Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Decade In Publishing: Happy Anniversary To Me!

 In April 2003, I was a brand spanking new author with my very first book on the shelf. Exciting times, my friends!

I can remember every step which led up to the release of The Bridal Bet. It went something like this:

I posted my partial and synopsis in October of 2001 (a first submission, so I never expected anything but a rejection in reply). The request for the full manuscript arrived on Christmas Eve and was the best present, ever! Or so I thought.  Next up were three rounds of revisions which I tackled with a mixture of blind terror and eagerness to please. When I didn't hear anything for several weeks after posting the last set in, I naively made a phone call, thinking someone on the reception desk could check on a computer to see if it had been rejected yet. I can remember my heart stopping when they put me through to the EDITOR who was working on it with me. Never a large hole in the ground when a gal needs one, is there? Thankfully she was very understanding and said while she hadn't read the last revisions, she'd get back to me real soon. 

*gulp* O-kay...

Considering I was still waiting for a rejection, I wasn't expecting a phone call. But you can imagine my panic when I missed one from M&B on my mobile. Surely they wouldn't call me to say it had all been a huge mistake, would they?! It was a Friday. At half past five. I couldn't go the whole weekend without knowing! So I called them back and prayed there would be someone in the office. There was! And what's more,  the lovely editor I'd spoken to before offered to call me back so we could chat. When she did, she said the magic words 'We'd like to buy your manuscript' and I screamed so loud I'm pretty certain I perforated her eardrum. Then I cried. Then I gushed about how long I'd wanted it and she had no idea what it meant to me. And I thanked her. LOTS. Then cried some more.

Being a writer was a dream I'd put aside while I went out into the world and had real jobs. Yet a year after that phone call, I was standing in a bookshop in Cork, looking at MY NAME on MY BOOK. When I told the lady at the till it was my book she said, no it's not, not till you buy it.

Ahhh, sweet memories... I really had no idea what was headed my way!

A lot has changed in the ten years since that little book hit the shelves. So what I thought I'd do from now till the end of the month is take a little retrospective look at some of the mistakes I've made and the things I've (theoretically!) learned. There may even be a Blog or two dug up from the archives. You just never know! The trip down memory lane starts Monday, so hopefully I'll see you then.

Happy Anniversay Ryan & Molly! 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Riva Relaunch and How YOU Can Help Make It A Success!

Since today marks the offical re-launch of Riva online at the Mills & Boon site before it hits ebook sellers and WHSmith in October, I thought I'd surface from the writing cave (and take a breather from the book from hell) to bring you the lowdown.

With the makeover complete and a brand new App for you to play with on Facebook (look out for the competition!) the books are available to order as of RIGHT NOW. There will be Blogs from the editors throughout September, Love Bites telling you what they thought of the books on Youtube and you can find links to all your favorite authors on Twitter and Facebook, too. While some of the books (like mine) are re-releases, some are brand spanking new, so if you've been missing your monthly Riva fix what are you waiting for?

Why are there re-releases, you ask? Well, the theory is the books selected by the editors sum up what they consider the 'flavour' of Riva and since they're targeting new readers as well as our faithful followers, the hope is the new covers will encourage people to pick them up if they've hadn't done so already. And this, my dear peeps, is where YOU can help make this re-launch a success!

If a Riva rocked your world, let us know on your blog or Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads/Shelfari/Tumblr/Facebook, etc. pages. You can tell us what you loved, write a review, share pics of how you thought the characters looked or even add to the stories with a little imagination of your own. Show us how you'd dress them, where you'd send them on a date, what you'd cook for them or what kind of wedding they might have-the sky is the limit! If you're smarter than me (which let's face it wouldn't be all that difficult) you could even come up with one of those list thingies where you tag people and ask them to make their own list on the same subject.

These days word of mouth from a reliable source is the best form of advertising out there. Just look to 50 Shades for the proof! So if Riva Rocks Your World let us know and together we can make sure there are plenty more books to come...

