....welcome to my blog on writing, reading and living in London ......

Monday, 5 December 2011

Bad blogger 'fesses up

Oh dear, I have been such a bad blogger lately. I only have two excuses, but they are good ones. The first is that I and a number of other pocket novel writing friends have started up a blog called thepocketeers.blogspot.com. It's been great fun and has really geared up now. At present we are doing an advent calendar of all our favourite heroes. It's been difficult to choose which ones to post because they're all lovely in their own ways.

The second reason for not being a regular blogger is that I have been so busy writing and reading. On the writing front, I was asked to come up with a 25,000 word novella for a deadline which was six weeks away. Then, just as I was about to settle down to write it within a timeframe I felt comfortable with I was told that the deadline was being brought forward. Aaaargh! Well, I did manage to come up with it earlier but was biting my fingers that it wasn't good enough. I was sooooo relieved when it was accepted, over the moon in fact. I have to say to any aspiring writers that when you make it and are commissioned to produce writing to order this is one of the things you have to cope with. There is though a real sense of satisfaction. Also, I've been working on my People's Friend serial and have sent off instalment three with both fingers and toes crossed. I have also been working on a novella set on a desert island which has been particularly good to write in these cold, chilly winter months in London! I was also commissioned recently to write a short story which I have sent off and am waiting anxiously to hear on. So, I haven't been sitting on my laurels. And that's my excuse folks!

I do hope everyone else's writing is going well.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Catch up....

I haven't blogged on here for ages for various reasons. The first is that my husband has left me..... well, for the moment anyway. He's gone abroad to work and I shan't see him for ages so all is eerily quiet. Writing is a good time filler for these long, cold evenings and I shall be able to use the extra time wisely. I've got a lot on the go at present - a novella which had a deadline of 30 November but my editor has asked me to have it in earlier eeeek! Then there are edits to the 3rd instalment of my People's Friend serial set in Sorrento, Italy. Just before that I'd finished the dirty draft of a pocket novel which will have to stay on the back burner whilst I finish off these other things. But that's a good thing as it's as well to leave time between doing the first draft and editing it. Then you come back and read it almost as if it's been written by a stranger and you can be more objective about your own faults and what needs fixing. So, busy, busy. Missing my husband terribly but at least I'm keeping occupied!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Twist in the tale stories .... how to write one

We're talking womags here, women's magazines. They are a great place to try and showcase your fiction, or to sell an idea that isn't big enough for a novel or a novella. And one of the most interesting stories to try is a twist in the tale. Now, I'm no expert because I've tried and failed many a time. But I do like to read them and am always intrigued about how authors manage to come up with such clever blind alleys and passages down which they lead a reader and then surprise them in the end. It's a bit like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Well, someone who has had success with them, Diane Fordham has posted on her blog, just how she crafts one. It's great stuff, so here's the address to put in your browser http://dianefordham.blogspot.com/ so you can have a go yourself. A number of UK mags take them such as 'Take a Break's Fiction Feast. They're very popular so good luck at creating your own twist in the tale!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Festival of Romance, the RNA blog and my new book....

Oh dear, I have been a bad blogger of late. Blame it on the time of year because everything gets so busy once the kids get back to school etc. My big news is that 'Tango at Midnight' is out at last in large print. It has a lovely cover and will now go into libraries. I know libraries are suffering at the moment but I think they're a wonderful resource that should be protected and am more than happy that my taxes should go to preserve them. My other news is that I was featured on the Romantic Novelists Association blog with a photo taken by my super teenage daughter who is a talented photographer, particularly of portraits.

The last thing is that I have finally booked for the Festival of Romance which is taking place in Hertfordshire on 21 and 22 October. I have a feeling in my waters (hmmm, not too sure about that phrase!) that this is going to be a big thing in years to come. It is the first event in the UK specifically for readers of romance. In the US there are similar events with huge followings. There has been so much work and energy put into the Festival that I expect great things. Well done to Kate Allan who has worked so hard to make it a reality. Just post this in your browser to find out more http://festivalofromance.co.uk

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Now the holidays are over......

First of all, many, many thanks to author Freda Lightfoot and the Romantic Novelists Association for interviewing me on their blog - just type this address in to access it http://romanticnovelistsassociationblog.blogspot.com/.

