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

Friday, 31 August 2007

That time of Year

Austria. Walking Boots. 5 course dinners. Yes, it's holiday time. Hope to be back in business 9th September.
What happened to August?
See you soon! And hope the sun is shining where you are.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

If Music be the Food of Love...

Some of you may have noticed that I enjoy music. A lot.

YouTube is amazing. There are people who have gone to the trouble of loading video and music tracks onto the system so that the rest of the world can enjoy them for the price of broadband.

Such as a recording of Sergei Rachmaninov playing his own music from 1929.

But the joys of the internet are not limited to visuals, and sometimes I need the sound through my headphones and not the pictures.

That's when I turn to:

1. Radio 3. Both Live and the listen again feature, so that you can hear your favourite kind of music as and when you want. Terrific resource. And NO ADVERTS. For this I pay my TV licence fee without quibbles.

2. Streaming Soundtracks. Some of the finest composers on the planet create music for the movies - this is one way of enjoying the best.

3. from the Music Genome Project, a place you can type in your favorite song and get other songs with similar melodies, harmonies, and rhythms, a great way to find new music you know you’re going to like. Does not carry classical music at the moment.

4. Radio over the internet. Anything you could possible want. Just Google.

5. My playlists from my own CD collection which I have copied onto my harddrive. Some days I need Bach, some days I need Heavy Rock. This is my equivalent of an IPod, since I can burn the playlists onto a CD and play the CD in the car/portable.

How do you get your fix?

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes

Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer and Anne Stuart have created something amazing - one novel about three sisters living in the same house, where each writer worked on the romance for an individual sister, then collaborated to create one book.
Ladies, I am in awe.
Three wonderful female quirky characters, three gorgeous but very different heroes, and three storylines where you could believe that these couples could fall in love over the space of a weekend.
The Magic is in colour. The love scenes are hot. The HEA guaranteed.
I bought it Friday and have read it twice.
Yes, I know I should have been writing, but it was the Bank Holiday and the sun was shining [ Ray-Anne slinks off with her head down feeling pathetic, but has written 4000 words in last two days as a feeble excuse].
Go here for the Little Black Dress Site and an extract:
Go here for the Blog the three writers created during the writing of this book - which is remarkable:
What's playing on my YouTube right now? Glenn Gould playing Bach Partita no 6. part 1.

Monday, 27 August 2007

English Cheese 4

Hero Candidate: Paul Sculfor.

Yes, I know, I have already used Paul as hero potential for my current bestseller, but could not resist posting him again.

36, born in London, grew up in Essex. Height 6ft, chest 40. Former bricklayer and amateur boxer; and one of the original male supermodels working for Ralph Lauren and Versace. Now lives in LA. Has dated Jennifer Aniston, but apparently that is over, so...

What's playing on my YouTube right now? KD Lang singing Leonard Cohen.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Report Cards

Just in case your little treasure of a teenager did not receive the school report you had dreamt of at the end of term, Jill Shalvis* has this gem:

'A Mother passing by her son’s bedroom was astonished to see that his bed was nicely made and everything was picked up.
Then she saw an envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow that was addressed to “Mom” With the worst premonition she opened the envelope with trembling hands and read the letter.
Dear Mom,:
It is with great regret and sorrow that I’m writing you.

I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Dad and you. I have been finding real passion with Stacy and she is so nice.

But I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercings, tattoos, tight motorcycle clothes and the fact that she is much older than I am.

But it’s not only the passion…Mom she’s pregnant.

Stacy said that we will be very happy. She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children.
Stacy has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn’t really hurt anyone.

We’ll be growing it for ourselves and trading it with the other people that live nearby for cocaine and ecstasy.

In the meantime we will pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so Stacy can get better. She deserves it.

Don’t worry Mom. I’m 15 and I know how to take care of myself. Someday I’m sure that we will be back to visit so that you can get to know your grandchildren.

Love,Your Son Jon

P.S. Mom, none of the above is true. I’m over at Tommy’s house. I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than the report card that’s in my center desk drawer.
I love you. Call me when it’s safe to come home.'

Friday, 24 August 2007

Academic Analysis

The first three chapters are ..sort of solid. Firm. With texture. More creme brulee than jelly.