And on that note I'm going back to the cave to continue fighting the good fight with Reid Brannigan's story. More links to come on the subject of the Riva re-launch fun as and when I get them and if you have Blogs, Tweets, etc. to share on your favorite books let me know in the comments and I'll add them to the Behind The Scenes Blog I promised for Jo from New York's Finest Rebel!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Behind The Scenes Of New York's Finest Rebel

Since New York's Finest Rebel is officially out in the USA and Canada (my last book for the Harlequin Romance line before the launch of KISS), this week I thought I'd talk a little about the thought process for the book and where I found inspiration.

Every author has their own way of approaching a new story and with this one I had a bit of a head start since it was the second in a planned series of four books which revolve around the Brannigan family. Having said that, linked books have to stand alone, so while I knew a little about my hero and heroine (and quite a bit about my hero's family), it wasn't anywhere near enough to start moving a blinking cursor across a blank screen. It was time to go back to the drawing board and get to know my new characters inside, out and as is more-often-than-not the case, I looked at my hero first.

So what did I know about Daniel Brannigan?

Well for starters I knew he was a cop because Olivia, my heroine in The Inconvenient Laws Of Attraction, came from an NYPD family and Danny is the youngest of her four brothers. With that in mind, my first task was to immerse myself in all things NYPD-related. 

It's a tough job, folks...

After gathering all the information I could find on the recruitment process, how long it takes to complete the training and the ages/requirements for promotion, I visited Youtube and watched the series of short information films Inside The NYPD which explain the different roles within the department. As a result I decided the Emergency Services Unit (ESU) was the best 'fit' for Danny. It certainly gave me plenty to work with! Take a look at the clip below and you'll see what I mean.

Next I studied TV shows like Blue Bloods, Rookie Blue and the commentary for the movie World Trade Center.  I find commentaries and behind the scenes information particularly useful, especially when they come from people who are doing the job in real life. It's the next best thing to spending time with these real life heroes-not that I wouldn't be open to doing that given the opportunity! Seriously-guys who work in the NYPD and are happy to answer questions?-email me! Since I'm currently playing around with the idea of New York Firefighters for my next WIP, feel free to get in touch if you're in that line of work too :)

Blue Bloods proved to be a great touchstone and one I continue referring to as the series continues when I need to immerse myself in the lives of a fictional NYPD family. Keeping in mind the first book was more than a year in the making thanks to the chaos of my life and a major case of writer's block, I'd like to point out the idea for a family of cops came to me before I saw the show, but at the same time I have to confess a handful of similarities are (unintentionally I hasten to add) undeniable. Take the tradition the Reagan family has for Sunday lunch for example. The Brannigan's do that too (watch the show and you'll have a pretty darn close visual of how I see those lunches in my head), though in fairness maybe that's an Irish thing. I also love how they're all in different areas of law enforcement-something I wanted from the start for the Brannigan brothers.  Yes, they're all blond haired, blue eyed and cops, but while there are certain personality traits they have in common, each one of these gorgeous guys-like their stories-had to be as individual as possible.

The commentary for World Trade Center might seem like an unlikely place to find inspiration for a romance and considering how long it took me to sit down and watch this movie I would have agreed until listening to it. Thing is, if we want to delve deep into the characters we're creating and we've given them a real-life hero's job, I strongly believe we'd be doing those heroes a disservice if we didn't at the very least try to understand how they coped with the worst situation anyone could ever face. Listening to their commentary made me a hundred times more determined to give Danny depth and show respect for the profession I'd given him. Even though 9/11 or the fact the majority of the twenty-three NYPD Officers killed that day were with the ESU doesn't make it into the book, I sincerely hope I've managed to do that.

Mentioning this brings up an important point: The thing about research is not all of the information we gather gets used in the end product. One of my favourite quotes from RWA12 came from the inimitable Nora Roberts, who said 'You don't write what you know, you write what you want to find out.' I think that's so true and the more interested you are in the subject matter, the more realistic you can make your characters. But if I tried to include every little snippet of information from my research it would have weighed the story down. The focus had to remain on the characters.

So once I knew Danny's job and what it entailed, I had to think about the man.  Finding visual inspiration was a must-and keeping in mind I was looking for a blond haired, blue eyed hero, Paul Walker was a perfect fit. Then I had to think about Danny's personality-what kind of codes did he live by-what was he struggling with and why was it so difficult for him? Answering those questions helped flesh out the character and give him substance. Ultimately, as I'm certain is the case with the real life heroes I was inspired by, there's more to him than his job. After all, it isn't his job my heroine falls for, is it?

