Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas procrastination

I nicked this from Anna

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Egg nog, without a doubt but it has to be home made. It is not really sold in the UK, or adored in the same way. I am not sure why. Most punches seem to have vanished.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Wraps them, much to my disgruntlement. He did not wrap them when I was growing up...but when in England, one must bow to Father Christmas.
3Colored lights on tree/house or white? Both
.4. Do you hang mistletoe? It depends, but not usually.
5. When do you put your decorations up? Non tree 1 Dec. The fresh tree goes up 2nd Sunday of Advent.Fresh greenery such as holly from the garden a few days before Christmas
6. What is your favorite holiday dish? Fruit cake.
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: The tree on Christmas morning before anyone got there. All lovely and full of promise.
.8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? When I was about 9 and discovered reciepts for my sister's doll. My mother was upset because she knew that I liked believing.
My own explanation is that without Father Christmas many children would not get a present. It is the Spirit of Christmas working through others. It is not a lie, but a desire to give joy.
And my own children have not yet been able to answer how my eldest received the very late Christmas gift that he asked for, from Father Christmas and no adult or child went out of the house or purchased anything after he made his request.. Nobody could have known he wanted the Nutcracker, and yet there is was on Christmas morning.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes, a long standing tradition. My dh always opens the gift that my sister sends.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? With lots and lots of ornments collected over the years.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Adore it as long as I don't have to drive in it.
12. Can you ice skate? yes, I love ice skating but I don't do it as much as I once did.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Yes, my engagement ring.
14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Being with my family
15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Minced pie or fruit cake or stollen, but I am not fond of Christmas pudding.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Going to Mass on Christmas morning, singing Christmas carols.
17. What tops your tree? .A silver butterfly
18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? Giving.
19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?In the Bleak Mid-winter
20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Yum. I adore them. I also like the story of why they are striped. But mostly I just like peppermint.

I nominate Kate Hardy and Donna Alward. If they can take the time....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Basically busy

There is one thing that is very true in writing, no matter how stressed you think you are with your deadline, there is ALWAYS someone else with a tighter deadline, or whose deadline has just passed. And there is never any point in comparing but because the levels of stress can be very different.

Sometimes, you can be forgiven for thinking that is a game of you think your childhood was bad....

Everyone reacts to deadlines in different ways AND each deadline is different.

This time my deadline appeared to loom larger than ever but I went back and checked, and I am in about the same place I normally am for when I have to finish the book, possibly even having the same sorts of deadline thoughts. And I suspect my lovely editor is very wise to this as well as she has told me that she has definately cleared space on her desk for when it is supposed to arrive!

I simply have to write it and I am having fun doing so. I can see the end, and have about a hundred pages to write...and then there is the editing...but editting is the fun part.

Yesterday I went to the RNA Northumberland Christmas meeting. There I won a jar of rubber bands. At the moment, they are sitting on my desk as I twist them into a rubber ball. It is quite fun to do and the ball is growing. However, it does not get my wip written.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. For a number of reason, we have our big meal on Saturday as it is not an official holiday over here in the UK.

I like to think about my blessings So here are five things I am thankful for this year.

1. My family and the way my children are growing up.

2. My friends and the support they have offered me over the past year.

3. My writing. I am so glad to be writing stories I love and having them published. It is a dream come true.

4. My readers -- I am really pleased when I hear that one of my books has touched somene's life or simply that a reader enjoyed it enough to want to read something else of mine.

5. Where I live. I know I am bless to live a truly beautiful area with green rolling hills and biog biblical skies. If you want to see what the skies look like around here, look at the Victorian painter, JohnMartin. The skies he paints are Haydon Bridge skies. Every morning when I come back from taking my youngest to school, I see it spread out below me and think how lucky I am.

I do know that I am truly blessed, and I have many many things to be thankful for.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthful Thanksgiving and many many blessing over the coming year.

And in case anyone is wondering, my children put on the modern Christmas carols this morning. I always play Christmas carols on Thanksgiving to mark the day. But this year I have been playing the collections of traditional carols to get me in the mood for writing NCC. My children are not too fond of them. Thus we had Polar Express music put on with great glee this morning...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Days slipping past.