Now the holidays are over, boohoo. But, aren't they marvellous for our writing. I always go away with good intentions and take all my writing stuff, notebooks, ipad, keyboard, files for keeping bits and pieces so that I can remember locations. Sometimes I write like a demon. At other times I just gather info and photos. This holiday was spent at a very generous friend's tiny house in Spain they have just bought near Roses and El Bulli the once famous restaurant now temporarily closed. They bought it from an elderly couple and it hasn't been refurbished in years. Imagine our dismay to get there to find that not only did we have to negotiate very narrow, windy, hilltop roads with sheer drops into the sea but..... there was no water. I say no water but actually there was water in the well, but the level had fallen below the pump. For the first few days, in temperatures in the high 30's we managed with bottled water and humping huge bottles of seawater the ten minutes' walk from the sea so that we at least had water to flush the loo. Once however we had got hold of a couple of buckets, we started drawing water up from the well. Boy, was that hard work! I have never sweated so much and never appreciated a running tap so much. We also ran out one evening and I was concentrating so much on not spilling any, and not slipping I didn't realise how dark it was getting. I suppose my imagination ran wild, particularly as I had just read a very gruesome Stephen King story about a man who chucks his wife down the well. When I heard a noise behind me, I nearly had a heart attack. It could have been one of the wild boars who will reputedly sometimes fall down wells if the covers are left open.

We survived in the end and in fact it was a rural and out of the way idyll overlooking a beautiful bay where the swimming was superb. It would be a superb setting for a novel and I know I'll use it one day. I might however go at the beginning of the summer when the well is full, rather than at the end of it!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Where do you get your ideas from?

For me, location can be fantastically important in generating ideas. I am lucky enough to have just come back from holiday in rural France. As there was a big party of us, we rented a huge old house sleeping twelve. You can see it above along with one of the extravagantly painted bathrooms. It was reputedly was the home of a French Count who operated a paper making works which was sited at the bottom of the garden. The works included a high red brick chimney, a number of seriously atmospheric derelict old buildings behind trees and a river running at the end of a large expanse of lawn. My imagination went wild. So much so that I whisked my Ipad out on holiday and started a pocket novel which I am now 10,000 words into. The subject matter? Why, ghosts of course! How could there not be ghosts in such a wonderful ancient place with bats roosting in the cellar and a mysterious walk-in attic. So many lives must have lived and played out their dramas there. I took loads of photographs, here are some and I have such a clear picture in my mind of the place that my characters are all firmly ensconced and playing their parts. I would love to get this finished while the ideas are still fresh and absolutely love ghost stories. I have sold two in the past, very successfully, so do please keep your fingers crossed for this novella.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Writers bottom and ...... zumba

Writers bottom is potentially a bit of a problem for those who spend large amounts of time sitting, tapping away. But finally, there's a solution. ZUUUUMBAAA! Classes are spring up all over the place although they're not exactly classes because you don't have to learn zumba as such. Basically it's a fusion of a number of different dance styles, salsa, merengue, cumbia and all you have to do is follow the leader. My zumba teacher Ashley is a dancer, so he makes the moves look good (on him anyway!) and he makes it terrific fun. We all jump around like crazy for an hour - an hour is all I could manage believe me - and end up sweating like horses which have just run the Grand National. The thing is, you definitely know you've done some exercise but it's only taken you an hour. It's far less boring than the hideous gym with its endless hours plodding on a treadmill and part of the fun is watching how everyone else interprets the moves. Some are wigglers, some jumpers, some always half a step behind and others like me look as if they don't know what's hit them.

Zumba is, though, the perfect antidote to writers bottom so I'd say give it a try!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Are you going to the Festival of Romance in October?

This is Hunton Park in Hertfordshire, venue for the new Festival of Romance which takes place on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd October. It looks like a beautiful place to hold an event giving readers the chance to meet authors of romantic fiction. I believe this will be the first time such an event has taken place in this country although there are similar conventions in the USA which attract massive audiences. Only yesterday I went to hear author Janet Gover talk about the Romance Writers of America event she has just been to in New York. There, they had readers queueing out of the door and up the street to meet their favourite authors and the conference programme was like a small booklet it was so full. There are all sorts of ways to connect with readers, Facebook, Twitter, blogging but few opportunities to meet people face to face. And yet readers are the people who keep us all going with their loyalty, enthusiasm and addiction to romantic fiction.

