Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Hearts and Hangovers - Downton Christmas Special!

Oh my - wasn't the Downton Abbey Christmas Special just wonderful? (American viewers might want to look away now, to avoid SPOILERS.)

First of all...AT LAST! Mrs Hughes and Carson - I have been waiting years, literally, for one of them to express their feelings to the other. And, in keeping with both characters, it was done with dignity. I can't wait to see how their relationship plays out during the next season.

On a sadder note, I really felt for the Dowager Countess and her Russian Prince - what a life led by duty which, she nevertheless felt, had kept her on the straight and narrow. The core of the Countess' no-nonsense personality came through when she explained why she'd felt grateful to the Prince's wife. In spite of her young broken heart, in hindsight she could see that pursuing a forbidden passion would have led to a shameful, unstable existence. I do hope, contrary to her belief, that she still has time to receive another indecent proposal.

I was relieved to see Anna released from prison, although wary at the possibility that she might eventually have to go back. For me this storyline is dragging and I'd rather the Bates couple move on from this intermittent misery and the memory of vile Green be buried forever - how about a pregnancy please?!

A delight of this episode was seeing Lord Crawley a bit tipsy - scenes perfectly played by the equally delightful Hugh Bonneville.  It almost made up for seeing Branson leave. He'll be missed by viewers and fellow fictional characters no doubt. I hope he returns one day.

So all in all, a super show, which left me feeling good and wanting more. Roll on autumn 2015!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Missing Downton?

Missing Downton? Yes, me too - although I didn't enjoy the last series quite as much as previous ones. For me there wasn't enough drama or tense enough cliffhangers at the end.

Having said that, I am still thrilled there will be another series next year. I'd tune in just for the sumptuous costumes and settings - and of course the dry comments from the Dowager Countess and Carson!

Anyway, if you fancy a fun, aristocratic read to tide you over, why not try Doubting Abbey which has just been reduced to a bargain price of £1.19!!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Just 99p for One Day!

I am very excited that today, on Downton Finale weekend, Doubting Abbey has been selected for the Kindle Daily Deal, and is just 99p! 

I am also thrilled to hear that a 6th Downton Abbey series has been confirmed. PLEASE let Carson and Mrs Hughes finally get together!!

HERE is the link if you fancy a 99p fun, aristocratic read - but hurry, the offer ends at midnight!!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Christmas is Coming...

To celebrate the start of the new Downton Abbey series, my debut novel, Doubting Abbey, returns to its glorious Christmas cover! 

So, what did we all think of last night's first episode (non-UK citizens turn away now!)? I felt sorry for Edith, but not just because of the baby - she actually had physical contact with creepy Thomas! I hope he now leaves Baxter alone, seeing as her secret is out.

On the subject of children, though, goodness, haven't they grown? Whereas the rest of the cast don't seem to age at all. Mind you, Molesley was clearly feeling the passing of time, what with his hair dye - bless! And aren't times a moving, what with Lady Mary considering a week of debauchery with Lord Gillingham?

Lord Grantham was on top form, taking control of the hose (avoiding a double entendre joke here). Those fireman outfits were rather jolly, and reminded me of the old kids show, Camberwick Green...

The huge delight for me though, as usual, was the witticisms, along with the offended tones of the Dowager Countess and Carson - I wonder if George Clooney will be able to charm them in the Christmas episode?! Roll on December! Mmm, I might go and make some mince pies now...

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Festival of Romantic Fiction Shortlisting!

Goodness me. I am still recovering from the exciting news that Doubting Abbey has been shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction's Best E-book award. The ceremony is in a couple of weeks, so I guess I'd better brush down my posh frock - or even better, buy a new one!

The competition is fierce, but I'm just so thrilled to be on this list, it makes all the sweat and tears - and hours at my desk, eating chocolate! - worthwhile.

Best of luck to everyone. Further details of the other shortlists - for authors and the romantic fiction industry - are here.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Tips For An Online Launch Party!

Well, From Paris with Love is finally "out there" and on Thursday I held a wonderful online launch party, on Facebook. I've done a few of these now, so here are a few tips to make yours enjoyable, based on what works for me:

I find setting it over lunchtime is most successful, that way people in work can pop in during their lunchtime - mine was from 11am to 2pm. Also, unless you have lots of giveaways and subjects to discuss, setting it for many hours means it can end up being very quiet.

Prepare lots of fun photos to upload eg of booze for the guests, savoury snacks, cake, handsome guests - then in between competitions you have plenty to discuss, eg what is your guests' favourite sweet nibble or tipple.

