Filling in the gaps

Greetings!

I haven’t blogged since May and it’s now September, and where, exactly, did the summer disappear to? Mind you, if you do follow my blog you already know my output is sporadic at best!

Contrary to my lack of activity on my blog, it has been a busy time for me, so here is a whiz through my summer.

I’m delighted to say I signed another two book contract with Harlequin Mills & Boon at the end of April, plus a contract for a Regency novella which will be released for Christmas 2017. The deadlines for the 2 books were 31st August 2016 and 31st January 2017 – which seemed doable as I had already prepared outlines (unusual for me) – until I realised the deadline for the novella was 14th February 2017, just 2 weeks after the deadline for book #7!

So I have had my head down since then, writing book #6 (provisionally titled Duke in Disguise). It was hard going for a while and more than once I feared I would never make the deadline, which happened to be just two days before my husband and I set off on holiday, leaving me no room to manoeuvre. But I made it. Phew. Now my nerves are being soundly wracked as I await my editor’s verdict.

In the spring I was interviewed on our local BBC radio station as part of their community takeover event. I met Maggie, the interviewer, through a talk I gave to a writing group at my local library, and she asked if I would be willing to be interviewed by her on the radio. It took place at her house rather than at the radio station, which would have been more intimidating, and after our initial bout of ‘um’s and ‘er’s we managed just fine.

You can listen to me bumbling away here, if you so wish.

13450233_1069924789764564_7041841818167580376_nIn June I took part in a Love at the Library event at Harbury Library, with Ellie Darkins, who writes for the Mills & Boon Cherish line. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves despite our nerves beforehand. We spoke about the history of Mills & Boon and how we came to be writing for them (I’ve blogged about my journey before – you can read about it here) and then we held a Q&A session. The audience were lovely!

Then in July I sat on a panel at the inaugural Evesham Festival of Words with fellow local authors Alison May and Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn.

j-a-me-cropped1-250x1521Our event was ‘Inside the minds of three authors’ and, after each reading an excerpt from our work, we discussed why we write what we write and our different approaches to writing. Again, the audience were fabulous which helped to settle my nerves.

I found with all three events that my nerves vanished as soon as I got going, and I realised the same thing happens with many of life’s challenges – perhaps it is the surge of adrenalin as I swing into action ;-).

Does that ever happen to you?

Until next time,

Janice x

 

 

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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!

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!

My Latest Book, From Wallflower to Countess, is out now!

UK cover From Wallflower to CountessMy second Regency romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon, From Wallflower to Countess, is out now as both a paperback and an ebook.

I first met the hero, Richard, the Earl of Stanton, many years ago when he was a drop dead gorgeous secondary character in my first ever attempt at writing a Regency romance. That attempt has not yet seen the light of day, but I always knew Richard would have his own story one day. I had no idea which lucky lady would share his journey until, one day, he ran up the stairs in his shirtsleeves and came face-to-face with an unprepossessing but sparky spinster who had absolutely no intention of ever getting married.

One year on from that meeting, Lady Felicity Weston’s fear of unrequited love is as strong as ever, but her circumstances have changed. She begs her mother to find her a quiet, unremarkable gentleman with whom she might be content, little realising she will end up with Society’s most eligible bachelor.

Here is an excerpt:

‘This is ridiculous. You are right. If we are to wed, we need to understand one another. And, I admit I have doubts. Not about you. Well, that is…’ She paused, her brows drawn together in a frown. ‘No, that is untrue. It is about you, but it is about me, also. You and me. Together. You see, I hadn’t thought…I never presumed to be presented with such a…such a…catch, if you do not object to my calling you that?’

Richard bit back a smile. He had been called a catch many times, he was aware, but never to his face before. And never by an earnest-faced female who appeared to believe herself unworthy of a ‘catch’ such as he.

‘You may call me what you will,’ he said, ‘as long as you promise not to use such insultingly offensive terms that I shall be forced to take umbrage.’

She laughed, revealing a glimpse of white teeth. ‘Umbrage? I always thought that to be a state applied to elderly dowagers. Do you sporting gentlemen consider it a fittingly masculine trait, my lord?’

This was better. The spirited girl he remembered from last year had surfaced, her face alive with laughter, her eyes bright.

‘Perhaps umbrage does not quite convey the precise meaning I hoped to convey,’ he conceded. ‘Which word, in your opinion, should I have used, if I am to portray a suitably manly image to my future wife?’

Disquiet skimmed her expression, then vanished. Had he imagined it? Was it the bald reminder that she would be his wife that had disturbed her? Her countenance was now neutral, but her eyes remained watchful and she made no attempt to answer him.

‘Would you have preferred me to use “offence” perhaps, or “exception”?’ He leaned closer to her, and said, ‘I do not, you notice, suggest “outrage” for that, I fear, would not meet with your approval any more than “umbrage”. It is too synonymous with spinsters, would you not—?’

Felicity stiffened. ‘Do not make fun of me, sir. I may be a spinster and, therefore, in your eyes, a poor, undesired thing, but I have feelings and I have pride.’

‘Felicity, I promise I intended no slight. The thought never crossed my mind that you might think I was making fun of you. I was…I was… Oh, confound it! Come here.’

He had run out of words. He clasped her shoulders and drew her close. A finger beneath her chin tilted her face to his. He searched her eyes. They were shuttered. She was rigid in his arms. Was she scared? Had she never known a man’s kiss? The thought, strangely, pleased him: knowing his wife had never experienced another man’s touch. But he must take care not to frighten her. He lowered his head, slowly, and put his lips to hers.

He almost recoiled in shock. He had expected ice. What he felt was fire.

The Prologue and Chapter 1 can be read by clicking on My Books/ From Wallflower to Countess /Prologue and Chapter 1 from the menu at the top of the page.

Working with an Editor, Part 2

Last time I blogged, I had just submitted the manuscript of my third Regency to my editor and I was wondering how many, and how onerous, the ‘tweaks’ might prove to be. As it happened, I needn’t have worried as I’m pleased to say no major changes were required, just the fairly customary request to bring more emotional depth to the story. When I read my editor’s comments I was actually pleased to realise that she had picked up on a few aspects of the story that I knew, subconsciously, had become rather lost in the action.

With a series romance for a publisher like Mills & Boon, the story is driven much more by the inner conflicts of the hero and the heroine than by any external plot. I tend to do a lot of work on the back stories of my characters before I ever start to write so I know there is enough emotional depth to sustain the story. I also learn how they are likely to react in different situations – although they do sometimes surprise me! The problem is, I decide on something in, say, the heroine’s past that will stand in the way of her ‘Happy Ever After’ with the hero, but I then fail to make that ‘barrier’ seem important enough to her. So a gentle reminder from my editor that this is a strong part of her emotional conflict then prompts me to bring it to the fore.

Fortunately, my editor approved my revisions and the manuscript has already been line edited and is now with the copy editor. The last time I see it will be for the Author Alterations (AAs), when I will read it through carefully and make any final changes. It is expected at this stage that any changes are minor, and I treat this as a final proof read before finalisation.

The book has been retitled Return of Scandal’s Son, and it will be published in October 2015, meaning I’ll have two books published this year, which is great. I’m hoping that, with the change of title, there will be a hunky hero on the cover! I can’t wait to see who they choose!

Meanwhile, the publication date for From Wallflower to Countess is drawing ever closer, and I have a deadline of July 1st for book 4 – not only, as yet, untitled but also (apart from 3000 or so words) unwritten.

Yikes! I’d better get writing!