Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My First Kate Walker - some readers' stories and winners

You know, I used to have something called 'time' - time to read, time to write, time to post on this blog . . .

But that was before Christmas, before visitors, shopping, wrapping, more visitors . . .
I feel like I've been chasing my tail ever since December began - and now it's almost over! But I wanted to get back to the celebrations for the 25th anniversary so that I can post a few more 'Firsts' stories - and announce some winners so I can send out prizes.

But first I must remind you that the Closing Date for the Contest has been moved - I've added an extra month to the deadline so that you will have extra time to get your entries in and help me find out which of my books is currently at #1 in the top favourites rating. And maybe win a prize for yourself.

So don't forget - the deadline is now January 31st 2010

Right - now I have two readers who have written and told me their 'First Book' stories.

The first of these is Elaine S from Ontario who already answered this question over on Tote Bags 'N' Blogs when I blogged there. Here's what she said:

Congrats on your 25th! I look forward to the next 25!

You have asked a difficult question to answer. Back "in the day", I didn't keep track of who wrote which books. I just read them. I went to your web site to check out your back cover blurbs and cover pictures to refresh my memory, and three books seemed familiar: BROKEN SILENCE, MAN OF SHADOWS, and THE SPANIARD'S INCONVENIENT WIFE.

I DO know that I recognized your name as someone whose books I read often, like Anne Mather and Penny Jordan. That would have been in the eighties, so I was having kids then! Ahhhh, those were the days. And I thought I was busy THEN! I would have picked them up in a local book store (one of my favourite places!!!), and then I would have passed them on to one of many girlfriends (as I still do).Since I've started blogging, I now write down my comments on Post-It notes and attach to the books.

I recently read CORDERO'S FORCED BRIDE, and I wrote "fast read (GREAT!!!) ... made sense throughout ... liked how they talked to each other ... realistic re details - could imagine it actually happening ... wished I were the Heroine ... dress on cover was blue satin and pg 9 said it was pink satin."Thanks for offering all the great books through the years. Now you've whetted my appetite to read even more (which is the reason for blogging, I imagine)!!!

Back to today.... Since I can't remember which was the exact first book I read, I looked over your backlist again. The first one published of those mentioned above was BROKEN SILENCE from Feb/88, so I'll go with THAT being my first book. It IS possible that it was MAN OF SHADOWS from July/88, as I didn't read books in order of publishing dates then, nor do I now. (In fact, I have boxes of over 500 books I bought during the last several years that have just sat there for the past few months, because when I started blogging this summer, I started to record my comments and save all the newest books with those remarks. It really messes up my process of passing my books on to friends, so I MUST figure out a new system for this. So far, I'm only coming up with quitting blogging/recording and just passing all books, including those autographed, on to my friends. I am very confused.... Any help you could provide would be most appreciated, but it's my problem, so I'll have to deal with it....)

Thank you Elaine! You've talked of a couple of very early books of mine. Although they both came out in the same year (1988), the first publication (UK) of Broken Silence was actually in 1987. And although that made it my 5th published title, it was actually originally written much earlier than that. It was the second submission I made to HMB - Garrett of Stoneroyd - the one that didn't have enough 'emotional velocity'. But it did earn me a letter from a Senior Editor.

So I put it away and some time (years) later I took it out again, reworked it, revising it with the new knowledge I now had and this time managed to get it accepted. So there's a piece of advice for all you would-be writers out there- never throw away a rejected manuscript, no matter how dreadful you think (OK - you know) it is - It may one day be possible to revive it and rework it and turn it into something worth published. That worked for me with Broken Silence

For her contribution, Elaine wins a signed copy of Bedded By the Greek Billionaire.

The second winner is Kelly W from Manitoba (I've only just realised that both my winners today come from Canada). Here's what Kelly has to say:

I was just on your website and saw the contests you're running. Congrats on 25 years!! Here is my story for the first book of yours that I read.

I first read Calypso's Enchantment when I was only 13 years old! My mom has a small bookshelf in the basement and had asked me to dust the books and put them away in a box to give to a charity book sale. As I was doing this I found a section of romance novels and the cover of Calypso just really drew my eye. It was so colourful and pretty! I started to read it right away in the basement and after a few chapters I stopped reading, finished what I was supposed to be doing, and took the book upstairs to hide it under my bed so I could read in secret later. That was the book that got me addicted to Harlequin novels in general and yours in particular! Until I was 16 I would read my mom's or grandma's stash in secret, and then I finally got up the nerve to go to the store and buy my own!

While I don't remember the specifics of that first book, I do remember being completely caught up in the romance of the characters and the exotic location of Malta. It was a beautiful story! I still remain a devoted reader of Kate Walker books, and I thank you for introducing me to the wonderful world of romance novels!

And just for fun I thought I would list my top 5 favourite books for you to help you with your poll:

1. The Sicilian's Wife
2. His Miracle Baby
3. Desert Affair
4. Constantine's Revenge
5. The Hostage Bride
I really look forward to many more years of fabulous books from you!

Thank you Kelly for that - and for including your personal Top 5 Books - I'll add them into the total poll and post some results soon.

Calypso's Enchantment was first published in 1994 and it was inspired by a wonderful holiday that I spent with my family one Easter on the beautiful island of Malta.

