Monday, March 31, 2014

Happiness is . . .

Happiness is having a son who understands his mother on Mother's Day

And a husband  who knows how to help you celebrate National Pencil Day as part of National Stationery week.

Are you celebrating National Stationery Week? 
It's the perfect excuse for any writer with an addiction . .  .
Suggestions from the web site  are:

  • Write a letter or card to a relative or friend, and show you care.  - Done  (twice!) 
  • Go on a stationery crawl!
  • Treat yourself to a new pen or notebook – or even both! – during National Stationery Week.  You can never have too much stationery, and it makes you feel good!  Done 

  • Not managed the stationery crawl yet - but there's always tomorrow!  My friend and  brand new fellow Presents author  has already planned hers - see her blog for details

    Sunday, March 30, 2014

    Happy Mother's Day

    It's been a long time since I had my mother around to visit,  send a card,  give a gift to - but that doesn't mean that I don't think about her so much on Mother's Day.  I do - a lot.

    So here, after a lovely day as a mother with The Offspring, with a card and gifts is a small memento of my mother.

    Happy Mothers' Day to all mothers everywhere.

    Thursday, March 27, 2014

    New Writers - Meet Christy McKellen

    You'll remember that at Fishguard this year we had something special to celebrate - when Rachael Thomas  had her first book accepted.   Rachael had had the ambition to be my13th in 2013 - that means, that of the people I know I have helped to be published after they've been to one of my courses, read and worked with the 12 Point Guide, she hoped to be the 13th  in 2013.  Unfortunately it was a little later that Racahel got her first acceptance (but she was the 14th in 2014!)  Someone else got in on that 13th place - brand new Modern Temptation author Christy McKellen.  I asked Christy if she'd come on my blog and talk to you about her first book - and that journey to publication .
    So here she is today - please welcome Christy -

    My journey to publication — Christy McKellen

    Where to begin?

    At the end, perhaps.
    I’m Christy McKellen and I write for the KISS/Modern Tempted line for Harlequin Mills & Boon.
    It’s quite a thrill to be able to write that, I can tell you. It took me six years of learning craft, reading my genre, writing, submitting, receiving form rejections, picking myself up and dusting myself off, reading, writing, entering competitions, learning more, resubmitting and so on, until I captured the interest of an editor.
    I was lucky enough to be offered a two-book contract last July, after submitting a full manuscript on the back of a Twitter pitch I’d entered earlier that year. (You can read my Naked Call story here—yes, I did say naked): I’m currently writing book three for the same line.
    Yup, things have moved on fast!
    Rewind to the beginning of my journey.
    When I first decided to try writing for Mills & Boon I didn’t know another soul who was doing it and had no idea how to go about it (apart from just sitting down and writing of course, but that’s only part of the process, as I soon discovered).
    So I plucked up the courage to send an email to the lovely Kate Walker, whose wonderful books I’ve read and loved for years, asking for advice. (Not that she’s at all scary, but I felt a bit shy about contacting her out of the blue J).
    Kate very kindly sent me an extremely helpful and encouraging reply back and the advice she gave me was absolute gold dust.
    On her suggestion I joined the RNA’s New Writers Scheme,  which, as part of the joining fee, allows you to send in a full length manuscript for critique by an editor or published author.
    I also discovered and read, cover to cover, Kate’s wonderful 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance, which is a fantastic resource for aspiring romance authors.
    And then I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
    After only having the traditional submitting route available at the beginning of my journey to publication, it’s been fantastic to have had an increasing number of opportunities to get my stories in front of editors over the years. I made sure I entered all the competitions that Mills & Boon ran and even though I didn’t win, or even place in any of them, I met a huge number of other aspiring authors who I’ve had the pleasure of travelling along the long and winding road with.
    I’ve made some wonderful online friends that way, including my hugely talented critique partners. For me, having a group of people who were roughly at the same point in the process as I was and happy to swap manuscripts for honest, constructive advice was an absolute boon. Writing in the dark can be a lonely and frustrating business and whenever I received a form rejection with absolutely no feedback I was always a little heartbroken, so having friends to cheer me on was essential.
    There were many points when I wondered whether I’d ever get there, but I guess that’s normal. I know now that I wasn’t mentally ready or sufficiently skilled to take on the challenges of working as an author six years ago (marketing, writing multiple manuscripts a year, deadlines!) and in retrospect I’m glad I went through the motions (and emotions) to get where I am today. All the experience—particularly the rejections—have made me a better and more rounded writer (with a much thicker skin).
    If you’re on your own road to publication I salute you and wish you the very best of luck. My advice for getting where you want to go is this: Believe in and nurture your voice—it’s what makes you unique—and never, NEVER give up.

