Holding out for a hero? Or a heroine?

Love is the Best Medicine

The Abbey at Royaumont

The above photo is Royaumont Abbey- temporary home to the Scottish Women’s Hospitals during the first world war.

I’m hoping that Amy Andrews will forgive me for using part of the fab title of one of her wonderful books for the title of my blog.

I know we all love a hero- but what about our fictional heroines? Do we want them to be like us? Or do we want to recognise that our heroines can be as brave, if not braver, than our heros. My current release The Wife He never Forgot, was inspired after I watched a documentary set in Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. It showed footage of a nurse, I forget whether she was NHS or full time military, in the back of a Chinook as it flew in, under fire, to rescue an injured soldier. I couldn’t get over her bravery. I would have been terrified…

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Love is the Best Medicine

My Reading Pile

First of all, I’d like to wish everyone all the very best for 2013. May it bring health, happiness and success!
I have been ill over the holiday season- nothing serious- just a virus that laid me low for a few days. My eldest daughter had gone back to uni, my husband and my younger daughter had gone skiing so that left me plenty of time to write and catch up on my reading.
I love reading and my friends and family know that so I received loads of books for Christmas plus some vouchers to buy more to read on my ipad. (I still prefer to read a ‘real’ book but I also like to have a selection on my ipad for when I travel)

As you can see I Have been reading some books about Afghanistan- that was a few months ago when I was writing my medical…

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This must be the longest call story ever.

So Jo likes my first chapter, I have a request for the next two and I need to get writing. (By the way we do talk about voice. I don’t understand what she means-  then I get it. When I hear a singer I know immediately it’s them, no matter what they are singing. Harlequin Mills and Boon don’t want another Nora Roberts for example as they have already have the best Nora Roberts. So another big hint here- never copy another writer’s style. Find your own.)

Two chapters are submitted followed by a request for a full which I still haven’t written. I wouldn’t recommend this approach to anyone btw. Not unless you like spending your life at the computer for weeks on end. But book is written and sent. I call it Dr Campbell’s Secret.

Ages pass. In the meantime I have had great feedback from Alex Gray, my tutor on an Arvon course I signed up for before going to the Mills and Boon course.

Maybe I can write?

Or maybe not.

Jo phones me. She likes what I’ve done but has some suggestions to make the book better. I don’t really understand what she wants. I think I’ve given this book my best shot- so I’m afraid it goes in a drawer and I decide that writing for Mills and Boon is too hard.

More time passes and then I get another call from Jo. She’s wondering how the revisions are going. I don’t tell her that I haven’t even attempted them. Instead I phone Hugh (Jessica Stirling who has written over 70 books) with whom I play tennis. The conversation goes something like this.

Me: They want me to do revisions.(In plaintive poor me voice)

JS: So. Get on with it.

Me: I can’t. I don’t know how.

JS: For God’s sake. Do you have any idea how many people would give their eye teeth to write for M&B?

He gives me Roger Sanderson’s number (Roger has written meds for M& B under the name Gill Sanderson for years) I phone Roger- get the same ‘doing’ as JS had just given me.

I resolve to get my Big Girl’s Pants on and do revisions.

(Writers never fail to amaze me with their generosity towards unpublished writers. It’s one of the reasons I’ll try and help anyone who asks me.)

So revisions in. And then, one day, I’m at work (in the IVF unit where no-one knows about my secret life as a writer) when I get a call from Jo. I take the call right in the middle of the office.

Jo: We’d like to buy your book.

Me:That’s nice. (Or something equally banal.)

Jo: (Clearly a little at a loss at the most unenthusiastic author she has ever dealt with.) Ok, then. I’ll get the contract out to you.

Me: Thanks.

So that is the story leading to the publication of Dr Campbell’s Secret Son. (They added son. I still prefer it without to be honest.)

Now not everyone will be lucky enough to go on a M&B course. As far as I know they only did that one. But they do have competitions all the time which are online courses too. If you want to write for Harlequin, check out their guidelines and keep checking their sites for competitions.

So here are my top tips.

Do not give up.

Do the revisions. If you are asked for revisions, this is a very good sign.

Find your own voice.

And truly, if anyone has any questions, fire away.

ps Dr Campbell’s Secret son has been reissued in an anthology. I’ll try and post a link

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Road to publication

While I decide what to do I submit a couple of articles to a magazine and to my amazement and excitement- they publish them. (I don’t think anything will ever match the excitement of that first acceptance.)

