Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ring out the old, ring in the new

The last day of 2014… on a shamefully neglected blog.

2014 has been a really tough year, starting with my husband almost being killed by a lorry right at the beginning of January and then a year full of sheer grind and stress to sort out various family situations. I’m not talking about it for the sake of other people’s privacy, but I will say that I am very unimpressed by the truly selfish and unkind behaviour of some people in my life. (I haven’t said who or what, but no doubt I’ll get flak for saying as much as I have. Which kind of says it all, really!) There were a couple of really shiny moments (i.e. winning the RoNA Rose, which I wasn’t expecting and was so thrilled about, and seeing Robert Plant play in Cambridge), but in general I’ll be very glad to see the back of 2014, and I really hope that 2015 is a lot quieter and kinder.

My resolutions last year were to keep up the good work at the gym (tick – I didn’t quite crack the assisted pull-up machine, and I decided in the end that running wasn’t the best thing for me, but I did manage the 100kg deadlift and my new ‘mad cardio’ programme by my trainer means that I’m much fitter than I was), to keep up the good work on the eating front (generally there, though my weight has stayed the same - I honestly think that stress and the resultant cortisol has wiped me there), and to work harder to write books that touch my readers’ hearts (hope I did that one but I guess I'm not the one who can judge that).

This year? Again, to keep up the good work at the gym – I have a new (and challenging) programme so I’m looking forward to working on that. I will try to keep my blog and website updated a bit better than I did in 2014. And I really want to focus on my career and get back on track. We have a couple of milestone birthdays to look forward to in our house this year (and I’m partway through planning celebrations). But most of all I want 2015 to be a quiet, happy year.

Wishing you a quiet, happy year, too.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Celebrating sixty books!

I'm celebrating the release of my 60th title for Mills and Boon with a party today (6 Oct) over at Facebook - along with lots of lovely author friends who are offering giveaways, so do go over and join the fun! (For those of you not on Facebook, look out for the Chocolate Box tomorrow...)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Glamorous author stuff…

Sorry about the gap last week – caused by some family stuff that needed sorting and by, um, being distracted by a new toy.

I can control it by voice. (Well, the stereo, anyway. It’s JUST like the ad. And it’s lovely to drive. And the petrol consumption is a massive improvement…) The pic doesn't really do the colour justice - it's not black but a dark grey with turquoise and purple sparkly bits. (Um. That doesn't do it justice, either. It's classy rather than tacky!)

I also have tickets to see Justin Currie at Epic in Norwich in November – small venue, so it will be fantastic.

Last Friday was the Mills and Boon authors’ annual lunch in London, followed by tea in Fortnum’s and the author toast by M&B. Here I am at the author party with Charlotte Mursell (left, my Rom/Cherish ed) and Sheila Hodgson (my Medicals ed).

It was a fabulous day all round, and even the train home being delayed by flash floods (which also meant it was standing room only) was fine as we chatted to some really interesting people and were entertained by some drunk people in the buffet carriage singing ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ (and forgetting lots of the words…).

Current work: I’m writing M&B #64 (a medical romance), my ed has approved the outline of M&B #65 (a Harlequin Romance) and I’m also working on an indie project.

Books out this month: It Started With No Strings is available in advance from the M&B website (aka M&B #60, aka the Plague Squirrels book) – and there’s going to be a big Facebook party! Watch this space…

Music: listening to Robert Plant and Justin Currie

Reading: Elly Griffiths’ ‘Ruth Galloway’ series – fabulous and she really understands Norfolk. (If you like crime, archaeology, forensics or my part of the world, then it’ll be right up your street. Although it’s written in the present tense, which isn’t usually my cuppa tea, the writing is good enough to transcend that.)

Gym: Not so good last week – only managed two days. (Family stuff is a timesuck…)

Dance class: quickstep and cha cha cha.

Other stuff: Mainly it’s been the author lunch – fabulous stuff. More about it over on the Choc Box blog on 23 Sept.

Have a nice week! :)

Monday, September 08, 2014


I’ve had a spectacular week – lovely ed decided that she liked what I’d done with the revisions on the Capri Book, so M&B #63 is going to be out in April 2015 – ‘It Started With a Wedding…’ I really like the title! Finding the Pandora bead that said ‘wedding dress designer meets toffee magnate’ was a bit tricky, so in the end I opted for a flower-based bead to celebrate the sale. (Had a sneaky breakfast out with DH in the city on the day I bought the bead – eggs Florentine is one of my all-time favourites.)

Current work: I’m writing M&B #64 (a medical romance), planning M&B #65 (a Harlequin Romance) and working on an indie project.

Books out this month: You can still get hold of Crown Prince, Pregnant Bride from Harlequin/M&B and online retailers; and you can get an early copy of It Started With No Strings from the M&B website (aka the Plague Squirrels book!).

