Saturday, 26 December 2009

A New Writing Year

It may seem like I'm jumping the gun a little here but as yesterday was the anniversary of my accident today seems an appropriate day to start a fresh page.

So. Here is my New Year writing goal - to finally complete my re-write of Secret Billionaire and send the partial off to Richmond.

Even if it means dirty dishes sitting in the sink, wearing clothes more than once and ignoring the crumbs the dogs have left on the carpet...

So what are your New Year Writing goals?

P.S. Hope you like the photograph - I took it in Pralong, a tiny village near where we were staying in Switzerland.


Sunday, 20 December 2009

There's always the squirrels...

Things that are making me smile:
  • Father Christmas has brought me an early present to cover the time of day the main heater in the house decides it's done a full day's work (about 11:30 a.m.) and the time of day I can decently climb under the duvet and switch the electric blanket on (6:30 p.m. is the earliest so far!). I hasten to add it's faux fur (and not squirrel fur, I'll get to them in a minute).

  • The friendship and support of my writing friends. How did I do this before I knew you all I wonder? I'm proud to be a part of a new writing group and looking forward to a New Year with exciting challenges.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Confessions

  1. I am wearing odd socks chosen from the bizarre assortment left to me by the sock monster. All I can say is he must have got hungry while we were away - I had an impressive 11 odd socks to choose from.
  2. Due to a catalogue of mishaps involving laptop dropping, password forgetting and technical incompetence I am now locked out of my yahoo email (needed to connect me to the Reading RNA chapter), now known as Loraine W on iheartpresents instead of Lorraine Wilson (the site tells me Lorraine Wilson is in use and when I squeal "Yes, by me!" remains as implacable as an obdurate bouncer) and on eharlequin there is now a blank space where my face used to be.
  3. That bit about the blank space for some odd reason makes me feel like crying. Bloody hormones!
  4. Despite having much more huge, horrible stuff going on in my life at the moment which should put getting a form rejection from the Mills and Boon competition into perspective, it somehow made it worse, like I was pinning everything on getting some good news, something nice to happen... Don't worry, I intend to rally and lick Secret Billionaire into shape to attach to my treasured Editor's business card but for the moment I just feel crap.
  5. I have a sinful amount of swiss chocolate in my kitchen and despite mumbled intentions in the duty free shop do not intend to give any of it away as Christmas presents. Well it should help with confessions 3 and 4...
  6. I am really behind with my emails, sorry guys. Just wanted to say I love and appreciate you all and thanks for supporting me through a really tough year. Here's hoping I can be a little more reliable next year but maybe that should be part of a resolutions post in January...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

If you can't stand the heat...


then go and bury yourself in a snowdrift. Well that's my motto and I'm sticking to it.

Seriously. Blundering around in sub zero temperatures in the dark, trying to find the key to your swiss chalet (and indeed the chalet itself), slipping on a vicious patch of black ice and the ensuing pain seeping through your limbs...Well it's an excellent distraction from wondering if anyone at Richmond liked your competition entry at all.

Think of it not so much as a NTAI last minute holiday in the Alps as an opportunity to have more distraction providing accidents. Although as my last two bizarre accidents involved the leg of the ironing board and the lid of the laundry basket (I must be the only person in the world to injure themselves with wicker, surely?) I have to say I prefer the view here.

Pass the ibuprofen...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Definitely, absolutely NTAI

I am definitely, absolutely not doing any of the following:
  1. Wondering if my competition entry has made the shortlist mentioned in the contest update
  2. Thinking about how I'll feel if I get the generic 'abandon this project' email I got back from the competition last year.
  3. Wishing I was satisfied with the final edit I carried out under the fug of flu.
  4. Feeling depressed about my 'time passed to writing accomplished' ratio in recent months.
Although I have to admit that as the deadline draws nearer NTAI is becoming harder and harder. I'm trying to work on my other partial, employing what seems like perfect logic to me - that if I don't work on 'Reluctant Heir, Passionate Affair' then they'll want to see it... Hmm, well it seemed logical before I wrote it down :-)

How are you all bearing up?

Friday, 20 November 2009

Tonic?

The neurophysiotherapist who is torturing, sorry I mean rehabilitating, me on a regular basis took one look at me last week and said "You look like you need a tonic."

Decided not to say "Yes, a gin and..." as she's an ultra healthy gym bunny. Was slightly depressed that after a month of viral bugs clinging to me like limpets I clearly look as bad as I feel.

Not being one for neat cod liver oil I prescribed myself a bit of rest and more watching of Michael Weatherly (obsessed, moi?) from my NCIS boxset when I suddenly got fresh inspiration for 'Secret Billionaire'. The part where Tony is deceiving Jeanne (apologies to non NCIS fans here) and yet falling in love with her and knowing it can't end well - it provoked me to start thinking more deeply about Luke and how he'd be feeling, why he'd be doing what he's doing and most importantly why on earth any reader should love a hero who starts off in a place of deception.

He'd changed so much with the revisions I didn't feel I knew him very well but now I've got to know him properly I realise I do actually love my hero again. Quite important really.

I've made brief contact with my missing Mojo who is still in Cannes claiming to be doing 'research' (the virtual chocs go to Jackie as a reward :-) but refuses to come back until it stops raining.
So I'll make a start anyway and hope Mojo comes back to join me at some point...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Lost

Lost:
One Mojo, last seen being gagged and bound by a vicious flu bug but passed on to his friend the common cold who was lurking, waiting his turn.
Whereabouts currently unknown but no ransom demands made as yet.
Please report any sightings (The Pub in the M&B Community has been searched already but without success).
News that there have been 544 entries into the M&B competition could be lowering the Mojo's morale. Coaxing with either jaffa cakes or chocolate digestives may be effective.

