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

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Guilty Pleasures - on TV this time

Last night on BBC2, Stephen Fry revealed his 'Guilty Pleasures' as part of the current celebrations for his 50th Birthday.

Apart from adoring the TV program 'Countdown', one of the most surprising to me was his obsession with the writer GEORGETTE HAYER - he first read one of her books at school 'and was hooked'.

I always knew there was some reason why I love Stephen Fry. Apart from his talent, genius, breathtaking intelligence and erudition of course. has a brilliant informative blog which is truly intimidating.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Annie Lennox. Official video to the first single from 'Songs of Mass Destruction'

Friday, 28 September 2007

When you just have to get on with it

Some days, we all try just that little too hard.
Yes, that is Ms Westwood, and not me dressed for Friday night clubbing [ snort]
Ah, the joys of re-writing a first draft! At this point I always feel like this is the first time I have ever done it, and tend to dive into notes and reference books in some ill advised attempt to make the job easier/gain some insight into what supposed to be doing.
If it works at all, it is only through lateral thinking.

Eudaemonia has created an excellent list of all the BAD advice she gleaned from her library of 'How to Write books'. ++
These include the following gems designed to send any budding author back to the day job and daytime television;

*Whole books are out there in the ether, fully formed, waiting for me to sit and channel them into existence. They are perfect, and complete, and inevitable.

*If I'm not in some sort of trance while writing...if my characters haven't taken over my fingers themselves...then I'm not producing quality work.

*I need to be very smart, highly educated, and utterly fascinating to write.

*I also need to be temperamental and more than a little insane.

*Ideally, my wardrobe would consist of nothing other than peasant skirts, black chiffon dresses, and high heeled boots. And a beret.

*Don't bother writing if you haven't lived in Paris, in a garret.

*Books and babies don't mix.

*Fiction is all that matters. Nonfiction writing isn't “real writing.”

*I haven't done anything worth writing about, and yet, I must always “write what I know.”

*Only writing directly into a work in progress matters, forget planning or notetaking or even just occasionally THINKING about what I want to say. If I need to think that much, I am not a real writer.

*If my writing doesn't resemble the examples in the writing books, I am not a real writer.

*If I am too unhappy, I must not really love writing.

*If I am too happy, I must not be “deep” enough to be a writer.

*Be suspicious if it comes too easily. Be suspicious if it's too hard.

*Either you are a genius, or you are nothing. And you are probably not a genius.

Plus Lisa has added -

*Are you high? What makes you think you have a single thing to say that would interest anyone?

*Your writing sucks and any positive feedback you've gotten has been from people who don't have the heart to break it to you or who are clinically insane and don't know what they are talking about.

What other great fibs have you heard?
One of my favourites was that you had to have the most miserable childhood in order to find the angst to (a) be a comedian, or (b) become a fiction writer. It may be true for some folks, but always?

And somehow that does make me feel marginally less like a clueless idiot. I know this is only a temporary thing and at some point I will start to make progress.
Only good times ahead.
Now, on with the show.

No YouTube today - Radio 3.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

First Draft Rewrite

This cat is the image of the scamp who came along and ate the crunchies left for my hedgehog pals the other night.
And I need the boost.
The time has come to revise my first draft of my short contemporary romance with the working title of Amy and Jared.
The print-out has been fermenting in the box for three weeks and this morning, in the next hour, the work begins.

The plan goes something like this:

* open the box, gulp, and start reading the text from page one. Do not write anything, annotate anything, just read it through from start to end

* go out for a walk

* come back and interview the characters - again- one by one- based on what I have learned about who they are from the words on the page as they stand

* work out what I want to reveal about my hero and heroine so the character arc makes sense - starting at the end, and the self-realisation/self-revelation scenes and working backwards to the beginning - goals, conflict, backstory motivation, the lot

* redesign the goals for the opening chapter, then the first three chapters - DO NOT load the beginning with backstory and a cast of thousands ! Am I the only person who does this?

