Thursday, 17 August 2017

A Writers Retreat to Die For...

Saving Private Rice!
I'm not gonna lie, I've been on writing retreats before that I've enjoyed... But I've never been on a writing retreat before which I really enjoyed where I actually got LOADS of writing done, too.

Sundown in Wexford
There's always something hugely inspiring to me about being with other writers - chatting late into the night about process, the industry, brainstorming plots and sharing writing woes and insecurities (while occasionally having the odd tipple of wine and prosecco!). But last week in the glorious Wexford countryside brought a whole new meaning to the term Writers Retreat for me.

Firstly the company was fabulous, there's nothing better than being with a great bunch of fellow writers and this lot were awesome - focused, smart, articulate women who were, most importantly of all, a lot of fun to be with. Or as the Irish would say 'great craic'.

Oscar Wilde woz here!
Carol Marinelli, Jane Porter, Kelly Hunter, Abby Green and me met up at Dublin airport on the Saturday, piled into two cars and headed down to a glorious cottage near Carne Beach in Wexford with a stop en route for a delicious lunch at the Avoca Cafe in Mount Usher Wicklow (if you're ever there check out the feta fritters!).

Calm, serene and beautifully furnished, the traditional thatched cottage we stayed in is rumoured to be the place where Oscar Wilde spent his childhood summers. Well, one thing I will say, there was a definite writing vibe as soon as we got there - whether that was Oscar's ghost or the lack of wifi who knows. But either way, after a day of settling in and raiding the local SuperValu, we were all getting down to work.

Soaking up the Smithwicks
A couple of us had screaming deadlines, a couple of others were putting some words down and getting their plots sorted, and I was doing revisions on my third Presents/Modern book... And much to my surprise, the words flowed easily (not a usual occurrence for me - see 'writing woes' above). By the end of the week I had figured out the problems with the ending and fixed them and my editor had sent word the book had been accepted... (FYI Captive at Her Enemy's Command will be out in April 2018! Yay me). But not only that, I'd also managed to submit three chapters and a synopsis for my next Presents and laid down plans for two new longer book proposals and had a think about my next cowboy book for Tule!

Our Lady's Island
I don't think I've ever been so focused and had so much fun while doing it, because in between the writing we found time for trips to:

Rosslare Harbour – to feed our internet and Clonakilty sausage addictions.

The Lobster Pot - a local pub to eat crab claws soaked in garlic butter.

Our Lady's Island - to light a candle at the outdoor shrine and have a glass of Smithwicks at the Island Bar (both holy experiences IMHO).

Curracloe Beach - to get windswept while learning all about the filming of Saving Private Ryan from our own Abby Green.

Another picture in the Pub! Wot?
And have a date with bestselling author Carmel Harrington and some delicious posh nosh at Kelly's Resort.

I even found time to start running every morning, something I'm going to keep up now I'm home... Although jogging around Clissold Park in Hackney doesn't have quite the same inspirational vibe as jogging down the quiet country lanes to Carne Beach.

When we headed back to Dublin a week later I was really sad to say goodbye to everyone.

But there's only one cure for my melancholia... We MUST do it again, ladies...

Leaving my heart in Wexford

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Happy Pub Day to Me!

Yippee, it's finally here, the day I've been waiting for for months.... The publication day of my second women's fiction book Summer at Willow Tree Farm!

It's out in ebook as of today (it'll be going into print next April) with HQ Stories. And to celebrate I decided to do a little video about the place that inspired the story!

I'd love to know what you think??

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Book News Comes in Twos

Out on July 20th in ebook
So excited to announce the release of my second women's fiction book this week, Summer at willow Tree Farm, on 20th July in ebook. If you'd like to read a sample, check it out in the sidebar...

Not only that, but I am also doing a Goodreads Giveaway for my next Presents - which will be out in September/October... So if you fancy an early signed copy of The Virgin's Shock Baby - my first bona fide pregnesia story (the clue's in the title!!) - then don't forget to enter as soon as it's live.

Out in 19th September  in US

And 1st October in the UK

Meanwhile in other writing news I have just submitted a linked book to The Virgin's Shock Baby, to my editor, so fingers crossed it gets accepted.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

HarperCollins Summer Party and 99p Pre-Order Joy!

So I'm popping in to this blog after a long absence during which I have been doing lots and lots and lots of writing (honestly!)  to boast about the fabulous HarperCollins party I attended last night.

Prosecco prinks
The prosecco was free-flowing, canap├ęs a dream (a bit too much of a dream, as I think I had about 300 of them!)  and the setting sublime in the main courtyard at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The weather also cooperated as if the sun couldn't help but shine on all that talent and industry (Okay got a little bit too poetic there, sorry!)