Reward:

To be negotiated (but I do a good line in virtual chocolate :-)

Friday, 6 November 2009

Never Ever

Never ever:
  1. re-read your competition entry after it's been sent
  2. edit when you have flu
Have discovered hideously idiotic mistake in my chapter - the caretaker's wife inexplicably changes her name from Sofia to Maria mid chapter. How? How on earth could I miss this blatant character rebellion? Is it because I only gave her one line and described her as dour???

Aargh. I knew it was a bad idea to read but did it anyway. Like buying a tube of Pringles and thinking you'll only eat a handful, it had that same feeling of inevitability about it.

Sigh.

Has any else caved and re-read their entry? Can anyone beat my mistake?

Monday, 2 November 2009

P.S.L.D

Following on from Suzanne's suggestion that we should campaign for Competition Obsessive Disorder to be recognised as a legitimate ailment I've identified another affliction - Post Sending Let Down.
It's a bit like that post exam feeling - you've revised, got through the exams and now you've got to wait and try and forget about it until you get your results. Almost as soon as I hit send on my competition entry the slumps hit me, although to be fair my being post viral hasn't helped.

I also think the M&B competition is much worse than any exam - you can revise your socks off, read every writing book available, absorb every forum comment going and still not get any feedback at all (gosh, I'm really cheery this morning aren't I? ;-).
Last year I sent off an entry I really quite liked and waited hopefully, in vain as it happened. This year I'm savvier (I hope), I am also completely sockless (literally as it happens, the sock monster is very active in my house) and suffering from PSLD.

It will pass I'm sure. I've prescribed myself listening to 'Azur Like it' to get back into French Riveria/'Secret Billionaire' mode and also much watching of Michael Weatherly in my NCIS dvds :-)

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Competition Obsessive Disorder

If you've entered the Mills and Boon competition or are just about to, then the above condition requires no further explanation.
Symptoms may include muttering about internal conflict in your sleep or trying to explain the 'action and reaction' thing (explained so beautifully by Jackie) to non writing 'civilians'.

Distractions from Competition Obsessive Disorder to date:
  1. A baby cold picked up in Liverpool that has now grown to the kind of monster proportions favoured by King Kong, Godzilla et al.
  2. A bizarre accident involving the leg of the ironing board and my nose (don't ask).
  3. Listening to "Passion" by Louise Bagshawe, so utterly engaging that my own writing feels even more hobbyish than usual.
  4. Remembering there are things other than writing that matter in life. Like erm...er...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Fantasy


My days in Liverpool were surreal. Every taxi driver was Jim Royale from 'The Royale Family' and insisted on giving me a detailed history of each building we passed. The tests (so tiring I actually fell asleep on the desk at one point during a break) were at times a bizarre mix of 'The Generation Game' meets 'Who wants to be a Millionaire' but sadly without any prizes :-(

After being shown 50 pictures of objects and asked how many I could remember I was so tempted to say "Oh and the cuddly toy, do I get the cuddly toy?" but I had a feeling that humour would not encouraged. Shame, as I was also tempted to respond to the question "Why do people pay taxes?" with the answer "Because they haven't got a good enough accountant!'

Back home shattered and wrung out, I'm struggling to gather my resources to rewrite my chapter. So I'm trying to focus on fantasy, on escapism, which is what my chapter is all about really and what I've been enjoying listening to with my Louise Bagshawe audiobooks, (titles including "Glamour", "Glitz", "Passion" and "Sparkles"). Her wonderfully written alpha males and exotic locations are an inspiration IMO.
I'm still waiting for M&B to develop an audio programme in the UK. If I lived in the US I'd be allowed to listen but because I'm in the UK I can't. Neither can I get my computer to read the ebooks I've purchased for copyright reasons, very frustrating given I have paid for them...

Anyway, I've  come across a real live prince who looks nothing like Prince Charles :-) He's HRH Prince Emanuel Filiberto, Prince of Venice. An exiled prince working in Geneva as a hedgefund manager (so says wiki anyway :-) There are a lot of House of Savoy exiles in Europe, plenty of fantasy fodder for my 'future heroes' file. 


I've also found a picture of my hero's villa on Lake Como. 

Yes, it's working, I'm starting to feel better already...



Monday, 12 October 2009

A Dickens of a Week


Ten days since my last post and what have I achieved? 
Erm, pass. 
But by bizarre coincidence I went to an RNA chapter meeting on Wednesday held at a pub called 'Great Expectations' and then a few days later had a drink at a The Wagon and Horses at Beckhampton, visited by Charles Dickens in 1835 and used by him in 'The Pickwick Papers'.
Is it a sign? A sign I'm spending too much time in pubs maybe ;-)
But now comes the nitty gritty, after some excellent advice I've realised I've made an old mistake yet again - making my hero do something because I wanted him to, even though if I thought long enough about his character I'd realise it wasn't quite right.
So, more tweaks and a note to self to really think hard about character before plot in order to maintain credibility. 

Unfortunately most of this week will be taken up by brain testing in Liverpool which I know will wipe me out but if necessary I shall revert to the Red Bull and sweets combo that got me to the RNA meeting, it's truly dreadful but as effective as a defibrillator.

Is anyone else still tweaking their comp entries or have you already done the deed?

Friday, 2 October 2009

A little known fact



It is a little known fact that marshmallows are essential for synopsis re-writes. Well the husband didn't know about it at least. In fact he questioned the need for the late night drive to the 24 hour garage yesterday, before going away for a business trip today. The accountant in him brought out the "wholly and exclusively rule"that's applied to business expenses i.e. was it really essential for my writing? I replied that it was and he said I was welcome to argue that one with the taxman should the need arise.

They are also virtually fat-free but it was decided, on balance, that the taxman probably wouldn't be too interested in that. Although knowing you're eating something that isn't too fattening must reduce your stress levels and enable you to write better, surely?