Make sure there is going to be plenty going on - I set one competition each hour, and make the entry question easy for lots of people to participate. My book, From Paris with Love has the themes of France, food, spies and rockstars, so I set the questions around those themes, but in a general way, eg, what is the best meal you have ever eaten out? Then, I would pick a winner  out of a hat (or beret!) from everyone who left a comment. If you make the questions more specific, eg related to the book or its prequel (if it has one) you risk alienating people who are new to you as an author - they won't be able to take part. 

Have decent prizes - they needn't be too expensive. Mine were gifts related to Paris, eg a bookmark and notebook, plus an Amazon voucher is always a good prize to fall back on. 

Make it fun! And most importantly, acknowledge every single comment - if people have given up their valuable time to participate, that is the least you owe them.

Enjoy it! Online launch parties, especially for us e-authors, can make your day very, very special. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

It's Publication Day!

Finally it's arrived, the day I've been waiting for - the publication of my second novel, From Paris with Love. It follows the relationship of bonkers Gemma and Lord Edward, from Doubting Abbey, as they spend a month in Paris - although this book can be read as a standalone.

I'll be touring some lovely blogs over the next two weeks  and if you buy the book, I do hope you enjoy it. Some wonderful 4* and 5* reviews have already rolled in on Amazon and GoodReads.

Right, better go and get ready for my Facebook launch party - do come along if you can. My gorgeous (and knows it) female cat Mitzie has already packed her clutch bag :). 

From Paris with Love is available to buy from UK and US Amazon and other good e-book retailers.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Launch Party Prizes!

This Thursday 24th July sees the launch of my second novel From Paris with Love - just in case I haven't mentioned it before (which, um, is highly unlikely!) Below are photos of the prizes for three competitions I shall be running. There's a £10 Amazon voucher up for grabs, which would cover the cost of my book, plus leave change for another purchase! Plus a fancy Paris bookmark, and a cute Eiffel Tower necklace. Also vintage Paris themed coasters and a fab notebook.

I do hope you'll join me on Thursday, at my online Facebook event, before 11am and 2pm. There will, of course, be unlimited virtual cake and champagne... :)

Saturday, 5 July 2014

You are cordially invited...!

Finally July has arrived and it is precisely 19 days until my second novel, From Paris with Love, is published - squee! Hence me sitting in front of a computer on a Saturday, whilst the sun is shining - I am writing guest blogs for my tour and picking out some lovely prizes for my Facebook launch party on 24th July. Please, do come along and join in the fun! There will be plenty of virtual cake and fizz. Or, visit one of the stops on my blog tour, where I'll be listing the best and worst things about being published and talking about the fact that I'm a little bit bonkers, like my  main character, Gemma Goodwin.

My blog tour will begin on the 22nd July with three blogs posting the first chapter of From Paris with Love. It will run until the 6th of August, by which time I'll have eaten my weight in chocolate. I can't wait for you to follow Gemma's antics once more. Plus meet mystery stalker Joe Bloggs and hot rockstar Blade who makes her laugh. And, of course, loyal, gorgeous Lord Edward is also in the French capital. In fact he's become friends with an annoyingly attractive, snooty local called Monique. Watch the sparks fly between her and Gemma!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

From Paris with Love - the cover!

Isn't it preeetty? Well, okay, I'm biased - but I just love the cover to Doubting Abbey's sequel, From Paris with Love. Here's the blurb below! Not long now, it's out on July 24th  - I can't wait to unleash Gemma's Parisian adventure upon the world!

 Every girl dreams of hearing those four magical words Will you marry me? But no-one tells you what’s supposed to happen next…. 

Fun-loving Gemma Goodwin knows she should be revelling in her happy-ever-after. Except when her boyfriend Lord Edward popped the question, after a whirlwind romance, although she didn’t say no….she didn’t exactly say yes either!

 A month-long cookery course in Paris could be just the place to make sure her heart and her head are on the same page…  And however disenchanted with romance Gemma is feeling, the City of Love has plenty to keep her busy; the champagne is decadently quaffable, the croissants almost too delicious, and shopping is a national past-time!  In fact, everything in Paris makes her want to say Je t’aime…. Except Edward!

 But whilst Paris might offer plenty of distractions from wedding planning – including her new friends, mysterious Joe and hot  French rockstar Blade - there’s no reason she couldn’t just try one or two couture dresses is there? Just for fun…

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Why I Heart Paris!

On my lounge wall is a famous picture - the Parisian kiss photo, taken by Robert Doisneau - and it sums up everything I love about Paris. The romance - understated in a classy continental way. The sexy accents. The majestic tourist spots.

