Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Liz Fenwick shares a Dubai Christmas Tree

Member of the RNA's New Writers' Scheme Liz Fenwick talks about a tree in Dubai...

Most years we have traveled home to Cornwall from wherever we have been living (Moscow, Jakarta,London, Houston, and Dubai) except for the two years we lived in Calagary and because of this Christmas and Cornwall are totally linked in children's minds as well as ours. However this year we knew my husband wouldn't be able to steal enough time from the office to make the journey worthwhile so we accepted that Christmas would be in Dubai...

This is our second 'tour of duty' here and during our first one we purchased our first artificial tree to make the villa festive knowing that we would have a real tree in Cornwall. Our collection of ornaments in Cornwall is filled with precious memories of grandparents, children's creations, and all the places we have lived so what could I decorate the tree in Dubai with? I didn't want to go to great expense so the children and I walked the beach collecting shells (they were then 9, 7, and 2). We came home and painted them all gold to varying degrees. That year the tree glistened with sea shells and lights. Each year since then we have added silly and inexpensive ornaments to our Dubai tree.

This year because we wouldn't be in Cornwall we splashed out on a real tree here. But of course we don't have the traditional ornaments just shells, camels, bears and bits.....

Hope your Christmas was wonderful and that the coming New Year willed be filled with blessings.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lemon Tree Very Christmasy

Best selling author Rosemary Laurey shares her tales of an unusual Christmas Tree...

Well, I finally broke down and decided I wanted a tree with lights, but just could not face hauling everything up from the basement. So I went down and fished out one string of lights and put them on the lemon tree in my work room window.. Not quite as impressive as some to displays my neighbors have up but what the heck? And must have been the warmth of the bulbs but two flower buds opened. So now I have lights and the scent of lemon blossom.

Merry Christmas everyone :-)

Coming on December 18th from Elloras Cave: Turkish Delight - see:

For my WW2 trilogy visit:

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Choc Lit author, Christina Courtenay, talks of her Scandinavian celebrations...

God Jul!
24th December is the day Christmas is celebrated in Scandinavia, so ”God Jul” or good yuletide to you all! (The “jul” is pronounced just like the English word Yule.)

Christmas trees are as individual as their owners (here is a photo of ours for this year), and ours is usually dressed all in red and silver, with the odd splash of gold. Not sure why, but over the years those are the colours I always seem to buy. And like Jan, I buy at least one new bauble every year – they’re just so beautiful, how can anyone resist?

For me, although I know it’s not good for the planet, it has to be a real tree, simply because of the wonderful scent. There’s nothing like coming down on Christmas morning and being met by the fragrance of fir or spruce. To make up for this non-PC behaviour, I plant a small Christmas tree in our garden every year after the holidays. Here’s a photo of this year’s lucky “little one” (Isn’t it adorable? Not even a foot high!)

Also like Jan Jones (here) I’m sure most people have Christmas tree decorations that are special because of the memories associated with them. For me, it’s five miniature Japanese fans that remind me of some exotic Christmases in Tokyo many years ago. We somehow managed to combine both English and Swedish traditions with Japanese ones, which was great fun!
Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory talks about A Growing Tree

Author of historicals Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory shares her tales of a growing tree...

Our neighbours have a small plantation where they grow Christmas trees. A few weeks before Christmas we see a succession of cars passing our window as people drive up to choose and buy their tree. A couple of years ago we went over and bought a little tree, but rather than cut it down we chose to dig up the roots and put it in a pot, and after Christmas we stood it in a quiet corner outside where it has continued to grow for the past couple of years, coming in about a week before Christmas for its annual makeover.

This year our tree was decorated with snow before we could bring it in (I think it looks beautiful, but of course we had to knock off the snow before we could bring it indoors, or risk a soggy carpet!).

If it survives this year I think we will have to plant it out, for it reaches the ceiling now. Perhaps we will buy it some outdoor lights for 2010.......

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Kate who writes as Kate Johnson and Cat Marsters shares tales of her Christmas Trees...

When I was a kid, we used to get a real tree, with roots and everything, and we used to get one that was the same height as my brother (it's his birthday on Christmas Day). The thing was, after tramping round the field (meadow? Orchard? Forest?), and finding one the right height, we'd take it home, pot it, and then it would be about eighteen inches higher.

This wasn't a problem when my brother was seven. Unfortunately, he hit six foot at about sixteen, and didn't stop. The last tree we got was 6'2". By the time we'd carried it in and levered it upright, we had to repaint the ceiling.

That was the year we got a fake tree. I love it: you never have to water it, it doesn't shed needles all over the place--and with a collection of cats and dogs that's a hazard all of its own. The tree used to shed so much that I thought it was traditional to buy a new vacuum cleaner every Christmas Eve. And best of all, with a fake tree my feline helpers actually have something to play with while I'm assembling it!

Merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Down Under

Author of 46 books Anna Jacobs tells us about how Christmas feels in the warmer climes...

Christmas in Western Australia is just a teeny bit different from Christmas in the UK. Definitely no snow! In fact, it’s going to be very hot on Christmas Day - probably a ‘century’ as we call it (100 degrees Fahrenheit).

We live on a marina development with water frontage and on Christmas Day in the early morning, before it gets really hot, Father Christmas comes round in a boat blasting out Christmas carols. He gives bags of sweets to kids who go rushing down to their families’ jetties and graciously accepts the odd bottle of chilled beer in return.

We’ll be having a barbecue in the evening but will stay indoors in the air conditioning for most of the day watching the boats go past outside. When it’s cooled down enough to be comfortable, we too will go outside. Few people here sit out in the full summer sun, which is enemy number one. We can recognise tourists from cooler countries because they ‘grill’ themselves to a nice bright red. Dangerous, that.

As we eat our barbecued food in the evening, we can look down the central ‘canal’ and see the fancy Christmas lights on the houses reflected in the water. It’s very pretty. Small boats chug past looking at the ‘illuminations’ and bringing wafts of music and laughter, while tourist boats bring larger numbers of revellers.

The only things we have to guard against are mosquitoes, which try to do their own feasting - on us.

That’s our Australian Christmas.

Anna Jacobs

Anna Jacobs: 'Yesterday's Girl' (pbk 1/08), ‘Freedom’s Land’ (pbk 7/09), 'Farewell to Lancashire' (hbk 7/09, Aust trade pbk 1/10), ‘Saving Willowbrook’ (pbk 11/09), ‘In Focus’ (hbk 11/09)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Tree Tale from Jo Berverley

Best selling author of over thirty romance novels and many novellas, Jo Beverley shares her Christmas Tree story.

When my son was nearly one, I bought a Christmas tree on impulse at the Sears Clearance Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Sears do a big catalogue business, and the clearance centre had stuff that was returned and sometimes with damage.) It was a very basic artificial tree, but over the years it became our tradition even as we moved across Canada to Montreal, then Ottawa, then Victoria.

When we decided to come home to England we thought its time had come, but we realized we could only put light stuff in some filing cabinets, so we packed the tree in it. Now here it is, in Whitby, carrying 31 years of Christmas memories, plus a picture from that first Christmas, with the tree in danger from curious fingers.
Wishing everyone a happy Christmas.
Jo Beverley

Jo's latest release is LADY NOTORIOUS

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Robin in a Christmas Tree

Author Jan Jones tells about her Christmas Tree.

Here is a photo of this year's Christmas tree. We always use decorations saved from year to year and never quite seem to throw out the old, tatty ones on the grounds that once all the tinsel and sparkle is up, no one will notice the elderly bits and pieces. This doesn't, of course, stop me buying a couple of new decorations each Christmas!

The robins have an especial place in my heart. We always used to have one on the tree when I was growing up - then when I had my first home my mother bought me a robin for my first Christmas tree. Since then, one or two more have been added, and when my mother sadly passed away, her robins found their way to my tree as a permanent reminder.Wishing you all a very happy Christmas!

Jan Jones' latest book is FORTUNATE WAGER - "Scandal and secrets on the Regency Racecourse". Available from Robert Hale Books.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Christmas Longlist=The RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Longlist

Stuck for present ideas? Janet Gover shares the longlist for the RNA's Romantic Novel of the Year just in time...
Still stuck for Christmas presents?
Looking for some stocking fillers that will put smiles on every face?
Well, just in time to help – here's a Christmas list to brighten the dullest winter days.
The RNA has just released the longlist of novels in the running for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2010 – which is also the Association's Golden Anniversary year.

There's something on the list for everyone…. modern romance among New York's skyscrapers, tales of triumph over tragedy in war, there's Victorian drama and super spies, tales of first love and lost love and love that changes everything.

The question is – where to start? These books have been selected from one hundred and fifty-eight submitted novels – so I know they are all going to be top reads.