So, I have my marshmallows, and I also have a DVD of the first two series of 'Moonlighting' which I'm only allowed to watch once I have a satisfactory rejigged synopsis. I absolutely loved this programme in my teens and the banter between Cybill Shepherd's and Bruce Willis's characters is inspiring, as is the sexual tension between them.

Perhaps I should point out there are other essential factors for synopsis re-writes as far as I've been able to garner - a focus on internal conflict (especially if its Modern Heat), so a clear idea of what is going to keep H and h apart. And also making it obvious how they're going to resolve their conflicts - what is it about them that is going to enable them to heal each others wounds?

All in one page? What about a bit of external plot structure in there? 
Sigh. 
Pass the marshmallows.


Monday, 28 September 2009

Layer Cake

Okay, so this post isn't actually about cake, sorry! But I knew cake would get your attention :-)

It is however, about layering. As in how could I possibly have forgotten about it? You know, Kate Walker, the onion, and Shrek ;-)

Duh!

Anyway, thanks to Jackie for reminding me. I got so het up about making all my conflicts clear instantly that I forgot about only revealing the upper layer of the conflict first - then I can unravel it as the story unfolds, making it worse and worse until the Black Moment hits.

So I pruned, shpuggled a bit about the fact my CPs were right (again!), dumped some loved text into my cut text document, promising myself I'd use it somewhere else. Sigh. 
And now I have a better chapter, one within the competition word limit too. In fact I'm in such a good mood I'm going to let you have your cake after all :-)

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Body counts


My body count (i.e. number of dead people contributing to my story conflicts) is really stacking up in 'Reluctant Heir, Passionate Affair'. A sign of laziness perhaps? 
I'm currently struggling with Bryony Green's comments on ihearts about the Modern Heat hero not necessarily being as tortured as other series' heroes. Yet how to balance this with making sure the conflicts run really deep? Should he be just mildly tortured?A little bit upset? I think maybe it's to do with a lighter touch. If anyone's got any ideas I'd be interested to hear them.

Anyway, so far this is the body count tally for my WIPs:

Maverick Millionaire - 1

Secret Billionaire - 1

Reluctant Heir, Passionate Affair - a whopping 3!

I do have several (now put aside) stories containing no dead people so I'm not sure why I've suddenly gone so morbid.

Have any of you reached a higher body count than me? Do tell :-)

Monday, 21 September 2009

Still here. Just.

Both writing and life have been like wading through treacle lately. My brain injury medication is being adjusted and the side effects are hellish. It’s making my balance problems worse and I'm having loads of accidents - knocking shop displays over, banging my head, breaking things and this morning shutting my finger in a window. Add a nasty cold on top and my grumpiness has reached new heights. The Wicked Witch of the West has nothing on me - as the man who parked outside our house and decided to empty the rubbish from his car into our personal bin discovered. ;- )

Which is why I was so touched when the gardeners finally drafted in to clear our jungle (very out of place next to the perfect gardens of St Mary Mead) bought me a present. We’d been chatting during the day and they knew about the accident but it was still a lovely surprise when they presented me with a gift before they left - a potted red geranium, a splash of colour to cheer me up, they said.

Perhaps I should get them in to help me prune my chapter? It was 500 words under the competition limit. I edited it and I'm now 1000 words over! Ah well, will have to sit down and have a good look at it. Or send it to somebody less grumpy :-)

BTW I take it everybody participated in International Speak Like a Pirate day at the weekend? In case anybody missed it, here's something to get you in the mood...


Wednesday, 9 September 2009

It's Official


I have crossed over the line from normal writing obsession and am now three stops short of Dagenham (i.e. Barking - for anyone unfamiliar with the London Underground system).

Yes, I am now as barking mad as our terrier who thinks she can scare off the RAF, currently using our croft house as target practice, by squeaking her toy.

It’s the broadband withdrawal that's done it (have now given in and driven to internet cafe). Without CPs and blogfriends to be my reality check (or, less politely, to tell me to stop being a muppet) I have even taken to dreaming about technical problems with my competition entries. In a dream last night someone lectured me at length about my secondary character interaction and the banter between my hero and heroine.

Angels giving me good crit or a sign I’m officially over the edge?

I suspect the latter.

In an attempt to draw myself back from over-angst I have designed a teeny little questionnaire about my current comp idea (please leave you answers in a comments field. You get a reward if you get to the end J).

 

(1)  Titles. Which option do you prefer?

(a)   Reluctant Heir, Passionate Affair

(b)  Hot Nights with the Playboy Prince

(c)   The Prince’s Indecent Proposal

(d)  To tell me to stop thinking about titles, which are irrelevant really, given you don't get to choose them, and get on with writing the damn thing

 

(2)  Princes. Compatible with Modern Heat?

(a)   No, they belong in historicals or Moderns at a push

(b)  You might be able to pull it off, AITE and all that

(c)   I’ve no problem with the concept as long as it fits the guidelines

 

(3)  Your reward. Would you rather… 

(a)   Have a date with George Clooney


(b)  Be analyzed by the Mentalist (aka Simon Baker)


(c)   Have a chocolate feast


 

Okay, so you might have to use your imagination to claim your reward but thanks for taking part in my poll and pulling me back from the edge :-)

Unless of course you didn’t, in which case you may find yourself reading in the news headlines that a mad hermitess has been found roaming the Highlands muttering about stripping out too much external conflict (not to put any pressure on you or anything ;-)

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Getting Steamy

I may have finally cracked the problem of how to make friends in a new community when you a) work from home and b) don't have any kids - find a steam room! 
Littlecote House (mentioned in my last post) has a lovely leisure club and I've taken to lolling about in the pool area while the husband goes and does very unappealing gym stuff. Every time I go in the steam room someone chats to me - I've had more conversations with potential friend types in one week than I had in a whole year in Scotland (I'm not blaming the Scots, I would like to point out - they just happen to be outnumbered by sheep in the area we bought a house).