    B.K. (Before Kids) Christy worked as a Video and Radio Producer in London and Nottingham. After a decade of dealing with nappies, tantrums and endless questions from toddlers, she has come out the other side and moved into the wonderful world of literature. She now spends her time writing flirty, sexy romance with a kick (her dream job!).

    Christy loves to hear from readers (and writers!). You can find her at or email her at
    Christy’s debut for the KISS/Modern Tempted line HOLIDAY WITH A STRANGER is available now from all good book retailers.    Barnes & Noble  iTunes uk
     After three months travelling all Connor Preston wants to do is sink into his own bed. The last thing he expects is to find a stark-naked woman already there…  
    Josie Marchpane wasn’t anticipating company either. Connor might be six foot four inches of pure muscle, and boast a disturbingly sexy smile, but a fortnight in the South of France is the one thing standing between Josie and her sanity – and she’s not about to give it up without a fight!Josie plays to win. The problem…? Connor does too. And, with only one bed between them, things are about to get interesting…

    Christy’s second book for the same line LESSONS IN RULE-BREAKING will be available from May this year. 
    Journalist Jess has always followed the rules when it comes to her career:
    1) Never say no! Trying to extract a tell-all interview from bad boy of the art world Xander Heaton might be her own worst nightmare, but she’s just going to have to grin and bear it!
    2) Absolutely no flirting on the job—professionalism is key to a journalist’s success. Even if Xander does have her imagining the most unprofessional scenarios….
    3) If resistance proves impossible, remember the golden rule—never kiss and tell!
    One night with Xander and she’s broken at least one rule…and discovered it’s much more fun breaking rules than making them!

    Thanks for visiting, Christy.  I'm so looking forward to reading your book.
    Oh - and PS - Christy mentioned the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance -  look out for big news on that coming   in April.

    Saturday, March 22, 2014

    More on courses

    Since I posted the blog on Fishguard, I've heard from several people who would be interested in the Advance Romance Writing Course  running there next year and wanting to know  2 things

    1. Are there places available
    2.  This course says that to attend it, you need to have been on one of  my basic courses  first

    So to answer
    1. Fishguard Advanced Romance Writing Course  2015 - currently there are plenty of spaces on this one  and there's plenty of time before it runs - so yes, you can book now.  This weekend course will also provide you with one to one time with your tutor  (ie Me!)

    2. If you need the basic course first  well, this next bit is for you.
    After I posted about Fishguard Writers' Holiday last time, the organisers got in touch to let me know that unexpectedly there are two cancellation places available for this summer - July 2015. 
    The details are:

    July  this year has one (two if sharing a sea-view twin room!)  cancellation place(s) available if you book by end of March with a place guaranteed on my course if wanted.

    So if you have a partner or a friend who'd like to come to Writers' Holiday, have a week by the sea, enjoy good food, good company  plus your choice of the courses  b ook now - Still only £499 for the week 

    But if you can't manage a whole week - here's the only  other basic course I'm running this year - 
    Last week this course was totally filled up but I have agreed to offer a couple of extra places  if needed - so  why not book now ?

    For £240 you'll get
     a weekend in  4 star hotel  
    a single en suite room - comfortable and  lots of privacy for you to write! 
     Meals are provided
     - and of course there are workshops, writing exercises, time to relax . . .   The aim is to do exactly what it says on the tin - Relax and Write!

