Monday, December 27, 2010

Quick quote

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.
- Joseph Campbell

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Here's a sprinkling of fairy dust to make all your wishes come true. Have a blessed holiday season!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Reading

This wasn't on my Christmas reading list, since I already have a teetering pile of books to read and this was the newest addition to the pile. But I'm so glad I did. This book was an even better way to spend an evening than a feast of red wine and dark chocolate!

India Grey's newest book, Her Last Night of Innocence, was an incredible read, packed full of intense emotions and believable characters. The story is set against the backdrop of F1 motor racing, of which I'm a huge fan, and I loved the way in which India handled the motor racing scenes.

There are far better book reviews out there, but a few of the things I loved ...

* * * Spoiler Alert * * *

Apart from being an excellent read, there were moments when I had to laugh out loud at India Grey's cleverness. Like the line where she uses words typical of purple prose but in a completely unique combination:
"Cristiano’s eyelids flickered for a second as beneath the water she took hold of his throbbing erection and held it for a quivering moment ..."

And then there's the delightful moment when a minor character, Nurse Parks, is reading a romance novel while on duty: “She’d just reached a really good bit, where the heroine had vowed she’d rather die than let the gorgeous Italian hero know about the child she was carrying. That was all very well in books …” then the gorgeous Italian hero walks into the ward to claim his secret love child!

Finally, and I'm note sure whether this was accidental or intentional, but all the book's character have the surnames of known racing drivers: Maresca (US driver Mario Maresca), Edwards (US driver  John Edwards), Hill (Graham & Damon Hill), Fournier (Henri Fournier, early 1900s), Watson (former Irish racer John Watson) and Parks (1960s Paul Parks, drag racer Wally Parks & 60s Ferrari driver Michael Parkes).

I had only one gripe with this book. Much though I love the new M&B covers, this is one book where the designers got it very, very wrong. The only evening gown the heroine wears in this novel is blue, not gold. She's blonde, not brunette. And apart from a couple of scenes set in Monaco, this book has nothing to do with gambling or card games - unless you count the hero gambling with his life on the race track.

But don't let the cover stop you. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winner announcement

I've announced the winners over at my Rae Summers blog. Congratulations to Jennifer Mathis and Rachel Lyndhurst. They both win Christmas tree decorations courtesy of The Rainforest Site.

The Rainforest Site is offering all Christmas ornaments at half price, so check out the sale!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Interesting quotation

Whatever you do, do it with all your heart and soul.
- From Bernard Baruch (courtesy of a Huletts sugar packet)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Whew!

The day job just got really busy. Since I've had a quiet run for the last two months I've almost forgotten how to do the job! I'll be absent for the next week or so until I get on top of the workload. Have fun while I'm gone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Take on Amazon Web Splash

Author Talli Roland is conducting an interesting experiment. She's using social media to take on Amazon today, and would appreciate our support. 

* * *

Help Talli's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback.  Keep up with the latest at www.talliroland.com.

About THE HATING GAME:

When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end? 


* * *

Reviews & Tags
 
If you do buy The Hating Game and you like it, a review on Amazon would be greatly appreciated! If you don't have an Amazon account, you can also post reviews on Goodreads. Thank you!
If you are on Amazon and in a clicking sort of mood, it would be fantastic if you could click on a few tags ('Tags Customers Associate with this Product' - located underneath the Product Description). Cheers!

Monday, November 29, 2010

NaNo Days 24 - what day is this?

Want to hear my excuses? They're really good.
  • 1 x blog tour
  • 2 x sick kids
  • 3 x glasses of wine at the company Thanksgiving party
  • 4 x blogs to run
  • And the day job turned suddenly manic

On the plus side - I have been thinking about this story a great deal and realised some amendments need to be made to the basic internal conflict. So not in the spirit of NaNo to go back in the edit but now that I've come to terms that I won't be proudly displaying a winner certificate on my wall for the next year, I'm okay with that. I'd rather have a really great story!

If you haven't already Sally Clements over on my other blog, please do. And don't forget that I'm running a tour contest over there. Finally, I'm blogging today at Minxes of Romance - check out the yummy pictures.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wild Roses Christmas Blog Tour

My alter ego (Rae Summers) is participating in a blog tour with nine other authors from The Wild Rose Press for the next four Wednesdays. Please visit my other blog and support me on the tour. Today I'm hosting my lovely crit partner, Sally Clements.

The tour is Christmas-themed so you'll be able to get holiday ideas, recipes, as well as pick up some new holiday reads. Each blog is also running a tour contest, which means that you have ten chances to win!

For more information on the participating authors, the prizes they're offering, and who is visiting where and when, click here: http://rosestour.blogspot.com/

To find out more about the contest I'm running, click here, and to see what I have to say about my TBR pile, drop by PL Parker's blog.

NaNo Days 22-23

Plodding along ...
Day 22: 308 words
Day 23: 1245 words

Monday, November 22, 2010

NaNo Days 19-21 and a Realisation

What a lovely week-end! Warm, sunny weather. Spending the days lazing in the garden with the kids. Reading Mira Lynn Kelly's Wild Fling or Wedding Ring. Getting nine hours sleep a night.

The only thing that didn't happen was writing. Of any kind. My laptop didn't even get switched on until Sunday night. So my word counts are now so drastically behind that the chances of me winning at NaNo are disappearing into the distance. And I'm okay with that.

I've stopped beating myself up over it. I've realised that my circumstances this year are a little different from last year. Last year I hadn't just moved house, my kids weren't as unsettled, I didn't have to deal with the loss of any pets, let alone two (don't ask!) and last year, before I started NaNo, I'd had a delightful holiday in Greece, so I was well-rested and relaxed.

But the biggest realisation I had this week-end came courtesy of the amazing Bob Mayer. Yesterday I re-read the notes I took in his Warrior Writer course. He talks about understanding the WHY of everything you do. Why are you writing this novel?

