I’m going to be visiting other blogs closer to release date and will post links here. I’m also going to be interviewed on BBC Radio Manchester on 22nd June so if you’re in the area have a listen to Becky Want’s show around 2.15.
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
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.
A very short post because it’s been a long week. In my other job I’ve had a lesson observation and am in the throes of rehearsals for the Christmas play (insert all the traditional cliches about 5 year olds in Nativities- they’re all true).
On my non-school days (I hesitate to call them days off) I’ve been working on my revisions for my second book. A couple of days ago my editor emailed to say she loved them and we’re there with it.
I wondered if the thrill of having a manuscript accepted would wear off but if anything this feels even better than the first time around because it shows me I wasn’t just a one hit wonder. It’s also important because I’ve proved to myself that I can write to a deadline rather than taking my time over a few years with no real timescale as I did with the first one. Now I’m looking forward to the next stages of the process, which I didn’t even realise existed before FFHC was bought. Hello art sheets and browsing the internet for pictures of my hero to send the cover design team – such a trial. We shall not mention Word document track changes at this point…
I’m in the process of working through revisions for my second manuscript so thought I’d share the first meeting of my heroine and hero as I said I would share an excerpt when I had more Facebook likes.
‘The horseman cursed and wheeled his mount around. He galloped away from the water’s edge then turned. With a sudden bellow he cracked the reins sharply and sped back towards the river. As the horse reached the edge, the rider spurred it forward. The horse leapt through the air with ease to land on the deck alongside Eleanor. The ferry bucked, the far end almost rising from the water. Hooves clattered on the slippery wood and the animal gave a high-pitched whinny of alarm. It was not going to stop!
As a cumbersome looking saddlebag swung towards her Eleanor threw herself out of its way. The railing caught her behind the knees and she stumbled backwards, her ankle turning beneath her. Cursing, she flailed her arms helplessly, unable to regain her balance as the river came up to meet her.
The soaking never happened. Something stopped Eleanor with a jerk. Her feet slid on the deck and her head snapped back. Cold spray splashed over her face, her plait dipping below the surface of the water. Blinking rapidly, she raised her head to see what had stopped her fall.
The horseman, still mounted, had twisted across his saddle at what seamed an impossible angle. He leaned almost horizontally over the platform, the neck of Eleanor’s cloak bundled in one gloved hand. Eleanor found herself staring up into a pair of blue eyes half hidden in the depths of his hood.
With ease the man pulled Eleanor back to her feet. Still holding her he threw his leg back across the saddle and dismounted gracefully. As she stood upright a spear of pain shot through Eleanor’s ankle. She gave an involuntary gasp and her knees buckled. With the same speed as his initial rescue, the rider’s arms found their way round Eleanor’s waist, catching her tight and clasping her to him before she slipped to the ground.
“I’ve got you. Don’t wriggle!”
The man’s hood fell back and Eleanor saw him clearly for the first time. He was younger than his voice had suggested. A long scar ran from the outside corner of his eye and across his cheek, disappearing beneath a shaggy growth of beard at his jaw. A second ran parallel from below his eye to his top lip. His corn-coloured hair fell in loose tangles to his shoulder. Close up his eyes were startlingly blue.
Footsteps thundered on the deck as Eleanor’s coachman appeared. It struck Eleanor suddenly that the man was still holding her close, much closer than was necessary, in fact. She because conscious of the rise and fall of his chest, moving rhythmically against her own. Her heart was thumping so heavily she was sure he would be able to feel it through her clothing. As to why it was beating so rapidly she refused to think about.
“You can let go of me now,” she muttered.
The horseman’s eyes crinkled. “I could,” he said, “though I just saved your life. There must be some benefits to rescuing a beautiful maiden in distress, and holding her until she stops shaking is one of them. I suppose a kiss of gratitude is out of the question?”
“You didn’t save my life. I can swim,” Eleanor cried indignantly. It was true she was trembling, but now it was from anger. “I am most certainly not kissing you!”
The man’s forehead crinkled in disbelief. “Even though I saved you from a cold bath?”
Eleanor’s cheeks flamed. “It was your fault in the first instance, you reckless fool. You could have capsized us all. Your horse might have missed completely.”
The horseman laughed. “Nonsense, it was perfectly safe. Tobias could have cleared twice that distance. If you had stood still none of this would have happened. You panicked.”
With an irritated snort Eleanor pushed herself from the man’s grip, contriving to elbow him sharply in the stomach as she did so. She heard a satisfying grunt as she turned her back. She headed to the carriage but her ankle gave a sharp stab of pain. She stopped, balling her fists in irritation. The horseman leaned round beside her. “Allow me,” he said. Before Eleanor could object he had lifted her into his arms and strode the three paces to the coach. With one hand on the door-handle he cocked his head. “Still no kiss? Ah well, it’s a cruel day!”
“There are no circumstances under which I would kiss you!” Eleanor said haughtily, sweeping her gaze up and down him.
His face darkened and Eleanor took the opportunity to wriggle from his arms. Biting her lip to distract herself from the throbbing in her ankle she swung the door open herself and climbed in, slamming it loudly behind her.’
This is my writing notebook, though it hasn’t always been that. It started life with a much more serious purpose.
Not long after starting on my second manuscript I realised I was on a much tighter time frame than first time around and had better try organise myself. There had to be a lot less making it up as I went along (yes, yes, but shhh, you know what I mean) than first time around. I chanced upon a great blog post about how to increase word limit http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/how-i-went-from-writing-2000-words-day.html (read it, it’s good. There’s a book too) and decided to follow the advice. Obviously the first thing I decided I needed was a notebook so I went upstairs, had a good rummage on my shelves and unearthed this one which I had forgotten all about.
