RoNAs 2016

Lesley Field, Jane Jackson, Iona Grey and I

Jane Jackson, Lesley Field, Iona Grey and I

Had a lovely time at the RoNA Awards Event last night even though The Secret Kiss of Darkness didn’t win – huge congratulations to Iona Grey who won both our category and the overall prize of Romantic Novel of the Year!

As always, it was wonderful to be at the Gladstone Library, the perfect venue for any literary event, and it was fun to catch up with friends and fellow ChocLiphoto(6)teers, one of whom won the Contemporary category – congrats to Melanie Hudson!

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Fern Britton and compere Jane Wenham-Jones

The prizes were presented by TV personality and author Fern Britton and I really enjoyed all the thank you speeches, in particular those given by the two Outstanding Achievement Award winners, Claire Lorrimer and Anita Burgh.  They were both very amusing and were given a standing ovation by the audience – fab!

I’m sure there will be official photos soon, but here are some of mine!

Me with fellow ChocLiteers Melanie Hudson, Alison May, Linn Halton and Angela Britnell

Me with fellow ChocLiteers Melanie Hudson, Alison May, Linn Halton and Angela Britnell

The Gladstone Library

The Gladstone Library

The beautiful table decorations

The beautiful table decorations

Romance Conference in Madrid

I have just returned from two days in Spain where I attended the sixth annual ‘Yo Leo RA’ (roughly translated ‘I read romantic fiction’) ‘Encuentros RA’ conference in the heart of Madrid – a fantastic experience!

MeRAThis was a conference for readers and authors of romantic fiction which started six years ago with around 80 people getting together in a bar to share their love of the romance genre. It has been growing steadily ever since and this time there were over 500 attendees, 120 of them authors! I really enjoyed chatting to some of them and all were enthusiastic and extremely friendly, making me feel very welcome.

Me and Laura

Me and Laura

Among them were the lovely Laura Frias of the Cientos de Miles de Historias blog (whom I have had the pleasure of meeting before so it was great to see her again!), fellow Libros de Seda author Nuria Llop and the lady who runs the Lectur Adictiva blog.  It was great to see romance appreciated so much and the way the audience engaged in the discussions showed how passionate they are about romantic novels – just as it should be!

Me and Merche

Me and Merche

I was honoured to have been invited to take part in the programme and after listening to two panel discussions, it was my turn to take to the stage, where author and organiser Merche Diolch asked me questions. My Spanish is a little rusty (I can understand most of it but have forgotten so many words!) but fortunately I had two members of the Libros de Seda team (my Spanish publisher) to help me with translation – Maria José de Jaime and Alex Manyé – huge thanks to them and to Merche for her patience!

With Alex and Maria Jose

With Alex and Maria Jose

Unusually for Spain, the weather was awful with rain and strong winds, but I managed to get to the Prado and Thyssen-Bournemisza museums to have a look at all the fabulous artworks on display. It was almost too much to take in, a real feast for the eyes with some paintings so beautiful it was hard to believe anyone could have created them.

I finished my time in Madrid with a stroll round the old streets in the centre, narrow with the typical Spanish houses covered in wrought-iron balconies, and the sense of history was overwhelming. A stark contrast to the very new and very modern airport, whose ceilings had to be seen to be believed! All in all, a very enjoyable visit to one of my favourite countries – a very big thank you to the ‘Yo Leo RA’ organisers for inviting me!

With some of the lovely Spanish readers!

With some of the lovely Spanish readers!

Signing books

Signing books

The Prado Museum

The Prado Museum

Madrid's narrow streets

Madrid’s narrow streets

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The ultra-modern airport's amazing ceiling!

The ultra-modern airport’s amazing ceiling!

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On the RoNA Shortlists!

The RoNA (RNA’s Romantic Novel Awards) shortlists have been announced and I am thrilled to have The Secret Kiss of Darkness nominated in the Historical Romantic Novel category!  I have known for a while but was sworn to secrecy so it’s lovely to be able to tell everyone at last 🙂

I’m up against some fabulous historical authors and am very much looking forward to reading their books.  Here’s the list:-

2016 historical books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and here are the author photos:-

2016 authors Historical-1

 

 

 

(photos courtesy of the RNA and put together by the lovely Janet Gover)

 

 

 

Special shout out for fellow ChocLiteers Melanie Hudson, Alison May and Angela Britnell who are also shortlisted in various categories – so exciting!

The awards ceremony is on the 7th March – please keep your fingers crossed for me!

New Regency Novella – ‘Marry for Love’

MARRY FOR LOVE_Front finalToday I’m very pleased to be able to reveal the cover of my new Regency novella, Marry for Loveit’s a new style of cover for this series and I love it!

