Monday, February 26, 2007

Seduced by the Playboy

For those readers who may have missed my novel Her Playboy Challenge, this book is being reissued in the UK in a By Request 3 in 1 called Seduced by the Playboy.

Her Playboy Challenge was a RITA finalist in 2004 and the winner of the R*BY (Romantic Book of the Year Award) in 2005.

Here's the blurb: Jen Summers has been left in charge of a PR company for two weeks -- not a problem, she thinks, until a gorgeous stranger arrives in her office -- with her little niece in tow! Jen has no idea how she'll juggle being a temporary 'mum' and holding down a glamorous new job... Then her sexy stranger decides to give her a helping hand. Harry Ryder is used to helping women into bed -- not with small children. But Jen is caring, shy, and Harry just can't help himself. In fact, the more Jen insists they're not suited, the more Harry finds that he doesn't want to be a playboy any more... he wants a wife!

You can order the book online from Mills and Boon
or from

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Music and Lyrics

I saw this movie on the weekend and enjoyed it very much. I thought Hugh Grant was at his most charming, that Drew Barrymore played her role very well and I thoroughly enjoyed the witty dialogue. Whenever I watch a romantic movie I can't help thinking how similar they are to our books and I can nearly always learn something from them. They're also useful for teaching others in workshops about the structure of romance.
So, yesterday, I did a quick analysis of the plot of M&L. I may have some scenes a little out of sequence and my method of analysis relies on a hotchpotch of different theories, but in case anyone finds it useful, here it is:

My Hotchpotch Analysis of Music and Lyrics (Hugh Grant plays Alex Fletcher and Drew Barrymore plays Sophie Fisher).

  1. Hero has a problem

Alex Fletcher is an aging rock star from the group Pop! And he’s at a meeting with TV producers of a show called “80’s Has Beens,” when he discovers he won’t be asked to sing, but to box! Horror!

2. The mentor’s solution introduces a new problem and a time limit.

Horrified by the idea of boxing, Alex discusses alternatives with his agent, who tells him that the latest young megastar Cora, is a fan of his and wants him to write a song for her to sing with him. Only problem, the song has to by produced by Friday and Alex is no longer on working terms with his lyricist.

  1. Mentor tries to help again

Alex’s agent produces a lyricist, but he and Alex can’t get on at all.

  1. Arrival of the heroine

Sophie arrives to water the plants (replacement for regular), spikes her finger on a cactus, then disappears.

  1. Call to adventure for the heroine

Sophie waters the plants again and Alex is still trying to come up with song lyrics with the lyricist. She overhears and sings a couple of lines, which Alex really likes. He discovers she has a talent for lyrics and wants her to stay.

  1. Heroine refuses the call.

Sophie doesn’t want to get involved. Alex runs after her and begs her to help him and eventually persuades her. Her sister is a huge fan of Alex’s!!

  1. They work together and begin to get to know each other.

This period takes at least thirty-six hours of working closely together. Sophie rearranges Alex’s furniture, reveals that she was a literature major and has a past in which a university lecturer/lover hurt her (didn’t tell her about his fiancĂ©e). He has since written a book about her, thinly disguised as Sally Michaels. At the very end of this period, Alex and Sophie make love.

  1. They achieve their goal,.

Cora loves their song.

  1. A celebration and a set back that brings a reversal of who helps who.

Alex and Sophie, the agent and his girlfriend have a celebratory dinner, but this is spoiled when Sophie sees Sloane Coates, the man she loved and who treated her so badly. She hides in the toilet. Alex wants to help her to confront this demon. He persuades his agent’s girlfriend to swap her glamorous red dress for Sophie’s jeans. He helps Sophie to rehearse what she must say to Sloane. But although this helps Sophie to face up to Sloane, she still can’t let out her anger and tell him what she really feels. Alex attempts to do this for her, but Sloane manages to put him down.