    Writing Romantic Fiction with Kate Walker

    Romantic Fiction is big business. This course is intended to provide information and advice for anyone who wants to learn how to write romantic fiction. It gives an introduction to all the skills needed for success, from initial research to the final submission of the typescript. The courses are informal and fun.
    • Creating realistic characters
    • Sustaining pace and conflict
    • Packing emotional punch
    • Writing sex scenes
    • Crafting a satisfactory ending.
    If you’re just starting out writing romance, or you’ve written a manuscript or two but are not yet published and are interested in honing your skills, this course is for you.
    Also running on the same weekend :

    CreativeWriting & the Art of Self-Discovery - with Stephen Wade
    An introduction to journalling and  the way it can help  writers by looking at yourself and your life,  sparking off ideas and revitalising your creativity

    For further information contact: Lois Bird-Maddox ‘Relax &  Write’ Course Organiser

    Details of all these events can be found on the Events Page of my web site.
    And if you keep an eye on that page you'll find out anything else I have coming up - I'm working with Relax and Write to offer more  Writing Events  coming up soon.

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

    Post Fishguard and Post-it Notes!

    It doesn't seem possible that it's  now  nearly 3 weeks since I got back from Fishguard. This time on the 28th, I was just meeting up with my  group of students, ready for the weekend's intensive Advanced Romance Writing Course as organised by Writers' Holiday at the Fishguard Bay Hotel in Pembrokeshire.  And then it seemed that I blinked and the weekend was over, we were saying our goodbyes,  and heading home.

    What's that they say about time flying when you're having fun?

    Yes, I know it was supposed to be a writing course - and it was - but there's nothing to stop us having fun and learning at the same time.  Over the years, this course  - and the students - has evolved into something rather special., There's a lot of fun, laughter - discussions. . .   Chocolate is often evolved , some wine and more discussions - more laughter. And yes, we learn a lot (because as well as being the tutor I often learn a lot and get inspired to write as a result of those discussions)

    Of course we also had cause for celebrations because Rachael Thomas who had been there last year as a student was this year celebrating the acceptance of her very first book - as a result of the So You Think You Can Write contest.

    This year's group from Fishguard '14
    And this year there were the post-it notes.

    When I was planning out ways of making things clearer, driving home certain points, I wanted a system  that was not just words on a page - and the post-it /emotions lesson was the result.  It seemed to work well - if you want  to know more about that then Johganna Grassick did a great write-up over on Novelistas Ink  - with a picture of post-it notes!

    But things didn't stop there - since I got back, I've had a  couple of emails from another member of the group - another Jo  - and she has taken the post-it note philosophy to heart. She wrote to tell me how she'd been working hard on what she now calls ' The Fishguard Aftermath, aka A Date With Post-it Notes'.  She even sent me a couple of photographs to illustrate how the post-it system can work - how it's worked for her to sort out the core emotions, the way those work their way through the story -  the things that change dramatically when love(see those heart shaped notes?)  or sex intervene and make things even more complicated.

    It's a visual - and fun way  of making things clearer and helping you focus on what matters.

    I'm not the only one to use sticky notes in this way -   Julie Cohen has a special blog on Post-It Plotting over on her web site - even  more colour, even more scheming  - and a great way to keep track of everyone/everything in the story.

    As a result there has been rather a rush on post-it notes all over the country (and excuse - writers love a chance to buy more stationery). I know that the place I bought the notes for this year's Fishguard is currently out of stock! They must be wondering what hit them.

    Anyway - what I want to say is a great big thank you to the fabulous group I had at Fishguard this year. I had so much fun and the discussions were great, the laughter  ditto - the critique session was fantastic (and the glass - or two - of wine went well too.)  I'm almost ashamed to say I'm not a great chocolate lover  - but the Babe Magnet was very happy to eat my share after the class.

    I also want to send very special thanks to Anne and Gerry Hobbs who  - as always - organised this weekend with their usual warm, welcoming  efficiency, in spite of this February not being  the easiest of circumstances in which to cope.  I had a wonderful time and I'm so looking forward to the Writers' Holiday at Fishguard coming up in the summer.  The sea, the sun (hopefully), great company, more laughter - and maybe more post-it notes.

    At the moment the  summer Writers' Holiday is fully booked up  and has been for some time. But if you're interested in my Advanced Romance Writing Course  for next February 2015  then (I can't believe I'm saying this but it's true) the time to get your booking in is now - before it fills up again.

