A Wager for the Widow cover reveal and excerpt

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.

The Mills & Boon UK cover.
The Mills & Boon UK cover.

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

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wager-Widow-Mills-Boon-Historical-ebook/dp/B00VS0FV5U/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-2&qid=1429724692

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A visit and a video

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.

The video is here

http://sold.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/2015/04/weekend-writing-tip-tbc/

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.  noticeboard

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.

group

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.

Sam Vimes -Alpha Male

If you’re reading this post because you follow the blog and are expecting to read about historical romance or Mills & Boon then be aware- this post is different.

It’s only fair to warn you now that this isn’t going to be very coherent because after hearing about Terry Pratchett’s death on Thursday I’m still too sad to articulate properly. I’ve been reading the Discworld series since I first picked up Sourcery back in 1989 and was hooked. I wanted to write something to mark the event which has – no exaggeration – hit me like the loss of a friend and which days later still brings a tear to my eye when I think of it. I could wax lyrical for hours about the humour, warmth, optimism, humanity and anger in the series but there are better writers out there doing a much better job of discussing Sir Terry’s legacy and impact than I could. I’ll just descend into fangirl quoting, try to explain the plots of 40 books and then go off for a cry.

What I do do though is write heroes and throughout the Discworld series I believe one character evolved more than any other. To me he is one of the great alpha male creations in literature and I’ll freely admit to having a huge crush on His Grace, His Excellency, The Duke of Ankh; Commander Sir Samuel Vimes (Blackboard Monitor) and I know I’m far from alone.

A series of books set on a flat world that moves through space on the back of a turtle might seem an unlikely place to find a hero, but the embittered loner fighting his demons is a staple of fiction and I would argue (and will at length if given enough vodka and ginger beer) that had Sam Vimes appeared in any other genre he’d be hailed as one of the great examples of the last half-century. He’s written in the vein of Noir detectives: jaded, cynical and at rock bottom. Like them he needs a purpose in life and the love of a good woman to redeem him and across the Guards strand of novels the story of how he gets these makes compelling reading.

All alphas need a fault to overcome and we first meet Sam Vimes in Guards! Guards!, drunk in a gutter and despairing, having seen the worst and believing there is nothing better to come. He’s been ground down by years of working for psychotic leaders and as we see in Night Watch -to my mind one of the most moving and justifiably angry books written in any genre- from his first days on the job he’s lived through revolution and seen death and loss that would make any man turn to the bottle.

Over the course of Guard! Guards!, in part through his meeting with Lady Sybil, Vimes gradually begins his redemption. This will eventually lead him to become one of the most powerful men in the city while still maintaining his integrity and determination. He’s the archetypal poor kid from the slums made good and throughout the series his innate sense of justice sees him evolve into a knight-errant figure and champion of the underdog (or under goblin) who would not be out of place in any romance novel.

Vimes an anti-authoritarian cynic who constantly sees the worst in humanity (and dwarfantiy and trollanity etc- this is the Discworld after all) yet manages to remain a believer in the need to do the right thing, however hard that might be and however difficult the decisions are. He has swagger and presence; whether facing down the tyrant who rules the city, a gang of backstreet thugs or a group of civic leaders and scheming nobles who still view him as a jumped up slum dweller.

An alpha hero needs to be able to fight. Physically Vimes is tough. He walks the street of the city in battered armour and old boots even when he’s the richest man in the city. He’s capable in a street brawl, battle scarred and often beaten and bruised but gamely carrying on, chewing on his cigar in a manner reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name and waving a crossbow or dragon with extreme prejudice. When I wrote the duel between Hugh, the hero of Falling for Her Captor, and the villain Duke Stephen it was at least in part influenced by the image of Vimes wearily pulling himself to his feet for a final showdown.

He isn’t perfect- he has his faults but like all great heroes strives to overcome them. He keeps a bottle of best whiskey in his desk drawer to prove daily he can resist temptation and because these are fantasy, when he battles his inner demons he does so in the very real sense of the word.

