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

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Every Second Counts




These are the mantra words of the Marathon Runner, the Triathlete, the woman who walks to the North Pole dragging a sled.

And may I suggest, the Fiction Writer.

It may take someone two to three years of solid training to become fit enough to physically run 26 and a bit miles.

It takes a lifetime of training to write fiction. Or at least create fictional worlds and characters that others may actually want to buy and read - starting with your editor and publisher.

I have met many university students who believe with all their heart that the passion they have for words will make them successful commercial fiction writers - after all, it has to be easier than literary fiction, hasn't it?

Any maybe they have a point- Passion. Obsessive desire. Absolute confidence.
You can't buy those and you can't fake them.

Every Second Counts is the title of Lance Amstrong's autobiography on his early life and how he overcame multiple cancers to win the Tour de France so many times.

The man in this book is someone who cannot sit still. Cannot rest. Who is always looking for the next way to train, to improve his performance, his game. He wants to be the best he can be.


" When you think you're off track, refocus on where you've come from and what it's taken to get to where you are today. Focus on the great achievements you've made, the milestones and reach within and feel those successes. All that matters is getting back on track and turning that dream into your reality."*

*Written in 2007 by Kimerly Adamson --- New Zealand

Monday, 29 October 2007

Scottish Cheese 1

Time for a move north of Hadrian's Wall to take a look at hunky heros from Scotland.

I know, any excuse for pics of men in kilts.

How about a certain gent who I know is a favourite of Julie Cohen?

Hero Candidate: Ewan Gordon McGregor was born near Grieff in Scotland on March 31 1971.

One of his early claims to fame was appearing as a teenager on children's program Blue Peter playing the French horn, and although best known for his stunning acting ability in a huge number of movies as wide ranging as Trainspotting, Miss Potter and Star Wars, this musical talent as been put to great use in musicals such as Guys and Dolls on stage and Moulin Rouge on screen.

Ewan in currently on TV in a second marathon 15,000 mile motorbike journey - The long way down, which aims to raise money for Unicef.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Lost TV show love scene to Kissing you

Friday, 26 October 2007

Medical Romance

Did anyone listen to the ‘TODAY’ programme this morning?

I only caught a snip on the way back from food shopping and was stunned to hear that a consultant psychiatrist from Dublin has been analysing novels with a medical romance theme and had written to ‘The Lancet’ – a well respected medical journal in the UK – with his findings.

My interest was piqued.
What gems had this medical professional uncovered in his scientific investigation to make it worthy of a slot on the BBC premium morning News Programme?

For your education and delight.
Here are some SELECTED highlights from the letter by Dr Brendan Kelly from The Lancet 2007; 370:1482 [who of course own the copyright to the full text – but the article is available free of charge online to all who want to read it -*]

Medical romance
Brendan D Kelly at the Department of Adult Psychiatry, University College Dublin,
In recent decades, medical romance has emerged as a substantial subgenre within romance fiction and, to explore this area further, I studied 20 randomly selected medical romance novels.

All novels contained heterosexual romantic plots in which both protagonists were involved in medical work.

Most were set in primary care or emergency medicine settings (seven each), including emergency medicine departments (five) and airborne medical teams (two). The remainder were set in general hospitals (three) and maternity settings (three).

All central male protagonists were doctors who worked in emergency medicine (six), primary care (six), surgery (five), obstetrics/neonatology (two), or paediatrics (one). 11 central female protagonists were doctors who worked in primary care, obstetrics/neonatology, training or residency programmes, surgery, anaesthesiology, or emergency medicine.

The nine other female protagonists consisted of eight nurses and one paramedic. The most common pairing was male doctor with female doctor (11), followed by male doctor with female nurse (eight).
There was a marked preponderance of brilliant, tall, muscular, male doctors with chiselled features, working in emergency medicine; they were commonly of Mediterranean origin and had personal tragedies in their pasts.

Female doctors and nurses tended to be skilled, beautiful, and determined, but still compassionate; many had overcome substantial personal and professional obstacles in their lives. Protagonists of both sexes had frequently neglected their personal lives to care better for their patients, many of whom had life-threatening illnesses from which they nonetheless managed to recover.
These novels draw attention to the romantic possibilities of primary care settings and the apparent inevitability of uncontrolled passions in the context of emergency medicine, especially as practised on aeroplanes. These novels suggest that there is an urgent need to include instruction in the arts of romance in training programmes for doctors and nurses who intend working in these settings


Any volunteers to provide instruction?
You have to laugh.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? The West Wing to Rod Stewart

Thursday, 25 October 2007

More words from the wise

Tess Gerritsen* had an interesting topic on her blog recently re: the fear of losing everything she has worked for overnight and the effects this may well have on her writing. The compulsion with security keeps her hungry and fighting to write a better book, and achieve better sales.

