Thanks to everyone who stopped by to share their memories of the 90s with Jessica Hart on Friday. She’s picked a winner for the Amazon voucher out of the hat and it’s Marcie R. If you email Jessica at jessica at jessicahart dot com, Marcie, she’ll organise your prize.
We have a guest at the Chocolate Box today – the wonderful Jessica Hart who has just delivered her 60th book to Harlequin Mills and Boon for the KISS series and who also writes chilling time slips as Pam Hartshorne.
She’s here to tell us about the issue of her “vintage” collection.
Do you remember the Nineties? I started off the decade in London, where I was working for The Observer as foreign newsdesk secretary. My very first book, A Sweeter Prejudice, had been accepted by Mills & Boon just before Christmas 1989, and it was something of a shock to realise that writing one book wasn’t going to be enough. I had a vague idea that they would hand me a large cheque and that would be that, but no! It turned out that I was going to have to write another, and another … right up to the present, when I’ve just handed in my 60th book. This pic is of me with the proofs of A Sweeter Prejudice, blissfully ignorant of just how much writing lay ahead of me! (And check out that very Nineties outfit I wore to work – I’ve got a feeling those were culottes.)
Today I write on a swish iMac in a study but my first three books were written on an electric typewriter at the kitchen table in my little flat in Balham. I wrote after work and at weekends and what I remember most from that time is the sound of the carriage return (ping! clunk!) and the smell of the Tippex I used to correct typos.
Those three books, A Sweeter Prejudice, The Trouble with Love and Woman at Willagong Creek are now available to download exclusively on Amazon along with Legally Binding and Defiant Love, also written in the early Nineties.
None of the books have been updated and rereading them tipped me right back into the Nineties, when most of us didn’t have personal computers or mobile phones, when we communicated by letter (remember those?) and supermarkets were a novelty still. It’s only just over twenty years ago, but it feels like a different world!
*** Tell me what you were doing in the Nineties and I’ll pick one commenter at random to receive an Amazon gift voucher worth $20 (or equivalent in sterling) – so don’t forget to check back to find out if you need to send me your email address! ***
In the meantime, if you’d like to rediscover the past, do check out the Jessica Hart Vintage Collection on Amazon right now. The ‘official’ launch with a special free offer will be on 23rd May, but all five books will be available to other e-readers later in the summer – and there will be more offers then!
To find out more, keep in touch on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jessica-Hart/197786216977996 or Twitter (@JessicaHartXX) or if you’d like to receive my newsletter, drop me an email email@example.com – I’d love to hear from you!
The Jessica Hart Vintage Collection – available now!
Apologies for the delay – it’s time to announce Julianne MacLean’s winner!
The winner is BRENDA C!
We’ve e-mailed Brenda for her details. Congrats Brenda!
And thanks to everyone who popped ’round to the Box.
by Jennifer Faye
So you know the old saying about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence? Well that’s what I thought it was like with writing on one side of the fence was the unpublished and on the other side was the published. I remember gazing longingly at that fence and thinking if only…
After finally making it over the fence I was certain that things would move so much faster. I’d be so busy writing book after book that I wouldn’t have time to rest. LOL. Okay, so I dream big.
The thing is no matter which side of the fence you are on there’s a lot of hurry up and wait. I will say responses are faster now, but there’s still a lot of down time which really does surprise me. I’m still a newbie so this might change. We will see…
So the question then becomes what do you do with your down time?
Do you start writing one of your proposals even though you know it could be turned down by your editor? Or do you work on something totally different such as a different line or series vs single title? Would you make it something that wouldn’t work for your current editor but might work for another?
I’m thinking it’d be fun on my down time to write something different from what I’m writing for Harlequin Romance. It’ll be something to stretch my wings and get my mind moving in another direction.
I don’t know if anything will come of it, but it’ll be fun having a pet project all of my own that I can do as I please. Can you tell I really like to write when I want to do it just for the fun of it? LOL.
But in the meantime, I keep hitting ‘refresh’ on the inbox. I don’t think it’s helping, do you?
So what do you do when you are waiting on something important? How do you distract yourself?
It’s Autumn Down Under and the mornings and evenings are starting to cool down. It’s my favourite time of year. There’s an invigorating tang in the air that makes me want to get out into the day and relish it…grateful that the sun isn’t now going to melt me to a puddle.
Unfortunately (or not, depending on your opinion) this is also the time of year where I start thinking about food. That is, I start thinking about it more than I usually do.
Salads and stone fruit no longer hold my interest. Maybe it’s the increase in my activity levels, but at this time of year I want something more substantial — something warming and filling. When that mood hits me, these are the foods I turn to:
1. Toasted cheese sandwiches: I don’t know why I love these so much, but I do. Some days I think I could live on them. Am I the only one?