Music: listening to Mallory Knox and Robert Plant

Reading: Jill Shalvis ‘It’s In His Kiss’ (enjoyed very much); Marguerite Kaye ‘Never Forget Me’ (very good and particularly enjoyed the second story)

Gym: Did the full five sessions last week, including the insane cardio. Actually, it was great fun – I was totally shattered at the end (and burned the same amount in the session as I would in the much longer normal cardio session) but I agree with my trainer that I should try doing that twice a week rather than one insane session and one normal session, and then having my three weights days.

Dance class: waltz and quickstep, this week. We can just about get the ‘whisk and wing’ now, but we need a fair bit more practice on the new hesitation move!

Other stuff: First full school week, so dog will not be happy. Especially as I have lunch out with my local RNA chapter this week, which means he will be all on his little lonesome.

Have a nice week! :)

Monday, September 01, 2014

Hello - I'm back!

First of all, massive apologies for neglecting the blog. Life just got in the way. I will try harder, but I’m cutting the blog back to once a week as I think that’s probably all that people really want to read from me (but if you do want to see things as they happen, I’m on Facebook most days).

So… what’s been happening? Apart from the life-in-the-way stuff, it’s been the school summer holidays. We had a wonderful time in Prague (here I am next to the astronomical clock).

And I had holes drilled in my eyes (aka a laser iridotomy to stop me getting narrow-angle glaucoma and losing my sight). It took me a little longer than I expected to bounce back from that, but I have the all-clear now.

Current work: I’m waiting for second revisions on M&B #63 (the Capri book), starting to write M&B #64 (medical romance), planning M&B #65 (Harlequin Romance) and working on an indie project (more on this later).

Books out this month: You can still get hold of Crown Prince, Pregnant Bride from Harlequin/M&B and online retailers; and you can get an early copy of It Started With No Strings from the M&B website (aka the Plague Squirrels book!).

Music: currently listening to Radiohead (and annoying the teens hugely by quoting bits of Paranoid Android at them). I have bought/preordered a lot of music for this month! I’m waiting for Robert Plant’s new album to arrive next week (I have tickets to see him in Cambridge in November, which makes me very happy indeed as he’s my all-time favourite musician and I’m still so thrilled that I will get to see him play live again). I’m also waiting for Mallory’s Knox’s first album to arrive (I just bought tickets to see them in November as well – mainly because Frank Iero is supporting them and he is my daughter’s idol; it means a five-hour drive to Manchester, but it’s worth it) and Joe Bonamassa’s new album (his tour in March is sold out, sob, or I’d have tickets for that, too).

Reading: Jill Shalvis, Once in a Lifetime (enjoying, as always – I do like her romcoms).

Gym: I haven’t been brilliant in my attendance over the summer (and I haven’t been eating brilliantly, either – summer hols, teens, and being forced to eat ice cream on the beach – you know the kind of stuff). Today, however, I’m back on track. I have a new programme – three days of weights, one day of cardio and one day of super-insane cardio (aka my own mini plyometrics class, thanks to my awesome trainer) and I’m going back to eating clean. (Though I have the annual M&B lunch coming up in a couple of weeks and that’s going to involve pudding… and it would be rude not to, right?)

Other stuff: Back to school and sixth form this week, so routine will go back to normal from – well, Friday (Thursday is all over the place with Y10 going in late and Y13 going in even later!). The dog will be sulking for roughly a week because his playmates won’t be around during the day; but he will get used to it, bless him. I’ve been watching Breaking Bad with eldest (mainly because he’s a chemistry geek so I’ve been able to have super-nerdy conversations with him about chemistry as well as plot and character arc). The dramatic tension and the acting are both superb and I can see why it’s won so many awards.

Righty – so that’s me caught up. Have a nice week! :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Choc Box Spring Blog Hop guest - Donna Alward 'Spring Memories'

Spring Memories: Down on the Farm…

Confession: Spring is not my favourite season.

Late spring? Sure. In the late spring green things are sprouting, flowers are starting to bloom, days are longer, and there’s this feeling that summer is right around the corner.

But that happens closer to the May side of things, and spring “officially” starts on March 20th or 21st. Why don’t I like it so much? Well, it’s a bit dirty, to be honest. The snow melts, but then the ground is muddy and it smells…not so nice. Dirt tracks into the house. Even the road, when it’s dry, is a pain because it’s covered with gravel from the sand trucks going all winter. The dog tracks in with muddy feet. The trees are still gnarled and bare and the grass is brown. Sigh.

Still, I have some good memories of early spring from when I was a kid. For instance, as soon as the driveway and parking lot were clear at school, it marked the beginning of skipping season. Either singles ropes or doubles, and things really got fun when we had ropes of the same length and could get Double Dutch going. I spent a lot of noon hours skipping during elementary school.

It was also a time of year where I could earn some money. I grew up on an apple farm, and during March my dad did all the winter pruning. In the mature orchards, that meant a lot of branches on the ground, branches that had to be picked up. I spent spring Saturdays picking brush – piling it precisely in the middle of the rows between the trees, so my dad could come along after with the bush hog and grind it up. It was back breaking work, and sometimes there was still snow on the ground so feet and hands got cold and wet. But the money was worth it!