The steam room has even given me some writing inspiration - a hot shot american tycoon was in situ the other evening, having been helicoptered into the hotel grounds, and as a result I now have yet another story idea with a very steamy opening. I can't possibly write another competition entry or it will start getting ridiculous - how on earth will I choose which one to enter? 
Perhaps I ought to point out that the tycoon type didn't inspire me in that way and my husband was present at all times!

I've also taken another step out of my hermitess ways and yesterday went to the Reading chapter of the RNA, headed by Julie Cohen. I tried not to be too fan-girlish but think I failed. I had to tell her it was 'Delicious' that had inspired me to write for Modern Heat (or Extra as it was then) in the first place. It can't be too bad to be told how much someone likes your books, surely? I hope not anyway!

Just in case this interaction with the rest of the human race has been too much for me I now have a break - we're off home to Scotland for a week to sort out the heating so there might be radio silence from me for a while. In all reality we'll probably drive the 35 miles to an internet cafe when the broadband withdrawal kicks in...



Friday, 28 August 2009

Friday Stuff


I'm taking a break from competition angst and enjoying myself. The new story is proving fun to write, it might be pants but I actually don't care too much, it's just nice to be creating again instead of worrying about 'getting it right'.

I also continue to be inspired by my new surroundings - the thatched cottage villages with duck ponds and lovely pubs and the plethora of Agatha Christie characters strolling the streets. Oh and the historian in me is loving the nearby ruined Wolf Hall and Littlecote House with it's suits of armour, resident ghosts and tales of the wooing of Jane Seymour by Henry VIII.

I have a budding rural romcom in me and since I heard the grisly tale behind the Littlecote ghost the stirrings of a historical story too. Here's a link to the ghost-watch report if you're interested. It's supposedly one of Britain's most haunted houses.

On the down side I am currently mourning the end of series 1 of 'The Mentalist' and the best alpha hero ever created IMO, Patrick Jane - so sexy, so arrogant and yet tortured and infinitely lovable. Until series 2 (or until series 1 is released on DVD) I shall have to content myself with internet peeks at the man (or is it the character?) voted sexiest man on US TV:


Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The F Factor


I have been ignoring my writing rule number one (well actually I've just decided it's my only rule) - 'Don't ignore your niggles'.

I haven't been able to throw off an uneasy feeling about my competition chapter missing something despite getting good crits from people. I got carried away with knowing I've got the emotion, an alpha hero I can actually fall in love with (and want to secretly heal because of his past) an opening line I'm happy with and conflicts that feel consistent.

So what's the problem? The 'F' factor, that what's missing - that 'fun 'n flirty' vibe so important for Modern Heats. I think I got bogged down by my H & h's shared backstory, there is just so much emotion there that when they get together flirting isn't exactly on my heroine's agenda.

Now it is possible I can re-write from a different starting point and keep her antagonism further under the surface but I have to say I feel a little flummoxed. Suppose I put the F factor in and in doing so lose the other stuff I finally managed to get right?

I did start my new idea yesterday, just to have a standby in case I can't make MM work but given I spent ages thrashing out my conflicts for Maverick Millionaire all I can say is thank goodness the deadline is a while off.

How do people manage to write four of these a year and get them right???

Need chocolate :-(




Thursday, 20 August 2009

How to open doors and other useful tips

I have now moved on to 'Secret Billionaire'. Yes, really! (Just in case there are any lurking doubters out there) And have been doing some research about my hero's undercover job as a doorman. I realise this might sound like more procrastination but it's actually helped me overcome my mental block about the story.
I was reading some interesting posts from hotel doormen about what they love and hate about their jobs when I clicked on an ask.com question in my google results - 'How do you open a door?' Yes, someone actually spent a couple of minutes of their time logging on to ask.com to type in a question asking how to open a door. 
Why? 
Were they just testing to see if anyone would answer them? (They did, requesting more details about the model of door, type of handle, angles... Sorry, drifted off to sleep at that point).
How sad is it to sit at your computer spending a valuable portion of your time writing about opening doors? Err, right, on that note it's time I went off to do something more useful instead :-)

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The joy of polishing (or should that be procrastinating?)

I love polishing. Not the housework variety, because despite having been paid good money for my household tips (the husband is still rather disbelieving about that) my real heartfelt housework tip can be summed up as 'Life's too short'.

However I do enjoy going over and over a piece of writing and substituting a word here, cutting a sentence there etc. In fact I suspect I enjoy it rather too much. Every time I read my competition chapter I see a glaring error and I'm starting to think that no matter how many times I read it I will keep seeing stuff I don't like and I will never, ever be satisfied with it.

So, I'm going to have to set myself a deadline to leave it alone to rest (or ferment???) and actually get on with the writing I'm supposed to be doing - the partial to send to Richmond that I have developed inexplicable stage fright over. Before Jackie points out (although probably not publicly because she's too nice) that I already set myself a deadline to move on to Secret Billionaire um, yesterday, I will quickly set myself a new one - before the end of this week I am going to start my re-write of SB.

In the meantime just a little more indulgence of looking for any lurking cliches or 'was's or 'felt's that might have crept in when I wasn't looking :-)

Before I get my duster out I just want to pass on three really good editing tips I read recently:

  1. If you write something you think might be unclear, it is. Big time. Change it or cut it.
  2. Make sure you've started your scenes late and left them early.
  3. If you find you've said the same thing more than once - choose the best and cut the rest.




Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Name Game


Okay, I'm trying to distract myself from the fact my competition synopsis is still eight lines too long despite drastic pruning. The annoying thing is it was the correct length but it was missing character development, so I've put that in, tried to strip out external plot and...