The Festival of Romance is a brave new venture with its own easy to use website which encourages discussion and interraction. There will be awards for the Best Romantic Read and the Best Historical Read and the Have a Heart Ball on the Saturday which, as with all these things, will be a fantastic opportunity to wear a posh frock. I wish Kate Allan the organiser much luck with what looks to be an exciting new venture for all our diaries. Here's a link so you can look for yourself.


Monday, 11 July 2011

RNA Conference 2011

An excellent conference in the beautiful hills of Caerleon, Wales. I went to so many sessions, my head is spinning but here's a snapshot of what went on... Liz Fielding (photo below in the yellow top), long term Mills and Boon author talked about how putting subtle humour into her books, juxtaposed with more serious subjects has added tone and colour to her very popular stories. Mills and Boon books aren't romcoms, but readers still like a lightness of touch. Jane Wenham-Jones (photo above) chaired an excellent session with Jill Mansell, Louise Allen and Elizabeth Chadwick which covered a variety of issues. The thing I picked up on most was the different methods really successful authors have to come up with the goods. There really is no right or wrong - Jill writes on the sofa, with the telly on, in long hand and plots on the longest piece of paper you have ever seen using coloured post-its. Wonderfully low tech, but it works for her. I was very encouraged at two different talks (firstly by Mills and Boon editors including Flo Nicoll with whom I had a one to one earlier, and secondly by MIRA editors) to hear publishers who were still keen to have submissions which is always nice to know. The MIRA editors made a point of saying how many Mills and Boon authors had gone mainstream and that they were always looking for new slants on established themes - a recent acquisition by MIRA of a werecat (as opposed to werewolf) paranormal was an example of how, if you are inventive, you can create new interest in genres that might otherwise appear to have peaked.

Fiona Harper gave an excellent talk which included tips on how to dig deeper into your characters' motivations to provide a more emotional story and create heroes and heroines who are real and believable. The main thing I got out of this was that you have to know your characters inside out and that it is useful to identify a single phrase with which to sum up a character, eg 'live life to the max'. Then of course you have to dig deep to decide why that individual has that trait. So, for example, they might have lost their parents at a young age which makes them feel that they have to grasp every moment as if it were their last. That though would be just one layer, you always have to dig deeper....

A fun session was given by Louise Allen (seen in the blue t-shirt below) who writes Regency romances and has a wonderful collection of prints from the period. Not cheap (she buys most of them on Ebay), these provide invaluable insights into the period not just the clothes that people wore, but insights eg into how people were grouped. For example one lovely print showing the entrance to Oxford Street near Tyburn in London. Louise explained how she looks with a magnifying glass at these prints many of which are small and very detailed, to get the maximum information and essence of the period out of them. All sorts of things can be of interest, such as curiously the fact that ladies often held their parasols with the handle facing down, presumably to keep delicate silks and other fabrics away from the dusty streets. I couldn't help buying a copy of her book on Regency walks through London even though I had promised myself I couldn't carry another thing.

A warm thank you to Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson of the RNA for a wonderful, inspiring conference with lots of good food and good company.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Hooray, 'Safe Harbour' comes out as an e-book

Delighted to say Xcite have accepted 'Safe Harbour' as an e-book! Here's the cover. I loved writing this one as it's set near the sea in a little English town with a small sandy beach and a couple of lively restaurants down near the ancient harbour. One of these days, I'll post a photo of the restaurant that was the inspiration although I've never actually eaten there (just realised that and will have to remedy it soon - a tough job but someone's got to do it).

It's my second book set by the sea, 'The Sanctuary' being the other one. Many people are drawn to our wonderful coastline for different reasons. I think for me, being a profoundly city girl having been born and brought up in London, our trips to the Isle of Wight were such a wonderful change they felt magical. Sandown on the island has the most superb sandy beach and shallow pools ideal for trawling with bucket and spade, with tiny white crabs. Seaview has the most wonderful rock pools for children where we once encountered a lobster who had been stranded in one of them and I remember being amazed that it was blue. They only go bright pink when cooked! I absolutely love the sea and my dream would be to live near it. One day.... one day......

Friday, 27 May 2011

What does a romantic novelist look like?