In the end Danny became one of my favorite hero's and from the feedback I've received it would seem all the hard work was-thankfully!-worthwhile.

New York's Finest Rebel is available from all the usual places and you can read excerpts of it on my website and Tumblr (which I suspect is about to become my new obsession). Next week we'll be talking about Jo, my fun fashionista heroine, and the process for creating her.

If you have any questions about Danny, my process for creating him or have read the book and would like to tell me what you thought, let me know in the comments.

In the meantime I'm VERY HAPPY to say I have a release date for Tyler Brannigan's story in the USA & Canada! Her Man In Manhattan will be my first KISS release and is out in April 2013.  And on that note it's back to the keyboard for me as I fight the good fight with Reid Brannigan to complete the series. As troublesome as they've been I'm gonna miss these guys when they're gone...

Have a great weekend gang!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Info On The Riva/KISS Line

My jealousy of everyone who got to attend the RWA Conference in Anaheim has almost come to an end (though the sting may last for a while) and as you can tell my plans to Blog every day while it was on haven't been going so well. Personally I blame a combination of book deadline and the Olympics but with any luck next year I'll Blog & Tweet live from Atlanta!

Anyhoo, for those who might have missed it, on Friday Harlequin held a Spotlight to tell us about their plans for the next year. Among the snippets of news about revamped covers, changing word-counts and new lines coming our way were details of Riva-the line I currently write for-and it's new counterpart in the USA and Canada, KISS, which will launch in February 2013.

Described as fun, contemporary, sassy romances with 21st century heroes and differing levels of explicitness, the books will relaunch in the UK in October with the brand new covers you can see here. 

The EHarlequin website has this to say:

KISS is sharply contemporary, glossy and chic, attracting readers who enjoy a short hit of romantic excitement with a thoroughly modern twist! Smart and stylish, sweet or sexy, these stories offer fun, flirty reads featuring smart, sassy heroines, equally matched by 21st century alpha heroes!

Key Elements
  • Contemporary romance series with a range of sensuality – we're looking for authors who can convey that young urban feel with sparkling characters and simmering tension - either with or without the hot sex!
  • This series is all about the 21st century alpha male hero!
  • Vibrant, sexy, spirited, fun – but still offering a strong emotional pay off and happy ever after.
  • 50,000 words
Featured in KISS:

Sparky, spirited heroines in control of their own destinies and with friends to help them through – these ladies are more than a match for their men.

Flirty, cheeky, alpha heroes, who expect their partners to be their equals - these guys are absolutely irresistible!

KISS is: all around you! Just look out for edgy, modern-day characters, sometimes struggling, sometimes knocked sideways by love, but finding their happy endings with plenty of laughter and attitude along the way…
  • TV: Brothers and Sisters, Ugly Betty, New Girl for their fab, witty dialogue
  • Films: What to Expect When You're Expecting, Bridesmaids, 500 Days of Summer, 27 Dresses, No Strings Attached, The Holiday, Friends With Kids, Crazy Stupid Love.
  • Authors: if you enjoy authors such as Kristin Higgins, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Tasmina Perry, Jennifer Cruisie or Meg Cabot you'll love KISS!

What this means for me is after the release of New York's Finest Rebel in the Harlequin Romance line next month, my books will (from February 2013 onwards) be available in Kiss. I don't have any of the release dates for either the UK or USA yet but you can rest assurred that when I do I shall be pimping the books putting up the details on my website.

If you're a writer THEY'RE LOOKING FOR BOOKS. I believe the term used at the Spotlight was 'actively acquiring'. So what are you waiting for?

If you're a reader what do you think of the covers? Are you looking forward to seeing what the line brings in the next year?

Usual weekly blog service will now resume. See you soon gang!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Less Than 48hrs Of Conference Jealousy Left To Go...

Can someone please tell me what happened to Thursday? I know I left it somewhere. Can't seem to find it now. But hey, at least I got a few words down in the WIP. That's something, right?