So, I'm thinking about names instead. My hero was originally called Matt Munro but it was pointed out to me that he was a crooner who inspires granny crushes, not a great name for a Modern Heat hero then. So I've finally come up with Matt Marshall. Please tell me now if he's a famous porn star/mass murderer/fluffy cartoon character so I know if I can do 'find and replace' in my word doc!

I've also been thinking of a name for my hero in my new story idea (the notebook kind of fell out from under the bills and my pen just got scribbling, very naughty I know). So I want to take a poll - he's (probably) royalty in a small independent european Principality so I've been looking at the family tree of the Liechtenstein royal family (procrastination, moi? :-)

I have:
  1. Karl
  2. Josef
  3. Lukas
  4. Max
  5. Alexander
Any preferences?

Okay, getting back to that synopsis, honest guv ;-)


Monday, 10 August 2009

The Look of Lust



According to recent research men spend almost a year of their lives ogling women - the average man stares at 10 women each day which has been calculated to take 43 minutes (how do they calculate these things???), so between the ages of 18 and 50 that will add up to 11 months and 11 days.
Not exactly unexpected news but what did surprise me was that women apparently ogle 6 men a day, spending 20 minutes a day on this pastime. Erm 6? I don't know about you but coming across 6 men a day worth ogling would be a freak occurrence for me (6 a year in some places I've lived would be a challenge...)
If Michael Weatherly, Simon Baker, Hugh Jackman and Rupert Penry Jones were walking about the streets why would I need to post pictures of them on my blog???


Friday, 7 August 2009

More wobbly than a weeble

I'm currently resisting the temptation to throw my competition entry in the bin and work frantically on a new idea. However, working on the assumption  you should never make rash decisions (because they're often mood inspired) I am being a good girl and working hard on finishing the chapter. The notepad with the new ideas is still calling me though, perhaps I should bury it somewhere beneath some bills?

My only consolation is that while I'm being more wobbly than a weeble, weebles do actually manage to remain upright at the end of the day. I shall finish it, send it out and hopefully my CPs will tell me I'm being a muppet :-)
How many kids toys I can compare myself to in one blog post I wonder???
Anyway, time to get back to work...

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Too tough to talk


A recent e-mail conversation with Jackie has got me thinking. What do you do when your hero is too tough to talk? My current hero, Matt, is not the type to ever talk about his emotions. He's got a hard edge and has had a tough childhood he would never want to talk about, not even to the heroine. I could make him but it wouldn't be in character.

So, my question is - is it sufficient to have his internal POV reflections and heroine finding out and understanding about his past, maybe alluding to it but not pressing him about it?

Bah, what can you do with these men who don't want to talk???

Monday, 3 August 2009

Getting back on track


I'm back and determined to catch up and get myself into gear. Big apologies to everyone who is still waiting for emails from me, I promise I haven't forgotten you - I've just been a bit swamped lately.
But a few days relaxing in the sun, breathing fresh swiss mountain air and having a couple of relaxing massages has revitalized me and I'm now determined to get down to work, master my new software and WRITE!
I was relieved my experience at the hotel spa was faultless - at a different hotel several years ago I was asked if I was really sure I didn't want to swap my relaxing massage for an anti-aging wrinkle busting treatment! The cheek, I was only 30!
No, the only embarrassing blip to my trip away was at airport security when I was asked to remove my shirt jacket and had to mumble that I wasn't actually wearing anything underneath. Thankfully I wasn't forced to strip so my blushes were spared ;-)

Now, time to focus - here is my Maverick Millionaire, Matt (my comp entry hero), how can I fail to be inspired?


Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Distractions and Diversions


No. of words written for new version of 'The Secret billionaire': 0

No. of unnecessary (but nice) purchases made with the assistance of Great Aunty Amex (friend of Jackie's Great Uncle Visa I believe :-): Far too many

No of iced fingers consumed (I blame the bakery in the next village for being too nice): see above

No of hours spent feeling bad about not having done any work on the re-write: approx 1 hour per day


I have however spent time thinking about my competition entry and made some progress with 'The Maverick Millionaire' which is good as previously it had come to a grinding halt in chapter 3. I also think a break will help me come back to Secret Billionaire with fresh eyes (sounds like a good excuse so I'm sticking to it!)

The rest of this week will be a write off (no pun intended) as I'm going away for my birthday to my favourite hotel in Switzerland and will be lounging around sipping cool drinks and looking at the jaw-dropping view (see above).
But next week all diversions will come to and end I will definitely, absolutely get cracking on my re-write to sub to Richmond. If I don't please feel free to cyber nag me :-)

Friday, 17 July 2009

Think it Speak it Create it


My computer has started talking to me. No, I haven't been driven barmy by the process of trying to get published (not yet anyway) but I've discovered that my mac had the ability to read me selected text all along. Duh! It only took me six months to discover it.
The only problem is the most realistic voice it can use is still very robotic - there's nothing like a very unenthusiastic robot reading your work to make you feel like going back to bed and hiding under the duvet.
I've also been trying out my new speech to text software - It is a whole new way of writing for me. Normally my process is 'Think it Write it See it Create it' but I'm having to learn how to be less visual, more auditory as I write. 
Who knows, maybe it will lead to more realistic dialogue and better flow (although having to say 'comma', 'full stop', 'open quote' etc is irritating me at the moment). It's certainly better than previous systems I've come across with a lot less errors but I was still bemused when I read in my new synopsis for 'Maverick Millionaire' - "Matt realises that he still loves a mini and sets about juicing her." I actually said "Matt realises that he still loves Emily and sets about seducing her"!!!
I think much more practice and careful editing is needed or who knows what I could send off to Richmond! There may even be a few "be quiet Holly"s at crucial moments when I forget my headset is live (Holly is the noisiest of my dogs).

