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

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.