2. Pea and Ham Soup: Homemade, of course. Part of the appeal is to see it simmering away on the stove. To smell it simmering away on the stove. Mmm…
3. Shepherds Pie: My DH’s specialty. Enough said.
4. Ice cream: Okay, so there are some exceptions to the “warm and filling” rule. Frankly, I think ice cream is a must any time of the year.
5. Hot chips slathered in salt and vinegar. OMG that smell!
6. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches: Perhaps this is in homage to my childhood. But when I get the craving, nothing else will do.
7. Sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce: I have a very nice recipe for this. I wince every single time I make the sauce, though, because it’s beyond wicked. I try to save it for special occasions. The thing is I can create a special occasion on the slimmest of pretexts.
8. Beef in red wine: I have a Healthy Heart recipe for this casserole. And it is divine served with mashed potatoes and green beans. Yum.
9. Hot apple pie with thick clotted cream. Uh huh. Yep. My saliva glands have just kicked into overdrive and I can feel my arteries hardening just thinking about it.
10. Chocolate! Of course. I support the view that anything in moderation is good for you. (Of course, moderation is a relative term… )
Do you have a favourite comfort food? Autumn is the month I most want to cook…and I’m always looking for inspiration.
Congrats to Fiona Harper, Michelle Douglas and Donna Alward, who have finalled in this year’s Bookseller’s Best Awards in the Traditional category!
The award is given out at the RWA National Conference, happening this July in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Jackie Braun
I went to the RT Booklovers Convention in Kansas City, MO, earlier this month. This was the very first time I’ve attended RT, even though I won best Harlequin Romance of 2005 and was once nominated for Series Storyteller of the Year.
Something always came up. Well, not this year. And I have to say, I had an absolute blast. RT is one continual party. Or, as one attendee put it, the RT convention is to Romance what a Star Trek convention is to Science Fiction.
Those who’ve been know exactly what this means.
I’ve been to the Romance Writers of America’s national convention several times, but that did little to prepare me for the wonderful spectacle that is RT.
The costumes. The cover models. The energy. Oh, my!
I met some of my favorite authors. I attended the ball, where I got to go on stage with the other Entangled Publishing authors performing a song sung to the tune of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I chatted with lots of readers whose passion for the genre blew me away.
I’ve written more than 30 books, including a few that will come out in the next year. But I’ve never felt as much like a “real author” as I did while at RT. Readers were that enthusiastic and welcoming. My thanks to them and to RT.
The down side to my trip? There was only one and it had nothing to do with the convention itself. Since I attended not only as an author, but as a vendor for my By Design Apparel business, I drove.
The trip from mid-Michigan took 14 hours with my sister riding shotgun in a Chevy Suburban that was loaded from grill to hitch with T-shirts, yoga pants and more.
We left mild temperatures in Michigan, arrived to 80 degrees in Kansas City, and then, a day later, it snowed. A lot.
SNOW! In Missouri. In May. Meanwhile, in Michigan, the weather was sunny and warm.
Never accuse Mother Nature of not having a sense of humor.
Jackie’s latest release is MUST LIKE KIDS.
by Donna Alward
Dear Ms. Spencer,
A few weeks ago Jackie Braun posted about the first romance she’d ever read and in the comments I said that my first romance was your book, VOWS – when I was 15. I fell in love with Emily and Tom. Felt her pain when her mother died; felt her angst when she realized she was falling in love with the wrong man – a man who happened to be her fiance’s best friend, her father’s competitor, and the man her one “true” friend wanted for herself. Reading VOWS meant I went on to buy all your books…and read them so often that they started to fall apart.
I never skipped class, but in fourth year of my degree I skipped a whole morning as I sat in the cafeteria with a box of Kleenex and finished NOVEMBER OF THE HEART.
I read YEARS so many times that chunks of pages started coming out. Who can forget “Will you merry me?” I loved how Linnea taught Teddy to read.
My favourite books of yours are the historicals, but I have to admit that SEPARATE BEDS is still a fave of mine. Clay was so patient and understanding.
And I am so sad that you retired, though I must confess that you went out on such a high note with THEN CAME HEAVEN. I wept through the first half of that book. Uncontrollable, can-hardly-see-the-page weeping. It was, in many ways, your “quietest” book. It was gentle. I suppose having a nun as a heroine made it so, but there was an innocence to it that was perfection. When I read it, I had just become a mother for the first time. It broke my heart.
The most amazing thing about your books is your ability to take an impossible situation and make it utterly sympathetic. A nun and a single dad. A woman who is married bearing a child by her husband’s brother. An older woman and her son’s best friend. And perhaps one of my favorites – a town outcast and an ex-con. MORNING GLORY is a story I appreciate more and more as I get older.
Your books gave me hours and hours and hours of reading pleasure, but more than that, they gave me a love of the genre I now call my home – ROMANCE. Because I fell in love with your books, I also discovered Judith McNaught, Nora Roberts, and many other authors who went on to inspire me. But you were my first, Ms. Spencer. And when the time came for me to write my first manuscript, it was a romance that came out of my fingertips.