Last year's WHY was simple: I wanted to finish the novel I'd entered into the Presents 2009 contest in case I got a request for more. I succeeded; I finished a draft. And though that story didn't get a request, the opening chapter (which I'd finessed before NaNo even started) won the interest of an editor. Thank heavens she didn't ask for more because looking back that first draft was truly awful. I might have made the NaNo word count, but a lot of it is unusable.

This year's WHY is a little different. A word count isn't enough. I want to send a partial and synopsis to the editor who requested more of my work. I need to have the draft complete before I send. But it is also far more important to me that this partial be polished to a high sheen, and that the story as a whole works. After a year of indifferent responses, I need a positive response from the editor, so I want this book to grab her attention. And that is not going to happen with the kind of rough writing that I achieve through NaNoWriMo. I'm not saying that Nano's not for me, I'm just saying that NaNo is not for me this year.

I'm not officially giving up. I'm going to keep up the routine I've established this month, but I'm going to spend a little more time crafting what I write. Even though I won't be proudly boasting a NaNo winner's badge this year, I'm hoping that before the year is done I'll have a completed draft that I'm happy with. And my win will be a submission I can hit send on with a smidgeon of hope that it'll achieve what I want.

Jenni Holbrook-Talty has written this on Bob Mayer's Write it Forward blog. Thanks Jenni for putting my feelings into words.

But with every good news thing in writing, there is a bad news thing attached. The good news is, you’ve got a draft. The bad news: Is the writing the ugly raw writing? Or something else? It’s the something else that worries me when a writer is solely focused on word-count. Its tunnel vision. Yes, we have to write through things and get to the end, but we also have to make sure we’re moving toward something. Words for the sake of words doesn’t create a page turning novel. Having written a book during NaNoWriMo I can tell you fixing bad story telling is harder than fixing up the words on the page and making the story and characters stronger.

Some of the best writing I have ever done has come from slowing down, taking a step back, taking a deep breath and looking at where the story has been, where it is now, and where it is going.

In some ways I wish NaNo was every month. I love watching writers post their goals and their progress. I love the energy it creates. I hope everyone who is participating feels good about their successes, even if they didn’t complete the word count. Keep writing. Keep pushing yourself.

Friday, November 19, 2010

NaNo Day 18 and a Treat

Woohoo - another 1,545 words added to the word count. Not enough to keep up, let alone catch up, so unless someone drops a miracle ten hours in my lap, I will not be winning any NaNo awards. But I think the story is starting to coalesce rather than congeal, which has got to be good. But just in case, like me, you're feeling in need of a pick-me-up, here's a suggestion for how to spend your Friday night:


I wonder how much chocolate is required?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NaNo Day 17

1,500 words. On the dot. The symmetry was so perfect I had to stop right there.
And that's today's post.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NaNo Day 16 and Royal Weddings

I'll admit it, I'm a royalist at heart. Other writers have fond memories of reading their grandmothers' Harlequin romance novels. I have fond memories of reading my Omi's German magazines.

Judging from those magazines, the Germans love royalty. I grew up on stories about the princes and princesses of Denmark, Sweden and Spain, and of course their far more famous British counterparts. My pocket money was spent on Royalty and Majesty magazines, which were only available in a couple of specialist shops in Durban in those long distant days before the internet and Amazon. (I still have all those magazines too, though I stopped collecting them at about the same time my parents stopped giving me pocket money!)

So in spite of all their bad press over the last decade or so, and the realisation that royals have feet of clay like the rest of us, news of a royal wedding is enough to put a smile on my face. We've had a few over the last few years, each and every one a fairy tale come true, but the news yesterday that Wills and Kate will be tying the knot really touched me. Because it gave me a reason to smile after a few really difficult days.


The romance writer in me, the eternal optimist who hopes that every single person out there will find their Happy Ever After, hopes that this couple will be blessed with an abundance of joy and a very long and happy marriage. I'll even go so far as to hope they get a little privacy too.

On the NaNo front, I wrote 1,796 words on 16th.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NaNo Day 15

That's better! Just over 1,400 words before breakfast (and a long day in the office) and I cracked 2,158 words by midnight. Which makes my half way total 19,955, so I'm only 5,045 words behind.
Now if I can just keep this up for another two weeks ...

Thanks so much to everyone who has left comments: to Lacey, Susan (yay on those revisions!), Rachel, Joanne, Elissa, Amy and Wendy (especially for the reminder that my deadline is self-imposed and not as scary as yours!) - and anyone else I may have neglected. Your support and encouragement is very much appreciated.


Monday, November 15, 2010

NaNo Days 12 - 14

I've completely depressed myself by checking my word counts from last year's NaNo. By the end of Day 13 last year, I had 25,000 words. Same day this year? 16,000.

This weekend has been a rollercoaster. I won't go into details, but personal trauma, burying myself in Gena Showalter's The Darkest Pleasure, and taking the daughters to a matinee of "Mamma Mia", have all interfered with my writing this week-end.

Here's hoping that the coming week sees a massive upswing in those word counts!

Friday, November 12, 2010

NaNo Day 11

As you can see from the new little word counter widget on the right of this blog, Patrick and Emily' story is coming along at a pace. Beneath the Ionian Sun has ground to a temporary halt. Let's see what tomorrow brings ...

In other news, if it can be called that, I've still had no news on my NWS manuscript. Is the critique already in the mail winging its way back to me, or does no news mean good news?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NaNo Day 10

The NaNo police will not be happy with me.

Not only did I take a complete holiday from my WIP last night, putting me even further behind on my word counts, but when I woke this morning I had a whole new hero in my head. How can I write Enzo's story, when Patrick is the one demanding to be heard?

And Patrick's story isn't even a romance. It's a present tense narrative, with paranormal elements, and I have no clue where the story is going. It's not the story I signed up to write for NaNo, but at least it's words on paper. That must count for something, right?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNo Day 9

Only just a third of the way into Nano and I'm flagging. Yesterday I managed only 1200 words (on the dot!)

I'm exhausted and it's taking me three times longer than it should to make my daily word counts. So I'm voting today a holiday. A glass of wine and a full night's sleep tonight and maybe tomorrow I can make a little headway into the ever-increasing back log.