In many ways, November seems to have lasted a very long time, and in others, the days have just flowed.

It is hard to believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Many probably vastly superior people have finished their Christmas shopping. My dh is in the midst of his. Me? I have barely begun.
I have several piles of presents that should have been sent three weeks ago. I know where my stack of Christmas cards are, but will have to get more. I was very organised last year because of my eyes, but this year,I appear to have reverted to type. Mainly I just wnat to get my wip done and completed. It seems to be going slowly, but I don't think it is. It is just well...I don't know...

I do think I will get it done. My cps crack pretty good whips! But I am at a stage of wanting it done now! Actually I don't as I am in love with my hero. I just want to be further along. I keep thinking that I should be writing faster, but around 2 k per day seems to be my limit -- except at the end.

Anyway, I do know when the last airmail date is, and the internet is great for long distnace shopping.... and now my wip is calling.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

True Character v characterization

As I said before, there is a difference between true character and characterization. True character answers the WHY about characterization. It gives dimension.

It is very possible to create a character --say Jim and give him lots of traits -- he has jet black hair, blue eyes, tall, broad shouldered, drives a Porsche, wears expensive suits, takes his holidays in mountian resorts, and went to a private school. He has two sisters and runs his own company. But in fact this tells you very little about Jim as a person. The why behind the man. In fact, he is very likely to seem wooden.
True character is only revealed when a character faces hard choices. When the author understand the reasoning behind those choices. This then allows the author to make sure the character acts true to type in new and unfamiliar situations. How will the character react to pressure for example. Why will this character fall for the heroine? Where will the conflicts be in their world view? How will they need to change?

For example did Jim acquire these material goods on his own or because his family has always had them? Why did he buy the Porsche? For the speed? For its reliablity? Why does he choose the mountains for a holiday? Does he like the adventure or is it a place that he and his family have gone since time immemorial? If he is a CEO, is it a company that he has fashioned himself or is it one that belonged to his family? One that he has rescued from the brink?

When Jim dates, how does he date? Does he go for fun? For culture? Not date at all? What are his favourite leisure activities?

There is no right or wrong way to do this as the author needs both the characterizartions AND the insight to true character. It is sort of a what came first the chicken or the egg?

One way to help in determining true character is to pay attention to personality theory. for example, you can use either Myer-Briggs or enneagrams. But it is more an either or situation rather than being able to combine the two. The underlying philosophies are very different. Blank slate v inborn traits. Growth arcs v. skill sets

The two books are Please Understand Me ll by David Keirsey for Myer-Briggs and The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Riso and Hudson. Both have valid points. It very much depends on how your mind works. And both can provide the answers to why and how would a person with an underlying character trait react in a certain situation, thus making your character seem more believable.

Myer-Briggs is very much of the opinion that opposites attract. People need other types of people to be whole, and conflicts will arise. It is interesting that it is based on Artistole's four humours and that authors have used this type of personality typing for generations. Keirsey calls them -- Artisans, Guardians, Idealists and Rationalists. The artisans and guardians are much prevalent in society unless you live in the Silicon Valley in which case rationals tend to abound.

If Jim is an Artisan, he will have bought his Porsche for an entirely different reason than if he is Guardian or say rationalist. As Jim owns a company, it is unlikely that Jim will be an idealist and still be an Alpha male. Idealist leadership style is much more subtle. Idealist leaders tend to be catalysts for change, rather than effecting change themselves. They also tend to be brilliant individualists such a writer or a consultant, a mentor type. Thus because Jim owns a successful company, he is probably on balance not an idealist type ( or otherwise there has to be a pretty good explaination WHY he has this company. And if he is an idealist, it will be people oriented. Idealist are a v small percentage of population btw.
So if we stick with the three types:
Jim either bought it for the adventure, the speed, (artisan type) or for
the status, and the security that a Porsche brings (guardian type) or
because he is fascinated by the way it performs, its system., its engineering (rational type). Same car, different reasons. And I would argue it is the reasons that are important rather than the actual car. The WHY.

