RNA Conference

July 12th, 2011

Oh, what a fantastic time we had! I feel thoroughly inspired, challenged, and raring to go. More (including glam pics) here and here.

The winner of the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy was announced at the Saurday night Gala Dinner – you can read all about it, and the brilliant winning entry by Cally Taylor on her blog here. The gorgeous Liz Fenwick took second place – she’s posted her entry here.

And I was blown away to find that I’d been shortlisted into the final six! What can I say? It just felt so good to hear that – such a boost!

To join the illustrious company, I’ve posted my entry below. I hope you like it!

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Chapter One
Danger: Deep Water.
The rusty sign hung slightly askew. The life-belt was long-since gone, its wooden stand greyed with age and seasons, a rusted hook and frayed piece of orange nylon line the only reminder.

But the sun beat on his shoulders and the small boat felt right under his feet.

They’d come to the old quarry for deep water after all. And they’d all dived in the some of the most dangerous waters of the world. Going down, into the blackness, in search of the evil that men left behind.

No seeking out evil today. No duty. Only the pleasure of a day out of time, exploring somewhere new.

He could feel the line run through his hand. The bubbles fizzed to the surface of the black water.

Angela, he knew without looking, was climbing the quarry face only a stone’s throw away, waiting her turn to dive. David was below, at the other end of the line that whispered over his fingers.

Yielding to guilty temptation, he looked up. Her blonde hair was loose, swinging between her shoulder blades as she reached for the next hold. She moved out and across, the sleekly rounded muscles of her legs shifting under smooth, pale skin.

The line was static in his grasp.

He looked down.

No more bubbles.

Time slowed. His skin crawled.

How long? How long since he’d looked away?

And then it happened like it always happened. He tried to shout to Angela, but he couldn’t make a sound. He tried to enter the water, but it was solid, hard, cold, like ice. He beat on the ice with his fists, but it wouldn’t break.

It wouldn’t break, but it grew clear, so he could see through it. There, far below, looking up, was David’s face – lifeless – inexplicably in monochrome. His hair floated around his head, his eyes were open, but they stared past him.

And Angela screamed.

* * *

Gareth came awake with a jolt, sweat on his face, almost losing his seat on the cockpit bench. The night air was cool, the Mediterranean was still. The Orpheus rocked almost imperceptibly at anchor.

He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the last threads of nightmare. All was well. He was alone, it was over. But something rang in his ears, a memory of a sound, and he emphatically hoped he hadn’t been shouting.

“Ahoy there!”

Gareth shot to his feet. The voice was female, slightly breathless, mostly cheerful, and seemed to be coming from his feet. Before he could catch up, a slim hand curled over the side.

He leaned out, looking down into a pale face. A woman, treading water, smiling slightly, the moonlight and riding lights picking out the line of a cheekbone, the curve of a lip, the white of her eyes.

He glanced around. But the calm sea was empty. No chug of motors, no glimmer of light.

“Well? Give me a hand, then.”

The voice was as smooth and flawless as the hand he caught hold of. Bemused, still befuddled by this unexpected waking, he gave her a second to gather her balance, then hauled. She came out of the water smoothly, like a diver, no flailing of legs or arms, breathing easy. She found her balance, recovered her hand and pushed her sodden, dark hair off her face. It fell back over her shoulders in dripping tails, but she didn’t fuss with it, or squeeze it all over his deck.

The woman looked about her, took a step towards the edge, and leaned backwards, arching out over the side. The stretch pulled the material of her grey-ish tee-shirt tight over nice looking breasts and exposed a slice of her pale, sleek belly.

Then she squeezed out her hair.

“Right,” she said, straightening. “That’s better.” She turned and smiled.

It was an assured smile, smooth and pretty. But it lacked something, in his mind. Like, any trace of embarrassment, apology, gratitude . . . in fact anything that might indicate she was aware of the fact that she’d just invited herself aboard a stranger’s yacht in the middle of the night.

He scanned the sea around them again. Still no sign of lights. No sound. Nothing.

And this strange, slim woman was still smiling at him as if they’d just been introduced at a party.

He was stuck on what to say. Who are you? Was too obvious. Who the hell are you? was too abrupt. Get the hell off my boat, was favourite, but he took a breath and said, instead, “Nice swim?”

