The online diary of a dreamer creating Contemporary Romantic Fiction - because Every Woman needs Love and Laughter in her Life.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Into the Cave

The time has come. The procrastination curve has peaked and is on the way down.
I have to start writing their story.
Oh boy. Why does this never get any easier? Why do I always feel so unprepared? Unworthy? Somehow not ready?

The logical scientific Ray-Anne shakes her head at the box file full of photos, notes, scratched out scenes in pencil on the back of envelopes, print-outs of the expanded synopsis, beat sheets for the opening, and sighs at the other Ray-Anne who is looking for complicated recipes for Indian cuisine which will need at least two more shopping trips for ingredients and a couple of hours to cook.

Shoulders back, head up, deep breath. I am going in.
If I am not back in a couple of days, please think of me now and again and remember the good times and smile.

I may have eaten a lot of indian food by then.
What is playing on my YouTube right now? On the Edge of Something Wonderful - Darren Hayes.

Sunday, 29 July 2007


Ordinary world: Imagine if you will the diligent writer working from home, by herself most of the time, living inside her head.

Inciting incident: Arrival of family members from various locations on route to holidays in sunny?? UK despite traffic and setting off late.

Key decision points: How to cram a year's worth of news and fun into a few hours? Cook for 7 instead of 2? Find things to do which are exciting for teenagers which does not involve electronics?

And. How to stop thinking about your current book at the same time. While not feeling guilty. About both.
Sad in one so young(ish).

What’s playing my YouTube right now? Roswell - Jewel - Foolish Games.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Word of Mouth Marketing of Romance Novels

The Bookseller carried the following article yesterday:

'Penguin is one of the first publishers in the UK to use a new word-of-mouth marketing approach, buzz marketing, with help from agency BzzAgent.
To promote The Second Wife by Elizabeth Buchan, which is published on 2nd August, BzzAgent aims to generate anticipation through 1,000 of its "agents".They are ordinary people, encouraged to spread news about a title through book clubs, emails and online reviews, by carrying it around, discussing it at parties and blogging. They each receive a copy of the book and a "BzzGuide" that identifies key discussion points and potential readers. The campaign will run all summer, with feedback reported to Penguin in September.'

Interesting concept of formalising the viral marketing concepts prevalent in other creative areas. They also gave away 20, 000 copies of the first book to Ocado customers - their target demographic - hoping that Waitrose customers will buy the sequel.
'Word of Mouth' and 'Word of Mouse'.

What an excellent idea. Elizabeth must be delighted at having that amount of energy and ingenuity from the publishers behind her.

What’s playing my YouTube right now? Bach Double for lute played on the guitar.

Opening Scene

I have been reading far too much lately about story structure.

[The main culprit =, the excellent online writing course. See Scene Structure section, although there are a number of author sites and e-Harlequin articles which share the blame.]

Suddenly I feel the need to plan out the opening scene of my new story and write down on paper where the turning points/beats of the scene are going to be.
Normally I do this work completely in my head, and my leading actors come on stage, say their lines, and I add the layers later.
I have never been a complete pantser, but this time, armed with the extended synopsis and detailed character profiles, I feel more comfortable working on the structure in advance, instead of in retrospect.
I may only need to do this for the first chapter or so to get the story rolling. We shall see if this results in less revision later. Or not. Further bulletins to follow. Wish me luck.
Never a dull moment.

What’s playing my YouTube right now? I am quite unashamed to say -American Woman by Lenny Kravitz - just right for a wet evening.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

True Romance

I was assigned a new hairdresser yesterday. A pretty blonde lady. Shoulder length hair, blue eyes, probably late 40s. We got chatting - she had just moved back to the UK from sunny California. Then she asked me what I did.

I paused then said that I was a writer. Mostly Romance. [I am still getting used to that idea and it scares the M and S cotton stretch pants off me to say it out loud]

The lady then said that her own love story could come from a romance novel, and if someone wrote it then she would buy it.
Then she started telling me her life while clipping, snipping and shearing. [ I have thick hair].

What can I say?
Heartbreak, best friend betrayal, widowed with 3 young children, disease, meeting the love of her life, refusing his proposal, his vigilence, recovery, fantasy wedding. And he still treats her like a princess every day 15 years later.
And her psychologist had cried when she described her childhood.

Will you use my story in your book, she asked? And bring me in a signed copy?
I laughed and said maybe. Then we got chatting about her writing it down herself - she had been thinking of creating her autobiography.

Did I write it all down the minute I got home? Yes.
Will I use it to create a character? Maybe. Or maybe not.
This is someone who has come through a lot and I don't know if I would feel comfortable using her pain and suffering in a storyline. Plus the amount of trauma would be hard in a short book.

I know I could use some elements -her husband sounds like a remarkable man.

How do other writers deal with this?

What's playing on my YouTube? Robert Downey Jr.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Starting a New Story

The editor has come back to me superquick with the feedback I needed to consolidate the character profiles. Brilliant ! Which means it is time to start expanding the story ideas and...gulp.. actually start writing the story.