I lived there you see, a couple of times in my youth and this no doubt inspired the setting for From Paris With Love, the sequel to my romantic comedy e-book, Doubting Abbey.

I spent six months there as a university student, working for a chemical company, just off the Champs Elysees - my, how I enjoyed my lunch hours, strolling down that famous boulevard, taking in the fashionable passers-by and gawping at the glamorous, sophisticated boutiques.

No doubt the French capital holds a special place in my heart, as I fell in love, with an older Frenchman who wrote poetry and played the guitar. I have fond memories of whizzing around the Arc de Triomphe on his motorbike and us sitting together, at night, on the steps of the Sacre Coeur. We would visit jazz bars and eat couscous at Tunisian restaurants.

Of course, some things weren't quite so romantic - the musty smell of the underground... The time I got pick-pocketed... Being very ill after a meal of rare beef, cockles and oysters! But whenever I look back on my time in Paris, my chest glows. My fantasy is to have a little flat near the artists' haven, Montemartre... 

I revisit all my favourite places in From Paris With Love - the atmospheric Pere Lachaise cemetery, where Chopin, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde are buried... The awesome Monet watercolour canvasses at the Orangerie Museum... The fabulous flea market in Porte de Clignacourt...

One day I hope to return there with my English husband, so that we can create some romantic memories of our own. 

Yes, I'll always have Paris... And it's been wonderful to take Doubting Abbey's bonkers main character, Gemma, there.

From Paris with Love is out on 24th July and is the standalone sequel to bestseller Doubting Abbey which is currently 39p on Amazon UK, $0.66 on Amazon.com and is today's Daily Find and 39p on Nook

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Interview with fellow Carina author Kristina O'Grady!

Hello Kristina  - and can I just say, first of all, how much I LOVE the cover to your time-travel novel (blurb below)! It's great having you here!

Hi Samantha, thank you so much for having me!  I'm so excited to be here.

 Debutantes Don’t Date looks like a fantastic story. It is similar to Doubting Abbey in that my heroine, Gemma, is thrust into an aristocratic atmosphere and has to adapt quickly – it sounds like Grace has to do the same! I’m assuming the book is comedic? Gemma from DA certainly gets herself into some funny situations, when trying to fit in.

You are right to think that our novels hold a common theme and even although they are set in different times they are both about a heroine trying to fit into a situation she never expected to find herself in.  I wrote Debutantes Don't Date with fun in mind and although I wouldn't consider it to be a comedy per say, there is some comedic moments in it as Grace attempts to 'find her feet' in the 1800's.  
What appealed to you about writing within the Regency Period?

The very first romance novel I ever picked up was set in the Regency period and since then I have always had a soft spot for that time.  I love the romantic feel of the era with the elegant dresses and the grand homes.
Are you a fan of period dramas?

I am.  I love getting sucked into the past. 
I can’t imagine having to live as anything but a modern woman – how do you think you would fit into an aristocratic lifestyle?

 The love the idea of travelling back in time but I think the reality of living in the past would soon loose it's shine.  I am too attached to my modern luxuries like running water and flush toilets. But I imagine I would have the toughest time in winter without proper heating. Brrr. 
Describe Grace in three words.

Driven, short, klutz.  
How hot is the hero, the Earl of Bingham?!

Super hot!  As all heroes should be. ;) 
Tell me a little bit about yourself – how long have you been writing?

Lets see, I was born in Canada, I worked as an Environmental Consultant before meeting my husband and moving down to New Zealand.  We have three youngish children and live on a sheep and beef farm in sunny Hawke's Bay.
I have been writing for a long time, since for as long as I can remember really, but nothing serious until about six years ago.  It was then that a story grabbed me and I decided to give writing a novel a go.  It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be and when I had written myself into several corners I decided to try something fun and romantic instead. That novel turned into Debutantes Don't Date. I must say it was so fun writing romance that now I can't stop!  
Is there another book in the pipeline – can readers look forward to a sequel or is everything tied up neatly at the end of this one?
Well.....things are tied up neatly at the end of Debutantes Don't Date...or are they?  Let's just say in the next book you might find out something else about Grace and Jasper, but the next book is not about them.

Well best of luck with sales, Kristina!

Thank you again Samantha.  It was great 'chatting' with you.

Find out more about Kristina here.

Buy her book on AmazonUK here.

Here's the blurb!

