Thursday, November 30, 2006

Last chance to vote

Today is the last day for voting in my Christmas Gift POLL - it closes tomorrow. Remember this is the poll to choose what gift(s) I send in the name of my readers to act as my Christmas 'Card' to you. At the moment, the results are staying just the same, even with more votes -So, right now, the Essential medicines for a whole village is the number one choice.

And that's kind of spooky because I visited this site the other day. It's supposed to help you find Christmas gifts that suit freinds. relatives, or even yourself. I did the visual quiz for myself and amongst the selection I was offered was the idea that I could buy Essential medicines for a whole village as a gift in my name.

So it looks like that's decided then. But you still have a chance to vote here if you haven't done so already - and see what comes second.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas Stocking Books and Authors - 3

I’m not sure I should be encouraging Abby Green. After all, she has made it quite plain that she has a thing for the BM and I know he has a thing for bright young Irishwomen. After all, that’s basically why he married me – okay, so I wasn’t born in Ireland, but both my parents were so I’m not stretching a point too much. But Abby is so much fun to be with that I’ll forgive her – I'm just not leaving them alone together for too long.

I first ‘met’ Abby through the eHarlequin Community message boards. There on the Passion Presents Style, I we learned about her submission to HMB, ‘held her hand’ while she waited to hear from an editor – talked her through some of her worries about the revisions – and celebrated with her when she had her first acceptance.

Abby lives in Dublin in Ireland and before she started writing she worked in the film industry over there. As she says – “I'm a second assistant director which sounds a lot grander than it is. Basically I organise everyone and do a lot of bossing about. But it's freelance so that means I can gets lots of time to write which is the best thing!”
It also means that she gets to meet lots of interesting men – the perfect opportunity to do plenty of firsthand research.

Here’s how Abby herself describes her journey to publication:

I’ve always loved Mills and Boons. Ever since I found one in my good Catholic Grandmother’s room when I was about twelve. Many years later, feeling a little disillusioned with my day job, and after finding a taped guide on how to write a Mills and Boon, I took it as a sign from the divine to try writing one. After a loooooong procrastination period, I sat down to do it. A lot easier said than
I looked up the M&B website, took down everything you needed to do: write the three chapters, and a synopsis, which kind of paper, what kind of spacing...and then wrote three chapters and a synopsis. I didn’t write any further than that and then sent it off.
And waited. And waited. And waited. And one day I got my partial back with a very long, nice letter from Tessa Shapcott, the senior Editor. At this stage, I was under the illusion that this was a terrible thing, as it was basically a rejection, with notes. It was only after a little research that I realised how lucky I had been.
So I made another attempt and this time, got asked for the full manuscript. Which I duly sent off. (The trips to the post office were invariably marked along the way with all sorts of superstitious signs, good and bad.) After another wait, I got asked for revisions on the full, which unfortunately ended up in a rejection.
But was I dissuaded? Not yet! I had started another ms, and if you’re lucky enough to get to the stage of having an Editor who is looking out for your stuff then you should capitalise on it. I sent off the other ms pretty quickly, got asked for some revisions which were pretty big. Did them, and sent them back.
And then, just a few days later, I
It is such a brilliant moment. To hear that voice coming down the line, ‘Hi, it’s so and so from Mills and Boon in to buy your book...’
I think I was very calm. And then afterwards jumped around the house for about a week. It’s a defining moment, for sure, because it’s such a tough thing to do, to put yourself out there and aim for some target that you’re not even sure you’re hitting right!

If I could write the perfect introduction to a would-be writer’s biography, it would be there in that very first line ‘I’ve always loved Mills and Boons.’ So many writers want to write romance without ever reading one or understanding how they work. But Abby started as a reader – the best possible way to learn this craft.

I was lucky enough to meet Abby in person at Caerleon this year where, in spite of her acceptance, wanting to learn as much as she could about this specialised form of writing fiction, she attended my course on the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. And charmed the BM. But then, well, she charmed me as well and was such great company that by the end of the week I felt as if we’d known each other for ever. The Irish connection helps. She gets my lapsed Catholic references and I understand the way she’d riddled with superstition.

Abby’s first book will be out in January. This is the book that she’s signed and donated to the Christmas Stocking prize. Its title is Chosen As The Frenchman’s Bride. Here’s a synopsis:

He needs an heir – she’s carrying his baby . . .

Being swept off her feet by a tall, bronzed Frenchman isn’t on Jane
Vaughan’s holiday list of things to do. But Xavier Salgado-Lezille isn’t a man a
girl can say no to easily. Especially when he comes complete with a chateau on
his own island!
Jane tries to play it cool, but she’s inexperienced, out of
her depth and a virgin. Falling in love isn’t part of the plan . . neither
is discovering she’s pregnant once she’s home and the affair is over.
Xavier knows she’s carrying his child, and he wants an heir. Jane has been
chosen as his bride.!

Chosen as the Frenchman’s Bride hasn’t actually been out for anyone to review it yet, but I’ve had a sneak peek at what Marilyn Shoemaker on Marilyn’s Romance Reviews has to say after she read it -

Well I stayed up all night as I couldn't put it down! You want weepie, lust and
passion, well read this book. I have to take my time with this review as it
moved me and I want to be able to do this book justice.

Chosen as the Frenchman’s Bride is out in M&B Modern in January 2007 and for American readers the good news is that you will be able to get your hands on this book in April next year. Abby’s second book The Brazilian’s Blackmail Bargain is out in the UK in May.
And I happen to know that only yesterday Abby heard good news from her editor about her latest submission so there will be a third, as yet untitled, Abby Green out in the near future.

Good luck with your very first book Abby. I have my own copy of it on my TBR pile – my treat for when I kick Andreas out the door and on to my editor’s desk. I hope Chosen as The Frenchman’s Bride is a wonderful success and the first of many for you. I’m looking forward to celebrating its launch with you in January – just keep your hands off the BM – OK? ;-)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Remember the Alcolar Family?

