Glitter, glamour and pink champagne!

On 7th March – which also happened to be our 7th wedding anniversary – my DH, Ian, and I set off to London to attend my first ever Romantic Novel Awards (RoNAs). Even more exciting than attending the most prestigious event in the RNA calendar was that my second published novel, From Wallflower to Countess, had been shortlisted for the RoNA Rose, which celebrates the best in shorter or category romance.

We parted company at Euston, as I had a lunch date with my publishers, Harlequin Mills & Boon, together with their other shortlisted authors: Annie O’Neil, who writes for the Medical series, and Scarlet Wilson, who writes for Cherish.  The lunch, at the glamorous Northall restaurant in the Corinthia Hotel, was hosted by Joanne Grant, HMB senior executive editor, and was also attended by each shortlisted title’s editor – including my editor, Julia Williams – and other senior editors.

I still haven’t trained myself to take photos of everything, and maybe that’s a good thing, as I now can’t bore you with pictures of the sumptuous food and numerous glasses of prosecco we enjoyed at the Northall 😉

The Corinthia Hotel is just around the corner from the Gladstone Library where the evening ceremony was to take place so, after lunch and a quick change, Annie, Scarlet and I made our way to the Gladstone as we had been asked to arrive early for photos to be taken. The two other authors shortlisted for the RoNA Rose award also arrived early – they are both Choc Lit authors: my good friend and fellow Anti Doubt-Crow, Alison May, and Angela Britnell – and then there was nothing left to do but partake of the free champagne until the event kicked off at 6.30.

Here is the photo of the five of us who were shortlisted for the RoNA Rose:

From L to R: Annie O'Neil, Scarlet Wilson, Janice Preston, Alison May (behind), Angela Britnell.

From L to R: Annie O’Neil, Scarlet Wilson, Janice Preston, Alison May (behind), Angela Britnell

 

2016-03-07 18.09.36

Ian arrived in time for the evening party, and he sneaked into the main room to take a photo of the Library which provided a magnificent backdrop for the actual awards.

 

It was lovely to meet up with friends old and new and, as ever, the noise rose to near-deafening levels as more and more romantic novelists (not all women, by any means!) arrived.

2016-03-07 19.13.58The ceremony – full of glitter and glamour, with pink champagne flowing – was introduced by the RNA chair, the very charming Eileen Ramsay and compered in her usual entertaining style by the inimitable Jane Wenham-Jones, with Fern Britton in attendance to present the trophies.

Well, reader, I may have failed in my first attempt at bringing one of those beautiful crystal stars home, but I consider myself a winner to have been shortlisted amongst so many talented writers. The very lovely and very funny Annie O’Neil triumphed in the RoNA Rose category with her medical romance Doctor… to Duchess?

The winners of each category are standing at the back of the photo. RoNA16 winners, Fern Britton, Anita Burgh, Claire LorrimerFrom left to right, they are:

Emma Hannigan, The Secrets We Share – winner of the Epic Romantic Novel

Milly Johnson, Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Café – winner of the Romantic Comedy Novel

Iona Grey, Letters to the Lost – winner of the Historical Romantic Novel

Annie O’Neil, Doctor… To Duchess? – winner of the RoNA Rose

Lucy Inglis, Crow Mountain – winner of the Young Adult Romantic Novel

Melanie Hudson, The Wedding Cake Tree – winner of the Contemporary Romantic Novel

Two amazing authors were also honoured with Lifetime Achievement Awards, and they are pictured at the front of the photo: Anita Burgh and Claire Lorimer, flanking guest presenter Fern Britton.

The overall winner of the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year 2016 was Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey. I can’t wait to read it, and all the other winning titles too!

I must include my appreciation of all the people who worked so hard behind the scenes to make a success of the evening. I will not attempt to name them, as I’m certain to miss someone out, but they know who they are! And I also wish to add my thanks to my publishers, Harlequin Mills & Boon, not only for inviting me as their guest on the night (and not forgetting that delicious lunch!) but for taking a chance with an unknown writer and helping me realise my dream of becoming a published author. Without them, I would not have been in that shortlist on Monday night!