An interesting point - Man of Shadows and Calypso's Enchantment have two of my favourite covers over the past 25 years. They both - Man of Shadows particularly - have the hero and heroine almost exacatly as I imagined them - which is pretty rare!

For her contribution, Kelly wins a signed copy of Cordero's Forced Bride.

And another reader, Pat C from Texas wins a copy of At The Sheikh's Command for her selection of Top Five favourites:

1. The Twelve-Month Mistress
2. The Spaniard's Inconvenient Wife
3. Bound By Blackmail
4. Kept for Her Baby
5. Cordero's Forced Bride
What about you? Do you have a 'first book' memory? Or a selection of your top 5 favourites? I'd love to know. If you want to enter then all the details are on my Contest page - but don't forget that the closing date has moved to January 31st.
Finally, a special reminder to all the would-be writers out there in the UK. 2009 is coming to an end which means that from January 1st the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers' Scheme will once again be open for entries.

So if you want a chance to have your work read, assessed and critiqued by a professional author from the Association, then now is the time to get your application to join in the post so that it reaches the secretary as early as possible in the year. There are only 250 places available on this scheme and they are allocated on a first-come, first served basis - so send those applications off now.

Full details of the NWS and all the RNA's activities can be found on their main site - here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas

I want to wish you all a truly Happy Christmas with all the joys and delights of the season.

I hope you and your family and loved ones have a very special time creating wonderful, warm memories to look back on in the future.

And of course I couldn't miss out the furry gang who also want to join me in sending holiday wishes to everyone reading my blog. So - Happy Christmas from



And of course from FLORA

ie Princess Flora Flooziebelle

I would love to be able to send a card to all my readers and friends to thank you personally for being there all through 2009, for buying and reading my books, for all the lovely emails and letters and cards I've had from so many of you letting me know that you've enjoyed them. But of course that's hardly practical.

So, as always, lovely Heather from We Write Romance has put up a special Christmas card graphic on my web site to send my greetings to you all.

As regular readers of this blog will know, in past years I have donated the cost of sending out a huge number of cards to charity run a vote to see how you would like me to use this. But this year I've made the decision . When I learned that the cost of cards, stamps etc would just about exactly match what it would cost to help a child
for a whole year, then there really wasn't a choice to make.

So through my Christmas 'card' to you, I am sponsoring a child through SOS Children's Villages. These children are all orphans and need so much help and care. I don;t yet know exactly ' who 'my' child will be - I simply asked that the money be used where there was most need. But as soon as I know any more about this, I will let you know.

After all, it's your readership, the fact that you've bought my books that has meant that I can do this. And as Christmas is so much a time for children and remembering the story of one particular child then I thought this was one of the most appropriate ways to say

Thank you and have a very very Happy Christmas

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My First Kate Walker - Donna Alward

Continuing the celebrations for the 25 years with contributions from some wonderful writing friends who have been kind enough to share the first Kate Walker they ever read and/or their choices of the Top Five Kate Walker novels they've chosed - today's writer is Canadian Romance writer Donna Alward.

Donna says -

I never really read Presents until I found myself fully immersed in the Category Romance world once I started writing – and that was 2001-2002 (I feel somewhat strange admitting that. It was like a whole world opened up that I’d been missing). So my top five are fairly recent books – all but one.

Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride
Kept for her Baby
The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge
Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife
And the surprise entry – Leap in the Dark!

I knew of course which book Donna was going to choose as her #1 - she has made no secret about how much she loves Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Wife, and Guido Corsentino, the hero of that story. Leap in the Dark is definitely one from the past - as it originally came out in 1989 - 1990 in America.

Donna's own latest hero is Drew Laramie in the first of her Cowboys and Confetti Duet - One Dance With the Cowboy - coming in January 2010.

The second half of this duet, Her Lone Cowboy will follow it in March 2010.

More details can be found on Donna's web site
As there is still so much snow and ice around, and I know that lots of people are travelling today to be with family or to get away on a Christmas break - I want to wish you all a very safe journey so that you reach your destinations without harm or injury ready to enjoy Christmas together.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT - about the 25th Anniversary Contest

As I've realised how difficult it's been for me to keep up with things this month - Christmas, visitors, dreadlines - life! - I 'm sure everyone reading this has far too much on their plate to.

So I'm extending the deadline for you to send in contributions to the First Book/Top 5 Favourites for another month.

The last date for entries is now
I have 25 prizes of signed books and an extra gift to give away - so get your entries in now and help me find out which of my titles cames in at #1 in the list of favourite books.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Presents Writing Competition - some good news

As well as the major winners of the Presents Writing Contest announced a few days ago (the winning chapters are up on the I Heart Presents site now if you’re interested) there were a lot of writers who entered the contest and submitted a first chapter who, obviously, didn’t win the main prize(s). So the next flurry of interest was created when the letters from the editors with their responses were sent out. For some this meant the disappointment of a form rejection but others who – very sensibly in my opinion – had decided that they would be happy to receive any feedback and comments have received more detailed responses over the last week or so. And in the past few days I’ve been delighted to hear from several of them.