How are the rest of you coping? Are you achieving your Nano word counts and still getting enough sleep? Or are you just working at your normal pace and laughing at us Nano-ers?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNo Days 7 & 8

Sunday (Day 7) was an incredible day for me. Even though I had a lazy day, going out to lunch with my parents and whiling away an afternoon enjoying the summer sunshine and the swimming pool, I still achieved 1,981 words before I crawled into bed.

Day 8 was not so good. I wrote 1,263 words early in the morning, before heading to the day job, but in the evening I fell asleep next to my daughters while trying to get them to sleep (more than an hour after their scheduled bed time. Is it just me who has to fight my kids to get them to sleep?!).
Needless to say, no more got written.

So far I've written nothing today (Day 9) but I'll keep you posted on tonight's progress ...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NaNo Days 5 & 6

For the last month or so I've only had sporadic internet outside of working hours. It used to be annoying, now it's a blessing since my word counts are finally starting to climb. On Day 6 (Saturday) I finally managed to make a dent in my backlog with 2,364 words. Which brings me to a total of 8096 NaNo words to date. 

Not where I should be, but I have a confession: I'm doing the teensiest bit of re-reading and editing as I go. Since I want to submit the partial quite soon in December, I need this manuscript a little more polished than the typical NaNo novel.

Disconnecting now for Sunday lunch then another long session on the laptop. Have a lovely weekend all, and I'm thinking of you, Maya.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNo Day 4

The day started with my hero and heroine cavorting in the waves on an idyllic Greek Island, and in just over an hour I managed 1,127 words. Tonight is still going to need a marathon writing session to catch up though, since my word counts the last two days have been abysmal.

On a happy note, I spent a little time last night visiting with my brother (who's making a flying visit to Southern Africa between moving from England to India) and I also attended the SYTYCW webinar. And finished my tax return. Woohoo!

To celebrate, here's a little inspiration. This is the beach at Paleokastritsa where Melissa and Enzo are currently cavorting.


And this is where they'll be dining tonight:


Don't you just love doing internet research?!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNo Day 3 and Hero

How are you all doing? Still feeling motivated or are your characters already developing minds of their own and frustrating you? And what are you doing blog surfing here when you should be writing?!

It's tax return season so instead of working on those word counts, I've been buried knee deep in boring financial-type papers - but at least the few words that I've put down feel like they're working now.

For all those non-NaNoers out there, I'd like to introduce you to Hero. She's named for the heroine in Much Ado About Nothing, and she came into our lives last week when one of the moms at the kindergarten my children attend found her wandering lost at the side of the road. As her husband is allergic, I kindly offered a home to this little ball of fluff. The vet assures me she's a girl (and in supremely good health) but I deliberately chose a name that could go either way so we don't have the same re-naming issue we had last time around.

My favourite line in The Sound of Music has always been "Wherever God closes a door, he opens a window". Hero reminds me of these words every time I look at her. Luke is not forgotten, but we are so grateful we now have Hero to love.


PS: Her eyes really are equal size. She just looks odd here because we were trying to hold her still long enough to photograph her!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNo Day 2

Today did not start well. Where yesterday I managed over 1,200 words in just over an hour and a half, in the same time this morning I only just managed 600. And they were a painful 600. Bitty, all over the place, the characters thinking one thing then doing the complete opposite.

Then I got stuck in the mother of all traffic jams on the way to work. The only positive thing about gridlock is that it gives you time to think. And I realised that the reason my scene wasn't working was because my heroine was saying 'yes, I'll go with you' to the hero when she wanted to say 'no'. Why? Because if she doesn't go traipsing around with the hero there's no story. That's me speaking. The author.

Then happily, when I should have been working, I clicked the link from the Harlequin Blog through to the list of critique winners on the eHarl community site and lo and behold - I was one of the chosen five!
A real, live HMB editor read and commented on my opening page. And in a few simple words she caught the essence of my entire opening chapter:  We get the sense that she's a loner, that she longs for human companionship, but that after everything she's been through, she can't handle getting to know people or being around them.

And there's the answer. Melissa just wouldn't say 'yes'. The hero's going to have to work a whole lot harder to win her over. And I'm going to have to work a whole lot harder to get her to the point where she'll say 'yes'.

So guess what I'm doing tonight?

The rest of the editor's crit is here: http://community.eharlequin.com/forums/write-stuff/so-you-think-you-can-write/day-one/harlequin-editor-week-challenges/challenge-on-1

Monday, November 1, 2010

More Days Like These

The sun is shining, the work load is light, I wrote 1,250 words before the kids even woke up this morning, and they didn't fight all the way to school. Then I was taken out for lunch by an attractive young man (my little brother, but he still counts!). What more could a girl want?
 
Just one thing: another 1,000 words before bedtime.

Why?

Because it's NaNoWriMo!

Here's a little something for all you writers out there who started the month of madness today. I suspect we'll all be needing it soon enough.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Single to Rome

As soon as I discovered this book, I had to have it. Firstly, because it's written by Sarah Duncan, whose talk at the RNA conference in July was my favourite of the whole conference. Secondly, because it's set in Rome, and as followers of this blog know, I had a brief sojourn in Rome after said conference.

Sarah Duncan began her RNA talk by asking the audience if any of us had ever had a Shirley Valentine moment. You know, that moment when you're on holiday in an amazing place and you think "I could chuck it all in and just stay here for the rest of my life". Most of us stood. She then asked everyone to sit, unless they'd actually done it. Only a handful of people remained standing. Those are the people readers want to read about, she said. The people who not only want to change their live, but who do.

A Single to Rome is the story of a woman who changes her life. However, the story doesn't start at the moment of change (where Natalie loses her job and arrives in Rome). It starts about 5 or 6 chapters before that, and I'll admit those opening chapters did not grab me.

My other very clear memory from Sarah's RNA talk was her telling us that readers invest not only money but (more importantly) their time in our books, and in order to ensure they want to spend their time on our stories, we should imagine being stuck in a lift with our characters. Is this character someone we'd want to be stuck in a lift with?

