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Progress – submitting my first manuscript

So far in my journey I have learnt a lot of new things; like what the hell a split infinitive is. I’ve learned that editing is a lot harder than writing, that opportunity abounds when you take the time to look for it, and that taking each new step is simultaneously terrifying and rewarding.

Today I submitted my first complete MS, Love en Pointe, after receiving a request for a full from one of the lovely editors at Harlequin (hello dream publisher!!) based on my entry into a pitch contest. (If you’re looking to pitch I highly recommend reading through the entries to see how people pitch their book, and especially read the three winning pitches to see what publishers look for.)

It’s kind of how I imagine it would be to send your child off to their first day of kindergarten. You hope that you’ve done all you can to prepare, and pray that your baby isn’t harshly criticised. A small part of me wondered if I should keep the submission a secret…you know, just in case I get the dreaded R. But what the hell, I’m excited and proud of myself, so I’ll sing it from the rooftops.

Anyway, this post was just to record my progress (which is kind of why I started this blog in the first place, to document my experiences) and because I have scoffed an entire ‘reward’ magnum in about four seconds so I’m high on sugar right now.

successsuccess!

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Flash Fiction – Harlequin Writers Challenge

I recently entered one of  the Writer’s Challenges over at the Harlequin forums, it was the first time I’d ever put a piece of work out to be read by others (well, other than my husband)…so a big step for me! It was extremely nerve-racking but I was pleased with how the piece turned out.

Theme: the story had to be 1,000 words or less, have a festive season theme and feature the following words; ice, snowman, bells.

Alone for the Holidays…

Ellen toyed with the glass in her hand, the ice cubes clinking against one another as the water pushed them around. It looked like it was going to be another scorching Aussie Christmas, outside it was already approaching thirty degrees and there were no signs that the heat was going to break. Despite the temperature there was a turkey in the fridge that would be roasted tomorrow – along with a kilo and a half of potatoes – because heat did not override the desire for a traditional Christmas lunch.

Yet Ellen was struggling to get into the Christmas spirit, it would be her first one without Dean and that knowledge was causing her stomach to churn. She missed him more than she ever thought it possible to miss another person. Ellen fought back tears as she turned and rested against the dining table, her hands trembled and some of the water sloshed over the edge of her glass. Cursing, she put the glass down and sighed.

Around her the house was a picture of cheer; a tall Christmas tree dominated the far corner of the room with lights that sparkled out into the night and Christmas cards from loved ones hung along a red cord above the dining room window. The snow globe that sat on the mantel piece caught Ellen’s eye; Dean had bought it for her on their first Christmas together. The memory of their first holiday celebration tugged her mouth upwards into a smile; it had been the most amazing night of her life.

She reached out and picked up the heavy ornament, the rounded glass felt smooth against her palm and the snow fluttered inside with the sudden movement. It was a simple globe with a gold base and some elegant etchings around the edge. Inside there was a chubby snowman and a penguin both wearing bow ties – Dean had always joked that the penguin reminded him of her, because she had a thing for tuxedos… and she waddled like a penguin during both pregnancies.

Tears pricked at the corners of her eyes and she turned the globe slowly in her hand, watching as the snow swirled about the penguin and the snowman – their faces frozen pictures of joy. She wished that she was the one in the globe, stuck in that glorious moment where the magic of Christmas was still alive. She’d give anything to have Dean here with her, even if it meant living in a glass dome for all eternity.

Dean Martin’s White Christmas played softly over the radio and Ellen gently placed the globe on the mantle, the snow settled slowly around the figurines. She’d better put the remainder of the presents under the tree before she went to bed, the last thing she needed was to explain to the girls that Santa forgot their presents. She smiled as she passed the coffee table where a glass of milk and a plate of cookies lay untouched, there was a carrot there as well – for Rudolph of course.

Ellen swiped a cookie as she walked past and for once didn’t sweep up the crumbs. Evidence, she thought to herself as she munched on the gooey, chocolate chip snack. She snapped the carrot in half and left a piece on the table next to the milk.

Upstairs the more delicate of the gifts were wrapped and hidden on the top shelf of the walk in robe. Carly, her four year old, had taken to shaking the presents when she thought Ellen wasn’t looking – so the breakable items had to be stashed away in a secret hiding place – not really all that secret, just unreachable to four and six year old girls. Ellen reached up on her tip-toes and attempted to pull down the brightly wrapped packages from the shelf.

