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.