Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 and The Best Christmas Gift Ever

Happy almost 2012! Hope everyone had a lovely, relaxed, and festive Christmas!

This year has been a big one for me. I published two more novels, a novella, watched my best friend get married, and started to marinate a baby. All in all, I thought it couldn't get much better.

And then this happened.

Baby Boy TR! Only hours old, weighing 3.3 kilos.

Due on 7th January, his arrival into the world on Christmas Eve at 3:44 pm GMT was a surprise! Mr TR was dying for a Christmas baby and I guess Baby TR was listening. Let's hope he continues to be as compliant... somehow, I think not.

Since then, life has been a bit of a blur! We made it out of the hospital on December 27, and indulged in our own little family Christmas dinner and festive celebrations. Opening gifts and scoffing turkey (without heartburn) as my new baby snuffled in his basket, well... I couldn't help thinking life, in that one moment, really was perfect.

Today, he's one week old and to my very biased eyes, adorable.

Thank you, India Drummond, for the super cute puppy!

Cuddles with his bunny friend.

Okay, enough baby drooling (literally, ha!). I'll be taking next week off the blog to enjoy life with my new little man.

In the meantime, have a very happy New Year! All the best for 2013. May there be plenty of wine, Twizzlers and coffee in your future.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Holidays! Now Have Some Cookies...

It's the last Friday before Christmas! Whoop! Like many others in the blogosphere, I'll be taking next week off to enjoy the real world. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season with friends and family, and thank you loads for all your support over the past year. Time and again, I'm reminded of the blogging community's generosity.

Now time for cookies! To celebrate the launch of Angela's Felsted's new novel Chaste, I'm participating in a cookie-recipe exchange (or 'biscuits', as they call them on this side of the Pond). I have a particular hankering for coconut macaroons, so without further ado....

Simple Coconut Macaroons


Makes16 macaroons
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 225g (8 oz) desiccated coconut
  • 150g (5 oz) caster sugar
  • glace cherries to decorate (optional)

Preparation method

Prep: 15 minsCook: 30 mins

Monday, December 17, 2012

New Kid on the Block

Hope you all had a good weekend! It was sunny and warm in London --oddly enough -- and guess what? It still is! Very bizarre.

Can you believe there's only one more week until Christmas? Today, I'm helping to spread the word about Glynis Smy's new novel, Maggie's Child. Glynis is one of the most supportive bloggers out there and a fabulous friend to have on side. So without further ado, here's more about her latest!

When farmer’s wife Maggie Sawbury gives birth to her fifth child, the only one that has lived and the result of an extra-marital affair, she is heartbroken and desperate. Maggie knows her joyless life with a bully of a husband is not one a child should endure, and she leaves the baby at the roadside to be found by passers-by.

Her money-driven husband announces he has found her another job in the village of Redgrave, aside from the many tasks she has on Windtop farm. He is totally unaware the position comes with a secret. One that frightens and yet brings joy to Maggie. She is to become wet-nurse to her abandoned child.

Love, and the possibility of incest, threaten to open old wounds, and Maggie has several decisions to make. However, will they be the right ones? If she tells all she knows, it will bring about the destruction of three families. Equally, her silence could be just as destructive. She shares her secret with another, the result changes her life, and a death brings with it more secrets. Will Maggie stay or will she walk away and find the love she craves?

 The ebook will be available at a Christmas - New Year price of 99c via Amazon, (and other Amazon outlets around the world).

Want to win a paperback copy?

If you can tell Glynis the name of the prostitute friend in her novel, Ripper, My Love, you will be put into a draw for a prize copy of Maggie’s Child in paperback format. The email address you need to send the answer to can be found in the sidebar of, NEW BOOK BLOGGER.

To learn more about and to purchase books by Glynis: Books by Glynis Smy
Meet and Tweet with Glynis ... Ghunibee
Facebook Page: Glynis Smy
Author Blog: Glynis Smy

What a gorgeous cover! A huge congrats to Glynis.

Have a great week, all. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chick Lit and Cigars

Friday! Phew!

This has been an unexpectedly busy week, and I must apologise for not being able to make my usual blog commenting rounds. I plan on using this weekend to catch up!

A big thanks for all the kind comments on my photos earlier this week. Mr TR & I are pleased with how they came out. And a huge congrats to Paul Anthony Shortt and his wife on the birth of their twins!

In other news, India Drummond has released a very helpful how-to video on formatting for CreateSpace. It really does simplify things, so it's definitely worth a look.

Today, I'm delighted to welcome Michael Harling to the blog. Mike and I first 'met' a few years ago, when I was writing guidebooks under my real name and he was penning hilarious stories about being an expat in England. Mike is here to talk about his first novel, Finding Rachel Davenport.

Over to Mike!

Hi. I’m Mike Harling, I drink whiskey, I smoke cigars, I write chick-lit.

I’ve always wanted to say that, even if it is not technically true. While Finding Rachel Davenport does meet the basic criteria for chick-lit—being as it is about a woman navigating relationships with two would-be boyfriends—this young woman also happens to moonlight as a low-budget crime fighter who runs afoul of the law and has to dodge awkward questions from her nosy neighbor.

Also, there is a literal ticking bomb, a race to save a life and a few narrow escapes thrown in. But there are handbags, and I even knew enough to call them that, so I should be given some leeway.

