New Arrivals

Guide dog puppy Baden

Nicola here. It’s January 2nd, a new year and a new month have just arrived and it’s often a time when people look forward to what the future might hold. It’s not always a time to make changes or resolutions; it could be equally nice to embrace and continue the good things about the old year. I have no specific resolutions for this year but I do know that it is going to bring big changes, the first of which is arriving on Thursday. Yes, it’s time for our next guide dog puppy to arrive and 10 week old Wren is joining us in two days! We’ve been busy puppy-proofing the house and garden, preparing her cosy bed and choosing some toys for her. Rainbow is briefed on her role as guide dog mentor and we are set to go. Out of the dogs we’ve trained, three have qualified as guide dogs so far and we are hoping she will be the fourth.  (The photograph is of Baden, who qualified last year.) We’re going to give Wren’s training our absolute best shot and we can’t predict what will happen but we’ll do our best. Which is a pretty good metaphor for the year, really. There will be tough times (the experience of trying to wrestle a dead rabbit from the jaws of an over-excited puppy in full view of hundreds of people is one memory that will stay with me forever, as is the one of the puppy who “sang along” at the theatre) but that’s how it goes. So very best wishes to all of us for any resolutions, changes and new arrivals that may be coming our way in 2024!

Interview with Janet Gover

Christina here and today I’m delighted to welcome Janet Gover to the blog! Janet is an Australian author who lives in the UK, but writes about her native country. She recently won the RWAust’s Romantic Book of the Year Award – for a mainstream novel with a strong romance running through it at this year’s RWA conference in Sydney with her book THE LIBRARY AT WAGTAIL RIDGE. Wench Anne was present and has kindly provided some photos of the occasion (thank you Anne!)

Janet and Anne

Janet and Anne

Welcome to the blog, Janet! It’s lovely to have you here. First of all, huge congratulations on winning the award! How did it feel when they announced your name and what does this award mean to you?

This was such a thrill. My journey to being an author started at a RWAust conference in Sydney in 199…  Oh dear. That does make me sound old. Nora Roberts was the guest speaker at that conference. I have always been such a fan of her work. I confess I did have a bit of a fan girl melt-down over her, which was so embarrassing. Meeting so many writers at the conference was such an inspiration. And now, to receive this award from the same organisation really is an honour.

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Puppy with a Purpose!

LucyNicola here. Today I’m taking a break from talking about books or writing or history to blog about one of my other interests; training guide dog puppies! This is prompted by the fact that we have a new puppy in training who joined the household 3 weeks ago. Her name is Lucy and she is Labrador/Golden Retriever cross and she is currently 10 weeks old!

Lucy is the sixth guide dog puppy who has come to us for puppy walking. Over the years we have built up some knowledge and experience of the job but each puppy is different and we learn so much each time. Puppy walking is a nice thing to do as an antidote to the more isolated aspects of a writer’s life. It gets me out and about, meeting people and engaging with them, talking about a cause I believe in and working with dogs – which I love!

The puppies usually come to us when they are about 7 weeks old. Lucy settled in very quickly, starting her house training, sleeping Ethel bus
through the night and quickly becoming attached to Angus, our pet dog who is a great mentor. Whilst she is so young her training is all about getting her to learn a few basic commands: Sit, lie down, stay and come, all of which she can now do with aplomb! Angus has been very useful in showing her how – at the price of a few biscuits for his time! The other thing we do is take her out to start experiencing the busy world outside, carrying her into shops and down the street so she can get used to people and vehicles. Unfortunately she is starting to get very heavy so it will be great when she has had all her injections and it’s safe for her to start moving under her own steam! All of her training is closely supervised by our Guide Dogs Puppy Walking Supervisor who gives us loads of support as well as checking up on the welfare and progress of the dog, and Lucy also goes to guide dog puppy class so she can meet other puppies, learn, and be sociable!

Ethel bookshopWhen Lucy is a bit bigger she will start to go to all sorts of exciting places like her predecessor Ethel did. She gets to travel on buses and trains, visit cafes and restaurants (hopefully without trying to help herself to any food) and go to talks, concerts, village fetes, the theatre and just about anywhere we go. All these experiences are great fun as we watch each puppy learn about new things. Our first dog, Ufton, used to sing along at concerts. Rochester was so surprised by the applause at the theatre that he barked and Ethel had a particular liking for book shops. Naturally all of them have enjoyed visiting a wide variety of the stately homes of England, Rochester's trip to Highclere, the home of Downton Abbey, being the highlight.

This is all in preparation for the puppies' lives as a fully grown guide dogs when they accompany their owners in all aspects of their life. Another very important part of Lucy's life is, of course, relaxing and having fun, so there is lots of play built into her schedule and when she is old enough she will go “free running” like other dogs. Angus is looking forward to showing her his favourite places!