One minute Grace Lancaster is an overworked event manager organising 2013’s New Year’s Eve ball… The next she’s kissing a rather gorgeous man at the Regency themed party. Everyone’s entitled to an out-of-character New Year’s kiss, right? Except Jasper Mossman, Earl of Bingham, isn’t at a costume party - he’s a real-life gentleman from 1813...
And, it seems, kissing a man in Regency London has consequences!
What Grace considers normal behaviour scandalises Regency society and so far she’s provided the irrepressible gossips of the ton with a season’s worth of conversation! In a scramble to protect her reputation, as well as his own, Jasper insists that they marry for the sake of her honour. Marrying Mr Darcy might be a 21st century girl’s dream – but the reality is far from romantic. Corsets are uncomfortable, no running water is disastrous! Grace had always planned on falling in love before she got married, but when Jasper takes her in his arms she just might believe she’s finally found her very own Prince Charming.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Title for sequel!

I am really excited to announce that the title for the sequel to Doubting Abbey is... "From Paris With Love" ! 

Bond fans might see the simiilarity between this and a Sean Connery film. And sure enough, there's a pretty hot spy in the story, who hunts down Gemma...

But enough! Later in the week, I should get my hands on the official blurb. One things for sure, though - the sequel is going to take Gemma on a bonkers journey!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Publication Date for the Sequel!

I am very excited to reveal that the sequel to Doubting Abbey should be published in the middle of July! I cannot wait to see the cover! Click on The Sequel link at the top of the page and you'll find some clues as to what it is all about.

There is one particularly sexy hero Gemma becomes very fond of, and the photo below gives us some clues to his character.

I can't wait to tell you more! Look out for news over the next couple of weeks!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Identity Exchange Interview With... Author Amy Bird

Hello, Amy - your debut novel, Yours is Mine, which was published last July by CarinaUK, features a life-exchange . Two women swap lives for 3 months - a bit like Gemma pretending to be Abbey in Doubting Abbey - but one of your characters has evil intent. Can you give us a brief synopsis, without giving away the plot-ending?

Kate, our protagonist, is persuaded to participate in the ‘experiment’ of swapping identities, thinking it is part of a PhD study, and that it will help get her spark back while her military husband is overseas. The other woman, Anna, who planned it all, has a very different motivation, which unfortunately only becomes clear too late for our heroine. Gaps start appearing in Anna’s cover story, but Kate is too busy enjoying Anna’s life to notice. In particular, she is enjoying flirting with Ben, a fellow student in a drama class that Anna signed up to but hadn’t previously attended. When Kate succumbs utterly to Ben’s charms, despite her marriage, a chain of events unfolds that reveals the real reason behind the ‘experiment’. And that Kate getting her own life back will not be so simple as she thought.

In Doubting Abbey, Gemma has to pass herself off as aristocratic friend Abbey, for two weeks - but is helped by the fact that she knows her friend inside out, looks vaguely like her - plus the people she has to fool haven't seen the real Abbey for years anyone, due to a family estrangement.
How on earth do your two characters pull off the life-exchange?

Anna, the antagonist, has planned it all very well. There is nothing in her life in London that will require Kate to pass herself off as Anna to people who know Anna really well. There are the usual gyms, doctors’ surgeries and dry cleaners to contend with, but the women are both brunette and of a similar build, so detection is avoided. Anna asks Kate to ‘keep warm’ a romance – but it is an on-line one, so again, their secret is safe. Anna works (she says) as a freelance proofreader and is on a research break from her thesis. So again, no interaction. From Kate’s point of view, she is working remotely up in Northumberland, following the death of her father, and is only communicating with her employers through phone and post. The relationship with her own husband is long-distance, and (for reasons that become clear) only by email, so Anna just has to adopt Kate’s epistolary style. Or, indeed, to make it her own. But Anna has researched everything well, so she knows exactly what route to take. So convincing is Anna’s subterfuge that even when she stops trying to mimic Kate, the pretence has become so real that Kate’s life is threatened with destruction.

The main challenge for me was making this plotline credible, although Doubting Abbey is, to a degree, a farce and requires the reader to suspend a bit of belief - what was the main challenge for you as the author?

I agree that encouraging a reader to suspend their disbelief is a big challenge with this sort of story. You either buy the premise, or you don’t. The big thing for the reader to get their head round is that Kate would agree to surrender her identity. She is in a very vulnerable place. She has just nursed her father through terminal cancer, all alone up in isolated Northumberland, and her military husband has gone away overseas. Add to that a degree of naivety, and it becomes possible to imagine her taking up an invitation that seems to allow her a temporary escape from her current existence. She wants it to be genuine. Plus Anna can be very convincing. I think also, in a thriller-meets-chicklit like Yours is Mine, part of the excitement for the reader is knowing that the set-up can’t be genuine, and the tension rises as the protagonist gradually starts to realise it too. As one reviewer very kindly put it, the book has ‘the deliciousness of those horror movies where you find yourself shouting at the screen “don’t go into the darkened basement to investigate the strange noise, you silly woman”’. Whether or not the reader has suspended their disbelief, Kate certainly has, and therein lies the danger.