Kyle Kerr ** began his comment to this blog entry as follows:

'During the Maui Writers Retreat, John Lescroart made a really great speech…
He says that, during the writing process, there are two different modes an author goes into. When she’s writing the first draft, the author is in “Genius Mode,” where everything she writes is flecked with gold and diamonds.
Then, when it comes time for editing and revision, she enters “Idiot Mode,” where the author realizes that what she had first taken for gold and diamonds is actually pyrite and kitty litter. It’s the worst thing she’s ever seen, let alone written herself

These two comments made me think long and hard about my own writing, and whether I am hungry ENOUGH, working hard ENOUGH, focusing enough on writing the very best book I can possibly write with every scrap of talent I can bring to the words.

I am editing and rewriting at the moment, and know that I need to rewrite most of the opening first chapters to focus on the heroine and her internal conflict.

There are diamonds among the cat litter. But who wants to sort through cat litter? I do. I have to. This is the work. Needs to be done. Will be done.

Melissa James *** writes at least six drafts of her work, each one focusing on another layer of the work. This may well be the technique that works for me, starting with a 'discovery draft' in Genius Mode, then the flip side where I need to spend serious time being an Idiot.

Only good times ahead.

** Go here for Kyle's website , and

*here for Tess Gerritsen's blog and

***here for Melissa James article

What's playing on my YouTube right now? The movie soundtrack to Pan's Labyrinth.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Katie FForde

Katie Fforde has wonderful news - as reported in The BookTrade yesterday -
Kate Elton, publishing director of Arrow, has acquired two new books by Katie Fforde. The new contract, agreed with Sara Fisher of AM Heath, is for a very substantial six-figure advance.
A major sales and marketing push has resulted in sizeable sales growth for Katie Fforde over the last few years. Her most recent novel, GOING DUTCH, was a Sunday Times hardback bestseller for three weeks, and a big repackage in 2008 is set to increase sales even further.
Katie Fforde said: 'I'm thrilled to have a new contract – the team at Random House are brilliant and I'm incredibly lucky to have them.'
Kate Elton said: 'Katie is not only one of our most important authors – a wonderful writer whose trademark combination of warm humour, engaging heroines and delicious heroes have made her a firm favourite across the whole market - but also a complete and utter pleasure to work with. I'm delighted that we have a new deal.'

Something to celebrate! Go Katie!

Monday, 22 October 2007

English Cheese 10

Hero Candidate= Callum Keith Rennie

Although known as a Canadian actor, Callum was born in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, UK and spent the first four years of his life there before the family moved to Alberta.

Callum was born September 14, 1960. He has blond hair and blue eyes.

Best known for his work in TV shows such as 'Due South', 'Men in Trees' and 'Battlestar Galactica' Callum has a impressive range of TV and movie appearances. Although a natural athlete and climber, his biography does not miss the dark side of his young life when alcohol problems almost cost him his sight and his life.

He has that certain edge - ideal for rom suspense.

On himself and his future in acting."I'm not handsome enough for leading roles and not ugly enough to play criminals."

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Bad to the Bone- Supernatural. Wake up music.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

A different type of Romantic Comedy

I saw a trailer today for a very different romance MOVIE. 'LARS AND THE REAL GIRL'
Yes, I do love films as well as books. This is genetic and I am not ashamed. It also gives me a snapshot of some elements of the Zeitgeist as seen by movie companies. Ever tried combing the taglines of a couple of romantic comedies today? You can get some interesting story lines.
Anyway. Back to the film.

Written by Six Feet Under scribe Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl is a heartfelt comedy starring Academy-Award nominated Ryan Gosling as Lars Lindstrom.

Lars is a loveable introvert whose emotional baggage has kept him from fully embracing life.

After years of what is almost solitude, he invites Bianca, a friend he met on the internet to visit him. He introduces Bianca to his Brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and his wife Karen (Emily Mortimer) and they are stunned.

They don’t know what to say to Lars or Bianca — because she is a life-size doll, not a real person and he is treating her as though she is alive.

They consult the family doctor Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson) who explains this is a delusion he’s created — for what reason she doesn’t yet know but they should all go along with it. What follows is an emotional journey for Lars and the people around him.

How about that for a premise! I loved it. And the film is launched this week in the US - not sure when it is coming to the UK but I know I will make the effort to go and see it. Heart felt romance based on emotional depth with deeply wounded hero.
Take a look at the trailer - what do you think?

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Words from the Wise

I have just noticed that Romance Writers of America now have PodCasts of some presentations made at the annual conference this year.

Note - these are the full presentations and last about 30 or 60 mins each.

Join RWA authors and panelists as they present keynote addresses and workshops at the 2007 Annual Conference.
Keynote Address: Thursday Best-selling author Lisa Kleypas discusses her life and career as a romance author.
*Awards Luncheon Address: Saturday Best-selling author Lisa Jackson talks about her support system, writing methods and daily writing process.
Romance Wins Join best-selling authors Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips as they discuss successful ideas for planning and staging an author event in your library.
Publisher's Panel Leah Hultenschmidt (Dorchester Publishing) and Melissa Endlich (Steeple Hill, an imprint of Harlequin Publishing) discuss the latest news and events in the publishing industry.
Focus on Women's Fiction & Chick Lit Best-selling authors Barbara Samuels and Jane Porter discuss women's fiction and the chick-lit revolution.
Focus on Paranormal Romances Best-selling authors Sherrilyn Kenyon and Sandra Hill discuss the nuances of paranormal romances.
What's New: From Audiobooks to Ebooks & More Featuring Harlequin's Malle Valik.

