Friday, July 31, 2009

Brain dead relief

The manuscript is now sitting on my editor's desk. I had confirmation that it arrived. It has a lot of potential and it was the best I could make it. It will be much better AFTER I have had my editor's thoughts back. She has the knack of finding the weak spots and challenging me to make the story the best it can be. And it is all about trying to make the Story well told and a fantastic page turning read.

Last night I could have wept with exhaustion, but right now, I am on a sort of high -- a brain dead and I can't think any more high but a high nonetheless. In a few hours, I will begin to wonder at the plot holes etc.

Actually given the date of my next deadline 31 October, I do not have time to wonder. The house will get cleaned this weekend. The current index cards will come down and new faces will go up on the bulletin board.

But I made my deadline and that counts for something!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Amazon adding more books to its summer sale has added more books to its summer sale. A Question of Impropriety is now 46% off at £1.98. I am not certain how long the sale lasts. The original sale was supposed to last only until 2 August, but this may be a new one. Anyway, it is a great way to pick up books as they do have a wide range of romances on special.

Monday, July 27, 2009

In the home stretch

I can see light at the end of the tunnel.
This ms will make the deadline and then I will start the next ms, knowing full well that I will get revisions. One of the very lovely things about writing for HMB is that the editors do push hard. Sometimes, it is an awful feeling when you get the revisions back, but then there is the absolute thrill when you get the AAs (galleys) or even the finished book. In the end it does not matter as long the story is the best it can be for the reader.
It is always about trying to get the best out of the story and making it a page turning read.

Anyway, all that thrill is for later, right now the current story is consuming my waking thoughts. How can I make things better? Are there any flat scenes (answer -- yes but they can be improved) What holes/problems can I see so that my editor will have an easier job? Mind you though, I expect my editor to be tough and to push as she wants the same as I do -- a great story.
The biggest enemy to any writer is becoming complacent and accepting that something will do. It is part of the mystery of the medium. Learning craft is about more than just mechanics -- but that is another post.

Some days you just have to believe.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Table dusting or why the first ten pages went

I have been doing my editing of my latest. It is due on 31 July. You would think at this stage in my career, I would be instantly alert to table dusting and not even bother to write it. Uh no. It is why the first ten pages of my wip have gone.

Table dusting is a stage term for when two maids stand around explaining the set up. They are generally dusting tables. Not much happens. It kills pace stone dead and the poor reader probably gives up on the book.

I kept trying to fix things but could not work out what was wrong. Then it hit me. My characters were talking to other people and musing on their life. It was not until page 10 that they met and the story really picks up pace. Extreme table dusting. Far easier to cut the table dusting and dribble the necessary info in.

Why oh why I can't I figure these things out early? At least I saw it BEFORE I turned the book in.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Linear v non linear

A linear book is one where events unfold in a strict chronological order. Linear books are easier for dyslexics and other less able readers to read. It was one of the reasons postulated for Harry Potter's success.
Non- linear means the events unfold not in chronological manner -- for example there are extended flashbacks. These sorts of books can be highly compelling but they are difficult to write properly. The ability to seamlessly weave is more difficult than it looks.
I have read and enjoyed both. Because my books are commercial fiction, I try to write linear books. If I used an extended flashback, it would be because I could not figure out how to write it in any other way, AND I would probably write it as a prologue (thus making it linear). But there are times when it is absolutely necessary. ANd it can add a lot, but they are not probably as many as most authors think.

Some people like to think that in order to do a reunion story, you must have extended flashbacks. You do not. You do need to show the effect of past mistakes on present behaviour. And at some point you need make sure the flashback is actually needed by the reader rather than it being necessary for the writer. I have often sketched out what really did happen between my characters in the back story. For example, I know exactly how Sela and Vikar broke up and why and what was said. The reader only gets a few snippets in Viking Warrior Unwilling Wife. In the Viking's Captive Princess, Thyre's mother's story is important and I had to sketch it out. I could actually write a book on it. The reader again only gets the important snippets -- ie those things that drive the present story forward.
Everything has to drive the present conflict forward.
My current wip also is a reunion story without a flashback. I had to sketch out a number of things and the addiction to flashback is tempting BUT I want to make sure the conflict is in the present and not the past. The past is only there to clarify and influence, not dominate. If it dominates, then it should be a linear part of the book as I write commercial fiction that is easy to read.

