Sunday, October 31, 2010

MY BOOK HAS A DICTIONARY DEFINITION!

''Fauxmance'', ''tweetheart'' and ''bigotgate'' are among the popular terms to have made it into the latest Collins English Dictionary. 

According to the Daily Telegraph, ''fauxmance'' apparently refers to ''a fictitious romance between two celebrities, concocted in order to gain press coverage''.  Unfortunately Lucy Bright, the heroine of MISTLETOE AND THE LOST STILETTO doesn't know that her great big romance is all just a PR campaign and her reaction, when she finds out, isn't well considered but comes straight from the heart.





‘LIAR!’

The only sound in the room was the clatter of motor drives as tycoon, Rupert — just-call-me-Prince-Charming — Henshawe’s press conference was hijacked by his fiancée, Lucy — I-feel-like-Cinderella — Bright as she tugged off her engagement ring and flung it at him.

‘Cheat!’

Every lens in the room zoomed in on the bright splash of blood where the huge diamond found its mark on Henshawe’s cheek.

The gathered press pack – city newsmen, financial pundits, television news teams - held their collective breath.

They’d been summoned to a full dress press conference by the Henshawe Corporation. Whatever Henshawe did was news. Good news if you were one of his shareholders. Bad news if you happened to be on the receiving end of one of his corporate raids. At least until recently.

The news now was all been about how he’d changed. How, having met his “Cinderella”, he had been redeemed by love and was no longer Mr Nasty, but had been transformed into Prince Charming.

Boring.

This was much more like it.

‘Why?’ Lucy demanded, ignoring the cameras, the mikes, dangled overhead, pushed towards her face. The larger than life-sized images of herself, wearing her own, custom-made originals of the “Lucy B” fashions, being flashed across a screen. All she could see was the man on the podium. ‘Why did you do it?’

Stupid question. It was all there in the file she’d found. The one she’d was never meant to see. All laid out in black and white.

‘Lucy! Darling…’ Rupert’s voice was deceptively soft as, using the power of the microphone in front of him, he drowned out her demand to know why her? ‘These are busy people and they’ve got deadlines to meet. They’ve come to listen to the plans I’ve been making, we’ve been making for the future of the company,’ he stressed. ‘Not a domestic tiff.’

His smile was tender, all concern for her. It was familiar, reassuring and even now it would be so easy to be sucked in…

‘I don’t know what’s upset you but it’s obvious that you’re tired. Let Gordon take you home and we’ll talk about it later, hmm?’

She had to fight the almost hypnotic softness of his voice. Her own weakness. Her longing for the fairytale that had overtaken her life, transformed her into a celebrity, to be true.

She had a “Lucy B” fan page on Facebook, half a million people following her every word on Twitter. She was a modern day Cinderella, whisked from the hearth to a palace, her rags replaced with silken gowns. But Prince Charming’s “bride ball” had been a palace-generated crowd pleaser, too. There was nothing like a royal wedding to keep the masses happy.

It was exactly the kind of stunt to appeal to some super smart PR woman with a name to make for herself.

‘Talk!’ she replied as someone obligingly stuck a microphone in front of her, giving her equal voice power. ‘I don’t want to talk to you, Rupert Henshawe! I never even want to see you again.’ She held up the file for him to see. So that he would know that there was no point in denying it. ‘I know what you’ve done. I know everything!’

Even as the words left her mouth, Lucy sensed the mood in the room change. No one was looking at the podium now. Or Rupert. She’d stolen his limelight. She’d stormed into this plush hotel, her head exploding with the discovery that her new and exciting life, their engagement, the whole shooting match, was nothing more than a brilliantly executed marketing plan. The focus was now on her as she put an end to a sham smoke-and-mirrors engagement that was as false as his “new man” change of heart.

Rupert Henshawe had no heart.

But as the attention of the room shifted to her, it belatedly occurred to Lucy that this might not have been her best move.

In the months following her whirlwind romance with her billionaire boss she become used to the press, but this was different. Until now she’d been supported every step of the way whether the interviews had been personal or about her new role as the face, the name, on his rebranded chain of fashion stores.

When she’d gate-crashed this press conference, she hadn’t had a thought in her but to confront the man who had so shamelessly used her.