Commander Sam Vimes of the City Watch

Because these are humorous fantasy novels rather than Romances we don’t get to peek through the keyhole of Sam and Sybil’s bedroom. They aren’t that sort of books. We do, however get a clear insight into their relationship and romance and one thing is absolutely clear- this is a man who simply adores his wife. Who is devoted to her and who will do anything for her (crime solving allowing). This is a man who runs barefoot through the forest, pursued by werewolves to save his wife. A man who will fight across time itself to get back to her. A man who will crawl on his knees through underground caverns to single handedly exact vengeance on a group of fundamentalist conspiracists , all the while screaming the words of a bedtime story he’s promised to read to his son.

I defy any red-blooded woman not to read these books and fall in love with Vimes to some degree.

I first met Vimes at the tender and impressionable age of 14. Terry Pratchett said he imagined the character looking like the late Pete Postlethwaite but to me he was always a little bit Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, a touch of Sean Bean as Sharpe and later on, a bit of House era Hugh Laurie (apparently a popular choice for the role if it ever comes to the screen).

Vimes, along with Lindsey Davis’ M Didius Falco, pretty much set the bar by which all men are judged.

Poor things.

If I could ever write a hero with one tenth of the appeal of Sam Vimes I’ll consider myself a very happy author indeed.

That we’ll never discover what happens to Sam, or any of the other characters is one of the reasons Sir Terry’s death has hit fans so hard. There is a Disc shaped hole in the world and I’m already missing the future books that will never be written.

I’d like to imagine circumstances contriving to necessitate Sam eventually becoming Patrician, a role he’d take reluctantly but one he’d shoulder in order to ensure the lives of Ankh Morpork citizens are worth living. Whatever happens he’s out there in seven books (not counting cameos) wearing old boots, giving chase and aiming to keep the promises he’s made.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to raise a glass of Bearhugger’s Whiskey Cream.

The Ideas Shed

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.

One year on

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.

As it happens I had three calls before the big one and I’ve written about finding out I was through to the final 50 of SYTYCW2013 here https://elisabethhobbes.co.uk/page/5/.

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.

And now Falling for Her Captor is out how do I feel? Absolutely thrilled. It’s been so exciting to follow my characters on their journey from my laptop to the pages and learn about what happens once that first life-changing phonecall is over. Reviews have been almost universally positive http://www.amazon.co.uk/Falling-Captor-Mills-Boon-Historical-ebook/dp/B00M1OL2X2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424637155&sr=8-1&keywords=falling+for+her+captor. I have a fabulous new editor, Julia, after Sarah left the company to pursue other things and I’ve met so many lovely people through doing this. I’ve been in the paper and done an interview on BBC Radio Manchester without throwing up in the studio!

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.

*not dissing P&O. It really was horrible weather.

Title reveal!

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.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wager-Widow-Mills-Boon-Historical/dp/0263247937/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422877956&sr=8-1&keywords=a+wager+for+the+widow

A grumble about teaching English

‘The big ginger cat of London likes eating fish and climbing the curtains.’

‘the enormous marmalade coloured cat of london likes munching his way through mounds of salmon and whizzing up and down the curtains like a yoyo’

Which sentence is correct? Which sentence is better?

According to the new National Curriculum for Year 1, the first is better because the child has achieved the objective of using capital letters for names of places. Never mind the use of descriptive language, we’re not interested in that today. Vocabulary choice isn’t even on the curriculum for Year 1 (5-6 year olds for anyone not from England) and our objectives should be based on the new curriculum and the key skills.

Let me make it clear, I have absolutely no problem with children developing these skills. I think they’re hugely important. As a teacher I work hard to raise attainment in my pupils. I want them to write legibly and grammatically. Children should be able to

write sentences by:
saying out loud what they are going to write about
composing a sentence orally before writing it
sequencing sentences to form short narratives
re-reading what they have written to check that it makes sense
discuss what they have written with the teacher or other pupils
read their writing aloud, clearly enough to be heard by their peers and the teacher

and

leaving spaces between words
joining words and joining clauses using ‘and’
beginning to punctuate sentences using a capital letter and a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark
using a capital letter for names of people, places, the days of the week, and the personal pronoun ‘I’

But surely there is more to writing than that? There is but I decided against cut and pasting the Transcription part of the document. The above was the Composition element. If we all work really hard we might produce a generation of children with accurate grammar and perfect spellings but will we produce children who want to write?

