Friday, October 09, 2015


I'm off  on retreat for the weekend.

I'm running a guided retreat - Focus on Writing Romantic Fiction -  at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick  Derbyshire  with Relax and Write. So looking forward to it. While these retreats are, obviously for the benefit of my students,  I also get so much out of them. I get to talk about writing, look at the way I do things in my novels - the ways other people do them - differently but  not wrong - everyone has their own process of writing a novel and it's great to combine ideas in the discussions.

I always come home energized and inspired and usually with a notebook crammed full of ideas for the current book - or the next one -  or the next course.

To those who are coming to Swanwick - see you soon.  Safe journey. I'm so looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones on this course or the Babe Magnet's Writing The Past Which is running on the same weekend.

Oh yes - and I'm delighted to hear that one of my students Kim Lain's  (who was on last year's retreat) entry to this year's So You Think You Can Write  - has been picked to be in the top 50 of the entries.  I haven't seen the full list yet but I do know Kim's name is there.

Congratulations Kim!  And good luck for the next round.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

So You Think You Can Write - what if your story doesn't make it?

    With the SYTYCW Top 50 being announced today, there will be  lots of entrants who didn't make the cut wondering what to do with your  submission, how to rework it so that  the editors
    would like to see more of it if you want to submit it  later.

    Rachael Thomas who was in the Top Ten in the contest in 2013   was one of my students on the Fishguard Advanced Romance Writing course with Writers' Holiday.   She now  has  more than five books published  after her first title  A Deal Before The Altar came out in September last year and  just had her latest submission accepted.   She knows what it's like to be successful  - and what it feels like to have a novel rejected - like most of us, she's been there and got the tee shirt.
    Rachael has some great points on the best way to look at something that  was rejected the first time round  so NOW  needs reworking. She has a great blog post about - well, about 3 important things -

     1. Never give up 

     2. Never throw away any story that didn't work because - well, . . 

     3. The 'didn't work ' stories can always be reworked when you've had time to step away from them for a while then come back and rework them so they do work.
    Well worth reading
     I first saw this story as part of the  one to one in the Fishguard Course and  again in full in the RNA's New Writers' Scheme back in 2012 and I'm so glad to see it will now be published. Looking forward to seeing  Destiny and Zafir's story in print.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Workshops and Retreats

I've been busy writing  - head down, focus on the keyboard.  What's that they say about BICHOK?
Bum In Chair, Hands on Keyboard.  The only way to get from 'Chapter One' to The End.

But at the same time I've been thinking about and planning the Writing Retreat  with Relax and Write I'm running in a couple of weeks time.  So looking forward to meeting the  students - some I've met
Swanwick where I'll be 'retreating' on October 9th
before - some who are brand new to me. All are at different stages on their journey towards being published writers but there's one ting they must already all have in abundance - and that's commitment and determination.  You don't sign up for a weekend course and pay the fees(admittedly very reasonable)   if you're  not committed.

When people ask why I teach - specially when I tell them that when I was much younger, the last thing I wanted to do was to be a teacher -  I think of the  number of past students , either of my courses or from the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance  who are now published writers of romantic fiction. Not just with Harlequin but with other publishers too.  A wonderful result from
working with them is sharing their joy in their success and  seeing their books on the shelves - just as good as seeing my own.

 I was reminded of this twice in the past month.  First of all, when I was at the AMBA lunch in London on the 19th. At the lunch I was seated next to Amanda Cinelli, the winner of the So You Think You Can Write whose first book Resisting the Sicilian Playboy is just published. She made my day by telling me that she had the 12 Point Guide in both print and ebook form and that  she credited it with helping her a long way on her personal journey to publication. Good luck with that first book and your new  career Amanda!

But talking to Amanda, and some news I had from an ex-student this week, reminded me of an important point - and that's why I called the 12 Point Guide a 'Workbook'. There's plenty of advice and information in the text - but there are also the writing exercises at the end of each chapter.  Writing exercises that are meant to make you  - guess what - write.

I've met so many people who will start writing when they have a moment, when the kids are at school/university/in bed. . .when they have a new kitchen table (to write on)  . ..  The problem is that the only way to write a book that's publishable  is  to - write it.

And then - this is the voice of an author with 60+ books published - to rewrite it and maybe rewrite it again. The trouble with the books on Amazon or the bookshop shelves is that all the blood sweat and tears that went into writing them doesn't show in the text or the cover.