I have a post up at the Pink Heart Society about voice and my current obsession with Hallelujah.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Promises to the reader

Donna Alward pointed out in the comments to the author and branding post that it is more than just a slogan or position statement. And I would agree -- it is a promise to the reader. Just as each Harlequin Mills & Boon series makes a promise to the reader. Within a series, you will find the position statement of the authors are probably closer to each other than authors in a different series.
Every time, a reader picks up one of my books, they should get a passionate romance with accurate history or probably a better way of putting it is a vivid world and an emotionally satisfying ending.
If I changed to writing contemporary, the reader would still hopefully get the same sort of read. So I doubt there would be any need to fashion a new pen name. But I would have to change my position statement.
If I suddenly decided to write guys with gear who go novels or bloodthirsty thrillers with no romance, in many ways, I would be better adopting a new pen name as the bulk of my readers would not be getting what they expected.
Eventually if you become big enough, people do make the connection. For example JD Robb and Nora Roberts. Sometimes though the adoption of multiple pen names happens to quickly. For example Elizabeth Peters writes romantic suspense or mystery and Barbara Michaels writes romantic suspense or mystery albeit with a Gothic twist. They are the same person and probably have a huge crossover audience. I am not quite of the logic behind that one but multiple pen names used to be the norm. And sometimes if you change publishers they want a new name for example Ammanda McCabe is Laurel McKee when she is writing for Grand Central.
Anyway, as an author, you should always be aware of what the bulk of your readership is going to expect from you when you are writing under a specific name. You may want to be creative, but you also want the readers to understand your promise.

I am currently doing my AAs for The Viking's Captive Princess and I must say that I do love my editor. It is reading very smoothly (thus far). But it does mean I have to concentrate.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crusades, new author and screaming at Harry Potter VI

First of all, on my trying to find out more about the RWA Nationals wanderings, I encountered Ramblings on Romance where there is an active crusade to get people to watch North & South. This sort of crusade makes me very happy. And if anyone has not seen it yet (why not?) do so. Now. I had to laugh -- Kristie helpfully linked to my post back 2007 just after I watched N&S. I had forgotten that originally Simon Clare of Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife was named Gabe. It is hard to think of him as anything but Simon now! N&S is wonderful...This reminds me -- I have lent my copy to a friend who professed ignorance. I need to get it back. She is supposed to lend me all the series for Spooks (MI5 in the US) which she says is brill.

Another bit of news that I learnt was there is a brand new Harlequin Historical author -- Jeannie Lin. Her struggles to get published are awe inspiring and I am so pleased that HH bought a Chinese set historical. Fingers crossed that it does well. It is always good to have another Unusual Historical author.

Last night, it was time to watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The entire family went. Luckily we had booked tickets ahead of time as the Hexham Forum had sold out. I saw other families with their grown up children obviously doing the same as us. HP VI is the best thus far. It is a bit dark and the themes are more adult. It has grown along with its original audience. My eldest really enjoyed it. Towards the end, I was half paying attention and half thinking about the ending to my latest, and so missed the build up and let out a piercing shriek at one point. It is frightening in places! If you are a fan of the series, go and see it. It has a 12A rating for a reason, and could cause nightmares amongst younger children. But it is good fun and now I have to re-read the last book as I need to remind myself where everything was found.

