleborough, NR17 2BW

For more information or to book your FREE place, call 01953 452319 or e-mail or

If you're not local to me and you're wondering if one of the M&B authors is running a workshop in your area, there's a list here on the New Voices website. Go check it out!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

back to school...

Current work: Rome Riva
Listening to: various
Reading: next on TBR

… and there’s definitely that September ‘new term’ nip in the air. Hope they both have a great first day back. Littlest has the same teacher she had in Y3 and is very pleased about it; son knows most of his teachers and seems happy enough, so hopefully it'll stay that way.

Great guitar lesson yesterday – I’ve been writing a song all week (shh, don’t tell my ed) but I find actually writing down the syncopation really hard. (Yeah. I know, I should simplify it all down to crotchets and quavers and not mess about with dotted stuff and ties, but… it’s how I hear it in my head.) Anyway, Jim sorted it out for me. Amazingly, I wrote it in a sensible key for once; the last one was in C minor and was too high for me to sing, but I heard the guitar (very distorted electric) and the piano and the drum line in my head, and so it had to come out that way. This one is more of a cross between Neil Young (Harvest era) and Chris Martin. Just acoustic guitar, quite choppy. (It’s what Jim calls “whiny studenty stuff” – yup. Works for me *g*.)

Changing career? No, this is what I write just for me. It’s the antithesis of my books, too; so you get a sweet voice but, um, rather sharp lyrics. I guess it’s pressure-valve stuff. The tune’s quite catchy, though, and the kids have been walking round singing it. DH thought it was about him and was a bit stroppy about it – um, no, honey, it wasn’t about you, it was about a set of attitudes that annoys me. (Which he doesn’t have, thankfully. If I wrote a song about him, it’d be along the lines of “if you don’t stop channel-hopping I’m going to confiscate the remote control”. I know it’s a guy thing, but it drives me insane!)

Righty. School run for littlest, wait in for grocery delivery, school run for eldest (Y8 onwards start late on the very first day so the Y7s get a chance to settle in, which I think is a great idea, even though it means I get two school runs on the first day of a new academic year), and then it’s just me and my dawg. I’ll miss the kids hugely, but it’ll be nice to have headspace. I can’t write love scenes when they’re in the house, and I have various places in the current MS that just says “kissing and stuff here”. LOL. Am I the only one who’s that sad?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

last day of school holidays...

Current work: Rome Riva
Listening to: various
Reading: next on TBR

… and, as son is having his mates over this afternoon, daughter is being dragooned into doing some research with me. Y’know Method Acting? Well, I think that’s my research style in writing. I’m always happier if I visit a place I want to write about, because I can soak up the atmosphere for myself; and the hero/heroine tends to share some of my interests. (Just as well I don’t write crime, innit? LOL.)

Anyway, as my current heroine makes cakes… actually, we’re really talking sugar-paste artistry, and I’m a bit challenged on the artistic front. I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. (I do, however, make great cake.) So, y’know, cakes. Now, when you’re starting up a business, you won’t get enough work on large cakes at first to keep your cashflow going. So my heroine makes cupcakes as well… and that means icing. And that means the stuff that looks like a rose, preferably two-tone, and preferably with either lustre dust or glitter sugar.

And, with the planned Method Writing, that meant going to one of the shops on the ‘not allowed in without a responsible adult’ list, for supplies. (Daughter tried to claim she is responsible. Um. (a) not an adult, (b) encourages me to be bad. So I don’t think so…)

It’s the last day of the school holidays. Quite what the boys will think of the cakes… well, actually, they probably won’t even notice the icing. It’ll be that teenage boy thing of being a bottomless pit, and any food will do. But daughter and I will have fun with the research!

Monday, September 05, 2011

In the top 10!

Current work: Rome Riva
Listening to: various
Reading: next on TBR

Was absolutely THRILLED this morning to discover that A Moment on the Lips is in the top 10 best sellers on the M&B website. Thank you so much to the readers who’ve put me there. The last year has been tough, workwise – with all the emotional upheaval and struggle, my confidence has taken a major nosedive, and a couple of recent reviews have shredded a few layers of skin on top of that. So thank you for putting me in that slot. It’s really appreciated. And I hope you enjoy the story.

As for what I’m up to today: I’m over at the eHarlequin Medical Authors’ blog, talking about, um, cake.

Friday, September 02, 2011

publication day

Current work: Rome Riva
Listening to: various
Reading: The Return of the Stranger, Kate Walker (enjoyed very much – I was expecting it to be good, as it’s a retelling of Wuthering Heights and I happen to know that Kate is an expert on the Brontes. I think it’s one of my favourites of hers) – and yes, I know I shouldn’t have been writing, given my deadline, but this wasn’t something I could resist :o)

Today is the official publication day for Italian Doctor, No Strings Attached - in both the UK and the US! So I'm posting both covers for your delectation - and dashing back to my deadline.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

elsewhere today - and celebrating a debut

Current work: Rome Riva
Listening to: various
Reading: (next on TBR)

Still time-squeezed (I have a deadline and term doesn’t start until Wednesday) so I’m going to point you to a different blog today – the RNA blog, which lists some of the September releases by RNA members. (Thank you, Freda, for your hard work in compiling it – it’s far from easy getting information from a bunch of authors, most of whom are in the world of their book or panicking about their deadline and don’t have a clue what day it is…)

I’m super-thrilled for two reasons: first of all, it’s my first UK release since March, and it’s felt like a very, very, VERY long dry spell; and secondly, it’s the official release of my friend Scarlet Wilson’s debut Medical Romance, “It Started With a Pregnancy”.

If I’d got myself organised, I would’ve sorted out a guest blog with her and posted it here and… oh, nuts. I have a million and one things to do today, and time is running away with me, so all I’ll say is just go and buy it because she’s lovely :o) (If you'd like to go and say "happy publication day", her blog is here, and her Facebook page is here.)

Have a nice day :o)