Now, the focus point of every lens, every eye in the room, she suddenly felt alone, vulnerable and all she wanted to do was escape. Escape from the lies, the cameras, the microphones. Disappear. But as she stepped back, attempting to distance herself from Rupert, from everyone, she stumbled over someone’s foot.

She put out a hand to stop herself from falling, grabbing at someone’s lapel. There was the ominous sound of cloth ripping and as she turned, instinctively, to apologise, she discovered that her retreat was blocked by a wall of bodies.
And the man whose lapel she was clinging to, was now hanging onto her, pulling her towards him, shouting something into her ear as she was jostled, pushed by other newsmen trying to get closer, photographers shouting to attract her attention.
She forgot all about apologising, instead yanking her arm free. Someone tried to grab the file she was carrying. She used it to beat him off, swinging the tote she was carrying bag to clear a space, provoking a blinding series of flashes as the photographers caught the action.

Another hand made a grab for her in the scrum, catching the back of her coat. One of the buttons flew off and she nearly went down again, but the sight of two of Rupert’s bodyguards elbowing aside journalists and cameramen alike as they made their way towards her sent a shot of adrenalin surging through her veins.
Until now she’d only seen the gentle side of Rupert Henshawe, had believed that he was truly her Prince Charming. But she was carrying proof of just how ruthless the man could be in pursuit of his ends and he wasn’t going to let her leave with that.

Of course they would make it look as if they were rescuing her from the press scrum, but denouncing him in public, on camera, had put her on the other side.
She’d seen his eyes, the truth behind the soft words, the smile and she knew that he’d do whatever it took to keep her quiet.

Swinging her tote again in an attempt to batter her way through the enclosing wall of bodies she managed to make a little headway, but then someone grabbed her wrist, a camera lens caught her a sharp blow on the temple and, head spinning, she staggered back.

There was a yelp loud enough to be heard over the bedlam as her stiletto heel encountered something soft and yielding.

As the man behind her backed off, swearing creatively, apology was the furthest thing from her mind. A gap opened up and she didn’t hesitate. She dived through it. 

Dive in!  This is cutting edge stuff!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A SURPRISE CHRISTMAS PROPOSAL



In the last few weeks, several of my backlist books have been re-released as eBooks.  Instant gratification at the touch of a button no matter what eReading device you use.

I'm going feature them over the coming weeks and giving away a paper copy of the book to one lucky reader.  First up - seasonally - is A SURPRISE CHRISTMAS PROPOSAL.

The heroine, Sophie, had already featured in a minor role in two earlier books - City Girl in Training and The Billionaire Takes a Bride as a slightly irresponsible, maybe a touch spoiled young woman, but with an unexpectedly moral centre in the first and a kind heart in the second, as she tries to set up her best friend with "the boy next door". 

In A SURPRISE CHRISTMAS PROPOSAL, it's Sophie who's in trouble.  With no job, nowhere to live and no money - her father wants her to come home and look after him - she is thrown entirely on her own resources.   Jobs are hard to come by when you haven't got much in the way of qualifications - free-form flower arranging and the ability to make cup cakes in large quantities do not impress the lady at the employment agency - but she is offered a few hours dog walking, which is a start. Things do not, however, start well.

--




I WAS late.

It wasn’t my fault, okay?

People kept phoning me to see what I was doing to celebrate my birthday.  No one believed me when I said “nothing”.  They just laughed and said, “No, really, what are you doing?” and in the end I’d relented and promised I’d meet Tony down the pub at 9 o’clock.

Then my mother phoned from South Africa wanting to tell me about everything she’d been doing – well obviously not
everything -- and I could hardly say I had more important things to do, could I?  Anyway, it was hardly a matter of life or death, dogs couldn’t tell the time and I didn’t have to rush off anywhere else. They’d get their hour. Start twenty minutes late, finish twenty minutes late. Sorted.

Gabriel York’s address proved to be a tall, elegant, terraced house in a quiet cul de sac untroubled by through traffic.  Its glossy black front door was flanked by a pair of perfectly clipped bay trees which stood in reproduction Versailles boxes; no one in their right mind would leave the genuine lead antiques on their doorstep, even if it would take a crane to lift them. The brass door furniture had the well worn look that only came from generations of domestics applying serious elbow grease, a fate, I reminded myself, that awaited me unless I gave some serious thought to my future.

