Sunday, April 29, 2007

The RNA award lunch

Last Friday was the glamour event of the British romance publishing -- the annual presentation of the Romantic Novel of the Year and the Romance Prize at the Savoy.

If you have ever seen the film Notting Hill, you will know how splendid the Savoy is. Among other things, it is the only place in Britain where they drive on wrong side of the road.

Mod X and Little Black Dress author, Julie Cohen and I arrived in a cab. Julie as befits her website was wearing a black top and orange skirt. I was in a teal blue Monsoon outfit.

The lunch begins with a champagne reception. As it is very much an industry function, editors and agents are there. Mills and Boon editor Joanne Carr lived up to reputation and wore a splendid pair of shoes. My daughter whispered to me that she looked just like a model. Anne Herries and Catherine George, two of the finalists were there -- both with huge smiles on their faces.

We were then summoned to lunch. On the tables, were programmes of the day's events. The cover was a cartoon by Bestie, highlighting the joys of reading romance on public transportation. The top table came in last.

The food was delicious -- goat cheese and onion tart for starters, chicken with vagatables (my daughter was not overly fond of the potatoes and almond combo), and a treacle tart with raspberries and vanilla ice cream for pudding. The vanilla ice cream was made with a vanilla pod and tasted fantastic.

Then came the awards -- Rosie Thomas won the Romantic Novel of the year for Iris & Ruby. And Nell Dixon won The Romance Prize for Marrying Max. Nell was flabbergasted, and I had to pull her up from her chair and gently shove her towards the podium. As I had insisted that Nell enter the book, I felt like a very proud fairy godmother.

Modern/Presents Author Sharon Kenderick managed colour coordinate her cast with her purple outfit. New presents author India Grey was there looking stunning in black. She is a warm and lovely person. Kate Walker also looked great in her white top and dark skirt combo. And the shoes these women wear were -- well stunning.
It was a wonderful event, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Michelle Styles

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sandra Marton Says, Rain, Rain Go Away...

Here in New England, nor'easters are a part of life. A nor'easter, for those lucky enough never to have experienced one, is a major storm that blows up the east coast of the United States with horrendous winds and lots of snow.

Except, this is April. The weatherman doesn't seem to have noticed because the temps here are miserably cold and if there's a sun up there behind those clouds, we haven't seen it in a while. And April is definitely not nor'easter time.

Nevertheless, a nor'easter blew in late Saturday night and spent the weekend and part of today with us. In deference to the fact that it's April, the storm brought rain rather than snow. And I do mean RAIN!!! There's a river a couple of miles from us that's usually shallow and placid. Today, it's running as if the hounds of hell were after it.

Along with the rain came wind. I could hear stuff hitting our house all last night. In fact, I figured looking outside this morning would be, for lack of a better word, interesting. We have lots and lots (and lots) of trees. Well, we lost a number of branches but, thank goodness, no trees. And the bulbs our son planted on the slope in front of our house last fall came through just fine. (The dozens of bulbs, tulips and daffs and gorgeous blue things with a name I can't recall, plus the hard work of planting them, were an anniversary gift from our son and daughter-in-law last June. It was, without question, one of the most loving, most thoughtful gifts we've ever received.)

Back to our nor'easter. It's Monday evening and the rain has tapered off. The wind has pretty much stopped. The sky is the color of tarnished pewter but I do know that it's Spring, thanks to the bulbs poking through the soil. And I just heard the pair of Barred Owls who live in our woods calling to each other as they set out on their nightly hunt. Those calls are a sure sign Spring is really here, no matter how gloomy it looks in our part of New England.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Writing Linked Books by Kate Walker

Some readers love linked books, others are not so keen on them, so for me the important thing about writing books in my own self-contained mini-series, the important thing is to make sure that each book stands on its own and tells one separate story. Then any reader who picks up one story doesn’t have to buy and read all the other books in the series to make sense of the whole story.

I was reminded of this only this week when a reader wrote to me, asking about the books in The Alcolar Family trilogy. Well, it’s a trilogy of books and an on line short story that appeared on eHarlequin and the Mills & Boon site. This reader had found the middle book of the Trilogy - The Spaniard’s Inconvenient Wife and wanted to know the titles of the other two books so that she could read them all. That was tricky, coming to it so long after the original trilogy has been published (The Alcolars came out in 2005) but at least I could help her find the short story – Wife For Real – that started it all off. That’s now published as an ebook and is also to be found on the Mills & Boon web site to read on line.

And all that reminded me that I had meant to come on here and talk about my latest pair of linked books – the ones I’ve called the Sicilian Brothers duo – the first of which Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride is out now in Presents. The second The Sicilian's Red-Hot Revenge will be published in June (UK) and July (USA and Australia). And I wanted to make sure that everyone knew they are linked – there’s nothing worse than reading a book and then wishing you’d got your hands on the first one.

The Sicilian Brothers duo came to me when a lovely reader and a friend I met at the RWA Conference a couple of years ago told me her brothers’ names and I said that Guido and Vito Corsentino were just perfect names for Presents heroes. Lori told me that I could ‘borrow her brothers’ names – they didn’t mind either! – and I’ve written these two books with each brother as the hero in one. The stories, as I said, are totally separate, but each book has connecting points – the first one (Guido’s story) takes place in the middle of the second one (Vito’s story). That meant that I had to know what had already happened to Vito before I even started writing Guido’s story. If you read the book then in the opening scene you’ll find that there is already a clue to what has happened – when even Guido doesn’t know what has been going on in his brother’s life.