* create a new chapter breakdown [ yes, I already have a chapter outline in a spreadsheet on the pc, but this will be put to one side] with turning points based on what I have decided, focusing on building and building the layers

*separate out the pages of print-out into chapters, so that tomorrow I can start slashing and making notes until all chapters have been complete and I am ready to rewrite.

Then lie down with a blanket over my head, and try and think positive thoughts about the draft which now appears like a complete piece of **** and wonder why I ever started this story, and....

Julie Cohen has just blogged about sending off her first draft to her editor,, while Nicola Marsh is talking about what happens when you have sagging middles. I have the complete notes from Jenny Crusie's masterclass on writing.

Now all I have to do is put it all together and create the best thing I have ever written in my entire life.

The house is quiet. I am alone. And will be until 4 at the earliest. The sun is breaking through the clouds onto the sofa. I have tea.
No more excuses.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? September Song - Frank Sinatra. Class. followed by another classic -

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Contemporary Romance Part One

Billy Mernit is the author of 'Writing the Romantic Comedy' and also has a day job reading movie scripts. Screenwriters are taught to pick up the nuisances of the zeitgeist to create something the US audience will want to watch.

Like Romantic Comedies.

In his blog today*Billy picks up on the total reversal which has occured in the way screenwriters portray romance in 2007 compared to the classic screwball comedies of golden age Hollywood.

And it links to one main cultural change - The Power of Women.

In many recent romantic comedy movies, the men are often portrayed as the bewildered slacker 'manboys', and the women the take charge striver 'mothers' with careers and goals.

"The perilous new direction of the slacker-striver genre reduces the role of women to vehicles. Their only real function is to make the men grow up. "

More worrying, this may not always be so far from the truth.

Billy references a New York Times article this week which describes only too clearly the issues successful women have finding dates and keeping those dates. **

This article reinforces something which has been noodling inside my brain for a while.

Something which links back to two of the reasons why, in my humble opinon, so many graduate and professional women read category romantic fiction - of all kinds.

1. The unspoken hope and expectation that, as a clever girl, you will meet someone who will respect you and value you for that driven, hardworking success. And the money/lifestyle you earn because of it.

"Although these women often say it is men who have issues around their higher salaries, sometimes it is the women themselves who are uncomfortable with the role reversal.
...The discomfort over who pays for what seems to be not really about money, plain and simple. Instead, it is suggestive of the complex psychology of what many of these women expect from their dates (for him to be a traditional breadwinner) and what they think they should expect (Oh, I just want him to be a nice guy).

2. The need for someone to love you as a complete human being with all of the faults and issues that comes with you, and give you true romantic love - someone you can fall in love with and want to spend the rest of your life with. Someone who 'completes you.'

"Is it possible that today's more independent and successful woman has a different kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy? Maybe they want to see a rom-com that stresses its heroine's vulnerabilities, so she can, once again, be rescued and taken care of, in the manner of The Way Things Used To Be."

Compare the harsh truth of life for the single woman [ in western society at least] and the idealised worlds of unselfish complete love she reads about in the pages of a romance novel.

Surely this is the BEST reason and motivation why we should create MORE wish fulfillment fantasy stories.

Lightbulb moment? What do our readers want from the romance novels we are writing?
As clever successful authors, I don't need to tell you the answer. It is all here in these articles. [And no doubt in countless PhD theses of academics studying womens' fiction.]

No YouTube today. CDs.

Monday, 24 September 2007

A different world

Valued Exposure: A group of men clear up the autumn leaves in London's Hyde Park in October 1938. Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images .

English Cheese 6

Hero Candidate: Clive Owen.
Clive was born on October 3rd 1964 in Keresley, Coventry, the fourth of five brothers, and now lives in London with his wife Sarah-Jane Fenton and their two daughters, Hannah and Eve

After a long career on TV and on stage, Clive has starred in several recent blockbuster movies, including Croupier, Arthur, Closer, Sin City, Children of Men and Inside Man.
He was brilliant in the BMW advert [ love the bit where he takes his hands off the wheel ]

This year you can see him in Shoot 'Em Up and then playing Sir Walter Raleigh opposite Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth the First.
And he is now the face of Lancome for men. Coming to a poster near you soon.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Big Brother

The Washington Post carried this article yesterday:

'The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials.'