“Uh,” she looked back over her shoulder at the black sea, rippling and lapping at the hull. He could see goosebumps rising on those smoothly muscled arms. “Well, I’ll admit I like night swimming, but that wasn’t my favourite trip, no.”

She bunched up the tee-shirt at her waist, pulling it up from where it stuck against her shorts. For a moment he thought she was going to strip off there and then. He tensed, unwilling to play flirtatious games with some shiftless Mediterranean free-spirit, but she simply twisted the cloth tight under her breasts, leaning out again to wring more water.

“You swim far?”

“I can swim very far, but I’ve only been going a couple of hours or so tonight,” she said, without any sort of consciousness he could see.

A couple of hours. Like it didn’t matter.

“You going to tell me where you started?”

“Well,” she seemed to consider, head on one side, lips curving. “No, actually.”

He registered that the accent was casual, middle England British, but the dark hair and brows, with those high cheekbones and decided nose, spoke of a touch of Mediterranean ancestry.

She couldn’t be more different than Angela’s Anglo-Saxon English rose.

But Angela wasn’t here. Wasn’t ever likely to be. And someone looking very like her antithesis was standing there, smiling at him, dripping secrets and sea water all over his deck.

Out and About

May 29th, 2011

If you’re looking for blog posts from me and other like minds, pop on over and visit us at The Heroine Addicts.  You can also follow me on twitter (the button’s in the sidebar).

If you’re an aspiring writer of romantic fiction in all its fabulous forms, the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme offers excellent support and a detailed critique from a professional author.  The NWS is full in 2011, but open for new members from January 2012.   The RNA website is full of fascinating facts about romantic fiction, and an A – Z of our authors.

I’d also recommend the Romantic Novelists’ Association blog.

Happy reading!

Frenchman’s Creek

August 12th, 2010

Over at The Heroine Addicts, we’ve been talking about settings (my favourite) and it’s evolved into a little writing challenge.  We want to see how different authors approach different settings, especially a setting that’s strongly evocative, that means so much to so many… in this case, Frenchman’s Creek.

To find out more, visit us on the blog, but for now, here is my offering – and – oh! – how I enjoyed writing it!

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She undressed slowly, letting the clothes lie where they dropped. 

She’d dressed with such care that morning, but now it hardly mattered.  Her cream linen trousers were wet, stained with the salty liquid that soaked the bank of the creek and lent a sharp tang to the air.

Breathing deep, she slipped free of the last, carefully functional and conservative flesh-coloured scraps of underwear and stood shivering.  The breeze had been silent when she’d arrived – now it sifted the hair brushing her shoulders, sent the grasses sighing and the leaves of the oaks whispering among themselves.

Her heart was hammering.  Anyone could come, could see… she rubbed her arms, felt the roughening of goosebumps she hadn’t noticed rise.

Toeing off her sandals, the grass felt strangely sharp and strong under her feet.  She stepped forward, laying a hand on the sun-warmed stone beside her, basking like a seal where the emerald flies buzzed in lazy circles. 

As always, the first touch of the water was achingly cold.  She took a deep breath against the shock, forcing herself to take another step.  Estuarine mud oozed between her toes, but the bank sloped steeply and with another step she was deep enough to simply fall forward and slip beneath the surface.  She fought the urge to gasp, to choke.  Instead she let the current turn her, bringing her face naturally to the surface.  Ducking her head back, she washed the hair from her face, slicked it back with hands that trembled. 

Oh, but it was so good.  She ran her hands over her skin, feeling everything lift away, feeling immersed in the power of the water, washed clean by it.  Then she let herself gasp, let herself laugh.  A heron, far down the opposite bank, flapped into the air and drifted away upstream, leaving her alone.

Rolling with the current, she struck out, slicing the water with arms that quickly warmed to the work.  Stretching to the stroke, she swam downstream, past the elderly oak dipping its gnarled branches into the brine, past the fallen tree, lying like the bleached bones of some old leviathan.  Beyond the mouth of the creek, blue sky and blue sea met and melded, mirroring each other’s vastness, a heart-breaking promise of endless adventure.

She’d come here to draw a line, to put all of it behind her.  The swim hadn’t been part of the plan, but it had been an obvious choice, standing there on the bank, knowing all the terror of the past year was over.  The water had called to her.  She’d wanted nothing more than to plunge into its healing depths, to let the coldness wake her, the current cleanse her.