I did not set out to write a “chick-lit” book, or even a book that could be classified as “woman’s fiction.” I know publishers aren’t keen to take on novels that cannot easily be slipped into a pigeon hole, but I was too naïve to consider that; I was merely interested in telling a story that was fun and fast-paced and had a happy ending. Much as I admire more hard-hitting fiction, when I finish a Harry Hole adventure, I usually feel like slitting my wrists. Now, I’m willing to put myself through that on occasion, but I much prefer it when the people I have just spent the past week with have, at last, found happiness and put everything right within their fictional world. There is enough pain and injustice in the real world, so I aimed to give my readers a break from it. That’s all.

As anyone could have told me, a manuscript that blurs the genre lines will garner more confusion than offers: Is it a thriller? A comic novel? Chick-lit? A crime drama? With no pigeon hole to fit into, it seemed like Finding Rachel Davenport was going to have trouble finding a home. Eventually, Prospera Publishing expressed interest, and published it as an ebook under their Opis Imprint.

Luddite that I am, and having retained the paperback rights, I self-published the book through Amazon as a paperback, giving my friends without Kindles something to look forward to this Christmas, and me something to set on my bookshelf and admire.

So what is Finding Rachel Davenport? Well, I’ll let the readers decide, but if you like chick-lit—especially the kind with fun, quirky plots that don’t leave you feeling like reaching for the happy pills—then I think you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Michael Harling moved to Britain unexpectedly (and through no fault of his own) in 2002. He is the author of three humorous books about expat life: Postcards From Across the Pond, More Postcards From Across the Pond and Postcards From Ireland. Finding Rachel Davenport is his first novel. He currently lives in West Sussex with his wife and has recently been promoted to the position of “full-time writer” thanks to a shrinking economy. All his books are available as ebooks and in paperback format. Visit Michael at his blog, Postcards From Across the Pond ( or his website (

Thanks, Mike!

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Food, Film and Fun!

Happy Monday! Did everyone have a good weekend? It was a frosty one in London, albeit with a brilliant blue sky which Mr TR and I took advantage of by strolling through Kensington Gardens (after I filled my belly with French toast, maple syrup and yummy apple compote).

If I seem to be all about food these days... it's because I am!

Today, I'm guest reviewer on Novel Escapes, where I review Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. I LOVE this novel - if you haven't read it, you need to!

And over in the Christmas Creche, nine different authors name their favourite Christmas films. I went with Love Actually, but last night I watched Elf and it's a definite second choice.

And speaking of bellies... Mr TR and I recently did a maternity photo shoot with a brilliant photographer, who'll also photograph Baby TR when he makes his appearance! This is the only time in my life when I'll willingly bare my stomach, and here are two of my favourites from the session.

How's your belly doing? And what's your favourite Christmas film?

Friday, December 07, 2012

Ghosts of Christmas Presents

Happy Friday, everyone! Thank you all for the kind words on the launch of The Pollyanna Plan. I'm happy to assure you lots of carrot cake was eaten in celebration.

Today, I am off to Carnaby Street for lunch with one of my favourite writers and pals, the wonderful Mel Sherratt. So, while I'm stuffing my face, I'll turn the blog over to Scarlett Bailey, another fabulous author who has some wonderful Christmas reads out now to get you in the spirit.

Over to Scarlett!

It’s the time of year, not to mention the time of the month of the time of the year when I realise that I really need to get those last few Christmas presents tied up, preferably in Christmas wrapping and a colour co-ordinated bow. Getting the perfect gift, the one that will make the recipients eyes light up, gets harder every year, but I have picked up a few tips along the way about the art if giving and receiving Christmas gifts. Here are my top five tips.

DON’T casually mention in passing a domestic appliance in the three months prior to Christmas, especially not when the man in your life is around. This is how I ended up getting a Dustbuster one year and being single by New Year’s Eve. Men, it’s not always the thought that counts.

DO accept that men are impossible to buy for unless they have a hobby. My man is a musician (Miles in ‘Married by Christmas’ is based on him!) and one year I did manage to buy him a guitar, but that pretty much wiped out my present budget for the next one hundred years. So this year he will mainly be getting fruit. (Not really, but I can’t tell you what I’m really getting him in case he reads this.)

YES, kids have everything already. I know this because I have four of them, including baby twins. The twins are ok, all they want for Christmas is something to chew on, the three year old is at the stage when he wants everything he sees (I want that, that, that, that, and that, and that, and that and also that), so I’m guessing I’ll be able to please him in some way, but its my eleven year old daughter that’s the tricky one. What do you get a girl who’s already saved up her pocket money and bought herself an iPod touch? I’ve decided to go low tech and buy her many books, art materials and possibly a goldfish. We are still debating the goldfish, mainly as usually whatever is her responsibility to feed, clean out and take for walks, becomes mine. Although admittedly we won’t have to worry about the walks with a fish.

TRICKY gifts are often the ones you buy for your girlfriends, and after years of trialling soaps, scarves, jewellery and books (people don’t like it when I give them books, its like they think I am somehow cheating, even when I give them books I haven’t written!) I have found a sure-fire failsafe. Glitter based make-up. Yep, there is nothing I like to give or receive more than glittery nail varnish, eyeliner, eye shadow, face powers (cleavage powder) and lipstick. Certainly my friends and I are at out happiest when sparkling like a fairy on top of the tree. Glitter cheers up everyone. Even Scrooge.