Over on the Romance Bandits blog at the beginning of the month, I wrote a post about my 25 years celebrations - and I also commented on some of the reasons why I like to work with aspiring writers – why I feel this is important. In case you missed it, here’s a quote from what I said:

Some months ago I went to a concert by a favourite singer, Michael Ball. He has had huge success as a recording artist, on stage in musicals, and had won many awards. I’ve seen him on stage many times. This time he had a slightly different show because it included performances by several new young singers who had appeared with him in productions of Hairspray etc. Giving these young - and hugely talented singers – a break by letting them appear on stage with him did nothing to reduce the singing power and presence of the star . Instead their new voices added a different depth and richness to songs I had heard many times before, allowing for different and original arrangements, extending the range and scope of the music.

That’s what I hope for when new authors are signed with Harlequin – in the Presents line I write for, or for any line at all. In fact any genre at all., Every line, every genre, needs new blood to stay alive, stay fresh. Any form of fiction needs to grow and develop, to change and adapt to new years, new trends, new types of societies so that it will always be relevant and never ever become a stuffy old dinosaur that no one wants to read.

And that’s why I love helping what the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association calls ‘New Wr
iters’ those who aren’t yet published but with a little help and adv ice and encouragement might yet be the new Lynne Graham, the new Jennifer Cruisie, or even the new Nora Roberts. That’s why I run the courses etc and that’s why I wrote the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. This book has already sold out one edition completely and the second, much expanded and updated edition was brought out in an American edition for the first time this year. Since it was published, I’ve heard from at least seven brand new novelists who have been helped on their way to publication by reading this book – and believe me that’s one of the best presents I’ve ever had. Almost – though not quite as good as that very first published book that I held in my hand this time 25 years ago.

I was reminded of this this week when 3 writers contacted me to let me know that as a result of their entry to the contest, the editors had asked to see more of their work. Either a further few chapters of the book they had submitted or the first three chapters of their next submission. They have also received comments on their submission and advice on how to improve it. And the reason why I was so pleased to hear this news was that all 3 writers have been in touch with me before for advice - either by email, at one of my workshops or at a one-to-one at a Writers Roadshow I’ve been part of. Or, in the case of one writer who lives in New Zealand, through my 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance and studying my own novels - particularly The Alcolar Family. So I feel I’ve had a small part in helping them reach this next step in their writing careers and I hope it develops into something better in the coming new year.

And then when I wrote to congratulate Joanne Pibworth on her place as runner-up in the Modern Heat section of the contest, she too delighted me by responding: I have to tell you that I read your book cover to cover, and it has been and will continue to be invaluable to me

So Joanne 1, Joanne 2, Rachel and Fatima - Congratulations on getting this far. I hope it’s just the launchpad to bigger and better things. And it’s an extra special sort of Christmas present for me to know that my 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance has helped you get this stage at least. After all, that’s what I wrote it for!

Monday, December 21, 2009

My First Kate Walker - Abby Green

As part of the celebrations for my 25th anniversary of being published, I asked some of my writing friends - and others - to let me know which was the first of my books they read - if they could remember .

The first one to reply was Irish author for Modern Romance/Harlequin Presents Abby Green

To be perfectly honest I'm not sure I can remember my very first Kate Walker - I think she sunk into my brain and thought processes by osmosis and suddenly I couldn't ever remember not having read Kate Walker..! But the one that sticks in my memory in particular is probably 'Fiancee by Mistake'.(1998) It was such a modern take on a traditional romance and I love the bit where Leah, the heroine first meets the hero at the side of an icy road where their passion for each other pretty much melts the snow around them! And then they're stuck in a house together, and all that passion is building and ooohh it's delicious. Plus the hero has a great and very Irish sounding name - Sean Gallagher.

My top five Kate Walker reads are:
The Hostage Bride;
The Hired Husband;
The Sicilian's Wife;
The Twelve Month Mistress;
Desert Affair

I have a couple of memories about Fiancée By Mistake - it was unusual for me in two ways. One, it was a Christmas book and secondly it was the first one I ever wrote where I added the hero's point of view . And yes, Sean Gallagher was meant to be partly Irish!

I understand that it was partly reading the tango scene in The Hostage Bride that sparked off Abby's personal interest in dancing the tango.

Abby's latest Modern Romance Ruthless Greek Boss; Secretary Mistress is out now in the UK and in America, Ruthlessly Bedded, Forcibly Wedded is also on sale. So you can treat yourself to a brand-new Abby Green book to read over Christmas.

You can read more about her latest news and her books on her web site

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Chaos . . .

. . . is stopping me from posting as often as I had planned and today I'm banned from my office while new blinds are put up - Oh the delgiht of no more computer screen glare!

So while I'm away from the keyboard, I'm still blogging today - over on the Pink Heart Society where I'm talking about family Christmas traditions.

Back when the blinds are fitted.

Friday, December 18, 2009

25 Years - The Chalk Line

One of the questions I'm most often asked is 'where do your ideas come from?'

Honest answer - I don't know. I can sometimes give the idea of the 'seed' of a story - the tiny initial idea that sparks off the thought process that then creates a story. But often that isn't really a lot to do with the actual story. Just a tiny idea that makes me think 'I wonder if. . .'

So the idea that I had when I first thought of The Chalk Line, although I didn't know it right then, was actually the start of the way that I was going to write a book for the rest of my writing career and the process I worked on then has barely changed from that date 25+ years ago.