If you could swap lives with anyone famous, who would it be and why?

Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl, seems to be doing quite well, and we would both still get to write thrillers. So I can see that working…

Some of the best comedy books, in my opinion, thrust the main character into an unfamiliar environment - such as a life exchange - what do you think is characteristic of some of the best thrillers?

I think the same can be said for thrillers, but in a different way. If you look at Gone Girl, or Before I Go To Sleep, or even classics like Rebecca or The Ministry of Fear, the protagonist is taken out of their ordinary world and finds themselves in a situation or environment that is unknown to them. They must then survive – or not. What’s doubly scary about Yours is Mine is that Kate’s own life ultimately becomes unfamiliar territory. When she tries to reclaim her existence, she finds it is all altered. She must again battle to survive.

Thanks so much for joining me today, Amy and good luck with your new book,  Three Steps Behind You!

The blurb for Yours is Mine:

How far would you go to get your life back?

Kate Dixon is miserable. So when an email arrives from psychology student Anna, offering her a no-strings-attached, three month long life-exchange, she jumps at the chance. After all: what has she got to lose?

But she doesn’t bank on how much Anna has invested in the swap. How long she’s been watching, putting her immaculate plan together as she waits to enter Kate’s life. And as more comes to light about Anna’s past, Kate finds herself in a desperate race to protect all she holds dear.

Leaving your life in someone else’s hands is a dangerous game; Kate’s about to find out just how seriously her opponent is playing.

About Amy Bird...

Yours is Mine is Amy Bird’s debut novel, part of a three-book deal with CarinaUK. It became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching the coveted No. 1 spot in the Amazon.com Women’s Crime chart. Amy has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Birkbeck and is an alumna of Faber Academy. Born in Hampstead, but raised in the North East of England, Amy has now returned North London, where she lives with her husband, dividing her energies between writing and working part-time as a lawyer. Her second book, psychological thriller Three Steps Behind You, the tale of a crime writer who believes he has to experience everything in order to write about it, is out now.

Why not buy Yours is Mine here in UK or here in US?!

Find Amy on Twitter here

Amy's website

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Aristocratic chat with ... author Katie Oliver!

Hello Katie! Great to see you here. Now, like my debut novel Doubting Abbey, Mansfield Lark (blurb at end) features a rundown stately home - can you describe it to us and explain why it is verging on ruin?

When the story begins, Mansfield Hall is in serious disrepair.  The carpets are threadbare, and there are ugly brown water stains on the Robert Adam ceilings; the roof needs repairing, the boiler is on its last legs, and the plumbing is so ancient that only a rusty trickle of water comes out of the spigots.

The Earl of Locksley and his family can no longer afford the upkeep on the sprawling estate.  The family trust that’s covered the costs thus far has all but evaporated.  Mansfield is a historic home, but it’s not a stately.  His lordship refuses to allow tour groups to traipse through his home, nor will he relinquish it to the National Trust.  He’s a proud and stubborn man.

It’s loathsome to him, then, that he must turn to his rebellious (but filthy rich) son, rock star Dominic Heath, for financial help.

Like yours, my book also features an earl - I loved writing about aristocratic life as it is so different to mine. What was the appeal for you?

Honestly?  I’ve always wondered what it must be like to live in a grand old house.  Maybe it’s because of all the films and television shows I’ve watched – Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Bright Young Things, “Downton Abbey” – but I pay almost as much attention to the sweeping staircases and carved library ceilings as I do to the plots!

Living in such an immense house is wonderful, surely; but it’s also fraught with responsibility.  For despite the English gardens and follies by the lakes, the long galleries and morning rooms swathed in silk, there is a great deal of expense to be borne.  And, of course, there are future generations of the family to consider.

Would you have rather lived upstairs in past centuries, in a stately home, or kept up to date with all the gossip in the servants' quarters, downstairs?

Well, my initial answer is that I’d like to have lived upstairs.  Having servants to draw your bath and dress you, never being required to fix dinner or mop a floor – that would indeed be wonderful! 

But life in those days was so restricted for women, and so circumspect, that I think the reality was probably far from our romantic imaginings.  I can’t help but believe that living below stairs, although certainly much harder, would prove a lot more interesting!

I loved your debut book, Prada and Prejudice. The second in the series is called Love and Liability - and now Mansfield Lark. Presumably you are a massive Jane Austen fan?