My answer to Natalie in the opening chapters of this novel was a resounding 'No!'. She spends the first few chapters alternately crying for or cringingly chasing the boyfriend who has dumped her. Happily, Natalie not only grew on me, to the point where I really sympathised with her, but two thirds through the book I suddenly realised: Natalie is me!

Okay, so I didn't run away to live in Rome because my boyfriend dumped me and I'd lost my job. But my brief trip to Rome changed me in similar ways to how it changed Natalie.

In the beginning of the story, Natalie has a good job. She's successful, respected, good at what she does, and she earns good money. That could be me. But through the story [Spoiler alert!] Natalie discovers that material success isn't enough. It is more important to love the work you do, and to find meaning in it.

This is the challenge I've faced this year. I no longer believe in what I do. I want my work to have greater meaning. And though this feeling has been slowly building over many months, it was in those few precious days in Rome that this truth dawned on me. Like Natalie, I discovered the meaning of my life in Rome. I discovered that friends and family are more important than any lifestyle, and that being true to yourself and your principles is more important than any pay cheque. (Though I'm not so far gone that I don't realise life can be bleak without a decent income!).

Aspiring writers are usually told to bring the hero and heroine together as early as possible in the story. And in most romances it's pretty clear from the start who the hero is. Sarah Duncan keeps the reader guessing until mere pages from the end of the book. Which man does Natalie end up with?
You'll have to read the book yourself to find out.

I still think that every single thing that Sarah Duncan shared in her talk is valid. But here's another truth I've now learned from her: as long as you can get your characters to resonate with the readers, you can break any rule. Yes, the heroine started out heartsick and a little pathetic. Yes, the story started at a slow point rather than at the moment of change. But none of that matters, because this book is firmly staying on my keeper shelf and I anticipate reading it many more times before it finally falls apart.

So in the end my only real complaint about this book is that it ended. I quite literally turned the last page, saw that the page ended half way down and I wanted to cry out "I'm not ready for this to end! I want more!" Which has got to be the best compliment any reader can give a book.

Now just in case I haven't already made it clear: Read this book!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thank you to New Voices

I'll admit to feeling a tad disappointed when I saw The List on the New Voices contest site and not only did I not make it, but none of my CPs or online friends did either. (And by the way, you were all fantastic!)

On the plus side, this contest has been an awesome experience for me, because it introduced me to a whole new bunch of aspiring South African authors. For more information on the South African entrants and other entries set in Africa or with South African characters, you can view the list here: http://saromancewriters.blogspot.com/2010/09/new-voices-entries.html

Our country is a little backward when it comes to genre fiction, and until now most romance writers battle away quietly on their own while lots of fuss gets made about literary authors and poets. So we're not going to win any Booker or Nobel prizes (which have both incidentally been awarded this last week, in case you've missed the news) but we are steadily growing in numbers and in strength.

Just watch this space: we South African romance writers are going to take on the world!

Finally, I'd like to congratulate the Top 10 New Voices Finalists. Their second chapters are currently up at www.romanceisnotdead.com, and there is still time to vote, so please head on over and support these new writers. Good luck to all of them!

I've read all ten and voted, and I'll admit it was a tough choice. There were some really good entries. I would, however, like to do a shout out here for my friend Leah Ashton, who has broken the mould with her very yummy bartender hero.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

To sub or not to sub

While over 800 aspirant writers anxiously await The List (for those who aren't as obssessed by the New Voices contest as I am, this is the list HMB have promised us of entries they want to see more of), I have a question to pose: 
If HMB does not request your contest entry, do you plan to stick it in a bottom drawer or to sub this story elsewhere?

Of course, I'm one of the 814 hoping this is not a situation I'll have to face, but even so I know exactly what I'd do: the bottom drawer.

Why?
Because when I do sell to HMB one day (and I'm determined to!) I want to have a whole bunch of manuscripts ready to be re-worked and re-submitted. I'm hoping that by then I'll be more experienced and know how to 'fix' them, so that instead of making just the one sale, I'll be able to sell a whole bunch more to my dream publisher!

But I also realise that there are times when submitting to A.N. Other publisher might be a better option for a manuscript. If you know the story doesn't really fit the targeted HMB line but it'd break your heart to change it to fit, then you need to follow your heart.

There are also times when the validation of having an editor say "I love this and I want to buy it" is more important than sticking to the longer term dream.

So if Harlequin Mills & Boon is your dream, what would you do?

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Voices Winners Announced

The winners have been announced over at: http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/News/23-The-Top-Ten-Announcement

To the Top Ten: Massive congratulations to all of you. I can't wait to read your next chapters.

To all those who didn't final: I share your disappointment, but don't let you get it down. Take note of the comments you received, learn from the chapters you most enjoyed, polish your partials and send them in via the traditional route. You haven't lost anything by entering. In fact, you may not know it yet, but you've gained so much. You deserve your medals of bravery. Incidentally, if you haven't yet picked up your badges: pop on over to Lacey Devlin's blog and collect one now!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In Memoriam

Last night our family cat was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

The coward must have been driving at quite a speed not to be able to stop for a cat who had large white patches and would have been easily visible in this well-lit residential street. Our road is short and leads nowhere, so whoever thought this quiet street would make a nice race track should be hung, drawn and quartered.

Luke was born in our garden earlier this year to a wild cat who roams the neighbourhood. This was the second litter she'd birthed in the safety of our garden. After the events of last night I'm really glad we haven't managed to catch her yet to get her to the vet to be spayed.

As a kitten, when he was just old enough to be weaned, we brought him inside. He slept on my pillow and in no time at all he'd become the perfect house cat. Though his mother and sisters remain wild, eating our food but refusing to be touched, Luke (or Lucy as he was known for most of his life - until he developed irrefutable evidence that he was a boy!) was a gentle creature. He adored being cuddled, would brush up against our legs, and never got fed up with my daughters no matter how often they disturbed his sleep to pick him up or play with him. He'd sleep on their beds during the day, and between his catnaps he'd play happily with them. They dressed him up, carried him all over the house as young children do, and he never once raised a paw to them.

