Warm, Witty and Intimate Historical Romance.
The blog of a Harlequin Mills and Boon Historical Romance Author based in the North East of England -- her ups, downs and in betweens as she juggles life with her fiction.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Wicked The Musical
Sunday, April 29, 2007
The awards ceremony is wonderful, and some day when I am not up for a prize, I would like to go to soak in everything. The Savoy just is.
My daughter and I came down by train, and dumped our bags at Biddy's. There we changed and met up with Julie Cohen. Julie was dressed in a black top and orange skirt. Her shoes were wonderful. My daughter was quite envious.We took a cab to the Savoy and went to the front entrance. There is a certain something about swishing up to the front.
Then we went to where the lunch was being held. I missed several steps as I was looking at all the Gilbert and Sullivan memorablia. But thankfully did not ripped my skirt.
Then came the speeches. Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, the olympic gold medalist, gave a wonderfully inspiring speech. The awards were made, and as Nell sat there stunned, I forced her to stand up. She gave a fantastic speech. I was so proud for her.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Magic knickers and me
Tomorrow should be fun, but I am also nervous. It is a big event in the world of commerical publishing. There will be lots of people there. The Savoy is rather posh. Luckily there will be friends and friendship is priceless. So seeing all of them will make my day.
I have my own prediction of who will win (and it isn't me). Kate Walker is accepting predictions and I think giving away a prize.
On Friday evening I will be seeing Wicked The Musical! I am not thinking about the return train journey.
Thewip has been going v slowly for a number of reasons. Thankfully my editor is not starting to crack her whip, although my cp will be. My middle was muttering about taking away books and forcing me to write on the train because she wants to know what happens next...Iwould like this one to be really good, but we shall have to see. Sometimes the crows flock.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Sold and Seduced Review
Monday, April 23, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
Debra Dixon: Goal, Motivation Conflict
Is it worth it? Now, this is a hard question to answer. Dixon is certainly very good, and easy to follow. She made me think about my current wip. BUT most of what she is saying is not new. It is in most other books about writing. What is new is the way in which she presents the material.
I also wonder if many would be published authors get little bits of her work and read it as gospel. For example the bit about not having misunderstandings. Misunderstandings are fine, if you can see the motivation behind them. There are many reasons WHY people can not simply sit down and talk about things. Or if they tried to sit and talk, they would lie. Easily cleared up misunderstandings are not good, but misunderstandings that play to the heart of the internal conflicts are. Some people appear to go for the broad brush approach. The devil, however, I am pleased to say is in the detail. Dixon is describing what works for her. She does not say that it has to work for everyone. She talks a great deal about rules, but makes the point that understanding the motivation behind the rules is more important than the rules themselves.
Dixon makes the point about degrees of conflict. How heavy do you want to get in your motivation? If the conflict is too heavy, it can sink the story because the HEA is in doubt. One way around is to move out a degree. Dixon uses the example of heavy v light with a hero who wants a large family and a heroine who can't have children. A lighter conflict is a hero who wants a large family and a heroine is bringing up five boys on her own and wants her freedom from parenting. Depending on the sort of story, you may want to increase or decrease the level of conflict. But however you write it, the conflict should be clearly defined.
This book is not a beginner's book. I would call it more an intermediate book. It is best aimed at those writers who struggle with plot and structure. It is very good for those people who want to learn more about the WHY. There is much to like in the book and any book that makes me think is a good book. It addresses a very specific problem -- namely goal, motivation and conflict.
Will I use it? It is another tool in my toolkit for trying to create the best wip possible. What Dixon says is not new or revolutionary. But the way she says it, may appeal to some people. It is easy to understand. The examples are straight forward ( even if I don't agree with all of them). She uses film rather than books.
I would certainly not pay the crazy price on Amazon for it. Go directly to the publisher. If you like writing craft books, it probably worth reading, just to see what the fuss is about.
I had to laugh at the list of recommended books -- Linda Gooodman's Love Signs is there as a book that should be somewhere within your house. She also lists Vogler and Campbell. But I think the list incomplete and a bit facile. My list is somewhat different, but then that is fine. Different wirters work differently.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The Roman's Virgin Mistress -- cover
Barnes and Noble have the July covers up and so I have finally been able to see what the North American cover is going to look like. I love the strap line -- Seduction Under the Italian Sun.