At the RNA conference the other week, RITA award winning writer Jodi Thomas used the analogy of writers climbing the mountain until they got to the tree line, then getting stuck below the hard rock.
To me starting a new story is always like climbing a new rock face.

I have trained. I have listened to advice from the best, and practised techniques on other climbs.

I have the equipment and kit I need to make the journey. I have crampons, ice screws and carabiners to keep me hanging on. Even a miner's helmet for when the burning light of passion fades.

No, I can't predict avalanches and rock falls which will sweep me down to the bottom of the rock face again. And no, I can't be sure that the route I have planned to get me to the top. I may well deviate - in fact, I expect I will have to change - but the new route will be better. Stronger.

Yet here I am, standing looking at this huge lump of granite. Hesitant.
I am sure of two things.
I have my two climbing companions - the separated soulmates, Amy and Jared.
And that once I get to the top with a first draft completed, I am always only half way there, and most climbing accidents happen on the way down. Revising.

Time to go and buy the Kendal Mint Cake. And new shoes. And a new story playlist on YouTube. And many other forms of procrastination so my brain can start processing the daydreams into something useful. Wish me luck.
What’s playing my YouTube right now? Chris Isaak. Wicked Game. Classic.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Author Web Sites - Content

Jennifer Crusie has just about summed up the ideal website for a specific new release she is working on. Jenny has 62 comments on this post from her readers!

Literary Agent Kristin [] has this to add 'Websites by nature are static. If very little changes, it won’t draw readers back to the site (and the purpose of the site ceases to be all that valuable). How does one make a dynamic site?
1. Have it professionally done. Amateur sites can hinder more than help. If you aren’t a plumber, then you wouldn’t try to tackle sweating pipes. Leave it to the professionals. It’s worth paying for expertise.
2. It’s all about the content—of course! You need to provide it. If it’s just about your books or you as the author, it won’t draw repeated visits. Make it valuable.' There is more on the detail on her post.

And then there are the author photos. Excellent excuse for a make-over with full slap at the nearest beauty counter. Watch out for the eyeshadow.

Stealing an idea from Kristin -What’s playing my YouTube right now? In the Arms of An Angel by Sarah Mclachlan to Grey's Anatomy.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Personal Branding

No - not that cute tatoo your mates talked you into after the Xmas lunch party. This is more about how you want the world/reading public/ industry professionals to see you.
And that's a tough one.
You are going to be marketing YOURSELF. Or the person you create as your pen name.
So poor old Bubbles Trixibell has to promote her romance technothriller involving selective RNA/DNA signatures on antimatter drives in CERN using particle physics to bring the couple together while being chased by the Illuminati. Um.

I think I might put this issue to one side until I actually have a contract and therefore something I want to promote.

" Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for."Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Author photos 1980's style

I could not resist sharing this article from 1981 on the RWA conference in Houston - with 670 delegates! How many was it this year?

Then there are portraits of some of the Romance authors, including a very bored looking Danielle Steele with her plastic greyhound.

Not sure which one I should emulate for the cover of my bestseller *g*. Are those foxes?

Crows of Doubt

I am just about to e-mail the story idea for my new short contemporary to the editor who generously offered to look at it for me.
I may have to do ironing and housework whilst waiting for the feedback. This is serious.

" I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart." Vincent Van Gogh

P.S. I have just noticed that I have had my first visitor to this Blog from Australia. Welcome. And thank you for taking the time from your life, to make me smile. It means a lot.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Picture me a heroine

I think Emily Mortimer looks like an Amy. Don't you?

Quote of the day

Don't dream it, be it.

From the Rocky Horror Picture Show. As spoken by Frank N Furter. [ I kid you not]

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Emotional Conflict

One of the fundamental things I have learnt about writing Romance is that the Emotional conflict between the couple is the driving force to work on during story development.

To me that means character.

I spend a lot of time thinking through ideas and options, but at some point I have to sketch my new friends onto paper.

Being of a somewhat scientific bent [ okay, I can be a geek and proud of it] I have therefore spent time looking for tools and ideas to help with the process.

There are many 'How To' books, on the market, and I'm sure we all have our favourites - such as the comprehensive writing courses from authors such as Kate Walker and Donald Maass. These are professional writers and editors who actually earn their living crafting stories. All power and respect.

In addition, many romance writers have spent time creating notes on the writing process on their WebSites and Blogs, and I thank them for that generosity of spirit. There are far too many for me to list but they are a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to push their writing to the next level.

Here is one approach I found myself using this morning with my hero, Jared.

Created by a pro screenwriter with the same goals - how to create an emotional experience for the reader/ audience. There are also critiques on movies and TV shows.

If you go to the 'Character map' in the sidebar it will take you through a series of Masks, Questions and Decision points which will drive the emotional battle between his attraction for my heroine, and the blocks due to internal conflict.

This approach certainly makes me challenge myself on how I am going to throw rocks at my hero using his flaws to drive the conflict.

There is a book length masterclass on character and story creation here - and all for free.

In fact, there are so many resources like this available, it almost becomes another source of procrastination i..e I won't start writing until I have completed my 30 page questionnnaire on where Jared went to school, did he walk there, what did he see on the way, what colour pens he used to write with. etc. etc.