Me & Abbey in San Fancisco
So there are less than 48hrs remaining for me to be jealous of everyone at the RWA conference in Anaheim. If memory serves, by this stage of the week I'd be flagging, my bad leg would have swollen to twice its normal size, I'd need about a weeks sleep, but I'd be determined not to miss a single moment. Tonight's Harlequin Party usually serves as an excellent pick-me-up with authors and editors alike dancing until the wee small hours and plenty of amusing photographs to remind us of the event. A favourite memory of mine involves Abbey Green and a man in a kilt and in the words of Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that...

On the business side of things today is the Harlequin Spotlight when they bring us up to date on all their plans and the things they're looking for from authors. I'll be re-Tweeting all the news I can find on Twitter and since it was already mentioned at the RNA conference I fully expect there to be an announcement about the RIVA/KISS lines, so watch out for that!

As always, if anyone has any questions they want to ask let me know in the comments and don't forget the book giveaway in the last blog. With no questions to answer today, I'll skip straight to the links and get back to work.

Today's schedule at the Romance Divas NGTCC:


Panel: A Year in the Life of a Self-Published Romance Author (with Cate Rowan, Tawny Stokes aka Vivi Anna, Tori Scott, and Anthea Lawson) (continued)


Workshop: Setting Up Mailchimp (with Jeanette Murray) (continued)


Workshop/Q&A: The Man’s Perspective (with David Bridger) (continued)


Workshop/Q&A: The NSFW Man’s Perspective (with David Bridger) (continued)


Event: Accepting pitches of 250 words. (with editors Kris Keesler and Jill Lumber of Boroughs Publishing Group)


Workshop/Conversation: Choose Your Own Ending: Laughter or Tears


Blogs You Might Have Missed On The Interweb:

Weathering The Transition...Keeping The Faith-RWA Keynote Speech by Stephanie Laurens

See you tomorrow gang and then it's back to our usual weekly service!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

For Those Of Us They Left Behind...

So it's officially the first day of the RWA conference in Anaheim and, to kick things off in style, tonight roughly 400 authors will gather in one very big room to sign books in aid of Adult Literacy.  I've been on both sides of the table amidst the madness; meeting readers who were kind enough to say they loved my stories and tracking down some of my favorite authors in unashamedly determined fangirl mode. Yes, writers are readers too, and we all have our favs! You can see a list of all the authors signing tonight here. Who would you be stalking hope to meet?

For those of us left behind it can be the equivalent of pouring lemon juice on a papercut to get glimpses via Twitter or Facebook of all the goodies conference attendees will be gathering throughout the week. To help salve the pain, in the spirit of tonight's book signing, I'm giving away three books of your choice from my back catalogue to folks who leave a comment at the end of this blog (I'll pick the winners at the end of the week). If there are other authors who have books they'd like to give away just leave us a link in the comments so readers know where to find them or post details on Twitter with the #NotAtNationals hashtag. That way we can ALL share in the fun!

In yesterday's blog I invited you to ask questions you might like answered and Jill said: I used to think I had a problem with plotting. I would come up with this new, exciting twist on a tried and true plot and I'd try to pants the story or I'd try to outline the story. Both ways, I'd get stuck. The more I struggle with it, the more I realize, I need to try to put the characters and their motivations first. So, how do you get to know your characters and what they would do? Especially your heroes, I struggle with them a lot!

As I said to Jill in the comments, this is a particularly apt question for me right now as I would appear to have dug myself into yet another hole in yet another WIP.  It's usually a sign I've gotten off course or made the characters do or say something that just isn't 'them'. I know this after twenty-three odd books, but does it stop me from wallowing at the bottom of a pit of despair for several days? Oooohhh nooooo.

So how do we get to know our characters better? A lot of it is in the groundwork we put in before we start a story. These people have to be as real to us as family or friends we've known for years. With that in mind the prep is more than simply choosing a pretty pic of how we think they look, giving them a name and a job and thinking about their conflict.  Back in the day I used to create a questionnaire or interview them like I did with Quinn from Manhattan Boss, Diamond Proposal on EHarlequin.  Considering the hole I'm in now, it makes me wonder why I stopped doing it...