I am really thrilled with it. I know my editor went and looked for images Baiae where the story takes place.
The blurb reads:
Silvana Junia knows what the gossips say about her – and doesn't care! Until a mysterious, dangerous stranger rescues her from the sea, and she's instantly drawn to him.
Lucius Aurelius Fortis is rich and respected. But his playboy past could come back to haunt him if he cannot resist his attraction to beautiful Silvana. And in the hot sun of Baiae their every move is watched…
Tempted beyond endurance, Silvana will become his mistress. But she has one last shocking secret…which will change everything between them!
Rome, 69 B.C.
Anyway, I am really thrilled with it all. It is a really special moment when an author gets to look at the cover of her book.
Now All I have to do is keep writing my current wip.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
The part on covers was very interesting as well. How a cover needs to create a mood. This is certainly true of Sold and Seduced and The Roman's Virgin Mistress. And the prototype of Taken by The Viking that I have seen. As Cheryl St John has already recieved her July cover and it is beautiful, I am hoping they will be putting the July covers up soon and then I can put the cover for TRVM up.
The programme is very much geared towards the literary end, but I know that much of what is said is true of HM&B. They do stick with authors. they want to grow authors.they believe in authors. They buy books because they like the authors. I loved how Orion stuck with Ian Rankin for seven years.
The programme takes about a half hour and I enjoyed it. I was also amused that they did not dare state the obvious -- the one publisher who REMAINS a brand -- Harlequin Mills and Boon. M&B readers still wait for the publication day of their favourite series. Something that Penguin readers gave up on awhile ago.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Sold and Seduced in the shops
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Sold and Seduced Contest winners
Each winner will received a signed paperback copy of Sold and Seduced and Kate Walker's The Antonakos Marriage, the book that gave me my seed or as Twyla Tharp would say -- the book I scratched my idea from.
Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone who entered. My next contest will be for a signed hardback copy of The Roman's Virgin Mistress and full details will be in my May newsletter.
Failure leads to success
It is the old Thomas Edison theory about finding 9,999 ways that a light bulb didn't work. In order to get to the 10kth time, he had to try the other ways first. As Tharp points out -- contrary to the assertion in Amadeus, Mozart work hard to perfect his musical skill. The striving towards perfection means you are going to fail. It is better that you make mistakes at the start so you can develop the skills later on. One of the worst failures in Tharp's opinion is denial. You know something is weak but you are hoping against hope that no one else notices. This is also where a good editor and good critique partners or as Tharp calls them the validation squad. I trust them with my crudest and clumsiest work and they reward me with honest criticism. I put a lot of faith in them and their eye. I trust their talent. I know they have hammered my work in the past and therefore no afraid to be critical and above they want what I want -- the strongest story possible. By working with them and learning also to examine my work critically,
Revision is the biggest test in the creative process. It is the admitting that something does not work as well as you hoped/feared and then putting it right. She has a great mantra -- first put right those things you know you can fix. It is also something that I believe.
Anyway, I hope to avoid the public humiliation of a total disaster. by going through the validation process and working with my editor and critique partners. From my point of view, it was lovely to see someone else provide a clear and concise reason why it works.
I am not a master Romance novelist yet. Perhaps I never will be. But I can strive towards making my work better. There is always something to work on. I also liked her idea about polishing skills being a clock face. You polish up one, and then go on to the next until you have come full circle and the first one needs polishing again. She spoke of how dancers spend time perfecting the basics, and how the best dancers are the ones who are constantly going back and relearning their basic moves.
Anne McAllister went on and on about this book, and now I am as well. It is excellent.
I shall be drawing the winners of the Sold and Seduced contest soon. I was very pleased at the response.
Friday, April 13, 2007
DCI Gene Hunt and women
Actually I am not surprised that women are enthralled with him. It is not his looks. It is his underlying core integrity, his loyalty to his team. He is the sort of man who despite his faults, you know will go into single handed combat with spiders, mice and other creepy crawlies. Through out the series, I was worried that some how the Life on Mars writer would add bits in that made Gene more grey. less attractive, but they didn't. Gene Hunt works because he has a code of honour. he also has a series of outrageous one liners. But when the chips are down, you count on him to do the right thing for his team. He is an alpha male hero, and why anyone should be surprised about women's reactions to him...It is the fantasy that is the perennial best seller in women's romance.