  And this is what I was reminded of today when I got some good news from another ex-student.
Fishguard Bay Hotel  where I run the Advanced Romance Writing Course
Rachael Thomas was a regular at my Fishguard Writers and Artists' Weekend  courses - first with the basic Writing Romance course and then with the Advanced Writing Romance course there in February each year. Each year I felt her writing was getting closer and close to publication standard and then for the last but one So You Think You Can Write contest she was in the top ten.  That book A Deal Before the Altar  was published last year - and several more since.

Today, the good news was that her latest (sort of) book has been accepted. No title as yet but I knew this book as Destiny's story.  Destiny is the name of the heroine.

I'm particularly pleased about this book as I first read  it - well, the origins of the current book - as her submission to the  Fishguard course back in 2012 - and then again in 2013.    It didn't work the first time  Or the second time.  But there was the seed of such a good story in there that I gave Rachael the advice I give everyone with a story that is a  'not quite' :

Put it away for a while till you can look at it with clearer eyes and see how it needs to be rewritten. Looking at it with fresh eyes - and, in this case, with more experience of writing novels that work - can shine a spotlight on a 'not quite' and turn it into a success.

Which is exactly what she did and today I got an email with the great news that this book - with Sheikh Zafir and  Destiny the heroine with the wonderful name - will be published next year.  It's fabulous news - and it reinforces my belief that if you really want to be published you need talent, obviously, luck, perhaps - but you definitely need hard work.

Write, revise, submit - revise  . . . .      and repeat . . .

Congratulations Rachael! I'm so looking forward to seeing Zafir and Destiny's story in print.  It's the perfect proof that no teacher, however brilliant, can guarantee you success in your writing, even if you follow (or try to) every word she says!

But, as I've always said, the one way you can guarantee you'll never be successful is to give up. Stop trying. Stop writing.

So those of you who are entering the So You Think You Can Write Contest this year - or who are just writing and trying - or those who will be coming on the Retreat or any other course I'm running  in the coming year - the only way is to keep on trying.

If you get a rejection, the only way is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.

Because the real truth is that still applies even after 63 published titles.  The only way to get 64 completed is  BICHOK - submit - revise . . .  and again. And again . . .

Good Luck!

Which reminds me - I need to do some more BICHOKing  - so I'm off back to the keyboard.

PS If you want to know any more about my courses with Writers' Holiday or Relax and Write then check out their websites - or look at the Events page on my website. (Though I know I need to update that!)

Monday, September 21, 2015

London - AMBA and the Author Party

I’ve finally managed to get home from London, sort things out, unpack and do the laundry  so that I have a chance to catch up.

With Kate Hardy aka Scary Kate
 The trip to London was great from start to finish. On the  Friday night I had dinner with Chantelle Shaw and Rachael Thomas which was so much fun. It’s always good to catch up with fellow writers and friends and have a chance to have some quality time together to really talk.   Of course Rachael was once one of my students on the Fishguard Advanced Romance Writing Course and it had been wonderful to enjoy her success as she had written more successful  books and established her position in the Harlequin Presents line-up.

This year, the newest recruit to the Presents line was Amanda Cinelli  (winner of the So You Think You Can Write contest last year) whose first book  Resisting the Sicilian Playboy is out in October.  I sat next to Amanda at the lunch and so was delighted to learn from her that she  had  a copy (OK 2 copies – the print version  and the Kindle  one) of my 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance  and she told me that it had really helped her with her writing for Harlequin. Which is great because that’s just what I wrote it for! I also had more time to chat with Andie Brock who I met briefly last year but didn’t get much of a chance to  talk to her.  And of course I had a chance to talk with my editor - and so many others of  HMB editorial .

View from the News Building
  I had a wonderful time at both the AMBA lunch and the Harlequin Author Party afterwards.   The new offices in the News Building  on London Bridge Street  are in a part of London that I don’t know well, so it was fascinating to explore a bit  and to marvel at the amazing building  that is The Shard there.

The height and expanse of The Shard makes the News Building look rather small in comparison, but by the time we had travelled up 17 floors (thankfully in an express lift!) to reach the special events area, it didn’t actually feel smaller!  The view from the windows was
Another version of that stunning view
totally stunning, with the whole of London spread out below.  Even things like the London Eye looked tiny from up there.

One of the best feelings about being at the author party was the excitement of being able to see a couple of my covers projected on to the large screens in the room. As the covers to Olivero’s Outrageous Proposal and Destined for The Desert King are two of my favourite covers it was great to be able to see them on display like that.