In less than a year he grew larger than any of his siblings, and though we gave him the freedom to rove, he always came back to us. We usually left him outdoors at night, to go hunting with his family, but just yesterday he learned to come in through the window. Less than an hour after I'd commented that he would soon be sleeping on the bed with me again, he was dead.

I won't bore you all with the gory stuff. I am immensely grateful to the good samaritans who rang our gate bell to tell us there was a cat injured in the street. They sat with me, stroking him and holding him down as he fought through such terrible pain. I'm not good with blood. I just have to see blood and I pass out. So to sit in the middle of the steet watching my beloved cat cough up blood was traumatic. The nameless couple who'd stopped to help were calm and understanding and thanks to them I managed to stay calm and collected. And thanks to them my children weren't the first to discover Luke's body this morning.

Sadly, in his short life the only pictures I have of Luke are a few blurry ones taken in twilight when he was a kitten. They're too awful to show here, but this image of his older siblings as kittens gives you some idea what he looked like. (He was very like the white-faced one on the right).

It appears that Luke's mommy is pregnant once again. As she now seems to know us and trust us, I hope she will once again entrust us to love and care for her babies. Though none will ever be able to replace Luke.

Friday, September 24, 2010

While we wait ...

So it seems that we may be waiting a little longer than expected for the announcement of the Top 10 finalists in the New Voices contest. Hardly surprising since the editors and judges have 824 entries to read this weekend, and among them are a whole lot of fantastic chapters.

So while we wait, please check out the SA Romance Writers blog for a list of South African entrants, and show your support for the burgeoning talent from this southern-most tip of Africa. I've been really thrilled to find so many entries featuring Africa or South Africans.

Over at Minxes of Romance are links to the New Voices entries by me and my crit partners, and in the most recent post you can also find out what writing romance and trees have in common.

And last, but not least, on my Rae Summers blog I'm starting a new series of posts: Cocktail Fridays. On the Friday closest to pay day each month (25th) I'll be bringing you a new cocktail recipe from the 1920s. Kicking off the series is my personal favourite: the mojito.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reverse Casting

Today is D-Day. Before I go to sleep tonight I will upload my entry to the New Voices competition. All I need now is a title.

In the meantime, here is a little inside look into my new WIP. I'd like to introduce you to Sylvie and Valentino.



Not sure if you can tell from her picture, but Sylvie is a little uptight. She's going to drive easy-going Valentino more than a little crazy before they realise just how perfect they are for each other. I hope you enjoy their ride!

Post Script: The first chapter of Valentino's Angel is now up for the world to read and comment on: http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/Entries/632-Valentinos-Angel

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blogfest and New Voices

This weekend my other half (literally!) is participating in Blogfest 2010 over at http://raesummers.wordpress.com. There are prizes galore for blog visitors, and Rae is also giving away a DVD to one lucky folllower.

Congratulations to the 160 brave people who have already submitted their contest entries to New Voices. It's becoming very addictive reading! I'd also like to shout out "well done!" to Lorraine Wilson, the first Minx to enter so far. You can read Lorraine's fab entry, In Too Deep, here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Promotion for Authors

My alter ego, Rae Summers, is hosting author Caroline Clemmons today. She's talking about how writers can promote themselves. Please drop by and share your own tips on promotion. http://raesummers.wordpress.com

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy Spring Day!

 Here in South Africa it is officially the first day of spring. Though our seasonal rains have yet to start and the ground is still parched, the air has warmed up sufficiently for buds to be appearing everywhere. Summer is my season, but who can deny the attraction of spring? All those flowers and the green fuzz on the trees - and finally shedding all those layers of winter clothes!

I cannot believe it's only five weeks since I got back from my amazing trip to England. So much has happened that my life has quite literally been turned inside out. I won't bore you with the details, but there have been funerals, home changes, job changes, and the day job has carried on pretty much as it has all year ... manic. (Next week I'll be doing my fourth film shoot since I got back!)

My alter ego, Rae Summers, has completed her August blog tour, the winners have been announced, and I would like to thank everyone who voted for the Let's Misbehave trailer at You Gotta Read Videos. You put me in third place so my book trailer got another posting!

An Innocent Abroad, my next 1920s novella, is now completed and has been sent to the RNA's New Writers' Scheme (just in the nick of time), and I've now started on an entry for the New Voices contest. But best of all, I'm feeling ready to face whatever life is going to throw at me next. I'm embracing the changes and saying "bring it on!" to the universe. That must be the spirit of spring in the air!


So what is your favourite season, and why?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

You Gotta Read Videos

Voting is now open for the book trailer for Let's Misbehave. Please click through and vote for me at http://yougottareadvideos.blogspot.com/2010/08/august-2010-entry-16-lets-misbehave.html.
I'd also be grateful for comments and feedback, so don't be shy!

And because I'm not above a little bribery and corruption, here's cyber chocolate for everyone who votes. There's plenty for everyone, so take as many as you like ....


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wild Roses Blog Tour and Contest

My alter ego, Rae Summers, is currently participating in a blog tour with a group of lovely authors from The Wild Rose Press to promote her release of Let's Misbehave.

At the end of August the tour will be rounded up with an amazing give-away to one lucky commenter. So if you'd like a chance to win, all you have to do is leave a comment on one of the participating blogs during the month of August.

To view the prize, visit Rae's blog at http://raesummers.wordpress.com and leave a comment on one of the blog tour posts.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rome!

It's more than a week since I returned home to South Africa, but here on the blog I still have a whole lot to catch you up on. This holiday just kept on getting better, and trust me, after starting with my first ever romance writing conference, that took some doing.

My oldest and dearest friend (not in age, but in terms of the fact that we've been friends since nursery school) and I made a whirlwind visit to Rome. Yes, the Rome in Italy. That city of dashing romantic heroes, ancient ruins, balmy sunshine and ... crowds and crowds of tourists. Even at midnight the Trevi Fountain was surrounded by hundreds of happy sight-seers.