I do worry about the proposed new series Ashes to Ashes. He would be 12 years older. I don't want a shades of grey Gene Hunt. I don't want an older but wiser Gene Hunt. I don't want a ravaged by time Gene Hunt that might be more interesting to play. I want the black and white Gene Hunt, the scene stealing Gene Hunt, the unreconstructed male hero. And please, please, can his wife stay off screen? He is not the sort of man domesticity comes easy to. A bit like Sharpe.
Why do so many men assume women go for looks? Personality, codes of honour, doing the right thing can mean a lot. Give me a man of honour any time over a pretty boy snake.
The new wip goes slowly, but with my hero sorted. Things are starting to flow. I want my current hero to be even more dangerous. The sort of man who says -- this far and no further. But now that I have found him. Things have had to change.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
The Anne McAllister Commission
He played Le Chiffre in Casino Royal. The minute I realized -- I knew that he had the quality of movement that I was looking for. Things fell into place. Horizons opened. I will have to change some of the things I have already written but it is going to be a better book.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Life on Mars -- the ending
My big question was who caused Sam's accident? It happens exactly at the same time and in the same manner as the 1973's Sam. Coincidence is fine but there has to be a strict law of probability, and near the end every action must have been foreshadowed/comes as direct result of action taken by a main character.
Equally did Sam actually change the past/ Specifically with regards to the death of Annie Cartwright at the end of series one? What were the consequences of this? Is this why suddenly he is dead in the future? In other words why has 1973 become more real than 2006? Did he chose to live with the love of his life?-
Also did Gene Hunt et al really exist? Should this have been left in doubt?
Could the 1973 Frank Morgan have a son who was studying to be a doctor also named Frank Morgan? All it would have taken was the throw away line of my father was a copper...in Hyde.
Anyway, there were choices the writer of Life on Mars made, and me being me -- I would not necessarily have made them. However, the Life on Mars writer did make them, and generally the series worked me. In every case, the writer of Life on Mars made the correct choices for his story. But part of me is always asking why did he do such and such, and would a little tweak have helped?
If I can understand why the choices are made, I might be better able to understand why I make choices in my writing.
The Creative Habit book that Anne McAllister has been raving about arrived today. She was right. It does look excellent. Interestingly I have never really thought of myself as creative. Yes, I write, but that is just part of me. Anyway, I look forward to reading it.
I also went to Beamish Museum. Absolutely excellent. They have a railway carriage there from 1846. The whole set of manor gave me food for thought. And I have done a little on my new wip.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Life on Mars
Monday, April 09, 2007
Easter Monday musings
On Saturday, I went over to Anna Lucia's. She lives in the sort of wonderfully quirky house that I love. Bits are from different times and the spare bedroom has distinct ghost like feel apparently until they redecorated. Whatever ghosts that are in her house, they appear benign. Julie Cohen was there with the fecklet. She looks wonderfully happy and relaxed. All in all a good time was had. Where Anna lives is wonderfully old fashioned and rural, but my middle said as we came back along Hadrian's Wall that she thought where we lived was not bad either. The Spring sunlight highlighted the wall perfectly -- it was the sort of day that photographers love.
I have started to do my calculations for my next wip. It is getting to the point that I have to begin writing. My critique partners are going to start cracking whips...but I have been writing in my moleskine. I love and adore my moleskine notes books. They are fun to write in but I will have to put words on the computer -- starting tomorrow. It is part of being disciplined.
When I saw Julie and Anna, it was interesting to see the different ways in which writers work. I had a sneak peak of Julie's latest -- all rubber banded and clipped. On the other hand, I use a large binder to keep my manuscript in when I doing revising. I find it easier -- particularly when I come to the random page tightening stage. BTW Julie's cover for it is even better in the flesh as it were. I am sure it will be brilliant. She used David Tennant as a model for her hero. As my middle says -- David Tennant is totally hot in Dr Who. My middle kidnaps Julie's books and reads them. Her favourite thus far is Spirit Willing ,Flesh Weak. Julie very diplomatically said it was up to me if my daughter read those books. All I know is that they are in many ways tamer than the stuff I read at her age. I can well remember reading the John Jakes Bicentenial series (The Bastard, anyone?)when I was 12. So how can I complain?