Once pruning was over, it was time to look at fertilizing. By the time I was eight, I was driving the smaller tractor we owned. My dad and our hired hand would fill buckets with fertilizer and spread it around the trees by hand while I drove the tractor with the wagon behind it. If there was a really soft spot, my dad would hop on the tractor and get me around the corner to the next row. I was so short that to push in the brake and clutch, I had to stand up off the seat. But driving the tractor was really cool and I earned some money doing that, too.

By the time the fertilizer was spread, it got more fun. My dad was the local “dealer” for fruit trees in our area, and he took orders over the winter and got the trees in May. The trees needed to be kept somewhere moist, so we also got a few loads of sawdust to keep them in. My job was to go out and water them with the garden hose until “Pick Up Day”. I knew where different varieties were, so when Pick Up Day arrived, I was out in the big metal building that was our barn, helping bundle trees together, putting a little sawdust in the empty fertilizer bags to keep the roots wet for when people took them home. I loved Pick Up Day!

It always seemed like once the trees were gone, spring was over and the real summer work began.

Donna’s latest book is THE HOUSE ON BLACKBERRY HILL, out on April 29th from St. Martin’s Press. [Note from Kate: it's a fabulous read and has the most brilliant ghost story in the middle of it - I read it at the weekend and I'm not just saying it because she's my friend. It's a great book.]  You can find her at her site at Meanwhile she’s probably writing her next book or outside pruning and fertilizing her own apple trees. Don’t forget to enter the Chocolate Box Blog Hop contest for a great prize, including one of Donna’s latest books.

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Choc box blog hop guest - Barbara Wallace 'Top Five Hero Inspirations'

Well, it wouldn't be spring (or a Chocolate Box hop) without gorgeous men, right? So Barbara Wallace has some fabulous inspiration for us...

I’m starting a new project this week, which means casting a new hero. “Casting” is perhaps my favorite part of the job (besides indulging in post-manuscript rice pudding) because it lets me spend hours upon end playing on the Internet in search of the perfect sexy actor or model to use for inspiration. Like many of my colleagues, I need to have a mental picture of my characters before I can write.
Lately, despite my web surfing, I find myself turning to the same five inspirational men over and over. They are, in no particular order:

alex, alex, alexJake Silbermann. Yeah, I know, you’ve never heard of him. He played one half of a gay love story on As the World Turns. He also has the most amazing blue eyes and swimmer’s body. For some reason, when I want a handsome, but not quite perfect looking hero, he’s who comes to mind. Jake was the prototype for Alex Markoff in BEAUTY AND THE BROODING BOSS. His body also inspired Simon Cartwright in MAN BEHIND THE MASK.

imagesCAH8MCJ2Matt Bomer. Now, he’s the man I go to when I want perfection. Seriously, look at that face? Does the man have any physical flaws? Matt was the inspiration for Charles Bishop in DARING TO DATE THE BOSS and Simon Cartwright in MAN BEHIND THE MASK.

Cast member Max Martini arrives for theMax Martini. Rough and sexy, with a voice that sounds like whiskey. He’s a man’s man. The perfect person for a hero with edge. I used him for Ian Black in SWEPT AWAY BY THE TYCOON. I can hear his growl in my head.

jensenacklesJensen Ackles. Okay, we’re back to physically perfect. Plus, he do has that rough bedroom voice that can make your knees weak. Doesn’t hurt that his character, Dean Winchester, is one of television’s most wounded heroes ever. He inspired both Oliver Harrington in FAIRYTALE CHRISTMAS and Grant Templeton in Mr. RIGHT, NEXT DOOR.

EliottChris Meloni. Stereotypically handsome? No. But the man has so much testosterone, it practically leaps off the page. I haven’t used him yet, but he’s on the waiting list. Possibly for a project I'm starting this month.

There are others too. Scott Foley, Michael Weatherly, Clive Owens. But these five are the guys I come back to again and again.

So what actors inspire the stories in your head? Do these men fit the novel characters they were cast to play, or did you have someone else in mind. Come on, let’s have some fun and share the pretty.

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Chocolate Box Blog Hop Guest - Shirley Jump '10 top tips for runners'

I did say there was a theme - and Shirley's running REALLY inspires me (especially at the moment as I have tennis elbow and can't do my normal weights - cardio it is!) I would double-emphasise number 2 in her tips - very, very wise advice.

Ten Tips for New Runners
By Shirley Jump

It’s spring, which means lots of people are going to be thinking about exercising more (yeah, I know, we all made that resolution in January and lasted to, oh, January 10th before it was broken) and getting that beach body, or at least a body that has enough stamina to hike down the sand to the water with a cooler, beach chairs, sandals, and enough sunscreen to blot out the entire solar system.