Plenty of Procrastination fodder there for one and all!

Note - I found I had to refresh the link a couple of times before pressing play.


Thank you to the visitor from


who has just become visitor 1000 to this Blog.

I began posting entries on a regular basis in July 2007, to co-incide with the UK Romantic Novelists Conference, and am stunned and grateful that so many people have given me their precious time to read my words and leave comments/ give encouragement.

Thank you all.

And since it is 8am in the South of England, I think I can say a very EARLY good morning to my Fort Worth visitor.

Only good times ahead.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007


Mini Rant

Yesterday afternoon I actually, truly, in person, threw a paperback across the room at the wall.

I hate being a cliché, but there was nothing else to be done.

I was lying on the sofa at the time and it was not worth my time standing up and gently lowering the collection of pressed cellulose fibre sheets with ink scratchings, into the bag of other unloved items intended for the charity shop.
Fortunately I was alone when the book went flying.

Reason for ranting?

I bought this contemporary romance for cash money.

I spent time trying to read it late at night. And then I gave it a second chance.

It was published in 2007. It was written by a writer I had heard of, and it was from a line and publisher I may submit to one of these days.

And it was Dreck.

It was so Dreckky that I actually had to flip through the pages to make sure that I had not missed any good bits.
Nope. It was completely Dreck. From first to last page.

That is to say, it was Dreck as I define Dreck by MY standards and expectations.
And there lies the rub of course.

The author who spent months of her life writing the words, the editor who bought it, the publisher and cover artist and marketing etc etc did not think it was Dreck.
And they certainly could not have expected their readers to think it was Dreck.
Is it just me? As a reader?

As a writer – I know that what I should do now, of course, is to analyse PRECISELY why it was Dreck.
What was so wrong with it that I had to force myself to scan read the last third?
Maybe I should try to rewrite, say, the first scene, as a writing exercise, so that I can use the precious time I spent trying to read the [thing which was not worthy of being called fiction] as a learning opportunity?

But I already know the answer.

Because it hit me like a large rock to the head when I read Chapter One.
The Premise, the ‘Story Idea’ which started off the story, and brought the hero to the heroine’s door, was not believable. Or even plausible. I did not, could not, believe the reason why the couple got together.
Not for one second.
Now, I know that sometimes you can get away with contrived situations if the characters are interesting. Nope. Both of them were TSTlive.

And that pulled me out of the story, away from any sympathy or empathy with the characters, and, frankly, I was bored. And there are plenty of others in my TBR pile.
If I ever have any doubt about how important that intial set-up is, I know better now.

Of course there were other things which were wrong. He spent a lot of time cooking for her - and the cooking times and ingredients, etc. were so wrong it was silly.
Only it was not meant to be silly.
And yet again, these ridiculous details pulled me out of the 'story'.
I should not be thinking.. you BOILED IT? FOR HOW LONG?

Another reader may love that storyline, and the characters. I hope they do. Because my copy is now headed to the charity shop.

Has this ever happened to you?

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Mr Richard Armitage - North and South, with the fantastic lyrics of 'In the Deep' , which is intended to restore my faith.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

What makes you weep?

Melissa James has a thought-inspiring series of articles on 'Emotional Punch' on the Women on Writing site -

One in particular appealed to me and had my poor brain spining -

How to use Physical Stimulants to:

1. Help define and describe your characters

2. Help create greater emotional depth in particular scenes and situations.

In this context, Physical Stimulants include anything which will link to a specific emotional reaction for your character:

* A tatty wallet or book - some object from the past. A baby blanket. A music box. The ring your mother/boyfriend gave you when you were 18. Anything.

* Specific Songs - blasts from the past - [ Careless Whisper by Wham, Celine Dion whose Heart will go on - etc.] perhaps a make up or break up track or something your mother used to sing

* Specific pieces of Music -does your hero swing his head to heavy rock or John Denver? did you have to learn that piano piece when you went to the hero's house and his mother was the tutor

* Specific food and drink. Cherry brandy at your granny's at Xmas. The Coffee you used to have on Sunday mornings. Home made food made by a specific person.

* AND SMELL. Scent. The connection between that scent and a person and experience.

That one is a killer for me.

And then you use that connection to elicit the emotion in the character.

The Challenge? Make each of those connections unique. It is personal. IT IS NOT A CLICHE! And it evokes a powerful emotion in your character in that scene. In that moment.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Whitney Houston - from the Bodyguard.

Monday, 15 October 2007

English Cheese 9

Hero Candidate: James Purefoy
Born June 3rd 1964 in Taunton, Somerset, UK.