Then I had to put it back on the shelf and go sit down for a little while with a cup of tea because finding it again messed with my head a lot.
After the birth of my second child I developed full-on, mind-melting, 4a.m. floor-pacing postnatal depression. It was understandable I suppose. We sold and moved house not long after she was born, with all the stress that involves. My husband was working away, we have no family close by and I had a 19 month who was already exhibiting signs of what would turn out to be Asperger’s Syndrome. It was all overwhelming. I pushed myself through days and resisted taking medication, partly because I was breastfeeding and partly because as a society we have a very strange attitude towards mental health issues. I’ve thought long and hard about even writing this because it is feels like outing myself as some sort of freak or failure as a functioning human.
I would never have refused drugs for a heart problem or epilepsy but being a bit sad, well, we just don’t like to go there do we, even when describing depression as being ‘a bit sad’ is like describing a broken leg as ‘a bit annoying to walk on- don’t make a fuss, push it out of your mind and stop being silly, of course you can run a marathon!’
Eventually I saw my GP and asked for counselling. She was wonderfully understanding, not at all judgemental and put me straight down on the six month minimum waiting list.
Six months. Almost as long as the time my baby had been alive. Six more months of feeling defeated, useless, despairing and exhausted. I couldn’t wait that long. I admitted defeat and started taking medication and started to feel better in very small increments but I knew I needed something else too.
My husband went out and scoured Waterstones for some self help books and found me a book on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I made myself read it, even when I really, really didn’t want to. It had helpful -incredibly helpful though not easy- tasks to complete.
I did them in my cheerful stripy notebook. The brightest I could find that wasn’t too girly or covered in flowers because I wanted something bright to look at on the dark days.
I spent a lot more time crying, a load more nights lying on the sofa or curled up in a corner, many months still doubting myself and feeling like I’d never come through the other side but eventually I turned a corner. Once more, a nod and raised glass to the ladies to whom Falling for Her Captor is dedicated. With absolutely no exaggeration whatsoever they have stopped me from sinking on so many occasions.
I got the counselling too and that helped and eventually I stopped using the notebook, about halfway through. I put in on the shelf and after a couple of years I forgot about it.
Things brightened up and I put myself mainly back together. I started teaching again I became a person rather than simply a human shaped sack of Mum and misery- see previous posts for puree related ennui.
Now all those years later and I decided to try mapping out chapters, discovering the notebook was a bit of a punch to the chest. I had come such a long way and I had barely even realised it was happening. I had been panicking that I’d never be able to finish a second book. Did I have a complete story in me? Could I get it done to deadline? Would me editor tell me they’d made a mistake and ask for the money back??? Reading some of the things I had written were very bloody hard but to be able to look back and see where I had been and where I was now was very emotional. I don’t intend to read them again, but it was the little kick I needed to get my head down, plan and write and get on with what I had to do.
I made more tea, turned the book upside down and began to plan my chapter. The method worked. Hooray! I planned, wrote longhand, scribbled dialogue and drew lots of boxes and amazingly managed to get the manuscript to my editor over a month in advance. Double hooray!! Now I have the revisions back and they look doable.
There are 4 pages left in the middle of the book between what I have written now and what I wrote then. The gulf between my mindset then and now is too big to span.
There isn’t really a moral to this story (or a point, I hear you cry?) except this. Depression isn’t something that ever goes away. I still have it and I suspect I always will. The mental heart murmur or psychological diabetes is never cured, you just learn to manage it better. You may know someone who lives with depression. Chances are you do whether you know it or not because as I’ve said, the stigma means it takes a lot of guts to admit it and guts isn’t often what you have when you’re at the bottom of the pit. If you do know someone make sure you look out for them. If the colleague who usually jokes looks a bit absent one day make them a cup of tea. If the mum at toddler group is looking frazzled go chat to them. If the parent walking round the supermarket with a toddler clinging on looks like they’re going to burst into tears then give them a sympathetic smile when they knock oranges flying.
Support Mental Health charities, they do great work and don’t receive much funding.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going so shuffle off and start work on those revisions.
In front of me on the table is a box of books. Six North American copies of my book (which from what I can see refers to me as a mom not mum). Mine. Which I wrote. As I write these words I can’t stop grinning.
The kids dragged me out of the shower to answer the door this morning (they’re well trained not to answer it themselves but to scream ‘mum’s coming’ through the letterbox). We’re packing to go on a marathon camping trip round France and Spain and have been buying all sorts of random things that have been arriving daily so I took delivery and was about to stick the box on the sofa and get back in the shower before the washing machine kicked in and stole the hot water. Then I spotted the red logo. I’ve already had my monthly delivery (which isn’t a euphemism) so surely it couldn’t be…
Picture the dignified scene of the new author wrapped in a towel and frantically ripping open parcel tape while shampoo drips onto the hall floor if you like. There, isn’t that pretty, aren’t you glad you did? Now picture the squeals prompting two children to barely glance up from their Lego and Loom Bands (yes, we’re stuck with them too) and shrug at Mum making a fuss again.
“Look, my book!”
“My book! Cease your play and come marvel, my offspring.”
“Very nice. I like her dress,” says my daughter. “Can I read it?”
Errr. Maybe when you’re 25. Or 40. Certainly not seven, however good at blending phonemes you are.
So. Six books now. Another box of UK copies to come. Better find a very high shelf because she’s got that look in her eye and I don’t want to be responsible for what gets passed round the playground come September 3rd!
Seriously though, I will be sending out review copies so if you’re reading this and you have a blog, book group or Goodreads account and you’d like me to send you one drop me a line.