To get that beach body, you need to exercise. For me, my favorite exercise, and the only one I can do because I have zero coordination, is running. I took up the sport a little over two years ago and have run numerous 5ks, 10ks and three half marathons since then. I’m kinda addicted, and when the weather is nice, I’m like a puppy at the window, dying to get out and run around the park. If you’re thinking about taking up running, here are my top ten tips for new runners:

1. Start slow. I started by walking, then adding running from light pole to light pole. I’d gradually increase that distance, until I could get to a mile without stopping. When I could run that far, I knew it was time to get serious, which meant:

2. Get good running shoes. From an actual running store. DO NOT go to a chain or a store in the mall for running shoes. You need to be fitted by a professional, especially one who does gait analysis. Your feet are your most important tool in running and you don’t want to skimp here. Have someone who knows what they are doing analyze and fit you, and don’t be talked into bells and whistles that don’t feel comfortable. Your running shoes will likely be at least one full size larger than you normally wear, to give your feet room to expand when you run, and should have the proper support for your form. Don’t buy Newtons because your friend loves them or Nikes because you saw them on some Olympic athlete’s feet. Buy what works for your gait and stride.

3. Stretching is important. Before you run, you should do a warmup, with dynamic stretches. There’s all kinds of science behind why you do dynamic stretches before and static stretches afterwards. Google it. Be knowledgeable. After you run, ALWAYS do static stretches. It really helps your body recover.

4. Keep track. Get an app for your phone or even a simple stopwatch and keep track of how far/fast you are going. It really helps me to know, because then I want to do better next time. And when you think you aren’t making any progress, add up all the miles you have run and you’ll be amazed at how far you have come.

5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Especially as the weather gets warmer! It’s important to drink lots and lots of water. I drink water all day and usually run in the morning. I don’t drink much before I run (because then I’d end up in the restroom a lot) but I do make sure to drink a lot the day before and after a run. On hot/humid days, I carry water with me—one bottle of water and one with electrolytes in it, usually on what’s called a fuel belt (a handy thing on your waist that holds a couple water bottles).

6. Eat right. The food you put in your body is the fuel that powers your runs. If you eat donuts all day, it’s like putting watered-down gas into your car’s tank. Eat right to run/exercise right.

7. Crosstrain. I admit, I am not so good about this one. Running works one group of muscles, while cross-training, like bike riding, swimming, aerobics classes, weight lifting, will work the others, which in turn makes you a stronger runner.

8. Don’t worry about times, paces, splits, etc. You’re not Shalane Flanagan or Ryan Hall. You’re running for fun and health, so don’t worry about all the rest. Have fun.

9. Run in the rain (but not if it’s lightning out). There’s something awesome about running in the rain. A light rain is fun and refreshing, a no-holds barred storm with wind makes you feel seriously hardcore and teaches you that you can conquer almost anything.

10. Find running friends. You can find other runners online, at groups like Running for Brews, or at local running stores. I remember being totally intimidated the first time I went. I’m not a fast runner, and I’m a little whiny, and I thought I’d be running all by myself. I have never ended up running by myself—runners are the warmest, most inclusive, friendliest and most helpful group of people out there. And you will have seriously epic fun times. I remember one holiday season run when we all sang Christmas carols on the run. It was literally the most fun run I have EVER had. I can’t wait to do it again!

Running is amazing and awesome and fun. Yes, it has its moments of extreme suckage. The first mile, someone once told me, ALWAYS sucks, and she was right. It doesn’t matter how many times I run or how far I run, I always, always, always hate that first mile. Then I find my groove and settle into my pace, and find a good song on the radio or an interesting podcast to listen to, and the miles click by. Every run, I try to push myself a teeny tiny bit farther or harder, and when I’m done, I am ALWAYS glad I ran. Every single solitary time. And the best part of all? I can eat cookies and not gain weight ;-).

Follow me on my Blog (more tips there), Facebook or Twitter and talk to me about your running!

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Chocolate Box Blog Hop guest - Samantha Hunter 'Put a Spring in your Step'

Sam's another writer who inspires me - and you might just notice there's a strong link between her post and Susan's :o)

We walk pretty much every day, and have since we got our first dog 12 years ago. Actually we walked before that, usually about three miles a day, and having a dog to walk with us just made sense. We have winter gear, rain gear, mud gear, and whatever it takes to get out for our two-plus miles a day, but it’s so much nicer to have the walking path dry and clear and not to have to worry about being run over by snowmobiles. I love walking on new Spring days when we’re likely to see more wildlife – definitely birds, but also turtles, frogs and rabbits, all emerging from the cold months to find food.

So the nicer weather in and of itself is good for making me want to walk more and longer –especially after some winter walks felt like… well, you can imagine. Our trail is not always groomed, so we slug through as much as a foot of snow, as long as it’s manageable for the dog, or we put on trackers to walk over ice and through ruts carved into slush and then frozen – that’s probably my least favorite walk.

But Spring is the season that begs for walking after being closed up all winter. If you don’t walk regularly, this is the time to think about getting out and doing it, before the summer heat, when it’s harder (but still a lovely time to walk). If you’re like us, and you have a dog, you know dogs love their exercise, so taking your dog out is the best possible way to make sure you walk every day. (I advise, if you don’t have one, get one – the best and most affectionate exercise machine you will ever have). ☺
You can check out sites like this one, The Walker’s Site (, that will give you good advice and programs for starting to walk regularly. You could also read up, and a book I’ve always liked is Chi Walking (, though I have to admit, I don’t “Fitness Walk.” We walk, in the dry weather, at a pace of about 3 mph, maybe faster on some days. Now and then we mix that with a little jogging. But you have to do what’s good for you. If you try to work too hard too fast, you are likely to give up. If you want to run eventually, start by walking – and work your way up to it.