Looking back with hindsight, I can also see that probably one of the reasons this story worked is because the conflict in it is so strongly internal. Internal conflict made worse by a external situation that was the 'springboard' to the story - the Chalk Line itself. And yes, there is a real chalk line in the book. It was that chalk line that came to me in the semi-delirious state when I had the flu. I was thinking of a way of 'trapping' my hero and heroine - Leo and Rowena - together and the image came of a small house - a bungalow - that could be divided almost exactly in half by a line running down the middle of the house with a bedroom and a bathroom on either side. And that was where the chalk line came in.

But it was the internal conflicts that really kept Leo and Rowena apart. The chalk line drawn down the middle of the house couldn't really separate them in any real way. And so once I'd thought of that image, I then had to think of the reasons WHY (and I can hear you all thinking, it's Kate and her question WHY again) they - or, rather, one of them - Rowena - wanted to keep them separate at all. And thinking of those reasons was what helped me create the internal conflict that made the book work.

It had to be a reunion story. Rowena and Leo had to be meeting up again after years apart. That again would add more tension, more conflict to their time in an enclosed space. And they had to face up the conflicts that had come between them then. Face up to them and resolve them. That was where the conflict lay and the enforced closeness of being in the same house - oh and the fact that Rowena was about to marry another man! - was what made the situation worse. And it was only by asking myself why would they be brought together at this important stage in Rowena's life? Whywould the two of them end up in the house together like this? Why had they parted in the first place? Why would they get closer? that I ended up with a story in which that chalk line was just a symbol of the internal conflicts that had come between them

And in case you're wondering - yes I did have to do some revisions on this first book. But I'll tell you about them the next time I surface from Christmas wrapping . ..

At seventeen years old and totally inexperienced, Rowena had no idea how to cope with a sophisticate like Leo Vincent. She had naively told him of her love, had given him her heart, her body, and he had taken both, used them callously for his pleasure, and then abandoned her without, apparently, a second thought. Six years later, matured by life and engaged to another man, she should have been able to face him on more equal terms. But could she in fact? And did she even genuinely want to?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Open House and Longlist

Today is the annual eHarlequin Open House where all day long authors and readers can get together, talk about books, share cyber goodies and maybe win a prize or two. So why don't you join us all over there?

And over on the RNA website the longlist for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2010 has been announced.

Here's a list of the contenders:

The Very Thought of You, Rosie Alison

Passion, Louise Bagshawe
Beachcombing, Maggie Dana

Fairytale of New York, Miranda Dickinson

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, Lucy Dillon

A Single to Rome, Sarah Duncan

A Mother's Hope, Katie Flynn

A Glimpse at Happiness, Jean Fullerton

10 Reasons Not to Fall in Love, Linda Green

Marriage and Other Games, Veronica Henry
The Glass Painter's Daughter, Rachel Hore

It's the Little Things, Erica James

I Heart New York, Lindsey Kelk

The Heart of the Night, Judith Lennox

The Italian Matchmaker, Santa Montefiore

The Summer House, Mary Nichols

One Thing Led to Another, Katy Regan

The Last Song, Nicholas Sparks

Last Christmas, Julia Williams

The Hidden Dance, Susan Wooldridge

I'll admit that the effect this list has on me is to make me realise how much I wish I could have a 'reading time token' from Santa this year - preferably LOTS of them!

What about you?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"My First Kate Walker" 1

Now we really are going back to the celebrating - and I'm going to post the first winner of a 'My First Kate Walker' prize.

This is from a long-time reader - and hopeful would-be writer Sophie Adams who lives in Norfolk. Sophie wrote to me about her first ever Kate Walker novel which was - my very first The Chalk Line. And it was also Sophie's first ever Mills & Boon read. So a triple first!
Here's what she has to say:

Hi Kate - this is just a quick note to tell you that, when looking at your website recently (I'm a great fan of your books and an even bigger fan of your '12 points...' book), I was astonished to see 'The Chalk Line!' What is the reason for my astonishment? Well, this is the FIRST ever M&B book I ever read - I remembered the title and even the storyline as soon as I saw it! I would have been 13 when this was first published. Alas, I never got to keep the copy I read as I had borrowed it from the library. Well, I've bought it (of course), and it's now sitting on my desk, waiting for me to read it. I can't bear the suspense! What if it's not as good as I remembered it? Surely not...!
Later she wrote to tell me that the book lived up to her memories

Well, my second first (if that makes sense?) impression of the Chalk Line is that I can't believe it was your first M&B book - it is so well written and polished. I can see that a lot of hard work went into it. I am really really enjoying it (I always knew I would ). I think it stands the test of time really well - the characters all seem lifelike, especially Rowena whose motivations are reactions are realistic, and Alan and Robert (I don't need to tell you what I think of them!). As for Leo, I guess nowadays we'd get more insight into his feelings, but I think they are adequately clear from his reaction to her.

Sophie touches on some of the differences in the books I was writing back in 1984 - the most obvious one was the fact that the hero's point of view was very rarely, if ever, shown. Therea re other differences too - but I'll look at those in my next post when I tell you how the rather delirious thoughts I had with the flu turned into the book that won me my first ever publishing contract.