On the subject of new things there is a brilliantly titled blog that has just been started called Love and Chocolate by the lovely Sally who I met over at Trish Wylie's forum. Love, chocolate and writing, what else could you possibly want???


Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Happy Bunnydom



I arrived back from the RNA conference last night shattered, happy but most of all inspired to write. 
My editor slot went well, the phrases "yes, this could work for Modern Heat" and "you have a strong voice" combining to make me a very happy bunny indeed.
I have my own personal holy grail (an editor's business card) tucked safely away in a secret compartment in my handbag and an invitation to attach it to my partial and submit direct to her :-)

I've learnt loads about craft from the seminars (Jessica Hart, the Mills and Boon one and Jodi Thomas in particular) and am positively itching to put what I've learnt into practice. I also picked up lots of gems while queuing for coffee! It was lovely to be able to talk writing all weekend without anyone's eyes glazing over and such a privilege to chat to so many experienced authors who were willing to talk to a newbie nobody.

Unfortunately the weekend has wiped me out health wise but it was so worth it. Scratching the itch might have to wait until I've recovered but my lovely new 'speech to text' software has just arrived so I'm hoping it's going to make the whole process much easier.

If you've never been to the RNA conference (and are a NWS member) I'd say it's worth selling your grandmother to get to it. Apparently next year will be quite big as it's an anniversary and it will be in London which means they're hoping to get a lot of editors and agents along on the Friday. It's going to be popular and there are going to be quite a few big name authors coming so the advice I was given was book early.

All I can say is be there or be a sad bunny.


P.S. if you didn't attend and would like detailed feedback on some of the seminars I found most useful (mostly specific to M&B targeting but some more general) leave your email address in the comments section and I'll send you something I've written up to try and consolidate it for myself.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Normal Service is Resumed


After a couple of weeks of trying to keep up with emails, blogs etc using motorway service stations as I traveled from England to Scotland and back again several times (bet that messed up peoples’ feedjit! J) I finally have broadband in the new place.

Although I described the area as yummy mummy land (in the interests of balance I ought to say they’ve all been lovely to me) I’ve also met a plethora of retired colonels and majors emerging from perfect thatched cottages, not to mention a few ‘Honourables’ and a minor noble. I’ve been informed in no uncertain terms that attendance at the village fete, sports day etc is compulsory. Perhaps once I’ve been drinking the water for a couple of months I’ll develop the urge to competitively grow misshapen vegetables or join the Women’s Institute.

I’ve decided I must have moved to a twenty first century St Mary Mead and any minute now Miss Marple will be knocking on my door to inform me that the rector has discovered a body up at the Manor House. Or maybe at the ruins of nearby Wolf Hall (great name isn’t it?)

Not that I’ll have time to help Miss Marple solve the crime as my editor slot is now only TWO days away. I blame gadding about with boxes and having fun days out at hospitals.

Somehow I’ve managed to write a new synopsis in the midst of it all (taking the ‘ah sod it’ approach to the piles of boxes helps) – my characters are now more believable (I hope) and their actions more consistent. I’ve also given Luke a bit of an alpha makeover in line with the new Modern Heat guidelines; he is now harder, less laidback but still essentially the same Luke.

I’ve decided to take everyone’s advice and not worry too much about the slot. I can discuss the new story angle and hopefully sound out whether or not The Secret Billionaire (as Bridal Bet is now called) could ever work for the Modern Heat line.

Hopefully I’ll have lots of lovely feedback next week about the conference, or the reincarnation of Miss Marple should she appear J


P.S. the above picture is an old photograph of where I'm now ensconced!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Isolated, bizarrely dressed and a little bit crazy


Apparently working from home can leave you isolated, bizarrely dressed and a little bit crazy. I tried to feel a bit affronted by this headline when it came out but failed as, secretly, I couldn't help agreeing, at least for myself. The isolation bit I find is offset by broadband connecting me to the writing community, a fact brought home to me as I've been positively twitching without it for the last five days. As for a little bit crazy? I'm not even going there :-)
And now for bizarrely/badly dressed, well... I used to manage to look quite presentable when I worked in London but my standards have gone slowly downhill to the point where I consider smart jeans to be my going out clothes and the mention of wearing 'something sparkly' for the RNA conference dinner brings on mild palpitations. 
Which is why I was slightly alarmed at the weekend when I visited a foreign country to me - yummy mummy land. You see while I'm all for remote I've reluctantly had to concede that my kind of Highlands remote isn't great when you're not well enough to drive, your husband is away a lot and you keep having bizarre accidents. To cut a long story short it's been decided I need another foray to the south while I can't be trusted not to burn the house down or knock myself out on a cupboard door in the husband's absence. Hopefully it won't be for too long.
So, a suitable house for short term let near husband's office has been found and I went down for a look. The presence of beauty salons, nail bars and high end dress shops in tiny villages (and absence of other shops) should have been a giveaway but it was only while I was walking the dogs that it struck me that it wasn't just the period cottages that were picture perfect - at every turn I came across glamazons in elegant attire and with immaculate make-up, accompanied by golden haired toddlers wearing Cath Kidston wellies. I suddenly became aware that I hadn't brushed my hair since I'd set out from Scotland and worst of all I was wearing no make up! Normally this is not a thought that would ever cross my mind but here I suddenly felt odd, like a barbarian interloper.
So now I have to decide whether for my temporary residence I attempt to camouflage myself to avoid scaring the natives? Or do I apply my recent approach to all things non-writing lately, namely the 'ah sod it' approach and just brave the potential 'woman spotted walking dogs in non designer jeans and WEARING NO MAKE-UP' headlines in the local press?
I think I'll probably just settle for making sure broadband is sorted out  for when we go down, now that's REALLY important.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