My work in progress will be finished in first draft form today and then I have the AA's (final check after copy edits) for The Viking's Captive Princess to do. These should clear my mind so I can properly edit HRG.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Branding and the author

I keep reading that an author needs a brand or more specifically a position statement that say what the reader can expect when they pick up her novel. It is something I have thought deeply about.
You can see my tag line or position statement -- Passionate about history, Passionate about romance. My books have passion and they are historical romance. I am also passionate about what I write and really believe in it. It also fits into the North East tourist board Passionate people, passionate places theme. My books mainly are set in the North East of England and I live and work here so it makes sense. But to get all this, you would have to know about the ad campaign...
But I must say that I have never really bought into the whole branding thing/position statement. First of all, it would need to appear on ALL my covers, not just my website and blog (and this does not happen, nor will it). Second, does it accurately describe why someone might pick up my books. I read books for lots of reasons. Sometimes I read the books in spite of the statement, not because of it.
This is why I was interested to see the AdMan Answers #65 on MJ Rose's brilliant blog --Buzz, balls and hype. My brand is actually my name. My readers do not look for Passionate about history Passionate about Romance books, they look for my name. They look for the M&B Historical or Harlequin Historical branding. If they have had a good experience, they will come back.
I have a website which lists all my books because if you are like me, once you have an author you like, you want to read her backlist, you want to know when the next book is coming out and how they are related to her other books. There is a link to my website on the side of the blog. The other stuff on the website is interesting but really, it is the books that I am interested in -- plus when the next one is coming out. My daughter spends more time on other authors' website but it is generally to learn about characters. But in part reflecting my tastes, I have a bit on writing, the excerpts and a few reviews. To get the full experience of my books, you need to read them. If I had wanted to write short stories, I would have written them for magazines. I write books and create worlds for those books.
Anyway the best thing I can do to improve my brand is to write a story that keeps people coming back for more, so that they really do seek out my name. It is the back cover copy that draws people in, and the story that readers coming back for more. It is my CONTENT that will help my readership grow. And for that I have to make each story the best it can be.
Right back to the wip and looking at the RWA Nationals coverage

Friday, July 17, 2009

Puppies don't do rain

The pupies tried to convince me this morning that they did not do rain. Tess in particular refused to get out of her warm bed and go outside. They did finally go on their walk and puddles on the floor were avoided. It is so wet that Tess even agreed to be towelled. Hardy is now sitting beside the Aga, rather doing his morning mooch.

It is the RWA Nationals and so Donna Alward has updated the PHS with her doings and I have been avidly reading the Blogging Nationals which has a link to a variety of blogs. One always tries to find various rumours and snippets of news. Ah the joys of living vicariously. It does remind me though that the Big Part of writing is actually sitting down and writing the best story possible. It is the ONLY way to survive in this business.

I am attempting to write the best story possible (given my current state of understanding of craft etc) with my current work in progress and am nearing the end of the first draft. Once that is done, there is all to play for as I will have the straw to make the bricks. It can be made better.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How to have hyper puppies

Last evening , Tess & Hardy went hyper. They had a mad puppy half hour. Three circuits around the living room, jumping on the furniture etc. My daughter and I immediately took them for a walk to calm them down. I was totally perplexed on how this happened until my daughter confessed that she had thought them so peaceful that she had given them some treats. Obviously the treats gave them extra energy! A bit like children and sweets.

The exercise did calm them down. And hopefully my daughter has learnt a valuable lesson. But to control the hyper activity -- it is exercise, exercise, exercise. I suppose this is good for my writer's bottom.

We went on another long walk this morning. They find the Shetland pony placidly standing in the field very scary and growled. They are walking better on the double lead than yesterday.

Currently they are busy chewing. Or rather Hardy is chewing his raw hide chew and Tess is looking for a place to hide it for later. She then comes back and steals Hardy's as well. Slight update-- they have gone outside as they were getting bored and I need to write.

The work in progress is coming along. Hard work without hyper active puppies should do the job.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Near disaster

Yesterday, on my walk with Tess, we did the reverse Witch's Cottage (so called because the children when young were convinced a witch lived there -- it does have that sort of feel about it. I suspect though it is simply a holiday cottage in a small glen...). Towards the end of the walk, there is a difficult gate to close. I struggled. Tess panicked, wriggled and the next thing I knew she was bolting down the road, leaving me holding her new collar and lead. Luckily, I was able to catch up and reunite her. But it was a scary few seconds. She has gone back to her old collar.
Fpr this morning's walk, I did the two puppies in tandem. We went further (avoiding any tramps across fields and gates). They are now asleep. Eventually all this walking will help with my writer's bottom.
But there is also something uplifting about being out in the early morning with the birds singing, the air fresh and no one except other dog walkers or runners about.