Last year I had a trilogy of books published about an aristocratic Spanish family called The Alcolars. There were two sons and a daughter whose stories I told. The three books in this mini-series were:
The Twelve Month Mistress (Joaquin's story)
The Spaniard's Inconvenient Wife (Ramon's story)
Bound by Blackmail (Estrella's story)

But in fact there were four Alcolar children, three sons and one duaghter and I'd already written about one of them - Alejandro or Alex Alcolar. The Alcolar Family began life with an internet short story that I wrote as a serial on before then. The story was called Wife For Real and the hero of it was Alex Alcolar.

When The Alcolar Family trilogy came out, a lot or readers wrote to me to find out if they could buy a copy of the original short story to complete their set of Alcolar Family stories. Then, I could only send them to the eharlequin web site or the Mills and Boon site where the stories were collected. But by the time all three of the books were published, Wife For Real was no longer available on eHarlequin. So some readers were disappointed.

Now I've just discovered that this original story is being released as an ebook - a Harlequin Mini - on the Harlequin site.

So if you never managed to get hold of a copy of this prequel to the Alcolar Family trilogy - or if you did read it but would like an actual physical copy to complete your set of the books, then it will be available here from December 1st for the low price of $0.89

I'm 60!

Well, no, not me. But my country-count is. When I first set up the neo counter, Anne McAllister got a severe case of flag-envy. She had a clustrmap but I had the counter - and flags. So she soon joined me in setting up a counter on her site and she lets me know how her collection of countries is doing. (She has 30 by the way - but she's been collecting for a much shorter time.)

A week or so ago she commented that it was interesting to see which countries had appeared on her list but not on mine - and one of the ones she'd noted was missing from mine - because it was one of the first that had appeared on hers - was Denmark. So I was delighted when this morning I found that - thanks to a visitor from Copenhagen - Denmark has now appeared on my list too and makes my 60th country.

So - Welcome Denmark !

Stocking and Studying

This isn't going to be the post I meant to write. I'm waiting for a photograph of my next Christmas Stocking author so I can't do the write up till that appears. But I do have some more good news on the Contest front.

When I collect books for the Bag of Books or the Christmas Stocking Contest, I try to get at least one title from the major lines published by Harlequin Mills & Boon so that the winners get a selection of books - and maybe try some new authors and new lines they've never read before. Those of you who entered the Bag of Books in the summer will remember that the selection there included Liz Fielding (Romance) Anne McAllister and Michelle Reid (Modern/Presents) Julie Cohen (Modern Extra) Kate Hardy (Medicals and Mod Ex) and Michelle Styles (Historical). And it was that last line - Historicals - that was giving me trouble this time. So I'm thrilled to be able to say that the wonderful Nicola Cornick has come to my rescue and she is donating 2 signed copies of her December Harlequin Historical title - Lord Greville's Captive.

That's not what she calls it - and I can't wait to let you in on Nicola's personal nickname for her book! If I didn't already know Nicola's work, just this phrase would have me rushing to buy a copy.

The other bit of news I have is - well - remember this?

That's the lovely Fishguard Bay Hotel where I had a part in the wonderful Novel Writing Weekend a couple of weeks ago. At the time, several people who read this blog said they wished they could have been there but the date wasn't right for them etc, and they wanted to know if I would be running the course again. And I didn't think that I would be doing another one. But yesterday I heard from the organisers of the Fishguard weekends and they have asked me to run the Contemporary Romance course again in November 2007.

Now that's a long time away - but hopefully giving you advance notice will help all those who couldn't come this year plan their time/finances/travel/lives so that you can make it this time.

The dates are: Novel weekend Friday 10th - Sunday 12th November 2007

Or you can find out details by checking the Novel Writing Weekend web site.
This weekend will only run if there are enough bookings but you can book on line at no cost - and save yourself £10 on the price of the weekend at the same time.
And while you're there, why not take a look at the details of the Caerleon Writers' Holiday in case you fancy a week in sunny (usually) Wales making new friends, learning lots about differrent types of writing and eating and drinking too much. (Or is that last part just me?)

Now this Greek hero Andreas and I have a very important scene to write. Well - okay - I have to do the writing. And we disagree on which particular scene is the most important. He knows he's finally going to get Becca into his bed - I'm more concerned about what happens afterwards. (You see - as my students on this year's Novel Writing Weekend will remember - in writing a love scene it's not what happens during it - it's the before and after that counts!) But either way, I think we're in for an interesting day!

Monday, November 27, 2006

An international weekend

Since the new improved neo counter went up, it's been fascinating to watch the cities where my visitors live appear and scroll up. But the running total of countries is not to easy to keep a check on. So I sometimes miss new arrivals as they appear.
This weekend has been one of those times when the countries total has jumped up. I sometimes think my readers like to rise to a challenge - I mentioned 50 countries before Christmas - I made it with weeks to spare. So then I tentatively suggested 60 by New Year - and while I was busy with Greek heroes, contest entries and other matters, the number total jumped again - and it's now only 1 off that number of 60.

Three new countries visited over the weekend so can I welcome Estonia (at the top of this post) Colombia - here

And last but not least, Luxembourg. You are all so welcome.

Talking of Greek heroes, I've just checked and I've had 4 visitors from Greece. But none since the list of cities went up. It would be nice to see a Greek city listed there - might make my Amnesiac Andreas buck his ideas up and start to concentrate.

And talking of heroes in general - Anne McAllister and Margaret McDonagh have both been blogging about the inspiration behind their heroes - Anne on her blog and on the Pink Heart Society blog (same guy - but as the adverts say he's worth it!) - and Margaret on the Tote Bags 'n' Blogs on My Tote Bag. So if you need a little inspiration - or just a most enjoyable wake-up call to get rid of that Monday morning feeling why not check those out?

Tomorrow I'll post another introduction to one of the authors who has contributed a book to my Christmas Stocking Contest so if you haven't already read about the first two then check out the links in the sidebar and you'll find them there.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Christmas Stocking Contest - a blog clue - and a plea

I'm getting lots of entries for the Christmas Stocking Contest . Sid is very pleased - but I'm going to have to disappoint him! The only entries I can put into the prize draw - and so into Sid's crunchie feast - are the ones who actually
a. Answer the questions
or b. Get the answer right!