NEVER publicly admit to hating a gift you have received, even if it’s the same soaps set you that you have repeatedly mentioned being allergic to that one particular relative who gives it to you every year, come what may – anaphylactic shock included. Sour faces and resentment just spoil the day. Smile brightly, tuck it away somewhere and at the first available opportunity return it or donate it to a charity shop. Then buy yourself something lovely instead. Maybe some glittery mascara.

Before writing her debut novel The Night Before Christmas, British writer Scarlett Bailey was a cinema usherette, a waitress, and a barmaid - but always a writer. A lover of romance, Christmas, comedy and perfect heros, Scarlett, who also writes under her own name Rowan Coleman, decided to write books that are perfect to curl up in front of a real fire on Christmas Eve, whilst waiting for Santa to pop down the chimney. You can find her books on and

Thank you, Scarlett! 

What's the worst Christmas present you've received? 

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Monday, December 03, 2012

A Little Pollyanna!

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend. London was bright, sunny... and cold. It's back to gloom and damp today, though.

I'm super-pleased to report The Pollyanna Plan is now up on Amazon! Phew! If you're so inclined, you can download a copy on for $2.99 and Amazon UK for £1.53.

Thirty-something Emma Beckett has always looked down on 'the glass is half full' optimists, believing it's better to be realistic than delusional. But when she loses her high-powered job and fiancé in the same week, even Emma has difficulty keeping calm and carrying on.

With her world spinning out of control and bolstered by a challenge from her best friend, Emma makes a radical decision. For the next year, she'll behave like Pollyanna: attempting to always see the upside, no matter how dire the situation.

Can adopting a positive attitude give Emma the courage to build a new life, or is finding the good in everything a very bad idea?

Told from my two main characters' (Emma and Will) points of view, I really enjoyed writing this one and delving into both their personalities. I admit to developing a tiny crush on Will! Over on Chicklit Club, there's a chance to win an e-copy (open internationally)

And a huge thank you to everyone who's downloaded my Christmas novella Mistletoe in Manhattan -- this weekend it jumped into the Top 100 on Amazon UK and it's currently in the top 50! I've no idea how long it'll stay there, but I'll enjoy the ride while it lasts, all down to fabulous readers. Thank you, thank you!

Have a lovely week, all, and congratulations to everyone who complete NaNo. Can you believe it's December?

Friday, November 30, 2012

On Fire!

Friiiiiiiiday! Phew, I can barely believe it's here. Hope everyone had a good week.

I have finally put the finishing touches on The Pollyanna Plan! I'll be posting more about it on Monday, but in the meantime, if anyone would like a review copy, please let me know in the comments below or email me: talliroland AT It'd be my pleasure to send one over (it will be electronic).

And as I trot off to find my longed for carrot cake, I'm turning the blog over to Sally Clements, a fellow RNA member and writer extraordinaire.

Take it away, Sally!

The thing I like best about being a romance writer is the camaraderie and support of like-minded souls. I’ve been blessed with a great critique group, The Minxes of Romance, and over the past few years as well as critting each other’s work, we’ve become an international group of great friends. We’ve wanted to write an anthology for a long time –we all have a passion for fire fighters, so an anthology featuring strong, wide-chested heros was definitely something we all wanted to do, and BLAZE is the result!

The stories are all set in the Lake District in England, in Coombethwaite, the lakeside town where passions run deep.

Here’s a bit about it:

BLAZE - 8 scorching tales from The Minxes of Romance.

Romance is in the air for Coombethwaite’s retained firefighters, and none of them will escape its heat unscorched!

Memory’s Flame by Maya Blake

A fiery reunion – when Ellie returns after twelve long years to bury her grandfather, the last person she expects to see is her first love, Jake Spencer. One look, one touch and they know memory's flame is as sizzling as ever!

The Fire Inside by Romy Sommer

Fire fighter Sam Redfern is used to being seen as just one of the boys. Until TV talent scout and celebrity Ryan Morgan shows up in Coombethwaite and starts to make her feel very much like a woman. A woman with needs.

A Smouldering Attraction by Suzanna Ross

Shelley Fox is finished with all things romantic. So is Harrison Reid - until he meets Shelley and realises he might easily be persuaded otherwise.

Locked Into Love by Catherine Coles

Journalist Cassie Parker returns to Coombethwaite with her dream in tatters—the last thing she needs is to rely on her ex for anything but on her second day back she needs hunky fireman Ben Spencer to release her from handcuffs!

Hot, Bothered and Bewitched by Jodie James

All alone on her birthday, Wiccan vet Seraphine conjures up more than she bargained for when she casts a Halloween love spell. Five minutes later a knock on the door heralds the arrival of handsome fireman Isaac Quinn, complete with a stray black cat. Is it just coincidence, or has Mother Nature answered Seraphine's request with lightening speed?

Lighting Love’s Spark by Sally Clements

Primary school teacher Annabel Jackson knows flirting with the parents is a no-no, but when single father Daniel Walker arrives at Coombethwaite Primary in full fire fighter garb clutching an axe, how can she resist?

Worth the Risk by Tara Pammi

Baker Annie Bennett has always stood on the sidelines while life passed her by. And it has brought Annie nothing but loneliness. With the New Year coming in, Annie decides it's time to come back home, risk her heart with the man she's always loved. Will her risk pay off or will Marcus never see her as anything but his best friend?