The list (in alphabetical order of author):

The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison - Alma Books
Passion by Louise Bagshawe - Headline Review
Beachcombing by Maggie Dana - Pan Macmillan
Fairytale of New York by Miranda Dickinson - Avon (Harper Collins)
Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon - Hodder & Stoughton
A Single to Rome by Sarah Duncan - Headline Review
A Mother’s Hope by Katie Flynn - Arrow (Random Hse)
A Glimpse at Happiness by Jean Fullerton - Orion
10 Reasons Not to Fall in Love by Linda Green - Headline Review
Marriage and Other Games by Veronica Henry - Orion
The Glass Painter’s Daughter by Rachel Hore - Simon & Schuster
It’s the Little Things by Erica James - Orion
I Heart New York by Lindsey Kelk - Harper
The Heart of the Night by Judith Lennox - Headline Review
The Italian Matchmaker by Santa Montefiore - Hodder & Stoughton
The Summer House by Mary Nichols - Allison & Busby
One Thing Led to Another by Katy Regan - Harper
The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks - Little Brown (Sphere)
Last Christmas by Julia Williams - Avon (Harper Collins)
The Hidden Dance by Susan Wooldridge - Allison & Busby

The challenge now is to read them all before February 11th – when the shortlist will be announced.

The winner will be named at the Awards lunch on March 16th.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Digital Debate Continues - Julia Roebuck of E-Scape Press Talks About Ebooks

Back in August we began a discussion of the digital debate. Since then a few new ebook readers have been introduced to the market but the jury is still out. Julia Roebuck from E-Scape Press shares her views on e-books.

E-books are a strange thing. They have everything a paperback has (the full novel or text), except a physical presence. And they can elicit all sorts of responses from people - most of all, authors.

For anyone who has ever read an e-book and loved it, you would be hard pressed to tell them their experience is not as meaningful as someone who read the same book in paper. And I'd say in my own experience, some of the best books I've read have been e-books.

Yet there are droves of people who, at the mere mention of digital text proclaim something along the lines of "I like the feel of a book in my hands" and dismiss them.

That is there choice. But e-books have a number of advantages over paper copies:

Firstly, they are greener. O.K, it may not save the planet, but you saving on the production: Energy to print, distribute and storage which can add up.

Secondly, they are usually instantaneous to download - instant gratification for that must-read.

Thirdly, you can often have access to titles not usually available in your own country as paper copies.

Fourthly you can read e-books on your mobile phone (iPhone, Blackberry etc) they can be very helpful to have around if you have to wait in a queue or have a few minutes to fill.

Fifthly, if you read an e-book, no one knows what you are reading - which is one of the reasons erotica is very popular on this format. (And RNA members will glad to know that romance titles are some of the biggest selling e-books too)

In Japan e-books are called " m-books" (Mobile books since they are usually read on mobile phones). The market there was worth over $500M in 2008 sales and it's still growing. Apparently Japanese companies are selling approximately two million e-books per month. Such statistics are not to be sniffed at.

If there is still anyone out there who thinks digital text doesn't sell is wrong. It does. It's just here in the UK it hasn't caught on as much as some countries. The revolution will hit us eventually and it may be the younger generation to turn us.

This revolution however, is not without its controversies:
Many of the larger publishing houses charge the same for an e-book as they do for a paper version. Consumers however, don't like this and argue that the costs of producing an e-book are lower. This is not quite true, and depends on whether the book is being produced as a paperback too. All books must be type-set, edited and proof-read whatever the format. Also, e-books are subject to VAT, whereas paper books are not.

But if consumers expect a lower price, then it may be prudent to respond to that expectation and there is evidence, that lowering the price of e-books can increase sales. One publisher at the Futur(e) book Conference in London last week claimed their e-book sales increased from 25 copies to 1500 when they reduced their prices.

Consumers and publishers have also come to blows over licencing. Publishers want to protect their investments and authors rights and presume that anyone who buys an e-book may copy it, try and sell it on, or in the very least send to every friend they know who might like to read it. To combat this, Digital Rights Management systems (DRM) have emerged. Similar to downloading music, the purchaser registers their computer/mobile devices where the digital text is to be read. But DRM is not the panacea against piracy. There is only so much you can do to prevent copying and DRM only stops the most casual level of piracy. The determined hacker can by-pass it.

But it is not just digital texts under threat. The Harry Potter books have not been digitally published from fear of piracy. Yet, within hours of the 7th book's release, pirates had scanned the book in and were selling it digitally. Yet the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer have been released as e-books and is one of two fastest selling digital titles. Who is the loser?

It could be argued that if a book isn't published digitally, then the consumer will buy the paper copy instead. Whether that is true is unclear, but you do have a small time slot to try and persuade the consumer to buy your book, and it makes sense to try and make that product as easy to buy as possible. If there is a problem purchasing, the consumer may just give up and forget it and move onto the next book.

What is clear is that there is a market out there for e-books and if you don't fill it, someone else will.

For more information on mbooks in Japan:
Julia Roebuck

Friday, December 11, 2009

Carol Townend Brings Us a Glimpse of Christmas at Cotehele

Cotehele is a Tudor house in Cornwall, it was home of the Edgecumbe family. We have been there a number of times as there is plenty for the medievalist to linger over...

