Apr 27, 2011

BLOG PARTY with PRIZES and FUN!

The LoveCats are excited to announce we have a NewCat joining us!

Please help us welcome  
Leah Ashton!!


Leah worked with an editor after winning the Harlequin Mills & Boon New Voices Competition in November 2010, and was offered a contract on February 25th, 2011. Her first book, Secrets & Speed Dating, will be published as Mills & Boon Riva/Sweet/Romance and will be released in the UK in October this year, and in the US and Australia in 2012.

Before we got to down to business, we asked Leah our fun NewCat questions!

Leah's Pointer, Stella
Favourite animal?
Horses. I was a horse mad kid that grew up to be a horse mad adult. Sadly I had to sell my horse in 2005 as I just didn't have the time to commit to riding and competing any longer.

Favourite mythical animal?
Unicorn (see above :) ).

First category book you read?
The first one I remember absolutely adoring was Gina Wilkin's "A Stroke of Genius" that I bought secondhand as a teenager and kept hidden at the back of my bookcase. It went missing when I moved out of home and I'm still searching for a replacement copy.

Last great category book you read?
Anything by Sarah Mayberry or Nikki Logan - although I also really enjoyed Mira Lyn Kelly's Front Page Affair.

Something we wouldn't know about you?
That I'm getting married in less than four weeks!

Thank you for giving that peek, Leah, and CONGRATULATIONS! We send you a great big LoveCat hug to you and your hero for a purrrfect happiness! And now on a more serious note... can you tell us a bit about your journey through the New Voices program with Harlequin and on to the exciting moment that you were offered a contract.
Leah's cat, Luna

The New Voices competition was such an amazing opportunity that I absolutely had to enter - despite the nausea inducing reality that The Whole World would be able to read my entry. With this competition, there was nowhere to hide!

I purposefully entered something completely new to New Voices, so I wouldn't be too attached to it when it (inevitably) crashed and burned. When it didn't, and I made the Top Ten, it was such a shock! It also made the next two rounds just that little bit harder, as I had absolutely no idea what would happen next.

But with lots of help from my lovely mentors - editor Meg Lewis and author Jessica Hart - as well as my writing friends (a particularly huge thank you to Lovecat Nikki Logan) I made it through Round Two (Chapter Two) and then my final round entry of a pivotal moment from my book won the competition. Winning the competition was one of the most amazing things to have ever happened to me, and I am so grateful for every single person who entered the competition, and everyone who voted.
Stella in action!

New Voices itself was a huge amount of pressure and stress, but it utterly paled in comparison to writing the rest of my book. The full story is on my blog (trust me, it's long!). The short version is that I threw out my half finished book - twice - before I finally got it right. My editor, Meg, was incredible, and kept her faith in me, even when privately, I wasn't so sure.

Leah writing her New Voices entry in Croatia
What I learnt was that I have to listen to my gut when I write, and I have to write the story that resonates with me. Consequently you'll see that the New Voices version of Secrets & Speed Dating is very different to the finished book - but a much better book for it, I think. Once I let go of trying to write the rest of the New Voices entry, and instead decided to just write Sophie and Dan's story, it all (finally!) fell into place.

Thank you for sharing that, Leah! We asked Leah what question she'd like to ask our commenters and she's come up with a fabulous and very pertinent one...

What is your best advice for a bride to be?

We've put together a LoveCats Book Pack to send to one of our party guests! Just leave a comment and you'll be in the draw!

In the LoveCats Book Pack....
  • Robyn Grady - Amnesia Ex: Unforgettable Vows
  • Sharon Archer - TBA
  • Zana Bell - Tempting the Negotiator
  • Michelle Douglas - Christmas at Candlebark Farm
  • Emily May - Beauty and the Scarred Hero
  • Nikki Logan - Friends to Forever
  • Sue Mackay - Playboy Doctor to Doting Dad
  • Natalie Anderson - Walk on the Wild Side
  • Rachel Bailey - Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal
  • Mel Teshco - Moon Thrall (ebook)

38 comments:

  1. Hi Leah! Congrats on the book contract and on your upcoming wedding :) !

    I still remember the excitement and the bated breaths as I read through all the finalists..again and again :)

    Your story was different, and totally captivating :) I can't wait for it to be released!

    Advice for a bride to be ;) Tough one.. Only thing is sleep properly the week before the wedding...it'll not only help to maintain your stamina to go thro' the D-day, but also it'll avoid the dark circles under the eyes that comes from too much stress ;) At least I forced myself to do that, thereby escaping a heavy makeup to hide myself under ;)

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  2. Hi Leah! My best advice for the wedding day is not to sweat the small stuff. Life is full of imperfections and that is what makes us and our lives different and special.