A Kindling Romance by Lorraine Wilson

Stressed out lawyer Polly Minton felt trapped in her city job and now she's trapped again, this time in a Lake District chimney; hunky fire fighter and local landowner Drew Reynolds has problems of his own but will he be the one to set her free in more ways than one?

Blaze is available now from Amazon UK/US.

For more about the minxes, visit our blog :

Thanks so much for having us, Talli!

Blaze is right, I say! Have a great weekend, everyone. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Ninety-Minute Sweet Spot

Happy Monday! I hope everyone celebrating the event had a wonderful Thanksgiving. The weekend passed here in a blur of rain, wind and editing as light at the end of tunnel looms ever-nearer for the release of The Pollyanna Plan! I'm hoping to hit that 'publish' button this Friday, after which I plan to collapse in a heap beside a carrot cake until Baby TR arrives.

I don't talk much about the mechanics of writing here - mainly because I believe it's different for every writer. However, today I came across something that made me nod in agreement. Over on Rachelle Gardner's blog, she talks about using three 90-minute increments to maximise productivity. After trying many different ways of working throughout the day, I've found 90 minutes to be my sweet spot. A typical day will see me working from 7 to 8:30 a.m, 9 to 10:30 a.m., then 1 to 2:30 pm... after which I'll delve into social media and emails. If I linger at my desk longer than 90 minutes, I often find the work I produce isn't up to scratch. Taking a bit of a breather is invaluable!

What's your ideal working increment (and please don't put me to shame by saying five hours in one go!)?

PS - Angela Brown is helping to organise a Cyber Monday sale with lots of great YA books! head over to have a peek. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Five Ways to Write When You Really Don’t Want To

Happy Friday! I hope all my American friend had a great Thanksgiving and are lolling about, fully sated and doped up on turkey. I'm buried in edits in preparation for releasing The Pollyanna Plan next week (yay!), so I'm delighted to welcome Evie Hunter, author of The Pleasures of Winter, to the blog with some great tips on how to write when you just don't want to. 

Over to Evie!

If you’ve decided to start writing your novel in November, you should be more than a quarter way through it by now. Eeek. I can hear the screams of struggling novelists.

I meant to, but  didn’t have time
The cat was sick
My story ran out of steam and now I’m lumbering into middle muddle
I’m stuck on one part and can’t seem to move beyond it.
I’m still staring at a blank screen

As writers who have faced a crazy deadlines (104k in five and a half weeks)  we’d like to share a few tips and tricks to help you get your NaNoMo project up and running again. 

No Time
You need to set aside at least two hours every day for writing. Think about your lifestyle.  Are you an early bird or late bird? How much time do you spend in front of the TV or on the phone?  You can make time, if you really want to.

The cat was sick
I love cats but I am so not listening…

My story ran out of steam and now I’m lumbering into middle muddle
You have a problem with plot or insufficiently developed characters. Get yourself a large sheet of paper and a packet of post it notes.  Draw a nice big tree.  The trunk represents your main plot line and the branches represent your sub plots. Is it strong enough to carry you through.  Are there enough twists and turns to make it interesting?

Take a post-it note for each character. Briefly describe them, their goals, motivations and conflicts.  Put the post-its on the tree.  Is your main character driving the plot or do things just happen to them?
I’m stuck on one part and can’t seem to move beyond it.
 If research is bogging you down – put a note in the margin and move on. You can drop your research in later.

If you have reached a wall and can’t seem to move beyond it, go think about the worst possible thing that could happen to your characters. Be nasty to them.  If your heroine is stuck up a tree, have someone come along and throw rocks at her.  Conflict is good. (laughs evily)

I’m still staring at a blank screen. 
All is not lost. Open a newspaper on a random page. Scan through the stories.  Is there a headline that grabs your attention?  A murder, a drama, something funny?  Imagine that you’re a character in that story.  How do you feel right now?  Inspiration is all around you – you only have to look.  

When reporter Abbie Marshall needs to escape Honduras, a private jet carrying a Hollywood A-lister is her only way out. She has a ride home with Irish actor Jack Winter - notorious womanizer and all round bad boy. Abbie is shaken to the core by Winter's blazing beauty and provocative mind.
After the plane's nose-dive into the remote rainforest forces them to fight for survival, Abbie catches tantalizing glimpses of the complicated man behind the image. And the more she sees of him, the more he touches some primal part of her that she is determined to suppress. But after a devastating encounter with Winter's shadow side, Abbie's detachment is shattered. On returning to normal life, Abbie cannot forget what happened, nor ignore the shocking rumours about the star's private life. Her struggle to make sense of her torment leads straight back to Winter, who is just as obsessed by her. But if they are to have a relationship, Abbie knows she must embrace his hidden desires ... and accept her own.

What are your strategies to get yourself in the chair when you don't want to?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2012

All Loved Up: The Festival of Romance

I'm back from the Festival of Romance, feeling all loved up. What a great weekend! Despite the fact I'm still in recovery mode, it was worth every second.

The event kicked off with an awards gala Friday night at the Bedford Corn Exchange, a wonderful venue in the heart of the town. Congrats to all the winners! Here's me and author Rachel Lyndhurst, bathed in an appropriately pink glow.

(Photo courtesy of Phillipa Ashley)

Saturday morning dawned slightly gloomy, but watching rowers on the river (pwoar!) raised our spirits ever so slightly. Suitably in the mood, we toddled across the bridge for Meet the Author coffee and cake morning, where I proceeded to devour a huge piece of carrot cake before reading an excerpt from The Pollyanna Plan.

