Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dancing Inspirations: Better Late than Never

Continuing my series of posts about the inspirations behind 'Perfect Partners', I'd like to introduce you - if you haven't already come across it - to the story of one of the most unlikely celebrities to emerge from the hothouse of talent that is Strictly Come Dancing.  'Better Late than Never' is the life story of Len Goodman, head judge of the UK series. 

Witty, surprising and occasionally heartfelt, Len's book gives an insight into the life of a ballroom dancer before and after fame and fortune - just what I needed when creating the story of Lisa and Redmond, who were taking the dance world by storm as juniors but found their partnership derailed when Red left for a summer on the cruise ships, only returning eight years later to ask Lisa to partner him in a dance competition with a twist: the dancers must be partners in life as well as in the studio. 

Len's story of his dancing marriage with first wife Cherry helped give me a taste of some of the ups and downs a dancing couple would face, but even if it hadn't been good research, I would have loved reading this book for the entertaining collection of anecdotes going right back to Len's school days (where he showed an early hint of his cheeky side by getting a caning for playing truant and going for a ride on another boy's bicycle) through his fitting for his first ballroom suit and his hugely successful competition years, up to his time as a judge and teacher and the huge opportunity that Strictly presented.  For all his comedy moments, Len's a serious expert on dance and never misses an opportunity to inform.  His story is well worth a read, whether you're a dyed-in-the-feathers dancing fanatic or just an occasional viewer looking for a taste of the Strictly magic in between series. 

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Ta da! 'Perfect Partners' has a cover!

Wow!  I absolutely love the cover that Crimson Romance have put together for my dancing novel, 'Perfect Partners'.  Lisa and Redmond look glamorous and romantic, and I could just see them on Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing with the Stars, or indeed Couples, the 'dance meets romance' show I created especially for this book.  And if you look closely, you'll see that the hot pink title text is studded with sequins... just in case my hero and heroine weren't sparkly enough already! 

There's more about the story on Crimson Romance's website here, and I'm so excited to see my book lined up alongside all their other fantastic new releases.  Roll on February 25th, when the ebook hits the virtual shelves.

Coming soon to a Kindle near you...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Dancing Inspirations: Noel Streatfield

Product DetailsIn the run-up to the publication of my ballroom dancing novel, 'Perfect Partners', I've been thinking about the things that inspired me to want to write about dance, and realising that my fascination with the subject goes back a very long way.  Unlike many of my childhood friends, I didn't take ballet classes, so apart from the odd country dance in the school gym when it was too rainy for outdoor play, I didn't do a lot of dancing until I took my first ballroom class, aged sixteen.  Having said that, though, I can trace my interest back much further than that, to a book by that most beloved of children's authors, Noel Streatfield.  

I wonder which book came to mind for you when I mentioned that name?  Usually when I talk to people about Noel Streatfield, their eyes light up and they respond with fond memories of the Fossil children in 'Ballet Shoes', and it's true that is a wonderful book, but it's not the one that I've returned to time and again.  The book I loved and read so much that I ended up with two copies - a pristine one to admire and my old tattered copy to return to when I need a fix of inspiration - is 'White Boots'.  Which, technically, isn't about dancing at all, but about skating, although the similarity between the two is evident from the very similar places which 'Strictly Come Dancing' and 'Dancing on Ice' occupy in the hearts of the British viewing public. 

Long before either of these programmes existed, I was enthralled time and again with Streatfield's story of frail shopkeeper's daughter Harriet who takes up skating while convalescing from an illness and soon attracts the attention of junior skating star Lalla Moore.  The friendship and the developing rivalry between the two girls kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.  As a child, I loved reading about Harriet's growing enthusiasm for skating and her surprise at discovering her talent for it, and comparing this to the shock it was to talented Lalla when for the first time she faced a step that was beyond her capability.  As an adult, I became more aware of how sensitively Streatfield handles the class divide between the two girls, and digs deeply into the challenges facing an ordinary family when they discover their child has an extraordinary talent... for a sport usually saved for much more privileged families. 

Although I wasn't conscious of it when I was writing 'Perfect Partners', I can't help thinking that when I described Lisa's struggles to fit her passion for dance around a very necessary day job, I was casting her slightly in the mould of the 'ordinary' Johnsons, and when I decided that my hero, Redmond, took up dancing while convalescing from a football injury, that too might have owed something to an echo of Streatfield's delightful story. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Squidoo Reading Meme

Thanks to Maureen Wood, I just discovered squidoo's Reading Meme.  A chance to chat about books and reading?  How could I resist?  There are some really interesting questions for bloggers and others to answer.  If you'd like to play, just visit the site here and grab a copy.

What have you just read?
Carol Marinelli's 'Banished to the Harem', one of Mills and Boon's more dramatic sheik stories, as the heroine nearly becomes part of the hero's harem!  Although it's loaded with stereotypes, I was fascinated by the interplay of the two cultures. 

What are you reading now?