Kate Hardy said lovely things about Sold and Seduced on her blog. Her comments mean a lot to me as I like her writing, and I respect her judgement. Sold and Seduced has also been reviewed on the PHS review site and I was very pleased with the review there.
I suppose this is the time to remind one and all that I am running a contest. Basically email me with the answer to the question:
Which song is playing on my myspace page?
I am drawing the winners on 14 April. 3 lucky people will receive a signed copy of Sold and Seduced as well as the book that gave me the seed -- The Antonakos Marriage.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Easter, eggs and that bunny
Eggs were forbidden during Lent, but they were also a Christian symbol. An egg symbolises rebirth and renewal. New life. Easter eggs used to be called Pace (or Passion) eggs. Although most people give a chocolate eggs in Britain, people in many other countries still decorate hard boiled eggs for gifts. In Greece, as far as I can recall, the eggs are dyed red to symbolise the Lord's Passion. So there is a religous significance to eating eggs on Easter.
The word Easter most probably comes from the Anglo Saxon goddess Oestre. One of her animals was the hare. It should be noted that the Lord's Passion was more than likely celebrated in Britain BEFORE any rites to Oestre as the Saxon did not arrive until the 5th century. Christianity was definitely wide-spread in Northumberland during the 4th century -- IE the one found at Vindolanda. Another example would be Constantine the Great's acclamation at York in 306. Much was lost when the pagan Saxons invaded. When the Anglo-Saxons were Christianized, the festival's name stayed the same and the meaning changed. Oestre's fertility rites happened in the Spring.
The Easter bunny is Germanic and a relatively recent addition in Britain. As the Saxons were a Germanic people, it is possible that this is a hang over from the Oestre fertility rites. Germanic references to an Easter hare stretch back to the 1500s. Another version of the old hare v rabbit arguement -- is the Easter bunny really a hare?
The making of chocolate eggs of course happened during the Victorian period. This is because of technological innovations. Many people of course give up chocolate for Lent.
This is just in case anyone is interested.
Sold and Seduced went on sale in the UK yesterday (officially) I need to get a photo of it.
Happy Easter to one and all. May you enjoy your Pace eggs, even if you didn't know they had another meaning.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Good Friday and hot cross buns
In many Catholic countries such Spain and Italy, the day is one of processions. Years ago when I visited Spain during Holy Week, I was surprised at how many processions happened. It was Catholicism at its most raw -- robes, whips and chains. The procession on Palm Sunday in Grenada frightened me as the dark was falling and these men were solemnly processing, cowls hiding their faces. A few years later, we happened to be in New Mexico going from Santa Fe up to Taos and passed by the Chimayo pilgrims -- many were carrying crosses. The guidebooks all said that unless you were taking part, it was best to steer clear of the festival...Given my experience in southern Spain, I agreed.
In Britain, spiced buns first became popular during the Tudor period. Elizabeth I forbade the making of hot cross buns on any day except Good Friday. I forget when the edict was relaxed. I tend to like the British version of hot cross buns much more than the American. This is mainly because you have a dough or pastry cross in the UK as opposed to an icing cross.
I adapt the Elizabeth David recipe for her definitive guide to English Breads for my recipe.
It is basically -- warm 10 oz milk to blood heat, add 1 tablespoon of yeast -- allow to soften. Mix 1 lb strong bread flour (4 cups) with 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp nutmeg, ground allspice, and ground cloves, and 2 oz dark brown sugar (1/3 cup). Add yeast milk mixture, and then two eggs. Make into a soft dough, add more flour if required and then add 4 oz (1 cup) currants. Allow to rise until double (about 45 minutes.
Shape into 16 balls. Make a short crust pastry ( 4 oz flour plus2 oz butter. Mix into a fine crumb add2 tablespoons approx water) Make snakes of the pastry. Put crosses on top of buns. Brush with milk. Allow to rise for about a half hour. Cook in a hot oven for 20 minutes until nicely browned.
Far better tasting than the hot cross buns one purchases in the shops.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
This is because nothing moves forward in a story without conflict.