I had an absolute ball hanging out with wonderful M&B authors Michelle Smart and Maya Blake and my fellow HQ author Fiona Harper. We managed to waylay a few unlucky slebs who were all very gracious and selfie proficient. Here's a few snaps from the evening, am even keener to write another book now for HQ stories just to get an invite to this party next year?!

Duncan from Blue!!

Balloon ahoy!

Early days.

Posh nosh

Mojito Mojo

The art of the canape

Three degrees of mojito

Ferne Britten being fabulous

Night falls...

In proper book news, my next longer  women's fiction book, Summer at Willow Tree Farm, is out digitally on 20th July and is available at the ludicrous pre-order price of 99p! For those wedded to print, it will be out in paperback next April.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Book Release Day Goodness! Tempting the Deputy Giveaway

Yippee, it's finally almost here, tomorrow my first ever cowboy book goes on sale... Tempting the Deputy is also my first Marietta book for Tule Publishing.

I'm beyond excited because I completely adored writing about tough, taciturn and deliciously protective Deputy Logan Tate and the new thorn in his side, former wild child Charlotte Foster, the British photographer who has just turned up in Marietta, Montana, ready to make his life hell... In all sorts of hot and interesting ways – photographing him shirtless for a charity calendar being just one of them.

The first review is up on Goodreads, thank you so much to Maria, who said:

This was a really sweet and sexy romance, I loved it. The beginning is so well  done, I felt instantly attracted by the main characters, drawn by their strong personalities and the humor Heidi Rice infuses in the narrative.... You can't help but fall for this hero.

For a chance to win a digital copy of the book (either epub or .mobi) just enter the Rafflecopter below, by 28th March!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For details of the other four fabulous  books in the Men of Marietta series, buy links and a sneak peek of that opening scene check out the book's page on my website.

Or you can join the Main St Marietta page on Facebook for news about this series and others based in the small town with more than it's fair share of hotties!


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Fifty Shades Darker - a Romance Reader/Writer's review

As a romance reader and writer, it’s probably no surprise that I’m out and proud about having enjoyed reading the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I also enjoyed watching the original movie

Yes, it won a load of razzie awards, but I have a sneaking suspicion these may have been voted for by people who wouldn’t appreciate a romance novel if it knocked them over the head… That’s not to say there weren’t problems with that first movie - not least because it's remarkably hard to translate any pure romance novel to the screen, the story of a romance is mostly an internal one and well, movies can't exist inside someone's head (unless you're John Malkovich).. But I think Sam Taylor-Johnson did a terrific job of conveying the fantasy elements of the story and giving the film a distinctive look - in short she respected her material…

Remember folks, this is romantic fantasy. It’s not supposed to be taken seriously, it’s pure escapism. Whether you find it hot or not is a matter of personal taste of course… But one huge factor Taylor Johnson had in her favour, IMHO was the casting. Particularly of Dakota Johnson who brings a refreshing likability to what is at times a fairly daft role (if we’re going to take it seriously, which we’re not) as the virgin student with enough emotional maturity to fix a young and thoroughly broken billionaire with an S&M fetish.  Jamie Dornan too, for me, encapsulated a lot of what Christian Grey is about - gorgeous, brooding, traumatised and emotionally stunted.

So.. I’m not going to lie to you, when I heard Taylor-Johnson had been replaced by James Foley (whose big work was back in the 90s) and Saving Mr Banks scriptwriter Kelly Marcel replaced with EL James’ husband I was somewhat concerned about Fifty Shades Darker... The second in the trilogy of films.

So were my fears justified?

Well, yes in some ways. The film seems to want to have the story both ways, to concentrate on the developing romance between Christian and Ana - which despite that title is now less kinky and more playful as Christian begins to confront some of his many ‘issues’ - while also adding a daft thriller element, involving Ana’s new boss Jack Hyde and one of Christian's former subs. To be fair, James’s second book had the thriller element too, but in the film we get no build up and no pay off for either of the two thriller sub plots - like a Greek tragedy much of the action is conducted off screen, leaving the audience to feel cheated or simply confused. Spoiler alert: the film finishes with a dark, shadowy shot of Hyde setting him up as the villain for round 3 which left me and I’m sure most of the rest of the audience thinking WTH? Where did he come from? Why is he ominously smoking a cigarette in a park overlooking Seattle? I'm sure a few people might even have been wondering who he was!

