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


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!). 

Monday, 11 May 2009

A heroic profession

My hero in my NWS ms was a politician. The NWS report suggested that this choice might cause problems, not necessarily, but it would make the story a bit of a hard sell to an editor. She said that because of public perceptions about politicians I would have to make Daniel extra heroic and enhance the qualities that showed he was different.
Her points backed up the comments Sharon Kendrick made at her Women In Publishing Talk - the professions you choose for your hero and heroine do matter. Yes, you can buck the trends but you're going to have a hard job selling the idea to your editor and is this really a risk you want to take if you're not yet published?
I can see I went about my approach a bit wrong. You see I thought I'd like to write a Marriage of Convenience and then tried to think of a real life, modern situation where this might actually happen. Politicians are certainly alpha but rarely considered sympathetic so I already had an uphill struggle on my hands.
I was reminded of this again this morning by a post from Kate Walker about what your alpha hero does for a living. It was interesting to note Jenny Hutton's advice about heroes for the Modern Heat series on the the new M&B community thread, perhaps this marks a slight departure for the MH series from the traditional Modern - that success without wealth is enough for a MH hero?

Are there any professions that instantly put you off? Or would pre-dispose you to like the character in question?

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Pitching terror!

One of my main reasons for wanting to go to the RNA's summer conference is the opportunity to pitch to a M&B editor. But recently I've started having early symptoms of pitching terror. It's only starting with a vague sense of unease that my one chance of making an impression could be a total and utter disaster but it promises to steadily progress to severe stage fright/full-on panic attack proportions.
You see I could write a pitch, no problem, but thinking about saying it makes my mind go blank.
I might have found a hope of a cure though - Laurie Campbell has written a really useful pitching guide which I plan to study and cling to like a life saver ;-)
Any advice from anyone who's pitched before? How did you survive and how useful was the experience?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

It's research, honest ;-)

Have been grumpily researching heating this morning (has been a fresh fall of snow on the hills so I'm currently Aga hugging) and have deviated into much more interesting research - pictures of my latest alpha crush, Patrick Jane (played by Simon Baker) in 'The Mentalist'. 
I was initially put off by the title but was glad I watched this latest US import. Patrick Jane is a perfect alpha IMO - he's always in control, a touch arrogant (but gets away with it) yet has an emotionally tortured past (aww). He's also very generous, a good guy but one who operates by his own rules, genuinely not caring what other people think. 
And so much more interesting than central heating too - really, he has it all ;-)