Jane Austen wrote books that still resonate with us today, because she understood human nature so well.  She wrote about universal themes – love, family, pride – things that we all relate to.  Her characters, too, are unforgettable.  Is there a more romantic hero than Mr Darcy in all of literature?

But while I love her books, I would never dare to try and “reimagine” them, as other writers have done (and done very well, I might add).  No, I prefer to write about things I observe in my daily life – amusing things, confounding things, frustrating things – and fictionalize them, just as Jane Austen documented the foibles and follies of the people in her own day and time.

Would you ever consider writing a story set in the past, like hit TV series Downton Abbey, or are you very much a contemporary writer?

I would love to write a Regency romance!  I’ve written (well, half-written) one and it was great fun to write.  I love the comedy of manners, the sharp wit, the history, and the clothes.  The main reason I’ve stuck to modern-day settings is because I haven’t the time to do the meticulous research required to do justice to a Regency.  (Those Regency readers are a tough audience, I hear!)

Out of the three books, which is your favourite character?

Oh, hands down, Dominic Heath, the recalcitrant rock star, is my favorite character, probably because he’s my polar opposite.  He gets to do all of the things I’d love to do – sing rock songs onstage, sling a guitar, behave badly, and plow his way through a succession of women (well, for me it’d be men, obviously).

What is it like being published by a digital-first imprint?

It’s been great, if a little intense.  When my three books were initially bought by Carina UK back in August of 2013, I had no idea they’d publish them so quickly, and in such quick succession.  From a marketing perspective it was brilliant; but from a personal perspective, since I’m still working full time, it was a bit stressful! 

But I’ve loved every crazy minute.  Carina’s art department design some of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen.  And my editors, Helen Williams and Lucy Gilmour, are excellent (and very, very patient).

Are there only three books in the series? If so, what can we expect from you next?

I’m working on two more books – I’ve started a new Natalie and Rhys story, set in a Scottish castle. It’s the Christmas holidays, and Nat and Rhys have been invited to her friend Tarquin’s family castle. There’s a gruff, mysterious groundskeeper, a house guest who isn’t quite what she seems, and a family secret.

And Natalie has a secret of her own, one that might jeopardize her brand-new marriage to Rhys...

The other book is finished, but I’m adding in a subplot featuring a new character, an Anglo/Indian pop singer named Christa.  The plot centers on Gemma, who has a massive falling out with Dominic, and Jack Hawkins, the sexy arms dealer from Mansfield Lark.  It promises to be adventurous and fun.

As for a third book - I’ll probably revisit Holly and Jamie and see how they’re getting on.  Something from Jamie’s past comes back to haunt him.  And his mother turns up on Holly and Jamie’s doorstep for an extended visit, and she’s driving poor Holly crazy...

Thanks for visiting, Katie, and good luck with your future writing!

Katie's Bio:

I was born in Washington DC and have lived in the Northern Virginia area all of my life.  I have two sons, both grown.  When they left home, I decided to seriously pursue my dream to write.  I love romantic comedy and chick lit, so I chose to specialize in those genres.  I wrote in the evenings and weekends (I still work full time) until I completed two books.  I’m also an active blogger.

I’m currently represented by the Holloway Literary Agency and recently sold my first three books to Carina UK, a division of Harlequin UK.

I love to write, and I love it even more when readers tell me how much they enjoy my books!

Why not visit Katie's website?

Or buy her book, in the UK or US?


A present day Mr Darcy in Disguise?

Gemma Astley has succeeded where so many others have failed. She has somehow managed to tame tearaway rock star Dominic Heath and stop his womanising ways for good. But just as they find happiness, Dominic’s secret aristocratic past becomes public knowledge, and everything changes…not necessarily for the better.

Dominic is actually Rupert Locksley, heir of Mansfield Hall, a crumbling stately home that needs major financial investment to save it from ruin. Dominic’s mother pleads for his help, but his father, the earl, is on the verge of disinheriting him. Meanwhile, Dominic’s new status as Mansfield’s long-lost heir attracts the attention of cut-throat gold-digger, socialite Bibi Matchington-Alcester, who means to make him hers at any cost.

Gemma and Dominic will need to test the strength of their foundations – as well as those of Mansfield Hall – if either are to remain standing.

Book 3 in Katie Oliver’s Dating Mr Darcy series

Monday, 17 February 2014

Downton Interview with... Author Lydia Laceby!

   Hello Lydia, great to see you here, especially as like me, you are a fan of the wonderful Downton Abbey – from a writing point of view, what is it you like about the series – the characters, plotlines or setting…?