It was an evening to treasure, made more special by having Ian by my side – the first time he has attended an RNA event. I hope it won’t be the last.

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

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Exciting news…

I’ve known this for a few weeks now but having the news made official somehow makes it more real:

From Wallflower to Countess has been shortlisted for the RoNA Rose Award!

Yay!

To say I’m excited is an understatement. But I am also very honoured to be listed among so many talented authors, not only those in the RoNA Rose category – which is for the best in category/series and shorter romance – but also those who have been shortlisted in the five other categories.

Here are the five books shortlisted for the RoNA Rose.

2016 Rona Rose

A special mention here for my good friend, Alison May, who is also shortlisted in the RoNA Rose category, and who I met through the Birmingham chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). You can read her blog on being shortlisted here.

The RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards) celebrate the best in romantic fiction. They are awarded every year by the RNA and it is fair to say that without the help and support of the RNA and its members, I would not be celebrating today. The generosity of experienced, already-published members in helping, guiding and encouraging new writers is extraordinary.

Until I joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in 2012 I had never even spoken to another writer. I had no idea how much I didn’t know about the craft of writing a novel. But I was willing to learn and – with the help of Regency writers such as Sarah Mallory and Louise Allen – I was eventually offered a publishing contract by Mills & Boon. Until ‘The Call’ in November 2013, I had hardly even dared to dream…

Which brings me neatly to my publishers, Mills & Boon, and the fabulous UK editorial team, who sent me these beautiful flowers today!

image1

The tickets for the RoNAs also arrived in today’s post, so I thought they deserved their place in the photo too 🙂

All I can say is – roll on March 7th, and Awards night. Good luck to everyone who has been shortlisted – it’ll be an evening to remember, whoever wins. For there is another truism about the RNA – we sure know how to party!

A Peeress in her own right

NA Front cover Return of Scandal's Son

My new book, Return of Scandal’s Son, is out now.

It is the first of two linked books published under the title Men About Town, Traders in Temptation. The second book, Saved by Scandal’s Heir, will be out in the first half of 2016.

The heroine of Return of Scandal’s Son, Eleanor, Baroness Ashby, is that rarity: a peeress in her own right.

The earliest English baronies were created by a writ of summons to Parliament (rather than by letters patent as later became the norm). The remainders of these baronies by writ devolve upon the ‘heirs-general’ rather than being limited to male heirs, meaning an only daughter can inherit the barony (but not if there is any male progeny, even if he is younger than her). It’s interesting that, if there are two or more daughters the eldest does not inherit, but the title will fall into abeyance until the co-heirs can come to an honourable agreement as to which of them will claim the title. The claimant must then petition The Crown to have the abeyance terminated.

I really enjoyed writing about Eleanor – she is loyal, courageous and independent but her outer confidence masks a deep insecurity at her core. She is also impulsive at times, and I knew she needed a resilient hero. Enter Matthew:  strong and honourable, but with a secret in his past that could easily damage Eleanor’s determination to be fully accepted by Society and to gain admittance to Almack’s Assembly Rooms.

I thought it would be fun to see how a proud man like Matthew would cope with falling for a wealthier, higher-ranking woman than him.

If you have read Mary and the Marquis you might like to know that Eleanor is the cousin of Lucas, Marquis of Rothley. Lucas’s mother, Lucy, is Eleanor’s chaperone, and his younger brother, Lord Hugo Alastair, also makes an appearance.

You can read the first chapter of Return of Scandal’s Son by following the Books tab at the top of this page.

Available for purchase now:

  • Amazon.co.uk – click here
  • Amazon.com    – click here

I also wrote a book this summer!

In my last blog, I was all set to tell you what I have been up to all summer (writing-wise, I mean). Instead, it turned into a confession about my tendency to procrastinate and a (very) late snippet about the RNA summer conference.

