Saturday, 28 February 2009

Introducing a heroine

Sorry, today's picture doesn't compare to yesterday's but I'm a serious writer you know - it's not all ogling nice men in the name of research ;-)

This is Sophie Fletcher, my heroine for 'The Billionaire's Bridal Bet'. She's fled to the south of France, a place that holds happy memories for her, to lick her wounds. Her seemingly charming ex turned out to be a liar who fleeced her of her savings, leaving her with a bankrupt business and serious trust issues.

She's taken a job on the Cote D'Azur where she meets fellow employee, Luke (aka our undercover billionaire). Soon it's not just temperatures on the beach that are sizzling (LOL) and she finds herself having to rethink her decision to have a break from men. 

The idea is that the conflict should build naturally as Luke and Sophie become close - his need to deceive to achieve his objective (be loved for himself and not defined by his money) should clash nicely with her need to trust the man she loves.

One huge Black Moment followed by some character growth and I'll have my HEA. All I've got to do next is write the thing (and also complete my languishing 'Maverick Millionaire'). 

Is it advisable to write two stories at the same time? I want to write them both and I think I'm a bit tired of 'rules'. I want to write for fun for a bit and I think it might be good for me :-)

Friday, 27 February 2009

Introducing a hero

This is Luke Davenport. Okay I know he looks like Michael Weatherly (Obsessed? Moi?) but no, his name is Luke and he's the hero in one of my new WIPs - 'The Billionaire's Bridal Bet'!

Luke is tired of being defined by money. His latest girlfriend turned out to be a serial gold digger so when he's bet by a friend that he wouldn't be quite so irresistible to women if they believed him to be poor, he takes up the wager.

On the surface it's just a joke but secretly he longs to find someone who loves him for himself (you can throw up or say 'ahh' at this point, depending on your preference ;-)

I'll introduce his love interest in another post.

I can't currently decide on the source of his wealth - he was originally an international property billionaire but I'm not sure about this given the current climate. I want him to own the hotel my heroine is going to be working in (I'm trying out my first 'Cinderella' theme) so if anyone has any bright ideas let me know :-)

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Getting Opinions

I don't know if any of you have been following Trish Wylie's free online workshop (link on left hand side of her blog) - The 38 Most Common Romance Writing Mistakes - but I've been finding it extremely useful. Lesson 30 is all about other people's opinions of your writing and when it's helpful and when it's not.
I can see it getting confusing if people give conflicting feedback but personally speaking I've only had positive experiences of getting advice from people (and I'm not just saying that because my lovely CPs read my blog, honest ;-)
I always miss things when reading my own work, definitely a wood and trees thing, and it works really well when you have two people saying 'But you haven't explained about...' Also if you're in a bit of a slump a CP wielding a stick (or scraping you off of the ground if needed) is invaluable.
Anyway, I went to my PIL's doctor this morning to get a second opinion (about the head injury, not the ms ;-) hoping it would be widely different from the first one. It didn't start well when she said 'I don't know anything about concussive syndrome, I'll have to look it up'.
I was hoping she'd say 'Oh yes, I have tons of experience in this field and you're going to be better a week next Tuesday' instead I got the same answer I got at the hospital 'Could be months, could be years!' and a vague 'I'm sure your eye's not damaged, it's just part of the concussive thing and will get better sometime.' She did give me some more drugs though.
Aargh. Patience is not my strong point. I'm frustrated beyond belief that I can't sit down and write for hours or if I do use 'good eye time' on the computer I then can't read anything. I'm trying to adapt - blogs are good as can be done in ten minute bursts, I've written some letters and fillers for magazines for the same reason and lastly it means I'm thinking more about my new stories before I write them (probably a good thing).
Any lessons to learn? Don't ask for someone's opinion unless you really want to hear the answer (Oh, and wear a hard hat at all times ;-)

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Going Home

I've been inspired by Suzanne's lists to do my own. My trip to the South has been longer than planned but I'll be running back to my little croft house in the Highlands soon :-)

Reasons why I'll be glad to get home:

1) Despite having lived for a large part of my life in London (or perhaps because of that!) I have strong hermit tendencies and am much happier where there are as few people as possible.

2) It will be nice to smile and say hello to the few people I do come across and them not think I'm a weirdo (forgot how grumpy the urban English can be).

3) I can forget to watch out for burglars, muggers, gangs and weirdos.

4) I can let my dogs run out the front door in the morning without worrying about cars.

5) I can take my dogs out at night wearing my dressing gown (I really get into my hermit thing with worrying ease).