The whole effect was just too depressingly perfect for words. Like something out of a costume drama where no one was interested in the reality of the mud, or the smell of nineteenth century London.

This was a street made for designer chic and high, high heels and I felt about as out of place as a lily on the proverbial dung heap.

I’d stupidly forgotten to ask what kind of dogs Mr York owned and, since there was no way I was going to call back and ask Miss Frosty to enlighten me, I’d gone for the worst case scenario and assumed something large and muscular times two and dressed accordingly. At home that would have meant one of the ancient waxed jackets that had been hanging in the mud room for as long as I could remember and a pair of equally venerable boots.  The kind of clothes that my mother lived in.

Had lived in.

These days, as she’d told me at length, she was to be found stretched out poolside in a pair of shorts, a halter neck top and factor 60 sun block.  I didn’t blame her: she was undoubtedly entitled to a bit of fun after a lifetime of waiting hand foot and finger on my father for no reward other than an occasional grunt.

I just didn’t want to be reminded of the difference between her life and my own, that was all.

Here in London it was doing something seasonal in the way of freezing drizzle and although I’d stuffed my hair into a pull-on hat, I hadn’t been able to find a pair of gloves and my fingers were beginning to feel decidedly numb.

Anyway, without the luxury of a help yourself selection of old clothes to choose from I’d had to make do with my least favourite jeans, a faux-fur jacket - a worn-once fashion disaster that I’d been meaning to take to the nearest charity shop - and a pair of old shoes that my sister had overlooked when she moved out.  They were a bit on the big side but with the help of a pair of socks they’d do. They’d have to. I wasn’t wearing my good boots to plough through the undergrowth of Battersea Park.

But now I realised that I looked a total mess for no good reason. I needn’t even have bothered to change my shoes. I only had to take one look at those pom-pom bay trees to know that Mr York’s dogs would be a couple of pampered, shaved miniature poodles, with pom-pom tails to match. They’d undoubtedly consider a brisk trot as far as Sloane Square a serious workout.

So, I asked myself, as I mounted the steps to his glossy front door, what kind of man would live in a house like this? My imagination, given free reign, decided that Mr York would be sleek and exquisitely barbered with small, white hands.  He’d have a tiny beard, wear a bow tie and do something important in “the arts”.  I admit to letting my prejudices run away with me here.  I have a totally irrational dislike of clipped bay trees – and clipped poodles.

Poor things.

I rang the doorbell and waited to see just how well my imagination and reality coincided.

The dogs responded instantly to the doorbell, one with an excited bark, the other with a howl like a timber wolf in some old movie. One of them hurled himself at the door, hitting it with a thump so emphatic that it echoed distantly from the interior of the house and suggested I might have been a bit hasty in leaping to judgement based on nothing more substantial than a prejudice against the owners of any life form that had been tortured into an unnatural shape.

If they were poodles, they were the great big ones, with voices to match.

Unfortunately, the dogs were the only ones responding to the bell. The door remained firmly shut, with no human voice to command silence. No human footsteps to suggest that the door was about to be flung open.

Under normal circumstances I would have rung the bell a second time, but considering the racket the dogs were making my presence could hardly have gone unnoticed, so I waited.

After a few moments, the dog nearest the door stopped barking, the howl died down to a whimper but, apart from a scrabbling, scratching noise from the other side of the door as one of them tried to get at me, that was it.

Seriously irritated – I wasn’t that late and the dogs still needed to be walked -- I raised my hand to the bell to ring again, but then drew back at the last minute, my outstretched fingers curling back into my palm as annoyance was replaced by a faint stirring of unease.

‘Hello?’ I said, feeling pretty stupid talking to a dog through a door. The scrabbling grew more anxious and I bent down, pushed open the letterbox and found myself peering into a pair of liquid brown eyes set below the expressive brows of a cream, silky hound. ‘Hello,’ I repeated, with rather more enthusiasm. ‘What’s your name?’

He twitched his brows and whined sorrowfully. Okay, I admit it was a stupid question.