So, back to the book I was writing, which is the second of two linked books published under the tagline Men About Town, Traders in Temptation… (shameless plug – the first, Return of Scandal’s Son, is out in October. Read the first chapter here).

There were times I despaired of finishing in time for the July 1st deadline. It’s strange, because it was a book I wanted to write. I knew the set up, and where the characters had come from, so in theory it should have flowed. It did not. I wonder if the mistake I made was in trying to plan it too much. I like the idea of planning – it seems the sensible, grown-up, professional thing to do – but when the incident I had planned to come towards the end of the book insisted on taking place in the middle, I decided to abandon the plan and follow my instincts as I have in the past and, finally, the story began to emerge. I managed to hit my deadline and sent it off to my editor with much trepidation. I was so close to the story by then I couldn’t view it with any objectivity and I didn’t have the time to allow it to ‘stew’ before the final read through.

Fortunately, my editor loved it. Inevitably, there were revisions.

Now, just to continue with the ‘this book did not behave as I expected it to’ theme – I looked at the revisions and thought ‘they’re not so bad’. Normally, I read the revisions and have a little cry and a little swear before knuckling down and discovering they’re better than I feared. These turned out to be trickier than I anticipated. The simple request to change the timings between two scenes quite early on in the book proved a real challenge, with changes of points of view and all that entails. There was also a new scene to write in the middle of the book and an epilogue to add, as well as the usual minor queries. I was asked if I could get the revisions back to my editor before she went on holiday, giving me a little under two weeks to get them done.

I started them in a state of calm confidence. By the time I finished them I was a gibbering wreck and my husband was treading very carefully indeed! But, luckily, my editor loved them and so, dear reader, my fourth book is now done and dusted. It is called Saved by Scandal’s Heir, will be out in the first half of 2016, and it will feature some old friends, so watch out for it!

It’s been a busy summer…

The last line of my blog Working with an Editor, Part 2, way back in March, was… Yikes! I’d better get writing. And, in the main, that’s what I’ve been doing. Alongside procrastinating, although not productively; I could have blogged (that’s always a good procrastination technique) but I didn’t. I procrastinated about that as well. This is turning into a confessional, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be easier just to blog regularly, and save myself having to make lame excuses? Yes, and yes again. But I doubt I’ll change!

I should have blogged in July about the fabulous RNA Conference at Queen Mary’s University, London, but by the time I got around to it the moment, as they say, had passed. So many others had already written great blogs on the subject, any contribution of mine would surely be superfluous. And then the revisions on my work in progress came in (see my next blog for more about that!) and the decision was made.

'Jazz hands'

‘Jazz hands’

 

But, so that the moment doesn’t quite slip by without at least a nod from me, here is a photo of some friends and me at Saturday night gala dinner, which took place in the stunning Octagon Library.

Octagon Library July 2015

Thanks to Wendy Harris for the ‘Jazz hands’ photo and to Lynn Forth for the photo of the library setting for the dinner.

Midsummer Dreams … and nightmares.

Today is the launch of the lovely Alison May’s brand new romantic comedy, Midsummer Dreams. To celebrate with Alison I, and a number of other writers, are today blogging on the theme of all things dream-related.

First, a little about Alison’s book. Isn’t the cover fabulous?

MIDSUMMER_FRONT

About Midsummer Dreams

Four people. Four messy lives. One party that changes everything …
Emily is obsessed with ending her father’s new relationship – but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect.
Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he’s hardly noticed he’s not happy himself.
Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers.
Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach.
At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not always the right one.

You can download the kindle edition of Midsummer Dreams here: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00XJOEJTM

Now, dreams…

My actual dreams rarely make sense and all I can recall are fleeting fragments. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to read about them! So instead I shall reveal my ‘dream’, which is to make enough money from writing to earn a comfortable living. Was that a hollow laugh? I won’t take it personally—it’s hard for anyone to earn sufficient to have no need of supplementary income so, yes, it is possibly a pipe-dream but it’s there in my subconscious nevertheless. Along with a room overlooking the coastline—the wilder and more rugged the better (and where the cliffs are never subject to erosion, of course!) and a villa somewhere hot where I could write overlooking an Italian lake or the Mediterranean. Yup, definitely a pipe-dream!