Hmmm interesting question and one that has caused quite a flurry among the writers of the Romantic Novelists Association. The reason? At the latest London get together of the RNA a Daily Mail journalist was present to do an article along with a photographer. What she came up with, sadly, was the standard, cliched lazy-journalism old tosh about bodice rippers. How many times have we heard that phrase until we are sick to the back teeth with it? Her line was pretty scathing, very silly and talked about those present having blue rinses and twinsets and pearls. You can read the article here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1389272/The-Blue-Rinse-Bodice-Rippers-In-twin-sets-pearls-meet-ladies-Britains-steamiest-novels.html

Well I've been to enough RNA do's to know that there is a range of ages, styles of dress, personalities, characters etc etc and not one of them looks remotely blue rinsed or like Barbara Cartland who, let's face it left the scene decades ago! the best thing about the whole episode is that one of the bright young things, Kate Johnson, sent the Daily Mail a letter which they published together with her holding a copy of one of her books.

I only hope it increases her sales and helps to dispel some of the myths that stick like mud to a blanket! And here is a picture of the lovely Kate.....

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Hitting the send button

So, at last I have had the courage to hit the 'send' button. Let me explain. On 31 March I received back from Mills and Boon feedback on the submission I sent them with a sheikh hero. There were some valuable suggestions and an offer to re-submit if I fancied reworking it. Did I? You bet. But, for writers that can be a terrifying thing. To take apart and unpick the thing you have done, to look at it critically and perhaps ditch reams of writing and rework is heavy going. Then to admit finally that you have polished, amended, improved, rethought, rejigged, and re-everythinged your precious chapters into a form that you think is the best it can be can be can really make you shudder. Even more daunting is to demonstrate a commitment to what you've done by finally whizzing it back off to an editor because this of course, invites a response. So much hope, so many fears, so much work and they may well not like it! I sometimes wonder why we keep on torturing ourselves in this way. But we do and now I am waiting yet again. But, not twiddling my thumbs. I have a serial half written and an idea for a RIVA Mills and Boon which I'd love to try. The greatest cure for that obsessive checking the e-mail inbox disease that we all get when we have a submission 'out there' is to start something new. Which is always a lovely feeling.......

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Some good news!

I am delighted to say that one of my pocket novels, 'Healing Love' is about to be released in digital format by Xcite, an imprint of Accent Press. Here's the cover, it's set in a GPs surgery with a doctor hero who has more than a few family problems to deal with. I'm so pleased about this digital publication on many fronts. Xcite were shortlisted for Imprint and Editor of the Year 2011 in the Bookseller Industry Awards and they reported a nine-fold increase in e-book sales in 2010. They and their Managing Director, Hazel Cushion are extremely forward looking and know exactly what readers want. I'm proud to be associated with them and wish them every success. It's also nice to see a British publisher forging ahead. They are based in Wales not far from where I recently went for Kate Walker's course on writing romance and where I shall be going in the summer to the Romantic Novelists Association conference. As soon as I work out how to put buttons on my blog which zap straight through to Accent to purchase the book I'll do so. Technology's never been my strong point but I'll do my best!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Changing direction

Well, my Draft in 30 Days blogged about earlier has hit a snag. But, at least it's a nice snag. That's because whilst I was at the beginning of starting with Karen Weisner's method an e-mail dropped into my in box. It was from the editors at Mills and Boon. I had submitted the first three chapters and a synopsis for a sheikh novel way back in August last year. True it took them some time but they have said that they like the basic idea, think it's fresh and intriguing but they had a few problems with it. If I wanted to work on the problems and re-submit they'd be happy to have a look. Would I? Ohmigod yes I would!

Looking at it critically and taking their comments on board I have only kept the first chapter and had to ditch the other two altogether. Before now I have found that incredibly hard to do, but this time, with the benefit of their comments I found it easy. After all, they know their stuff and if that's what they want I must try and meet it. The rewrite is going slowly but surely. Slowly because I am now being more critical of myself. This morning for example, I looked with a real eagle eye at what I had produced yesterday. I'd gone and done exactly what they had asked me not to do in the feedback - basically, I had moved the relationship on too quickly. As an individual who likes to complete a task as soon as, I realised that I sometimes do this for my characters. But, Mills and Boon readers like the suspense of not knowing how the relationship is going to go. They want it to twist and turn and meander and for their heroes and heroines to really work at it. So, again, I ditched large amounts of what I'd done and wrote the scene again. I think it works much better this time and realise that culling sometimes has to be done. I look on it now not so much as a waste of time but as a means of writing myself into a scene, testing out my characters. Let's hope it does the trick. Oh, and that photograph, it's of my teeny, weeny summerhouse which I hope, when I get a minute to kit out with a table and chair so that I can write in there in the warm summer months..... if they ever arrive that is!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