‘Is there anyone home besides you dogs?’ I asked, trying to see past him into the hallway.

The intelligent creature backed away from the door, giving me a better look at his sleek short coat, feathery ears and slender body, then he gave a short bark and looked behind him as if to say, “Don’t look at me, you fool, look over there…" and that’s when I saw Gabriel York and realised I’d got it all wrong.

His dogs were not poodles and he wasn’t some dapper little gallery owner in a bow tie.

Gabriel York was six foot plus of dark-haired, muscular male.  And the reason he hadn’t answered the door when I rang, was because he was lying on the hall floor.  Still.  Unmoving.



-- 


This is a Christmas book and to have your name put in the draw for a copy of A SURPRISE CHRISTMAS PROPOSAL to add to your own stocking, leave a comment sharing your own favourite Christmas traditions.  I'll get the Best Beloved to pick a name out of the hat on 31 October. 

A SURPRISE CHRISTMAS PROPOSAL is available for all eBook readers, including the Mobi and any other device you use - even just to download to your computer for a sneaky read when everyone thinks you're working!

This is for Amazon US and here is a link for Amazon UK

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FUN STUFF!


I was checking out The Green Hub website for the lovely Lucinda Ganderton's blog for fun stuff to make with your kids for Hallowe'en (and other stuff), which you'll find here when I spotted this, The Rosetta Rug designed by Michelle Mason..

Just the thing for a romance publisher's Christmas stocking!

The fact that Colin Firth is a director of the company wouldn't influence my yearning for this.  At all.


Monday, October 18, 2010

BOOK SIGNINGS

Writers tend to be shy creatures.  They spend all their time locked away from human contact while they spin tales to entertain you.

Once in a while they emerge, blinking in the light to sit in a bookshop, a pile of books in front of them ready to sign, bookmarks, postcards to give away.  Even a dish of chocs if you're lucky. 

If you see one, sitting in a bookstore, do not scuttle past as if she might force you to buy a book - she won't!   You're in a bookshop and even if you're in there to buy a map, or the latest celebrity cookbook for your sister's birthday, do pause for a moment, say hello, take a bookmark or postcard (it doesn't bind you to anything) and make her feel welcome. (None of which applies if the author is J K Rowling, btw!)


I had the pleasure of dropping in at the author-friendly Waterstone's in Carmarthen a couple of weeks ago to catch up with debut author Christine Stovell, whose book, TURNING THE TIDE has been published by Choc-Lit.

This is not my photograph.  I managed to turn up without a card in my camera - and the new camera doesn't say "no card" when you press the button so I was home before I realised I'd missed the big moment.  I had to beg this picture from someone else who was there.  By the time I arrived, the table was crowded with people and the pile of books seriously diminished.  Exactly how a book signing should be.

It's always fun to go along to book signings and meet with authors you admire, have a chat about the book and get one personally signed.  Maybe two.  Books make fabulous presents for friends and family.  I've just bought the Winter Flower Fairies for my eight month old grand-daughter.  You cannot start too young!.  .

But back to Chris's delightfully atmospheric romance.  You'll find an excerpt and more background to the book here or if you click on the link below.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

PARTY TIME!

This week, the Romantic Novelists' Association celebrated its fiftieth birthday with the launch of a book of recollections, memoirs and gossip from fifty years of being at the heart of women's fiction in the UK.

I missed the lunch due to pressure of life - finishing the book, selling the house - but if you're writing or reading romance you won't want to miss FABULOUS AT FIFTY which is available here direct from the RNA, but not at Amazon.  And if you haven't already got a copy of LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT, it's not too late.

If you want to see what I missed at the party, there are photographs here on the RNA BLOG

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SO, HOW DID YOU START?

Every morning I receive a email edition of Sarah Duncan's daily blog about writing craft - a blog no would-be writer should miss. Recently, she's been discussing the format for picture book texts which took me back to my own beginnings as a published writer.



Along with the perennial "Where do you get your ideas from?",  "How did you start?" is one of the questions I get asked most often when I'm talking to the WI or Writers' Groups.

The answer isn't entirely straightforward.  I started writing when I was at school.  Openings of stories.  Those fabulous few first paragraphs that are so easy to get down.  But where do you go from there?  An opening, a set up is easy.  It's the middle and the end that is so often the problem.