And then I go and start reading Academic Analysis of Romance fiction* and realise with a shudder that I have two motifs in this book which I had no idea existed, and which I seem to have become fixated on.

1. Food. The heroine is a baker. In my last book which has been submitted, she was an italian chef in a deli. There are references on most pages to food of some sort.

2. Houses. The ultimate symbol of security. My heroine risks the loss of her business and her home. My hero has just bought a house as a symbol of love and financial security. In my last book, the heroine was being forced out of her home by a greedy landlord who hiked up the lease. Book before that, she was selling her huge family home following a death. Hero was homeless.

Food = care for someone, feed them. Show love. Maternal?

Home = security. Roots. Community?

Oh dear.
Since I am not about to become homeless, and have plenty of food in the fridge, these folks do not reflect me or my life.
But. Where does all of this come from?
Yes, I am an academic by training, and my brain is wired for critique, but seriously, are these current issues I have picked up from the Zeitgeist of women's lives today? Or just daftness caused by procrastination and too much info available on the internet?
And no, I do not intend to go back to Uni and write papers on women's fiction.
In fact, I should stop analysing and get writing.
But please, when I grow up, can I be Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Jenny Cruisie?
What's playing on my YouTube right now? Guys of Roswell - Toxic. I know, my image is busted, but it is fun.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Bogged down

I am now revised the first chapter five times.
It has got to the point where:
1. I have deleted and replaced the SAME SENTENCE at least three times
2. My beat sheet for this chapter looks like a SODUKU game square
3. I no longer know whether this is any good or not, and whether I am trying to fix something which is not broken and was not broken in the first place
4. I have almost 5000 words
5. Close personal viewpoint switches between the hero and heroine SIX times. In the one chapter.
6. I am tempted to mail it to the editor to get an external viewpoint, but I also would like to have a career.

Not to worry - that only leaves another eleven chapters to revise and layer up into a bestseller.
I need cake. But am trying to lose a few pounds, so the house is now a cake free zone.
YouTube? Not today gentle reader, not today.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Creativity- Left Brain, Right brain

Ah, the joys of Left Brain, Right Brain activities. My theory goes as follows. Occupy the handies with something to do which does not require much brain power and allow the few crispy grey cells I have left to noodle on the story.
It works for me.
Gardening. I often drop the secateurs to scribble down an idea. A chapter. Or in one case a complete outline JK Rowling style [ for a Blaze which was rejected at the query stage ho, hum].
Cooking. Any excuse.
And Knittting. Plain knitting. Currently a garter stitch sideways mercerised cotton cardy. This one.

Or scarves for gifts. I will not mention the Xmas word, but work out the weeks left. Scary. We already have a gift catalogue through the post! Start now. Write your book. Make the pressies.

So here is how it works for me:
1. plain knitting project to hand
2. music playing on playlist lasting about 30 or 40 mins tops
3. writing materials/desktop
4. problem to think through about the scene/character/whole arc
5. paper or print out with space for brainstorming

Start knitting. And thinking. Dreaming out the scene/visualising. With the internal editor turned off. Nothing is too horrible or pathetic or daft. Full on day dreaming is required.

Never failed me yet. But, as Jenny Crusie says, there are many roads to OZ.

By the way - that scarf is real - from a real Vogue mag. The horror.
Nothing on my YouTube - listening to Mahler on the radio over the internet -

Monday, 20 August 2007

English Cheese 3

Hero Candidate: Andrew Cooper from Manchester.
Andrew had orginally planned to go into boxing, but now owns a gym in Notting Hill, and has a pet boutique and spa there called The Mutz Nutz.

A pet spa.

I think there could be a story in that. And it's owner.
What do you think?

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Bruce Springsteen-Brilliant Disguise.
The Lyrics for this one are an excellent as always with the boss -

I hold you in my arms as the band plays
What are those words whispered baby just as you turn away
I saw you last night out on the edge of town

I wanna read your mind
To know just what I've got in this new thing I've found
So tell me what I see when I look in your eyes

Is that you baby or just a brilliant disguise?

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Kate Harrison and Katie Fforde

Liz Fenwick and Kate Hardy have been praising Kate Harrison's book 'The Self-Preservation Society'. Kate talks about her own fears and the truth behind this book in a TV interview live on BookZone TV, and some interesting questions are asked.

The same site also has Katie FForde talking about her life, and 'Going Dutch.'