6) Just being at home in my very own little house where I can step out and see the snow capped mountains and have the peace and space to write...

Reasons why I'm not looking forward to going home:

1) The fearsome Highland mice that are not remotely 'timorous beasties' will probably have trashed my entire house and possibly even eaten my furniture. I did leave the stereo on loudly in the kitchen to dissuade them, a fact my crofter neighbours seemed to think was hilarious. They've probably been throwing parties every night (the mice, not the crofters!)...

2) The temperature has been down to minus 15 while we've been away and it's possible that the underground pipes will have frozen and burst (no one there to hold a blow torch to the ground) and we will have no water.

3) I have to do something about the fact that we have need a floor, a few new walls, a proper bathroom and heating. 

4) I have to persuade the few tradesmen who cover our area and seem to be in high demand that yes, they do actually want to travel all the way out to our house. If necessary I shall have to promise jaffa cakes.

5) I'll be fending off phone calls from people checking that I'm really okay on my own (Husband away for work a lot). Perhaps I should keep the house without heating to deter would be visitors???

Hmm, given the choice between 'civilised' suburbia and freezing to death while at war with furry rodents I know which one I'd choose. Well I did say I was a hermit...

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Sick of ms v. sick ms

I am officially 'over' my editing of 'Wanted - an Unconventional Wife' and it's printed off and sitting in a envelope. It might get posted off to the RNA or then again it might not... It depends entirely on my mood.

Here is my problem - I am completely and utterly sick of it. I've done my fifth read through and implemented suggestions but every time I read I see things to change and I suspect this process might actually be endless! It's now not so much a story to me as a collection of 54,342 words (it grows each time I edit so I really have to stop before 55 k).

I'm sure there is more to improve but I find I don't actually care anymore so either the ms is sick, or I'm sick of it (or perhaps I'm just plain sick - still having head and eye problems from the injury which really doesn't help).

I discovered the joy of writing (a new story idea) rather than editing the other day and it was wonderful to 'just write' for a change. 

So the poor abandoned 'Unconventional Wife' might find itself on the way to the post office soon and hopefully by the time I get it back I'll be ready to read the report.

It would be useful to know from those of you who've submitted to the New Writers' Scheme before how you found the process. How long did it take to hear back, how much detail do they go into etc...

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Billionaires, Yachts and Heroes

I'm taking a break from my editing angst to share some pictures of my recent jaunt (ahem, I mean v. important business trip) to the Cotes D'Azur. I was struck by what a great location it would make for a Modern Heat story and while I was there planned my latest idea sitting on the beach at Cannes. Wonderful to remember what sunshine is after a bleak UK winter :-)
Sadly there were no celebrities to spot  out of film festival season but we did eat at a restaurant that Brad Pitt was supposed to have visited and walked on the red carpet at the festival centre.

We also got the train across to Monaco and ogled the monster yachts in the harbour there - it's not called the playground of the rich for nothing, some were four stories high and had not one but TWO large jacuzzis on deck. Thought about giving my hero a yacht but wondered if it was too show-offy. Then I remembered an article I read last year about a real life millionaire 'hero' who lives on a yacht but is actually very ethical and sound (not to mention good looking too ;-). He even has a hero name - Blake. You can read about him here if you're interested (purely for research purposes, of course !)

Before our flight home we had time for a quick visit to the casino at Monte Carlo, film location for a couple of the Bond films. I was again inspired by all sorts of possible 'heroine in distress rescued by hero' story-lines... But as I already have two new stories to write once the ms goes off to the RNA's New Writers' Scheme I shall put those on the back-burner for now.

If anyone wants some more inspiration I found this article - how to live like a billionaire.
Hope you've enjoyed your brief trip to fantasy land :-)

Monday, 16 February 2009

“We can’t get enough writers”

“We can’t get enough writers” is a direct quote from Mills & Boon’s Sales & Marketing Director, Claire Sommerville. This great news for the pre-published is bought to you from your intrepid reporter who traversed London and braved the scary world of publishing to find the holy grail that the Women in Publishing talk promised to deliver – “the secrets of the world of romance writing”.

 Okay, enough of the silly writing style. J Actually it was a little daunting to turn up and find that there were twelve editors, Claire Sommerville, Sharon Kendrick and um, me (gulp). Two SETs (Scary Editor Types) swooped and asked me who I worked for (meaning which publishing house). I ran through the various replies about my employment status in my head – ‘myself’ (sounds suspicious), ‘my husband’ (sounds like no one else would employ me) and opted for ‘I’mnotinpublishing I’mhereforthetalk.’ When it transpired that I was interested in the writing angle I was then asked “So what have you had published?” Eek.

