HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!
I can't send you all flowers, so this is the next best thing -- a Valentine for all my lovely readers.
Not just the ones who write and tell me when a book as touched them, put lovely reviews on Amazon, but those of you who just go out three or four times and year and, with your hard-earned pounds, dollars and euros, keep the sales high so that my publisher keeps buying the books.
Bless you all.
And, because it's Valentine's Day, Harlequin have put The Cinderella Valentine online at their website.
Just click the title and read. For free!
But it's time for another guest, and this week a romantic novelist who was born on St Valentine's Day had dropped by to help me celebrate 50 books. How perfect is that?
I first met the delightful Lilian Darcy at an RWA conference in Denver. We had tea with Jane Porter in Brown's Hotel and danced up a storm at the Harlequin party -- it was an Elvis theme that year -- and she was my guest last year when her first mainstream novel, Cafe du Jour was published by Mira.
Here's what she has to say on the subject of writing. Listen up, she's written more than 75 books...
THE POINT OF CHANGE
When experienced writers are teaching beginners, we often tell them, “Start your novel at the point of change.” It’s true for any kind of fiction, but it’s particularly true in romance. Our characters’ lives undergo profound changes during the course of a book, and when you think about it, the process of courtship and marriage is about major change in real life, too.
Look at your own most important relationship. What changed because of it? In you? In your circumstances? Sometimes, you’ll find the answer is “Everything.” That was certainly true for me. It didn’t happen all at once, but thanks to my happy marriage I went from being a rather insecure and lonely single to a fulfilled wife with four children, confident of my own worth and desirability. There were other changes, too. I lived in the USA for some years, learned about living in a different culture, and embraced the more emotional and family-oriented attitude of my in-laws. I learned how it felt to make shared life decisions and willing compromises with someone you love, and things have been humming along in much the same vein ever since.
This year feels a little different, though. I think things are changing again. Nothing so earth-shattering as finding my life partner, but just a sense that some new things are happening and mostly they’re good. My husband really loves the new job he started just over a year ago, and has recently heard about a very interesting project he’ll be working on soon. I’m trying a fairly major new direction in my writing – bigger novels that won’t always involve romance. My current project is set in the 1930’s in Germany, and is proving both dauntingly ambitious and very satisfying. I hit Page 55 of a first draft today, so there’s still a long way to go and no guarantee of publication, but I’m not worrying about that right now. My daughter has just fulfilled the dream she’s had for at least five years – she’s joined a local Pony Club, riding a beautiful ex-racehorse that we’ve been lucky enough to lease for a very modest fee, so I’m getting to immerse myself in the world of horses, and a new world is always a thrill for a writer.
My youngest child is soon turning nine, which means he’s growing more independent and capable. The two big boys are starting to find out who they are and thinking about what they want. We have guitar and piano and scout camp preparations going on at our place on a regular basis.
Valentine’s Day is my birthday (ooh, but must buy chocolate for hubby, too J) and these are the things I’ll be celebrating far more than any gifts or cards or snuffed out candles – the good changes, the new experiences on the horizon, the developing passions in my kids.
Liz, you’re celebrating too – your fiftieth book. Hard to believe, isn’t it? You’ve brought fifty couples together, taking them from your trademark delicious and magical first meetings through the ups and downs of their romance to the life-changing commitment they make to each other in the final pages. Congratulations, and may the next fifty be just as much fun and adventure.
Meanwhile, here’s the first life changing moment for the hero and heroine in my February Silhouette Special Edition, A MOTHER IN THE MAKING. The hero, Jack Davey, has just put down the phone and entered his kitchen first thing in the morning after a tense conversation with his ex-wife and he’s hurting – physically as well as emotionally, as you’ll soon see…
But there was a strange woman standing there with a dilapidated tool-box open on his equally dilapidated kitchen table, and the sight of each other brought both of them up short.
She dropped something back in the tool-box with a metallic clatter, gave a loud, startled squeak and clamped a fist over her heart. “Oh. Didn’t hear you!”