Lots of people, including Donna Alward are at the RWA National conference in Washington DC. SOme day I will make it, but for now, I will live vicariously! Besides I am under the deadline kosh.

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Regime

As my deadline looms ever closer, I have started a new regime. Up and out walking with the puppies (separately to get them to heel), back to fix breakfast and then a closed door with a blood or fire only sign. The children (particularly the elder two who are off for the summer) are old enough to help out.
Then after doing my word count, it is time for another puppy walk and the Labrador has to get walked as well separately.
All this exercise will be good for my writer's bum.

Carol Townend stopped by for a cup of tea on her way back from the RNA Penrith confernece. I understand a good time was had by all.
It is the RWA conference later in the week, and I will be livng vicariously...My fingers are firmly crossed for friends' books which are in the finals.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Ack ducklings!

Yesterday, Tess & Hardy were playing in the dene, running about and discovering the stream.. Tess bounded. A duck squawked and then I heard it -- the unmistakable peeping of ducklings.

A flash of yellow followed by brown. Quickly followed by a very bemused puppy.

Tess & Hardy were called back to play on the back lawn and I discovered that Tess was not carrying a new plaything. My husband went to find the ducklings in the undergrowth. This took sometime.

Once discovered, the mother duck and her ducklings had to be separated from the duck flock which they had joined (ducklings were trampled under webbed foot) and herded into the duck pen. (We did miss Joss here as he knew what to do -- the puppies stayed bemused on the back lawn.)

We have 3 ducklings -- one yellow and two brown. They are with their mother in the apex duck house. 3 other ducks wanted to join them last night, so they had to be let in. This morning, it was fun and games trying to get the big ducks out and keeping the ducklings in the pen...

Ducklings are cute and I will try to get photos. They are also dumb. The mother duck is Imelda who has previous convictions for losing ducklings.
I do not want to think about the combo of ducklings and puppies. It happened so I will deal with it.
I was, however, good and resisted the rescue kittens that were at the vets this morning. Gorgeous, but not with my deadline. My question as to why the RSPCA rescue kittens etc are expensive was answered -- each one is vaccinated and microchipped. Older cats/dogs are neutered. My vet does the RSPCA work in the area. And the kittens were awfully cute...SIGH.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

TPing the living room

Hardy & Tess were too good and quiet this morning.

Normally there is the patter of tiny paws as they do various checks around the house, have a morning play etc, but this morning silence.

I went and checked.

Tess has learnt how to open doors and opened the bathroom door. Hardy did a snatch and grab on a toilet roll.
The Andrex puppy has nothing on two determined border collies!
A quick hoover around and the evidence was removed. Next time, the toilet paper will be stored in the upstairs bathroom where it is safe...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Summer Sale at is having a huge summer sale and has included many Mills & Boon titles at half price in its offerings. Among my books, both Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife and An Impulsive Debutante are at £1.84 and the duo with Helen Dickson -- Christmas by Candlelight (A Christmas Wedding Wager) is £3.49. So now could be a good time to pick up selected M&B books that you may have missed!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Playdates for puppies

Tess & Hardy had a playdate yesterday. Daisy the Labrador came over. Daisy is about a year old and has two older Labradors as her pack. She plays well with Chile and came over to help teach Tess & Hardy their manners. This was her second visit. She was a bit rougher with the puppies this time, but still gentle. Chile played a bit and then turned his back and laid down. He did not go off the lawn even though he was free to do so.

Hardy was a fluff bag who gave a whimper every now and then and stuck close to where we were having coffee. Tess decided that she would play big girl dog games and was quite willing to challenge Daisy for various toys. I think she thought Hardy was supposed to be guarding the toys once she obtained them from Daisy, but Hardy was far too busy having his strokes and pats. So then the game would start again with Tess being very willing to play tug with Daisy.