  1. Another setback and an extension of their goal

They view Cora’s rehearsal of their song and Sophie is horrified by the way Cora wants to perform it. Sees it as a total travesty of their art. Alex is more philosophical and prepared to go with the flow to at least make some money. On several occasions, (including a huge, glamorous party) he has to restrain Sophie from confronting Cora. Cora also insists that they write another verse.

  1. Emotional connections.

Alex is tired of performing at third rate venues to aging housewives. Sophie reassures him that he is doing something meaningful, putting fun in the lives of ordinary people. His little songs have worth. He is grateful to her. She feels very emotionally connected to him. There is a moment where he might progress their relationship, but he holds back. This is where they might take the next step towards love or stay apart.

  1. Heroine refuses another/ last “call to adventure”

Sophie is very upset about Cora’s mistreatment of their song and says she can’t help Alex. Alex desperately needs her help to write the last four lines, but she simply can’t.

  1. A moment of reflection.

Time is pressing, nerves are frayed, emotions are involved. She is seen listening to his ‘big failure’ CD at home. He, at his flat, is reading the book Sloane wrote about her.

  1. Black Moment

Alex is becoming increasingly more desperate, but Alex can’t think of any lyrics for the last verse. They fight. He tells her that Sloane Coates’s assessment of her in the Sally Michaels book was accurate and she’s devastated. Leaves.

  1. Resolution in which Alex reveals that he’s been transformed

At final rehearsal, Alex discovers that Sophie faxed through the last verse to Cora.

Sophie comes to the concert against her will (persuaded by her sister). But when Alex is introduced and it’s announced that he wrote the lyrics to the next song, she is so incensed that her name has been left out, that she begins to walk out. However, Alex is singing a different song, a song he wrote just for her in which he apologises, admits he has a bad track record, but asks her to understand that he loves her.

And then, after a brief but passionate reconciliation, Alex and Cora sing the song Sophie wrote and they sing it the way Sophie wanted them to, because Alex convinced Cora that he needed her help to win Sophie and Cora is a romantic at heart.

So there you go. It sounds very basic when it's pared down like that, but as a romance writer, I find it interesting to look at the bare bones of a story. Mind you, I don't like to write in analytical way, but it can useful at the editing stage to look at one's own plot to see if it has sufficient development.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My 25th book!

Sophie and Mark now have a title and a release date. Their story will be called
THE BRIDESMAID'S BEST MAN and it will be released in January 2008.

This means they will be part of two milestones!!! The first month of Mills & Boon's 100th anniversary, which is the biggie!!! (Isn't it wonderful that M&B have been publishing since 1908?) And my personal milestone -- 25 books.

The funny thing is, I've been thinking about the need to "brand" myself as an author, thinking I need to write all my books set in the Outback with a certain kind of hero. (One of my author mates has suggested my brand is a modern Lucy Walker -- I wish.)

I'm not sure how readers feel about that and I would love to hear if they like to know exactly what kind of story they're going to get when they pick up an author's book. More or less like knowing if this author is a cherry ripe of a peanut brittle. For example, when I read Rosamunde Pilcher, I know her books are almost always going to be set in Cornwall or London or Scotland (with a dash of Spain or America thrown in), and I know I'm going to be reading about reasonably wealthy, upper class people with artistic sensibilities, who invariably love gardening or the countryside. I know I can expect warm, emotional stories with some delightful, witty insights, some wise older characters and some less wise young ones, etc, etc. And then there's RP's distinctive voice.

And I love knowing that I can trust her to write about these things. The expectation is part of the enjoyment, I guess. Dick Francis or James Herriot are similarly reliable (no, I didn't say predictable. (quick examples off the top of my head.)

I have no idea if I have a distinctive voice, but anyway, to get back to the point I began making a few paragraphs ago, Sophie and Mark's story is set right in the Outback on the Queensland/Northern Territory border and Sophie is an English girl, pregnant after a one night stand with Mark (when they were best man and bridesmaid). But the title doesn't have a whisper of the Outback in it. I guess it will be on the blurb, however and may be evident on the cover -- and does it matter? I haven't a clue.