Next think why does Jim go to the mountains
1. for the adventure (artisan)
2. because he has a large ranch there and it has been in his family for generations (guardian), a place where all his whims can be catered for?
or 3. because, he is interested in nature, the flora and fauna of the area (rationalist)

Next think about the company
1. is it one he founded himself, maybe a leading edge company? (artisan)
2. one he rescued and brought back from the brink of ruin?(guardian)
3. an engineering company that invented something the world can not do without? (rationalist)

Is he
1. a bad boy? fun loving or a craftsman? A preformer?
2. a rock steady type? banker?
3. an enginner/geek?

As I go through this process, I can see if the reason are starting to point me towards a specific type or if Jim is all over the place. An all over the place character is less likely to act convincing in a novel than one which derives most of his characteristics from one of the four main groups. Then I can start to know how he will react in other situations, what his strength and weaknesses will be.

I would go so far as to say that the writer who neglects peronality traits (however they develop them) runs the very great risk of creating wooden or incomprehensible characters. But that is just my own opinion.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

McKee's Story

I am interrupting my bit on Myer-Briggs to speak about Robert McKee's Story. Ally Blake confessed on The PHS to not understanding it and the bit she posted showed that she did indeed have problems.
Personally I love and adore the book. I am very glad my editor recommended it to me. I think it is better than Donald Maass's Writing the Break out Novel and is absolutely crammed full of techniques.
But it is not an easy read, and it is not a *How to* book in the sense of follow the bouncing ball. It is a course in form so that the writer can go back apply the techniques when something is not working. It is not about giving formulas. It is a book I am constantly dipping in and out of. It is a book that provides insight to the careful reader. But it does take some getting to grips with -- a university or even post-grad level course rather than a high school level. Maass covers much of the same ground btw.

He most emphatically does not recommend the three act structure as some fondly imagine. Instead he says a story is a series of acts that build to a last act climax or story climax which brings about absolute and irreversible change. One technique he suggests for a sagging middle where there are few subplots is to add more acts. The climax of each act needs to be greater than previous one, building to that last critical moment. And if you put in too many climatic scenes, the reader can have overload. If there is not progression, the reader loses interest and throws the book against the wall.

Act is simply a term for a series of related scenes. Each scene should contain an event or change, and a scene is built from a series of beats. Beats are made up of actions and reactions from various characters.

He believes in essence all stories boil down to one simple tale -- The Quest. Basically the progtagonist's life is thrown out of balance, making im have a conscious or unconscious desire to restore that balance and harmony to his life. The protagonist goes on a quest to achieve his Object of Desire is pitted against various forces until he achieves the desire or does not achieve it, depending on the type of outcome the story teller wants.
In Romance -- the ending is upbeat and the protagonist eventually achieves a HEA.

The best thing about McKee is that he isn ot providing a formula, but rather giving forms. In other words, the writer reads the book, absorbs it, writes his story and when the Crows of Doubt are circling has powerful tools in her toolbox to actually scare them away. His scene analysis should NOT be used to create scenes but to FIX scenes that feel flat. It is about understanding the building blocks, so that you can create, rather than slavishly following some prescribed formula. Form not formula.

One of the more interesting discussions he has is on character. True character v characterization. Characterization is things like hair color, mode of transport, clothing, etc. True character is what emerges when the protagonist is put under pressure. What choices does he/she make and why? What risks is s/he willing to take? How much is s/he willing to risk and why? Which brings me neatly back to Myer-Briggs as Myer-Briggs is all about true character rather than characterization.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Myer-Briggs v enneagrams

Before I begin discussing my new obession --Myer-Briggs personality traits. Perhaps I had better explain the difference in the two theories.

Enneagrams are based on a Freudian/Pavlovian theory of personality -- mainly what happens in your childhood directly effects the type of person you become. People's character is ultimately shaped by experience. people are driven by a main motivation.