It is fascinating to watch the subtle communication with pats of the paw, and little whines to signal if a game would start.
Both Tess & Hardy are much better on the lead now. I walk them separately (if you can call it walk). Every time one of them starts to go before me, they have to sit. I move forward and then they are allowed to walk on. It seems to be working, although it is a bit stop start. At least they are not getting in the habit of bounding forward and I am not pulling them backwards.
Happy Fourth of July. We are having a barbecue.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Bees and the puppies

Yesterday Tess & Hardy were very naughty and ran into the bee garden, straight in front of the bee hive. I remained on the edge of the area, hoping that nothing untoward would happen as I had no wish to play chase the puppy in front of the bee hive. Unfortunately they both got far too close. There was much yelping and whimpering as both emerged with a few bees clinging to their fur. I cleaned Tess off, getting stung on the ankles. I am not sure if she was stung The bees had obviously decided the puppies were the target. Hardy went the wrong way and went back in the bee garden, before coming out again and running for the house. He was definitely stung.
They are both fine with no ill effects. Although Hardy has decided that buzzing insects should now be avoided...
The bees appear to have recovered as well. They had eaten all the sugar syrup and are busily drawing out the new comb. I have put a queen excluder on and a super, just in case they should decide to lay down some honey.

I am blogging today at Totebags about the new RWA readership survey. It makes for interesting reading if you happen to be interested in the make up of the readership and what they use to read. For example only 5.4% have read an e-book, and only half of those use a dedicated e book reader. But I would imagine that it is 500% increase from the number who read them in 2005. It all depends on how you look at the statistics.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Making love in a canoe

Yesterday was Canada Day and I learnt from Margaret Moore that one definition of a Canadian is someone who has made love in a canoe. I had never heard that about Canadians before! And my mind boggled as canoes tend to be rather cramped affairs and inclined to tip if one is on the water and open to the elements. I assume the journalist who coined the phrase was speaking about the large canoes rather than the one man kayaks. And I wondered about bugs. Bugs, lakes and canoes tend to go together. But bugs and romance are not a natural combination. Maybe in a story where the bugs can be airbrushed out...
Any way, it is an interesting insight into Canadian life...or may be it is a vanished way of life and Canadians have become far more staid.
Hopefully all Canadians had a great time yesterday -- in and out of canoes.

I am busy with my wip -- moving scenes about as I woke up in the middle of the night and realised that it would be better I am doing it.This book has been a strange one to write. But then hopefully the end product will be worth it. It is all about the experience that the reader gets rather than the journey that author takes to get there. And every scene must move the main story forward.

Hardy managed to get into my husband's study yesterday morning and decided that the pile of magazines were left for his pleasure, rather than magazines my husband intends to read at some point. It took several minutes BEFORE I realised why he was being good and quiet. The study took rather longer to clean up as it was extreme anti-womble behaviour. My husband's pile of reading material has now been pruned...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tweaks to writing guidelines

The writing guidelines for ALL the London edited M&B series have been tweaked. You can see them here. They are basically the same as before but perhaps with a slightly different emphasis.
The historical one reads like this:
Length: 70,000–75,000 words
Senior Editor: Linda Fildew
Assistant Editor: Sally Williamson
Editorial Assistant: Mimi Berchie
Office: London, U.K.
Do you dream of waltzing in the strong arms of a Regency rake, or maybe of walking on the wild side with a medieval warrior? Our readers’ dreams are wide-ranging, which is why we encourage submissions for all time periods, from ancient civilizations up to and including the Second World War.
Write what you know. Research is key to writing a strong historical romance. While you don’t need to be a professional historian, you do need to be able to bring a period vividly to life through accurate historical detail. The trick? Having done your research, know what to leave in and what to prune out.
There is no limit to the level of sensuality if it seems appropriate to both the characters and the story. We look for a range, from traditional nonexplicit stories through to highly sensual. Any lovemaking should evolve naturally out of the developing relationship.
Story focus. The central relationship is the key driving force of the story. The characters must be convincing because, despite their living in a time distant from our own, the emotions they experience will be the same then as now—love is timeless.

NB: You submit either via the post or email. They want the first three chapters plus a short (1-2 page) synopsis. You can also find more information via the historical podcast.

Lately for me it has been making sure that the central relationship is the driving force. It is where I had to do most of my revisions with Compromising Miss Milton.

Hopefully this helps someone.