In the meantime - thank you Sophie for your memory of your first ever Kate Walker novel.

Have you got a 'First Kate Walker' memory you'd like to share? I'd love to hear it. And please send in your votes for thre Top 5 favourite Kate Walker books over the past 25 years. I've already been collecting up votes and so far the top 20 list looks like this:
  1. The Spaniard's Inconvenient Wife

  2. The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife

  3. The Antonakos Marriage

  4. His Miracle Baby

  5. The Italian’s Forced Bride

  6. Cordero's Forced Bride

  7. The Twelve-Month Mistress

  8. The Sicilian's Wife

  9. The Hostage Bride

  10. Desert Affair

  11. Kept for her Baby

  12. Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride

  13. Bedded by the Greek Billionaire

  14. Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife

  15. Constantine's Revenge

  16. Wife for a Day

  17. Hers for a Night

  18. Rafael's Love-child

  19. The Duke's Secret Wife

  20. Bound By Blackmail

There's an interesting mixture of old and new books there with the newest - Kept for Her Baby already in at #11. Are your favourites here? Do let me know

I've also asked some of my writing friends and fellow authors to give me their lists and I'll be posting some of those in the coming days. I'm fascinated to find out their favourites too.

Back to the celebrating

Thank you all for your supportive comments on the last couple of posts. I was frankly appalled by the venom of some of those posts. Just a couple of other comments - and that is that if a contest is open to 'aspiring' authors - well I have no trouble at all seeing other authors 'aspire' to being published in Presents/Modern Romance. And Harlequin have declared it to be their best selling line that's darn well something to aspire to.

If I entered a contest for a Single Title publication, I'd be 'aspiring' to that all right.

And as for coming up again previously published authors . .. er well what do you think is going to happen if you do get published? Then you're up against published, multi-published - stratospherically- published authors all the time. And that's up against them in the SALES ratings not just a contest.

I should know. My first book was up against luminaries like Catherine George, Betty Neels, Penny Jordan, Carole Mortimer, Elizabeth Oldfield.

And later books would be up against huge sellers like the late great Charlotte Lamb (Hi Jane -the Jane Holland who has commented is Charlotte Lamb's daughter.)

So if you want to be a professional published author you'd better accept that coming up against the 'Grand Dames' (still wondering if I count as one of those!) is parr for the course.

Monday, December 14, 2009

That Contest Part 2

Having just taken another look over at I Heart Presents - and I really wish I hadn't - I'm just going to make one final comment.

And that is that, no matter what happened with the official rules and the actual winning entry - that is between the editors and the entrant. No matter how disappointed, angry, frustrated and confused you are there is a professional way to deal with it - and there is a petty, ill-tempered , mean spirited - quite frankly - childish way of doing just that.

A professional would be aware of the fact that the editors are human and mistakes can be made. The editorial offices are closed and no decision can be made until later this morning. I have no doubt that there will be an official announcement later. Until I am aware of all the facts that is all I'll say.

That is where the decisions and the proper assessment of the situation rests.

For anyone else - to resort to personal cat fights, and the sort of mean spirited spite on a public forum that I have seen in some of the posts does nothing to justify your cause, it simply lowers the writer to the level of truly unpleasant and totally unprofessional. I'm glad to see that one poster at least has realised this and come back to say so.

A while ago I wrote a post pointing out how unjustified the Crime Writers' Association were in their long-running and tired joke about the fact that crime writers were lovely people - it was the Romantic Novelists who would stab you in the back. Sadly, reading some of the posts on I hearts would give them plenty more material to keep that tired old chestnut roasting well into 2010.

To be honest, the venom in some of those posts would make me want to back well away from working with/ helping 'wannabe' authors in the future. Which, considering the post I put up at Romance Bandits on Saturday about how and why I do that would be a real disappointment.

PS On a personal note to 'Jenny' who commented so much - I quote:

The odds were grim to begin with. HM&B didn’t contract new writers for quite some years, it’s only in recent years that they’ve opened the doors again. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out why. Their stable of authors will need to be replenished – The Grand Dames of romance are winding down, some of the newbie writers may not be around for long as some, let’s face it, aspire to greater heights and view this particular genre as a stepping stone or a temporary diversion

Sorry - no- get your facts right. The doors have always, always been open to anyone who could achieve the standard of story-telling required. And I have no idea if you consider me one of the 'Grand Dames' (heaven forfend!) but winding down . . . no . I may have been published for 25 years but I ain't finished yet. - I already have two new books scheduled for next year, a new one 'on the keyboard' so to speak. And a 'special project' commissioned for after that. I don't see any of my writing contemporaries 'winding down' either. It's the writers who have made the Presents Line such a wonderful publishing success and so the line that 544 - and more who didn't enter the contest people would aspire to be published in.

You apologised to the 'Sisterhood', for not congratulating the winners, but in that paragraph you managed to dismiss the established authors, the newcomers to the genre - the genre itself in your comment about 'aspiring to greater heights' - If you really want help and advice - feedback and clarification you'd do well not to alienate those who might offer it to you as you struggle to start off your own career.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tred Softly on My Dreams

I’m going to pause just for a moment or two before I continue with the posts I had planned for the 25th anniversary because I think I need to comment a little on something else that has cropped up.