Lucy spends the first fourteen months or so with us before going on to her second stage of Ethel grown uptraining at guide dog school. This is where she learns all the really clever stuff like how to guide a blind or partially sighted owner across the road. When she completes her training we are invited to go to her “graduation”, the point at which she passes her training and is matched with a new owner. It has been an absolute pleasure attending the graduation ceremonies of all our previous puppies. We are so proud of them, of all they have learned and what they go on to achieve.

Ethel and AngusSo there is a little introduction to Lucy and her world. If you are interested in finding out more about her adventures as she grows and trains, she has her own Instagram account: and she would love to chat with you there!

Do you have a particular cause that you support or charity that is important or special to you?

Ask A Wench – Plans for 2017!

Crystal ball and boardPlans can be a wonderful thing. They can give us a shape and structure for the time ahead. At the same time we’re also all aware of the old saying “Man plans, God laughs.” The best laid plans, as Robert Burns pointed out, so often go awry. Today the Word Wenches are sharing some of their plans for 2017, writing and otherwise, and we’re asking you to tell us what you have lined up this year.

Pat: If I actually stopped to think about my plans for 2017, I’d probably run screaming for the nearest margarita. But I’ve learned if I just sit at my desk every day and pound the keyboard, eventually, it all gets Rice_TheoryofMagic600 done. My plans include releasing three more Unexpected Magic books in 2017, all of which are currently in various stages of development. We will not talk about all the editorial and promotional work that they need on top of the actual writing.

If I stay focused on that keyboard, I hope to have the final segment of the Genius mystery series ready by fall. I have five backlist Regencies in the computer, waiting for a final edit, covers, yadda yadda. So if you enjoy those old Regency stories, they’re coming. Eventually.And for those of you who follow my misadventures in moving, we’ve just sold another house and are tentatively looking around, wondering if we ought to tackle another. We’re not leaving this area, but once we run out of things to fix up, we get itchy for more DIY fun. So until that’s decided, we’re not planning any fancy trips. Yet. The son is showing an interest in New Zealand though…

Susanna here, happy to be starting 2017 closer to the end of my current work-in-progress, Bellewether, and hoping to be able to turn it in to my editors before the snow melts. Fingers firmly crossed. Then, in between the inevitable revisions and copyedits, I’ll be starting work on my very first ever novella, as part of the collaborative effort I’m doing with Anna Lee Huber, Christine Trent, and C.S. Harris—a book of linked novellas (tentatively titled The Jacobite’s Watch) that follows an infamous, possibly cursed pocket watch as it passes from owner to owner over the course of two centuries, carrying secrets. With luck I might be finished that before I head to Portland for the Historical Novel Society’s American conference in June. I have some other travel lined up for the year—it’s mostly conferences: Atlanta in the spring for the Romantic Times convention, Orlando in July for the Romance Writers of America National conference, and Surrey, B.C., in October for the always awesome Surrey International Writer’s conference, but I’m squeezing in a research trip for the NEXT book as well, which should be fun. 

Black SwanAndrea/Cara: I should have asked Santa to bring me an extra 8 hours a day for the coming year as it already feels like 2017 is going to be a very busy time. I have a new Regency-set mystery series coming out—MURDER IN BLACK SWAN LANE releases in July—so there will be a lot of promo things to do. Not to speak of being deep in the throes of writing Book Two! I’ve also been delving deeper into indie publishing. I recently got the rights back to my Lady Arianna Regency mysteries and this month I re-released them in e-books, with new covers and a new low price. It’s been interesting learning the tech side of the business, and I’ve also enjoyed the left brain-right brain engagement of using my graphic design training to create my own cover designs. Also on the To-Do List is to finish the traditional Regency I’ve been noodling in my spare (!) time and getting that up sometime in late summer. Stepping outside the writing cave, another endeavor I’ll be spending time on is serving as a mentor/academic advisor to freshmen at my old college. It’s really fun and rewarding to work with students. Their energy and enthusiasm—honestly, the things they manage to juggle makes ME feel like a slug—is inspiring, and in turn I hope I can give some useful advice. Then lastly, there’s the Wish List—I’m hoping I can somehow swing a trip to London this year. I haven’t been there in quite a while, and I love exploring the city and all its wonderful small museums (like the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.)

Nicola: As 2017 begins, some plans are coming to fruition here whilst others are just starting. Ethel the guide dog puppy is heading Ethel bookshop off to training school next month and all being well will qualify as a fully-fledged guide dog this year. We are so proud of her! I’m completing my third dual timeframe novel, which will be out later this year. This one is set at beautiful Lydiard Park, near Swindon, and the entwined stories are set in the Georgian era and present day.

