Happy New Year. I feel there should be a statute of limitations (or perhaps a statue of limitations) on saying that. It’s been a hectic time, as I’m sure it has been for everyone. My plan to write at least two chapters of m WIP over my Christmas break didn’t go according to plan, though I did manage to scribble notes in between the mince pies and cake. Just as well as it’s due to my editor by the end of March! The story is set in Norman Cheshire so I have lots of excuses to go for walks into the hills to soak up the atmosphere for research.
2016 will be another exciting year for me because my next book The Blacksmith’s Wife is out in May. I haven’t got a cover yet but here is the blurb.
‘A passion forged from fire
Rejected by her favored knight, Joanna Sollers knows she will never love again. Especially when the man she’s now forced to marry is none other than her beloved’s half brother!
For blacksmith Hal Danby, marrying Joanna makes his lifelong dream of entering the Smiths’ Guild possible, even if the secrets in his past mean he’ll forever keep his distance. But everything changes with one stolen night, and in the arms of his new bride, Hal wonders if this loveless arrangement could transform into something real…’
I was pleased to see the gorgeous Aidan Turner, the inspiration for Hal, getting so much positive attention for his many charms in And Then There Were None. Here’s a quick pic in case you missed it. Definitely someone I’d want to sweep me off my feet.
I’ve had an amazing response for the book and I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read and review or share news about the book or comment on my Facebook page or Twitter feed. If you haven’t already, come over and say hello. As always its talking to readers and finding out what you think about my writing that keeps me going. Every comment means a lot to me.
I know there have been issues with availability in America thanks to Amazon gremlins but these are sorted now so if you haven’t been able to get hold of your copy now you can Buy it here on Amazon.com
I’m going to be taking a break from the internet as I’m embarking on a road trip around France and Spain, taking in the Picos de Europa which I’ve always wanted to visit. I’ll still be hard at work editing my work in progress and starting to plan my fourth book. Maybe I’ll even find a handsome Spaniard to inspire me!
I’m excited to reveal the cover for my July release, A Wager for the Widow. Although I’d been not-too-secretly hoping for my gorgeous hero Will (looking like a cross between Alexander Skasgard and Chris Hemsworth) I’m really pleased with the result.
The model’s shade of hair is exactly right for my feisty widow Eleanor. It’s a little redder on the UK cover so that’s the one I’m sharing here. She also gives the impression she isn’t going to be easily tricked into giving the hero what he’s after.
Along with the cover I thought I’d share an excerpt from an early chapter. Will has accepted his wager and is trying to find ways to win a kiss from Eleanor.
‘As Will glanced down his eye fell on the book on Lady Peyton’s lap. Her sleeve obscured the title and he grinned, sensing an opportunity.
‘You read,’ he remarked.
Lady Peyton nodded. ‘Does that surprise you? I could hardly have understood your note if I did not.’
‘For pleasure, I mean.’ Will settled back into his chair. He stretched his legs out until they were almost touching the folds of her skirts. ‘I’ll wager I can guess what you have been reading,’ he suggested. ‘Not the title, but the subject at least.’
‘What would the stake be?’ Lady Peyton asked suspiciously. She leant back against the wall and folded her arms across her body, hugging the book to her chest. Will tried not to stare too noticeably at the soft mounds of her breasts, pushed up and just visible over the edge of the volume.
‘The same thing I asked for before.’ Will grinned. ‘A single kiss.’
Lady Peyton rolled her eyes to the ceiling and huffed. The gesture was so unexpected from a high-born lady that Will burst out laughing. She glared at him.
‘I decline your terms,’ she said. ‘Why are you so insistent?’
‘Because you are beautiful and I’d like to kiss you. Why does the thought scare you?’ Will countered.
Lady Peyton sat upright. She kept the title hidden, Will noticed with delight. ‘It doesn’t scare me,’ she said firmly.
Will leant forward. So close that he could see the flecks of green that danced in her eyes.
‘Then accept the wager,’ he breathed.
He lifted his cup, holding her gaze, and took a deep draught of wine. He waited, letting silence sit between them. Lady Peyton frowned and bit her bottom lip. Will pictured himself slowly tasting it and his heart quickened.
‘Not for that prize. Name another, Master Rudhale,’ Lady Peyton insisted.
‘I see you no longer have your crutch so I judge your ankle must be healing. For a dance then,’ Will said. ‘If I win, you promise the first dance at the midwinter feast will be with me. And call me by my name,’ he added on impulse.
‘Very well. And if I win, you will not ask me again to kiss you,’ Lady Peyton replied.
