Wednesday, November 30, 2005


I’m not sure where the cover art for my books is produced but I’ve come to the conclusion that the heroic male must be as difficult to find in the model catalogues as he is in real life. The lovely man on the US cover of A Nanny for Keeps has been around a while. In previous incarnations, he’s been a sheikh on the US cover of His Desert Rose, a jazz musician in Dangerous Flirtation, an investigator in His Personal Agenda, a media tycoon in Bittersweet Deception and just plain gorgeous in A Suitable Groom. And surely that rear view of the groom on the stunning – if disingenuous -- cover of The Marriage Miracle has been seen before on City Girl in Training…


Colleagues occasionally post their fantasy hero/pin ups on their blogs. Being on the mature side of the age scale I rarely recognise these guys so I thought I’d retaliate with the gorgeous Michael Wood, a man who, if I lost the remote, I’d heave myself off the sofa to turn the television on just for the pleasure of looking at him. It’s a bonus that his programmes are so riveting!

Friday, November 25, 2005

THE MARRIAGE MIRACLE was a very tough book to write. Okay, they're all tough, but this one was different. I was terrified of it, I did everything I could to put off the evil moment when I had to write "Chapter One"...

So why did I do it?

How long have you got?

From the first moment she wheeled herself across the page as a minor character in A Wife on Paper, Matty Lang was giving me trouble. She flirted with the hero, she duffed up the bad guys, she demanded attention. The only way I could get her to behave, stay in the background, was to promise her a story of her own. There was just one problem with that. Matty Lang is in a wheelchair and since I don’t write fairy stories (well, not the kind with magic wands, anyway) any happy ending had to encompass that.

Worse, it was going to be seriously Hard Work. It would involve research (which is not my favourite thing) and an intensity of emotional input that I knew would drain me dry. Matty, however, was not the kind of character to let some whining author stand in her way and finally, over lunch with my editor, I tentatively broached the idea. I’ll be honest, here; I was hoping that my ed would veto it, say, “This is not for us…” Rescue me so that I could go back to Matty with a clear conscience, say, “I’d do it in a heartbeat, honestly. It’s her fault…”

No such luck. My editor said, “Go for it, Liz.”


I prevaricated (writers are good at that) and wrote A Family of His Own. Emotional, true, but there wasn’t a wheel-chair in sight. It won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romance Prize, was named Best Harlequin Romance of the year by Romantic Times and was shortlisted for a RITA.

Matty applauded politely, then said, ‘Okay, I’ve been patient, now it’s my turn!’

I wrote Her Wish-List Bridegroom; single fathers, single mothers, cheating boyfriends, a cat called Archie. Lots of emotion in this one. For Juliet.

Matty hated Juliet. ‘The woman’s a wimp,’ she said. ‘She didn’t have a father and her boyfriend stole her job. Big deal. It’s My Turn!’

I wrote A Nanny for Keeps. Emotion, humour, a six-year-old diva, chickens…

Matty threw a pot of purple nail polish at the back of my head and said, ‘Enough with the livestock. IT’S MY TURN!’

She was right. It was her turn.

Having a great character raring to go, however, is not enough, but that’s when the magic started. With the fairies. Day-glo bright, the Forest Fairies spread their wings, flew down onto the page and set about ruining Sebastian Wolseley’s day, year, life…

I wrote a whole chapter about Sebastian and the fairies (still prevaricating.) Then, because I wasn’t writing a book about the fairies, but about Matty and Sebastian, I stopped fooling around and started again at the belated blessing of the marriage of the hero and heroine of A Wife on Paper. The guests have moved into the marquee to start the dancing, only Matty and Sebastian remain outside in the garden, detached, apart from the crowd, alone. Matty, because, it’s not in her nature to be a spectator and Sebastian – well, weddings come next to bottom on his list of favourite occasions. And he’s already been to a funeral that day.

The opening is on my website if you want to read on.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Apparently 40% of the audience for the American NASCAR circuit are women and Harlequin have teamed up with the NASCAR racing people to produce a series of romances set in the motor racing world. Caroline Pardilla at The Driving Woman asks “Call me sceptical, but just many novels can you write that take place around a racetrack?” Well, golly, that’s so hard. How many women are working, watching, dreaming trackside? And – because let’s not be sexist about this, men fall in love, too -- how many men?