    I got married when I had just turned 20 and my husband was 22 back in 1968. The minister who was going to marry us sat us down at different tables and asked us a lot of questions to which we each wrote down our answers. Then he took out answers and went over them with us. We coincided on almost all of our answers. The minister at that point told us that he was amazed as he'd never had that happen before. He told us to keep the communication lines open and our marriage would be stronger. I think that is important as the only time we have strife in our marriage is when we aren't communicating properly.

    Wishing you all the best in your marriage and your writing career. May they both bring you lots of joy.

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  3. Congratulations Leah, on the upcoming wedding and on the upcoming release of SECRETS AND SPEED DATING!

    Both the above advice of my friends are spot-on!

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  4. Looking forward to reading more from you on the LoveCats, Leah!

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  5. Hi Leah and huge congrats, both on your brand-new baby book and on your nearly-here wedding. (Cute pets too!)

    Advice? The wedding day is just a day! (although it will probably be THE most amazing day of your life!) Don't stress if things go wrong - because they probably will, but in the big scheme it really doesn't matter. Concentrate your marriage, your lives together afterwards.

    My DH has one consistent piece of advice for all his brides (I guess I'd better say here that he's a marriage celebrant!!!) From the wonderful wise words of Dr Seuss - 'Love one another. It's as simple or as diffcult as that'...

    Oh, and one more gem - don't marry the one you can spend the rest of your life with, marry the one you can't spend the rest of your life without!!! :-)

    Wishing you constant love in your life and your writing!

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  6. Thanks so much Ju! I'm thrilled you enjoyed my entry, and I hope you enjoy the finished book, too :)

    Excellent advice re the sleeping properly, I've been failing dismally at that at the moment, up late sorting out details (and trying to write Book 2 :) ). Will remember to be a good girl and go to bed on time in the lead up! The threat of bags under the eyes is the perfect motivation :)

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  7. Kaelee - thank you for your very wise advice. I love your comment about embracing imperfections - so true!!

    I've been with my fiance for four years, and while we haven't had to answer questions the way you and your husband did (by the way, how lovely and romantic!) but he makes me laugh every day, and he is my best friend. When we sat down to write our vows, the sentiments we wanted to share were identical, so although I can't say we always agree (we're both stubborn Sagittarians who always think we're right) we have the same goals and are so similar in so many ways.

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  8. Thanks Nas and Kez for your lovely welcomes! This is such a big year for me - my wedding, my book coming out - and now, joining the LoveCats!

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  9. Clare, I think both you and DH are absolutely spot on! When we were stressing about the initial details of the wedding, my fiance kept saying "all I care about is that at the end of the day, we'll be married."

    I guess I need to keep focusing on that, rather than all of the minutiae (which to be honest, is a trap I'm learning is SO easy to fall into!).

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  10. Hey Leah,
    Can't wait for your book to come out and see the difference from New Voices to published! What an exciting time for you!

    I don't have any different advice to the others - just enjoy your wedding day! It's over much too soon, so enjoy every minute of it (even the hassles leading up to the big day).

    All the best for the wedding and book release!

    Love Stella and Luna, even their names go well together :-)

    Cath

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  11. Leah, your pets are gorgeous (we have a devon rex too).

    For your wedding... don't worry if it doesn't all go to plan on the day, it will give you and your husband something to laugh over in years to come.

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  12. Yay!!! Welcome to the Lovecats, Leah! I so totally love contests. Such a fabulous way to get your work in front of hungry editors. Sounds like Meg wasn't prepared to let you go!!! And such wise words about letting your writer self go and simply tell the story. I can't wait to read it =)

    And congrats on your upcoming wedding! Are your dog and cat invited to the ceremony? I see that Miss Whiskers is already dressed in white =)

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  13. Hi Leah

    Being a fellow New Voicer, I am soooooo excited for you and can't wait to read your book - I'm sure it will be a sell-out!

    With regards getting married I have only one piece of advice - HAVE FUN!!!

    Jen St G

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  14. Hey!! Am so glad to finally see you here--another step in the steep curve that is 'newly published'. Hooray. And thank you for the vote of confidence in my work - any sentence that has me and Sarah Mayberry in it is a *good* sentence. We have love of her stories in common.

    Advice-wise - while I may be handy for writing advice I have nothing sage to offer re: weddings and brides other than to draw the inevitable comparison between 'the call' and 'the wedding day'. It's so easy to see them both as destinations when in fact they're only turning points. The real work (for both) starts now.

    That's a cheerful thought isn't it! LOL. But what an exciting time to be embarking on both, together.

    Congratulations.

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  15. Wow, you definitely have lots going on right now!!