Cover for Olivero's Outrageous Proposal on display
At the party I was able to meet up with more friends – some  international ones too! Anna Sugden who writes for American Romance and Kandy Shepherd  (Cherish) who was over from Australia.  And I had a very special hug for lovely Nicole Locke whose newest Historical novel  Her Enemy Highlander  is out this month.   You might remember that Nicole wrote thislovely blog post to mark my 30 years of being a published author. Thanks once again Nicole!

With Anna Sugden and Kandy Shepherd

I didn’t take many photographs  during the day so I’m grateful to my friends and the official M&B photographer   Katie who took pictures so that I can show them here.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


    Off to London today for the annual Association of Mills and Boon Authors meeting. Looking forward to seeing so many friends amongst the writers and editors. And... viewing the new offices in the News Building

     Dinner with Rachael Thomas tonight - always a great feeling to see an ex-student enjoying her writing success. Charlie the Maine Coon and Ruby have spotted the suitcase and are not happy!  But they have a great cat-sitter and we'll only be gone a couple of days. They'll be so well looked after(ie spoiled rotten!)

    I was in the chemist's yesterday, waiting for a prescription and a lady came in to collect her. She looked at me and said 'Aren't you that book-writing lady?' So I said I was. She's been reading my books for over 20 years! And 'that's because they are so good!'
          It's moments like that that make a book-writing lady's day!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tote Bags Day

Today's the 12th of September  - which means that it's my day for blogging over on Tote Bags 'n' Blogs so that's where you'll find me today.

I'm talking about some of the things I'm looking forward to this autumn.

One of those things is the upcoming Focus on Writing Romantic Fiction guided retreat  coming up at Swanwick in Derbyshire,  Numbers on this retreat are strictly limited but  unexpectedly I do have a space or - ata  push two spaces - if you'd like to come along. Part of the weekend is an intensive one to one session focused on your individual writing.

'Focus on Writing Romantic Fiction' - a Retreat with Kate Walker.  This course has a limited number of places, so if you have not booked, please hurry.  Retreats are popular with those writing a novel.  They can receive feedback during the year, as Retreats are twice yearly, they will help you progress chapter by chapter!

Or you might like to look into writing stories/memoirs/articles  inspired by your family - 
Write About your Uncle Joe with Stephen Wade links you to not only writing short stories about the past, but putting into words the Family anecdotes that are more personal to each of us, whether for your memoirs or for fiction.

Check out the Relax and Write website for details if you're interested 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Afternoon post

This just arrived at the door.

It's an excitement that never gets old.  I still haven't see the UK edition of Destined for the Desert King  but I do have my hands on the Harlequin Presents  edition.

Also - discovered this  Harlequin Manga  comic - in English - version of The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife is coming out next week.

 And then there was the Australian collection - the Notorious Alcolars   also out this month. It's a great  book day!

Catching up - the RNA Afternoon tea in York

The Guildhall Sept 5th 2015
can't believe it's Friday - who stole my week?? I'm sure it was only yesterday that I was setting out for York for a very special RNA meeting - an afternoon tea in The Guildhall. Then I blinked and - it's Friday! A week later. Help!

I know I had planned to talk about the other new courses I had coming up - but that got sidetracked. Anyway, I'd like to share some of the memories of the York afternoon.

With Anna Louise Lucia
Special thanks have to go to Lynda Stacey and Jane Lovering who planned and organised the whole thing. So good to have a meeting 'up North' instead of having to journey to London each and every time.

Also thanks to John Jackson who was the official photographer and whose photos of the day I can share with you.

Milly Johnson making her speech
It was a great chance to meet up with friends I don't get a chance to see too often - way too often Anna Louise Lucia - Marie Frances Ingrid Petrie Kim Elizabeth Lain Jean Fullerton Vasiliki Scurfield . . . Oh dear, I'll miss people out I know I will.

A couple of other special moments - Milly Johnson's brilliant and very funny speech - that's Milly below. Also meeting lovely Rachel
Rachel Louise Dove
Louise Dove . Prima and Mills & Boon Flirty Fiction competition winner 2015. Huge Congratulations Rachel! And a real highlight was meeting Jane Linfoot who made my afternoon by telling me how much help my 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance had been to her when she was starting out. Thank you so much for letting me know, Jane. I'm thrilled to know that - not least because this brings the to
Jane Linfoot and Dorinda Cass
tal of new writers helped to publication by either one of my courses or the 12 Point Guide to 17!! I've just downloaded Jane's latest book  The Vintage Cinema Club to add to my collection of 'now published' students' work. Wonder who will be #18?
With friends  -and students from  a past course (or two!) Marie Frances and Kim Lain. Maybe potential  #18??

Will add details of names etc under the photos so you know who's who.

And I'll keep on trying to catch up!

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