How many of you buy your romances from the local charity shop, or the local used book stall at your nearest market? We’ve all done it. I can’t pass a box of old Mills & Boons without checking to see if any of my favourite authors are there; once their brief “shelf life” is over, it’s that or the library (free to use and much recommended, btw!). I’ve even picked up books by authors I’ve heard of but never read. My first Susan Elizabeth Phillips It Had To Be You, was bought for 50p in the Tenovus charity shop in Ammanford; the next This Heart of Mine, was bought in Denver airport, after which I was totally hooked, bought her entire backlist from my local Borders and put her on my “must buy” list.

Buying used books from a small local outlet is one thing. Small local outlets are not going to harm the income of authors (and contrary to popular belief we don’t all earn millions!), publishers, booksellers. The used book business has however, changed out of recognition. Since the arrival of the internet in practically every home, you no longer have to rely on the small choice in your local charity shop – you have the whole world to shop in and sellers have not been slow to take advantage of that fact. It is now possible to buy “used” books before the “new” item has actually appeared in the shop. The market is huge; in one of the New York newspapers last year, books were placed on a list of things never to buy new.


Think about that. No author, publisher, distributor or High Street bookseller is going to earn one penny from a book sold “used” and you don’t have to be an economist to work out where that is going.


I’m sitting in the Snap & Scribble – scribbling away at my blog -- or at least I was until the RAF flew over at roof top height and I fell off my chair. My colleague, historical novelist Joanna Maitland, describes this as “…the sound of freedom…” Point taken, but do they have to be so loud

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


The dh has been making an effort to lose a few pounds (for his health’s sake) and he’s been doing really well, but you know how it is; after a while you seem to come to a halt, it’s harder to motivate yourself so I thought I’d buy a set of bathroom scales. A nudge in the right direction when he started to slip back; a lift in spirits when it was going in the right direction.

Their arrival coincided with my annual “well woman” check up and when I told the doctor my weight she was impressed. “You’ve lost a bit…” Then, “Do you want to hop on my scales and just check.” Gulp. My brand new scales were out by 21 lbs –that’s 21 lbs, in case you were in any doubt, in the wrong direction! You know that feeling, when you just want the floor to open up and swallow you…


The bare-root silver birch saplings for the first phase of my “wood” arrived at the beginning of last week. Needless to say it was pouring with rain – I mean seriously deluge conditions – and blowing hard.

I thought they’d arrived a week too late and would shrivel up before I could get them into the ground. Amazingly, the weekend (yes, the weekend!) was sunny and windless and I spent Sunday digging large holes with the fine stainless steel spade the dh gave me last Christmas (ah, the romance of it), hammering in stakes and making my small contribution to the health and beauty of the planet.

I ached, I seriously ached and my nails look as if they’ve been chewed by a dog, but the joy of actually making a start on something I’ve been planning for over a year more than made up for the pain. Oh, and I also lost one of those excess pounds. Is this what is called a win/lose situation?

Next job, the oak sapling I’ve been nurturing since it was an acorn. And several hundred primroses. (The sound you can hear is my back and knees pleading for mercy!)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Flipping through an old copy of Writing Magazine I came across a moan from a reader that all the stories submitted at her writing group featured horrible men; of those described, I have to say that the love-louse sounded the most appealing! Where, the writer asked, have all the good guys gone? Don’t decent men make for interesting protagonists?

If I’d had the poor woman’s address I’d have sent her a comfort parcel of “Tender” romances.

Full marks to the College Street Bookshop in Ammanford. My phoned-in order of Beneath the Snow by Caroline Carver arrived next day.

They’ve also got Sophie Weston’s December “Tender” on order for me. I’d been under the impression that M&B distribution was too rigid to deal with individual requests but I’m delighted to discover that this isn’t the case. I’m not knocking the big chains. I love Borders and WHS; they sell my books, so get my full support – and a fair bit of my hard-earned, too! I’ve nothing against Ottakers and Waterstones and when they start supporting me, I’ll return the compliment, but in the meantime I’ll continue to use small business where I can. Maybe it’s my age, but I enjoy dropping in at the local butcher, baker and bookshop and getting old-fashioned personal service along with a bit of a chat.