It's no easier when you're writing a 600 word story.   My first piece of fiction, inspired by the daily lunchtime ritual of "Listening With Mother" with my two pre-schoolers - and the "I could do that" response to a story about a button - involved a coathanger called Clarissa.  It was bad, but I actually finished it and that's the biggest hurdle any writer has to face.   Even 600 words is a big deal when you've never finished a story before;  it isn't how you start, it's whether you can provide a satisfying ending that makes you a writer.
 
My second story was about a little girl moving home, a old lady retiring, and a ginger cat.  I sent it off to D C Thomson, the comic people and they bought it for their TWINKLE annual.  I was a writer!   Okay, they paid me the princely sum of £6.  I was not about to follow Charlotte Lamb into tax exile writing for a little girls' picture paper, but I was being paid for writing.

I sold several other little stories to DCT and then I received a letter from their head office in Dundee asking me if I'd meet with someone from the editorial office at St Ermin's Hotel in London.  Wow!  Now I was a writer who was invited to meet an editor in an hotel.  (The event is also memorable for the fact that the Australian Rugby Football team were staying there and walked through the lounge in front of me in their green and gold glory!)


The meeting was to suggest what else I could write for Twinkle.  They wanted to move me on to picture stories.  The regular stories that appeared each week featuring one of their characters.  Nurse Nancy was the big one.  A two-page spread, nine pictures.  And Tessa's Toybox had just started.  Maybe I'd like to try that?  One page, five or six pictures, less than a hundred words.  Well, that had to be easy.  Didn't it?  Well, no.  Take a look at this Tessa Toybox story, one of the many I wrote.

In five pictures there is -

THE SET UP
  • Tessa decides that today she's going to play at being a nanny and take her toys out for a walk in her pram.   I write a small description of what will be in the picture for the artist, and then I write the caption.
THE DRAMA
  • Tessa goes to the park where she sees a little girl about to fall in the pond.
THE CLIMAX

  •  Tessa grabs the little girl as she's about to topple into the water..
THE RESOLUTION/REWARD

  • She has acted like a real nanny.  Result, ice cream all round.
It's a very simple story.  The language is simple, too.  No adverbs, one adjective (it was "big") ice cream.   Each word works for its place.  And the really important thing is that all stories work this way.  Set Up, Drama, Climax, Resolution.

Obviously when writing romance the set up is more complex, the drama bigger (although actually there isn't anything much bigger than rescuing a child from drowning), and the resolution will, hopefully, result in more than an ice cream (although having just written a book with a ice cream van at its heart, ice cream is good!)

This was my training ground.  Before I ever attempted adult fiction, or even a short story, my style was honed to the bone and for that I have to thank the lovely people at D C Thomson.  I always wanted to write;  they made me a writer.

Oh, and yes, I did have some stories read on Listen With Mother, too.  The Scarecrow's New Clothes, The Adventurous Seed...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

HER WISH-LIST BRIDEGROOM


One of my back list titles is having a very busy time at the moment.
HER WISH LIST BRIDEGROOM has just been reissued in the UK in September, in a 3-in-1 called Gorgeous Grooms - still available from Mills and Boon's website.
 
It's also available as a Kindle in the UK and in the US  as the three in one or as a single title.



 As if that wasn't exciting enough, it's is also going to be packaged with German Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag in October as a giveaway to promote Harlequin.  An incredible honour.

If anyone spots one do let me know!

I also, somewhat belatedly, updated my website for this month, with an excerpt of MISTLETOE AND THE LOST STILETTO, available this month at  eHarlequin and again, as an eBook download - just click the eBook store option when to get to the site.




This will be available in the UK next month in a lovely Christmas Cherish cover which will look perfect in a stocking for your favourite romance lover.  Or yourself!

This is the "elf" book, in which Lucy Bright hides out from her "Prince Charming" (he's behind you!) in Santa's Grotto while Nathaniel Hart tracks down the girl who's lost her hot red stiletto on his department store stairs.

Fun, fast and with all the elements of the fairy tale, there's a guaranteed happy ending, but the journey is bumpy so hang onto the seat of your sleigh!