Walking is a good option if running is too strenuous or causes injury to you. Running is better for losing weight as a targeted goal, but walking at a brisk pace (this is important – working up to at least a 15 minute mile) will offer similar health benefits without the chance of injury. But the way I see it, walking has a lot more benefits than health: you can think, have a conversation, or simply enjoy and observe your surroundings. You can walk to new areas of your city or try new paths. You can take pictures and visit with other people on the path instead of running by them. I do suggest finding a safe place to walk, somewhere where you don’t have to worry about being hit by a car or that sort of thing, so you can enjoy your walk, and to do some kind of stretching before and after, as walking can leave your muscles tight.

And Spring is the perfect time to start a walking habit that I hope would see you through the rest of the year – I know I hate to miss my daily walk, and I try never to do so. Do you walk daily? Is it something you’d like to start? Now’s the time!

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Chocolate Box Blog Hop guest - Susan Meier 'Spring Slim Down'

Susan inspires me - she's another of my cheerleader squad in the Kate Unlardy Project :o) So her spring post is very appropriate for me! (And don't forget to enter the giveaway...)

Most of my life, I’ve enjoyed the status of being at the same weight/size. Then suddenly I gained 40 pounds. Rather than slim down, I bought a bigger size bathing suit last summer. LOL! Not quite cheating but sort of.

This year, I don’t want to buy a bigger size. In fact, I’d like to fit into a few of my smaller suits. So I’ve joined the ranks of those doing the spring diet. Or maybe better said, spring slim down…because I’m not good with diets but I love exercise.

I have every DVD known to mankind except P90X. One look at that infomercial and I knew I wouldn’t survive it. The Zumba tapes looked like so much fun on TV that I bought them immediately. Never took them out of the box. But my daughter’s friend did use them. I loved Tae Bo in the 90’s so I bought the “classic” edition, thinking I’d get the routines I’d loved. But not quite. Either that or my added years and weight made the workouts beyond my abilities.

Luckily, I hired a personal trainer last year. She also teaches a much simpler form of Zumba. More like dancing. ☺ I also bought the Hip Hop Abs DVDS and love them.

So now I get up in the morning and do a half-hour Hip Hop Abs routine. Then I work/write until noon. Wednesdays and Fridays at noon I workout with my trainer. Tuesday night, Thursday night and Saturday morning I do Zumba with Cindy.

I may not lose a ton of weight but by vacation I hope to at least be tucked in!

How about you? Are you a Spring Slim Down person?

Susan Meier

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Chocolate box blog hop guest - Liz Fielding 'Spring Fling'

I'm horribly, horribly, HORRIBLY late but I have guests for our blog hop! My first is lovely Liz Fielding. Take it away, Liz!

Spring has inspired poets throughout the ages. I came across this poem recently and enjoyed it so much I thought I'd share.

After months of waiting, spring has come at

enjoy it while you can it all goes oh so fast.

Spring is here. Spring has finally come...

It's the time for cheer, blossoming flowers, and happy dance.

The warm weather and sweet romance.

Spring is here. Spring has finally come...

Just a small town waitress who barely made enough to live off of,

She didn't believe in love.

A city bad boy, the new outcast,

running from a real hard past.

Spring is here. Spring has finally come...

Love is in the air, first crushes and harmless flirting,

the beginnings of a spring fling.

Bittersweet kisses and endless bliss.

Enjoy it while you can it'll all go oh so fast.

Spring is here. Spring has finally come...

As time flies by, spring quickly comes to an end.

He says goodbye, leaving her with nothing but a broken heart to mend.

Spring is gone. It all went by oh too fast.

As she cries, she begins to ask god why?

It takes a moment, but she soon realizes...

It was just a spring fling,

it never meant a thing.

Ivory Strife

What is your favourite spring poem?

Liz's latest romance, For His Eyes Only, published by Harlequin KISS is available now. You can find her at her website

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Chocolate Box Blog Hop!

I'm taking part in a blog hop during April and May with the rest of the Chocolate Box Blog team - and there's a load of prizes up for grabs, including t-shirts, books from fabulous writers such as Donna Alward, Shirley Jump, Susan Meier, Liz Fielding, Jackie Braun, Ami Weaver, Samantha Hunter, Barbara Wallace and Michelle Douglas and - obviously - chocolate! There should be a rafflecopter at the end of this post; the more things you click, the more chances to win. :)

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Guest blogger: Nina Harrington - why writing in more than one genre is a must for any author

I'm thrilled to have a guest blogger here today - Nina Harrington, who also writes for Harlequin, has just released her first romantic suspense title and is here to toll us all about writing in more than one genre. Take it away, Nina!

Thank you Kate for your warm welcome to your Blog. I am very happy to be here.