A ripple of triumph stirred in Will’s belly. A dance invariably led to so much more. He nodded and raised his cup in salute to her. She did the same and they both drank, eyes meeting over the top of their cups.
‘You were reading poetry,’ he announced. ‘Some tale of love and trials of knighthood. Of advances spurned and hearts broken. All women love poetry and I have yet to meet one who can resist the prospect of love triumphant.’
Lady Peyton’s face froze. ‘All the women you have known?’ she asked icily.
‘Very few,’ Will assured her hastily. And fewer still who mattered. The thought took him by surprise. He held his hand out. ‘The book, if you please.’
Without speaking, Lady Peyton held the book towards him obediently. He opened the hidebound volume and read the title aloud.
‘Geoffrey of Monmouth. Historia Regum Britanniae.’
‘Not all women have time for foolish love stories, Master Rudhale,’ Lady Peyton said softly.
Will laughed gently through his disappointment. ‘I shall leave you to your kings, my lady,’ he said, handing the book back. He bowed, picked up his bag and left the hall. Lady Peyton had appeared pleased to see him and his spirits were high even though he had lost the wager.
Will knew nothing of Sir Baldwin, but the man must have been a very paragon of manhood for his widow to be grieving so deeply still, but surely by now she must be craving another man’s touch. He had promised not to ask her for a kiss, but what did that matter? There were so many ways of asking that did not require words after all.’
If that has whetted your appetite, A Wager for the Widow is available for pre-order in ebook and paperback and will be released on July 1st
When I signed my second contract my editor Julia invited me to visit the Harlequin office and go out for lunch which I was really looking forward to (despite being a gibbering wreck about meeting real people). I’ll freely own up to being ridiculously nervous about being unmasked as a complete fraud in front of adults, especially when they have a lot more experience about the subject of romance and books than I do, but I was dying to see where everything happened and meet the team.
It’s the school holidays and by some machinations and a bit of good fortune I managed to get down to London so I arranged a visit to the office in Richmond. On the Friday term ended I checked my emails and discovered a request to video me talking for the SYTYCW Sold! blog, thus proving the old adage*…
Despite the fact that in The Day Job I perform in front of an audience every day they’re five year olds and not too discerning. Throw on a wolf mask to blow their structures down, do a silly voice when reading a story and feign utter amazement when they beat me in the number bond challenge and they’re over the moon. Since the start of this amazingly fun journey I’ve found myself on I’ve done newspaper interviews via the telephone and even spoken on BBC Radio Manchester but the prospect of being filmed terrified me.
I got through it thanks to the encouragement of Flo who expertly put me at my ease. I only took a few takes and I managed to talk without going ‘umm’ too many times, though I did get the year I was in SYTYCW mixed up with the year Falling for Her Captor came out.
In the event, I had a wonderful day. I dispatched the husband and children to go find a view of St Paul’s and eat supermarket sandwiches while I went visiting.
I was greeted with a noticeboard with a picture of my book cover (apparently the colourful letters were not just to make the primary school teacher feel at home) and surprise champagne.
The staff were lovely. Everyone was welcoming and friendly and came over to say hello. It was a fantastic opportunity to put faces to names and get to meet the people I’ve been in touch with for a year and a half now. The enthusiasm for what they do is obvious and it made me appreciate how lucky I am to be a small part of such a wonderful team.
I shall definitely go back if they invite me. Apart from anything else, Julia and I didn’t manage pudding and we need to put that right!
*not really. It was entirely voluntary and I enjoyed doing it, despite having a meltdown beforehand when husband said my dress and top clashed.
When I wrote the story that became Falling for Her Captor I was really pleased with it as an idea. I had to be because it was the only one I had. When I got offered a 2 book contract I had a bit of a panic about whether I could actually write another book or whether that would be my one and only idea. Fortunately I had stuck a chance comment by one of the characters in FFHC about the hero’s parentage. This had given me an idea for a second book which I had already started playing around with when I got The Call. That turned into A Wager for the Widow which is my July release.
‘Where do you get your ideas?’ is a question writers get asked all the time. I’ve read some brilliant responses and I’ve answered it myself in a few interviews. The answer for me at least is they just sort of fall into my head. It’s a bit of a rubbish answer but also an alarming one because what happens if the ideas stop dropping in?
So far I’m relieved that doesn’t seem to be happening. In fact I’m finding I have more ideas demanding their turn. Sometimes a song sets them off, or visiting a new place that makes me wonder who might have lived there. Even a trip to the pub with a friend has given me a new plot to mull over (once I can decide what is in the mysterious box). About 3/4 of the way through writing A Wager for the Widow I wondered what would happen if the heroine did make the unwise decision she doesn’t make in that book (no spoilers just yet). That became the basis for my current work in progress.
