Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Authors who have influenced me - by Helen Bianchin

I love to read. Romance and romantic suspense, mysteries, crime ... the list is endless.

Bliss is reading a book by a favoured author, uncaring what the story holds, the characters, the setting. Just knowing I'll be held enthralled by the author's magical skill with words is enough. A comfortable chair, the benefit of several uninterrupted hours ...

A vivid imagination has been my companion for as long as I can remember. I was there with Enid Blyton's famous Five as they engaged in their various adventures; the probation nurse in all the doctor-and-nurse stories who fell in love with the resident hospital doctor, to the extent nursing almost became a considered occupation. The legal profession eventually won out, but that's another story!

I adore romance. The mythical knight on a white horse who rode to rescue the fair maiden. The modern day "Pretty Woman" scenario.

The darker marriage of convenience; the wild boy from the wrong side of the tracks who makes good; Cinderella in its various guises.

Which authors did it for me? On reflection, it was a paperback romance titled "The Distant Hills" by Lucy Walker which first made me think I'd like to write. Closely followed by Violet Winspear, who crafted and maintained sensual tension with just a look between her heroes and heroines.

Then along came Kathleen Woodiwiss, who dared to go where few authors in the genre had gone before! Wow! Who could forget Shanna? The Flame and the Flower? The Wolf and the Dove? Such passion! So much emotion. Sensuality.

As a reader, I was hooked. As a writer, I became totally enthralled. Excited by the talent, the magic, the words.

There are past works I can read and re-read countless times. All-time favourites. Keepers. To read and become entranced by the magic again and again.

I could list so many of today's authors whose work enthrall me as a reader. However the list would be long ... perhaps too long to occupy this space! And I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I inadvertently missed including someone.

Kind regards and best wishes to you all,


Monday, July 23, 2007

Reading and Technology - Susanna Carr

When I started reading romances, I only knew of a couple other readers who liked romance books. They were my twin sister and a few of our friends. We traded, recommended, and discussed the books as often as we could. When we finally got our drivers licenses, we would pile up in a car and make trips to romance-friendly bookstores.

Our group of readers was small. I knew these romance readers because they were already in my circle of friends. Eventually our reading tastes shifted and developed, and we realized we wanted very different things from our books. One was really into the dark gothic stories while another was on the perpetual hunt for traditional Regencies. As for me, I couldn't get enough of the Harlequins and the contemporaries.

Then came the Internet.

I was thrilled when authors I've read for years put up their own websites. I found out more about their books, their booklists and what was coming next. I thought it was great when Harlequin developed their online community at I now could hear from others who read the same kind of books I did. I couldn't imagine anything better than that.

Until the emergence of bulletin boards and blogs. And then there was Yahoogroups, which allowed people of a specific interest to go off on their own and discuss. Suddenly there was MySpace, where a reader could gather all of her friends and her specific interests onto one page.

I've heard of Bebo and Facebook, but I haven't really looked into those to see what makes them different than MySpace. Why haven't I looked? Because I'm busy building my shelf at Add a book on the shelf and you will immediately find out who else has that book on their shelf. This is a reader's paradise.

I wished I had this community when I was a teenager and trying to find a book that would deliver what I want, but there is a price to the sense of connection. All of this technology is quickly becoming an addiction—and eating into my reading time!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Escapist, Guilty Pleasures, by Bronwyn Jameson

Hello there. This is my first post on Tote Bags'n'Blogs and I would like to thank Lee for inviting me to share this space with some of my favourite authors. Perhaps I should start by introducing myself. Briefly, I'm Bronwyn Jameson, author of 12 Silhouette Desires to date with several more in the publishing pipeline. I live on a farm in the rural heartland of Australia, am mother to three almost-grown-up boys (do they ever grow up entirely?), and I love immersing myself in the fabulous world of an emotionally compelling book...whether I'm reading the pages or writing them.

After reading Sandra's post, I am green with envy over missing the RWA National Conference this year. I was invited to present a RITA at the Awards ceremony, a prospect that both excited and terrified me, but I wasn't able to make the long trip to Dallas. However, I lived the events vicariously through the many blogs posting live from the heart of Texas.

One blog I checked daily was The Pink Heart Society which included not only social and fashion updates and loads of party pictures, but notes from the Harlequin Spotlight. Thank you, Jenna! I learned the latest from Desire's Senior Editor, Melissa Jeglinski, who is looking for "escapist, guilty pleasure reads that are powerful, passionate, and provocative. The hero is very successful, the pursuer. Set the scene with international vacations and luxurious parties."

I'm currently working on some new proposals and this little snippet consolidated that I was on the right track with my storylines, my characters, my settings, but also jogged loose a new idea. Yesterday I incorporated this into my draft synopsis, and I can't wait to dive into this glamorous, lux world. I'm smiling as I write that, thinking how I'll be sitting in my cosy but quite ordinary office, probably still wearing my pyjamas, while my mind will be lost in a world of cashmere and silk organza and superfine wool suits, private jets and first-class travel, five-star hotels and penthouse apartments, country estates and seaside manors.

I do love that research. I do love my job.

And I'm also curious – which international settings and luxurious locations do you like to read about? I have a trio of fabulously escapist, no-need-to-feel-guilty reads by Yvonne Lindsay, Annie West and Bronwyn Jameson – set in diverse international settings – and I will randomly select the winner from comments left by Thursday 26th.

The winner is...comment #4. Congratulations, Anne! Email me with your address and I will mail yr prize books.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sandra Marton: Home from Dallas!