Those of you who are trying to become published writers will know that the big writing for Presents Contest that has been running over on I heart Presents has come to an end and the winners – four of them, two winners and two runners up – have been announced. If you’ve been over there as I’m sure many of you have, then you’ll have noticed the furore that has broken out because two of the winners – the two writing chapters aimed at Modern Romance – have been published before.

No, I’m not going to discuss the legalities and the rules and regulations involved in that decision here. For one thing I haven’t had time to really check out the rules and for another I think it’s rude and unprofessional to comment – and even ruder to shout and scream on any blog – before the editors have had a chance to check things through and make their comments on this. That is an official decision. But all I will say is that in a huge publishing firm with offices in London, New York and Toronto, with thousands of individual authors it’s all too easy for names not to be recognised so until there is an official statement throwing accusations and shouting the odds is not the way to go.

But there is one point I want to take issue with. And that’s the idea that as published authors – whether with one, four, or as in my case 57 titles behind you - the job of writing a book, getting it past an editor and achieving that wonderful feeling of acceptance and scheduling actually gets any easier or less stressful. Or that published authors don’t recall just how it felt to want that success so desperately and the sheer nail-biting anxiety we went through to get there.

Because we do. Some authors grow confidence. Some of us just grow a slightly tougher skin. Some of us know that we’ve done this before, we’ll probably manage to do it again. But there’s the emphasis on that ‘probably’. I know I find the moment of sending off a novel every bit as terrifying now as I did way back in 1984 when I was new to this. I’ve already mentioned how I’ve stumbled along the way - and there’s more to come because, believe me, it wasn’t ‘get one book bought and you’re home and dry- no problems after that’. I’ll talk about that more when I come to my second title Game of Hazard. One thing I will say here is that as I’ve always pointed out, one a book is on the shop shelves, it isn’t dripping in the blood sweat and tears that went into getting it there. And many books take that blood sweat and tears. The first thing an author has to learn is how to take editing – criticism, revisions, rewrites . . . We can all write easily for ourselves, turning that into a publishable book is another matter. I know I’ve been there – and believe me every drop of blood and sweat, every tear is remembered as if it was yesterday. It’s just like giving birth – you forget the pain afterwards. Until you have to go through it all again.

And because an author has learned to take editing in one particular line of fiction it doesn’t necessarily mean that she is now a polished and proficient successful author in any and every other line. Any advice help and criticism can be a great help but what works for, say a sci-fi story wouldn’t work for Modern/Presents. I regularly critique for the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme but I always always remember that I am not an editor. An editor’s decision is final. An editor’s decision is the one that matters when judging if a book is to be published or not. One person on the I Heart Blog says she paid for a critique of her story – I’m sorry, but that doesn’t guarantee that it was actually what the editors were looking for. Even if the critiquer had knowledge of the line.

Putting aside the whos whats wherefores and whys of the reasons the winners named were chosen, the fact will remain that they wrote the best entries, in the opinion of the editors who read all the other entries. No matter how good any other individual thought their submission was, it is that judgement that matters. And as to the comments that the contest was for aspiring authors – well, all those winners were aspiring Presents authors. Everyone who entered the contest was an aspiring author – else why would they enter it? The fact that someone has never been published before and has been trying for who knows how long doesn’t give them a moral right to be published, nor will it make their entry a better submission. For this particular contest at this particular time, against these other particular entrants.

I have never ever in my writing life won a single contest. Not one. I’ve had a couple of mentions on a short-list, but that’s it. And that doesn’t mean that my writing isn’t worth a damn or that I should just give up right now because other people are winning them and they are multi-published/have won many contests before/ know another editor in another office/.work with another editor in another company . . . .

When I work with ‘New’ authors. Unpublished authors, ‘wannabe’ or ‘gonnabe’ authors in my courses, workshops, critiquing for the RNA etc I am always always aware of the fact that I am dealing in two things:

1. I am dealing with someone’s dreams. Writing is like that. Our books are part of opurselves., We put a lot of ourselves into them – we ‘bleed’ a little on to the page. They are our ‘babies’ and we send them out into the hard cruel world of publishing and hope they will be taken up and nurtured. A rejection doesn’t feel like a rejection for the story, it feels like a rejection of us. It’s personal.

2. The need to be professional. Because there is no point at all in doing a critique if I’m not going to tell the truth. I don’t want to hurt, I don’t want to destroy someone’s dreams – but as a professional I do need to put on my critic’s hat and say what’s not working, where things are going wrong. And I’ll also say where things are going right. Because that is the only way that I feel I can help.

There were 544 entries to the Presents writing contest. Each and every one of them was submitted by an individual. Nothing came through an agent or from another editor. How many other publishers will l give that sort of opportunity? And each and every one of those submissions was read and considered by the editorial team.

So – speaking purely from the writing point of view – the winners were the best, the ones the editors saw most potential in. And the other considerations don’t affect that.