A role that’s likely to keep me busy from May is Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I’ve been a member since I was first published 18 years ago and I am both honoured and a little bit daunted to be taking this on but I love the RNA and the way in which it supports writers and I will do my very best for it. Finally I’ll be first through the door when Ashdown House re-opens in April, eager to start my guided tours again!

Crystal ballSusan: This year I have lots of irons in the fire and they're starting to glow. I'm looking forward to the release of a new (new!) historical romance, and I'll share more about that in a few months. Just now I'm slogging in the dark, deep deadline tunnel with that one, head down, headlamp on. I've also got a couple of exciting fiction projects in the works that aren't ready for prime time yet, but will be fun to talk about once I have more details! At home, I'm thinking the walls need fresh paint, the basement needs clearing, and some of this Stuff needs to go with its rightful owners, our kids. I love change, so I'll be happily moving furniture and maybe swap whole rooms for the fun (and feng shui!) of it. There's definitely travel in my forecast this year, but that's still under discussion–not sure where yet! The next several months will bring lots of great surprises. Wish I could say more–where's that crystal ball . . .   

Anne: I'm going to be pretty busy in 2017. I've started a new series, and the first one, MARRY IN HASTE comes Marry in Hasteout in May. I'm also hoping to self-publish a couple of short e-books, only one of which is finished so far. I haven't self-published any books before, so it's a big learning curve for me. As well, I'm doing a bit of teaching — running writing workshops in Sydney, Brisbane, and in New Zealand, (see links on my website) and all of those will involve a bit of travel. With any luck I'll add a holiday to my New Zealand trip. It's a beautiful country, and though I've been there many times, it's always wonderful. As well, there are changes on the home front, and though I'm looking forward to the final result, the process is a bit daunting. Stay tuned.

Joanna here, nattering on about her plans for the year. It's a good time for me to be doing this. I just finished — well almost close to about finished except for the copyedits — Beauty Like the Night. This means most parts of my brain are leaning back and thinking around the edges of the next story.

This is the part of my process when I wander around bumping into things, trying to dream up new characters and new places. New adventures. I also talk the ear off anybody who doesn't flee in a determined and convincing manner, asking them things like, "If the protagonists are late teens is everybody going to think it's a Young Adult story?" and "Are you okay with a 'Happy For Now' instead of a 'Happy Ever After'?" and "Does this [insert fairly ridiculous premise] sound plausible?"

BulbsSo I'm planning on writing, of course, and planting bulbs and refinishing a black stone table that has become all scratched and carrying in lots of firewood and writing and finding some type of coffee I deeply admire and enjoy. These are not ambitious plans for refurbishing body, mind, and spirit but they suit me.

Mary Jo here, contemplating my plans for the year. I don't really make resolutions, but January does usually bring a sense of possibilities, and since it's generally a quiet month, a fair amount of work can be done.

For books, Once a Rebel, the long awaited story of the enigmatic Gordon, "Lady Agnes Westerfield's one failure," will be out in September, and I'm now gnawing away at the third book of the Rogues Redeemed spin-off trilogy.   Just in the last few days, I realized that the setting I'd thought I'd use for book 3 simply doesn't excite me.   It's worthy, important, blah, blah, blah, but despite research, I couldn't come up with a single spark of enthusiasm.

So I've jumped the shark into a completely new direction: new setting, new characters, now plot. <g> We want to be excited by our stories because we spend so much time with them!

In other bookly news, I'm trying to revert the rights to three more backlist series. Stay tuned! And this is the year I publish two or Gorgeous island
three backlist collections of my shorter works. Really.   I will!

On the private side, there will be a couple of cruises this year, one quite soon into warm waters and small islands, and a longer one this fall to far northern and much colder islands!

As for the rest of life this year–well, we'll see. New and unexpected things always emerge.   <G>

And now it’s over to you. Are you a planner or do you like to see where life takes you – or a bit of both? Do you have any exciting possibilities heading your way this year, or is a year of peace and serenity the nicest thing that could happen?

The Dog Days of Summer

Ethel hotNicola here. Yesterday, September 1st, was the official start of autumn, at least according to the meteorologists. Here in the UK the days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler and there is a misty haze lying over the fields on fine mornings, and dew on the grass. It's back to school, back to work, after the long hot days of summer. The harvest is being gathered in; it doesn't feel quite like full blown autumn yet but you can feel the change in the air.

For me this summer will always conjure memories of my two hot dogs, Angus and Ethel the guide dog puppy, lying on the cool stone floor as they slept away those sultry summer days. Often I found the heat made me sleepy too. The "dog days of summer" seems a perfect description for those weeks even if originally it didn't derive from dogs at all, except in an astronomical sense.

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