No, that belly isn't just from carrot cake...
(Photo courtesy of Liz Fenwick)
From there, I dashed to the Readathon at the Harpur Shopping Centre, where I tortured bemused passers-by reading from my novel. I only wish I had a photo to capture some of the shoppers' expressions!

In the meantime, men in dishy Regency attire were wandering about town.

Author Phillipa Ashley with Dan the Regency Man.
(Photo courtesy of Phillipa!)
Awash in romance, I headed back to London, feeling warm and fuzzy from great author chats, meeting loads of Twitter friends in the real world, and a fabulous weekend overall!

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting Myth-y With It

(Yeah, sorry for the lame post title.)

As you read this, I will be winging my way north of London to Bedford, a town that will be overrun with romantic novelists this weekend! Oh lucky place!

Instead, Paul Anthony Shortt is taking over my blog for the day. Paul's just released his first novel, Locked Within. Without further ado... over to him!

The Underworld

I want to thank Talli for having me on her blog. While I’ve been busy writing and finding my place in the blogosphere, Talli has been something of a role model, both in terms of her success as an author and as a member of the online community. I am deeply grateful to her for taking part in this blog tour.

Mythology forms the most basic roots of our society. The moment the first humans tried to understand where fire came from or why the wind blew, they were setting humanity on a path that would see us branching out into countless distinct cultures with wide-ranging belief systems.

As we have progressed, we’ve put aside mythology and superstition. Dismissed as children’s stories or just attempts by primitive man to understand the world, myth often misses out on the respect it deserves for shaping us.

The study of mythology profoundly shaped my writing and played an enormous part of Locked Within’s development. There was a specific element which called to me as I thought of the book and what it would be about. The Underworld. The place souls are sent after death. The afterlife, where we finally learn the great mysteries of what our lives have meant. To the ancient Greeks, this required the departed to pay the ferryman, Charon, in order to be taken safely across the River Styx. If they could not pay, due to not receiving proper burial, they were thrown overboard to join the lost souls below.

Ancient Egyptians believed that their soul was made up of five parts, which each served a different purpose and had a different fate after the body had died.

The Norse believed that if they died in battle, they would be taken to Valhalla, where they would fight and feast to prepare for Ragnarok, the end of the world.

The fate of the soul in the afterlife is a core part of every belief. When creating the world of Locked Within, I needed to decide how the inhabitants of the supernatural society felt about death. Two dominant ideologies formed in my mind. One, represented by groups called Conclaves, believed that the soul returned in another incarnation, and so the true essence of the person carried on forever. The other rejected this belief, insisting that while people did have memories from other lives, these were only echoes, imprints, and not the true person. They believed that when a person dies, nothing of that person truly remains, and so they banded together in their fear of death, forming the Council of Chains, which strives to find ways for its members to live forever. Vampirism, body-stealing, the magical preservation of the body, and pacts with powerful otherworldly beings are the Council’s tools. In discarding their mortality, they become predators, driven to live forever while innocents suffer as their prey.

Has mythology ever inspired your writing? Or have you read stories from myth that resonated with you as strongly as the best novel or movie?

A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren't enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life. Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.He lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends. Jen is pregnant again and is expecting twins.

Thank you for the kind words, Paul! So... tell me. Has myth inspired your writing? Have a great weekend, everyone. I'll be back Monday with a full report on my weekend of lurve. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Nuts, Romance, Baby

Happy Monday, all! After a beautiful crisp day yesterday with clear blue skies, it's now raining in London. Ah, well. Perfect day to stay inside and edit.

I've got a busy week ahead, because on Friday I'm heading to Bedford for the Festival of Romance. There will be coffee, there will be cake,and there will be plenty of booky romance! Not only am I taking part in a read-aloud session at the local mall (gulp!), I'm also up for an award at the Gala, as well as taking a turn manning the RNA's booth. Should be fun, although I may need to be peeled off the floor by the end of it. These days, a stroll to the corner shop seems taxing.

My Christmas novella Mistletoe in Manhattan got its first blog review last weekend. Huge thanks to everyone who has taken the time to download and read!

In other news, Jessica Bell has released a write guide called Show and Tell in a Nutshell.

Click to add me to Goodreads!
Inside, you will find sixteen real scenes depicting a variety of situations, emotions, and characteristics which clearly demonstrate how to turn telling into showing. Dispersed throughout, and at the back of the book, are blank pages to take notes as you read. A few short writing prompts are also provided.

It's a practical, no-nonsense resource that will help new and experienced writers alike deal with that dreaded piece of advice: show, don’t tell. I wish Jess' book had been around when I started writing.

Paperback: $4.40 on Amazon US; £3.99 on Amazon UK
E-book: $1.99 on Amazon US; £1.99 on Amazon UK

And now, back to baby shopping... after a stellar effort from Mr TR yesterday, we managed to set up Baby TR's room. Now I only need to buy five gazillion other things!

Have a great week, everyone, and good luck to all those NaNo'ing.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Christmas Creche and Second Novels!

Look at that, it's Friday! No idea how that came about.