Once the SETs had established that I was a nobody and unworthy of their networking time they left me alone and I managed to find a couple of FETs (Friendly Editor Types) instead. The FETs were not romance editors but had ‘always fancied having a bash at writing a M&B’.

 Claire Sommerville had lots of positive M&B facts – M&B’s sales were 25% up on the general fiction market in the last quarter; M&B is to be stocked in Waterstones soon, due to popular demand; M&B are expanding into more foreign markets. The ‘can’t get enough writers’ was a direct response to the question “Why on earth do you accept unsolicited manuscripts?” Basically they need more authors to keep up with demand, are desperate to find them and as a result have been running competitions (an in house one in the BBC as well as the ones we know about).

 Sharon Kendrick was extremely entertaining as a speaker. She basically ran through the various elements your M&B story should have – a great hero, the fantasy element, be character driven, emotional/internal conflict driven, preferably incorporate a popular theme (Cinderella, marriage of convenience, secret baby etc). She also included some interesting snippets about how certain nationalities and professions are NoNos for your hero and heroine (e.g. French heroes are apparently unpopular, even though the biggest market for translated M&Bs is actually France).

Her tip for how to write a successful M&B? “Write with integrity and convey the emotion the characters feel to give the reader a satisfying read.”

 I asked how they would define the difference between the Presents and Modern Heat line (I’ve listened to the editors' podcast but was interested in the marketing perspective) - Answer – Modern Heat is aimed at a younger audience and is more of a sexy chick lit read.

 Claire S summed up the appeal of M&B – “it creates and maintains hope”. Well the confirmation they are actively seeking new authors certainly gave me a little hope.

 (BTW - During the talk a mobile phone rang from my corner of the room, a SET glared at me for a minute before realising that the noise was actually coming from her handbag. Don’t you love it when that happens? ;-)

Monday, 9 February 2009

All in the name of research :-)

Okay, you're officially going to hate me - on Thursday I'm off to Cannes for a couple of days. The husband has to see a client and as my brownie point stock is high (see earlier head injury references!) I decided to cash some points in and I'm going too.  :-) 

The other piece of good news is that we are flying from London  as I have BA air-miles to use (accumulated in Tesco, believe it or not!) so I can fit in the Women in Publishing M&B talk the night before we fly. I will pass on any 'secrets of the world of romance novels writing' that the talk promises. 

On Saturday we're planning to see Monaco before we fly back. I'm hoping to soak up the locations for future Modern Heat stories although sadly all the Billionaire Playboys will either be skiing or on their private yachts in the Caribbean.

Oh and apparently because I'm doing research my costs will be tax deductible. I knew there were some advantages to marrying an accountant!

Sunday, 8 February 2009


I apologise for my exclamation mark habit but it's quite justified in this post title, I promise :-) 
The past two nights I've had my sleep broken by a prowler in the garden, rifling through sheds. I hasten to add that I'm not at home in my corner of the Highlands (where people still leave their houses and cars unlocked), but in the crime-ridden south of England, staying with my parents-in-law.

On both occasions my four legged burglar alarms scared off the intruders with their blood curdling growls (fortunately they sound big and ferocious even though they're not either). As it happens a neighbour had his house broken into and car stolen a bit further down the street, so I'm quite glad my furry intruder alarms are being hyper-vigilant. After two disturbed nights I'm shattered though and will be glad to get back home (even though I'm being spoiled with central heating here :-) 

You'd think thick snow on the ground would deter a would-be burglar - his foot prints are totally visible this morning. Now, my rudimentary reading of Enid Blyton tells me I just need to go out with my ruler and the mystery will be solved ;-)
Either the prowler(s) is/are very stupid or they know the police really aren't going to bother...

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Sexiest Thing on Two Legs!

The Romantic Novelists association has announced the results of its Valentine's poll.

RIchard Armitage has taken the title of 'Sexiest Thing on Two Legs'. I suspect the shirtless scene in his first episode of Spooks had a lot to do with this ;-). I like Alan Rickman but was surprised to find him on the list. Not too sure about David Tennant either. 

Where is Rupert Penry Jones? Michael Weatherly? 

Any other suggestions for who you think you should have made it on to the list?

Friday, 6 February 2009

Women in Publishing Writing Event

I've spotted this event coming up next week. It looks good and non-members can attend but I'm not sure I can get to London...