These lovely and eloquent ladies are captured on film on BookZoneTV.

LOL CATS - cultural icon

As your self -appointed guru to all that is hip and cool [ and it is a wet Saturday and I feel brain dead today] please allow me to introduce you to the US phenomenon of LolCats.
Basically combine a quirky cat photo with toddler language to create an amusing image.

Oh, been around for years, I hear you say - and you would be right. And yet, this suddenly seems to have taken off in a massive way! And widely reported in the media.

La plus la change...

For a technical definition see has the master collection. Enjoy.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

The Best Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Have to share a fab recipe for fruit crumble from Heston Blumenthal with you .

Yes it looks crazy, but I have made it twice now, and it does work brilliantly.

Secret? You bake the crumble mix separately in the oven and combine it with your favourite stewed/microwaved fruit at the last minute, [you do not have to bake the two together if you do not want to.]

Which in my case was straight ontop of the hot fruit in the dessert bowls just before adding the hot custard - gorgeous.

Extra crunchy crumble and delicious, perfect fruit cooked to just how you like it.

Home grown cooking apples - bumper crop because of all the rain - and fresh picked blackberries worked a treat. A little cinnamon in the apple helped to balance the ginger in the crumble topping.

I made the full quantity then saved the cooled extra crumble mix in a food bag in the freezer.The crumble topping would also work well sprinkled on top of cake to make a streusel topping.

Warning - this is so delicious it is the perfect nibble food. Best put it out of reach asap.

Worth the effort.

What is playing on my YouTube right now? Daniel Bedingfield

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Song Lyrics

Yesterday Trish Wylie [] was blogging about the lyrics for the band 'Embrace' and how they encapsulated the thoughts and words of her hero.
Spot on.
I am new to this, and so far have only used one song which to me expressed perfectly how my heroine felt after the bombshell that was meeting my hero. Her life was going along quite nicely thank you, and then...
I found it through the soundtrack to a YouTube video for Richard Armitage in North and South and knew at once that it was perfect.

The track is by 'Bird York' and the song is ' In the Deep'.

Thought you had
all the answers
to rest your heart upon.

But something happens,
don't see it coming, now
you can't stop yourself.

Now you're out there swimming...
In the deep.
In the deep.

Life keeps tumbling your heart in circles
till you... Let go.
Till you shed your pride, and you climb to heaven,
and you throw yourself off.

Now you're out there spinning...
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep.
And now you're out there spinning...
And now you're out there spinning...
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep.

In the silence,
all your secrets, will
raise their worried heads.

Well, you can pin yourself back together,
to who you thought you were.

Now you're out there livin'...
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep...
Now you're out there spinning...
Now you're out there swimming...
Now you're out there spinning...
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep...

Now you should not watch the following video without tea and a chockie bikkie or your equivalent, and on your own. Mushy is not a good look when you have chocolate around your mouth. Enjoy on a wet Tuesday here in Hampshire.
And thank you Trish for reminding of this one.

Monday, 13 August 2007

English Cheese 2

Hero candidate: James Penfold, born in Southampton 1975. Height 6ft 1in. Was a landscape gardener before he began modelling in 2000.

I do need someone to help with the weeding...

What is playing on my YouTube right now? Soundtrack from Pan's Labyrinth movie.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Julie London

Julie London was a singer/model and actress in the 1950s and 60s.

She was a star and her songs have been used in numerous soundtracks, theme music and videos over the years.

As a YouTube addict, I have several playlists, but one of them is labelled 'Mood Music'.

You know the one. I shall say no more.

How can I not have Julie's 'Cry Me A River?' Yes, it is 50 years old. Yes it is a cliche. And yes, it hits the spot every time.

What can I say, some folks have Sinatra, some Ella Fitzgerald. I am a fangirl.

So now, without further ado, for your delectation and delight, I bring you -

PG rated clips of Julie in action [ and those clothes!] =

Not PG- ADULT- rated clips from movies/TV shows -!=

Thursday, 9 August 2007

On being a 'Gifted' Writer

Jurgen Wolff sent me to an intriguing article on being a 'Gifted Adult' - By Mary-Elaine Jacobsen. I have pulled out a few lines which resonate for me - well worth taking a look if you ever doubted that you are a special and gifted human being.