Rome might be titled the Eternal City, but for me it will forever be the City of Fountains.







We dutifully marvelled at the Pantheon, tramped through the Forum and the Colisseum, window-shopped along the Via dei Condotti, climbed the Spanish Steps, and ate the most mouth-watering pizzas on the Piazza Navona. All in the sweltering heat. But I drew the line at standing in the baking sun for three hours to enter the Vatican, so I only got as close as the vast square in front of St Peters Basilica.



The most precious moments, though, were those we found in the most unexpected places. We dipped our feet in the icy water of a fountain in the Villa Borghese, the Roman version of Hyde Park. We discovered a pool side bar on the River Tiber and stopped for drinks and shade.



And we laughed ourselves silly over these Monty Python-esque statues in the Villa Borghese.


At midnight we sipped coffees in a tiny restaurant close to Trevi, then I joined the throng to throw in my coin and ensure that one day I'll return to Rome.


Monday, July 19, 2010

The Week That Was - updated!

Now updated with the pictures I wasn't able to upload last week thanks to a dodgy internet connection...

On Monday I left Greenwich, and with a day to kill in London before heading to Cambridge with my brother, I spent the day going up and down the river taking hundreds of pictures of buildings along the Thames.


Tuesday was spent in idle content with my sister-in-law in the quaint and quiet village of Horningsea outside Cambridge. I needed a lazy day to recover from the excitement of the RNA conference.

On Wednesday I met up with my oldest and dearest friend and we headed back into London, where we visited the rare few sights I'd somehow managed to miss in all the years I'd spent in London: Harrods and Hyde Park Corner. That evening we had a Girls' Night Out, meeting up with another high school friend for a magnificent Thai dinner and 'Hair', the Broadway revival showing on the West End for only a few more weeks. The show was incredible, and the energy of the performers astounding. My only regret about the show was that the most gorgeous male on the cast (in my humble opinion) was the only one who didn't strip naked!


Then on Thursday I headed down to Surrey to meet my dear friends the Bambers. As Terry was playing stand-in to Honor Blackman at an awards ceremony, Sue and I had a delightfully chatty pub dinner together. [Note: the Running Horses pub at Mickelham in Surrey seems to have a higher than average number of good-looking patrons]. I caught up with Terry the next morning before yet another pub meal, then I made the long haul trek back up to Cambridge for another pub dinner with my brother & sister-in-law.


All pubbed out, I spent a quiet Saturday roaming Horningsea village outside Cambridge and outlining a new contemporary romance. (Which will have to bide its time in the queue!) On Sunday, Marcelle took me out for morning tea at The Orchard, a must-visit eatery at Grantchester that was once frequented by Rupert Brooke and Virginia Woolf, amongst others. Cue another story in my head (and notebook) but this time a new 1920s novella idea. That afternoon I wandered through the extensive house and grounds at Anglesay Abbey, before getting lost among a maze of footpaths in the Cambridgeshire fens.

All in all it has been a non-stop roller coaster ride of a week, but the adventure continues...

I'll be going no-mail and no-internet for the next three days, which also means I won't be able to moderate comments here - though please feel free to leave comments for when I get back. It'll make me feel very loved to get back online and see messages!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Greenwich - last day

Once again, I've been adventuring rather than blogging, but here, at last, is my take on the last day of the RNA conference.

The first talk I attended on Sunday morning was by far my favourite of the whole conference: Sarah Duncan's talk entitled 'Mind the Gap: how to get your manuscript across the publishing divide'. Sarah presented ten points that are essential for hooking the reader, and ended by looking at how to add Pizazz to your writing. Her talk was dynamic, easy to follow, and she illustrated every point in ways that made the talk memorable.

After a coffee and breakfast / snack break I attended Adele Geras' talk on 'Young Love' and writing for the young adult market. I enjoyed the talk, though with a combination of tiredness and the fact that I have no immediate plan to write for teenagers, this was the first talk in which I didn't take serious notes.

Then back into the large auditorium (which was packed!) for Joanna Trollope's key note speech. I was struck by how gaunt she looks, but her words certainly pack a punch that belies her apparent frailty. At one stage in her prepared speech I found myself shifting in my seat and thinking 'I'll have to agree to disagree' as she had some quite uncompromising things to say about romance novels and novelists, including talking about a "poverty of ambition" among women writers. However, she ended her talk on a rallying cry that had me cheering for her and determined to do all I can to raise the public image of women's fiction and women writers.

After the lunch break (and the most delicious chocolate brownies!) I attended Diane Pearson's First Line Workshop which opened my eyes not just to the importance of the opening line (who doesn't know that?!) but to just how much can be conveyed with those opening words. It also made me realise how poor all my opening lines have been so far and that I need to up my game in this respect.

As Fiona Loakes (aka Fiona Harper, though it took me ages to make the connection) was unable to attend the conference for very sad personal reasons, I had a gap in my schedule (much-needed by this point!) and Lorraine Minx and I headed out for Ben & Jerry's ice creams before parting ways. Tempted as I was to have an afternoon nap, I then headed back to Queen Anne Court for the closing talk of the conference: an informal chat session with author Judy Astley.

Thank heavens I still had the pub dinner at Wetherspoons to look forward to, so I didn't get all maudlin over the fact that the conference was now over. The inimitable Gemma Jackson kept me entertained all evening, and it's impossible to be maudlin in Gemma's presence!

I'd like to say a massive thanks to conference organisers Roger Sanderson and Jan Jones for all their hard work in organising such an amazing and seamlessly well run conference.



I'll still be away from home and enjoying a jam-packed holiday schedule for another week but once I'm home and back in my rut (well actually a new rut inspired by the conference) I'll type up my conference notes. If any of you would like notes from a particular talk (or all of them!) just leave a comment here on my blog with your details, or email me through the Contact link on the right, and I'll send them to you once they're ready.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Greenwich - Day 4

Though I'd left the gala dinner reasonably early (and still sober) the night before, it was an effort to drag myself out of bed and back to Queen Anne Court on Saturday morning. I should have planned my holiday for before the conference rather than after, though waking to my first ever book review (and such a fantastic one) did give me some impetus.