    One point - the Advanced course is just that - advanced - so if you're more interested in a basic course  - or would like to learn the basics and then book the advanced (I know someone who has booked for both only this week) or you just can't wait till February 2015 then I have other courses  coming up.  The details  should be appearing on my web site - on the Events Page  just as soon as my lovely web mistress can get them up there - but I'm also going to run a couple of blogs to let you know what's coming up so watch this space.

    The first of these will be a weekend  course in May  with Relax and Write  creative writing weekends. That has basically been filled but I'm adding extra places  to fit people in if I can.  Details on the Events Page - or in my next blog.

    I'll hope to see some of you somewhere soon at one of these courses -  and  I think I'd better go and buy some more post-it notes!

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    Cover reveal

    I've been waiting for ages to see what the cover of my  June book A Question of Honour  would be like. Over the years I've had some  great covers - and some not so great!   I was sent the cover of the USA Presents cover a month or so again    and I liked that  - it  has the atmosphere of the story - and the characters  (Karim and Clementina)  have the right colouring (not always the case!)

    But I was waiting to see what the UK/M&B Modern cover was like. I found it last night on Amazon - and I have to say that I'm thrilled - I love it.  Again  Karim and Clementina look just right - but  this one has  more impact I think. More of the  right atmosphere - more  emotion.

    It would make me want to pick this book off the shelves  anyway. I think it's a winner.

    What do you think?  So- do you prefer  A Question of Honor (USA)? Or A Question of Honour (UK) ?

    My lovely web designer Heather has been busy updating my web site  - so you can find more details about A Question of Honour/Honor - and read an excerpt on its  special page here 

    Oh , and while I'm talking about covers, I also just got the cover for the 3 in 1 collection  Eligible Greeks: Sizzling Affairs  - which contains  a reprint of my  2010 book The Good Greek Wife. 

    This one is out  on May 1st 2014.

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    And the winners were -

    Veronica Henry triumphed over her fellow competing authors to win the Romantic Novelists' Association's highest accolade, the Romantic Novel of the Year with A Night on the Orient Express, published by Orion. Darcey Bussell, CBE presented Veronica with her trophies and a cheque for £5000.

     Veronica’s novel won the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year Category, for which she also received a specially engraved star-shaped trophy. Her book then went forward, along with those of the four other category winners - Epic, Historical, Romantic Comedy and Young Adult - to contest the Romantic Novelists' Association’s (RNA) most coveted award, the Romantic Novel of the Year.

    The RoNA Rose Award
      This Award is for shorter category/series fiction and while it does not go forward to contest the main award, the authors are recognised through the presentation of a trophy and, this year, a cheque for £1000.These were presented by Darcey Bussell to Kate Hardy for her book Bound By A Baby, published by Harlequin Mills & Boon.

     Romantic Novel of the Year Category Winners
    . The winners were:
     Winner Epic Category Romantic Novel of the Year
      Jennifer McVeigh, The Fever Tree, Penguin
      (for mainstream romantic novels set post 1960 and can include genres such as chic lit,  paranormal and romantic suspense)

      Winner Historical Category Romantic Novel of the Year
      Christina Courtenay, The Gilded Fan, Choc Lit
      (for novels set in a period before 1960)

      Winner Romantic Comedy Category Romantic Novel of the Year
      Milly Johnson, It's Raining Men, Simon & Schuster
     (for consistently humorous or amusing novels)

      Winner Young Adult Category Romantic Novel of the Year
     Imogen Howson, Linked, Quercus
      (features protagonists who are teenagers or young adults)

    Katie Fforde, President of the RNA said, "Every year we are astounded by the quality of writing and enthusiasm from our entrants. Their passion is evident in their writing and all can be proud of having been part of the Awards this year. Our congratulations go to Veronica Henry, who is thoroughly deserving of her win and provided the judges with an intriguing plot with some twisty turns that delivered what can only be described as a page-turning novel. All in all a very well-earned win."

     Outstanding Achievement Awards
     Helen Fielding, author of the popular Bridget Jones novels, who defined the romantic angst of a generation, and Dr. David Hessayon were both presented with outstanding achievement awards.

     Dr. David Hessayon is a long-time friend of the RNA, having sponsored for many years the association's annual award recognising the best in new writing. The Joan Hessayon Award is named in memory of his late wife, an ardent and longstanding member of the RNA and great supporter of New Writers' Scheme (NWS).