To Marry a Prince - Book Launch

Okay, I know I should be updating this blog on how my First Draft in 30 Days attempt is going but it's the weekend and all work and no play makes an author a dull girl. So, yesterday I upped and went off to the King's Road branch of Waterstones in Chelsea for a swanky book launch, all fizz and chatter. 'To Marry a Prince' is Sophie Page's sparkling new take on royal weddings. With the opening page bearing the promise 'Britain as it might have been......' the first chapter introduces us to Bella. Feisty, independent she's spent the last year toiling on an island on the other side of the world dressed in shorts, muddy t-shirt and her hair hasn't seen conditioner in months. Scrubbed up though and having enjoyed the tender loving care of a good hairdresser she accompanies her friend Lottie to a society party and that's when the fun begins.... With the world soon to enjoy the wedding of commoner Kate Middleton to Prince William, Sophie's lovely book with its royal blue and gold cover is totally topical and I can't wait to read the rest of it.

One of the nicest things about book launches is the chance to chat to fellow authors and here's a photo of me with Carol Townend. A super knowledgeable historian, Carol writes medieval novels and is at present writing a series for Mills and Boon based in medieval Constantinople. She regaled us with tales of her trip to Istanbul to do research, just one of the fun things about being an author. But it also highlighted all the hard work that goes in to any novel and the extra element that goes into historical novels. Carol is keenly aware of the need to get her facts right as well as getting the romance element between the hero and heroine perfect.

So, a great evening was had by all, the champagne flowed, we were surrounded by books and my dear husband and I toppped it all off with dinner at a Lebanese restaurant in the King's Road, a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace where THE royal wedding will very shortly take place. Huge thanks goes to Sophie and all the lovely staff at Waterstones and the greatest luck to her for mega success with her book.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Day 4 of A First Draft in 30 Days

One interesting thing I have found with this method is that it really gives you foundations that you build upon. Normally I rush in full pelt, feeling that getting words on paper is the most important thing. Building them up, 1000 done, 2000 done, first chapter done is hugely rewarding. But, if what you build starts to shake and tumble at chapter 3 or chapter 13 then making it firm and solid again is so difficult. With this method, I find that every now and then there's a sort of lightbulb moment so that something I've already started can be built upon. I'll give you an example. Themes - I never really consciously think of a theme for my book. But with this one, it's started to emerge for me that as my hero is an architect, and architecture is all about planning the perfect building, that theme can run through the book. Each time I think of a new step forward in their relationship, I can think of it like a brick being cemented in a wall, or light coming in through a window, or a door being opened to their personalities. Okay, so that's a bit whacky, maybe a little cheesy, a bit odd and off the wall (well, it certainly is for me as I'm a very straightforward individual, not at all poetic or given to fancies). However, just being in that frame of mind, has given me some sort of theme which I hope to run with throughout the book. Perhaps it will make the finished article more real? Who knows, but it may give me some nice metaphors which are things I always struggle with. It's certainly made me look at my hero in a different light. Who wouldn't fall in love with a man who could build them the most perfect house to live in, a house just with them in mind? I never usually think my characters through this fully so am feeling positive about Day 4, and am realising that this mulling over the story from all angles is part of what Karen S Wiesner's method is all about. Also, that when I tried this method the first time, I fell at the first post because I thought that you had to complete every stage completely before you moved to the next. Silly me. Because if I had read her book properly in the first place I would have acknowledged that she clearly said that some of your worksheets can be half empty, you don't make them perfect the first time you write them down. But you do build on them. So now, off to the dreaded plot sketches, not looking forward to this bit because I think it's going to be difficult, hence my looking for every delaying tactic possible. Oh, and have I had my breakfast yet? Nope. I'll just get that sorted then before I move on to those dreaded plot sketches........

Day 3 of A First Draft in 30 Days, setting sketches

Feeling reasonably pleased with myself as I've finished my character sketches for my hero and heroine and done a general setting sketch (with, yes folks, a little pen drawing even though I'm no artist!) of my manor house by the sea. It is based on somewhere I've stayed and love, not a million miles off the coast of England. I've managed to incorporate into the fictional property many of the things I need to carry the plot and the relationship forward. I've also done the research list which isn't extensive, but I need to find out something about architects and awards which I know precious little about. I'm also watching Country House rescue on the TV which is not only invaluable for clues about how grisly inheriting a stately home can be in terms of cost but is also interesting in terms of character studies. So many people hang on to huge unwieldy buildings even though they cannot pay their upkeep because they have a strong sentimental attachment to the houses and their own family's history within the house. Anyhow, that's my excuse for watching tv when I should be writing....... and I'm sticking to it!