I can't believe the number of people who haven't done either!

So, as a gift to those who read my blog, I'd like to point you in the right direction.
The trivia questions I've asked are -
1. What special book of mine is being published in 2007 (clue - the answer is a number!)?
2. What are the titles of the three books that I have coming out in the first six months of 2007?

Okay - so that's THREE books - 3 books - and no - Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride - is not the title of two separate books but the title of one single book.

So please try to find the other two!
I'd really like to give this prize away to someone who got the answers right!

Christmas Stocking Books and Authors - 2

Margaret McDonagh is a brand new HMB Medical author with her first book out in the shops in October this year. But although she’d brand new to Mills & Boon Medicals, shes been writing for years - twenty years to be precise - doing short stories, serials and story library novellas. Now, as Margaret says: “I still cannot believe the dream has come true and I have a "proper book"! The last eleven months since my first Medical romance was accepted by Harlequin Mills & Boon has flown by and I still think I am dreaming, that all this really is not happening to me! It is the most amazing feeling. I will never forget the moment when my brilliant and supportive editor phoned to tell me that they were going to publish my book! Having an actual copy of that first book in my hands still hardly makes it seem any more real.”

The book Margaret has donated to the Christmas Stocking Contest is her special very first title - The Italian Doctor’s Bride. This book is set in beautiful south-west Scotland, and tells the story of workaholic rural GP Hannah Frost, a woman with a painful past, and new Italian locum, the delicious Nic di Angelis, who also has memories to overcome. The last thing Hannah thinks she needs is a man in her life, but can Nic, caring and dedicated, help Hannah to heal?

This book has already received some great reviews - here's just one
The Italian Doctor’s Bride is absolutely wonderful! Margaret McDonagh writes
with plenty of warmth, charm and sensitivity and she sucks you into her story
from the very first page. Set in a lovely rural village which Margaret McDonagh
describes so vividly that you’ll be wishing it was a real place, The Italian
Doctor’s Bride is a spellbinding romance featuring believable characters you’ll
grow fond of, vivid medical scenarios, heartfelt emotion and poignant
CataRomance Reviews

So what’s coming up in the future for Margaret? Well, having taken 2o years to get that first ‘proper book’ published, she hasn’t had to wait anything like as long for the second – or the third . . . This is what she’s told me:

“I have chosen to stay with the rural Scottish feel for my novels and I hope this is something readers will enjoy. Although they stand alone, all the books are loosely linked and various characters will pop up again from time to time. I love that feeling of continuity and the rural Scottish locations also allow that feeling of community and of medical professionals who really know and care about their patients.

My second Medical is called A Doctor Worth Waiting For and is out in the UK in March 2007 and April 2007 in the US. I have seen the hardback (released in the UK in January 2007) and the cover is gorgeous - very atmospheric with the hills and rugged landscape.

The scrumptious, naughty and laid back hero, GP Conor Anderson is one of the county's most eligible bachelors. He is looking for that one special woman who will capture his heart - and he thinks he has found her in new doctor, Kate Fisher. But Kate is hiding many secrets and Conor must first unravel her mysteries and gain her trust if he ever hopes to also win her heart and make Kate his partner in life and well as in the practice.

Next will be His Very Special Nurse in June 2007 (UK paperback) with troubled doctor Kyle Sinclair and Alexandra Patterson, the dedicated, caring nurse who might teach him to live and love again. This will be followed in August 2007 (UK paperback) by One Special Night, a tale of passion and conflict, of the impossible choice doctors Cameron Kincaid and Ginger O'Neill must make between their duty and responsibility for their work versus their desire and need for each other.”
I owe Margaret McDonagh a great big Thank you for introducing me to a new source of inspiration in the form of Iker Casillas, the Spanish soccer goalkeeper. He’s an adaptable sort of inspiration. As the inspiration for my hero Guido Corsentino, I imagine him looking like this picture on the left.

As the image of Margaret’s Italian Doctor, he looks like this. And I have no doubt he’ll appear somewhere else with another nationality – maybe even as a Spaniard!
I don't know who the inspiration is for Conor in A Doctor Worth Waiting For but I have to say that the cover is very inspirational - that's one that would make me want to take the book of the shelf when I saw it.

You can find Margaret's web site here if you want to read more about her and her upcoming titles.
Good luck with your career as a Medical author, Mags, I hope this is just the start of a wonderfully successful time for you - and a special hug for listing my 12 Point Guide alongside Donald Maass in your Top Recommendations For Books On Writing

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Going into the garden

I'm not keen on worms. I don't have anything against them, but I prefer that they just stay nice and snug in the earth and I don't have to have actually meet them so to speak. I certainly prefer not to touch them . But just lately I've been dealing with large numbers of meal worms and have shocked several visitors to the house by have a plastic bowl full of meal worms soaking in warm water beside my sink.

The reason? I don't like worms much but I do love robins. And robins love mealworms. Perhaps I should mention that these mealworms are not live ones. They are freeze dried mealworms for feeding to robins and blue tits and other lovely birds to keep them well and happy during the winter.

My mother always said that she believed a home that had its own 'resident robin' would be a very happy home. Robins are very territorial and they defend their area ferociously. We may have four cats, but they don't usually get the robins - something for which I'm very grateful.
But the robins do have one great enemy - the magpies.

Magpies are beautiful birds - elegant in black and white but they bird assassins - those long, fierce beaks of theirs are lethal - they stab their victims with them and usually one attack is all it needs. One of the most frightening and nasty things I ever saw was a magpie fight where a pair of birds had obviously intruded into another magpie's territroy - it was bloody, brutal and savage. So late last winter when I found a dead robin on the lawn, the fact that it was totally unmangled told me that the magpies had got it. A cat would have chewed, ripped, certainly it would not have left ever feather intact.