And the prize is to work with an editor for a year. That does not guarantee publication, it does not guarantee a future writing career. Some of the past winners have succeeded in writing a publishable novel – other haven’t (yet). I met Lynn Raye Harris in San Francisco at RWA when she had won the first such contest. She was struggling with revisions or revisions and worrying that this meant she was a failure. It didn’t. It meant that she had come hard up against the realities of a writing career – it isn’t just ‘churning out’ story after story but it’s writing and rewriting and revising and polishing until the damn thing works. And very few books spring fully-formed and perfect from the keyboard. I know, I can count the number of mine that have on very few fingers.

In a field of over 500 entries, even with 4 winners and runners-up, there was going to be a huge number of disappointed entrants. But if those entrants are going to convince themselves that they were badly done to, that the winners won because of some thing other than the fact that they wrote great entries, they are fooling themselves. Those winners won becuase what they wrote put them at the top of the pile..

But that doesn’t mean that the huge majority who didn’t win are the opposite of winners – losers. That’s not how this works. Four submissions were chosen because of the potential they held. There will be others, tens, dozens – hundreds maybe who came close but not close enough. Some will get great feedback, some, like some of the NWS writers I’ve commented on, will be disappointed and feel down. But none of this means that as writers you’re dead. That you can never ever try again. That your manuscript – or the next one – or the one after that – can’t ever achieve publication.

It simply means that this one was not the best in a very, very big field. And thinking that someone belongs to a ‘sisterhood’, isn’t pleased ‘enough’ to have won, hasn’t struggled enough to earn their winning place , or has some special entrée into the world you so want to enter is putting on blinkers so that you can’t see the real road ahead of you. Which is to look at what the winners wrote and see why they won. To look at the comments on your own work and see how it applies to that, what you can learn from it. To dust yourself off, pick yourself up and start all over again.

I started out in this writing life as someone who longed, hoped, dreamed, struggled, tried, failed, tried again. I was told by every sensible adult, parents, teachers etc that I would never succeed as a writer and I should stop dreaming of it. Did that stop me? No. And nor did the missteps, the rejections, the disappointments on the way. I still remember how that hurt so I’m not for one moment thinking that what I’m saying is easy. But If there’s one thing I have learned in the 25 years and more I’ve been trying for publication/writing for publication, it’s that I can never ever guarantee that any advice I give will, actually result in you being published.

But there’s one thing I can guarantee that will STOP you from being published. And that is that if you give in, give up – and convince yourself that it was all those other forces, reasons and excuses why you never succeeded.

In my life as a writer I have met so many wonderful ‘wannabes’ - whose determination and courage turned them first into ‘gonnabes’ and then into published authors whose wonderful books line my shelves alongside mine.
As they say – a successful writer is one who picks themselves up one more time than they are knocked back. I know those knock backs hurt – I’ve been there, and wear the scars with pride. They are part of the learning process. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am.

But learning from the knock backs is the only way to grow.

Good luck to all you wannabe/gonnabes out there – I really hope you achieve your dreams. Maybe not with the fanfare and trumpets that winning this particular contest might bring. But as the latest newly signed Presents/Modern Romance author Maisey Yates knows - that success is just as sweet no matter which way it comes.

Go for it! And if you do achieve success, I hope you’ll come back and tell me about it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blogging about

I'll be back with more on the 25th anniversary - and the first winner of 'My First Kate Walker' just as soon as I can. I have visitors again this weekend so I'm busy busy busy

But I'm blogging - and celebrating over on Romance Bandits today talking about why I love helping 'New Authors' who are aiming for publication

So why not come over and chat there? There's a copy of the 12 Point Guide to win too.

Friday, December 11, 2009

25 years - before 1984 - the journey

I’m often asked about my ‘journey to publication’. People who are now trying to write for Harlequin Mills and Boon and are getting rejections or requests for revisions and then not quite making it, often want to know if an established, successful author ever went through the same traumas and struggles, if I stumbled on my way to acceptance and if so how I finally made it.

Well, the answer is of course yes. Yes I did stumble, yes I did experience rejection before I finally made it. My first attempt at writing a romance was a a book I titled Double Love. It was all about a heroine who was torn between the hero and his almost identical cousin and it was – I freely admit it – pretty dreadful.

The biggest mistake I made was that I hadn’t read any of the recently published Mills & Boon books – and anyone who’s read any of my advice about writing romance knows just how big a mistake I consider that to be! I had read the books written by Marguerite Lees - a friend of my mother when I was growing up and the recent discovery of Anne Mather's Witchstone reminded me how much I'd enjoyed those books. But I read that as a reprint, almost ten years after it had originally been published in 1974, so I wasn't exactly up to date. I really shouldn't have been at all surprised when Double Love came back with just a rejection slip – no comments, nothing. And I know now that it didn’t deserve any.
I still keep that manuscript to remind me of the mistakes I made back then.

My second attempt – which I think I titled Garrett of Stoneroyd - was better. It had to be because it earned me a letter from a Senior Editor no less. And there were comments and advice in that letter. Here again, I was much like so many others – they liked my story but it lacked ‘emotional velocity’ (aka emotional punch) and failed to reach the emotional climax they were looking for. But this letter did contain three very important words. The editor suggested certain authors I might like to read and said ‘please try again’.

So I did.

