Thursday, 30 April 2009

Tattoo Barbie and the Zombies

Don't worry, this isn't the title of my latest WIP (CPs breathe sigh of relief at this point ;-) but after waking up at 4am (it's light here already at that time, can you believe?) and feeling a bit fed up I looked to see what news stories Google Alerts had sent me today. 
One that made me smile was the news that Barbie has got herself a 'Ken' tattoo. Now you'd never catch Sindy doing something like that (Yes, I was a Sindy girl :-)

The surprise interesting article was in Management Today (trust me here!) - If you can ignore the patronising bias there are some really interesting updated facts. You know the three second line? Well now it's one M&B book sold every one and a half seconds. 
There are also some great quotes from MD Guy Hallowes about the direction M&B is taking. Including - "We don't disguise the fact that we want more younger readers" says Hallowes. "Our heavy buyers tend to be older. But we do have young mums, the people who read Grazia and OK."
Um, I'm saying nothing about that quote but you know what I'm thinking, right? I may have emitted a slight squawk at that point...
There are also some interesting snippets from Tessa Shapcott and overall I'd say it's the most informative press article I've seen about M&B recently.

Hmm, actually I'm thinking that "Tattoo Barbie and the Zombies" would make a great title for a satirical novel I thought about writing after extreme sickness and boredom lead me to watch the entire series of 'Paris Hitlon's British Best friend'...

Sunday, 26 April 2009


I've done very little writing recently, even by post accident standards. But I have been thinking a lot. I've been questioning my current WIP and trying to see the potential flaws that might mean I'm investing a huge chunk of time and effort in a story that will end up my recycle bin.

I know, I know - no writing is wasted but still, if I can get it right I jolly well want to. I'm just not sure at what point useful thinking becomes a paralyzing kind of over-thinking. Or even an excuse for not writing. Everything in my NWS report was extremely helpful (and valid) but I think I need to mentally put it aside for the moment and just write - the analysis and edit can come later.

Does anyone remember writing for fun? I think I need to recapture that again...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Hills on fire

No, not some weird english expression but literally meant! We were driving back from Inverness last night and I commented on the vivid sunset. I believe I said "It looks just like the hills are on fire". A few minutes later and we realised that this was because they actually were on fire - the entire skyline was glowing orange. My consternation was slightly increased on realising that our house was somewhere in that orange bit.
Thankfully the fire had stopped at the hill just in front of our house but I couldn't sleep until I was sure it wasn't going to get any closer (husband typically fell fast asleep). And doubly thankfully the houses here are so sparsely scattered that the fire brigade managed to protect the few houses in the fire's path.
It's very odd to see a black hill out of my kitchen window this morning. I'm intrigued to know how it started, after all the Highlands are not exactly Australia...

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Update on Alphas

For anyone wanting to read more about alpha males there seems to be a lot out there at the moment.
Kate Walker is running a question and answer session on the subject (Tuesday 14th' post, in case the link just takes you to her latest entry).

Also Jenny Hutton has posted more advice on the How to write for Modern Romance thread on the new M&B community. There is a hero checklist for the various series and also several members of the Modern Heat team have popped up to answer questions.

Why is when I have the opportunity to ask a sensible question I can't think of one...

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Alpha heroes

I had thought that I'd created an alpha hero in Daniel - he was confident, arrogant, he knew what he wanted and he went after it... However the NWS report commented that he was not particularly alpha. 

Why not?  "Alpha heroes are proactive, demanding and dominant and while Laura says that Daniel is strong and dominant, in fact a lot of the time Daniel is not. He rarely takes the initiative in their relationship and often avoids confrontation".
At one stage I have him taking a step back and waiting for Laura to come round and stop shutting him out which is not an alpha response to a problem.

After reading the report I was really interested to read Jenny Hutton's comments about alpha men on the new Mills and Boon community. It would seem that 'not alpha enough' is a common complaint.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Even more on conflict!

The reader of my NWS Report believes that "conflict is the hardest nut for a writer to crack" and surprise surprise, conflict was one of the main problems with 'Wanted - An Unconventional Wife'.
My heroine Laura did have a good strong, internal conflict (a bad past relationship with an alpha male that left her with a pathological fear of being controlled) but my hero's conflict was not deep enough or emotional enough to make him sympathetic. 
He was frankly, a bit of a git. Which would have been fine, but only if he'd had a good enough motivation for being a git.
There were some glimpses of deeper, more emotional motivations (fear of failure and bad role model for relationships set by his parents) but I didn't go deep enough.

I suppose I wanted to keep things a little lighter (thinking it was more Modern Heat) and was worried that Laura's conflict was a little heavy but I know now the emotion has to be there for both the hero and heroine for the reader to care about them. I think my two newest heroes have deeper conflicts and (I hope!) better motivations so I'm hoping I've learnt to up the emotional ante...

Also "In every single scene your characters have to be either establishing the conflict between them, confronting it or resolving it." Unfortunately my H & h were still arguing about the same stuff on page 100 as at the beginning so there wasn't a satisfactory evolution of the relationship.
I'd hoped I could just write a flowing story where the conflicts became gradually resolved (after a big Black Moment) but it would seem that every scene must count. So I need to think a bit more carefully before writing a scene about what I'm trying to achieve with it. Having a nice piece of dialogue in my head is not sufficient...

On another subject there was something in the Telegraph about the Mills and Boon UK website launching an online community today. I'm a little confused as surely this will just be duplicating the eharlequin site? I can't see anything about it online anyway but if anyone knows more please let me know.

There is also another news item about recession busting romance novels which is encouraging :-)

Thursday, 2 April 2009

New Writers' Scheme Report

I've finally got that feedback I've been desperate for :-) 

The Reader does say some really nice things (and the words 'dim and muddled' did not appear!!!) that have really encouraged me and her comments about the problems with the story are gold dust. In fact so much of it is really useful that I'm going to do a couple more posts about the points she raises, both to consolidate them in my own mind and for anyone else who might be interested.

But before I think about the problems I'm going to enjoy the nice comments -

"I enjoyed reading your story a great deal. You have a fluid, easy to read writing style, a fantastic grasp of dialogue and a fabulous 'voice' which is fresh, sharply witty and very distinctive. Your voice is the one fundamental thing about your writing that can not be learned and is hard to change, so having one that is going to catch an editor or agent's eye (and I believe yours will) is worth its weight in gold. I loved your opening which I found hooky and instantly engaging. I also liked your heroine's sassiness and felt she had a strong internal conflict and while your hero was a bit more problematic I did enjoy his sense of humour, too"

After this did follow twelve pages of things that need work (gulp) but all extremely valid and very useful points that I can apply to my newer WIPs...

At the end my Reader says "I've put a lot of time and effort into this report because I think you as a writer have a great deal of potential and talent. Everything else, frankly, is just nuts and bolts"


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Limboland and Tartan Sheep

I'm feeling a bit in limbo as I wait for my New Writers' Scheme report. It feels a bit like waiting for an exam result or a school report. I'm really hoping there will be some nice stuff in it to encourage me as well as some helpful pointers about things I might be blind to...

That is if I ever get it back. I have never, ever arranged a postal redirection and it go smoothly. This time I rang up Royal Mail and cancelled the redirection in place to the PIL's. Then I received a letter saying they had extended it for a year and wanted lots of money please! One phone call, some sarcasm (mine), an apology (theirs) later and I was reassured it was sorted out. Except all the post this week so far has gone to the PIL's house. Grr.

So while I'm in limbo here are some tartan sheep to look at - one of the best of today's April fools jokes :-)