James Purefoy has been puttering around the television and film industry since 1990, but today the British-born actor is most recognized for his role as Mark Antony on the HBO drama Rome.
Apparently James was kicked out school for fraternizing with girls when he was 16.


What's playing on my YouTube right now? Smallville Chasing Cars

Sunday, 14 October 2007

What is a Story Beat? LONG BLOG!

What is a Story Beat?
Short Answer? A beat is a unit of a scene in a story where there is an exchange between the characters and the action/ reaction/revelation advances the story and shape the turning of that scene.
Long Answer? I can only give you my personal understanding based on my experience. And sorry, but I can only do this in the long way.
Many years ago I was thinking about writing fiction and looked around for a writing class - no luck, but there was a screenwriting class by a bloke called Robert McKee over two days in London on something called Story Structure. This was in dark days without internet but I took the chance - when I got there, it was full of well known actors and movie directors! Scary!
I went in on a Saturday morning and by Sunday teatime my brain would never be the same again.
Until that weekend I had no clue that every second of a movie is choreographed on the page to create the precise emotional and visceral response in the viewer sitting in the dark in the cinema.
They achieve this through the Structure of the Story.
How? Exactly the same way as a fiction writer - only they get paid at each stage, but that is another blog.
* they create the story idea and characters and work on the outline for the story and possibly write a first exploration draft to help explore the idea [ typical screenplay = 120 pgs for 2hrs ]
* they work and work and work to find the best way of expressing that story in the most powerful and effective manner possible - and that means structure.
Acts broken down into Scenes. And each Scene is broken down into Beats.
This is how Jenny Cruisie** defines Acts better than I could.
'Act One: The conflict begins and while the protagonist is fighting the beginning skirmishes, the entire book is set up–all characters introduced at least by reference, all subplots begun, the mood, time, and place, etc. This is the promise you make the reader which must be fulfilled in Act Four. So Act One is set-up while you’re telling your story. It can’t just be you setting up everything, the story has to begin on page one and escalate to the turning point/climax. Remember Act One is a story of its own.

Act Two: The turning point has thrown the protagonist into a much more dangerous/desperate story, and here the conflict builds. You’re not setting up anything any more, now you’re revealing character change as the action escalates. You build in tension to the middle turning point where something happens that is so radical that it forces the character to act in ways he or she has never done before, thus cementing character’s change halfway to his or her complete change at the end. I like to make this act shorter than the first one for pacing purposes, but it almost always ends up shorter anyway because I’ve got so much heavy lifting to do setting up the book in Act One.

Act Three: The conflict continues to build (which is why screenplay structure considers Act Two and Three one act, they have the same definition: Build). The stakes are much higher, the protagonist’s desperation much greater, etc. ending in the third turning point, often referred to as “the dark moment” when all is lost and your protag is on his or her knees. For pacing and tension purposes, I recommend making this act shorter than the last one.
Act Four : This is the shortest, fastest act, everything in motion, hurtling toward the climax and resolution. This act is where you resolve everything including all subplots before the climax. Answer all questions, end all character arcs, finishing everything before the protag and antag face each other in the final climactic scene, the obligatory scene.
Everything in the book rests on that final climactic scene. Think of your plot as a triangle balanced on its point. The climax is at the point. You can have a short resolution scene after the climax, just enough to give the reader breathing space, a chance to relax within the story before it ends. But keep it short; you want the reader remembering the climax, not the resolution. '
Okay. Each Act then has to be broken down into scenes.
Let's say that I am writing a short contemporary romance - say 50, 000 words.
I like to write scenes which last from 4 to 5 pages, so that something happens every 4 to 5 pages.
If one page = 250 words, 4 pages = 1000 words, 5 pages = 1250 words.
So. I would expect to create between 40 and 50 scenes, divided up into chapters.
Think of it as a storyboard.
This is the flow of the story. Here are my hero and heroine and this is how he/she is acting and feeling and how the romance and the storylines are working in that chapter.
THAT scene has to give the reader THIS information/ part of the story so that the chapter works within the bigger framework of the story.
If you have 50, 000 words, and, for example, 11 chapters, you only have 4000 to 5000 words a chapter. That's 4 scenes. So each scene has to achieve many functions. So you challenge that scene, you interrogate it, you ask it hard questions.
Now to answer my own question. What is a Story Beat?
A Story Beat is how you build up a scene, step by step, so that the scene does its job in that chapter in that place in your story.
There are so many examples I could use but this is one from a HMB I read last week -
Beat sheet – 'Steamy Surrender by' Ally Blake *

Questions you have to ask about the scene.
  • Who is my viewpoint character or characters.
  • What does the hero want in this scene? Why are they here? Why now?
  • Who is going to block that want? How?
  • What are the turning points?
  • How does the whole scene turn from start to end?