When I read, I prefer setting interspersed around dialogue and action and (don’t hate me) often find myself glossing overreally long descriptive paragraphs – something I probably shouldn’t admit as an author.That said, I absolutely adore the setting of Downton Abbey which surprises me. I think the story and plotlines could take place in any era with a few tweaks (even in modern day with nannies, maids and cleaning ladies) so for me, it is the stunning setting which is the most captivating.
  Yes, it is beautiful, isn’t it? So, out of the characters, which would you like to be able to take the credit for creating, and why?

I love Daisy’s character. She’s so sweet and tries to do the right thing and is constantly thwarted. I really, really hope she ends up living on the farm with her father-in-law! We’re a season behind here in Canada so I apologize if I’m (hopefully!) stating something that has already come to be!

        My lips are sealed! Out of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite?

I love Becky in my debut novel, Redesigning Rose. She’s spunky and feisty and comes to Rose’s rescue. She takes her in and helps her heal. And although she’s a bit, uhm, difficult at times, I would love to have a friend like her as she is so completely different to me. Not to mention that she’s a whole lot of fun!

 Sounds like a great read! Why do you think Downton Abbey has become so popular and when writing do you consider your target readers and consciously try to make the book appealing to them?

I think its popularity stems from the unique glimpse into both the glamorous lifestyle of those living upstairs as well as the lives of those who wait on them downstairs. There is something for everyone with this show whether to relate to or envy. Of course, that it is visually stunning doesn’t hurt either.

I think it is natural to want to target readers, but I think writing for yourself and staying true to your voice and style is important. Coming up with a unique idea and running with it is one thing. Concocting one just because you think it will sell and forcing yourself into that writing box is another completely, and one I tend not to practise. If I have to live with these characters and this idea for what could be years, I have to like it myself!

What is your writing fantasy? Mine is to have one of my novels adapted for TV or the big screen.

Watching the Oscars faithfully every year, I drool over the best adapted screen play, dreaming of one day having my name displayed as the author of the novel, or - heavens help me - walking up on stage with those who transformed my novel into a screenplay. I’d also settle for being on the NY Times Best Sellers List. Not asking for much, am I?

 Well, dreams are important! Who would you cast as the hero/heroine (or both) in you latest book, Redesigning Rose?

I’m actually going to steal from Downton now! I think Joanne Froggatt would make a brilliant Rose.

   In the 1970s Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, used to write romantic novels under the name of Rebecca Greville. Would you like to write a different genre under a pseudonym?

When I first started writing, I began with crime novels, specifically serial killer type material. Yep. That’s actually true. Then I discovered Bridget Jones and found myself unable to write anything else and I’m not sure I could - or want to - at this point. Watching James Patterson evolve though, is a pseudonym even necessary anymore with his titles expanding to include “First Love” and “The Christmas Wedding.” Although, then again, he is James Patterson.

   Fellowes used to do a lot of acting (and was even in Fantasy Island!) Have you any other creative talents?

I’ve recently discovered I’m not horrible with a camera. I also enjoy knitting and cooking, both of which can be creative. Don’t ask me to draw or paint something, though, unless you want a good laugh. Although I can splatter paint on a canvas like nobody’s business if you don’t mind abstract. I’m very good at that!

  Carson or Mrs Hughes?

Mrs Hughes!

Upstairs or Downstairs?

Fine dining in divine dresses and lounging in bed reading while breakfast is brought to you? Sign me up! Never mind that I wouldn’t survive one night in those tiny beds downstairs!

 Dinner with Hugh Bonneville or Maggie Smith?

Can I have high tea with Maggie Smith instead? I can listen to an older women talk about their lives for hours on end and to do so with such an icon over mini sandwiches, scones and a cuppa? Heaven.

Thank you so much for joining me, Lydia! I’ll just ring for Carson and he will see you out…!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Celebrity Big Brother - the Final!

And the winner is...

As those of you who've read my debut romcom Doubting Abbey know, it features a reality show Million Dollar Mansion, in which run-down stately homes vie with each other to win a million dollars, to secure their financial future.

I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually write about this subject. The reality show genre is one I have always favoured. From the very first Big Brother to Celebrity Love Island and Strictly Dancing, there's something fascinating about watching people - famous or ordinary - strive to achieve something out of their comfort zone, whether that's to live in a house with a bunch of strangers, to the Rumba or ski-jump... It can inspire and the emotional  journey they undergo is always good viewing.