I've got Joanne Phillips here today, but first up, some exciting news: today is the launch of The Christmas Creche! What the heck is a creche? It's one of those strange words I never heard until I moved to the UK, and it a nutshell, it means nursery or daycare. Fellow chick-lit author Michele Gorman had the wonderful idea of creating a virtual creche, where authors with Christmas book babies could keep their little ones for safekeeping. I'm pleased to say there was space for my rather precocious Mistletoe in Manhattan, along with some other great reads by Michele, Carole Matthews, Scarlett Bailey, Belinda Jones... and the list goes on!

And now, over to Joanne!

Second Novel Syndrome

Like that difficult second album for musicians, second novels are tortuously hard work to write. A first novel has to do a lot, of course, but there is a wonderful unknown quality about it. Readers have no expectations – you are new, exciting, untried. But your second novel? Oh boy, do they have high expectations of that! And if there’s one thing even more pressured than writing your second novel, it has to be writing a second novel that is also a sequel ...

Of course, Talli knows all about sequels – Construct A Couple was a wonderful follow on to Build A Man, and she very cleverly managed to give her characters new challenges while keeping them true to all we had learned about them in the first book. Construct A Couple could easily be a standalone novel, and that is what I’m hoping for with my sequel to Can’t Live Without.

But ... it’s not easy. The trouble with being consistent is you can find your characters simply doing the same things over and over. Yawn! Finding enough challenges to keep two star-crossed lovers apart might be possible for one book, but two? Tricky. Creating conflict when you’ve already done the whole happy ending thing in the first book? Tough work. Here’s a list of must-dos for a second-novel-stroke-sequel:

·         Be better than the first book – more exciting, more emotionally powerful, more, more, more!
·         Carry on logically from the first book, without seeming contrived. You can’t, for example, spilt your couple up by sending one of them off climbing a mountain in Africa if you never mentioned an interest in climbing in book one!
·         Keep faith with the tone/style/language of the first book – for example, parts of Can’t Live Without are written in the first person, and as much as I would love to drop this technique for the sequel, I can’t.
·         Give enough background for new readers, without treading over old ground and boring returning readers. Can’t Live Without’s plot revolved around the aftermath of a house fire – I have to mention this in the sequel, but to what extent?

So, my advice to a new novelist about to embark on their tricky second novel – don’t make it a sequel. Wait until you have a bit more experience under your belt, like Talli, before you take on this particular challenge. Writing is hard enough as it is! But I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

 Joanne Phillips lives in rural Shropshire, England, with her husband and daughter. Since leaving school she’s had an eclectic career, working as a hairdresser, an air hostess and a librarian. She now writes full time. Find out more about Joanne’s writing and books at; Twitter: @joannegphillips; Facebook; and check out her novel Can't Live Without here.  

Thank you for the kind words, Joanne! 

Have you ever written a sequel or experienced second-novel syndrome?

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Bonfires and Book Babies

Happy Bonfire Night! Here in London, the fireworks have been going off like mad all weekend. On Saturday, it sounded like World War III. I could barely hear the TV!

Today, I'm pleased to announce my Christmas novella, Mistletoe in Manhattan, is now up on Amazon! (UK, .com) for 77p/ 99 cents. I wasn't planning to get it up so early, but with a gap while The Pollyanna Plan was read by my betas, I had time to focus on it! Now, I can turn back to my novel and work on getting that out for the end of November.

In the meantime...

As Little Missington's first Christmas baby in fifty years and the daughter of Christmas When You Like It party-planners, Holly West has been surrounded by the holiday spirit since birth. Trouble is, she's not exactly filled with festive cheer. In fact, Holly can't wait to ditch the tinsel and Santa suits for champagne and celebs, and become a party-planner to the stars.

When British TV star Dean Layton hires her parents' company to throw his holiday bash in Manhattan, Holly jumps at the chance to help, confident she can handle a little Christmas in exchange for access to Dean's exclusive world.

But New York and Dean's over-the-top demands are more than Holly bargained for. Can Holly deck the halls and make it a party to be proud of, or will this Christmas be one she'll never forget . . . even if she wants to?

And now I need a little nap! Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Watt's Up?

Okay, lame joke, I know. But given it's Friday, my brainpower has been sapped from six hours of editing my Christmas novella, and I'm on the Wattpad blog today, it seemed appropriate! Pop by and say hi if you get the chance.

If you haven't heard of Wattpad, well . . . where have you been? It's a great way to share content and find new readers. I'm one of their featured authors, and along with my novella Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts, I've also posted a short story and I plan to post others.

In other news, I just found out Build A Man has been short-listed for an award at the UK's Festival of Romance. Last year, The Hating Game was also short-listed, so I'm delighted to make it two years running.

And finally, thank you for all your encouraging wishes and words for my TV interview last Tuesday! I'm pleased to say it went well (I think, anyway), and it'll air the first or second week of December. I'll post a link if there's one available.

Here I am with the presenter (yes, she's got legs!) on the set.

No, I was not drinking wine. Yes, my bust looks huge! Blame that on Baby TR.

Happy Friday, everyone! Have a great weekend. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

TV, Hair and Labels

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend. Mine passed quickly, filled with an RNA London Chapter Meeting where the wonderful novelist Carole Matthews shared her journey to success, and then an emergency hair appointment on Sunday where my horrendous roots were turned back to blonde. Yay!

Why the emergency hair appointment, you may be asking (if you've nothing more interesting to contemplate, ha!)? Well, tomorrow, I'm going to be on TV! Wheeee! Okay, so I might not be broadcast on Tuesday, but I have been invited to a studio to discuss my books for a new Sky channel launching shortly. Wish me luck, everyone. With my expanding belly and rapidly diminishing wardrobe choices, let's just hope the camera stays focused on my head and shoulders.