My blog is not for political comment. But this ....

The Lady Novelist

One of the challenges any author has to face is the worklife balance between the professional career woman/fiction writer and working from home around a family and life.
The same is true for anyone working from home, of course, but somehow authors do not have the same respect for their time and energy.

Nicola Marsh has been blogging about the busy life of the working mother/romance writer
Kate Hardy's schedule always leaves me breathless and feeling like a lazy slug!

One of the cliches which still comes up, even today, is the image of the glamorous lady novelist reclining in her luxurious lifestyle being waited on hand and foot.
Both men and women have whispered to me, the hallowed names such as Danielle Steele, and in the UK, the lady herself, Dame Barbara Cartland, and then switched to JK Rowling and asked when I am moving to the mansion.
Hey hum.
Two thoughts come to me.
1. This is the dream lifestyle of folks who have never actually written a book - and completed it. All 100, 000 words plus of it.
2. These authors are the masters of personal branding.
Barbara Cartland is as real to many people today as she has ever been. And I am the last person alive who is going to criticise any writer who sold as many books as she did. Why is she always mentioned?
Dame Barbara is celebrated for:
* publishing novel number 723. Yes, 723
* writing an average of 23 books year. in 1994 she held this world record for 21 years
* selling more than ONE BILLION copies by the mid-1990s
* working her career. This is a woman who was giving 400 to 500 radio and TV interviews a year when she was in her 80s, creating her own line of jewellery etc.
* making sure that the TV cameras were there when she launched her own website - on pink computers - in 2000
* creating a brand which has infiltrated the memories and psyche of anyone over 30 in the UK today. well. certainly romance readers over 40.
For example: Little Britain Skit-
Oh, and did you know that Danielle Steele had NINE children at home, and her manic-depressive son committed suicide at age 19? Take a look at this woman's personal life and marvel that she could even get out of bed in the morning without crying.
Maybe things have always been the same after all.


What's playing on my YouTube right now? Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Current Book Marketing

The WallStreet Journal ran this article this week:
'From Hardcover to Paper,How a Blockbuster Was Born'.
'When Pearson PLC's Viking imprint published Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir "Eat, Pray, Love" early last year, it printed 30,000 copies -- only 5,000 more than the total U.S. hardcover sales of her previous release. "We had high hopes, but we didn't put it out in best-seller numbers," says Viking Publisher Paul Slovak.
The title -- a chatty recounting of the author's divorce, spiritual search and self-redemption as she traveled the world -- was the fourth for Ms. Gilbert, a former writer at GQ magazine. Although her work was well-reviewed, Ms. Gilbert was considered a mid-list author, talented but not a proven seller.
Then a strange thing happened: The paperback edition of "Eat, Pray, Love," published in January, quickly gained must-read status. Women everywhere, it seemed -- on trains, planes and exotic beaches -- were suddenly entranced, making it this summer's break-out publishing hit. The book has had a 32-week run on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best-seller list, where it currently occupies the No. 1 position. Paramount Pictures acquired the movie rights for actress Julia Roberts. The author says a sequel is already in the works.'

The article is a hard reflection of modern publishers in the US for stand alone books and how they are sold to booksellers and promoted. And it is tough reading for anyone not writing category romance.

Bottom line?
'most book authors don't have a snowball's chance in hell of mass market success. That means you have to find a different business model, and fast - one that doesn't rely on big publishers and traditional marketing, and one that doesn't leave you trying to eke out a living from a relatively tiny royalty'.


Tuesday, 18 September 2007

1. know what you want to do/ where you want to go
2. know where you are now
3. know what you have to do, to get where you want to go
4. do it.

[ From David Taylor, the Naked Leader, and various entrepreneurs saying the same thing in different ways over the years in numerous business management books]
Same message.

*Know where you want to be/what you want - SPECIFICALLY define that thing in clear and unambigous, measurable terms, whether it is to create a bestseller, learn a new language, build a shed, go to Paris in the spring, or lose 20 pounds of blubber.

* Define the gap between where you are now and where you want to be/want.