Another hot and sunny day began with jay Dixon's talk on Adding Colour to your Novel, which covered exactly that: the meanings and uses of colours, especially important in historicals. jay's tips on making use of colour associations, and carrying a colour through your novel (for example, to represent a secondary character) really stuck with me.

Sadly I then had to miss Nell Dixon's talk on Believable Secondary Characters as I had an appointment to meet the editor from Mills & Boon who requested a new partial from me after last year's Presents contest. (Sadly? I met my editor!) The interview went well, with the editor complimenting the interaction between my hero and heroine, and the dialogue. She also gave me a few points to ponder, so I went away with ideas tumbling through my head.

Then on into Kate Walker's talk on Conflict, which started on a high (See left and you'll know what I mean!). A lot of what Kate covered wasn't new to me, but it's an important topic and always worth reiterating. Best of all, coming on the heels of my editor appointment, what Kate shared with us helped to resolve the jumble in my head.

Lunch was followed by a talk by various Mills&Boon editors on 'How to increase your Page Turning Quality in the 21st Century'. Sounds like a mouthful, but really the gist was simple: they're looking for fresh voices and fresh ideas. The insight given into the new directions their contemporary lines are taking was very exciting so it was an inspirational hour.

Imogen Howson's talk on publisher Samhain (pronounced exactly as it's written and not with the original Gaelic pronunciation) was equally inspirational, as much because of Imogen's enthusiasm and encouragement as the idea of an author-friendly publisher hungry for stories and going places.

Liz Fenwick and Kate Johnson's chat about Social Media and how to use it for promotion was a delightful end to the day, informative but not too much on top of the saturation of information in my head.

My co-Minxes and I then got so caught up in chatting that we arrived a little late at the evening barbecue where we carried on chatting ... and we carried on chatting back in our accommodation long after the barbecue. I still find it amazing that we hit it off just as well in person as we had on-line.

Below are Minxes Lorraine and Jo with Romance writer Nina Harrington at the barbecue.



PS: I neglected to mention that I managed to spill champagne all over my dinner companions at the gala. Sorry, ladies!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Greenwich - Day 3

For me the third day of my adventure, but really this was the first day of the RNA's 50th anniversary conference: the Industry Day.

The day (in fact the entire weekend) was blessed with sunshine, though the sultry heat was occassionally overwhelming. The speakers of the day were mostly publishers and agents, giving us writers the insider view on publishing - fortunately not all doom and gloom. Again and again the message was reinforced: even though fewer titles are being bought and publishers are taking fewer risks, a good book still has every chance of being published.


After registration and Katie Fforde's welcome introduction, we were straight into the first talk of the day, by Charlotte Bush and Rob Waddington of Random House. The major gist of their talk was the importance for writers to understand their market.

Next up was David Shelley of Little Brown who spoke about changes in the market place, including the rise of supermarkets and digital, as well as current trends.

Then after lunch editorial consultants Jane Eastgate and Sally Cummings spoke about what writers can do to make their work stand out for an editor. Sadly they didn't really have the magic answer of 'what is the X-Factor?'

Then my personal favourite of the day: four writers published in the US (two of whom live in the US) spoke about the differences between the UK and US markets in an open Q&A session that was both lively and informative. Thanks ladies!

[From left to right: agent Erin Niumata, writers Janet Mullany, Nicola Cornick and Rosemary Laurey]

The working day ended with another informal chat session, this time with 5 writers each representing different decades of the RNA, and obviously focussing on the RNA itself in this anniversary year.

The day was not by any means over yet. We dressed up in our glad rags and hit the Trafalgar Tavern for a delicious dinner, with champagne, conversation and speeches at the historic Trafalgar Tavern. I'll admit to falling into bed with exhaustion that night.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Greenwich - Day 2

[Okay, so anyone who knows what day of the week it is will know I'm a few days behind, but please bear with me - I'm having so much fun!]


My first full day in Greenwich was actully spent doing touristy things, and I was blessed with a gloriously warm and sunny day in which to do it. I wandered through the market and then visited the part of Greenwich that I'd somehow missed on nearly half a dozen previous visits: Maritime Greenwich.


Christopher Wren's complex of buildings are grand and awe-inspiring. The chapel and Painted Hall (a dining hall built for retired sailors) are both incredible in their detail and sumptuousness. Most of the buildings are now occupied by the University of Greenwich, but one is used by the Trinity College of Music. Words cannot describe how it feels to stroll passed, with the Thames glistening silver on one side, a fgraceful tree-lined avenue on the other, and to hear the sounds of beautiful music drifting down from the windows above.

I also visited the Queen's House, a small graceful villa built for the early Stuart queens. Now an art gallery, it is still possible to imagine the rooms as they once were, filled with ladies in waiting in gorgeous dresses and, later, lords and ladies in powdered wigs and frills. In one room I stumbled onto an interesting surprise: among all the naval paintings was one of a pretty young lady, a painting that looked familiar. It was Emma Hamilton. And the painting beside it was of a young man with an attractive but serious face and the label 'Horatio Nelson'. I've only ever seen portraits of him older (or dying) but suddenly seeing these two side by side I could understand how they fell in love.

And on that romantic note, I promise that my next post really will be about the Romantic Novelists Association conference!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Greenwich - Day 1

I'm here! When I get the chance I'll upload a few conference photos.

I'm actually going to start this series of blogs at Day -1: my flight. I flew to England on Wednesday, on my first ever day flight. What an amazing experience! It is unbelievable to be able to look down on Africa from such an unusual viewpoint, seeing rivers and mountains.

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring part of the journey was flying over the Sahara. For the first time I grasped the scale and the sheer desolation of this desert. For approximately 4 hours the plane just flies and flies and below us was nothing but a constant sea of sand, broken only by the shadows of the couds beneath us and the lines that edge the windswept dunes.