As she did, a small box tumbled down from the pile and landed with a soft thud on the plush white carpet. The box was wrapped in black paper and looked unlike the festively kitsch wrapping that adorned the other gifts. Curious, Ellen turned the box around in her hands – it was heavy for its small size.

There was no name, no gift tag or anything to discern its origin.

“How strange…”

She peeled back the paper, being careful not to tear the thick wrapping in case she needed to wrap it back up again. Inside was a white box, again with no label or markings. Well, you’ve come this far…

Ellen opened the lid of the box and inside, nestled amongst the red velvet lining was a snow globe with a man and a woman inside. Ellen’s breath caught in her throat as she removed the globe from the box, watching as the snow picked up and whirled around the couple inside. The man wore a long coat and the woman was huddled against him, their arms linked.

Something caught Ellen’s eye as she turned the globe in her hands, there were markings underneath the base. She turned the globe upside down and saw the swirling marks of an engravers pen; words that made her heart flutter inside her chest.

‘I may be on the other side of the world, but I am thinking of you every moment. Shake the globe when you miss me and I’ll feel it in my heart’

A single fat tear dropped down onto Ellen’s cheek as she laughed at the thought. Shaking the globe vigorously, she felt warmth spread through her body as though Dean were right there beside her, telling her that everything would be OK.

Somewhere in the distance Ellen could swear she heard the sound of sleigh bells ringing in the night.

Vintage Book Friday: Original Harlequin Presents

I have to admit that I love the Harlequin Presents white covers, they’re so incredibly nostalgic of the romance books of old. After browsing Google Images (goodbye many hours of my life) I came across a vintage Harlequin Presents cover catalogue…here are three covers from the first 25 books of this decade-strong line:

all images credited to Romance Wiki

Here’s what they look like in 2012…

A June 2012 Harlequin Presents release.

 Do you love the Harlequin Presents covers?

Vintage Book Fridays: Once Burned by Margaret Way

It might be a stretch to call Once Burned by Maragret Way a vintage book, since it was only published in 1995. However, with its 20 year anniversary fast approaching (and the fact that I found it in a vintage book sore) I’ll include it in this week’s Vintage Book Friday anyway.

Margaret Way was first published by Mills & Boon in 1970 (her novel was titled The Time of the Jacaranda) and she has gone on to publish over a hundred books with them, to date. Looking back through the titles she’s published, it’s clear that Way favours writing about the great Australian Outback and countryside, which provides a vivid backdrop for all manner of romance stories.

Published under both the Harlequin Romance and Mill & Boon Sweet lines, Once Burned is an Australian-set romance featuring a runaway bride and a family with more hidden agendas than a spy movie.

OnceBurnedMargaretWay1 I have pondered lately about the percentage of red-headed romance heroines versus actual, natural red-heads in the real world…

Once Burned

Celine Langton is a runaway bride (well, a runaway fiancée, more accurately) who fled her engagement to Guy Harcourt amid the pressure of growing up in a very rich, very dysfunctional and largely conniving family. At 19 she was naive, vulnerable and sheltered by her domineering grandfather; although she loved Guy she fled to Sydney to become her own person yet still wears his ring around her neck.

Upon her grandfather’s death, Celine returns home to face the people she left behind and to discover a few truths about her family. Her cousin Ashley, the one person she regarded as a confidant and close friend, has actually been feeding lies back to the family about Celine and neglecting to pass on messages and gifts that she’d sent. Much to the chagrin of her uncles, Celine has inherited a substantial amount from her grandfather including a seat at the board and a twenty percent stake in the family business.

What I liked…

There’s a lot of comeuppance in this story, I like that. It’s certainly no Liam Neeson or Chuck Norris-style comeuppance, but hey – this is a romance novel after all and no one needs a roundhouse kick to the head.

Celine manages to overcome a lot of her fears in the book, she learns to stand up for herself and she makes a positive impact on many members in her family, whilst doing it in her own style. As a character she grows, yet she stays mostly true to herself and her own values. She has a fairly ‘soft’ approach, but she becomes increasingly confident as the story moves on and ultimately she puts all of her horrid relatives in their place.

Way did a great job of colourfully portraying Celine’s family and all of their vices, flaws and quirks. I found myself really hoping that Celine would bring them all undone in the end.