In other words, your setting is your story's world. Everything that happens in that story must obey the laws of that world. If you are going to have to do something strange or imbue something with power, you need to foreshadow. for example in A Noble Captive, a trumpet plays a part at the end. In order to have it play its part, the trumpet had to be alluded before -- it had to be part of the world and tied up in the beliefs of that world.
Similarly with Sold and Seduced. The story takes place in the manner that it does because of the real life political events that were happening in Rome. Just before the story began, Pompey had cleared the Mediterranean of pirates. If Lydia had not thought the wine promised to a pirate, she would not have sold it and the story would not have unfolded. Because the story structure is wound up in the setting, it could not have taken place at any other time. Hopefully this helps make it memorable for the reader.
Stories need to exist in their own world, and when you write historical novels, you must obey the historical rules as well. You need to have it feel authentic.
With my wip, part of my initial work is to ensure the story has to take place where and when I say it does. The setting has to be part of the structure.
One great leap forward for me was speaking to some friends yesterday who had lots of books on the area that I was able to borrow. Okay, we did a bit of bartering -- duck eggs and honey for the use of the books. And the books are fantastic --- a 1930s guide to Hexham and the Tyne Valley, a reprint of the 1888 Tomlinson guide to the area and a guide to the lost great houses of Northumberland.
Not only am I discovering why my story has to take place where and when it does, I am also discovering things like cruel Sykes burn near Haydon church once ran red with Scots blood when Edward III crossed the Tyne. I think I know which stream is Syke's but am now wondering what the burn/stream that runs through my garden is called and did it ever run red with blood? Today has been such a gloriously sunny peaceful day that it seems incredible that this tranquil place could ever have run red with blood.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Hands in marriage
After I got my idea for Sold and Seduced, I started to think about it. And suddenly realised that I had a problem --- basically Roman marriage law. Th Romans recognised four types of marriage. In the time period that I write about, in the vast majority of marriages, a woman's hand was not given in marriage. It was sans mano. She remained under her father's or guardian's control. This is why Roman women do not bear the same family name as their husband's. In the very early Republic and then later in the Christian era, Roman women did come under the control of their husbands and were married cum mano, but during this time, it was felt that women would be batter served if the legal guardianship stayed with her birth family. The intention was to make marriage stronger, but actually, it only increased divorce and made families less stable.
Personally I think it interesting that the early Christians went for the cum mano. I suspect Jewish tradition may have played a part, BUT as Roman custom and law prevailed at that point, and there are certain similarities in the wedding ceremony, I find it interesting.
Anyway, I had then had to come up with a reason why after Aro and Lydia were married, they would stay married -- particularly as Lydia's father was not keen on the marriage. In other words, I had to find a reason WHY Aro would insist on a marriage cum mano or with hand.
Once I had accepted the limitation, I was able to work with it, and the rest of the story flowed.
Some writers like to think about total freedom, but actually it is the structure and the demands of the world you create along with the main arc of the story that force you to exercise your creativity.
Monday, April 02, 2007
On not starting
Several things I discovered: Monsoon is a lovely shop with clothes that suit me as well as my daughter. John Lewis has good shoes -- shoes that matched the clothes we bought in Monsoon.
And I spent far too much on make up etc.
This is all in aid of the RNA Romance Prize. I am determined to look okay when I go down. Today on the e-harle blog Jessica Harte explained what it was like to win. But more importantly she gavea taste of the buzz -- what it is like to be there. It all sounds exciting. But I am going to have to rediscover my nearly non existent skill at make up. Luckily I ended up speaking to the regional manager at Clarins who appeared to know lots. She was also v excited to hear about my big occassion.
All in all this took longer than planned and I didn't get back. I will start writing tonight.
Sold and Seduced has been spotted in several WH Smiths -- the official publication date is Friday. It was not in my local one or in the one in Newcastle. The contest is still open, and I have been getting a number of entries -- thank you. To enter, you simply need to answer the question -- Which song is playing on my myspace page? (Hint you can find a link on the side of the blog) Then email me with answer before 14 April. I am giving away three copies of S&S as well as three copies of Kate Walker's The Antonakos Marriage. If you are not on my newsletter list, I will enail you an invite if you enter the contest.