Okay, so here goes my pathetic look at the opening scene of this short contemporary.
I think there are 10 beats to the point where the hero and heroine actually talk to one another for the first time. At the end of this scene the story launches into another scene, still in the shop, where the detailed dialogue takes off. That has a separate series of turning points and an escalation of the tension in the scene which leads off into the main Chapter One Turning point.

Morgan pushed her large sunnies higher onto her nose then stared across Como Avenue, the ice cold Melbourne street in which the cabbie had left her. She rubbed fast hands down her arms to ward off the insidious chill in the air. And she frowned. This was reason she had spent twenty-four hours seated on planes, fifteen of those hours next to a guy who hadn’t showered in at least a week?
When lawyers had contacted her in Paris less than two weeks earlier with the news that she’d inherited five shopfronts in Carlton, she’d been silly enough to allow herself to imagine a quaint florist, a charming café, maybe even a funky boutique or two.
But considering the bequest had come from her grandfather on her mother’s side she ought to have known better. The Kiplings had two great talents; self-preservation, and intra-family disharmony. Passing on prime real estate in a move of last minute conciliation would just have been out of character.
We know that the heroine is called Morgan. She has travelled from Paris on a 24 hr flight after receiving an inheritance from her grandfather – where there is trouble within the family - and now she has come to inspect the five shopfronts in Melbourne. It is an ice cold day.

As it turned out, her inheritance offered a city full of savvy shoppers a drycleaner, a real estate agency with faded advertisements lining a cracked window, an Indian restaurant with dusty red curtains and crazed vinyl chairs haphazardly lining the footpath, and a place called Jan’s Wool and Fabric with a sign so old it was missing the tenth digit which had been added to all Australian phone numbers many years before.
The final shopfront was the building’s saving grace. With new signage, golden down lights and clean windows, the façade of the Bacio Bacio Gelataria was like a sunburst of panache within the hotchpotch of ancient, dilapidated outlets. And though the idea of gelato seemed ludicrous considering it was at most five degrees outside, it was enough for Morgan to decide to start her stealthy reconnaissance there. She stamped her half numb feet against the cold cracked concrete, took a gulp of her lukewarm, over baked, congealing, takeaway coffee for courage, and checked the street before crossing, reminding herself to look right first and last. Yet while nearby Lygon Street hummed with constant traffic, Como Avenue had none.
‘You sure ain’t in Paris anymore,’ she told herself before jogging across the empty road.


Five shops. The last one is new and shiny. A gelataria. The empty street is quiet with cracked concrete. She plans to start her ‘stealthy reconnaissance’. Her decision is to start with the ice cream shop. Note the detail here - she needs the money and this is her inheritance.

Saxon sang along with his favourite Elvis Costello CD as he turned Bessie, his beloved midnight blue 1968 MkII Jaguar, off Lygon Street and into Como Avenue.
When she purred to a full stop in the staff parking area at the back of the run of shops, he gave her his habitual loving stroke of the dash, and told her what a good girl she was before getting out.
This is the hero. English classic car and English old style music. He has good taste, stylish, and talks to his car – an endearing touch – treats it like a girl. Instantly appeals.

‘Sheesh,’ he said to no one in particular when the freezing wind whipped about his face and leached through his jeans.
He didn’t remember it having been this cold in years. Not since the halcyon days of cruising Lygon Street in nothing warmer than a T-shirt and Levi 501s, the tape player in his hotted up Monaro cranked loud with Billy Joel while his similarly under-dressed cousins shouted offers to the lucky ladies on the sidewalk as they thundered by.
He pulled his beanie tighter over his ears and his sheepskin collar higher around his neck. Not all was lost. The sky was crystal clear indicating fresh snowfall on the northern mountaintops. He might still get the chance to take Bessie for a run up to Mt Buller before the week was out. Skiing, mulled wine by the open fire, with a little Tom Jones on the CD player. If he played his cards right perhaps even a warm willing ski bunny in faux fur and tight pants might help take the edge off.


He grew up here – knows the street and the area, and used to cruise with his cousins. He knows the good life – sporting, good food and wine, music, and he is single. Looking for some female company. He likes ladies and fun. Has a business and has money.

The sound of a distant tinkling bell split the air, drawing him out of his daydream. He’d know the sound of that particular bell anywhere. For him it meant business.
He popped a stick of cinnamon gum in his mouth, waiting for the peppery sweetness to warm him as he jogged to the back door of the shop. He knew he ought to just give his cousin Darius his weekly kick in the pants and leave Trisha to handle the customers. But the thrill of the chase warmed his blood more than any Tom Jones song ever had.
Nope. Darius wouldn’t get much of a wave before he spent a busy lunch hour doing what he did best. Selling ice-cream to Eskimos.
He is a business man and this is his business. He should leave the work to his cousin and staff – but he loves selling ice cream. This is what he does best. He has cousins who he used to hang out with. Hint at his musical tastes/ cultural refs. Time of day.