In the meantime I learn that Mills and Boon are to hold a long weekend course on how to write for Mills and Boon. It’s in a pink castle in the north of Scotland so it seems like fate. I am first to book and end up with a fabulous room in the castle turret (four poster bed included.) If I achieve nothing else I tell myself that the setting will come in handy for research.

There are around fifteen of us and two editors. We are a mixed crowd but we all get on immediately. A shared desire to write has that effect I have learned, and I still see some of the other participants every now and again.

Anyway we had to submit a chapter in advance and we are divided into two groups for feedback. My feedback will be with Joanne Grant but not until day two of the course. In the meantime, we go through some exercises re what Mills and Boon are looking for and we are giving some opening chapters by other authors as examples. That is when I have an eureka moment. One of the medical authors used as an example has an opening scene where the hero and heroine meet when they are being fired upon. I love it! I hadn’t appreciated how diverse and different writers could be in medicals.

Eventually my feedback one-to-one arrives. Joanne tells me she loves my opening chapter. I keep waiting for the but- but it never comes!

Jo wants to see the next two chapters and I am thrilled. Only one problem- I haven’t written them.

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My writing journey continued

Eventually I hear from Mills and Boon. They like my writing but a have two potential heroes (the mistake I was pointing out) and only one is medical. Not knowing that a full page of comments is a good thing, I’m devastated. I have been rejected! I will never be a writer.

But I’m stubborn. And someone tells me that a page of comments is a ‘good thing’ so, a little disbelievingly, I re-write the first three chapters and send them off again.  Weeks, or was it months? pass and eventually I receive a reply. The writing has suffered from too much re-writing but they still like my style. Why don’t I start again and re- submit?

Once again, I’m demoralised and put the letter in a drawer. Writing is too difficult. In the meantime, I start writing something else completely. A crime novel. Perhaps I’m no good at romance? Maybe I should reveal my dark side?

More tomorrow.

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How I became a writer

I’m not like most writers I know. I never dreamt of becoming a writer- or at least not until a year or two before I actually became one. 

 I started writing when I gave up work to look after my two children. My mother-in- law who used to care for them had just died and I felt I couldn’t put my children back into after school care- particularly when, at that time, I was working with the NHS and the local authorities to create an integrated children’s service.

It didn’t take long however before I became bored. On the spur of the moment I signed up for a long distance, short writing course and to my surprise found that my tutor was very encouraging. Since I mostly read crime at that time, I started writing a crime novel and soon discovered that writing a novel was a different kettle of fish to writing an article and short story. I also knew that the chances of being published were slim to non- existent.

Around that time I heard that Mills and Boon were looking for new authors. I also heard that they read every submission that was sent to them. To be honest I hadn’t read one in years, although my mother was a fan and I remembered reading hers. With the confidence of someone who knew almost nothing about the publishing business, I decided to write one. After all, how hard could it be?

Bloody hard was the answer. I guess I thought it was a little like staring dreamily into the distance (see photo for one of my thinking spots) imagining a story, rattling it out and then sitting back and waiting for the plaudits- and the money – to pour in.

I was pretty proud of my first attempt. It was set on the island where my parents were born and raised, it had a two doctors, and another potential love interest, lots of lovely scenery, an exciting medical scene or two, a couple of great secondary characters, what was there not to love?

Fulling expecting an editor to phone me up and sign me on the spot, I waited. And waited. 

Now I have to go and make dinner and I still have a thousand words to write tonight so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the next installment. Bet you can hardly wait? Oh and did you spot the fatal error in my first submission?

Anne x


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Copying my blog from Loveisthebestmedicine. Didn’t Britain do us proud?

Love is the Best Medicine

I was going to talk about my latest book Her Motherhood Wish a duo with Scarlet Wilson’s The Bond Between Strangers, (click on either to see what reviewers have to say- I admit to being delighted with their comments), but watching the Olympic closing ceremony last night, I just had to blog about something that has given us so much to smile about over the last two weeks! (I will talk about our book and IVF next month when the book is on the shelves)

Funnily enough I was in Olympia (pictured below) where it all began last month and where the flame still starts from.  So- what was your favourite moment of the event?Image

I have so many- Andy Murray winning his gold, Mo Farrah’s smile as he takes an olympic double, Usain Bolt’s energy and charisma and speed, the male swimmers with their power and abs!…

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