....welcome to my blog on writing, reading and living in London ......

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Novelicious results

Absolutely delighted and jumping up and down to say that Jan Sprenger, a wonderful writer I am lucky enough to number among my friends has been placed in the prestigious Novelicious comp! Competition was extremly stiff. There were 200 entries and 20 were shortlisted. I read many of them and the standard was very high. Jan has won the Public Vote Runner Up place for 'Vicki's Work of Heart'. I am not surprised in the least that Jan did so well, she's bright and bubbly and has a terrific sense of humour that comes out in her writing. Hers is a very original voice. I remember her talking to me about this book and it's always fascinating to hear about something in the early stages and then see it come to life. Well done Jan!!!! The champagne's on me next time we meet. You can read her brilliant entry here.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Love on the Orient Express

People often ask writers, where do you get your ideas from. Occasionally, you can just be lucky... It happened to me and my husband this weekend. We were popping across to London to visit friends and as we came into Victoria we spotted the most beautiful train. Cream and brown with little lamps at the windows. It was the stately, legendary Pullman carriages of the Orient Express. We sprinted around to the platform to find it had just arrived from Venice (sigh). Now I know the Agatha Christie story, 'Murder on the Orient Express,' but my husband turned to me and said, 'what about Love on the Orient Express as a book title?' Immediately I could see all sorts of possibilities and was desperate to look inside. Luckily, the kindest, nicest Orient Express train manager was standing there and he showed us inside and let me take photos. Each carriage - they have names like Lucille, Ione and Perseus - has its own individual design featuring hand wrought marquetry, lush carpets and beautifully upholstered seats. The train manager, gave us a potted history of the train and a deluxe brochure to take away. My dream would be to go to Venice but at £2000 a pop it might take some saving up to achieve. Until then though, I can always write a book about it now I have the research material...

Friday, 22 June 2012

Spreading some good news...

We are bombarded with hideous stories in the newspapers and it can be difficult to remember that most people are good and kind. Also that the little bits of romance we experience in our daily lives help to lift those lives out of the ordinary. I guess that is why romance fiction is so popular. Unfortunately the good stuff rarely makes the front pages. So, here is my attempt to re-balance the scales a bit, and to explain the significance behind the two tiny flowers above. One of the wonderful things about living in London, is there is always something going on. Last week hubby and I went up to Covent Garden. We were celebrating the anniversary of our first date and going back to the same restaurant. In Trafalgar Square we came upon the Hare Krishna festival of chariots. A lady explained to us that people worship many versions of God and this sect of Hinduism recognises that. From the chariots, they handed out fruit and flowers. Giving gifts away to strangers and holding your hand out to be given gifts whether they are material, or something more abstract such as love is symbolic of how communities and relationships work. People need things and sometimes you are a provider and sometimes people provide what you need. My husband and I were handed two small chrysanthemum flowers and told to keep them in the house until they faded but then return them to nature by throwing them into the garden. When I went up to bed that night, my husband had placed them on the counterpane - he is an incurable romantic and they became a reminder of a lovely day. I have not yet had the heart to throw them out.... My latest novel with Astraea Press, The Sanctuary, a love story, can be purchased by clicking this link. "City lawyer Kimberley is forced to take over an animal sanctuary left to her in a will. The Sanctuary, a Victorian house overlooking the sea, draws Kimberley under its spell. The same cannot be said for her husband Scott, whose dedication to his work threatens their relationship. When Kimberley comes to the aid of handsome, brooding widower Zach Coen and his troubled daughter, she could possibly help them. But will she risk endangering her marriage in the process?"

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Sanctuary my heroine, and an extract

Here is the lady who inspired my heroine, yes, it's the Duchess of Cambridge. Sweet, hard working, dedicated to her relationship and beautiful with it... I get the feeling though that there is a backbone of steel there which will carry her through living in the public eye. For today's extract from The Sanctuary my new e-book published by Astraea Press, I have chosen from the beginning of the book. I think we all know that heart-plunging feeling when we think we've been forgotten. Or that gnawing reality that dawns, when we begin to feel our relationship's days of wine and roses might be waning and we will need to work hard to get it back on track. Scott and Kimberley's relationship needs some serious work doing on it. Hope you like the extract! "He hadn't remembered. Her fingers tightened over the steering wheel. Could it be possible that it was only their third anniversary and he hadn't remembered? No, no it couldn't she told herself as she weaved through the traffic. He couldn't have changed that much. Their first anniversary, he had given her a card with a beautiful scene of the sun setting over St Mark's Square. Inside it had read, "Darling, every day I thank God I married the most beautiful girl in the world. So for the most beautiful girl, let me take you to the most beautiful place in the world. Venice." That afternoon, only giving her a couple of hours to pack jeans and t-shirts to go sightseeing and a couple of cocktail dresses for going out, he had whisked her off in a taxi to the airport. They had drunk champagne on the plane, and after they had touched down in Italy, a water taxi had taken them on the magical journey into Venice. Just like the front of the anniversary card Scott had given her she'd greeted Venice as the sunset shone orange on the old waterfront buildings. With Scott's arms draped over her like a warm cloak, feeling the lilt of the water taxi as they both looked out on the gentle waves of the lagoon, she had felt she could never be happier." You can buy The Sanctuary by clicking on this link.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Inspiration for The Sanctuary (2) FREE GIVEAWAY!