Jack gulped back the jagged rock in his throat, dropped the phone onto the kitchen bench and said, “Uh, hi.”
Why was there a woman in his kitchen? She had goose bumps on her bare arms and an aura of energy in every limb, and he was confused.
This should be Cormack O’Brien, here to begin work on the kitchen and bathroom remodelling, not this curvy little thing, under-dressed for early April in a red cotton T-shirt and blue denim shorts. She had dangling red earrings which swung back and forth when she moved her head, dark curly hair, brown eyes, and tanned skin. She also had an alarmed look getting stronger on her face, and he did not want her here to witness… to witness…
With a heroic effort, he tightened every muscle in his body, shook out his T-shirt ready to put it on, and managed to look… just… as if he was okay.
“You’re Jack,” Carmen said, taking a large step backward, for safety’s sake, her heart beating a little too fast as she looked at the new arrival in the kitchen.
She really, really hoped this man was Jack, shirtless owner of the house, because she wasn’t convinced she could tackle him to the ground and put a knee in his back if he was an unwanted intruder. He was tall and strong, and with that bare chest, knotted arm muscles and a crumpled garment dangling from a tight fist, he looked wound up and ready to snap.
“I’m Carmen O’Brien, Cormack’s sister,” she continued quickly. “The other C, in C & C Renovations. Cormack is sick and can’t work today.”
Although she was the one making explanations, Jack Davey looked like the one who thought he didn’t belong. “Right,” he said. “Right.”
“And you’re Jack.” She managed to avoid making it a question.
“Yes, that’s right.” He lowered the T-shirt, or rag, or whatever it was. He was only half-dressed. His feet were bare, and the snap on his ancient jeans was undone. His dark hair was rumpled and he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days. He had cool gray eyes with little crinkles at the corners that she wanted to trust. The crinkles had to say something good about his smile. But he looked so far from smiling, right at this moment, he scared her.
With the T-shirt out of the way, she saw the red slash of a barely healed wound slicing across his tanned rib-cage, which maybe explained the scary vibes. She wondered what on earth he’d done to himself. Heart surgery? Was that why he looked so serious and struggling and grim?
“I’m sorry about this,” he said through a tight jaw. She saw his throat work and his body spasmed. “Side’s hurting a bit.”
“Oh, of course, it looks nasty.”
“I’m sorry,” he said again.
“No, no, it’s fine. I’m not who you were expecting. I mean, I guess we startled each other.” She trailed off, not wanting to say it. She hadn’t been expecting a half-naked, freshly-scarred, well-built, thirty-some-year-old man who looked like a bomb about to go off, here to greet her this morning.
“You need to get to work. I’ll… uh…”
“No rush. Although it would help me to warm up a bit.” She tried a grin as she rubbed the goose bumps on her arms. “I’m dressed for working hard in the middle of the day, not standing around doing nothing early in the morning.”
He nodded vaguely, and looked past her, toward the sink. What was wrong with him?
“Um, are you okay?” she tried.
“Fine. I’m fine.”
It was such a lie, he could barely get the words out, poor guy. His face was so tight, and his gray eyes were like slits, he’d narrowed them so much. She gentled her voice and told him, “No, you’re not.”
And then it happened. His stomach began to heave. He pressed the shirt to his face. His shoulders shook. Sounds broke from his mouth.
He was crying.
Crying, with great, deep, scratchy, painful and achingly poignant sounds, and fifteen years of family grief and struggle had taught Carmen an instinctive response that came without her even thinking about it. She stepped close to him, took a hold of his big, warm body and let him sob his heart out in her arms.
To win a set of my recent releases, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me the name of the gorgeous heroine who changes the hero’s life in A MOTHER IN THE MAKING” (honestly, too easy!)
And if, after that heart-rending excerpt, you can't wait to read A Mother in Making, you'll find them here at Amazon, UK and Amazon, US