Did you know that Rosamunde Pilcher used to write for Mills and Boon? That's why she's my hero. I dream of some day writing a longer book set in WW2, in the vein of the "The Shell Seekers".

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I’ve been tagged by fellow Aussie romance author, glamorous mum-to-be, Nicola Marsh. So, now that I’ve finally put Sophie and Mark to bed. (Tee hee – I’m talking in the publishing terms here) I’ve thrown together ten random things about me.

1. My favourite food is porridge with milk and honey!

But I don’t eat it all the time. I LOVE fruit and my favourite fruit is a luscious, chilled mango. Apart from that, I like peasant food – anything that goes well with crusty bread, especially rich casseroles and thick soups – oh, and cheese.

2. I love adagios – especially slow movements in violin concertos and string quartets.

3. I very much admire a friend, who is an International peace negotiator for the abolition of land mines.

4. We’ve had very few pets – four children took up most of my energy – but I do like dogs and cats. I think I prefer cats and for the very lazy reason that they take less looking after.

5. I dream about living in a big European city like Paris, Madrid or Rome for a whole year.

6. I want to be Rosamunde Pilcher when I grow up.

7. I feel very nostalgic about this photo of a corner of my garden. This was at the Townsville house we lived in for more than twenty years and where we raised our children.

8. If I wasn’t a teacher or a writer, I would have loved to have been an actress, or an artist.

9. The things I miss most about my childhood are singing with my sisters and dreaming in my parents’ garden.

10. I love rainy days and to spend them eating apples while curled in an armchair reading.

OK, so I tag Cindy2paw and Ally Blake and Liz Fielding

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

I hope you all have some romance in your lives today, even if it comes between the pages of a book.

I mentioned some time back that I was interviewed by Duo magazine for the Valentine's Day (February) edition.

Here's' how it looked in the magazine.

And here's the full text of the interview I gave them, not all of which was published.

What does ‘success’ mean to you? You know, this keeps changing. Before I was published, having a book accepted was my burning obsession, but then that wasn’t enough. I wanted to hear glowing comments from readers, to win awards and make bestseller lists. Now, with those achievements behind me, I’m looking more at the big picture of my life and I know that friendship and family are more important than any career. However, I’m not feeling jaded about my writing. I still wait with baited breath when I send in a manuscript and I still get excited when the author copies of my books arrive in the post. I try to make each book better than the last and always, always, I hope to touch readers’ hearts. That’s the success I secretly crave.

What do you get sentimental about or what always makes you teary? Maybe it’s because I’m a former teacher and a mum, but I always get choked up when I see children trying really, really hard at something, especially when they’re en masse –in choirs, ballet class, on the soccer field … that intense concentration and innate desire to please adults and to ‘get it right’ touches me every time.

Where do you get inspiration for your Mills & Boons romances? Well… when you’re accepted as a Mills and Boon author the editors implant special sensors in your brain… No seriously, I think I do keep my antennae on full alert for anything remotely suitable for a romance story. I get my ideas from everywhere… images I see in real life, pictures, music, lines from songs, newspaper stories. I was sitting at the end of the Magnetic Island jetty once, and I saw this gorgeous, tall, dark and handsome man coming off the ferry, carrying a baby doll… A baby doll! Why? I wanted to know and my imagination kicked in and supplied possible answers. That’s how an idea might be born, but the image might sit on the back burner for months, even years, before it grows into a fully realized story.

What’s the most romantic thing that’s happened to you in real life? My husband is wonderfully romantic. Every day in little ways he shows me how much he loves me. And not just with kisses and cuddles – he cooks dinner and helps with housework and reads my manuscripts, even brainstorms story ideas when I’m stuck. He’s my perfect partner. We’ve had our share of ups and downs and worries, but our life still feels like an adventure and I find that very romantic.