    Congratulations to all the winners -   and to everyone who was nominated. 


    Today's a big day for  writers of romantic fiction and all members of the Romantic Novelists' Association.
    This evening  in London, the RoNA  - Romantic Novel of the Year  -  awards will be presented.

    The shortlists were announced on February 14th and tonight  the winners of the shortlist categories for the Romantic Novel of the Year and the winner of the RoNA Rose Award for shorter fiction will be announced during a glittering ceremony in the Gladstone Library, One Whitehall Place, London SW1.   Former ballerina  Darcy Bussell  will present the prizes.

    If you want to remind yourself  who was on the shortlist, there are detailed lists here on the RNA's web site.  You can pick you own winners from all these amazing novels.

    I can't be there in person myself tonight but I'll be watching from the wings and cheering on so many friends and great writers. And I'll let you know what the results were just as soon as I know myself.

    If you're on Twitter you can keep up with all the news at #RoNAs2014

    Good luck tyo everyone -  I'm just glad that I don't have to choose from all those great reads!

    Sunday, March 16, 2014

    Ruby Report

    I've had some enquiries about the small black and white tornado that is  Ruby the kitten - so I thought I'd bring  you up to date.

    We don't know exactly when Ruby was born, seeing as she was found as a stray, so we can only guesstimate   but as it's likely she was born late September 2013, she's not  coming up to 6 months old. And she's a like a firework to have around - always fizzing with energy, running and pouncing on anything that moves. She loves jumping on my toes, giving them tiny bites or attacking them with claws that are like needles  - and sometimes she tries to climb up my legs from behind.

    So it's been  a  great relief to be able to open the door and let her out into the garden to run  around, chase Charlie - or be chased by him - and run off some of that excess energy.  He's specially enjoyed that this week as he has had his paw ripped in a fight  - or on a nail - and has been  limping rather badly. Luckily a trip to the vet and the antibiotics have a done the trick and he's  been pouncing on her- leaping out of the shrubbery  and chasing her around for hours.

      But Ruby has decided that she doesn't need  him since she discovered trees.  She is quite a climber and just
    loves to scramble up as high as she can go. At the moment she's only trying out the bushes - the magnolia in this case - but she has ambitions for the apple trees as soon as she gets her confidence.

    She is also growing like crazy - still very slim and sleek but with long legs  that make her look surprisingly tall.

    I've included a photo  of her next to Charlie so that you can see the comparison in size - but of course he has a  much longer  and thicker coat  so he looks huge next to her.

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    Tote Bags Day

    It's 12 March today and  this year the 12th of each month is the date when I'm blogging over on the Tote Bags 'N' Blogs site.

    So that's where you'll find me today

    Friday, March 07, 2014

    Back from Wales

    I've finally caught up - well, sort of -  with so many things that needed doing before and after I went to Wales and the wonderful Writers' and Artists Weekend at Fishguard Bay Hotel.

    I had a great time teaching the Advanced Romance Writing course in Pembrokeshire - so much so that it didn't seem like work a lot of the time.  I had such a great group there, with everyone gelling so well and getting on fabulously together . (And I need to add thanks to those who contributed chocolate  and choc  chip cookies  and more chocolate  to help us get through the  concentrated classes for the weekend.

    One of my students Johanna Grassick has  written a great report on the weekend over on Novelistas Ink  where she talks about the work we did with post-it notes - to add a bit of colour and extra interest into working through the emotional development of a plot - and all the rest of the course.

    Still with the course in mind, I have a post over on  Pink Heart Society's blog today  - talking about one of the presentations and discussion we had over the weekend.

    I have more plans for other classes, courses and  a writing retreat in a fabulous venue  coming up  - so I need to get them fully organised so I can give you the details.  But  there's one problem . . .as soon as things are decided, they are sold out!  The events listed on my Events Page  - Weetwood  Hall in May, Fishguard Writers'  Holiday in July are now full.

    So - it sounds ridiculous, but if you're interested in the Advanced Writing Romance at  Fishguard in February 2015 !  - I suggest you take a look at the Writers' Holiday website and maybe think about getting your name down on the waiting list now!

    I'll be posting up more details of any more courses as and when they are decided.

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