When I am introduced to someone for the first time, and they find out that I am a fiction writer, often the first question they ask is: ‘What kind of books do you write?”

I usually resist the temptation to say that my pen name is actually E.L. James and I am here in disguise, and instead reply along the lines of:

“I write series contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon. And single title romantic mystery. And romantic suspense. Oh, I mustn’t forget the science fiction young adult crime and techno-thrillers which I still have to edit. I am also currently working on a non-fiction book and …”

You get the idea.

Depending on the nature of the project I am working on that day, my answer is bound to confuse and send people away bewildered.

The kind and polite person was probably expecting a one word answer. Surely a writer only creates one type of book? One brand. One name. One kind of book. Simple.

But therein lies the problem.

Think about the books you have on your bedside table or waiting on your Kindle or other eBook reader?

Are they all the same genre or subgenre?

Mine aren’t. At the moment my bedtime reading choices are a detective novel, a middle grade fantasy adventure and a gardening manual to help me with my new raised bed. And I love that variety in my reading. It is so inspiring and entertaining.

I like to think of this way. Would you like to eat the same food every day of the week, every week of the year? No matter how delicious the food, and how nicely it was prepared, I would soon become bored and crave something different to experience and enjoy.

Exercising the same muscles every day is not good for the rest of the body and can make you very lop sided!

But writers seem reluctant to step over the barriers, for fear of ‘diluting’ their core brand and confusing their readers and getting lost on the way.

I find that readers are incredibly smart people – they can definitely handle the fact that an author can write in more than one genre or multiple sub genres.

James Patterson writes under the same name regardless of the genre. He respects his readers and knows that they will decide what they want to read that particular book.

Moreover, my experience has been that writing in a different style and in a different genre, really does make my creativity step up another notch.

My latest release, ‘Deadly Secrets’, is a crime novel with a romantic thread. Not only did I have great fun researching the location in the Ionian Islands, but I really enjoyed writing a much more plot based story and stretching those story craft muscles.

This was a story that simply refused to go away, despite all of my nagging about it not being a romance novel.

But one thing remains the same. It is still my voice telling the story. And there lies the key. As writers we have so many stories burning inside of us, waiting to be told and not nearly enough time to write them all. Don’t let those stories wither and fade because they don’t fit neatly into the genre you normally write. They need you.

‘Deadly Secrets’ by Nina Harrington – out now from all your favourite online stores.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A few days as a princess...

It's not every day you get to be hugged by Darcey Bussell.

So I hope you'll forgive me for, um, running on about it just a little bit more.

The photo below is courtesy of the RNA - Darcey is giving me the trophy, and I've just given her a copy of my book Ballroom to Bride and Groom ;)

And if you want to see my acceptance speech (a bit overwhelmed and incoherent, talking way too fast, and trying very hard not to cry) then lovely Fiona Harper filmed it, and you can see it on the Mills and Boon website right here.

Yesterday, I had lunch with my local RNA chapter to celebrate, which was fabulous (not to mention scrumptious - a week like this, I am so allowed to eat polenta chips covered with parmesan and we can ignore the calories). The same goes for the coffee and the very small Italian almond macaroon (which I prefer to the French type) in Carluccio's afterwards with Caroline Anderson.

I've been thoroughly spoiled with flowers.

These ones are from Caroline Anderson (same colour roses as the ones in my wedding bouquet).

Delphiniums from my bestest cousin (she knows I love them).

Irises from my best friend (who knows how much I love them).

And then this morning my publisher sent me champagne, chocolates and roses (and note the cute little ladybird on the chiffon ribbon - that amused me highly and I'm sure that will find its way into a book).

I've also had an orchid from another close friend, flowers from DH, cards and tons of lovely emails and kind messages.

Plus an interview with the local paper, and I'm off to talk to Stephen Bumfrey at BBC Radio Norfolk tomorrow.

I am enjoying having a few days as a princess (though I can't ignore the fact that the tumble dryer has been noisy for a month, spitting out bits for a week, and is threatening to blow up by the end of the week - so it's off to John Lewis at the weekend to sort out a new one - LOL, this is life going back to normal!).

Thank you to everyone who's been spoiling me and sharing the joy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

RNA Awards 2014

Monday 17 March 2014 has to rate as one of my best Mondays ever.

Forgive me for running on a bit (and posting a gazillion pics), but I'd like to share the whole day, warts and all.

I'd been so looking forward to the RNA Awards do - I'd been thrilled to be shortlisted again for the RoNA Rose prize, and not just with one but TWO books! Better still, some of my best writer friends had been shortlisted with me, and I couldn't have been on a shortlist with nicer people. (It didn't matter who won. We were all going to cheer each other on. We'd all been shortlisted before and we were just going to have a wonderful day together and enjoy every second.) I was looking forward to seeing other RNA friends that I hadn't seen for ages, too.

And, thanks to the Kate Unlardy project, I had enough confidence to wear a dress - the first time I've worn a dress since my wedding day, 22 years ago. And, cough, the tiara. (It's sparkly and awesome. And I love it. And yes, I am a toddler on a sugar rush.)