The next part of the draft is much scarier because it's plot sketches. As I only ever have the vaguest of ideas in my head usually when I sit down to write, the idea of planning out my plot beforehand fills me with horror. Still, I'm not going to give up now. Watch this space.......

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Day 2 of First Draft in 30 Days

I am blogging about my attempt to write a first draft in 30 days using Karen S. Wiesner's book because I want to impose some discipline on myself. By posting regularly, and making my attempt public it will force me to keep with it. Psychology's a funny thing isn't it. If you declare something openly it's that much more difficult to go back on it.... I hope! Anyhow, I'm sort of on track. Yesterday, I did a character study for my heroine, and a pretty full one at that. So full that I didn't make a start on my hero but then I couldn't really picture him. Today though, there was an article in one of the Sunday supplements with a photo of Orlando Bloom. He looked so lovely I thought, 'that's him, that's my hero.' So, off I go. If I can do a character study of him, however brief, PLUS a couple of setting sketches and a little bit about what research I have to do, I will be on track. Wish me luck!

Monday, 21 March 2011

A First Draft in 30 Days

Okay, it's true, I am trying to bring a bit more structure to my writing. I have just sent another novella winging off to my editor and again, I simply wrote by the seat of my pants. I hope they like it but for my next project I am determined to approach things with a bit more discipline. Some while ago, after an RNA conference, I travelled back on the train with a new Mills and Boon author. She had used a book called 'First Draft in 30 Days' by Karen S Wiesner. I skim read the book and thought it made a lot of sense. But being sometimes a lazy writer who likes to rush straight in when she has an idea, full of enthusiasm but little in the way of a plan, I put the book on a shelf and forgot about it.

Since then, I have had two or three ideas brewing and cannot focus on which one I want to run with. So, I got the 'how to' book out again and am determined to take more time over planning this next book. The reason is I want it to be multi-layered, I want to make my characters have more dimensions, many, many dimensions in fact so that the reader has the pleasure of peeling each layer away. That's something I like in my reading and would like to do more in my writing. Particularly after attending Kate Walker's workshop, I have seen that because romances are all about people and their internal conflicts the construction phase has to be pretty rigorous. Karen Wiesner's book has worksheets on constructing full lives for characters, on creating multiple settings in fact on building up an entire portfolio about your book before you even put fingers to keyboard. I have always wanted to be more focussed in my writing so perhaps the time has come. I'll keep you posted but until then, I am out to buy myself a lever arch file to put all those worksheets in and am feeling very optimistic about being more disciplined and hopefully more productive as a result!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Guilty Pleasures

No, this stunning guy is not my Guilty Pleasure - I'm a happily married woman! But, Stephen Muzzonigro does feature in a great little documentary which screens on TV on 12 April 2011. He is one of the models who appears on Mills and Boon covers and helps to sell one somewhere in the world every four seconds. The film is an exploration of those who read Mills and Boon, those who write them and others like Stephen who are all part of selling the dream. The documentary blends the cinderella world of M&B with real life stories of some of the readers. There is Shumita Didi Singh whose fantasy hero became her husband then left her for a younger model. And there is Hiroko Honmo in Japan, happily and boringly married to her staid husband. Hiroko takes ballroom dancing lessons so she can fantasise about a more glamorous world with her ballroom dancing teacher. Their stories are touching, funny, sad and joyful in equal amounts. Real life is so much grittier and we see the lovely Roger Sanderson, the UK's only male Mills and Boon writer giving his slant on why the books are so popular and how difficult they are to write. We also see the delectable Stephen bursting the fantasy bubble when he reveals that keeping those fantastic muscles rippling keeps him locked away in the gym most days and that he has to push away his plate of chips and pick at salad to keep young and beautiful. It's a beautiful film and I went to see it at the ICA gallery in London which was screening the Birds eye View Film Festival featuring films made by women. Julie Moggan the Director has made a sensitive, funny and sad tale which is structured just like the best M&B books and thankfully in the end, for most of those featured has a happy ending aaaahhhhh.........