If you had to pick one life event that’s changed you the most, what would it be and how has it changed you? I think I’d have to say that the phone call from the Mills and Boon editor in London was the most exciting moment of my life. It was Friday the thirteenth, and I was preparing the evening meal and the whole family was dancing around me while I tried to take in the news. I couldn’t stop smiling for a week. I’d worked so hard, had suffered rejections and I wanted to become an author so – so much. It changed how I felt about myself, because I’ve never been brimming with confidence, but I knew how many thousands of manuscripts were submitted for publication every year and mine was one of the very few selected. And they wanted more! I honestly felt as if I’d found what I was meant to do with my life.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken lately? Leaving the security of my full time teaching job felt risky. There are lots of uncertainties in a writing career and I felt as if I’d pushed off from the shore without a mooring rope. But I also knew that if I wanted to succeed as a writer, I had to throw all my energy into it. Luckily, my husband fully supported my decision. His faith in my abilities helped to calm the doubt devils and now I love my life as a full time author.

What’s the strangest dream you’ve had in a while? For some reason I still have the occasional dream that I’ve had another baby, which is completely weird considering that I’m a grandmother past my conceive-by date and I have four grown up children. But I’ve heard that dreams about pregnancy are closely tied to creativity and I’m always giving birth to new characters and stories, so perhaps it’s not so surprising.

What’s your most embarrassing moment? In high school, I sent a boy a handmade Valentine's Day card. I was embarrassed from the moment I dropped it in the post, but even more so when he never showed the slightest flicker of recognition, never let on that he received it. I suffered excruciating embarrassment, have never sent or received a Valentine's Day card since. (Woops -- that's a lie. I received a lovely card this week from my editors!!)

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? When I was seven years old I received the book “Seven Little Australians” for Christmas. I was immediately swept away, totally enchanted by those characters, enraptured by spirited, naughty Judy and completely, utterly devastated when she died. That book taught me, at a very early age, the power of story to transport a reader into another reality. Stories can teach and inform as well as entertain. Through stories we can experience a wide range of emotions vicariously, safely. Stories have been an important part of my life ever since.

What’s the best thing about being a woman? Is there any one best thing? I really love everything girly… clothes, make up, perfume, crying over soppy movies, flowers, gossip, babies … I adore pink! I grew up in a family of girls and so did my mother, so my exposure to boys and men in my childhood was quite limited, I guess. But I remember at any early age being very glad to be a girl and I’ve never changed that opinion. Actually, I think the thing I love best is that I can really appreciate how DIFFERENT guys are! I am fascinated by the physical, mental and emotional disparity between the sexes and I get to write about this wonderful difference every day.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Post Script to Larry

Following on from my report about the post cyclone Larry book delivery, I now have a possible explanation for why it took so long for the library to be rebuilt. The weekend papers have announced that the Queensland Government has sacked the entire Innisfail Council. Apparently they weren't up to scratch before Larry, but their handling of poor Innisfail's post Larry problems has been abysmal.
I must say the librarians were very circumspect, never once dissing on their councillors. At least they now have some wonderful romance books. Let's hope that cheers some readers!!!

On the revision front, I'm making progress, (more emotion, more conflict -- how could I have forgotten my usual care to have tension on every page?)

But the revisions have been seriously hampered by DH's birthday celebrations. The family decided this was a fairly significant b'day. Not one that ends with a zero, but significant nevertheless. We've had three nights of celebrations -- in a restaurant on Thursday, Friday night drinks with friends and workmates on the riverbank and then last night the Great Townsville Takeaway dinner party, with roast ducks from a Chinese restaurant, Thai and Indian family favourites, plus layered chocolate cake.
Was fun, but took its toll on my writing. And my waistline.
Back to normality today, I hope.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Rain and revisions

We're having a little bit of weather up here.

It's been raining non stop since I last posted. The roads are cut to the north, south and west and the supermarkets are running out of a lot of produce. Luckily, I drink Lite Milk and it hasn't all gone yet, but the fruit and veg is running low. Now there's a cyclone hovering off Cairns and another in the Gulf and here in Townsville the skies are very black and very threatening.
Meanwhile, I'm in the revision cave with Sophie and Mark. But I like revising, getting another chance to bring out the best in my story, so I'm happy.
Wish we could send some of our rain down south where it's desperately needed.