Today, I'm also over at the advice blog of the Independent Alliance of Authors, talking about why I don't want to labelled as an indie author. Pop over if you get the chance!

And now I must go pluck my eyebrows... Random eyebrow hair never looks good on-screen, does it?

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nicking Other People’s Stories

Look at that, it's somehow Friday! I've no idea how this week passed so quickly, but today I'm happy to have author Phillipa Ashley on the blog, talking about her latest novel and fan fiction. So without further ado, here's Phillipa!

The World of Fanfic

In November 2004, few people had heard of ‘fanfic.’ Hell, I hadn’t heard of fanfic and I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of ever writing any. In fact, if you’d told me that within six months I was going to a -write fanfic and b- then write a novel, and that it would be a –published; b - win an RNA award and c - get made into a movie, I’d have thought you were stark raving bonkers.

As the name suggests, fanfic is when a writer takes inspiration from a favourite novel, TV series or film and creates their own stories around the incidents and characters in the original. Back in 2004,I think it’s’ fair to say that fanfic was largely a niche area of fiction writing, considered by some to be at the bottom rung of the literary ladder. Back then fanfic authors struggled to break free of their genre and achieve credibility and to a degree, I can understand why.

In its purest form, fanfic is essentially the plunder of other writers’ work – if not of their actual phrases and words, then of concepts and characters. For that reason, much if it is confined to fan forums, and can’t be published for commercial gain. The writers of the originals – if they are alive – would rightly be outraged to have their work ‘stolen’ in this way.

However, the online world has moved on very rapidly and a growing number of fanfic writers have found new ways to reach a mainstream audience, with their own works

The most famous, of course, is EL James, whose Fifty Shades of Grey novels had their roots in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Not having read the Twilight books and only seen the movies, I can’t really judge how strong the relationships between the two series are. But it seems to me that an obsessive relationship between a young ingénue and a sophisticated dominant male is the core of the story - and that’s a theme that’s common to countless romance novels.

My very first story was inspired by a BBC costume drama called North & South, that was aired in late November 2004 and starred Richard Armitage as another ‘Alpha male John Thornton. I also read the book but I have to say the TV series captured my imagination more.

Having never written any fiction before I felt compelled to write a modern version of the story. Back then, I was unaware that authors did this and I think that until then, there wasn’t any North & South fanfic of any kind, certainly not modern versions.

I posted my story on a Yahoo loop and got some encouraging feedback. Most of all, I realised that I had found what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: write romantic fiction. Other writers started posting their own N&S fanfics, both historical and modern and our chapters were devoured by readers desperate for their fix once the series has ended .

But I soon came up against a problem: which I now know was an opportunity.

For me, the desire to create my own characters was too just too powerful to ignore. I hadn’t got very far through my North & South story (imaginatively entitles N&S 2005) when I realised that ‘my’ John Thornton was not the one in the novel or TV series. He and the other characters had taken on lives of their own.

I took my fanfic off the net, feeling constrained by the need to fulfil reader expectations that I could never meet: I also was desperate to try my hand at an original romance. That story was Decent Exposure – which luckily for me, went on to get a book and movie deal.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a little bit of ‘Thornton’ or Mr Richard Armitage in all the heroes I've created. I’ll always thank my lucky stars I saw that programme and met so many inspiring women, both readers and writers, through the fanfic world.

Since then , many of the original N&S fanfic authors have gone on to create and publish their own novels, including Rosy Thornton, Juliet Archer , Hazel Osmond and Elizabeth Hanbury.

So what actually counts as a fanfic these days? The canon is wide and arouses much debate. I know dozens of authors who write Austen spin offs, everything from Mr Darcy Vampire by Amanda Grange to Pride; Prejudice and Zombies. Most recently, we’ve seen new the erotic new retellings of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

Does Jean Rhys’s literary classic Wide Sargasso Sea count as a fanfic because it features the young Bertha Mason? Is Anthony Horowitz’s new Sherlock Holmes story, House of Silk a fanfic?

There will always be a vast canon of ‘pure’ fanfic on the web. where writers try to stay as true to their source as possible. But there will also be those break out authors who use that first impetus as inspiration for new material – so I say may fanfic never die, in all its forms.

The debate will rage on but one thing is clear in my mind. Without fanfic, I would never have started writing and kept on writing and my own happy ending is that my sixth novel, Miranda’s Mount was published on October 4th by Piatkus Entice.

I'm curious to know, do any of you write fanfic?

Have a great weekend, everyone. See you Monday!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Should Novelists Blog?

Hey hey! It's Monday! *insert grimace here* Hope everyone had a lovely weekend. It was a damp and drizzly one in London Town, but I didn't move here for the weather.

This morning, I read a post by literary agent Rachelle Gardner called 'Should Authors Blog?'. It got me thinking, because her thoughts echo my own. I'm not going to join the cries of 'blogging is dead', but I know many of you ( like me) have cut down on the amount of time you spend blogging, turning to Facebook and Twitter. We still blog, though, because we enjoy it and we love the people we've met.

And that's pretty much what Rachelle's post boils down to. With the number of blogs increasing, it's become harder and harder to make an impact. And forget selling books through blogs... it's almost impossible.  Authors no longer need to have a blog;  it's a nice to have if they so desire.