Set in both London and a small seaside location off the coast of England, The Sanctuary released by Astraea Press is a sweet romance. It is about the forces which threaten to derail an otherwise successful marriage. Very often romances are about boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl in the end. I wanted to look at a variation of this where the couple have already sworn to be with each other for life but face the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' that trouble any marriage. After all, for life is a very long time. One of the perils of course is temptation, and another jealousy. Both these are stronger if they come beautifully packaged and one of the focusses of temptation and jealousy in my book is recently widowed Zach Coen. One of the characters in The Sanctuary describes him as looking like a gypsy. That dark, swirly haired, brooding type of character with secrets can be extremely attractive. The photo above is of Aidan Turner who starred as Mitchell in 'Being Human' where he played a tortured character but one who despite his own troubles is protective of those around him. Just like Zach is of his teenage daughter Lauren in The Sanctuary. There's a prize of a FREE COPY of The Sanctuary to one lucky reader who leaves a comment telling me about your favourite inspiration for heroes and why you love them. I shall choose the one I like best and that person will win. So please have fun choosing your favourite guys! You can buy a copy of The Sanctuary from Astraea Press by clicking this link.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Inspiration for The Sanctuary....

One of the nice things about writing romance novels is that the research can be great fun. No, I'm not talking about researching Thames Barges for the latest Victorian era pocket novel I'm working on - although I love those boats. Neither do I mean talking to friends about their Christmas rituals for a short story idea I have for a competition. No, of course it's spotting gorgeous looking actors and thinking, 'wow, that's my character (fill in appropriate name here!) I did that tonight whilst I was watching The Wedding Date, a sweet romcom starring among others, Jeremy Sheffield. He has a lovely smile and is exactly as I imagined my hero Scot to be in The Sanctuary. Here's a gratuitous photo of Jeremy with his kit off, after all Scott and Kimberley, the heroine in The Sanctuary are married so it's okay! Not bad huh? This research it's tough work but someone's gotta do it! You can buy The Sanctuary from Astraea Press my lovely American publisher here. It's a sweet, feelgood story of losing love and finding love.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

An excerpt from The Sanctuary...

Hi I thought today I would post an excerpt from the Sanctuary published by Astraea Press a great e-publisher of sweet romance. As well as being a romance, there are elements of mystery as well such as why Zach Coen's young daughter is so troubled. Here we go! Kimberley was intrigued by the girl, who was immensely beautiful in a gawky, teenager way. Without any makeup and totally unselfconscious, Kimberley was struck by how natural the girl looked and how much care she was showing the donkey as he chomped his carrots. Carefully Kimberley opened the front door, wondering whether the girl knew there were other animals and if she’d like to see the Shetland pony. As Kimberley made her way down the steps, the girl suddenly saw her and her body language changed instantly. Her shoulders hunched, and she looked terrified, as if she had been caught out doing something bad. “Hello,” said Kimberley, but the girl turned tail and ran down the steps as fast as she could. “Don’t be scared,” called out Kimberley. “You haven’t done anything wrong. What’s your name?” The girl wouldn’t answer. She shot down the steps and was now at the gate, fumbling with the catch and panicking in a way Kimberley found quite odd. The girl was so scared that Kimberley saw her cut her hand on the gate and witnessed blood drip from a wound on her finger. “You’ve hurt yourself. Don’t be silly. Let me look at that.” The girl took no notice of the wound and, finally getting the lock undone, threw the gate open and fled off down the seafront path, so fast that sand and pebbles flew up from her retreating shoes. You can buy the book here.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Hooray, I've sold to America!!!

Well, it took some doing, but at last I have a book on sale with an American e-publisher. Astraea Press are new and innovative. My experience with Astraea has been wholly positive. They are endlessly patient and encouraging. This book, 'The Sanctuary' was originally published by People's Friend as a pocket novel and thereafter in large print by Ulverscroft. Neither of these publishers take e-rights so the book was available to offer elsewhere. I was delighted when Stephanie Taylor at Astraea said her reader loved it. The book had to be edited for the US market but I had a wonderful caring editor in Kim Bowman. After various versions had flown to and fro in e-mails across the Atlantic, we were finally ready to launch as a new release on their website www.astraeapress.com. I'm really pleased with the cover and it's great to be with such a forward looking publishers. One of their ideas for a book club was recently featured in no less than the New York Daily News http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/06/e-publisher-astraea-press-unveils-book-club-on-facebook You can buy the book here.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The Queen's Jubilee Thames Pageant

Well, what a party! We have just returned from the celebrations in London to mark 60 years of the Queen's reign. Here are two photos of some of the boats at Tower Bridge which took part in the Thames River Pageant. First is the tall masted STS Tenacious, the largest wooden boat to be built in England in the last 100 years. It aims to help disabled people to sail the seas and can take 40 able bodied and 20 disabled people who act as crew together. The second photo shows paddle steamers moored on the Thames, one of which carried the Middleton family. Pippa, sister of Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge was among those who took part, following the Royal barge. London was absolutely heaving with people. That one small area of the Thames between Hammersmith Bridge and Tower Bridge - about 7 miles - was the focus for perhaps the most amazing river pageant ever staged. The thousand strong flotilla of boats included a royal barge, Thames barges, paddle steamers, rowing boats, tall ships - you name it, if it sailed it was there. We stood on London Bridge on tiptoes and managed to glimpse just a bit of a pageant which took one and a half hours in all to pass by. The sounds were joyous, the tooting of whistles, the ringing of all the church bells in the city, people cheering, the whole day was a total sensory overload. After slow drizzle in the morning, in true British fashion as soon as the pageant was well underway the downpour was torrential. I cannot remember the last time I was so cold or so wet even though June is meant to be the start of the summer. Still, we waved our Union Jack with everybody else. Bought from Help for Heroes (a great charity) the man who sold it was pleased to tell me that the free ones being given away by 'Hello' magazine were second rate as they had been manufactured upside down! Apparently that's a distress signal. We were verging on the distressed after so much rain and wind but after what has been voted the nation's favourite meal - a curry from Brick Lane - we felt revived!