What I didn’t like…

A couple of things brought this book down for me. Firstly, there were a lot of characters and the book itself was quite short. That meant lots of names and family connections to remember, I felt that some of the characters were superfluous and the story could have done without them (namely Guy’s mother and grandmother, Helena’s companion etc.) A family tree ala V.C Andrews would have helped

Secondly, although I felt that Celine grew throughout the course of the novel, her stubborn naivety really bugged me. She allows her cousin Ashley so much power and, in the beginning, never once thinks to question her or has any suspicions about what Ashley is trying to achieve. I found the ‘twist’ regarding Ashley’s betrayal all too obvious and it only made me lose connection with Celine as a character. At this point she had started to verge on the dreaded TSTL character (aka too stupid to live, a stereotype found mainly in the romance and horror genres) and even after she redeemed herself and I wanted her to succeed in bringing down her relatives, I couldn’t quite relate to her as a person.

Once Burned – Overall…

I was really torn between the enjoyment of the comeuppance and the dislike of Celine’s all-consuming naivety. I think had the heroine toughened up a bit earlier on, I would have enjoyed Once Burned a little more. However, the story itself was interesting enough to keep me reading.

Rating – ♥♥♥

As I mentioned I found my copy in a vintage book store, but if you’re buying online you could try Amazon.

Vintage Book Fridays: 1960’s Harlequin Subscriber Magazine

There’s just something I adore about vintage books. One of my favourite hobbies is hunting around dusty, old second-hand book stores and markets looking for discarded treasures. Therefore, in the spirit of my love for all things old and nostalgic, I bring you Vintage Book Fridays.

Vintage Harlequin 1970s

A vintage Harlequin Magazine cover, circa 1960s source

Don’t you just love the art work? This magazine apparently included a full length story, short story and articles of travel, cooking and beauty.

The included full-length novel was Surgeon at St. Brides (1961 – also known an A Yankee Surgeon at St. Brides) by Elizabeth Gilzean. Gilzean was a Harlequin author who wrote several stories through the 50s and early 60s focusing on the Doctor/Nurse romance theme and also published under the pen names  Elizabeth Houghton and Mary Hunton.

Excerpt;

“He’s nearly six feet and I expect you gals would call him good-looking if you like that clean-cut American type…you know, the kind they use for advertising shirts and toothpaste,” was the way the Senior Casualty Officer described the new Yankee surgeon, John B. Tremayne, to Staff Nurse Sally Conway. And when John Tremayne duly took over at St.Bride’s, he certainly started some innovations, one of which was to perform all his operations at night-with Sally to assist him. Sally herself did not find the Yankee surgeon’s new routine at all upsetting, but she was to discover that his personal effect on her was quite another matter.”

Second-Hand Mills & Boon – my weekend haul

A trip to Savers and a gorgeous little second hand book store in the suburb where I grew up yielded this excellent haul! There were plenty more on offer, but this was all I could sneak back into the house without Mr H&B noticing…

I picked up a good mix of Sexy and Sweet Mills & Boon books with a few Medical, Desire and a single special edition 2-in-1 as well. Most of them were fairly recent, from about the last 5 years or so.

This should keep me busy for a little while…

Welcome to Hot & Bothered – a blog about romance books

Hello! Welcome to ‘Hot & Bothered’ – a blog about romance books.

My name is Ms L. I’m a communications professional by day and a wannabe author by night. I’m also an avid reader and treat my apartment as a storage unit for books. They’re in almost every room and I’ll never be found without reading material of some kind in my hand. After reading (and lurking) on romance book blogs and communities for sometime I have decided to take the plunge and give it a go myself! Hence, Hot & Bothered was born.

So, what am I reading under the covers at the moment?

The Italian GP’s Bride by Kate Hardy (A Mills & Boon/Harlequin Medical romance)

Orlando de Luca is the archetypal Italian – smooth, handsome and charming! His dedicated professionalism is only matched by his playboy bachelor ways… until he meets his new colleague Eleanor Forrest. Ellie is only in Italy to find her family, not to embark on an affair, yet the chemistry between them is hard to deny. So when Ellie becomes a patient herself, she finds the only person she wants to rely on is the dashing Dr de Luca.

So far I’m really enjoying it, you can find out more about Kate Hardy’s books here.