I’ve written several books now, and love that I get to call myself an author of romance. I will never be a LaVyrle Spencer – of course there can only be one. But I do hope that occasionally I touch the heart of a reader in the same way you touched mine so many years ago.
by Ami Weaver
Summer vacation for my kids is fast approaching. Somehow, after spring break, it picks up speed until it feels like we are hurtling into June at warp speed. Some of that has to do with the fact that March, April, May and the first half of June are crazy busy with lacrosse for two of my boys and dance for my daughter.
But despite the busyness, I have a routine. I write at a coffee shop when they are in school and sometimes in the van while waiting for them to get out of practice. I set my word count on my little word count thing and go. This routine allows me to get a lot done despite the packed afternoons and evenings.
Over summer vacation, that changes. Routines are out the window. I don’t mind the break, at all, but it is hard to write when four kids and assorted friends are underfoot. All are old enough to entertain themselves and no one, other than the teen (heh), really needs constant monitoring. But interruptions are a given and my productivity goes way down. I lose entire weeks before I realize what’s happened. That’s stressful and I don’t want that.
This year, I’m going to implement a rule–leave mom alone between (*insert hours here*) unless there is FLOWING blood or fire. (Flowing is key–I’ve had this rule before and while my kids thankfully leave fire alone, they seem to be good at squeezing blood out of various body parts. They know where the bandages are.) And I’m going to stick to the rule. I’m carving a tiny space out of my teeny bedroom for a super-mini-office and that’s where I’ll be for the predetermined hours. I may even pay my almost-brand-spanking-new teenager to help.
When my two hours are up, I will turn off the computer and reengage with my kids and take stock of the band-aid supply. (We go through a lot. Did you know they have Muppet ones? Those are my fave.)
After the Fourth of July time seems to pick up speed again. Fall sports start up in August and we’re off again, running to practices and games. By the time they go back to school, in September, I’ll probably have finally adjusted to my new routine. And then I’ll get to start a new one all over again.
Yes, I know I’m joining the party late, but last week the Internet was abuzz over Brenna Clark Gray’s article regarding writers seeking reader support.. Seems Ms. Gray and other book bloggers are getting ticked off that so many writers are asking readers to show their appreciation for books by offering up reviews. “I don’t owe you your dream career” was the crux of her article. (In case the title didn’t make her point clear.)
You know what? She’s right. Readers do not owe authors anything. They aren’t obligated to write reviews or rate our books, or show up at our book signings. They don’t even have to buy our books. Far as I see it, there is only one obligation in the whole writer-reader relationship, and that’s on the part of the author. Writers owe the reader the best story they can write. That’s it. Beyond that, the relationship is a total crapshoot.
On the other hand, readers need to realize that writers need to make money. Much as we would love to craft stories for free, we happen to enjoy things like food and debt-free living. To do this, we need to sell books, and as anyone will tell you, word-of-mouth is the best marketing tool around. Therefore, we want readers to review, rate and recommend our books as much as possible.
Apparently, somewhere along the line the words want and owe got mixed up. We forgot that just because we want something doesn’t make it reality. I mean, I want Tatum Channing to mow my backyard in nothing but a pair of torn khaki shorts. Not happening, no matter how many times I sit through his movies. Same goes for reviews. Would I like all my readers to give me awesome five star reviews on Goodreads? Damn straight I do, because more reviews means more readers and more readers means I get to write more books (without taking a second job). Is every reader going to do this? No. Those reviews that do show up, however, will be gifts, gestures from kind readers that I will appreciate like the gems that they are.
HOWEVER – and this is an big however, hence the capital letters – it is possible that there are some readers out there who love my books and might leave a review if they knew how much reviews meant to me. The only way I will reach those readers is if I ask. It’s called referral marketing.
Years ago, I worked for a personal injury law firm. We got a fair number of cases referred to us by former clients, but we thought we could get more. We started asking. Nicely. In our client newsletter. You know what? Our referral numbers increased. Because sometimes you do have to ask for help.
The problem in this instance is that some writers are asking too much, and getting snotty about it. Again, want versus obligation. There’s a difference.
So here’s my bottom line response to Ms. Gray and all the other readers who blogged about what they did or did not owe authors: You’re right. You don’t owe me anything. My career is my responsibility and you are under no obligation whatsoever to support me. However, because it is my responsibility, I hope you understand that I have an obligation to mention how much your online support means to me. I promise I’ll do so in the least obnoxious way I know how. If you wish to ignore my hints, so be it. Like I said, I understand.
But, on the off chance that maybe – maybe – you think highly enough of my work to help me out? Thank you.
Barbara Wallace writes for both Harlequin Romance and Entangled Publishing. Her most recently release The Billionaire’s Fair Lady came out in January 2013 and received terrific reviews. If you’re interested in checking the book out for yourself, click here. She thanks you.