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Pure Passion Awards 2011

The winners of the eagerly awaited Pure Passion awards were announced yesterday. Of particular note for me were Louise Allen who won the Love Story of the Year award for her historical book, 'The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst' and Penny Jordan who won an Outstanding Achievement Award. The reason is that not only are they both excellent writers who have had considerable success but that I know both of them have done a lot to help budding authors. Louise through her work for the RNA and Penny who I met ages ago at a writing course for would-be Mills and Boon authors in Wales. Penny spoke without notes, at length and just gave us the benefit of her knowledge. It was a wonderful weekend and I met such nice people there. As a writer, giving advice and help I know can be a two edged sword because such things always take time and time is one thing an author never has enough of. There are always more books to be started, more to be polished/edited, more to be promoted, finding the time is a constant battle. So, if I were able to give a special award it would be to all those writers who have been kind enough to spare the time to give help and advice.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Show don't tell ,,,,,,, and the King's Speech

'Show don't tell', is a mantra which all we writers are told again and again but it's often difficult to do. So often I find myself writing a whole paragraph or even a whole page and then realising I haven't shown at all, just kept on telling and have to go back to revise. But today, I heard a fascinating radio programme about the history of cash - coins and notes - and there was a lightbulb moment which demonstrated exactly what people mean by that phrase. What's that got to do with the King's Speech you wonder? Well, they were talking about Edward VIII, the king who abdicated to marry the woman he was crazy about - the divorcee, Wallace Simpson. He was the one who left his brother, the one with the stammer to have to take the crown. The newspapers often gave Edward a bad press saying he was vain and self obsessed but I often wondered if that was just sour grapes at him deserting his duty. However in the radio programme they talked about how on coins and notes, the monarch of the day always faces the same way. Also that tradition is that when a new monarch appears they are always portrayed as facing the opposite way to the monarch before. So, as our Queen always faces to the left, when the next monarch comes on board he will face, by tradition, to the right. However, when Edward VIII was due to be king although it was his turn to face to the right, he had all the currency minted with him posing facing left BECAUSE..... his profile was more handsome facing that way. All that tradition was knocked aside for his vanity. That to me was a perfect 'show don't tell' story! He must have been a bit of a twonk.....

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Meeting Heidi Rice in Selfridges

I had met Heidi before at Romantic Novelists Association events but this was going to be something special. Heidi had been asked by Mills and Boon's PR people to help promote them in Selfrdiges, London where I believe she is now Writer in Residence which sounds incredibly grand. And actually it is. I had forgotten how lovely Selfridges is. I'm usually a John Lewis girl and I know Harrods very well because I used to work there. But Selfridges is something else. A real emporium totally full of wonderful goodies.

I met Heidi with two other would-be M&B wannabes. We chatted in front of a lovely display of covers of their books, some of which went back for years. We had coffee and I felt, for once, like a lady who lunches. Heidi gave us a good overview of what the genre requires and the display with wonderful old bookcovers and titles was well worth seeing. We even got a free copy of Heidi's latest, 'Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger.' A great day!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Kate Walker's Advanced Writing Romance Course

I have just returned from this fabulous course given by Kate Walker, here we are enjoying a cup of well earned coffee. Kate is the extraordinarily successful Mills and Boon author - and author of the '12 Point Guide to Writing Romance.'

In a hotel overlooking the bay at Fishguard Harbour in Wales we covered so, so much over the weekend - I am exhausted and exhilarated in equal measure. Kate seemed to have boundless energy and shared the secrets of her craft generously, with authority and endless enthusiasm. This was an advanced course, and there had been a course before it which included things such as writing the perfect synopsis and the submission letter. This course however was more of a detailed examination of the craft of writing romance. Although Kate is a Mills and Boon author, anyone wanting to write romance would find this course invaluable. Beforehand we had been asked to submit three chapters and a synopsis and were given Kate's written and oral critique which is worth its weight in gold. There was other preparatory work - this wasn't a holiday folks! We had read one of her books and were asked to make notes examining minutely: the opening; characters; conflict; point of view; foreshadowing; setting; and the ending with the aid of useful notes indicating the sort of questions we should be asking ourselves as we both read and write romance.