So I was saddened by the thought that our resident robin had been killed. But in the spring, in one of the flower beds, I found the two halves of the distinctive blue-green egg that robins lay. And two halves meant that a baby robin had hatched - I hoped.

I was right. Last weekend the BM was digging in the garden, turning over the soil around the raspberry bushes and a very bright-eyed and healthy young robin appeared. He found a huge worm that had been unearthed, tugged and tugged on it until he got it whole from the soil and then he flew off to enjoy his meal in peace. So we have a new young resident robin. And the meal worms are there to keep him happy when the ground is too hard and the worms buried too deep for him to find.
Unfortunately we also have the magpies - a pair of them who live in the big Scots Pine tree at the far end of the garden. The magpies get to enjoy the suet and nut cakes that I put out on an old tree stump that act as a birdtable - and the robinas who prefer to feed on the ground get soaked mealworms in a quiet corner all to themselves. After all, if the magpies are full of suet and nuts, hopefully it will keep them from atacking the robin.

Robins are said to be the souls of loved ones who have died and who had come back to visit. SO if that's the case they're even more welcome. Magpies on the other hand are said to be the most arrogant of birds - birds who got their distinctive colouring from refusing to were full mourning when Christ died. They're also remembered in the rhyme

One for sorrow, two for joy;
Three for a girl, four for a boy;
Five for silver, six for gold;
Seven for a secret, never to be told;
Eight for a wish, nine for a kiss;
Ten for a bird that's best to miss.

So we're lucky because we have a nesting pair and when we see them they are usually together - so that's for joy.

And it only one of them appears? Well, apparently you can ward off the 'sorrow' and the bad omens by saluting and greeting them. So, although I'd claim I'm not superstitious, I'll usually salute pretty smartly and say 'Good day Mr Magpie!' - just in case. The only time I didn't do that was when I was a small child and we were driving to Wales - a long way from Yorkshire. I spotted a magpie - so 'Oh look, that's one for sorrow.' Immediately there was a loud bang and the car's engine stopped dead.

So better safe than sorry.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Christmas Stocking Books & Authors 1

First the good news . The young mother I mentioned yesterday has made noticeable improvement. She’s out of Intensive Care and although still very ill, there is hope. Definitely something to be thankful for.

So now let’s look at one of the authors who has contributed a book to my Christmas Stocking Contest. I'm doing these in the order that the books arrived - so today’s author is Natasha Oakley and her book is Accepting the Boss’s Proposal.

As I’ve already mentioned on here, I read for the UK’s RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme. Every year I receive submissions from the unpublished members of the RNA, to read and critique. Back in 2001 I received a first manuscript from an author who then was called Jennifer Dean . And it was a thrill to read something that had potential. It wasn’t there yet – there was the common problem of not enough emotional punch and other things, but here was a writer who had obviously read her market, and who had an understanding of how writing romance works.

One of the other reasons why I remember this manuscript is that the author was one of the first – and the few – who bothered to write and thank me for doing a critique for her. This doesn’t happen often, and as this was my first year of reading for the NWS , it my first and only letter that year. The next year this author tried again – she was getting so much closer, but at the time she was aiming for writing Modern Romance and her voice didn’t quite seem to fit. She was working with an editor and I was relieved to find that the advice I was giving her matched that from the Richmond office. That year, ‘Jennifer’ (or Natasha as she became) came to the RNA Conference as one of my ‘Virgins’ – first-timers who had never been to a conference before. I remember that she nicknamed me the ‘Mad Woman ‘ for doing too much – as someone with five children and major family commitments, I have to say it was a case of a pot calling a kettle black. She’s been a friend ever since. And not just because she recommends my 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance on her web site and on Amazon.

Sometime after that second NWS submission, it was suggested that Natasha tried for the Romance (then the Tender) line and it was the best possible decision. She’s found her voice, the line she should be writing for and her first book For Our Children’s Sake, an emotional, heart tugging story of babies mixed up at birth and two scarred people finding love again after coming together in a marriage of convenience launched her career brilliantly. It was reviewed on Romance Junkies like this:

Grab a tissue, something to drink and get prepared to be sucked into this
book. Natasha Oakley writes one emotionally charged story that will have you
crying one minute and laughing the next.

The book Natasha has donated to the Christmas Stocking is her September release – Accepting the Boss’s Proposal. And just to whet your appetite, here’s the blurb from the back

From temporary secretary...

Miles Kingsley's lazy smile and glinting blue eyes cause every woman he meets to instantly fall a little bit in love with him. He's always walked effortlessly through life, with his fast car and bachelor lifestyle - until he hires a haphazard new secretary, recently divorced, with two kids ...

... to permanent wife?

He wasn't meant to love her ... or even like her! But Jemima's effervescent charm and wicked sense of humour have him re-evaluating everything. She certainly isn't bedazzled by his usual gifts or flirty one-liners ... So how is Miles going to convince this single mum to accept his very romantic proposal?

Natasha’s next release is a December release - Millionaire Dad: Wife Needed
in Silhouette Romance in America and her UK title, Crowned, An Ordinary Girl will be out in February
If you want to find out more about Natasha check out her web site or her blog She’s had a tough time recently with family illness so why not say Hi and wish her well?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Visitors two by two

Ah, now Solihull and Dublin have more than one visitor each, too.

I was about to say they're 'dublin' up' but I can hear the groans from here.

Are you in Decatur GA?

I'm intrigued - okay - I'm nosy!

Since I installed the new and wonderful Geocounter2 - the one that lists all the cities my visitors live in (have you seen that? Scroll down to near then end of the sidebar and you'll find it.) I have been checking to see where you're all from and trying to guess if I know any of you. Some are quite obvious - Anne McAllister for instance - or Julie from Malta - or Dublin - Hi Abby Green! - because I already know where you live - and some I can guess.

But there's one entry that had been intriguing me - Decatur GA.