Myer-Briggs takes its founding tenets from Jung and the four humours of Aristole. People have certain inbred traits and these shape the choices they make. Just as an acorn contains everything to make an oak tree and not a rose bush, so to does a baby contain all its personality traits and your world view.The vast majority of character is present from birth. people are driven by a variety of motivations.

Ennegrams allow for specific character growth arcs. What do people need to learn and how are they going to grow?

Myer Briggs allow for certain reactions, and does allow people to learn, but says that peole are more likely to approach things from a specific POV. Myer-Brigg says a lot about different styles, and why people need/are looking for different things out of relationships.

But both approaches deal with character rather than characterization. In otherwords, how do people react when they are under pressure? What choices do they make and WHY? Both approaches go some way towards answering the why.

Anyway, I shall look at Myer-Briggs in greater depth. I think there is a lot tobe learnt. Anyway I am very interested in the human psyche. It is the exploration of character.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

And the winner is....

Amanda rebelsparky_nirvana has won the signed hardback copy of A Noble Captive.

The answers were Marcus Livius Tullio and Helena.

Many thanks to all who entered.

I shall be doing another contest to celebrate the publiscation A Noble Captive in the UK paperback, and Gladiator's Honour in German in the New Year.

In the mean time, I have heard my next US release will be The Roman's Virgin Mistress in July 07. They will then go back later and publish A Noble Captive and Sold and Seduced in the US, but both my editor and the senior editor really love TRVM and wanted it out there as quickly as possible. I have seen the preliminary artwork and it is very good!

Anne McAllister has got me interested in Myers-Briggs personality traits, so I shall be sharing some of my new obession with you shortly. Suffice it say that annoyingly, the description of my personality was bang up to the mark. I also want to do something on raising stakes -- both personal and private within a ms, and please remind me if I forget..

In writing I have started to go back and do some editing. The major upshot is that I further along than I thought I was. Layering layering layering, but it will be far stronger when I have finished. And my editor is happy with the present state of the partial...

And my parcel from M&B reader service arrived. I am using as a huge carrot as my TBR pile has just increased. The big treat was to see my friend's Fiona Harper's new book The Blind Date Marriage.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Five more things you didn't know about me

As Margaret Moore and Victoria Bylin have both tagged me. I will do five more things you didn't know about me, and this time, I will try to put it in a historical context.

1. I used to belong to the Richard lll Society. A phase during high school, but I still know about a bit about the period.

2. The first house my dh and I bought was late Georgian terrace house -- Grade 2 listed with many of the original features.

3. My current house is an Edwardian bungalow built in 1908 by the local bank manager. It is very quirky and some thought haunted.

4. We have found various artifacts in the garden -- from old bottles, pottery to clay pipes. Mostly found on the banks of the stream. I know vaguely how to date bottles by the way they are manufactured.

5. Part of my interest in cooking stems from when the AGA was coal fired, and I had to learn to control the heat.

I nominate Michelle Willingham and Denise Lynn. And if you have done it before, why not think about it in conenection to history?

Monday, November 13, 2006

A blustery day and admin tasks

Today is one of those that it is good to be indoors. The wond is whipping around, sending the leaves flying. this means once the wind stops, I shall be out there picking up leaves.
My eldest is quite disappointed. He had thought to miss the annual leaf fall, but it waited for him!

I was very cheered to read the Book Standard article about how well romance, inparticular M&B is doing. There is a lvoely quote from Kate Walker in the piece. Iti s a reprint from The Bookseller. Kate Allan highlighted it on her new blog -- Marketing for Authors 2.0.

tis the season to enter contests for published authros. I have been busy entering contests. Several RWA chapters run contests for published books. The main criteria for entry is the prize and whether or not I can pay by Paypal or some other form of online payment. As well as who is judging the contest. For example, I am far more likely to enter a contest which has booksellers and librarians as judges or has some sort of free advertising as the top prize. The best place to find contest info is on the back pages of the RWR.
The top contest of course is the RITA, and I have entered that one. You do need to be careful when entering contests to read the rules. Some contests specify a general copyright date,while others want the first North American printing date or the US copyright date. The Rita currently has the general copyright date. I know that GH has arrived and am awaiting confirmation that A Noble Captive has arrived. A Noble Captive, although it will not appear in paperback until 2007, appeared in hardback in 2006. Luckily Liz Fielding alerted me to the potential for this sort of problem awhile ago.
Anyway, I have done that part of my admin tasks and need to get back to my wip.