Sunshine over the Sahara, over the Mediterranean coastline, mountainous islands in the sea of blue, the Alps with sno-covered valleys that seem untouched by humans, the fields of Frnace - and then, as we hit the channel, a solid blanket of cloud - both below and above us.

London was surprisingly hot and humid, and it took me hours to get across town to Greenwich. And that's where I'll pick up tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Let's Misbehave

Today is release day! You can now download Let's Misbehave from www.thewildrosepress.com for your reading pleasure.

As you read this, I'm currently in mid-air on my way to London to attend my first ever romance writing conference (the RNA's 50th anniversary conference at the University of Greenwich). If you'd like to find out more about Let's Misbehave, visit my alias' blog at http://raesummers.wordpress.com.

From tomorrow until Monday I'll be running a contest there, and you could be the one lucky winner who wins a free copy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thank you for the music

I'd like to thank Stephenie Meyer for introducing me to a whole range of wonderful music I'd never heard before. Thanks to her dedications to Muse in every single one of the Twilight novels, I decided to have a listen to the music. At the risk of using a seriously over-used word: Awesome!

So I made a new year's resolution for 2010 to broaden my music experience, and so far I've had a good run. Each month I've tried out a new band and along the way I've discovered some real gems, like Thirty Seconds to Mars and the inspiring Coldplay (yes, I know, I must be the last person on earth to catch on!)

But it's only mid-year and I've run out of ideas. Anyone have any suggestions on what bands I should try next?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fairy tales really do come true

To every critic who says that romance novels are escapist (well, okay, they are!) and unrealistic, all I have to say is ... bah humbug!

Ordinary young girls really do grow up to marry princes. It may not happen every day, but every 2-3 years, give or take, is still good odds. For the most recent in a string of European royal engagements and weddings worthy of any self-respecting romance novel, click here.

Okay, so the ages of hero and heroine are not exactly category romance material, but this story still has Cinderella stamped all over it. The young woman who has won the heart of the playboy prince is a former school teacher. (And she's South African too!)

Though perhaps the best fairy stories of all take place quietly around the world every day, as young girls grow up to be princesses. And most magical of all, these days they don't need a man to make all their dreams come true.

Though I'll admit that the princes are a wonderful bonus!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Burn out

I've been running at full tilt for so long that I just can't seem to stop. I've always been a strictly 8 hour's sleep a night person, but this year I've learned to survive on just six a night. I thought I was coping fine, but I finally realised it was just the momentum keeping me going.

On Monday, when I posted the wrong message to the wrong Yahoo group (a promo ad to a group that bans people for posting promos!) I suddenly realised that I'm not coping, and I'm headed for burn out. Even worse, that burn out will probably hit the moment I slow down - or in other words, as soon as I arrive at the RNA conference in July. As I don't want that, I'd better start taking things easy, starting right now!

I was told a year ago that one of the issues I need to deal with in my life is creating boundaries. Or in simple terms: learning to say 'no' to things. Over this past year I've learned to say 'no' quite well in my personal life, but it's something I still struggle with at work. How do you say 'no' to a boss who is paying you a salary you really need? I finally have the answer: you hit rock bottom and you just stop jumping when they say 'jump'. On Monday I was handed another project to do. I still have three open projects on my desk that need to be closed. I may not be able to say 'no', but this new project is going to sit in the inbox and wait it's turn. And if anyone has anything to say, they're about to discover the monster I can be when I'm sleep deprived.



So if you don't see me hanging out in Blogland, or I take a while to respond to emails, please forgive me.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I have a release date!

Let's Misbehave will be available from The Wild Rose Press from 7th July!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Have to Haves

The world has to keep turning. Our planet has to have a sun for life to exist. The human brain has to have oxygen. People have to have access to clean drinking water. Babies have to be fed. We all need to love and be loved.

A film shoot for a TV ad does not have to lock off a busy double carriageway during rush hour traffic in order to put a camera crew in the middle of the road.

It is so easy in our hectic, over-stimulated modern lives to get our priorities mixed up. And it is exceptionally difficult to maintain balance and stay focussed when you work in an industry as surreal and self-obsessed as advertising.

For a while now I've been attempting to de-clutter my life, and I'm discovering that it has more to do with a state of mind than material possessions. To gain true happiness in life we need to return to basics. We need to get our priorities straight.

Yes, earning an income is important for survival in the urban jungle. But for our sanity, and the health of our souls, we need to put that income and how we earn it in it's rightful place. If you work as a nurse or a paramedic, a fireman or a police officer, or even a teacher, then what you do to earn that income might possibly take precedence over common sense, consideration of others, and over your loved ones. Might.

For me, I'm slowly learning to put my priorities back where they belong. Front and centre on my family and friends, and on my own soul's health. And so I'm compiling a list of the true 'have to haves' in life. Those things that we need to stay focussed on and put ahead of every other consideration.

What do you consider a 'have to have'? Do you feel your priorities are well balanced, or influenced by the demands others place on you? I'd love to know what you think - please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vote for your favourite hero

Please pop over to http://saromancewriters.blogspot.com and vote for your favourite hero. Warrior, Latino, or All-American ... drool over the pictures and cast your vote.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Unputdownable

I have a confession to make.

Last night I agreed to a Minxy Write-a-thon and then dropped out.

I had every intention of spending at least an hour or so on my rewrites, but I was just so exhausted that the laptop screen was waving before my eyes (much like it's doing right now!) I need 8 hours a night of sleep to function well so the 5-6 hours I've been averaging lately is catching up with me. I climbed into bed early with every intention of getting a really good night's sleep. Before going to sleep I decided to read just one chapter of India Grey's recent novel Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper.

I finally went to sleep at 1am. So much for a good night's sleep.

India Grey's books are unputdownable, so I should have known better. My pillow was soaked with tears and I just couldn't stop reading until Sarah got the Happy Ever After she so deserved.

If you haven't already read this one, do. It's worth sacrificing a night of sleep for. And worth my bleary eyes today too.