Telltale Signs of Adult Giftedness: There are many confusing notions about what giftedness is and is not. Indeed, in several respects, the life experience of the gifted individual seems paradoxical (e.g., being considered highly successful while secretly feeling like an impostor).

Dr Jacobsen lists the normal components of the gifted personality:

* Harsh self-scrutiny

* Complex thinking and verbal acuity.e..g. Here sits a bubbling reservoir of a person who is vibrantly aware, full of information, gems of trivia, and a bevy of dates, names, places, and anecdotes that seem to spring to mind all at once.
One can almost hear the cognitive and intuitive wheels spinning behind their impassioned eyes. Many gifted adults have remarkable verbal abilities and a burning desire for intense exchanges of ideas. What may at first appear to be tangential thinking and verbosity is often a tip-off to the enthusiasm and animation that comes naturally to many gifted people.

* High energy and intensity

* Varied school experiences and learning styles

* Asynchronous development (time lag between idea and development of abilities)

* Exceptionally high standards & perfectionism. e.g. at their very core, many gifted people are visionaries who do indeed have the capacity to turn pipe dreams in to concrete innovations—they can and often must hold out for the ideal.

* Extra-sensitivity and arousal. e.g. Many gifted adults describe their nervous systems in terms of a built-in antenna device that seems to reach as high as radar and as deep as sonar. Some report experiences of being tremendously absorbent, taking in life experiences through their pores like a sponge. It appears that highly gifted adults may be more finely tuned in to the subtleties of life and more easily aroused than others around them.

* Independence and perceptivity (can come across as arrogance or unsociability)

* Driven goal-orientation e.g. Gifted people seem to be designed with an extraordinary goal-orientation, or entelechy (from the Greek entelekheia, meaning a vital force urging one toward self-actualization). This trait is evident in self-starting effort, tremendous perseverance, and steadfast, internally-produced motivation.

* Chronically misunderstood

* Self-doubt e.g. gifted women who often think of themselves as impostors or frauds, believing it is the proverbial others who are truly intelligent or talented.
These talented women are prone to over-qualify their statements and to give away their hard-earned claims to fame. Even in the face of clear-cut evidence of achievement and proficiency, many gifted women continue to discount and minimize their abilities.

* Imposed self-sufficiency

What is playing on my YouTube right now? Dr House and Cameron fanvid -I know, I know. Hugh Laurie.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Watching other writers on line

There seems to be a proliferation of online sites which now offer readers [ and other authors] the chance to hear and see their favourite writers in conversation.

Two of the most professional include;

* Simon and Shuster authors of all genres, including romance- and you can sign up for a weekly new video -the latest is from a writer/producer of 'McClouds Daughters' if you like that TV show,

* Romance Novel TV, internet TV - with several big US names here, extracts and there is a message board with writing tips - Hearing Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Phillips talk about when THEY got the call is inspiring.

And of course there are Romance online magazines, MySpace, YouTube interviews and PR slots, and websites for authors and publishers. Far too many to many to list. Far too many to watch and get involved with without serious procrastination/ work avoidance.

As Liz Fenwick reported in her notes on the presentation Cat Cobain, editor Little Black Dress, gave at the recent RNA Conference, there is a lot to be said for 'Quiet Time' when we don't fill our down time with blogging and internet work.

The dilemma is that I personally don't like to read other romance authors for pleasure when I am actually writing the first draft of a book. Not because I fear plagarism, but because my poor simple brain is then thinking/living the characters and the world created by the wonderful author. And not my own pathetic efforts. Ditto TV series and movies.

I have not see the latest Harry Potter film yet!

Since I have the attention span of a gnat, this leaves autobiography reference books, how to books and .. online. Domestic duties and gardening are way down the list.

Which means - I had better complete this first draft. Pronto. :-)

Monday, 6 August 2007

English Cheese

Hero candidate of the week - model David Gandy, from Billericay, Essex.
It almost makes me want to write a western. Almost.

* Photos by Sophie Laslett from the Times Newspaper. July 23 2007

Published Romance Titles of the week

'Kidnapped and Spanked by an Alien' by Pamela S Marshall aka Nicole L Pierce

closely followed by: 'I Shagged the Sheriff 'by Nancy Lindquist.