More good news on the Mills & Boon distribution front in the UK, is that 50 large Woolworth stores are running a three-month BOGOF deal from now until January, which means you can buy two copies of The Marriage Miracle next month -- one for you, one for someone’s stocking -- for the price of one!

Finally, I received an entry form from the Virginia Romance Writers chapter of the RWA for their HOLT Medallion Award so, taking action before it became buried beneath a pile of “later” stuff, I went to hunt out books with the relevant copyright date only to discover that a pile of new books has much in common with my sock drawer; when you need a matching set, all you can find are three odd ones.

Monday, November 07, 2005

We have a seasonal lake at the other end of the village and it’s been dry for months – in fact it’s been so dry that I’m not sure how the toads, who migrate in huge numbers to breed there, managed this spring. This week, though, after days of non-stop rain, it was in danger of flowing over the road and into the fields opposite. This doesn’t usually happen until February. The clocks have been put back, Hallowe’en and November 5th has been enjoyed (somewhat damply) and the long, lingering summer is, it seems, finally over.

But even as the dark, cold nights close in, I have my first primrose in flower. Don’t they know they’re not supposed show themselves until March? Just wait until I move them out of their cosy pots and into the open ground; then they’ll be sorry!

Catching up with Bookworm on the Net this week, I was reminded of author Pamela Frankau, whose theatre-based books I greatly enjoyed back in the 60s. She also wrote a memoir entitled "Pen to Paper" – no longer in print -- which was the first book I read in which a writer described “the process” of writing. There were no “how-to” books available back then and I devoured it, borrowing it from the library many times. PF was republished by Virago back in the 80s, but she seems to have slipped below the radar again. It may be that she wouldn’t appeal to the generation that took Bridget Jones to their bosom, but her characters linger in the memory, along with those of Monica Dickens and Daphne du Maurier, (pictured right) who I first read at about the same time. Of the three, only du Maurier remains popular but that, I suspect, is because so many of her books and short stories have been filmed.

As an experiment this month, I’m going to phone in a list of titles at my local bookstore, rather than taking the easier option of ordering in from Amazon, or the “treat” of driving fifteen miles to browse at my nearest “chain”. The local shop is very small and doesn’t stock Mills & Boon; I’ll be interested to see if they can obtain single copies of the books I want to buy.

Top of the book shopping list this month, is "In the Arms of the Sheikh" the latest from Sophie Weston It’s been a while since there’s been a new Sophie Weston and you’ll find not only an excerpt on her website, but the story of her struggle with this particular book.

Finally, from the Oxford “Love Quotations”,

“…love is like a precious plant …you’ve got to keep watering it…” (John Lennon)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Oh, and if you want a chance to win a copy of my November Harlequin Romance, STRICTLY BUSINESS, check out Cataromance!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Moving offices last month, I was forced to thin out a bookcase overflowing with writing related books and came across an old school book called The Writer’s Way.

First published in 1948, it’s full of exciting little chunks of prose from writers as varied as Izaak Walton, Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare and Richard Burton. In the introduction, James Reeves, the editor, describes the book as an aid to helping older students to write good English. “They may,” he says, “try to do this by learning the rules and maxims, or they may do it the writer’s way – by studying the writing of others.”

Many of the chosen passages will undoubtedly seem dated to today’s audience, although a good number of the writers are still in print (and selling!). Absorbing style through the reading of good writing, however, is undoubtedly the most enjoyable way to learn; a lot more fun than sweating over the “rules” – real or imaginary.

The Writer’s Way made it into the new office, as did…


This is a collection of writing exercises, anecdotes, prompts, put together by Monica Wood and is a great book to dip into when the writing is going slowly. The following, one of my favourites, has an author signing books in his home town. Confronted by a familiar face, an expectant smile, a proffered book and a total blank on the name, he does his best to cover this lapse with a big smile as, pen poised, he asks: “And how do you spell your name?’ The book buyer pauses, then says, “ B-O-B.”

And for really bad days, when the brain is as blank as the screen, I took…


Lucy: “I just can’t believe how stupid your stories are!”
Lucy: “In fact, I can’t see anything good at all about your writing!”
Snoopy: “I have neat margins.”