How NOT to write a hook

  1. Think of a catchy hook and then impose characteristics on your H&h to make them fit in with your hook.
  2. When you encounter inconsistencies in your characters' behaviour don't go back to the beginning and question your premise, simply come up with more backstory to force the fit, like a large foot into a small shoe (or should that be strappy sandal???)
  3. Once you've stuffed that foot in, ignore any niggles in the back of your mind and reassure yourself with the fact the strappy sandal does look quite pretty.
  4. On no account try to get a crit from a writer you really admire, like the fabulous Heidi Rice say, if you're not prepared to let go of that strappy sandal and put the work in to find a shoe that fits.
Well I did points 1-3 but thankfully was the successful bidder for a critique in the Brenda Novak auction and have now had all those niggles brought skillfully to the surface. Not only that but I can see how I can address them. 
The one thing I've most definitely learnt is DON'T IGNORE YOUR NIGGLES. Question why, why, why and don't be afraid to change your premise if it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Other than that I don't have any wise advise about how to use a hook. Other than maybe try to address your niggles before you send your synopsis and first chapter to an editor. Ahem.
Still it shows I'm able to revise, right?


Thursday, 11 June 2009

Romance is Everything

WH Smith has launched a new promotion, this free canvas bag when you buy any four Mills & Boon titles. The lovely slogan made me think about amending it to 'Romance writing is Everything'. I've always found writing to be a wonderful escape when life is a bit crap and I'm certainly finding that now.
So, while in the waiting room to see the neurologist yesterday I dreamt up the beginnings of a new story (the ultimate indulgence when you have two WIPs waiting to be finished). Not much news to report on the head injury front - yet more waiting for an MRI scan and cognitive testing to work out exactly what's going on and some powerful drugs that I've been told will probably make me feel lousy for a couple of months but then might (and only MIGHT) bring me some relief from the headaches I've had every day since the accident nearly six months ago. During examination it became apparent that I've lost quite a lot of feeling in one side of my face and one eye which was a bit worrying.
So my new acronym of the day is NTAAEW (a new variation of Jackie's NTAI) - From now on I'm Not Thinking About Anything Except Writing :-)

Friday, 5 June 2009

Top tips


I had a nice surprise yesterday - a letter from a magazine saying they want to publish one of my 'top tips'. This was a surprise firstly because I didn't remember sending it in and secondly because I can't even remember what the tip was!
I'm guessing it wasn't one of the following:
  1. Don't bother laying flooring - bare concrete never shows the dirt.
  2. If you don't cut your grass then eventually it will get to such a height it hides all the weeds in your garden.
  3. If you don't invite anyone round then you don't have to tidy up.
  4. Do your building work over as long a period as possible then you'll always have a good excuse for your house being in complete chaos.
Well, it was a nice distraction from post emailing angst anyway. I pressed the send button on my chapter and synopsis for my M&B editor slot with Jenny Hutton. I then woke up the next day with the sudden realisation that I'd forgotten to give a hastily created secondary character any distinguishing physical characteristic (wooden leg, glass eye, severe facial disfigurement... that kind of thing).

Ah well, such is writing life. Overall I'm reasonably happy with it. 

I've also been having a very interesting conversation about smells with my tiler, (should have consulted him about the alpha scents debate :-) whilst forcing first aid on him. Eventually he accepted my nursing but only on the grounds that he "didnae wanna get blood in ya grout". His favourite smell is one that apparently came second in a poll of people's favourites - clean sheets fresh from the line being ironed or drying on the range.

Which reminds me I should go and do some washing and make some pretence of being the kind of domestic goddess who dispenses top tips...

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

One of THOSE days

Good news - I recently found out I can email the editors my first chapter and synopsis before meeting them at my  conference slot. This is a fantastic opportunity and I'm currently thanking the writing gods that I didn't do my usual steaming ahead to complete the first draft but have been working and re-working my beginning and synopsis. 
Unfortunately the brand new synopsis that I was FINALLY happy with is two pages long and I now have to get it down to one page. Not a task that would normally freak me out but today is synopsis day and unfortunately it's also turning out to be one of THOSE days - you know, when one thing after another goes wrong in a farcical way that you recognise might be vaguely comical if it wasn't happening to you.
I was on the phone trying to sort out the latest disaster with an unhappy plumber and a supplier mess-up when I noticed a couple of tourists standing in my garden peering in at me and taking photographs. Now our house is a long way off the public road so this struck me as, how can I put this politely? A little odd.
I rounded up my contract law spiel to the supplier and headed out ready to express my miffedness only to find the tourists had come all the way from California to look at my house as a distant ancestor had lived here! Obviously could not tell them to bog off, well I could have but it would have been rude so I chatted to them instead. All the while the builders were drilling in a way that sounds and feels like the drill bit is actually piercing my brain.
Copious painkillers and several cups of tea with the plumber later and I am now feeling calmer and able to start the synopsis prune. Am also considering getting a hotel 'do not disturb' sign for my door...

P.S. Wanted to say BIG thanks to those of you who've been giving me help and writing advice recently. You're all stars :-)


Sunday, 31 May 2009

Alpha Scents

I try to remember to engage all five senses in my writing but for some reason I always struggle when it comes to describing how my hero smells. I have my stock favourites that I trot out but often feel I put them in just because I know I have to write something. 
There's 'musk' which sounds uncomfortably close to musty and makes me think of moths. Or 'citrus' - a nice, safe scent and not too feminine. But I rarely stop to ask myself if I actually want my hero smelling of lemons. I just grab it and put it into my text so I can tick the hero smell box on my list!
With all the talk in forum and blogland about cliches I can't help thinking I've invented a new one - I write smell cliches.