Marry for Love is available for pre-order now and will be published in ebook format on Monday (11th January).  Here is the blurb:-

Trapped in an intolerable marriage?

Delilah cannot bear to watch as her twin sister Deborah marries Hamish Baillie, Fourth Earl of Blackwood. Not only because she knows that her conniving sister has manipulated the poor man into marriage, but also because she has been in love with the Earl since she first set eyes on him …

Delilah is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save Hamish from a life of unhappiness – but will her plan work, or will she have to accept that she is no match for her twin’s scheming ways?

 

 

 

 
 

 

Christmas Wishes

The boys and I just wanted to wish you all a very

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

BowFuBowShen2BowFudF

Happy Halloween!

Autumn is my favourite time of year and although it’s getting darker, nature puts on such an amazing display to brighten up the days it doesn’t matter!

All the Halloween pumpkins certainly add a splash of colour and it’s wonderful to see all the little kids getting excited about dressing up – don’t they make you smile too?  Happy Halloween everyone!

HHHHH

H1H2H3

(Who says they all have to be round?)

(Who says they all have to be round?)

The Jade Lioness – out now!

TJL medium frontToday is paperback publication day for The Jade Lioness – I’m so pleased the third book in the trilogy is available at last!  I always like complete sets of a series on my book shelves 🙂

In order to celebrate there is a competition over on the Choc Lit blog (Choc Lit Corner) where you can win these lovely jade items plus a signed copy of the book.  Just head over there and leave a comment and you could be in with a chance!

J2

 

 

 

 

J1

Meanwhile, here is the blurb:-

Can an impossible love become possible?

Nagasaki, 1648

Temperance Marston longs to escape war-torn England and explore the exotic empire of Japan. When offered the chance to accompany her cousin and Captain Noordholt on a trading expedition to Nagasaki, she jumps at the opportunity.  However, she soon finds the country’s strict laws for foreigners curtail her freedom.

On a dangerous and foolhardy venture she meets Kazuo, a ronin. Kazuo is fascinated by her blonde hair and blue eyes, but he has a mission to complete and he cannot be distracted. Long ago, his father was accused of a crime he didn’t commit – stealing a valuable jade lioness ornament from the Shogun – and Kazuo must restore his family’s honour.

But when Temperance is kidnapped and sold as a concubine, he has to make a decision – can he save her and keep the promise he made to his father?

Buy links:-

Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jade-Lioness-Kumashiro-Christina-Courtenay/dp/1781892377/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444222646&sr=1-1

Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1781892377?keywords=The%20jade%20lioness&qid=1444222741&ref_=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2&sr=8-1

‘Please Release Me’ – coming unstuck!

PLEASE RELEASE ME_high res miniIn honour of the publication of my friend Rhoda Baxter’s new novel Please Release Me (happy publication day, Rhoda!!), I’m blogging today on the theme of ‘being stuck’, because all the main characters in that book are stuck in some way.

I guess we all feel stuck sometimes – mostly in the daily “rut” when life can feel like it’s Groundhog Day and very tedious. This is especially the case for an author when working on a book as every day is more or less the same. Even weekends in my case – being self-employed you don’t have the nine-to-five restraints and you just work until it’s finished. I don’t really mind, but it always feels a bit weird when friends say “thank goodness it’s the weekend” as that’s meaningless to me!

The thing I’m stuck on now though is a bit more specific and – predictably – it’s the plot of my next story, a YA fantasy. I need to make it darker and more frightening, but at the same time more believable. Not an easy task!

I’ve found that there are two types of story: those that come fully formed into your mind and just flow onto the page without any trouble, and those that seem like a good idea when you start writing them but turn into a real battle to finish. My current WIP – provisionally titled Dare to Defy – was, I thought, of the first variety, but on further inspection is turning into the second category. Bother!

That means revisions, rethinks and actually having to write a proper outline (something I usually try to avoid, being the kind of writer who just sits down and writes normally), but I’ll just have to get on with it and hope that I’m soon un-stuck 🙂

Blurb for Please Release Me:-

What if you could only watch as your bright future slipped away from you?

Sally Cummings has had it tougher than most but, if nothing else, it’s taught her to grab o

pportunity with both hands. And, when she stands looking into the eyes of her new husband Peter on her perfect wedding day, it seems her life is finally on the up.

That is until the car crash that puts her in a coma and throws her entire future into question.

In the following months, a small part of Sally’s consciousness begins to return, allowing her to listen in on the world around her – although she has no way to communicate.