Every other city has the number 1 after it - Dublin: 1 London:1 - a bit like the football results. But Decatur GA says Decatur, GA:2
Now I know that's not the same person visiting the blog twice in aday - that's not how the visitor counting works. If you visit, your city is registered, and that's it for the rest of the day - no matter how many times you come back to visit. So Decatur, GA: 2 means 2 visits from 2 different people. Both living in Decatur Georgia.
Which sets my nosy novelist's mind working - do you two know each other? Are you related? Or is it just chance that two readers in Decatur have visited on the same day?

I'd love to know - if you a re Someone From Decatur and you'd like to say hello - I'd love to hear from you - from you both? Whoever you are - thank you for visiting.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who is celebrating it today.

After some really upsetting news I heard yesterday about a young mother who gave birth to her second child last week and is now fighting for her life in intensive care as a result of terrible complications afterward, my heart goes out to her family and I have to say that I am truly thankful that those I love are close to me, either in body or heart. I hope you and your families and all your loved ones have a truly wonderful day and that you just enjoy being together and being close.

Which seems like a good point to remind those who haven't voted in my Christmas Gift POLL that it is still open and your votes matter.

Remember this is the poll to choose what gift(s) I send in the name of my readers to act as my Christmas 'Card' to you. At the moment, the results are staying just the same, even with more votes -
So, right now, the Essential medicines for a whole village is the number one choice

with 16 Mango saplings to start a farm in second place.

The poll will stay open until December 1st - so if you want to vote do so soon.

Writing topics - I've been having a nasty little fight with Andreas the Greek who will not cooperate. Perhaps it's because I gave him amnesia that he just doesn't want to help. In that case, seeing as he's about to get his memory back, perhaps he will decide to be a little more helpful. His heroine, Becca just told me a really imprtant fact about herself that has a major impact on the whole set up - one of those 'Well, why didn't you tell me that at the beginning?' moments - so hopefully with that and Andreas starting to remember we might have a better day together. If not, I've warned him, there's an interesting Spaniard waiting in the wings . . . or perhaps an Irishman (Anne McAllister has been talking on her blog about her Irish hero Flynn and she's reminding me how much I love Irish males - ever since I met my gorgeous uncle who looked like a young James Mason )

So Andreas had better shape up or there are contenders for his hero status just waiting to be invited to tell their story.

And if I get a good day's work out of him, I'll celebrate by coming back and telling you more about the authors who have contributed books to my Christmas Stocking Contest and of course the books they're giving away.

OK, Andreas . . . let's get started . . .

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

That Japanese book

My thanks to Jennifer and Cryna who both wrote to me with 'free translations' of the content of the Japanese book I mentioned yesterday. Those free translations can be quite hyterically funny - and strange - but the summary of the plot they came up with ran like this:

I have become pregnant the child of the son of a noble, pierced earring of the
distinguished family who Natali who works as the teacher of a/the kindergarten
has dying for love from the time when was 10 reigns. Although the pierced
earring offers marriage right away the marriage for him is "duty" and
"responsibility" and was not "love"..

In the entryway of the house of ナタリー which works contents as a teacher of
the preschool a certain night, it loved from time of a teen and the man who
yearns appeared suddenly. The mother of ナタリー the son of the name house which
worked as a housekeeping lady, it was the pierced earring. He is the
circumstances which have finished to become emaciated. So, why here? As for him
the expectation which is engaged before the certain two months. When the is
questioned to the pierced earring, you say that engagement was cancelled
unilaterally. How ナタリー has, and others so it pities the pierced earring, lodges
him in the house finally, but helping also the feeling that, we would like
consoling, it exchanges love. And then about one month later, the actuality,
pregnancy attacked ナタリー. That you probably will get married directly, it
approaches the pierced earring to her. Is, but the word which comes out of that
mouth, "obligation" is, "responsibility" is, that ナタリー would like to hear, you
ask, "love" was not....
ナタリー which works contents as a teacher of the
preschool (from "the MARC" database), love the son of the name house which
yearns and the child of the pierced earring becomes pregnant from time of the
teenager. The pierced earring requests marriage directly, but as for marriage
for him "obligation" and "responsibility" being, "love" was not....

And the title given is Obligation and Marriage!

Both Jennifer and Cryna wondered if this was a Japanese translation of The Italian's Forced Bride (see sidebar) as the blurb on the back of that book says:

“As long as I want you, you stay — and you only leave when I give you permission to go”
Alice spent six passionate months as Domenico’s mistress. But she knew he would never love her back and would soon discard her — so she left him.
But now Domenico wants her back in his bed, and his terms of possession are the same as before — until he makes a discovery that changes everything: Alice is carrying his child.

So there is the marriage because of a child in that story. But what puzzled me was the fact that this Japanese translation is a 'Classic' which usually means a reprint of a book that has been published before.

And I was right. It was the name Natali that gave it away. Alice is the heroine in The Italian's Forced Bride but Natalie appears in The Unexpected Child which appeared in 1997. Doesn't this sound much more like the plot described - sort of - above?

Natalie had been in love with Pierce Donellan since she was eleven (for '10 reigns') and when he came knocking on her door again she just couldn't turn him away. But she hadn't considered the possible consequences.

When he learned she was pregnant, Pierce insisted on a wedding. But Natalie's unexpected child was the only part of Pierce's heart she was ever likely to possess. Although Pierce did seem determined to make their marriage a real one . . .

I think that fits with the translation above - and it fits with the title of Obligatin and Marriage - and it makes it a Classic reprint as The Unexpected Child was originally published (complete with Rita Hayworth lookalike heroine - in Japan in 1997. But I have no idea at all where that 'pierced earring' comes in - unless - just thought - maybe it's meant to be the hero's name! Pierce - pierced earring!

But without Jenifer and Crynna I wouldn't have worked this out - so ladies if you'll send me your postal addresses, I'll send you one of my Kate Walker bookbags as a thank you prize.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Remember Uffa?