One of the things I look at when I write is -- are the public and private stakes high enough? What is going to happen to these people, in particular the heroine, if she does not succeed. If life will simply go on as normal, then the stakes are not high enough and I need to up them dramatically. Similarly what is going to happen to the hero if he fails? How can they fail? That sort of thing.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

Today is the anniversary of the end of World War One. A war to end all wars, a war of untold suffering, acts of immense heroism and a war that changed the shape of the world. In the UK, it is referred to as Poppy Day. Tomorrow up and down Great Britain wreaths will be laid at war memorials in an act of remembrance.
These soldiers sacrificed their lives so we might enjoy the freedoms and lifestyles that we do today. They gave their tomorrow so we can have today.
I know I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Colour me clueless

Now I enjoy reading Isabel Swift's blog. I have done ever since I first discovered on e-harlequin when she first started. I read her blog on iBoAS and did not think anything of it. Another Mira author that I would haveto remember to check out at some point. New book out, that sort of thing.
I had not realised it was a v classy response to an indiscrete interview. This I discovered when I read MJ Rose's marketing blog -- a blog well worth reading for its advice on marketing.

Personally I do not agree with what Anne Stuart did. It is never ever good business to rubbish your publishers -- past or present. Isabel's post shows why I hold her in such high esteem. Anyway, Anne Stuart made the best seller list after 32 years in the business and making some highly dubious business decisions (and I believe made it BEFORE the interview condemning MIRA was posted)..
My big takeaway is NEVER EVER post something when you are angry or upset about things. You never know what is around the corner.
Equally learn as much as you can about how publishing works. Initial print runs don't matter as much as sell-through and reprints. You want your book to have LEGS!

It does bother me though that some authors think selling books is not like selling chewing gum, corn flakes or other consumer products. The laws of marketing (like the forces of nature) stay the same whatever product you choose. Books are not like selling grain, computer chips, oil or other interchangeable commodities. There again, it is probably my econ background showing. I find numbers, sale-through ratios fascinating stuff. I like to know what makes a business tick.

PR and marketing is great fun. And as I have in no way, shape or form mastered it, a source of endless fascination. BUT I also have a wip to complete before Christmas and am at a rather exciting bit...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Taken by the Viking

I have a title and release date in the UK for my Viking -- Taken by the Viking. It is an October 07 release.

Thus at the moment, my release schedule looks like this:

Jan 07:
The Gladiator's Honour (in German!)
A Noble Captive UK paperback

Feb 07
Sold and Seduced UK hardback

April 07
Sold and Seduced UK paperback

May 07
The Roman's Virgin Mistress UK hardback

July 07
The Roman's Virgin Mistress UK paperback

August 07
Taken by the Viking UK hardback

October 07
Taken by the Viking UK paperback

Dec 07
Victorian Christmas one (tbc)

I don't know my North American dates but have reason to believe that the other 3 Romans will be 2nd half 07 releases -- possibly starting wth the Roman's Virgin Mistress. It is a TPTB decision and thankfully not mine!
And my schedule is not nearly as full as Kate Hardy's.
But it does offer plenty of scope for contests. I would remind everyone that the A Noble Captive hardback contest is still open until 15 Nov. I want the names of the hero and heroine of A Noble Captive and you must be a current subscriber of my newsletter.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Eldest Home from Russia etc

Late last night my eldest arrived home from two weeks intensive language training in Russia. His luggage was lost on the way home and is now awaited...

Thankfully he avoided being involved in any of the commotion in Red Square yesterday, although his bus did park by a group of former communists. My dh saw about the disturbance on tv but decided I shouldn't be worried and so said nothing until the eldest was safely home.