I've just started P.D.James' 'Death Comes to Pemberley'.  I love the concept of bringing together crime and high romance, and since I enjoyed 'Pride and Prejudice with Zombies', I think I'll have fun with this one too.

Do you have any idea what you'll read when you're done with that?
I have a fairly extensive to-read pile, both physical and on my Kindle.  Lizzie Lamb's 'Tall, Dark and Kilted' is high on my e-list, as are several of Victoria Connolly's stories. 

What's the worst thing you were ever forced to read?
I don't know about the worst, but I absolutely hated 'Finnegan's Wake'.  I'm sure as Joyce wrote it he was laughing at the thought of the generations of literature students he was torturing. 

What's one book you always recommend to just about anyone?
I don't think there is one, as I usually try to tailor my recommendations to the person I'm talking to.  The book I've probably recommended most often is Louise Bagshawe's 'The Movie' - one for anyone who enjoys films, glamour, romance and writing - and, let's face it, that's an awful lot of readers!

Admit it, sadly the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don't they?
I'm not sure, but they certainly know my face, because the library hosts our local writers' group, so I visit at least twice a month. 

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don't like it at all?
Not one specifically, but I often mention brilliant books only to get the response, 'I don't read romance/crime/fantasy.'  I'd like to think I wouldn't write off a book on the basis of its genre, but I'm sure someone will tell me that I have.   I used to avoid historical romances, but I'm more enlightened nowadays!

Do you read books while you eat?
Yes, a lot more often than I should.  But never if they're borrowed books, only if I own them. 

While you bathe?

While you watch movies or tv?
No.  I get really confused if I try to read and watch TV at the same time.  I do occasionally read in front of the football if it's on, but I don't think you can call it 'watching' the TV, just 'sitting in the same room'. 

While you listen to music?
Yes, but usually only instrumental music.  Again, stuff with words confuses me if I try to read at the same time.  

While you're on the computer?
Not while I'm actually using it, but while I'm waiting for it to boot up or shut down. 

When you were little did other children tease you about your reading habits?
No, but the librarians did.  During school holidays, I used to go in almost every day and come back with an armful of books, and they'd never believe I'd really read them. 

What's the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn't put it down?
I don't do that as often as I used to, but the last book I found really unputdownable was Guy Gavriel Kay's 'Under Heaven'.  He is such a talented writer, and another one who I recommend to a lot of people.  I'd like to go back and re-read some of his earlier books one day, especially 'Song for Arbonne' and 'Sailing to Sarantium.'

Have any books made you cry?
Loads.  I've always got weepy over a good story.  The first time I can remember doing it was over 'Little Women', and after that I started losing track because I did it so often.  I cry at films and musicals, too, especially 'Les Miserables'! 

I'd Like to Recommend... 

The Hunger Games trilogy - if there's anyone out there who still hasn't read it!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

2013 goals?

So, we're a week into January and pretty much every mailing list, group and magazine I subscribe to has asked me about my goals for 2013.  Up to now I've largely avoided the question, partly because I was still pondering the answer, and partly because I tend to resist sharing goals/resolutions in January in case anyone tries to hold me to them later in the year!

Photo: How many of these do you think I actually read in January?I can just about cope with concentrating on a goal for one month at a time - NaNoWriMo, for example - but any longer seems to be a struggle.  So, this time, instead of setting goals for the whole year which I'll probably have forgotten by March, I've decided to focus on some areas of my life, like writing, fitness, work and clutter-clearing, and setting smaller goals that I might have a chance of reaching before they've totally faded from my mind!

So far, in the name of my January 'goals', I have collected together a to-read pile which was previously scattered all over the house (you can see part of it here), been to two classes at the gym (Zumba, which I absolutely love doing, and body balance, which I don't particularly enjoy doing but makes me feel really good afterwards), and of course sent off the edits of 'Perfect Partners'.  And talking of 'Perfect Partners', I'm so excited that I've just seen a mock-up of the cover and in my opinion it's the perfect partner to the book - I can't wait for it to come out from under wraps so I can share it!  Soon...  Until then, I'll just have to get back to the goals...

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year

New Year's Eve fireworks in black circleCan you believe it?  I'm still not sure how 2013 arrived without my noticing.  Possibly I was a little distracted by all the Christmas celebrations - not least the final and Christmas Special of Strictly Come Dancing.  I loved all the finalists' performances, as well as the festive fun on Christmas day, and I'm feeling a little lost now the series has finished.  It's a good thing Dancing on Ice is coming up soon! 

When I haven't been busy with seasonal fun, I've also been busy with edits on 'Perfect Partners', which is due out this year from Crimson Romance.  Wow!  I'm so excited that I'm finally sharing Lisa and Redmond, my lovely dancing heroine and hero, with the world. 

I suppose I should have tracked down a dancing-related New Year's image just for them, but never mind.  I've always been a fan of fireworks, and these are very pretty ones.  So, Happy New Year, everyone, and don't forget to look out for 'Perfect Partners' in the spring!