    Bride-to-be advice.....ignore the nay-sayer's and there will be at least one!!!
    You know, the relative that has to nit pick the dress, the cake, the venue, the music, the food, whatever (mine was my new mother-in-law!!!) THEY ARE JUST JEALOUS!!!!
    Enjoy YOUR day.
    All the best for a long and happy marriage ♥

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  16. WELCOME, Leah! We're thrilled to bits to have you on board with us at the LoveCats! It's great to learn a bit more about you and have a peek at your gorgeous pets. Stella and Luna look like they've got loads of personality.

    Congratulations again on your sale through the New Voices competition!

    And extra congratulations on your up-coming wedding. I wish you and your hero the greatest happiness for your future together.

    As for advice ... well, I have to confess that I might not have anything that useful to contribute here - my dh and I eloped! Enjoy the day and remember the important thing is the life you'll make together afterwards.

    hugs
    Sharon

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  17. Congrats Leah,

    what a great year you're having!!

    Wedding advice: go with the flow and simply enjoy the ride =)

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  18. Congrats on your book will keep a look out for it

    all I can give you on wedding advice it a lot of give and take and don't forget DH if any children come along.... I have been married 45 years this year

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  19. Hi Leah, sending you a huge LoveCat welcome!!! Am popping champagne and passing it around... I'm sure there are some hunky Tom-waiters around here somewhere who can help with dishing out the nibblies. :-)

    Ooh, a wedding AND a new book happening in the same year. Oh my, we are going to have a lot to celebrate here at the LoveCats.

    Bride advice? Umm... like Sharon, I eloped. So while it was heavenly and romantic, it wasn't very bridal. Still, I figure that if you marry the right man, then everything else is just icing. I hope your icing, though, is particularly delicious!

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  20. Hey Leah

    My goodness - 4 weeks to a wedding and you are still blogging...you are an amazing women and multi-tasker!

    Congrats on your book baby Secrets & Speed Dating - I'm sure it will be a HUGE success as so many people will want to 'see' what you did as the winner of the New Voices - ok admittedly others of us are simply 'bookaholics' and want to read it because its from you!!!

    Thanks for visiting LoveCats - its always interesting to see who's dropping in here with their pets.

    Bye 4 now
    Tina

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  21. Welcome to the LoveCats, Leah -- it's marvellous to have you join us!!

    I love Anita's advice: 'Don't worry if it doesn't all go to plan on the day, it will give you and your husband something to laugh over in years to come.' I second that! Just relax and enjoy it. You'll have a marvellous day! And if something doesn't go quite to plan -- laugh!

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  22. I'm coming in late so someone's probably already said this but JUST ENJOY YOUR DAY! Don't sweat the little things. In the end, you won't notice them. I bought the nicest perfume just for my wedding day and forgot to wear any on the day. Did I realise? Not until about two weeks later. It DIDN'T matter!!! It goes too fast, so just HAVE FUN!
    x

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  23. Welcome Leah!!! So great to have you here and HUGE congrats on both the books AND the wedding - what an exciting year for you!!!!!!
    I'm with Rachael - just enjoy it... most of my day is such a blur on my memory... except for the moment when we said our vows - that is crystal clear!!! :) AndI love Anita's words about being abel to laugh too - fantastic advice :)
    Wishing you all the best for your big day!!!!!!

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  24. Leah, it's so great to be officially welcoming you to the LoveCats! And welcome to Stella and Luna as the fur-family of our newest Cat. I *so* want to kiss Stella's soft snout and give her a hug. =)

    I don't have any new advice to add, but I have to say that I can't wait for the photos!

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  25. Leah, I was only wondering the other day how far away the your story would be from publication. I loved your entry and I look forward to reading your book.

    Wedding advice. Aside from making sure that you only have one *grin* wear waterproof mascara. No matter how hard you try not too, you'll probably end up crying. Tears of joy, people, tears of joy!

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  26. Oh wow, I've been out all day and am floored by all of these lovely comments!

    Catherine - There is a LOT of change between the New Voices entry and the final book. Sadly most of chapter two and all of the pivotal moment didn't make the cut! I hope you enjoy it :)

    Anita - Aren't Devon Rexes the best! I could never have another breed of cat, I adore Luna, she is my little shadow. And your advice is fabulous, I am really worried it will rain (a problem given our reception is half outside/half inside) but keep telling myself it will be a hilarious anecdote to tell in the future :)

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  27. Robyn - I love contests! Such a great way to get my work in front of an editor :) And sadly, no pets at the wedding! We considered it (as the dogs were there at our first date, and when my fiance proposed) but have decided it's just something else to worry about - particularly as Stella tends to whine when separated from me :)

    Jen - It's so weird to think of all the other New Voices entrants (actually, anyone!) reading my book! I hope you enjoy it.