Back in September, on September 24th, to be precise, I posted a photograph of my sponsored guide dog for the blind. Well, at the time, he was not so much a Guide Dog as just a puppy - and a darn cute one at that. His name is Uffa

At the time, my old scanner didn't do a good job of reproducing the photo of Uffa - it didn't do any sort of job, really and cute little Uffa just appeared as a bit of a dark blob and not the darling he is - was - He's nearly 8 weeks older now and probably a lot bigger and at that 'My legs are too long and I don't know what to do with them' stage. I expect that I'll soon be getting another report on him and how he's doing - and perhaps another photo of him.

But I just found the original photograph and so I thought I really should try for a proper scan and upload a decent picture of Uffa at 6 weeks old so that you can see just how gorgeous a puppy he is.

And then when I do get another picture of him, you'll also be able to see just how much he's grown.

More on countries

Apparently the country counter and display I have is about to beupdated and revamped with a brand new Neo Counter with a lot more detail and bells and whistles. It is, they tell me, going to reveal not only which country my visitors come from but also which city in that country! This is going to be interesting.

It hasn't arrived yet but apprently, it won't be long - so look out for that. Meanwhile, I have a new flag on my current counter - so welcome Vietnam. Since I mentioned aiming to get to 50 countries by Christmas, suddenly I got a whole new crop of visitors - so maybe I should start aiming for 60 by the end of the year.

Writing about these countries reminds me of a comment I had on Sunday's blog about the Christmas Stocking contest. Cryna said:

Wow, Kate I just had a look at your Country counter and was surprised to
see the various countries represented...........I love the Christmas Stocking
idea, but you are right about postage costs.......Thank you for doing this for
your readers, and thank you to all the Authors who are contributing.

I think alot of people don't realise just how global a phenonmenon romance writing and publishing is but - well, you only have to look at my Neo Counter to see how many countries my visitors come from. And only this morning I spotted a book of mine has been reprinted in the 'Classics' format in Japan this month. (No I don't read Japanese but I can work out what lettering means my name and click on that to find what I have published recently.) The problem is that I don't know which book it is! I tried to copy the cover to post it on here so that we could have a mini-contest and play 'guess the title' but the copy was so blurry and nasty that I deleted it.

But if you do want to play - here's where you can find the book and if anyone gets the title right then, as and when I get the actual book or can find out which of my titles it is that's being reprinted, I'll give the first person with the right answer a prize. There's a copy of The Antonakos Marriage on the site too, but that one's not a mystery as the cover is exactly the same.

The other thing I want to repeat and re-emphasise is that my contests are as international as my readers. I put no restrictions on entries - or on the places I will send prizes to. I have sent books to Indonesia, to Germany, to Hawaii. If you check out my Contest page on my web site - which is where you'll find the details of the Christmas Stocking Contest - you'll see that one of the winners of my previous contest came from Israel. (If Judith is reading this - Hi Judith!) The only problem with prizes is that the easiest books for me to get hold of are in English - the USA, UK or Australian editions. But if I have a foreign language title and a foreign language reader and the two combine then I'll happily send them a book in their own language.

So if you're reading this and you live in any one of those 56 countries registered on my Neocounter, and you'd like to enter any of my contests - either from the Contest page on my site or through the Newsletter Group - then please go ahead. If Sid picks your name when he's choosing the winners then you will get your prize if I and the postal service have anything to do with it.

Though I have to admit that if one of the winners of the Christmas Stocking lives in Australia, I will groan - because right at this moment, the copies of Annie West's book are winging their way to me from Lake Macquarie in Australia where she lives, to be added to the booty in the stocking. If I have to post it back to Australia in December, then that is going to be one of the best travelled books in the world.

So send me an entry for the contests and Good Luck
And when I find out which book of mine has been reprinted in Japan, I'll let you know.
Oh yes- and the new counter is here!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A book avalanche

What I love about the romance writing Community is that there are so many warm people in it. And this Christmas Stocking thing just shows it. I mention that I'm running the contest and I'm deluged - no, seeing as it's Christmas and winter (well here in the UK there is the very first hard frost) - perhaps I should say I've been subjected to an avalanche of offers of books.

I could have stuffed these stockings three times over with the books I've had offered but I have to consider postage and packing here! I know some authors will only post out their prizes to readers in America or wherever, but I have always had the policy that as I have readers all over the world, I will send my prizes anywhere in the world - to wherever the winner lives. So, sadly, I can't accept every single book I've been offered or I would have to take out a second mortgage just to post the prizes out. Several of the authors who contributed to the Bag of books have offered titles this time too - but because of those postage costs I'm having to turn away - reluctantly - their contributions.

Because of this I've decided I'm going to include books and authors who weren't in the summer Bag of Books contest. This stocking will have a whole new selection of titles and authors, to introduce my readers to names and styles that might be new to them. So this time there are a whole bunch of new and newish writers whose titles are included.

Two of those are the titles illustrated here today. I'll be posting more details about each author and each book later - as it gets closer to the closing date for the Christmas Stocking Contest. But just for today, here are the covers and the titles of two more books to add to the list of prizes.

These new books are

Blind-date Marriage by Fiona Harper a brand-new Romance author
A Mistress For The Taking by new Modern Romance/Presents author Annie West

So keep those contest entries coming - Sid is very happy at the prospect of the numbers of crunchies he is going to have to deal with. He doesn't really want to wait until December, but I've told him those are the rules - entries close December 10th — so that I can post the prize out to the winners in time to reach them for Christmas.

And don't forget that there is the special 12 Days of Christmas Contest running for members of my Newsletter Group - so sign up for that for more chances to win (and more chances to make Sid happy!)

And talking of readers all over the world - the number on my counter has crept up again - to 55 - so welcome to my visitor from Turkey

And don't forget that my Christmas Gift poll is still open. If you haven't already voted for your choice of a real Christmas Present to those who need it most - check out the POLL - which will stay open until 1st December - and vote for your choice.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

More positive journalism

Because I hate lazy and prejudiced reporting about romatic fiction writers/readers or romance writers/ romance readers (they're not quite the same thing though they do touch and blend at many points) - I'm always happy to publicise the moments when the genre gets a fair or even a positive press. There was one such article in the Bookseller/Book Standard article this week and I'm happy to be able to point you in the direction of another today.