There’s a traditional great hall; a dovecote; a stew pond in the garden where the fish were kept; and a marvellous hillside garden which slopes down to the River Tamar and the lime kilns by Cotehele Quay. Last week we went specifically to see the Cotehele Christmas Garland in the medieval hall.

It’s a fantastic creation which must have taken hours to make. The flowers used this year include: honesty, statice, straw flower, ornamental grasses, asters, ivy, various herbs, pink poker and marigolds. Christmas trees were a much later invention (Victorian, I think), but the hall at Cotehele was full of decorations. The arms on the walls were framed with beech stems, with the darkness of the arms and the beech stems making a stark contrast against the rough whitewashed walls:
And here, one of the doorways is draped with cypress branches and holly. Others were festooned with ivy.
If you would like to take a walk round Cotehele yourself, this BBC link will take you there.

Carol’s latest medieval romance Runaway Lady, Conquering Lord is published this month with Mills & Boon
Raised a lady, Emma of Fulford is a fallen woman with a young son as proof. He is all she has in the world, and now the boy’s brutal father has returned.Desperate and afraid, she needs to escape, and fast,so she approaches Sir Richard of Asculf. She begs this honourable Norman knight for help—and offers the only thing she has left...herself.Honourable he may be, but Sir Richard is only human and Lady Emma tempts his resolve. Can this conquering knight tame his runaway lady and stop her running for good?
Wessex Weddings Normans and Saxons, conflict and desire

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Publicity Seeking by Bernardine Kennedy

Journalist and author of seven best selling books Bernardine Kennedy shares her experience of dealing publicity.

Recently I’ve been tearing my hair out trying to write a couple of personal press releases that can be sent out to the media to prove that I’m really very interesting and worthy of a few column inches that will help promote my next book. You know the press releases I mean, they delve into the personal rather than the professional and are written to catch the jaded eye of the journo assigned that day to sifting through them all.

Once the crack-high of acceptance for publication has died down, there comes a stark realisation that the next step for one’s lovingly crafted book, and the next one, is for it to actually sell in enough numbers to keep the publisher happy.

The loyal purchase of the first book by family, friends and curious colleagues (after the debut they sadly lose interest) just won’t do it; the book has to be lobbed forcefully out into the big wide world and the general public have to hear about both it and the author and then they have to be persuaded that they really, really have to go out and buy it. Complex stuff.

This is where publicity and self promotion comes in. Publishers and agents will do some of the touting around but on the whole it’s down to the author to try and fire up some interest. Any interest. From anywhere.

Self-promotion is a necessary evil that even the most shy and retiring has to get to grips with but it can be a dangerous balancing act trying to find the happy medium between being ordinary and uninteresting and giving out ‘too much information’, some of which is possibly (accidentally?) exaggerated and which will one day return to bite the author on the bum. Trust me, there’s always someone somewhere feeling mean and ready to rain on your parade.
So just how much personal information should you give out about yourself and your nearest and dearest in the quest for that ever elusive publicity? Where does a Joe Bloggs author, not normally in the public eye, draw the line between doing everything possible to get mentions and quotes, and going too far?

It seems to vary greatly from person to person; I cringe sometimes when I read an in-depth confession of something so deeply personal, tragic, humiliating or devastating it brings a lump to my throat and then see the little note at the bottom of the piece about the authors latest book that is out that very week. Aha. Publicity.Cringe I might but at the same time I can understand it. Authors want their books to sell and so do their publishers but in these days of gossip magazines and tabloid newspapers publishing increasingly salacious details about celebrities, being normal, ordinary and hard-working simply doesn’t cut it.‘Happily married mother of two point four children who lives in a semi and works part-time in a bank writes a novel’ isn’t going to grab any headlines unless she was, for example, moonlighting as a high class call girl at the same time. (N.B.High class call-girl is good, heroin raddled street walker is bad).Same as ‘Disabled dad whose wife ran off to Turkey with a toy-boy leaving him with five children managed to find the time to write a heart-rending account of his struggle when kids were in bed’, will have them all gagging for the details. Especially if the wife now wants her share of the royalties. Bring on the tabloids!

So would I tell tales on my kids to get a two line book mention at the bottom of a page? Would I rip into the ex-husbands who are also the fathers of said kids? Reveal personal details about my childhood, adolescence and marriages that will embarrass not only me but also everyone close to me? No I’m sure I wouldn’t. Well I haven’t done so far. But would I drag up something from my past that makes a good tale, doesn’t impact on anyone else and won’t come back to haunt me? Oh Yes.All I have to do now is think of something catchy that will have Tesco getting out the cheque book and readers queuing around the block for a signed copy.
Back to the drawing board of my ratchety old past!