In workshops we covered the list below. Kate has a fluid style and is happy to answer questions and so the course was tailored skillfully to those attending. Just making this list recalls the terrific amount of things we looked at:
A sort of recipe sheet listing the ingredients to enable you to construct your hero/heroine
Six ways of creating character
Ten ways of using your new character in a story
Query letter basics
How to write a synopsis in 8 paragraphs
How to bring conflict into your story
Internal conflict
External conflict (ie. what they both are and are NOT)
A Four Act Structure
Points to consider when writing sex scenes
Emotional punch - twenty ways to help create it
Emotional Intensity - what is it?
Tips for showing not telling
8 "Moments" you absolutely need to deliver to your readers.... and 1 you should hope for
Tips for writing a great first chapter
Five reasons romances go wrong

The main thing I got out of it was the ability to read and analyse a romance AS A WRITER - an invaluable tool in being able to construct one's own romance with all the emotional pull necessary to provide page turning quality. I hope to goodness some of her magic dust sprinkles my way. But most of all I realise that what's needed is sheer hard work - blood, sweat and tears! But what you end up with is so satisfying for both the creator and the reader who enjoys it, it is all worthwhile.

The hotel was great with lovely staff and endless food (those super deserts won't help your waistline) and the whole thing was organised by Gerry at www.writersholiday.net who even taxis you to and from the station..... Thanks Gerry!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

I'm going to be on TV!

Just had a really fun but very hard week at work culminating in the recording of a show for ITV1 called 'Auction Party' with Laurence Llewlyn Bowen acting as auctioneer. He was lovely, funny, good tempered the whole time and really good looking - hero material in fact!

My day job is working in a charity and we were asked to compete against another charity by ITV. The idea was to go out and buy old furniture then do it up to see how much we could make to raise funds. We also had, in a week, to find about 100 people who would come along and spend their money. Immediately our team went into overdrive, sanding, cleaning, polishing, painting and upholstering. We spent hours in the shed choking on spray paint and white spirit. It was freezing, and on the day it started to sleet I wondered whether there weren't easier ways to raise funds! In the end though I and my other team members, Annie, Jazz and Neville stepped up to the mark, loads of people came and some of the things looked really good. Both teams raised loads of money but I mustn't say who won until the programme goes on air in the Spring. The other team, as you can see were young and gorgeous and had borrowed some of the dresses from Strictly so completely upstaged us! I am on the right hand side in both photos and have now been shamed into embarking on a SERIOUSLY strict diet.....

Thursday, 3 February 2011


So, there I was at Christmas working hard on instalment 2 of the serial I am writing for People's Friend. Set in Italy in the Spring it was quite hard to create the right atmosphere whilst we were in the midst of the worst snow for years. I managed to get it off before the festivities began, fingers crossed, hoping there wouldn't be too many revisions. But now we're in the cold, dark days of January and back it's come with no less than five major revisions! Plus they really don't like the synopsis. Plus my wordcount was too much. Aaaargh!

I went off to boil my head, my spirits sank and suddenly the month felt chillier and darker than ever. I had loads of revisions for instalment 1 and they are such hard work, it feels like unravelling knitting and having to do it all over again. But, once I'd had a chance to sleep on it, I sat down with a strong coffee and read the e-mail again. The editors at PF are so nice, they tell it straight like it is but always say how revisions are part of the process for serial writing. Also, this is my very first serial and they HAVE bought the first instalment so I guess they're happy to keep working with me. Hopefully if I keep focussed, listen to what they ask for and stay positive, I'll get there in the end! So, head down. It's a new day. The sun's shining. Time to look at those revisions and polish, polish, polish. Here's a photo of gorgeous, lovely, Sorrento to keep us all going until the summer comes.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


I'm not crazy about winter in England - it always seems to go on too long and to be too dark and cold and wet. This year we had some excitement with the earliest and heaviest snowfall even in the London area for decades and not only did we get one lot, we got two. Now, I love snow not only does it look fairy-taleish whilst it's falling but it makes even the dirtiest London streets look fabulous. It's also very inspiring for a writer to have a sudden new possibility for all sorts of plot twists. The last bout of snow that we had which closed airports inspired my book, 'Leaving Home' which is about Flora who is all booked to fly out to a new life in America. Until, overnight, the airport is closed and she is delayed long enough to be sucked into a family tragedy which leaves her with her sister's baby and a whole new set of problems from the ones she is running away from. I really enjoyed playing around with the idea of one simple circumstance changing the course of a person's life. The snow is all gone now and we are back to our usually drizzly and mild winter weather. Frankly, I preferred the snow, but here is a photo of Christmas lights in Covent Garden to keep us going until the lighter, warmer days come along.