And I do! I'll never abandon my blog because I love posting what I'm up do, both writing-wise and with my jaunts around town. But as the years go on, new social media pop up, and my time decreases, I may limit my posting to once a week. We shall see!

How are you feeling about blogging these days?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mr Darcy? Yes, Please!

Happy Friday! TGIF, is all I can say. What a week!

Today, I'm delighted to host fellow Romantic Novelist Association member Victoria Connelly. I adore her novels -- if you're looking for a great romantic read, check them out -- and I can't wait to read her Christmas novella.

Take it away, Victoria!

I’ve always wanted to write a Christmas book. Whenever I see those pretty glittery book covers that start hitting the shelves in October, I tell myself, I must write one of those one day!

Last year, we were in the process of moving house and it was particularly stressful – one we liked was taken off the market, we got gazumped on another and then, when we finally found another, the paperwork took an absolute age. All this, together with two sick pet hens and a spaniel who underwent two major operations and nearly died both times, made it hard to concentrate on a long project like a novel. But I still needed to write something. I get pretty cranky when I’m not writing so I thought a shorter project would be fun and, as autumn approached, I kept thinking about Christmas and how we would be settled in our new home by Christmas. 

I’d recently finished writing my Jane Austen Addicts’ Trilogy and I’d been getting a lot of emails from readers wanting to know what happened next to the characters. Dan Harcourt – one of my heroes from A Weekend with Mr Darcy - seemed to be getting more than his fair share of fan mail too and I must admit that he’s the hero I’d be most likely to run away with if I could! 

Hmmmmm ... Jane Austen and Christmas, I thought. That sounds like a pretty irresistible partnership... 

And that’s how Christmas with Mr Darcy was born. I thought it would be fun to unite all the main characters from the trilogy and have then attend a special Jane Austen conference at Purley Hall at Christmas. Throw in a badly-behaved brother, a marriage proposal and a missing first edition of Pride and Prejudice and you have the ingredients for a fun-filled festive read! 

I can't tell you how much fun it was to write this novella. It was so lovely to see all my characters again and continue on their journey with them and it was so much fun to have a Christmas setting and really go to town decorating Purley Hall with evergreen garlands, candles and baubles. And Higgins the butler gets to wear some pretty fantastic waistcoats too! 

Victoria Connelly has had eight novels published worldwide. Her first, Flights of Angels, was made into a film in Germany. All her books are available as ebooks along with two collections of short stories. She lives in rural Suffolk with her artist husband and an ever-expanding family of animals and can frequently be found on Facebook wittering on about her hens. ; Twitter: @VictoriaDarcy 

Thanks, Victoria!

Are you a Mr Darcy fan? Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Back to the Desk!

Oh, it's good to be home. After spending last week battling the foggy effects of jet-lag (and I highly recommend NOT undertaking trans-Atlantic flights while six months' pregnant -- ugh!), I was eager to get back to work. A creature of routine, I love my wake-up coffee, burnt toast breaks, and Twitter check-ins . . . not to mention the growing pile of virtual paper on my desk.

It's going to be a busy autumn, but I like being busy! I've got the Festival of Romance to attend mid-November . . .

The Pollyanna Plan to get out by the end of that month . . .

And a Christmas novella to complete

Lots of writing ahead. Fingers crossed that Baby TR does not make an unexpected early appearance, please!

What's on your plate for the next few months?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Vacation... Done!

Well! After over two action-packed weeks, my vacation is coming to an end tonight as I wing my way back to London. What a spectacular trip we've had, from a beautiful Cape Breton wedding to seeing old friends to a real Canadian Thanksgiving. It's been wonderful.

I hope you're ready for pictures? Yes? Here we go!

The wedding ceremony location at Keltic Lodge, Cape Breton.
(Photo by Pash Photography)

The beautiful bride and I walking to the ceremony.
(Photo by Pash Photography)

I absolutely love this photo. The newly-weds on Ingonish Beach.
(Photo by Pash Photography)

I'm hair-obsessed, so you can imagine my joy that the photographer captured my 'do!
(Photo by Pash Photography)

During the ceremony...
(Photo by Pash Photography)
Me and my two friends from Ottawa, who flew down for a visit, at Peggy's Cove.

Peggy's Cove.

Prince Edward Island.

Wood Islands lighthouse, Prince Edward Island.
Phew! A great two weeks. Hope everyone has been faring well, too! I'll be recovering from jet-leg for the next few days, but I'll try to pop by and say hello.

What's new with you?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Off to the Other Side!

Happy Monday, everyone. Hope you all had a lovely weekend!

This is a very exciting week for me, because at the end of it, I'm off to my homeland . . . land of maple syrup,  lobster, moose (hm, any other clichés I can throw in there?) and my best friend's wedding! We met over an unfortunate crayfish in Grade 10 Biology, and even though we haven't lived in the same city for longer than three years since, we've remained firm friends. Who knew crayfish could be so powerful?

I'll be on official blog break until the second week of October, but I'll probably pop in from time to time with some photos of my exploits.

In the meantime, here's what I'll be up to:

Staring out at the Atlantic Ocean.

Taking in the fantastic views from the Keltic Lodge, Cape Breton - site of the wedding.

Walking the red sand of Prince Edward Island.

Chowing down on my lobster friends.

Have a great couple weeks, everyone!