Thing is, I've learnt along the way there are often times the characters can surprise us and when they do it's more often than not a good thing. By telling us something we didn't know they're becoming more real. When thinking about the answer to Jill's question I took a closer look at my current hero and realized the reason he's been so uncooperative of late is because I'm trying to squoosh him into a box he doesn't fit. I'm leading him in a direction he doesn't want to take and until I start listening to what he's trying to tell me the man is refusing point blank to move forward. This is where being a pantster as opposed to a plotter should  come in handy, but if we've done a lot of prep-work it can be tough to let go of the pre-set image we have in our mind. By being flexible and allowing the characters to lead us in a direction we hadn't expected during a first draft we may end up with a different story but in my experience-so far!-it's been worth the risk. Remember a lot of the problems in our first draft can be corrected. It's all about getting the words down on the page!

Having said all that Jill, another suggestion may be that we didn't leave a question to be answered at the end of our last scene. The action and reaction rule is as important for writers while they write as it is for encouraging readers to keep reading. And on that note I might possibly have had an A-HA moment, so THANK YOU!

I hope that helps. If it's as clear as mud or you have another question let me know and I'll get right back to you. If anyone has anything else they'd like to ask, as always, let me know in the comments.

Meanwhile, for those of us #NotAtNationals, here's a taster of things we can be doing/studying and reading from the comfort of our homes to share in the spirit of the RWA Conference!

Today's schedule at the Romance Divas NGTCC:

Panel: A Year in the Life of a Self-Published Romance Author (with Cate Rowan, Tawny Stokes aka Vivi Anna, Tori Scott, and Anthea Lawson)

Workshop: Troubleshooting Plot and Character Arc (with Jodi Henley)

Workshop: Setting Up Mailchimp (with Jeanette Murray)

Workshop/Q&A: The Man’s Perspective (with David Bridger)

Workshop/Q&A: The NSFW Man’s Perspective (with David Bridger)

Event: Accepting pitches of 200-250 words. (with editor Ann Leveille of Ellora's Cave)

Event: Accepting two-paragraph pitches (with editors Gina Bernal, Alissa Davis, Mallory Braus and Deborah Nemeth of Carina Press)

Blogs You Might Have Missed On The Interweb:

Synopsis! What is it good for? Tips on communicating your story by Elizabeth Mazar

Traditional Publishing And Self-Publishing Are Not Mutually Exclusive by Joanna Penn

Lee Child Debunks the Biggest Writing Myths

Free Reads:

My 2009 short story, Manhattan Cinderella is still available at Eharlequin

Liz Fielding's short story Secret Wedding has recently completed at Eharlequin

And if you know of or can recommend any other free reads we'd love to hear about them!

See you tomorrow gang :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Attempting To Cure The Not At Nationals Blues.

Yes, it's that time of year again. Freshly scrubbed authors from all over the world are leaving their caves with an abundant supply of sparkly new shoes to wend their way across hill and dale to the annual gathering at the Romance Writers Of America conference, which this year is held in Anaheim, California.

Me & my girlies in Dallas 2007
I can still remember my first trip to Nationals back in 2007 when a wide-eyed Irish girl from the back of beyond somewhat nervously made her way to Dallas. I'd met fellow authors and some of the gorgeous M&B editors in London before but the RWA conference is something which needs to be experienced in order to understand why people return to it year after year after year. By the end of that first week I was exhausted, inspired, overflowing with information and had made friends for life, even if I knew I wouldn't see some of them very often. For anyone who hasn't been I can wholeheartedly recommend it!

Having said that, it's not a trip we can all make every year, so here I am at home fighting with a pair of uncooperative characters in a new book and living vicariously through my friends on Twitter via the #RWA12 hastag.  AGAIN. *sigh* Yes, I'm feeling a little blue...

So here's what I thought. Apart from stalking following my friends at Nationals and Re-Tweeting the news, how about those of us left behind keep each other company for the next few days? If you know of any online workshops, can recommend a great blog, have any questions you want to ask about writing or are currently working on a WIP and could do with some company to egg you on, just let me know in the comments or send a Tweet with the #NotAtNationals hashtag and we'll share in the conference spirit! To coincide with the Literacy signing tomorrow night if any authors have signed copies of books they'd like to give away let us know about those too. I'll be digging out a few, so watch this space!

In the meantime I'll kick things off by pointing you in the direction of the fabulous Romance Divas and their Not Going To Conference Conference 2012 (NGTCC). It has workshops galore and all you've got to do is sign in to the message board!

I'll see you tomorrow!