Monday morning actually started with a bit of a panic. I'd painted my nails the night before and thought I could get away with just one coat. In daylight... Oops. Rushed to get ready, added a second coat, and it was just about dry when my taxi arrived.

Anyway, I caught the train in time, met Caroline Anderson halfway there, and we talked all the way to London.

Our editors had arranged to take us to lunch in the Massimo restaurant in the Corinthia Hotel. It's so easy to find - you just walk out of the tube station at Embankment and it's there in front of you.

And what a beautiful building.

 I fell in love with this light installation in the lobby lounge. (Yes, that is going to appear in a book at some point.)

The room was just gorgeous.

And we met lovely Liz Fielding for coffee. (This is Caroline and Liz in the lounge.) 

They did coffee art just for us. (The biscuit was cinnamon, and very nice too.)

Then the editors started walking past, so we went to join them and met up with Louise Allen and the late Joanna Fulford's husband. I had some fabulous news over lunch - my sixtieth Mills and Boon (aka Plague Squirrels) has been accepted. (Real title is 'It Started With No Strings' and it's out in October.) Oh, and at this point we started on the prosecco...

Lunch was fabulous. I had the burrata to start with (kind of like mozzarella, with a slightly softer middle) with vegetable caponata.

Then fillet of hake on a bed of lentils and giroles (chanterelle mushrooms - and it tasted even better than it looked). 

And, because I read menus backwards and the editors and my writer mates all know me very well, there was a bit of teasing because everyone knew exactly what I was going to choose for dessert - panna cotta with blood orange jelly. (I am still trying to work out how they got the top bit to fizz. Must experiment.) And the ricotta doughnuts were still warm. (Ultra nommy.)

Certain people couldn't resist the tiramisu with espresso jelly.

Then it was time to go across the road to One Whitehall Place and have our photographs taken. (First stop: loos, to check hair and lippy for the officialphotographs - nice to see Janet Gover and Henri Gyland.)

I love the staircase at One Whitehall Place. I know I've posted a similar pic before, but I really do love this staircase!

This is the room for the reception before the do.

And I got to see my fabulous mate Milly Johnson with her great new hair.

Shortlistees for the RoNA Rose having an official photo (ltr Liz Fielding, Louise Allen, Caroline Anderson, me, Brian Croft for Joanna Fulford).

And we met up with Emma Fraser, who'd been shortlisted for the RoNA Epic. (ltr Louise Allen, Caroline Anderson, Emma Fraser wearing IMPOSSIBLY high heels, me, Liz Fielding)

We had an interview with the Buena Vista book club. (Lovely people.)

Another visit to loo (because you wouldn't be able to change your mind once you were in the awards do!). This time, met up with lovely Fiona Harper and India Grey.

Then it was time to go in to the Gladstone Library for the ceremony.

Gorgeous room. Gorgeous table.

As you can see, we were having a very nice time indeed and ther eight have been champagne involved...

Darcey Bussell was presenting the awards - introduced here by lovely Katie Fforde. There might have been a tiny bit of fangirling going on at our table, at this point ;) (Apols for rubbish picture quality for the next couple. My camera did not like the lighting!) 

First up was the RoNA Rose. Our book covers were shown (greedy Kate gets two).

And from here it gets a bit incoherent and blurry, because Darcey took the card out of the envelope. 'And the winner is...' I was all ready to cheer.

I really was NOT expecting her to say 'Kate Hardy'.

I squeaked, 'OMG - did she just say me?' Caroline, Liz and Louise checked I didn't have lippy on my teeth and my hair wasn't all over the place, took my name badge off (because romantic novelists are the nicest people in the world and believe that you look after your own - I am very, very proud to be part of that kind of organisation because RNA members are awesome). And they reminded me to take the ballroom book out of my bag so I could give that to Darcey.

This is the real warts and all bit. What it's like to win an award and what goes through your head while you walk up to the stage.

OMG. This is really happening.  I hope I don't fall over the steps and make an idiot of myself - maybe the heels were a mistake. Remember to suck the stomach in so you don't look like a postbox on stage. OMG. I'm going to meet Darcey Bussell. She's beautiful. What a lovely smile. She's so tall and thin! OMG - Darcey Bussell's giving me a hug and a crystal star - I actually have a trophy, for the first time in my life!!!!

What I actually said (this is warts and all so I am REALLY cringing, but I hope you're all laughing along with me rather than at me) - I'm so thrilled to meet you. You're my favourite judge on Strictly by miles, and I brought you my ballroom dance book and I hope you'll enjoy it. 

She gave me the trophy and a hug. There were photos. And then I had to make a speech that I hadn't actually prepared, so it came totally from the heart. I don't actually remember much of what I said, and I was crying at this point. 