Women In Publishing Romance Writing Event Wed. 11 February 2009

Posted at 6:01PM Thursday 05 Feb 2009

Mills & Boon, the world's most recognised publisher of romantic fiction, just celebrated its centenary last year. Claire Sommerville, 2008 Women In Publishing Pandora Award Highly Commended Winner, will be sharing her challenges and successes as the Sales & Marketing Director of Mills & Boon.

Sharon Kendrick, a top-selling Mills & Boon author, will also join us to share the secrets of the world of romance novels writing.

Venue: University Women's Club in 2 Audley Square, London W1, Mayfair

Nearest tubes: Marble Arch, Green Park, Hyde Park

6.45 for 7pm start

Admission: members free, non-members £4.50 (payable on the door) no need to book in advance, all women welcome

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Feel Good Films

While tackling the ironing I watched what has become my favourite romcom - 'Music and Lyrics' with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant (not a usual Hugh Grant vehicle for those who would be put off by his presence!).
It never fails to make me feel good. The combination of really funny dialogue, the heroine being a wannabe writer and a happy ending all help!
Here are some memorable quotes from the film:

Sophie Fisher: That's wonderfully sensitive... especially from a man who wears such tight pants. 
Alex Fletcher: It forces all the blood to my heart. 

Alex Fletcher: You'll be fine, just use your normal, nice voice that I've heard... so much over the last three days.
Alex Fletcher: Just a little bit louder, because this song is intended for humans, okay? Way Back Into Love, take two

Couldn't help thinking about the film in terms of writing though (e.g. 'Ooh, good black moment', 'nice conflict'). Not sure if I'm obsessed or if this is a good sign that I'm thinking like a writer...

Any other feel good film suggestions anyone?

Perseverance or Obstinacy?

I'm having a bit of a 'what on earth am I doing and is there really any point?' day today. They do tend to come around at least once a month (funny that!) or more frequently if something pops up as a knock back on the writing front (in which case I wallow for a while and then decide to get over myself and get back on with it). 

Until it passes I've decided to take a step back from the ms I'm editing to send off the RNA's New Writers' Scheme In case my current mood leads me to press delete just a little too much (like the whole ms!)
Instead I shall get on with all the boring stuff I've been putting off and come back when I'm able to be a little more objective.

To perk myself up I typed 'Don't give up writing' into google and read some really nice articles. I've put the link to one below:

Jill Smolinski "Don't Give Up On Writing That Novel"

Right, now I'm off to do the ironing ;-)

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Where my life turns into a spoof...

My husband is working from home at the moment which, much as I love him, can be a little distracting. The repeated requests for cups of tea just when I'm in the middle of re-writing a crucial scene are not well received :-)

To cap it all he has managed to sprain his ankle so the requests to fetch things have quadrupled and are all incredibly urgent. I might be sounding really unsympathetic at the moment, if so please bear with me. If you haven't done so you might want to watch the 'Man flu' video on youtube (thanks Jackie for letting me know about this). It doesn't actually seem like a spoof if you read what happened following the sprain -

The 'accident' happened in a supermarket and an over zealous first aider persuaded the husband that he needed to get it checked out properly. The following exchange happened when we saw a male nurse in the local Minor Injuries Unit:

Husband - "So I need to rest it, be waited on hand and foot, brought cups of tea..."
Male Nurse - "Breakfast in bed for a couple of weeks, certainly."
Me - "I'm currently suffering from post concussive syndrome because my husband managed to hit me over the head with the car tailgate. He's never brought me breakfast in bed."
Male Nurse - "Well a sore ankle is a much more serious condition than a head injury."
Me to husband - "Do you remember when I ruptured the ligaments in my ankle?"
Husband looks blank.
Me again - "Or the time my elbow slipped out of its ligament and went back in but not quite properly?"
Male Nurse - "These injuries are always much worse when you're male..."

I promise this was a genuine encounter. Now does the youtube video seem like a spoof? 

(BTW   I actually thought the nurse was really funny and it was nice to find someone with a sense of humour working there...)

Monday, 2 February 2009

At the other end of the scale

In contrast to Jean Macleod's '£68' it's been reported that Girls Aloud singer, Cheryl Cole, is to get $7 million to write 4-5 romance novels. I love the quote that “She hadn’t previously thought of writing, but she’s come around to the idea.”

Off to bang my head on my desk (actually not a good idea given I'm recovering from a head injury but I'm sure you get the gist...)