    Nikki - hahahahahahahaha! Yes, SO not destinations...damnit! :)

    Cath - Thank you! Although we have our ups and downs (we are both so good at pushing each other's buttons!) we both adore each other and I've never questioned how much I love him, and he loves me. He's my hero and my best mate, so I plan on this being a forever thing :)

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  28. Sharon & Michelle - I'm really starting to wish we eloped! So much stress and worry when it's supposed to be such a wonderful time in our lives. But I hope it will all be worth it :)

    Mel - Yeah, I am feeling pretty blessed at the moment. I am a very lucky girl to have some many lovely things happening all at once :)

    Barb - 45 years! That's amazing, and something I aspire to. Congratulations!

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  29. Tina - It's actually only a little over two weeks now. Arggghhhh!!!! :)

    Emily - Thank you! It was so lovely to be invited to join. I've always loved the LoveCats blog.

    Rach - Thank you, that's excellent advice :) I hope you have fun on the day, too!

    Natalie - Thank you :) We are both very good at laughing at ourselves and each other, so I hope the day is full of laughter.

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  30. Rachel - Stella is curled up at my feet right this moment. I adore her old man face. She's nearly five now, but she's always had it!

    Toni - It's amazing how fast the turnaround has been on the book - from acceptance to publication is less than seven months. So I'm very lucky, normally you need to wait a year to see your first book on the shelves :)

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  31. Patricia StallardApril 27, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    First and foremost CONGRATS on your upcoming wedding and the new book deal. I am already excited and can't wait to read it!!! I have been married for seven years in just a few weeks! I can still remember every moment of our big day! I know that it is hard to do but try and not get too nervous! I honestly thought I was going to faint a time or two. Now that I look back on it, it was so funny! Take lots of pictures and remember that this is the day of a new chapter of your life. You will look back years down the road and think, how was I so lucky to get the book deal and a husband in the same year! So with this I wish you and your soon to be husband the best of luck and may God give you many happy years together! Who knows maybe during all of this a new idea for your next book may come to mind!

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  32. Leah - as the wayward lovecat who has been absent more than I want to be lately - I would like to formally welcome you. This was a great story and I love your fur buddies. :)

    My advice for your wedding day is know that this is the first day of the rest of your lives together and don't sweat the little things. I hope your day is spectacular and that you have a great life together.

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  33. Leah

    Welcome and this book sounds so good. Way to go on entering the contest and winning.

    Best advice for a Bride to be take one day at a time and try not to stress all will work out wonderfully
    Congrats Leah
    Have Fun
    Helen

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  34. Hi Leah

    I'm soooo excited for you - getting married and soon to be published - woo hoo! Well deserved :)

    Everyone has given you excellent advice, and I concur with enjoying your wedding day and not stressing on the small stuff.

    Have a lovely wedding day, you will be a beautiful bride!!

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  35. Hi Leah

    Congrats on your book (first of many) and your wedding. I hope you thoroughly enjoy both.
    The wedding advice that stays with me is this:
    'What's the worst thing that could happen?
    The flowers don't come, the ring gets lost, the dress gets torn?? Nope.
    The absolute worst thing would be that you get so worried about those things that you forget to enjoy marrying your man and starting your married life.'
    Of course you also don't want to forget to enjoy the honeymoon.
    Besides you probably have less pressure than Kate.
    Cheers
    Tracey T
    (who's off to her brother's wedding this Saturday - I've been told that its the encore to the Royal Wedding).

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  36. Patricia - Thank you! I got butterflies today having my dress alterations fitting - it's all so close (and so exciting!). But it was a good kind of nervous, so hopefully I'll feel the same in just over two weeks time :) Congrats on 7 years marriage, too!

    Tracie - Thank you! It's so easy to focus so much on the day, but you are right - the stuff that comes after is the important stuff!

    Helen - Thanks for the welcome :) Am so happy to be here. De-stressing... well, easier said than done, but I'm trying!

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  37. Leah, congratulations on your upcoming wedding and your book. Great to see another horse lover too :)Look foward to reading your book when it hits the shelves.
    Wedding day advice? Well, I eloped, so I'm probably not qualified to say anything other than take a deep breath, smile and enjoy every moment of your day :)
    Cheers

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  38. I can barely keep up with all these lovely comments :)

    Joanne - Thanks so much Joanne! You've been such a supporter of me (wedding and book related) - thank you :)

    Tracey - Ha! You are so right, poor Kate. I'm feeling the pressure with an audience of 100 :)

    Helen - I'm looking forward to reading your debut, too, Helen! And I still love horses, hopefully one day I'll squeeze one into my life again.

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