I just returned home from the Romance Writers of America conference in Dallas, Texas. What fun! Imagine a huge hotel filled with people who love the romance genre: writers, readers, editors, agents... it was truly a wonderful experience.

I signed books at RWA's Literacy Signing , signed more books--hundreds of them--at Harlequin's special Forty Authors Signing. I had a dinner to die for in an incredibly elegant restaurant with Presents editors Tessa Shapcott and Kim Young; a wonderful lunch in a charming restaurant with Toronto Special Projects editor Marsha Zinberg; breakfasts and lunches, coffees and drinks with writers who are long-cherished friends and others who are new friends. I gave a workshop with Tessa and Kim and had the chance to meet writers eager to sell to Harlequin Presents.

The HMB (that's Harlequin Mills and Boon Ltd) writers got together for our annual Pizza Party.We were from all around the world: the USA, England, Australia, Egypt. We met in my room, sat on the floor, ate pizza, drank wine, munched on delicious baklava, laughed and talked and laughed and talked...

The next morning, as I left my room, the woman in the next room also left hers.

"You had some party last night," she said, with no readable expression on her face. I gulped and said, uh, yes, that was true...

And she laughed and said it had sounded like lots of fun.

She was absolutely right. It was.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Got Covers??

I love getting new covers. It's like Christmas, when you open an package to discover if you have a new toaster, or a fabulous new piece of jewelry. With covers, I tend to open an email, download a file and hit, open file...then watch as the cover appears. Most of my covers I've at least liked, a few not-so-much, and every now and again I get one I absolutely adore.

Well, I've recently received my October and December covers...and adore them both! It's like hitting a lottery...well, not quite, but almost like hitting the lottery. Want to see???

The House on Briar Hill Road is my October Harlequin Everlasting Love, and Everything But a Groom is my December Avalon, it's the first book in my Everything But... trilogy. And they're both beautiful.

Yes, I've got covers...and I'm thrilled with both. It's the lottery and Christmas all wrapped up in one!

Hope you all are having a wonderful summer!


Monday, July 09, 2007

A Romance Pioneer dies

Kathleen E Woodiwiss died on 6 July 2007 after her battle with cancer, it has been announced. Her family and her publisher are working together to polish her last book.

Kathleen E Woodiwiss's 1972 book -- The Flame and The Flower is widely credited with starting the bodice ripper craze or the modern historical romance genre. The 600 page epic with its sex scenes was turned down by several publishers, before Ms Woodiwiss submitted to Avon. The initial print run of 500, 000 rapidly became over 2.5 million copies sold.

Her prose was often colourful and her history could be dubious, but her stories were wonderful. She could tell a cracking good story. And to read a Woodiwiss was to become immersed in her world. For many women in their forties, her books were the first historicals romances that they ever read. I know she was one of the first historical romance authors I ever read.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


This weekend a lot of my friends and colleagues will be gathering in Leicester for the Romantic Novelists' Association conference. This is a fairly small and intimate conference. Lots of networking, generous help for new writers from the veterans and inspiring speakers, but most of all fun. I really, really wish I was there, but I'm sweating over a hot deadline, suffering for my art :)

I did, however, send a little something for the "goodie" bag, just so that no one will forget me. This is what conference goers will find in their bags. Would you like one? And a copy of my August book, REUNITED: MARRIAGE IN A MILLION?

Here's the opening prologue, just to tempt you...

The car is here. Your paparazzi army are forming their usual guard of honour.’

Ivo was waiting, his face expressionless. Waiting for her to back down, tell him that she wouldn’t go and Belle had to fight back the treacherous sting of tears.

She didn’t cry, ever.

Why couldn’t he understand? Why couldn’t he see that she hadn’t chosen to spend ten days cycling over the Himalayas on some whim!

This was important to her. Something she needed to do.

By demanding she drop out at a moment’s notice to play hostess at one of his power-broking weekends at his country house in Norfolk, he was making it plain that nothing, not her career, certainly not some charity stunt, was as important as being his wife.

That he had first call on her.

If only she could have told him, explained. But if she’d done that, he wouldn’t want her to stay...

‘I have to go,’ she said.

For a moment she thought he was going to say something, but instead he nodded, picked up the heavy rucksack that contained everything she would need for the next three weeks and reached for the door handle.

By the time it was open, Belle was wearing a smile for the cameras. She paused briefly on the step with Ivo at her side, then they made their way to the car.

The chauffeur took the rucksack and while he was stowing it, Ivo took her hand, looked down at her with grave eyes that never betrayed what he was thinking.

‘Look after yourself.’

‘Ivo...’ She stopped herself from begging him to come to the airport with her. ‘I’ll be passing through Hong Kong on my way home. If you happened to find you had some business there, maybe we could take a few days...’

He made no comment, he never made promises he could not keep, but simply kissed her cheek, helped her into the car, repeating his directive to “take care” before closing the door. She turned as the car pulled away, but he had already turned away, was striding up the steps to the house, wanting to get back to work.

The chauffeur stopped at the drop-off point, loaded her bag onto a trolley, wished her good luck and then she was alone. Not alone, as a woman with a loving husband waiting at home might feel.

Just ... alone.

(I've had complaints that my hero is not shown wearing his famous towel -- mentioning no names Kate Walker! -- but I thought it might be nice to concentrate on his face for once!)

If you want a chance to win a copy of Reunited: Marriage in a Million, the first book in the SECRETS WE KEEP trilogy, then email me with the names of all three books and their authors with Tote Bag Secrets in the subject line and your snail mail addy so that I can mail straight out to the winner.
You'll find the answer on my website along with an email link. I'll draw the prize on 10th July.