Both Loose ID Publishing Company 2007

Query Letters

Just noticed this link from Tess Gerritsens' blog - it does refer to Crime Fiction, but the principles seem logical and would apply to most other Query Letters.

Three take-aways for me;

* One suggestion I have NOT used before, is to add the first page of the text to the end of your query letter which is otherwise short. Great idea - and yes, it does make sense - this is the hooky bit for the reader, it should be good. Even if you have sent the first 3 chapters in hard copy, if the agent/editor cannot get past page one, then why should they read the rest?

* Focus on agents and/or publishers who accept query letters by e-mail. Even in the UK this does make sense. And if they want to see your partial, you label it up as 'Requested Material' to a specific named person and hopefully save time out of the slush pile.

* Create a master listing of agents/publishers who deal in the same fiction you love to read and are actively writing. I have done this using an Excel spreadsheet for the crime fiction, but hey, science girl. The list on the link is to US crime fiction agents, but you get the idea. Yes, it is a pain at the beginning but it means that you are not always diving into the Writers and Artists Yearbook for details. Always check what they are looking for on their website before sending - some UK agents always want partials. In the US it tends to be only query letters -including Harlequin US and Canada.

These are your customers who are looking for the brilliant book which is going to make them - and you - scads of dosh. And get you in print.
Quote from author Marcus Sakey; New ideas are the lace lingerie of writing, but novels aren't made of one-night stands. Like any relationship, commitment is key.
What is playing on my YouTube right now? Warner Books Author Susan Crandall on Writing;

Saturday, 4 August 2007

I was shortlisted for a Contest!!

When I was a very small girl I won a box of Cadbury Chocolates in a geography competition at school. I took them home and showed my mum before I gobbled most of them [ lightbulb moment -so that was how it all started!]
I am excited. A few months ago I entered a contest by Trish Wylie who, as you all know, writes for HMB. The prize was stunning - a chance to work with Trish to polish a manuscript and prepare it for submission.
For me, this was a rare chance to have your work critiqued by a professional, then work with that professional on making it the best it could be.
Who could resist?
So.... I sent Trish the synopsis and partial for a story I completed earlier this year, and which is now sitting in a box, cooking for a few months, until I can distance myself from the first draft. All 49k of a first draft. I know I need two more scenes, and there are post-it notes stuck to the cover. But I had put 'Coming Home for Christmas' to one side. Physically and mentally for a few more weeks.

Until today. When Trish announced that it was one of 3 stories she had shortlisted for the contest.

How fantastic is that! Out of all the entries she received Trish choose 3 authors and I was one of them. My gob has rarely been more smacked.
Although I was not the winner, - congratulations to Janet - Trish will give me a critique of the work I sent her. Gold Dust. And incredibly generous for a working author with her own deadlines - and [ whisper] possibly even a life.
The generosity of the Romance Writing Community never ceases to amaze me.
I am not sure the same could be said for other genres. Does anyone know?
My only problem now is to keep focused on my current story when Trish mails the comments which I have no doubt will be terrific.
Sometimes it is good to have external validation.
I may stay excited for quite some time!

What is playing on my YouTube right now? Tango dancing with Antonio

Friday, 3 August 2007

Chapter Two

See previous post re; multitasking. I only wish I had that amount of courage and grit and attitude. Fantastic! This woman should be a source of encouragement for every writer. Go girl! Wherever you are. You rock!

My reward for completing Chapter One? [Yes I am that pathetic.]

Liz Fielding's New August HMB Romance. Reunited: Marriage in a Million. Read it last night. Brilliant. In fact, depressingly good. The bar has just lifted a little higher. Sigh.

What is playing on my YouTube right now? Nothing. I am listening to BBC Classical Radio 3 so I am less distracted by the visuals and tempted to type in split screen so I can watch the videos at the same time.

Now. Back to it. Have a good one.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Coconut spiced beans

except -I substituted two tins of drained Aduki beans so no boiling required, and sauteed a finely chopped onion into the buttery hot coconut mix before mixing in the beans.

Secret ingredient. Half a small tin of coconut cream into the final dish. Chopped oregano on top - although coriander would be more authentic the oregano is growing crazy in my wet garden at the moment.
Delicious served with white basmati.
Both dishes took 30 mins to make from scratch.


What is playing on my YouTube right now? Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations. Mind blowing.