*Decide if you are willing to pay the price to get there. Greater the pain, the higher the price. Only you can work that one out in your life.

* Decide to pay the price and make it happen. No bleating. Your decision.

* Do it. Starting right now.

This is what seperates the folk who say - oh yes, I could write a book if I only had the time, from those who have finished work sitting on editor's desks. Published or not.
Other folk are not willing to pay the price.
We are.
And we should be **** proud of the fact that we have paid the price and made it happen.
No going back. No surrender.

" Past is destiny; you can't change it. Future is free will; it depends on the choices you make today." Author Unknown.
Today is Tuesday 18th September, 9am. What difference are you/ am I, going to make by 9am tomorrow?

Now all we have to do is make it happen. I love Paris.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Natasha Bedingfield - I bruise easily.

Monday, 17 September 2007

English Cheese 5

There have been a plethora of English actors who have found success on US TV shows recently following the achievement of Hugh Laurie in House.

One of the latest is Lloyd Owen, who joins 'The Innocence Project'- a TV drama for CBS which centers around a group of fiercely dedicated law students who take on forgotten and unwanted pro bono cases for clients who were possibly wrongfully convicted. Also in his leading role as casino owner Ripley Holden, in the musical-dramedy series “Viva Laughlin,” (CBS, 2007) -with a certain bloke called Hugh Jackman.

Hero Candidate: Richard Lloyd Owen was born in 1966 in London UK. He was brought up in the nation's capital, although both of his parents were Welsh.

Trained at the National Youth Theatre and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, he is probably best known for his portrayal of Indiana Jones's father Professor Dr. Henry Jones, Sr. in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles between 1992 and 1993 and for playing Paul Bowman-MacDonald in the BBC Scotland television series Monarch of the Glen from 2002 to 2005. He recently played the role of solicitor William Heelis in the film Miss Potter (2006).

6'1''. Brown hair. Blue eyes.

On a TV screen coming to you soon.

What's playing on my YouTube right now?T ake the Lead Tango Dancing - Antonio Banderas. Hot stuff for a cool September monday morning.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

How to lay new turf

Having returned from a trip north, it was time to refurbish a small lawn at the front of the house in the following sequence of events;
* collect special new turf - delegate job of preperation of soil to female members of house
* remove tarpaulin and scoop off about 3 tons of gravel placed over lawn in spring to kill the grass
* discover ants nest under plastic- and ivy roots like rope, and tons of moss. remove by hand
* dig over soil, with fork, then spade
* put spade through a black wire running a few inches under surface of grass/soil - two ends of cable sticking out with exposed wires
* both of the telephone dial tones now silent
* work out that black wire is the cable media company telephone lines [ tv and broadband on cable okay] - we now have no phone
* use cell phone to call cable media company - no technician available until late Wednesday - so no telephone until then
* have to lay new turf before it dies. Thereby covering up exposed ends of broken cable.
* have nightmare re water/cable/main cable box in street supplying neighbours.
* admire new lawn.
* water new lawn and run back into house
* horrible smell in kitchen is the crumble mix in the oven - which has burnt.

Aren't holidays wonderful? So restful.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Ray-Anne went to Austria to walk in the Alps in the wonderful sunshine. The plan was a total success for the first 3 days.

And then it snowed.

For three days. The first week in September.

The kind of snow we have not seen in the south of the UK for years. We were above 1500 metres and it was a real blizzard for the first two days, then wet snow for the last.

Liz Fenwick has gone to Dubai. I got snowed on.

And it was fantastic!

How many times do you get the chance to walk through 8 inch snow in a larch forest with flakes the size of fifty pence pieces drifting down around you? For me - not many. Thanks to the power of GoreTex and climbing boots, it was a magical experience which, sorry to say, was impossible to capture in a photo.

The scenary in the Tyrol with snow-covered peaks was simply stunning.

This was my first visit to Austria, but I suspect it will not be the last.

There may be a story in this somewhere....

Now off for another few days to the north of England. Then hopefully back to the writing.

No You Tube Today. 24 hour deadline for postholiday sleep, laundry, repack.