In fact, this is the official picture of the total wreck that was Kate Hardy (thank you to the RNA for the pic). So totally overcome that she committed the cardinal sin of looking down so the double chins showed! :)  (Darcey all smiley and composed, Jane Wenham-Jones I think might have been saying, 'BREATHE!', and me all incoherent :)

(Do you want to know why Oscar winners cry? It's so thrilling and humbling and overwhelming, and you don't quite believe it's happening, and I will never mock them again for being gushy because I was the same.) I do remember saying that I wasn't expecting it, I was so thrilled, and thanking the readers, the judges, the RNA and Mills and Boon. I also remember making my editor stand up to take a bow (on the grounds that your book isn't just yours - you need an editor to remind you to put the stuff that's in your head on the page and not leave it in your head, and I think every writer in that room knew what I meant!).

Back to the tables, collecting the Betty Neels rose bowl on the way (I get custody of this for a year, and my name engraved on it with the year - it's almost next to my name from 2008). Lots of hugs on the way. And I'm so humbled that people are genuinely pleased for me. I was offline while I was in London and came home to literally hundreds of emails and texts and tweets and FB messages, and you're all so lovely and it's so much appreciated.

So - the rest of the awards - and I'm sorry to say I was still in such a daze that I didn't take pics.

Contemporary romantic novel - Veronica Henry
Epic romantic novel - Jennifer McVeigh
Historical romantic novel - Christina Courtenay
Romantic comedy novel - Milly Johnson
Young adult romantic novel - Imogen Howson

Overall Romantic Book of the Year - Veronica Henry

Achievement awards to Dr David Hessayon and Helen Fielding (great speeches from both).

More photos. (Me with Darcey and the other award winners. Pic again courtesy of the RNA - thank you - LTR Christina Courtenay, Imogen Howson, Milly Johnson, Darcey Bussell, Helen Fielding, Veronica Henry, me, Jennifer McVeigh)

And then it was time to go home to my best friend's for a much needed cup of tea.

So that was a super-exciting, super-glam day in the life of a normally rather scruffy middle-aged mum of two.

And I am totally, totally thrilled.

And still not quite believing that this has my name on it.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Guest post - Donna Alward on the writing process

Last week, I posted my blog on the writing process. As Donna Alward's website is currently undergoing a few changes, I offered to host her here - so, take it away, Donna!

Big huge humongous thanks to my pal Kate (and RoNA finalist – wait double finalist!) for hosting me with my “My Writing Process” blog. Kate’s SUCH an inspiration to our “writing group” and I’ve known her for yonks. But since she joined the Romance line we’ve chatted even more. Sometimes even about writing. Mostly about food. And exercise. And kids. :) Okay – now on to my writing process!

1) What am I working on?
Right now I’m working on a couple of stories. I have a hard time shifting from one set of characters to another at the same time, and both proposals are approved and they both have the same deadline date (fun!). So I chose to write the one that’s calling to me most - Christmas at Seashell Cottage. It’s a 60k story that will be out in digital later this year to coincide with the release of Treasure on Lilac Lane from St. Martin’s Press. As soon as that’s on the way to my editor there, I’m back to finishing up the second story in a trilogy for Harlequin American – a Valentine’s Day story in my upcoming Crooked Creek Cowboys series.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Oh, this is a hard question. How does it differ? By voice, I suppose. I’m a farm girl, and yet my westerns have less of a ranch-y core and more of an emotional centre. That’s what it’s all about for me – the emotion. My series for St. Martins isn’t quite like any East Coast, Small Town Contemporary series I’ve read. Again, they’re about the emotional core and the small town setting, which makes them very intimate. There’s also a little hint of mystery in them. It’s one of those things I have a difficult time putting my finger on – perhaps a reader or editor or reviewer could pinpoint what makes me different. Perhaps it’s that I’m a down-home, Canadian girl that makes the difference. :)

3) Why do I write what I do?
Because Romance is awesome. Because I love happy endings. There are enough unhappy ones in the world that I can’t control or change, but maybe, just maybe, someone will read one of my stories and give a happy, contented sigh at the end. In my stories good guys finish first. The girl gets her happy ever after. Life might not always be perfect, but by gum, they’re going to fight their way through it with the one they love beside them. I don’t think you can really ask for anything better than that. And when a reader e-mails to let me know that my story touched or helped them in some way, it’s the best feeling in the world.

4) How does your writing process work?
It ain’t pretty. I’m a pantser, so I don’t know what’s going to happen all the time. I have my characters, a situation, and a basic idea of what their problem is and why they can’t seem to find happiness. Then I just dig in and work through it. I probably spend the most time on the opening 3 chapters, making sure I’ve got a fairly solid foundation before moving on. Then I work linearly through the story, learning as I go. I’ve learned to trust the process. When I get lightbulbs, chances are I’ve subconsciously laid the groundwork earlier on. I work right through to the end.

As I’m working, though, I always go through the last day’s work BEFORE I write new words. Not for a long time, just a single pass, but I invariably flesh a few things out and get into the rhythm of the story before carrying on. I try to write a minimum of 2-3000 words a day, especially in order to meet my deadlines these past few years. I really guard my time between 9 and 3 p.m. carefully, because those are my “alone” hours when everyone is at school (even the husband, who teaches college). I also try to keep myself balanced by NOT working on evenings or weekends, or if I do, it’s “light” stuff like blog writing, setting up promotions, answering e-mail, that sort of thing.