So what does an alpha male smell of? Sweat? Engine oil? Or that old favourite - 'man'. Whenever I read that I want to ask 'But what does man smell of'??? 
I suspect the irresistible scent of an alpha is actually pheromones but as I don't know what a pheromone smells like I decided to google my husband's after-shave, a scent I particularly love. Its manufacturers describe it as having a deep amber note so I thought okay, I'll try amber but that just made me think about traffic lights :-) and the after-shave's other components were all too technical to ever be written into a sensuous scene.

So I'm left with "She inhaled his scent, it was a musky scent with a deep note of amber and the faintest overlying hint of citrus". Total and utter gobbledegook :-) Or, to be blunt, writing crap at its best.

Any writing advice gladly welcomed on this subject otherwise I run the risk that ALL my heroes are going to smell of an identical citrus scent :-)

P.S. I don't have a problem with my heroine's scent, it's just my hero!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Weird and wonky

Work is progressing noisily on our renovation wreck (too noisy to deserve its writers' retreat label today). So far we've been told we have crazy electrics, weird plumbing and today the tiler announced we have wonky walls.
I have to keep dashing out to provide fresh tea when the swearing (theirs, not mine :-) gets too bad and as I type the tiler is laughing in a slightly hysterical way outside in the hallway.

It seems kind of symbolic of the weird wiring in my post head injury brain at the moment - I think everything's functioning okay and then something weird happens that throws me. V. annoying.
Anyway, I can't help wondering if it's affecting my writing too. Emails have to be checked several times before sending as often contain gobbledegook and I'm thinking this maybe explains my slow moving word counter. I have actually been working on Bridal Bet but have been going over everything I've written numerous times before moving on which is not how I normally write at all.

I'm interested to hear from anyone who's used speech to text software (as this will be easier on the bad eye and cut out some of the gobbledegook). I'm limited for choice because I use a Mac so I'm more interested in how it effects the writing process and how easy it is to adapt to a different way of working than a specific recommendation.

BTW sadly our plumber looks nothing like Mike from Desperate Housewives but it seemed a good excuse to post a nice photo :-)

Friday, 22 May 2009

A great story and nice work if you can get it

A recent news story got my attention, it starts off a little tawdry but then strays into almost Mills and Boon territory - A girl called Alina decided to auction off her virginity to pay for a university course. So far not remotely romantic but the story then takes a turn as her winning bidder, a wealthy Italian business man, whisks her off to a luxury hotel in Venice and Alina takes a shine to him. "I hope to see the man again" she says "And next time I won't make him pay!"
Unfortunately I can't foresee any circumstances that would make the selling sex thing an appropriate plot for M&B, not even raising money to pay for a relative's kidney, but if you want to read the full story you can find it here.


Jo commented on my Unlikely Heroes post that she wouldn't mind the job of choosing men to model for covers. I really didn't think that such a job existed so when I found out it did I knew I had to share - Powerhouse Casting Offices in Torronto were recently casting for authentic heroes for Harlequin covers. The request was for "real firefighters, police officers and paramedics who are good looking and between the ages of twenty five and forty eight". Apparently since 9/11 there has been a "a huge reader response for men in uniform - men in control, taking charge. You know, the safety factor."
The promising were asked to take off their shirts. Not sure who made up the judges panel but definitely nice work if you can get it!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Aargh

Does anyone else feel like me about this writing lark - that you just think you've cracked an area you were struggling with when something else pops up that you'd never even thought about?

A message from the M&B editorial staff on the How to Write a Modern Romance thread of the Mills and Boon Community (link on my list for those of you who've not found your way there yet) has given me a bit of an 'aargh' moment:
"conflicts can become cliches if they are used to create a character. For this reason it helps to start by seeing the characters clearly in your mind as they exist in the present - not by seeing their conflicts first. Once they are real to you, you are free to wonder (in the way we often do with new people) - how did they become the person that they are? In fiction, as in real life, the answer to that question is never simple!"

I'd been feeling quite pleased with myself that I'd finally started thinking about my internal conflicts before my external setup but I can see how easily I could end up making my characters about their conflict and nothing else.

Hmm, so much to think about. Wish I could accelerate the learning curve and get there more quickly, need a turbo-charged literary skateboard. Failing that I'll have to stick to trawling blogs, forums and writing sites and learn the hard way...


Friday, 15 May 2009

Couldn't resist


Wasn't planning on blogging today but HAD to share this link with you. 
Click here to choose the rugby players you want to see swapping shirts (you have to click on launch site). 
For some reason I'm thinking that Jo might appreciate this one :-)

 

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Any questions?

For those of you who've been following Trish Wylie's workshop on common romance writing mistakes and have noticed it's gone a bit quiet you might be interested to know that she plans to finish the workshop before the end of the month. 
Then there will be the opportunity to get some advice about writing pitches.
She's also going to be inviting some author friends to 'sit on the sofa with us and play host' so has asked what lines and topics people are interested in learning more about and if there are any authors we'd like to question.
I think this is a great opportunity and again am struck by the generosity of published romance writers with their time. If you've got any requests or just want to support the idea the thread to comment on is 'Forum Guests and Topics' in the 'Trish's Living Room section'.

If you're not already a member of her forum you can join by going to her blog (link is in my blog list) and registering via the link on the left hand column. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Unlikely heroes





Colin and Justin, a scottish couple well known in the UK for their interior design programmes, have been selected to pose for two harlequin covers. I'm wondering if it works better if you don't know their real life personas? For me the fact they're gay spoils the fantasy somewhat. All I can think of is them making catty remarks about people's artex :-)

Although I do have to admit that Colin looks quite fetching in his kilt.
BTW the only men I've seen wearing kilts locally (weddings and events excepted) are one old gentleman in his eighties who has a beard down to his knees and cycles round the village in his kilt and a waxwork dummy of Mohammed Al Fayed in full Highland dress at the Shin Falls visitor centre (he owns it and there is also a mini Harrods outlet there!).