The soft tinkling of an old fashioned brass bell heralded Morgan’s introduction to The Bacio Bacio Gelataria.
She slid her knee length knitted scarf from around her neck and tied it around the handle of her oversized designer bag - one of a trillion freebies she received as a perk of working as a photographic set designer for a top fashion mag in Paris. Then she strolled deeper into the room, her creative eye skimming over numerous visual delights.
She is a set designer for a top fashion mag in Paris. And she likes the décor.

Rendered walls were painted a deep golden yellow bar one feature wall covered in an impression of Tuscan hills. A huge gleaming bronze espresso machine took up a tidy portion of the long mahogany counter top, leaving the remainder of the space for curved glass cabinets, cleverly backlit to make the most of at least three dozen long trays filled with towering swirls of multi-coloured gelato, flat spoons sticking out the top of each perfect mound like the first flag on Mount Everest.
It was the kind of place someone in her job dreamed of stumbling upon.
A perfect blend of colour, texture, and lighting. It bombarded the senses in such a way it sold not just foodstuffs, but an image, a feeling. She could imagine men in fedoras crowded around the several tiled wrought-iron tables talking football spreads and planning heists, and little kids in newsboy caps sticking their noses against the large window, wishing they hadn’t spent the last of their pocket money on some silly toy.
It was a pity she was here on not nearly so pleasant a task as scouting out a Chic Magazine set. A great pity.
Instead, by the end of the week she would have to have made a decision: up the rent astronomically to make the place viable, or sign off on the plans burning a hole in her bag and raze the building to the ground.


She is an artist and has an artist’s eyes when she looks at the place. It creates a feeling, not just an image. But her imagination goes riot.
Then reveals – she had to decide whether to increase the rent, or sign off on the plans burning a hole in her bag – and level the place.
What plans?
Why by the end of the week? asks questions in the reader.

Once inside, Saxon replaced his beanie for a black Bacio Bacio cap, left his leather jacket over a chair in the staff room, and tied a deep red apron around his waist, tightening the knot in front.
He tucked his hair behind his ears, decided he’d better get a hair cut before his mother saw him again, and then hastened out into the warm inviting surrounds of his home away from home to find a woman had entered his haven.
He has to cut his hair before seeing his mother - a woman he respects.
The shop is his home from home. And a woman had entered his warm and inviting space.

He slowed. For this was not just any woman, but a woman who deserved a second glance. And a third. And dinner and a movie and at least an attempt at a nightcap.
Blonde she was. Dirty blonde with luscious waves trailing long and unkempt down her front. Huge dark sunglasses covered half her small face. At least three gold chains hung around her slim neck, carrying oversized charms that jingled against one another as she moved through the room, giving her a kind of musical quality. And poking out from her ridiculously high-heeled bronze sandals the nails of her dainty toes were painted working-girl-red. Actually she was kind of small all over; the class of woman his father would say fit nicely into one’s pocket. Her pint-sized loveliness was sheathed in a tight gold V-neck top that adhered lovingly to some seriously eye-catching curves, like caramel sauce over ice-cream. And a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t sliver of skin between the bottom of her top and the top of calf-length cargo pants kept him riveted for a good thirty seconds


He is good with details and appraises women in a certain way.

[ and you can't help notice that she is wearing high heeled sandals and bare feet - and it is freezing outside. This could be a plot device or a symbol that she is a phoney all surface girl.

Saxon made a concerted effort to rein in his libido which had become overexcited astonishingly quickly for such a cold winter morning. For simmering just below the initial wham bam thank-you ma’am attraction he felt a thread of residual discomfort, like a red flag waving in the very corner of his sub-conscious. Something about this woman was making him itch.
He caught Trisha’s eye instead and motioned that he’d get this one. The grin on Trisha’s face told him she’d been more than half expecting it. He curled his lip and it only made her giggle behind her hand before she snuck out the back to take her morning break before the lunch rush set in.
Alone with the mystery woman Saxon leaned on the counter and began his signature pitch that had sold a million gelatos and turned his family’s one small suburban shop into a trans-Tasman empire.
‘What’s your poison?’ he asked.
This is not the first time saxon had looked after female customers.
He senses something different about this woman.
He has a sales pitch – and he has turned the small family business into an empire. So he is a successful entrepreneur. And he has thought about both his parents and his cousins as working together. Contrast with Morgan’s family on her mother’s side = self-preservation and family disharmony.