Foley also has none of the wonderfully lush OTT imagery that made Taylor-Johnson’s first film such a guilty pleasure. This is at turns a very prosaic and yet rather coy handling of the material. And as usual with 18 films, we get to see lots of her and not a lot of him… Which is kind of a shame as eye candy choices go, because let’s face it, the main target audience for this film is heterosexual women...

Then again, the main strength of the first film is still there. Namely Dakota Johnson’s refreshing Ana (there’s a cute tribute to Dakota’s mum Melanie Griffith, see if you can spot it) and Jamie Dornan looks much more relaxed too, so his Christian is a less stiff (no pun intended).. Sadly though, this is the film where we want to see Christian and Ana actually start to fall in love. Ana challenges Christian to give her more, she wants to understand why he is so screwed up, but the film fails us. Both Marcia Gay Hardin as Christian’s adopted mother, and Kim Basinger as his former lover are totally wasted, their parts so cut down that they are reduced to cardboard cut outs - when in the books they help to explain a lot about Christian’s problems. And while Johnson and Dornan work overtime to inject the proceedings with humour - because surprise, surprise, folks there is actually quite a lot of humour in the books - very little of that is actually in the script.

All of that said, I still enjoyed this movie… But I think it was greatly helped by the two stars, my enjoyment of the OTT nature of the original books and also the fabulous venue where I went to see it and the company I saw it with… If you’re going to go for a guilty pleasure like Fifty Shades Darker, I’d highly recommend going with a fellow romance novelist (aka Abby Green) and seeing it at one of the Everyman cinemas, because not only can you share a sofa - putting you into your own little world - but they serve wine in bottles… And we needed it.

Happy Valentine's.... Or Galentine's ... Or Palentine's Day!

So it's Valentine's Day today... A time when all romance writers attempt to pimp their books a little bit more, because come on, what's more romantic novelist friendly than a day devoted to romance?

But the thing about Valentine's Day is, it can be a bit of a turn off for some people... And here are some of the reasons why:

Strawberries of Love from Lidl
1) It can be a little tiny bit over-commercialised (book-pimping notwithstanding) - a way to guilt people into spending money to prove they care about their other half when the truth is, if you love someone you show it every day in ways that are much more important than a card, or flowers or a heart-shaped box of choccies (or strawberries!). In my house this would include giving one of my sons a lift to his job when he's overslept, or agreeing to sample yet another Scandi crime drama with my DH because he loves them ... ie: it's the little things that count.

2) Depending on how you interpret it, V-Day can be alienating...  A smug fest for the happily joined up which makes single people feel as if they're missing out, when the fact is there's nothing wrong with being single. I was single for  years after university and it's a time in my life I look back on with quite a bit of envy occasionally. And being single is certainly better than being in a crap relationship – and I'm sure we've all had a few of those!

3) It can romanticize relationships when the reality is most relationships, certainly if they are going to last, can be bloody hard work (something any romance novel with tell you by the way, contrary to popular misconceptions about the genre....)

That said, me and my DH are still using tonight as a great excuse to have a slap-up meal at a local restaurant to smugly celebrate our love (and probably natter non-stop about the latest Scandi crime dramas!) But if you're feeling excluded from Valentine's Day... For whatever reason.... There are lots of other ways to celebrate...

Why not celebrate a belated Galentine's Day for example - the day for Gal Pals to celebrate their platonic lady-friendships enshrined by Amy Poehler's fabulous Leslie Knope (if you're not hooked on Parks and Recreation, btw, you should be).

As I'm a glutton for social interaction and any excuse to hang out with my Gal Pals is always welcome, I celebrated Galentine's Day a little early, this weekend, with my best writing pal Abby Green. This involved spending an afternoon watching Ireland slaughter Italy in the Rugby Six Nations, then a wonderful meal at a gastro pub in Islington then sharing a sofa (and a bottle of vino) at the Screen on the Green (my local deluxe cinema) for a screening of Fifty Shades Darker - the ultimate guilty pleasure for gal pals the world over IMHO.

50 Shades of Friendship!
Of course, if you have gender-neutral friendships (because sorry Harry, but girls and guys can be friends without sex getting in the way, sometimes!) I'm sure Leslie wouldn't mind if you celebrated those friendships with Palentine's Day... My new variation on Galentine's Day...

Ah, the possibilities are endless... Because the truth is that celebrating love - in all its many forms - should be inclusive and diverse and should never go out of fashion. And actually, you don't need to have a day for it, or even a name for it... Just go for it. Every day.

PS: And if you want to buy my newly revamped Valentine's novella - Sleepless in London - while you're at it, I wouldn't mind a bit!