He had a good time, but said that the Russians were obessed with not having any free time, so eveything was programmed and planned. He was surpised by the extremes -- in Russia you are either v wealthy or v poor. There is really no middle class. The picture is one of the many onion domed monasteries he saw. He found the language training intense, but enjoyable. Amazingly he even joined in the folk dancing, but found a way to do the lighting during the final concert. And he does want to go back to Russia at some point. His Russian teacher there was a professor of English at Moscow University.

He returned home taller than when he left, and I was ever so glad to see him. According to him, he was never homesick. It is good to let them go but really great to have them return safe and sound.

In other news I have begun contributing the Tote Bags and blogs blog. It looks to be a fun site and Leena has lots of things planned. as well as a whole host of authors blogging about different things. Please do come and visit.

Last night, I went to the Hexham bonfire and fireworks display. Because waitrose (an upscale UK supermarket) has just opened, they provided the fireworks. It was one of the best, if not the best displays I have ever seen. The bonfire was fairly spectacular as well -- I am not quite sure what the effigy was supposed to be -- a Statue of liberty type lady perched on top of Roman temple. The burning started in the roof, and eventually the blaze burned brightly in the night sky. the entire thing took place on a hill overlooking the Abbey. Afterwards, we went back to some friends for supper.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ida Cook -- a real life M&B heroine.

In the 1930's, Ida Cook and her sister helped rescue many Jewish people from Nazi Germany by posing as eccentric opera fanatics. Their trips were financed in part by Ida's books for Mills and Boon. She wrote under the pen name Mary Burchill. Due to the risks she and her sister took, they were named Righteous Gentiles in 1965 by a grateful state of Isreal. Ida also served as a president of the RNA. You can read more about her here

It is rather thrilling in many ways to discover what other M&B authors have done. Because some many wrote under pen names, their other lives have oftenremained a mystery...

I am sure some have this imagine of romance authors being all like Barbara Cartland or perhaps some other frustrated old bat. The truth is v different. All M&B authors are interesting in some way, and I can't think of any who conform to the norm. I am certain that there are heroines in the pack like Ida Cook.

I want to celebrate the success of my cp Donna Alward for being offered her second contract with M&B. Her book Marriage at Circle M made me cry in an early draft stage and I understand that it has gotten even stronger. I am v much looking forward to it coming out.

5 little known facts about me

There is currently a People's collection post doing the rounds. I am quite happy to participate but wonder where the Poeple's collection point is.

PLEASE LEAVE THE FOLLOWING IN ALL ‘PEOPLE COLLECTION’ POSTS:Remember that it isn’t always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for, it can just as easily be something that you take for granted like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it :-)"

Liz Fenwick tagged me so here goes -- five little known facts.

1. I keep beehives, and have expereinced lots of different problems with them. You name it, it has probably happened to me with the bees.

2. In high school, I used to work in the gift wrapping department of I Magnins, Standford Shopping Center, where I met ShirleyTemple Black, Willie Mays (a big baseball star in the 1970s) and other assorted people. I also learnt to giftwrap very quickly.

3. I was the editor of my high school newspaper and for a time, the managing editor of my college's weekly paper.

4. My teenage summers were often spent at Girl Scout camp where I obtained a number of certifications including First Aid, CPR and Lifesaving. All of which I have let lapse. I also know a number of camp songs mostly v silly.

5. At university I played rugby. We normally lost games but won the *third half*. The ability to sing silly songs (see above) should not be underestimated.

I tag Anna Lucia and Donna Alward.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Newsletter and contest

I have sent my first newsletter. A rather nerve-wracking experience! I do hope people like it. I have already spot at least one typo. But there again my blog is littered with typos.

I am also running my first contest.

Contest To win a signed hardback copy of A Noble Captive, please email me with the answer to the following question: What are the hero's and heroine's names in A Noble Captive? I will be drawing the winner on 15 Nov. You must be a current newsletter subscriber to win.