· What does the hero want in this scene? Morgan has come to see the five shops she has inherited from her grandfather- and decide whether to raise the rent or go with the plans and level the place – and she had to decide by the end of the week
· Who is going to block that want? the occupants of the five shops and especially Saxton, the ice cream seller
· How is the conflict going to escalate in this scene? Saxon sees her and is attracted to her
· What are the turning points? Morgan decides to start her investigation at the ice cream shop. Saxon decides to serve in the shop instead of leaving it to the cousin and staff, and then he sees Morgan and is attracted - and stays.
· How does the whole scene turn from start to end? Morgan is wearing sun glasses in the freezing cold – ends with Saxton in the warm and inviting shop.
Some people break down the scene this way before they write.
MOST writers I know create the 'discovery draft' as Nora Roberts I think calls it, then use Craft and structure to make the story as strong as possible.
Do you do this type of 'Scene Design' for every scene?
You could, but your brain would explode, or your book would take a very long time. But certainly for the opening scenes which have to work hard and key turning points in the book.
* - from her book extracts. Great book!
1. **Jenny Crusie and Bob Meyer - excellent section on scenes and beats - and plot and conflict in general
2. Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott wrote 'Shrek' and 'Pirates' and have a superb database of articles on Craft.
3. Google 'Story Structure' or 'Story Beats' and procrastinate for hours.
Robert McKee wrote a well known book ' Story' and there are two long chapters on scene design and scene analysis - his analysis of scenes from the movie 'Casablanca' is amazing.
There are hundreds of other books on Amazon on structure, but life is too short.
YouTube? Who has time to YouTube. Think of all those Beats I have to correct!. LOL Ray :o))

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


Glastonbury. One sacred site. And the goalposts are another.
The All Black Rugby team are well known for performing the Haka before a match.

From what I understand * this is not a war dance but a ceremonial without weapons intended to combine spirituality and physicality.

Most people know the Ka Mate form of the Haka

but the translation of the Haka 'Timatanga' is worth looking at [ and click on 'more' in the caption box.] This was a match against the British Lions.

My own brothers play Rugby and it is not a game for whimps who dislike the smell of hospitals. What could beat the powerful combination of physical power and mental strength?

I am not from New Zealand myself, but I find watching these men inspiring and energising. I would not like to be standing a few feet away on a grass field. What about you?

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

First Crush

My current romance includes a High School Crush and I am having fun researching other people's tales of how terrible/wonderful/unforgettable that experience was.

Jill Shalvis* has linked to this brilliant compilation of interviews with folk about their first school crush. Enjoy.

Plus? Words of Wisdom from Kurt Vonnegut on connectivity between writers:

"Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'"

Monday, 8 October 2007

English [and Welsh] Cheese 8

Hero Candidate: Christian Bale

Christian Charles Philip Bale (also known professionally as Christian Morgan Bale; born 30 January 1974) is a superb method actor who is known for his roles in the films Empire of the Sun, American Psycho, Shaft, Equilibrium, The Machinist, Batman Begins and The Prestige, 310 from Juma, among many others.

Christian Bale was born in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales but the family began travelling when he was two.
Christian's mother, Jenny, worked as a clown and a dancer, riding elephants and introducing acts in the circus. Christian has recalled, at age 7, having a great time in a circus caravan surrounded by beautiful women wearing only fishnet stockings and peacock head-dresses.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Anthony and the Johnsons

Saturday, 6 October 2007

How to Eat an Elephant

At Project Planning Meetings, one of the most important steps is breaking down the massive project into meaningful chunks, then signing off on the timelines and action steps. Think spreadsheets. Ghant charts. Who is going to do what by when, and then the layers of action, which will complete the work. Milestone dates on the journey.

Otherwise we all just stand there looking at this towering adult bull elephant thinking - 'there is no way I can eat that, let's try a chicken first' - and the elephant just stands there, the project never gets started and the business opportunity is lost.
Your potential to show the kind of writing you are capable of, is lost.
And I know that for some people, the elephant is the size of a 5000 word short story, it doesn't matter - it is still an elephant. Or walrus. Or giant pumpkin. Ten acre garden you have just taken on. Your choice.

Fear? Doubt? Uncertainty that you are even capable of finishing the job so you never start it in the first place? Or vague comments on the lines that you are 'thinking about how to approach it'.

In truth, Strategic planning means only one of three things. In life and in writing -

1. You start eating at the trunk and keep going day by day until you get to the tail , and that includes the nasty bits

2. You start at the tail , and work backwards so you have the plot and character arc but not the how, or

3. You take your sharpest knife, carefully honed by x years of reading and writing, and you chop the grey ugly hunk of meat into chunks you can manage every day - but you have an outline drawing of the elephant taped to your screen to remind you where the bits came from.

And in the words of the master -

When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate and I eliminate the possibility of ever finishing.” - John Steinbeck

No YouTube today-out and about.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Writing Advice

The inspirational Jurgen Wolff sent me to the Barley Hut blog+ for this list of Writing Tips which is modestly entitled ' The Only General Writing Advice you will ever need.'