But Sally was never going to let a little thing like a coma get in the way of her happily ever after …

Buy link: myBook.to/PleaseReleaseMe

 

RNA Conference 2015

Me and Gill-Marie Stewart settling in

Me and Gill-Marie Stewart settling in

This year’s RNA conference was held at Queen Mary University in Mile End, London, and although most of us had a bit of a struggle to get there (thanks to a tube strike), a fantastic time was had by all!  I certainly came away buzzing with ideas and enthusiastic about writing – it was fab and just what I needed!

There was so much going on, it was impossible to go to all the talks or to see/speak to everyone, but here is a short summary of the events I attended (and a couple I participated in):-

Caroline Sheldon, Hannah Ferguson, Carole Blake and Tim Bates (with Eileen Ramsay and Jan Jones behind them)

Caroline Sheldon, Hannah Ferguson, Carole Blake and Tim Bates (with Eileen Ramsay and Jan Jones behind them)

The Agents’ Panel on the Friday which was superb – brilliantly chaired by Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann, it included Caroline Sheldon(Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency), Hannah Ferguson (Hardman & Swainson), Tim Bates (Pollinger) and Lisa Eveleigh (Richford Becklow).  It’s always great to get the agents’ perspective on what is happening in publishing so this was fascinating.

Matt Bates, the lovely fiction buyer from WH Smith Travel gave a great talk about what sells and doesn’t sell in his stores.  I especially loved his insights into covers and the huge importance they have!

Sarah Broadhurst, book reviewer extraordinaire, told us about her lifelong love of books and her career – very entertaining and interesting!

Relaxing with Ann Ankers, organiser of the RNA Marcher Ladies

Relaxing with Ann Ankers, organiser of the RNA Marcher Ladies

An Editors’ Panel, chaired by Jane Johnson (who is also an author) gave more fascinating insights, and a panel of book bloggers/reviewers told us what reviewers are looking for and how to approach them.  This panel included the lovely Charlie of The Worm Hole blog, whom I’d had the pleasure of sitting next to at dinner on the first evening.  We share a love of castles!

Author Hazel Gaynor talked about promotion; Eileen Ramsay (RNA’s new chair) led a panel discussion that featured Katie Fforde, Jane Johnson and Daniel Hahn (chair of the Society of Authors); and author Ruth Long gave a fabulous talk about magic and folklore that made me want to rush home and write fantasy books!  Then Alison Baverstock taught us about marketing, Tamsyn Murray analysed three YA books to find out why they’ve been such huge successes and Kerry Fisher talked about her road to traditional publication.

Our two volunteers in 'uchikake' kimono robes

Our two volunteers in ‘uchikake’ kimono robes

I did a talk on “Show don’t tell” with the brilliant Sue Moorcroft, utilising some of the many Japanese things I’ve collected over the years and finally I was one of many who ended up on Jane Wenham-Jones‘s Sunday Sofa to discuss our quirks …  Are you exhausted reading all this?  Well, then you’ll see why I now need a week to recover from the conference 🙂  But I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Liz Fenwick looking like a princess!

Liz Fenwick looking like a princess!

... and Liz from behind

… and Liz from behind

Lucie Wheeler and Katrina Power trying on 'zori' and 'geta' (with tabi socks)

Lucie Wheeler and Katrina Power trying on ‘zori’ and ‘geta’ (with tabi socks)

Gill-Marie Stewart and Sue Moorcroft chilling

Gill-Marie Stewart and Sue Moorcroft chilling

Katrina Power (and her megawatt smile) with Carol Townend and others

Katrina Power (and her megawatt smile) with Carol Townend and others

An 18th century Jewish cemetery in the middle of the campus - interesting!

An 18th century Jewish cemetery in the middle of the campus – interesting!

All the Choc Lit authors who attended this year's conference (minues one)

All the Choc Lit authors who attended this year’s conference (minues one)

And three of the Paisley Piranhas - myself, Gill-Marie Stewart and Katy Haye

And three of the Paisley Piranhas – myself, Gill-Marie Stewart and Katy Haye

With the lovely Sue Moorcroft – my talk ‘partner’

With fellow ChocLiteer Laura E James

With fellow ChocLiteer Laura E James

Kimono

Some of the conference first-timers looked after by Katy Haye

Some of the conference first-timers looked after by Katy Haye

What happens when we have to go home ...

What happens when we have to go home …

 

Happy 6th Birthday to Choc Lit!

JordgubbstartaJust wanted to wish Choc Lit a very Happy 6th Birthday today!  So many lovely books during that time and I’m very privileged to be part of the Choc Lit “family” 🙂  I think I shall have to make one of these Swedish strawberry cream cakes to help celebrate the occasion.  Here’s to many more birthdays to come!

PS.  If you haven’t seen it already, there’s a special “round robin” birthday story on the Choc Lit blog – check it out (here)!