The new curriculum that was taken from came in this academic year. Last year I taught the same topics so had a look through my planning to see what had changed and if I could reuse any ideas. Last year when we wrote poems about the sea, we looked at imagery, we played around with adjectives, wrote sentences on strips of paper, tore them up to change the word order and looked at what happened to the sentence. We watched short films and music videos. Enya’s Orinoco Flow was a favourite as was this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1mX8ptsmBM We created characters and sent them on journeys. One day, when I figure out where he ends up, I’m going to write the pilot’s story myself.

The child who wrote amazing sentences on a wanted poster for their invented pirate got recognition for that even if they had forgotten to capitalise ‘seasick jane, the terror of the west indies’. This year, even with all my best endeavours to make the lessons fun it feels like some of the joy has gone out of it.

As someone who also loves creating stories and images and making a reader feel for a character it all makes me rather sad. Of course I want my writing to be accurate (though I know my lovely editor will pick up on my mistakes and won’t even keep me in at playtime) and wading through an otherwise engrossing book full of typos can be a labour of love, but checking the accuracy is something that comes afterwards. Once my hero has admitted he was too proud and cold to admit his feelings and the heroine has fallen sobbing into his arms after an emotional fight then I’ll go back and check for stray capitals. If all my reviews on Amazon concentrated on the accuracy of my commas I’d probably give up*.

Today Nicky Morgan, the Minister for Education, has announced a war on illiteracy and innumeracy, which is great, because we like funding wars. I just hope she’s planning to fund this war as well as the one on Terror or against places that might affect our oil supply because schools could sure as hell do with the funding! If schools fail to get every child through the tests they risk being turned into academies (taking them out of LA control and giving them to private companies to run) and Headteachers risk being sacked. This is not going to encourage teachers to allow children the freedom to explore language and creativity, or Heads to let them.

Last year I used to get little stories or poems brought in from pupils after the weekend. Not all of them were brilliantly spelled or had the right capitals and full stops but they were fun and showed a genuine pleasure in producing ideas. This year they proudly show me their alphabets written in cursive writing. To me that speaks volumes and none of them have happy endings.

*I won’t- writing is the only plan I have to get out of teaching that doesn’t involve leaving in a box (thank you to you all if you’ve bought my book, if you haven’t please do, I can’t take much more waiting for OFSTED to descend).

The Wonders of the Universe Drinking game rules!

I love Brian Cox and it is a continual disappointment to me that, despite driving past Jodrell Bank twice a day, three times a week, I’ve not yet bumped into him.
Maybe as I’m driving that is a good thing.

Anomalous Distraction

Jusht Cuz.


Stop Press : Apparently Prof Cox is aware of the drinking game. So by not participating, not only will you be letting yourself down, you’ll be letting him down too. Do it. You know it makes sense.

Take 1 finger of drink when Prof Cox says:

Take 2 fingers of drink for:

  • “Billions*”
  • 2nd law of thermodynamics
  • Any use of props (like salt and pepper shakers) or drawing in the sand with a stick (ht Rob and @carolwhead)

Take 3 fingers of drink…

View original post 108 more words

I’ve got mail

One of the best things about this writing business is getting boxes of books through the post. Who doesn’t like getting parcels, and filled with books. What could be better.

Oh yes, getting a parcel filled with books with my name on them!

These turned up today completely out of the blue which makes it doubly exciting because I wasn’t expecting any.

I reckon he would have given Hugh a run for his money.
I reckon he would have given Hugh a run for his money.

I secretly wanted a brooding hero on my cover so Zachary Black is the next best thing. Later I’m going to prop the books up next to each other and make him and Aline talk to each other.

I know I have blog readers in Australia (hello, I love your country, haven’t been for years)so if you’ve seen this on the shelves I’d love you to let me know. If you’ve bought it, even more so.

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