So this year's Celebrity Big Brother? It's been one of the best, yet, at the same time, uncomfortable to watch. Clearly some participants are in the house out of financial need, not a burning desire to live through the Big Brother experience. Jim and Dappy, both lovely, have been the biggest surprises to me - along with Liz Jones who, despite her tough hack reputation, came across as a gentle woman. After the turmoil of the Lee, Casey and Jasmine love-triangle, and Jim and Linda's backbiting, the last couple of days have been a pleasant end to a rollercoaster series. Daddy Jim, bonkers Dappy or True Gent Ollie to win, please.

Here is what some of my fellow writer fans of the show think:

Eve Mitchell - author of Seven Days, out with Scholastic Feb 15
I've enjoyed this series, even though I've watched the majority of it behind my cushion, cringing. I've can't help thinking so much is scripted now - especially the fake Ollie (grow some balls) and Sam (who?) relationship. I would like Luisia to win I think, but I really don't mind.

CL Taylor - author of The Accident, a tense, edge of your seat psychological thriller
Definitely one of my favourite CBBs - a little short on comedy (other than the Liz Jones bath scene) but full of sex, scandal and screaming rows. I like to pretend I watch reality TV because I'm an author and it's a form of people watching but the truth is it's TV that doesn't require me to engage my brain and, after 12+ hours of the day job, novel writing and toddler wrangling that's more than welcome!

Karen Clarke - short story and romantic comedy writer
This is the best series ever of CBB in my opinion, thanks to the mix of characters, which I'm sure was more good luck than management on Channel 5's part! I've never changed my mind so many times, liking someone then going off them, then liking them again. I didn't think I'd like Liz Jones, but did and actually wouldn't mind if Jim Davidson won and I NEVER thought I'd say that!

Kelly Florentia - writer of women's fiction
It can't be easy. I think certain cirumstances bring out different aspects of your personality. Generally, people would describe me as a laid back kind of person, but I think I'd go mad in there.

Portia MacIntosh - author of Between a Rockstar and a Hard Place, out 12th February from Carina UK 
This series of Celebrity Big Brother had been amazing. I think the reason it has been so great is because the celebs involved seem to have momentarily forgotten that they're celebrities at all. They're being housemates - falling out, getting together, making fools of themselves and most importantly making us laugh. Celebs can be so uptight and overly concerned with their public image, so this series has been a nice change.

So what do you think? Who's your winner? And what will we all do with our evenings after tonight's final?!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Aspiring Novelists - Learn From My Mistakes

Not a pretty sight, is it? Or some, might say, it's impressive. Either way, that pile represents the work I've put in, over the years, in trying to get published.

I'd written, ahem, let's just say a few novels before getting a publishing deal for my debut romantic comedy, Doubting Abbey. A bit like kissing lots of frogs to find your prince, quite a number of submissions went out, over the years, before I found Harlequin's Carina UK.

So what mistakes did I make along the way? Here's the benefit of my knowledge for you.

1 - Don't set yourself a New Year's Resolution of "to get published" like I did, as this is an unrealistic goal. Set yourself small achievable (and therefore ego-boosting) steps such as "this year I will complete my novel" or " this year I will take the plunge and send my book out to agents".

2 - Don't write novels for years, without writing short stories as well. The short form will help you in so many ways and really focus your eye on chapter structure and padding in your work which needs to be cut out.
Also, if you make a short story sale, this will be a real boost and form of validation, if your novel rejections are  piling up.

3 -  Don't nudge about submissions too early. I am the most impatient person on earth and in retrospect some of my early nudges probably resulted in a straightforward rejection. Having said  that don't wait forever either - you deserve the courtesy of a reply within a few months. 

4 - Get feedback on your work. I didn't do this with my first novel until I'd written the whole thing. Join an online forum like WriteWords where you can join groups and get critques. Or, if you can afford it, get an editorial report done on one of your manuscripts, from agencies like Cornerstones and BubbleCow (both of which I have used to my satisfaction.)

5 - To save unnecessary tears, try to accept, early on, that your journey might be a long one. When I started out, in my late thirties, writing novels, I was convinced I'd be published by the age of forty. That was very naive looking back. I had a lot to learn about my craft.

6 - Don't mentally hinge all your self-worth on becoming a published author. I did this for a long time and it's not good for the soul. Remind yourself of all the other things you are great at - being a parent or partner or in your full-time job... Writing may be your vocation but if your journey to publication is a rocky one, you must try to distance yourself from the criticism, disappointments and rejection you will meet. Yet another " no" from an agent does not mean you are a failure - it means you are forging your way forward, getting your work out there.

7 - And finally, my journey to publication has been a rollercoaster of emotions and dress sizes... Try not to get into the habit of eating chocolate over the keyboard!