I went away and I read lots of Mills & Boon stories – particularly the authors suggested in the letter. (Carole Mortimer and Penny Jordan, two authors I’m now amazed and honoured to call friends.) And this time I read the books that were currently being published, not the older ones I could find in charity shops etc. I read lots and lots and lots of them. And I tried to think of a plot that would have that vital ‘emotional velocity.’ In order to do that I knew that I would have to stop imagining my mother – or indeed on of my sisters - reading over my shoulder as I wrote. I would have to let go, go deep into the world of my imagination and just write.

And then I had a dose of flu and a raging temperature. And while I was trying to sleep and finding it impossible I had an idea and that idea became The Chalk Line . . .

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Celebrating . . .

This post should actually have been written last week but somehow last week got away with me. There was a last week - right? Or maybe I blinked and I missed it. Travelling, visitors, more visitors, Christmas shopping - which involved more travelling . . . And today we're setting off again for an overnight stay and Airedale Writers' Group Christmas party . . . and then back home for more visitors. So I have a suspicion that this week is going to get away with me too if I'm not careful.

So - Celebrating.

Of course, so many of you are celebrating right now. Whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa - or whatever the holiday season is here. But I have a very special reason for celebrating this time. And the logo on this post - together with the banner that lovely Heather of We Write Romance has made for my web site - will tell you just what I'm talking about.

This month I'm celebrating 25 years of being a published writer. It was in December 1984 that my very first book ever was published. That was The Chalk Line and when I first held that book in my hands, I had no idea that it would mark the start of such a long and wonderful career as a writer. All I could think of was how wonderful it was to have achieved my long-held ambition to have a book I had written published. I never imagined that 25 years later I would still be writing, have 56 titles published or accepted and awaiting publication and be the author of two guides on how to write romantic fiction as well.

So because this is such a special anniversary for me I'll obviously be celebrating and I'd love to have you all share in the celebrations with me. One of the ways I'll be doing this is by running a couple of contests – well, contests and polls really – and there will be - suitably enough - 25 prizes to give away.

I'm asking my readers to help me celebrate my silver anniversary by letting me know what the very first ever Kate Walker title you read was- if you can, give me a little information about where and when you found it - and I'll be publishing some of those stories on my blog. And then I'd love to know which are your Top 5 Favourite Kate Walker stories of all time. Everyone who enters will have their name put into the prize draw with a chance of winning one of the prize

Here are the details that are now up on my Contest page

I want to mark this special anniversary and celebrate 25 years as a published author, and when I celebrate, I love to share with my readers. So here’s how I’d like you to join in and maybe win yourself a prize by doing so. I have 25 prizes in all to give away – one to mark each year that I have been published.

So here’s how to enter – there are two ways to win.

Can you remember the first Kate Walker novel you ever read? Were you right there at the beginning with The Chalk Line? Or have you discovered my books much more recently?
Tell me about your first time – the first Kate Walker you read. What book was it and what was happening in your life when you found it? Did you pick it up in a shop, find it in the library – or perhaps a friend or member of your family suggested you try it?

Let me know about the first book you read and I will publish the most interesting ones on my blog. I will also give a prize to anyone whose story I publish. You can win a signed copy of one of the backlist books I have a available, together with another small gift to celebrate Christmas and this special anniversary.

Send your First Book stories to me – see the email below – with FIRST BOOK in the subject line. Closing date for all FIRST BOOK stories is December 31st 2009. But I’ll be posting some of the titles and stories before then.

Which of my books are your very favourite novels? When I was celebrating 20 years published, I ran a poll for readers to nominate their top five favourite Kate Walker books. I collected up all the votes and the result was like this:

Of course, since then I’ve had quite a lot more books published – and you might find you’d prefer some of those. Or you could have changed your mind about which book you like best. So why don’t you join in this new vote, help me discover which of my books is now the No 1 favourite – and again put yourself in the running for one of my special 25th anniversary prizes.
What you have to do:

List your top five Kate Walker books in order 1 – 5
Send your list to me with TOP 5 BOOKS in the subject line on the email.
And I’ll do the rest.

Again, the closing date for this poll is December 31st and I’ll start off my special celebration year by publishing the results in January so that everyone will know which book was voted top.

And as the votes come in, I’ll get Sid to pick a couple of winners every week so that some of you will win a prize of a signed book and an extra little gift for helping me out with my poll.

Over the coming weeks I'll be taking a look back at those 25 years and the books that were published during them - and I'm hoping to have some of my writer friends and other friends in the romance world come along and blog about their favourites too - so let's celebrate!

PS I'm late with this too - but if you check out the link to the Harlequin Site in the sidebar, you'll find lots of very special deals for the 12 Days of Christmas

And over on the Mills and Boon Site, there's a very special Advent Calendar Contest with a prize on offer every day. Just answer a simple question and you're in with a chance to win.

Finally - if you wanted to pick up a copy of my Bedded By The Greek Billionaire, perhaps to put in someone's stocking - or even your own - then this best-selling title of mine is on sale here at a special offer of 40% off - that's $2.85 instead of $4.75 - that's a real bargain.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Tote Bags Today

That was one hectic weekend - lots of lovely visitors, including one gorgeous but very active and noisy 3 year old (the cats are still recovering!) A wonderful time was had by all - now I have to catch up on sleep, washing - and blogging.

But with today being the first Sunday in December, I'm bloggin over on Tote Bags 'N' Blogs - so that's where you'll find me today

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