She’d come to Frenchman’s Creek seeking an ending.  She’d never expected to find a beginning, too.

The smile that curved her cheek felt unnatural, unaccustomed.  She felt clean.  Alive.  Free. 

Breathing hard, she angled close to the bank, seeking the slack water.  There she idled a while, sculling languidly back to where she’d started, feeling the delicious contrast the cold water and sun on her face, her breasts and belly.  When she reached the sun-warmed stone, she lifted her head to look.

He was still alive, just.  Sprawled on the rock by the water’s edge, dripping blood that bloomed into russet roses in the living water.  It didn’t matter.  The water would wash that clean, too.  She could hear him breathing, a sound like waves on a shingle shore. 

As she watched, the last drop eased from the scarlet ribbon that painted his arm.  It gathered in the dark hairs at his wrist where the broken watch gleamed silver.  But it did not fall.

An oyster catcher skimmed by, calling, a flash of black and white and scarlet beak.  She breathed deep, tasting sea air and sweet-sharp water.

Smiling, she let her arms drift wide, fingers teased and tugged by the outgoing tide, her palms cupping the force of it.  She lay back, till the water in her ears silenced all sound but the song of the sea itself, and let the current take her.

Like Minds

August 4th, 2010

When you meet that special someone, you talk about falling in love.  Sometimes, you meet some special people and fall in friends.

It was a bit like that at the recent RNA Conference at fabulous Greenwich.  Something in the air?  A wonderful coincidence of perfectly suited people?  Quite a lot (really, QUITE a lot) of wine?

Who knows?  Whatever the cause, I have now taken a step of commitment I never thought I would – I am a group blogger!

Join me, along with friends old and new Susanna Kearsley, Julie Cohen, Brigid Coady, Liz Fenwick and Christina Courtenay at The Heroine Addicts.  We’ll be blogging roughly Thursdays and Sundays, and since we all write very different types of books, it’s going to be a fascinating mix, I think.  Read us, follow us, stalk us – you know the drill!

Today I’m musing on the nature of time…. posting about finding time for writing, in the big ways and the small ones.

And yes, I STILL know I need to update this site.  I’m working on it, I swear. WordPress help files scare me…..

Yes, I know.

June 8th, 2010

Honestly, I do. 

I know the website needs updating.  And I need to decide whether I’m keeping the blog, using it as a Twitter/Facebook link, or retiring it.

But currently I’m trying to create a vampiric non-vampire secondary to add a spice of danger and sex for my Victorian mad scientist in my steampunk science-as-the-arcane subplot in my adventure/thriller Durham-based contemporary.

Yes, this is as complicated as it sounds.  You can see why this would be, um, absorbing.

Bear with me.  It’ll be worth it, I swear.

In the mean time, I really need to find a picture of a red velvet Victorian ladies’ pelisse.  Hmmm.

*wiggle*

January 26th, 2010

The lovely Jean Wan at All About Romance gave DANGEROUS LIES an honourable mention in the Reviewer’s Choice column here.  I’m chuffed!

She says:-  “Runner-up & Buried Treasure: Dangerous Lies by Anna Louise Lucia.  I was extremely impressed with the author’s control of both character and plot, in a situation that could easily have gotten out of hand, and I am looking forward to this author’s future books.”

*wiggle*  Thank you Jean! 

I have a horrible winter bug at the moment, and this is just the pick-me-up I needed.

Winter Wonderland

January 6th, 2010

An amble down the lane and through the village….

A couple feeding livestock and calling their excited lurchers in from the woods.  A family out in woolly hats and wellies, Dad fetching salt to grit the road, Mum and daughter gathering snow in buckets to build a snowman.

Walking down the hill into the village, every dog walker and path sweeper is smiling.  A lorry goes by, sending the snow billowing down from the trees.  A breeze through the thorny hedgerow makes it snow on one side of the lane.

Down by the river, on the cricket pitch, there’s a massed snowball fight for all the kids whose schools are closed.  I never knew there were so many children in the village – fantastic.  The river gurgles and gushes over its stones, under the bridge, where the trees are dipping iced fingers in the water.

The shining sun makes diamond crystals of unsullied fresh snow.

A beautiful day.

A thrush and a robin, fluffled up against the cold, eat greedily from someone’s bird table, pausing to insult me for disturbing them as I walk by.

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