Time to focus and start writing. Gulp. Now comes the heroine. Start the process all over again.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Picture me a hero

I think I have found the photos to help me with the character of my hero. Thanks to Just Jared for the links to images of Paul Sculfor.

I am, of course, totally heartbroken about imagining this hot chap nekkid. How ever will I live with myself?

Starting a new story

List of things needed to create new story:
1. Do I have a compelling story idea which will not go away? YES
2. Do I have an idea for a heroine who needs me to tell her story? YES
3. Do I have an idea for a wounded lovely man who needs my heroine to make his life complete? YES and YUM.
4. Do I know what to do next? Er, sort of.

I am a plotter. Comes from writing crime fiction for too long. If you need a tale with four level external conflicts [ real crime, apparent crime the criminal wants you to think happened, crime clues as found by the investigator, then romance plot] then I am your girl. Forget threads twisting together to make a rope, these plot thread interactions could haul a container ship.
My plot charts cover Excel spread sheets - with multiple pages. Four or five subplots.

Only I am not writing a crime book. I do not want to write a crime book.
I want to create an unforgettable short romance which will sweep me away into my own little world, based around two people who find eachother.

In the hero's journey theory, there are four main story challenges-
* greater antagonism - Kate Winslet gets on the Titanic to go to America
* external challenge- there is an iceberg in the way
* internal challenge - she does not want the life her mother/fiancee wants her to lead
* romantic challenge - Leo= Jack.
and mythological story telling weaves these elements together.

MY challenge - to focus on Only the Romantic Challenge and Internal Challenge within the boundaries set by the framework of the greater and external challenges.
In the romances I have worked on so far, I have started with the What If? game and the Characters - then my few remaining brain cells kick in, and before I know it, this couple have families and friends and neighbours and pets and hobbies... well you get the idea.

I am making my life - and my character's lives, far too complex.

Yes, my couple can have all of those things around them, just like real people do - but it does not have to be on the page, they should stay in my notes and backstory/profiles.
Last weekend at the RNA Conference, Kate Walker gave me a pearl of wisdom which she had been told herself years ago. 'Keep it simple, keep it deep.'

Now that. Is a challenge I'm prepared to take on. Wish me luck!

Monday, 9 July 2007

RNA conference - the sequel

What a weekend!
I have only been to one other RNA conference - Penrith, last year, and as a conference 'virgin' focused on the workshops/presentations which were excellent. This year I can honestly say that I learned more [terrific program of speakers], interacted more and used the time more effectively - and talked. And talked. Then talked some more. Trish Wylie was spot on when she said that writers love to talk.
I am completely hoarse. Some people sound attractive with a husky voice. I am not one of them - but it was completely worth it.
Caught up with folks I met last year, met new people, even had dinner with a bestselling US author who wanted to hear about my work and then proceeded to spin my brain with amazing advice and market info. It is still spinning.
I apologise to all the other writers who I deafened, but the excitement, the enthusiasm and the passion for the craft of the writers around me was hard to resist.
We struggle on, white wall, blank page in semi-isolation, then find ourselves thrust into the midst of other writers with completely different ages, lifestyles and life experiences- but sharing the same goals and aspirations - and love of storytelling. What a rush.
Then there were the editors who had given up their weekends to come and talk to us - and hear our dreams and story ideas and give professional input.
We thank them of course, and we mean it, but I wonder if they know how valuable their feedback is?
The authors may have a passion for what they are writing - but we all have doubts. Human nature. We do need to hear from someone external to our lives, that we are not completely wasting our time. We do mean it when we thank them for giving us their time.
And not trampling on our dreams.
Yes. Publishing is a business and a serious competitive business, and yes, we are essentially creating a product, which someone will have to believe in and sell to customers, looking for that product for their customers. But in what other industry would you find that level of mutual support and positive encouragement from all levels of the business, beginners and pros?

I need some serious lying down in a quiet room with a blanket over my head.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007


My heroine has just made gnocchi in the kitchen of her Deli - so being of a perfectionist nature, I had to make some for myself.
Potatoe gnocchi is not as difficult as you might think, cuts down on the wheat, and there are lots of recipes about , like this:

I simply microwaved some baking pots, mashed the cold flesh, added one egg, some dried herbs [ optional] and enough plain flour to make a soft but intact elastic dough, rolled into a sausage on a floured board and cut the gnocchi. Tested one to make sure it was not going to disintegrate back to flour. Worked well.

The gnocchi are now firming up on baking parchment waiting for a lunchtime bolognese sauce.
Now that is what I call research.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Book Videos

Just picked up a link from the excellent JURGEN WOLFF site on the new Simon and Shuster series of Book Videos where authors talk in their own homes and offices about their work.

Michelle Styles had a great TV interview this week - but this is something new, based I suspect on the surge in You Tube and MySpace entries from working writers.

Definitely something to look into for other publishers/self publish.
Wait a house?? Where's the Dyson? for the Sandra Brown talk - but there are lots more across the genres. Kathy Reichs was very interesting if you like crime. - Jurgen Wolff