Writing a new hero is always a fascinating process – I’ve just finished a book with a sexy Spanish hero and getting to know him took some time – even then he had one last little secret that I didn’t know until the very last scene. So working with two devastating Sicilians was even more fun. I had to make sure that they were each heroes in their own right – tall dark, handsome and stunning – and yet make them separate and totally individual. I think I succeeded. I hope you do too.And don’t forget that as the first of these books is out now, the contest Lee is running to celebrate that is still open over on the Contests page. Of course The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge will be appearing soon and as that will be a very special book for me – my 50th published title - then look out for some very special celebrations too. I’ll be working with Lee on those and we’ll have lots of prizes to give away – so watch this space.

What about you? Do you love books that link to each other and perhaps bring back characters you've met before? Or do you prefer stand-alone stories?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Character Discoveries - Susan Stephens

One of the most exciting things for me about writing is the discoveries I make as characters come alive on the page.

The only downside to that is the amount of re-writing involved as back-story, or a sudden unexpected turn of events feeds into the future thinking and actions of a character. Rewriting four or five times can quickly turn 50,000 words into 200,000 or more.

In The Venetian's Bed, my May release for Harlequin Presents, proved quite different because the opening chapters were based on a real-life experience.

As I started writing the story I knew how Nell felt when her young daughter Molly was taken ill with an asthma attack during a gondola ride along the narrow canals in Venice, because I had been in Nell's place years ago. I was that disorientated, terrified, disempowered mother, and it is only now, with my daughter's blessing that I can turn those horrendous few hours into the opening of a romance.

I have an on-line Daily running at the moment on e-harlequin entitled The Venetian's Defiant Woman and this story reflects the magic and allure of Venice, but also harks back in parts to that fear of the unknown which I felt on my earlier visit to this beautiful city.

Magic is stripped away when someone you love is at risk, as happens in the opening chapters of In The Venetian's Bed. Fortunately for Nell and her little girl, Molly there is a happy outcome to the story as thankfully, there was for me and my daughter all those years ago.

As Nell and Luca Barbaro’s story progresses, and fantasy takes over from reality, the magic of Venice comes to the fore. Nell and Luca enter the erotic world of Carnival where anything can and does happen...


Pup-Dog News

Those of you who read my Susan Stephens' Blog will know that I have recently lost a beloved fifteen year old dog and adopted two wonderful and challenging rescue pup-dogs, Betty and Molly.

Do come and join us on my Writing Diary at where you can keep up with their progress and see photographs of them. Or simply pop along to share the fun and take part in the contests. Don’t forget to sign up for the Birthday Babies club while you’re there to ensure you receive a birthday card and a little something on your special day.

Happy reading everyone!

Susan Stephens

Monday, April 02, 2007

I'm a quiz addict, how about you?

We’ve all been there - flicking through the glossy pages of women’s magazines at the supermarket check-out, in the doctor’s waiting room, or hiding under the bedclothes with a pen and a flashlight, reading the ubiquitous sex quiz pages with headers like The Top Ten Ways to Keep Your Man.

An addict to filling out forms of any kind, I have filled out sooooo many of these quizzes over my lifetime without ever really wondering who wrote them, or what kind of education and background the creator must have had before dolling out such essential relationship advice. They could be psychologists, franticly overworked editors, or sixteen year old interns for all we know.

Or they could be like Abbey Parrish, the heroine in my latest novel, and my very first Modern Extra Sensual, GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS. Abbey doesn’t have one single clue how to get a man much less what to do with him when she ultimately does get him!

Yet somehow her advice resonates. Perhaps it's all about collective experience. Or the way we can all see in our daily stars how that kernel of advice might actually relate to our lives. A need for solidarity, to know we're not alone in feeling out of place, out of time, and on the verge of never being able to find someone to love.

Next time I head down to the supermarket, and flick through a magazine I wonder which question will speak to me, and head me off on a tangent I was simply waiting for the right prod to head along any old how.

How about you? Have you ever read something in your stars or an advice column that was like a lightbulb moment? Do you think such random things can really change a person's course in life?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Seeds of ideas

A question many authors are asked is where do you get your ideas from?

The answer is really it depends. However for my April Mills and Boon Historical release, I have a ready answer -- Kate Walker.

What happened was this. Kate gave a very lovely workshop in October 2005 for the Romantic Novelists Association. I happened to catch a lift with her and she began to explain about her latest revisions. She got about as far as the heroine has to marry to save her father from gaol and I will admit to stopping listening. the wheels in my brain were churning and the light bulbs popping. I believe I nodded my head and looked interested. I could not shake the idea from my brain and with Kate's blessing, I decided to write my story.

Anyway, several months later, Kate very kindly sent me a copy of The Antonakos Marriage. I realised when I read it that I totally misheard her and the manuscript I was working on bore very little resemblance to her story -- except for one important fact -- the Beauty and the Beast theme -- a heroine sacrificing herself to save her father.

I am very partial to Antonakos Marriage for another reason. I read the book while I was waiting for my first cataract operation. I suffered from early onset cataracts. Anyway, I hadn't finished the book. The next morning, when I went back to it -- suddenly I could see the cityscape where it had all been a blur before. The book has remained a firm favourite ever since.

BTW my editor knows the story of my seed. She swears that it is coincidence that my cover (that has very little to do with the book) and the North America cover of the Antonakos Marriage bear a certain similarity. My editor also has a wicked sense of humour.

In celebration of Sold and Seduced's publication, I am running a contest. The prize is signed copies of both Sold and Seduced and The Antonakos Marriage (the UK edition). I have three sets to giveaway.

You need to email me with the answer to the question what is playing on my myspace page?

My myspace page can be found at:

I will be drawing the winners on 14 April. If you enter, I will send you an invite to join my newsletter but that is all.