This week the RNA held their annual winter party. Unfortunately I wasn't able to be there - I've used up too much of my laughably termed 'free time' going off to teach on Writing Weekends in Wales and such and my editor is starting to twirl her whip menacingly. So Andreas and I have a long weekend ahead of us.

But back to journalists - the Winter Party was attended by journalist Danuta Kean and she reported on it in her blog. Danuta Kean is one of the few journalists who really'gets' romance/romatic fiction and whose comments are fair and backed up with plenty of knowledge, unlike others who simply perpetuate the wizened old moth eaten myths because
a. they don't take the time to check their facts
b. They know they will get a cheap laugh - and those romance writers are fair game - and too stupid to understand or mind.

So it's wonderful to read a balanced and common sense approach like this -

"Romance gets such a dirty reputation among the literati. Only science fiction gets the same treatment. It is something I have commented upon before, but I mention it now because the subject came up last night at the Romantic Novelists Association’s annual winter party. Personally I don’t care what people read, as long as they read. Each book is not just a portal to the world created by the author but to a whole universe of literature, which will hopefully lead on to a lifetime of reading - and may even develop reading habits of which literary snobs approve."

You can read the rest on Danuta's blog - it 's well worth the visit. Lots of interesting entries there.

There's also a wonderful quote by brilliant novelists Sara Craven and Jenny Haddon Chairman of the RNA (who writes as Sophie Weston for HMB)

Author Sara Craven said at a recent Romantic Novelists’ Association
meeting, “Falling in love addles your brain.” It also makes you vulnerable. The
moment you fall in love, you load a gun and hand it someone else. What’s more,
you probably don’t know them nor have any reason to trust them, certainly not
with your heart, to say nothing of your self respect

Just the sort of thing to send me back to Andreas re-inspired. Right now, he's the one holding the loaded gun but . . .

Friday, November 17, 2006

More books

Well, I told you that more titles were coming in for the Christmas Stocking stuffed with books Contest - so here are two more.

I'm thrilled to be able to say that I've managed to grab a copy of the very first books by two of the newest of the new recently-signed Mills & Boon Modern - and later in 2007 the newest Presents authors - Abby Green whose book is titled Chosen as the Frenchman's Bride, and Christina Hollis who has written The Italian Billionaire's Virgin.

These books will first be on sale in January 2007 but you can see them here - and have a chance to win them if you enter the Christmas Stocking contest on the contest page of my web site.

More news as I get it

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Christmas Contest

Okay so I'm going to let myself mention the C word again. After all, it is only . . . eeek - five weeks + to the day. And, perhaps because I did some succcessful Christmas gift buying in Malvern on the way home from Wales on Monday I feel a bit more in tune with the idea that someone put Christmas Day on December 25th and didn't tell me.So today I'm announcing my big Christmas Contest - and your chance to win a

Christmas Stocking Stuffed with Books

Would you like a special romance readers’ Christmas Stocking stuffed full of books written by some of your favourite authors — or authors new to you that might become new favourites in the coming year?

That’s the prize I have on offer in my special Christmas Contest!I have two prizes of Christmas stockings stuffed full of books to give away to then winners of this contest — so far the stockings contain signed copies of:

Christmas, Kids and Kisses, the Christmas 3 in 1 By Request in which my novel The Christmas Baby’s Gift is reprinted

Accepting the Boss’s Proposal by Natasha Oakley

The Italian Doctor’s Bride by Margaret McDonagh

White-Hot by Trish Wylie

And I’m adding new titles all the time — I won’t stop till the stockings are full. Friends and fellow authors are donating books all the time, right up until the closing date. If you want to know more about the books I’m adding to the stockings, keep checking here to find out what’s happening.

So how do you win this great Christmas reading stocking?It's easy - just check out the Contest page on my web site, find the two easy trivia questions and hunt down the answers to them - the answers are on my site somewhere.

Then send your answers to me - email links are on my site too - with CHRISTMAS STOCKING CONTEST in your email subject line.

There are no runners’ up prizes in this contest.

But if you want more chances to win, then why not join my Newsletter mailing list where you will have twelve more chances to win in the 12 Days of Christmas Contest that starts in December. My newsletter members already know about this - so if like them you want to be the first to know what's happening and have chances to win the special prizes I have just for my mailing list members - then there's a link to the group in the sidebar here or you can find it on most pages on my web site.Of course Sid is looking forward to there being plenty of entries.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Catching up

A couple of things happened while I was away

Firstly, that total of countries on my counter went even higher. Yesterday, I was going to say that it had gone up to 53, but then this morning I log on and there are 54 little flags all in a row.
I've checked my list and found the new ones, so my welcome goes out to the visitor from the Netherlands whose flag is the blue red and white one.

This one is from Qatar

And finally there is a really spectacular one from the Seychelles .

All the new vistors are so welcome - as are all the older ones . And I hope you'll come back often. I have some exciting news about a big new contest coming up that you might want to know about.

The other thing that happened while I was in Wales is that an interesting article about romantic fiction appeared in the Bookseller and then was picked up and reprinted in The Book Standard. Just before I left to go on the Writing Weekend, I was approached by a journalist for a comment on her questions for this article so I was delighted to find that they had quoted a couple of my replies and that it wasn't the usual lazy knocking of romantic fiction but instead a very positive piece on the way that the UK market for romantic fiction is booming. Apparently Book Marketing Ltd's Books and the Consumer 2006 report estimates that consumers purchased five million romantic fiction titles in the 52 weeks ending September 17, with a value of £21.3m.

That's a lot of books!

Naturally, as a romance writer I'm thrilled to discovered that my own publisher reports that U.K. sales for the first three quarters of 2006 are up a healthy amount on the same period last year: its series business is up 8 percent in terms of net units sold, and its M&B imprint is up 33 percent. And, almost 1.1 million copies sold of “Modern Romance,” its most popular series, in the year to date is a record well worth mentioning.