My nightmare and, in fact, this nightmare is both real and regular. It’s not the stuff of monsters or murderers, but the nightmare of being late. Sounds innocuous, doesn’t it? The nightmare always centres around me hurrying to get ready to go somewhere but the harder I try the more everything goes wrong: the shower won’t work; people interrupt me; the toast burns. But the very worst part is getting dressed. Clothes don’t fit. They disintegrate in my hands. Sometimes I simply can’t find any and while I rush around half-dressed, the clock keeps ticking—I’m half an hour behind… an hour… longer. I get increasingly panicked until I wake up, disorientated and with a feeling of impending disaster. Suffice it to say, with that as my nightmare, I’m always conscious of being on time! Deadlines, of course, can become a waking nightmare—one of the reasons this blog has been sadly neglected of late. Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something!

My dream for the future…I’m going global for this one. The usual world peace and freedom from hunger and disease for all almost goes without saying. What sane person wouldn’t want those? But what I dream of for a better world is for everyone to use just a tad more tolerance, patience and kindness with others, starting with the everyday interactions such as when driving or queuing, for instance. Showed others a little more respect would go a long way to making this world a better place to live, in my opinion. Sadly, society appears to be rushing headlong in the opposite direction.

So, there you have it. My take on the subject of dreams. What are your dreams or nightmares? I’d love to hear about them.

And, in the meantime, here is the link to the kindle edition of Midsummer Dreams again. http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00XJOEJTM

Facing a fear – my first talk

Yesterday was another first. I gave a talk at my local library—my first talk as a published author. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the ‘audience’ (it seems a rather grand title for a small event) was the relatively newly-formed creative writing group, and I also knew that my library had informed a couple more local libraries of the talk in case their creative writing groups or book groups might like to come along. I originally intended to publicise the talk on Facebook, through my membership of a couple of local Facebook groups but, in the end, decided against it as it was my first time.

When I first agreed to do the talk I was a touch blasé. It’ll be fine, thought I. It was only the day before that the knot of nerves in my stomach threatened to overwhelm me and, by the time I arrived at the library (on high heels that already pinched as I hobbled up the stairs), I was deeply regretting my initial bravado. I felt unprepared and the old adage ‘Fail to prepare and prepare to fail’ kept buzzing around my head.

As it happened, it was great. It was informal—we all sat around a large table (thank God. Remember those heels!)—and it felt more like a chat than a talk, albeit with me doing most of the chatting. There were 7 people there, including my friend, Morton Gray, who came with me as chief cheerleader. I talked about how I came to be published: from my ambition as an 8 year old to be an author, to the way ‘real life’ gets in the way, to the moment I got ‘The Call’.

I had written a few prompts, mainly to keep my timeline straight (sounds like writing a novel, doesn’t it?). Also, knowing that one of the questions I am asked most frequently is ‘How long does it take you to write a book’ (to which I normally mumble and fudge my way around the answer), I set out to find out how long it does actually take me. Answer? I don’t know. The three books I have completed so far have been started and stopped and interrupted by Nanowrimo (http://nanowrimo.org/ ) and editing demands of the previous books and real life too many times to count. I even created an Excel sheet to try and reach an answer (now that’s a grand way to procrastinate!) but I am still no wiser. As it happens, nobody did ask that question which is just as well.

We had a lovely Q&A session at the end, finding out what everyone was writing and whether publication was the ultimate aim and, afterwards, one of the ladies attending asked me if I would be interested in giving a talk to a local Townswomen’s Guild. Of course, I said ‘yes’, particularly on being told they have a budget for speakers ;-).

Afterwards, I treated Morton to a cappuccino and we reminisced about how far we have come since we first met 3 years ago at our local RNA chapter lunch. The questions asked after my talk were the same questions we were asking back then. Now, we are supplying the answers.

Have you had any experience of speaking in public and do you have any top tips for people, like me, who are just getting started?