This is his list:

1. Writing and Editing are two separate, and different processes.
2. Writing and Editing are two separate, and different processes. It is that important
3. Write first. Edit later.
4. Write first. Edit later. It is that important.
5. Outline only if it works for you.
6. Write every day.
7. Write what you want to read, not what you think someone else will.
8. Keep a ritual.
9. Stick to it.
10. When you are not writing, read.
11. Read a lot.
12. Read everything: comics, newspapers, novels, magazines, screenplays, poetry, billboards, tattoos, mustard wrappers, everything.
13. Read your own writing. Out loud.
14. Read other people’s writing. Out loud.
15. Don’t read to comprehend. This is about writing.
16. Read to write. Notice the context, flow, and tone.
17. Listen to people speak.
18. Don’t listen to comprehend. This is about writing.
19. Notice the context, flow, and tone.
20. Write with different tools: keyboard, pencil, ink pen, crayon, dirt, whatever.
21. Write on different mediums: grid paper, lined paper, blank paper, cardboard, LCD, canvass, dirt, whatever.
22. Write in different places, but keep and maintain a Writing Home.
23. Tell everyone you write: your family, your friends, the postman, the prostitutes, everyone.
24. But don’t tell anyone exactly what you are writing: not even the prostitutes.
25. Strike dead every ‘should’ you have about writing.
26. Put aside this list, and every other piece of advice, or book, or adage about writing ever offered.
27. And write every day.

I have to say that I have never been a fan of reading my own work out loud, since I read it in my head as I write. Maybe something I should think about.

And you have to love the power of repetition. And no 7.

No YouTube - Mozart on Radio 3.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

The writer's brain

Are all writers magpies? Collecting snippets of trivia and images from whatever and wherever. People watching becomes research. Gossip heard in shops and on trains - especially mobile phone conversations. Does anyone truly believe that these are private?
Key thing? Cultural reference points which will make your work real.
For Historical Fiction - this is crucial.
Did anyone see the South Bank Show the other night which followed Ken Follett as he researched his sequel to his most successful book ever, Pillars of the Earth, which was about the building of a cathedral in Britain in the Middle Ages?
One takeaway moment? The cathedral designers/builders HAD NO PAPER.
So they drew/scratched out the design of stained glass windows and stonework on a floor of wet plaster which was then recovered for the next design. And some of these scratchings still exist.
Did Ken Follett use this detail as a plot point? Of course he did.
I love contemporary fiction and the detail which makes it come alive.
E.g. I was in a very nice restaurant and noticed that the two couples at the table next to me were not talking very much - because they spent most of their meal texting on their mobiles.
This was a city Italian restaurant with a fab interior and atmosphere -and these folk in their 30s had come to be together for a meal = and they spent their time texting other people, chatting for the few minutes when they needed to actually eat the food.
Or were they texting eachother?
Will I use this detail? Quite possibly. Is it even vaguely romantic?
So you know someone who got dumped in a text message? By e-mail?
Proposed to in a text message? In an e-mail?
There are some great rom comedies to be written about the western culture of seperation and connection in the physical and virtual worlds.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? North and South

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Harlequin Line Closures

In her blog yesterday, US literary agent Kristin Nelson announced that ‘The rumor is now official. Harlequin is closing its NEXT and Everlasting lines.’*
I have not been able to validate that claim - no press release that I can find from the New York office or e-Harlequin PR, but these agents are close to their editors. Let me know if this rumour is not correct.

This must be a difficult decision to make for any publishing house when they've invested so much time and energy into developing the authors and promoting these lines, which are intended for the older reader.

And seriously bad news for the authors. These stories are not the kind, which could easily be rewritten into other Harlequin lines.
I know how gutted I was when the decision was made to close the 'Bombshell' line after I had just submitted a manuscript to that line.

‘Hen Lit’, or ‘Empty Nester Lit’ or whatever the media is calling it these days, has been praised as a new dimension in women’s fiction, where the heroines are not all 20 something city girls working in the fashion business etc.
In the UK we have Transita**, and stand alone books from various publishers, such as Elizabeth Buchan’s ‘ Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman’, but no dedicated line outside Harlequin.

As a reader, there are no doubt excellent business reasons for the closure, but frankly it does not make sense to me, considering the current demographic on the growing number of older working women with large disposable incomes.

As a writer I despair.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? The scene from 1989's "Say Anything" with John Cusack and the boombox.


Monday, 1 October 2007

English Cheese 7

October? What happened to September? Gulp.

Hero Candidate: Jason Isaacs

Jason Isaacs was born in Liverpool in 1963 before moving to London aged 11, and has appeared in many films, including Dragonheart (1996), Event Horizon (1997) and Black Hawk Down (2001).
Notable roles include
Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter (2002 – present) series of films, as well as Captain Hook/Mr. Darling in P. J. Hogan's adaptation of Peter Pan (2003).
Isaacs has also appeared in three episodes of The West Wing in 2004, and stars in the Showtime series Brotherhood (2006 – present).
Jason was also recently seen in the UK mini-series The State Within (2006) on BBC One and BBC America.
Isaacs and his partner, documentary filmmaker Emma Hewitt, have two daughters: Lily and Ruby.
Despite his frequent appearances on the big screen, TV and stage, Isaac calls himself an "invisible star" who can still travel by the London Underground to film premières unrecognized. 'No one knows who I am. I can go on the tube and bus and wander through the streets. So I'm quite happy not to get the girl.'
Oh, I don't know about that Jason.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Christian Bale in Equilibrium - Rock music. NOTE - This is Wake-Up music.