Will it stop the 'heaving bosoms', 'all the same', 'churned out' type comments? Probably not but I've already commented on the idea of 'churning out' the books, and with sales like these, I will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Finally, also while I was away, several more people voted in the important Christmas Gift Poll to help me choose what I will give to charity as a donation and a 'Christmas Card' for my readers. The top five choice still remain the same as when I posted about them here. Essential Medicines for a village is the choice that's way out in front but with safe water, mango saplings and caring for an orphan all tying in 2nd place, I am going to have to choose between them. So please help me out - if you haven't already voted for your choice of a real Christmas Present to those who need it most - check out the POLL - which will stay open until 1st December - and vote for your choice.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I said it was special . . .

Well, I knew that this Fishguard Writers' Weekend was special - it had that sort of atmosphere right from the start. And one of the things I forgot to mention was that the weekend gave me a chance to meet up with two cyber friends - people I had only ever really met on message boards on eHarlequin before now. That was bound to make it extra special if nothing else.

Some people have said that Fishguard, in Wales, is not the easiest of places to get to - well, neither is the Moray Coast in NE Scotland or Heptonstall W Yorks where the Arvon courses are held. And when I did the one day workshop in Kent that was not easy for me to get to! It's all relative. Students travelled the five hour trip from London, 8 + hours from Keighley West Yorks and West Kirby - and Chris one of my eHarlequin friends came from Dallas via Haverfordwest where her family live!

So it all depends what you want - and what you're prepared to put in to get it. Certainly I know I would willingly travel the 8 hour + journey again for a fun, warm and valuable couple of days like that. And obviously I'm not the only one - so the two pictures I'm posting now show that - at the top of this blog is dawn breaking over Fishguard Bay which is something I would love to see again. And the bottom picture is the beautiful bunch of flowers that arrived this morning from one happy student - thank you so much Carol! They're gorgeous.

Normal service is resumed

I'm back! Did you miss me?

I've had a wonderful, stimulating and fun time at the Fishguard Novel Writing Weekend and enjoyed every single minute of it. And there were a lot of minutes! My group were real slave drivers and they kept me talking till all hours, demanded extra time and even forced me to drink a little wine during our evening session - terrible people!

It was one of the nicest and most satisfying Writing Weekends I have ever been on. The hotel was comfortable, the staff so helpful and friendly, all the students and the other teachers ( Lesley Horton, Jane Jackson and Irene Yates ) were great to be with. Our hosts and organisers Gerry and Anne Hobbs were so warm and welcoming as usual, they alweway take such care to make sure that everyone was happy and comfortable - there are not many course/writing retreat organisers who would be still up and dressed and ready to help when a fire alarm goes off at almost 1 am. (There wasn't a fire - only someone who had decided to spray their room with air freshener - in the middle of the night!)

The food was wonderful and I discovered a fabulous caramel mousse type of pudding named Lumpy Bumpy. (Though I'm not sure if that is supposed to describe the way you end up feeling after you've eaten it. ) The BM magnetised a few more Babes, the conversation never lulled, the laughter was frequent and loud. It was a pity the numberts were small - but then that did mean that the classes got very personal attention and that Gerry and Anne were not prepared to disappoint those who had signed up by cancelling. I'm sure that everyonme there was so grateful that they didn't.

The weekend just flew by and before I had time to blink it was time to pack up and get on the road again, heading home this time. My only regrets are that I didn't get to see Fishguard itself (the BM explored and loved it) and that the beautiful bay and the sea was only something I saw from the path in front of the hotel every day - and I never got any closer because of those slave drivers in my group! And when you start with one member of the group saying at the very first session that she thought she had signed up for the wrong group, but ended up declaring that she'd had the best writing experience ever - that has to be considerered a triumph.

So my thanks toAnne and Gerry for running one of there own sdpecial brand of warm, welcoming and stimulating Writers' Events, to the staff of the Fishguard Bay Hotel who made our stay so comfortable and enjoyable, and my group - Chris, Carol, Joanna, Ann and Rachael - you were a great group to work with and I had so much fun.

I hope I get another chance to do it again.

And just a reminder to anyone interested in joining one of Anne and Gerry's writing events - check out the details of Caerleon and Fishguard on their Writers' Holidays web site. It's an experience not to be missed.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On the road again . . .

I may not be able to post for a few days as I'm off to that Writing Weekend in Wales I mentioned - so for Friday, Saturday and Sunday I will be staying here

And the view I will have will be like this . . .

Oh it's a tough job but someone has to do it

And who will I be leaving in charge while I'm away?

Who do you think ?

And make sure you come back next week when I will have all the details of my special big Christmas Contest . . .

Another new cover

My editor just sent me the artwork for the next book that's out in America - The Italian's Forced Bride - aka the book that makes people cry.Sharp eyed visitors to this blog and to Anne McAllister's blog will spot a sort of heart-shaped similarity to the cover of her next title - The Santorini Bride. That's because my book and hers are coming out in the same month - February - so the heart I'm assuming is for Valentine's Day . . .

Methinks I feel a contest coming on.Anyway, here's Domenico - and he's a lot more like my Domenico than Guido was like my Guido . . . .if you see what I mean. I tried to make the cover bigger so you could see him more clearly but Blogger says no. Not today. So maybe I'll try another time .

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Medicines and Mango Trees . . .

It's getting buried in all the flags of different nations but the POLL to help me choose what special gift I will send in my readers' names courtesy of Oxfam Unwrapped is still running - so please go and vote HERE

Just to help you make up your mind - and so make up mine for me - here are the top five choices as things stand at present.

Care for an Orphan


Safe Water For 50 people

16 Mango Saplings to start a farm

They're all such wonderful value so why not VOTE for your choice?

I made it . . . and more . . .

Welcome El Salvador!
The 50th country on my counter.
I didn't have to wait till Christmas - I only mentioned my ambition of reaching a total of visitors from 50 different countries two days ago and today I reached that number. . .

And one more!

Luxemburg is country number 51

Hmm . . . so what shall I aim for next?

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