Frantically scribbling a few sentences into my notepad (I used the last page yesterday. Must get another.) before I forgot an idea the other day it struck me that I’ve gone from one story via having a couple of plots in my head to now having a whole folder with Word documents. They vary from one line descriptions to a whole page outline of stories I want to write one day.
It’s going to fun deciding which one to do after I’ve finished my current book and the fourth proposal that I’ve sent to Harlequin.
Not that I’m complaining, I’d rather have a waiting list than none, but whatever happens, Taming her Ofsted Inspector is still at the bottom of the list.
This time last year I was reeling from The Call. Feeling nostalgic I decided to look back through this blog to reminisce and discovered I never wrote about it.
So here it is:
Have you ever wondered how writers feel when they finally get The Call? I know I have. Whenever I fantasised about it I imagined whooping with delight and grabbing devastatingly attractive strangers in spontaneous hugs (because one should never pass up the chance to grab an attractive stranger if the opportunity arises).
I certainly didn’t imagine the main sensation would be all encompassing queasiness. Not because I wasn’t completely over the moon, but because my call came after a 5am start, on a cross-channel ferry in February -remember those storms last year?- with the White Cliffs of Dover coming into view.
I had two further calls. One telling me I was through to the final 10 which came while I was cooking dinner and almost resulted in me burning it, then another telling me I had finished third in the competition (yippee) but that the manuscript wasn’t quite right for the Harlequin guidelines (sob). Fortunately the editors saw promise so sent me revision notes and I set to work revising and redrafting.
A week or so before going on my annual child free skiing holiday (bad mother) I sent my revised manuscript to Sarah at Harlequin and kept everything crossed that the changes I’d made were enough to make the grade.
And then I got The Big Call. The one that mattered, and the one I never really believed I would get.
A week skiing almost managed to take my mind off things and the drive back from the Alps to Calais finished me off so all I cared about at that point was getting home in one piece. There I was, settled on a lumpy chair with a cardboard cup of lukewarm lemon and ginger tea, trying to ignore the way the horizon kept lurching, when the phone rang showing a number I didn’t recognise.
“Hi, it’s Sarah from Harlequin…”
Yes, she liked the changes. Yes, the manuscript fitted much better with Harlequin Historical’s reader promise. Yes, the emotional conflict between Aline and Hugh worked much better (which I gather readers agree with from the feedback I’ve had).
I tried to sound intelligent and sophisticated, but who am I kidding? I know I apologised for sounding vague, burbled about crossing half of France before breakfast, almost spilled my drink and tried to resist saying ‘please tell me if you want it before the ferry sinks!*’
Which of course, she did.
Cue huge grins and self-conscious glances at the other passengers in case they wondered why I was acting so strangely. Then Sarah mentioned the words ‘two book deal’ and I wished I’d ordered something a little stronger than tea!
As fate had it we were heading back to pick up our children from my in-laws so it was lovely to be able to turn up with such exciting news and a few bottles of Breton cider to celebrate.
I still can’t quite believe that from the first call in Cornwall to seeing my words in print was less than a year and that a year after getting The Big Call I’ve finished a second book and been offered a further contract for another two.
It’s been an amazing year since I sent off that first chapter, and with my second book, A Wager for the Widow, coming out in July and the third in progress the fun is still going on.
Yesterday I was gloomy owing to my day job. Today I’m not so I want to share the title for my next book.
It’s the story of Eleanor and Will and is called A Wager for the Widow which I think has a great alliterative ring to it. It comes out in July (just in time for my 40th birthday so that should take the sting out a bit) and it’s being released electronically and mass market paperback in North America and the UK and as a paperback duo in Australia.
Here’s the blurb:
“I suppose a kiss of gratitude is out of the question?”
Widowed Lady Eleanor Peyton has chosen a life of independence. Living alone on her rocky coastal outcrop, she’s cut herself off from the world of men — until William Rudhale saves her life and demands a kiss!
As steward to Lady Eleanor’s father, Will knows the desire he burns with is futile — but he’ll still wager he can claim Eleanor’s kiss by midwinter. Yet when the tide turns Will realizes vulnerable Eleanor is far too precious to gamble with. Can he win his lady before it’s too late?
I don’t have a cover yet as I’ve got all the fun of describing characters and settings still to come, but I’ll be sharing that as soon as I do. In the meantime, if anyone wants to be super organised and order it the link is here.