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

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Book Covers to Covet

One day, WHEN I am published, I shall hold in my hot sticky hands a book containing words in the specific order I created.

And lo, there shall be a cover on this masterpiece. In glorious technicolour. All Praise.

Something to look forward to.

[No photo is going to look good in that position.]

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Are you a HACK or an ARTIST?


  • Is commercial success your goal?
  • Would you ever write a movie or TV novelization?

What's more important: Integrity or making a living as a writer?

  • Do you rewrite based on editor or agent suggestions even if you don't entirely agree with those suggestions?

  • Would you ever write an adaptation of a comic book or videogame?

  • Would you ever change the ending of your book in order to make a sale?

  • Would you write about something you didn't care about if you got a fat paycheck?

  • If forced to choose, would you rather have artistic integrity or fame and riches?

  • Would you rather be Dan Brown, author of The DaVinci Code, or Marilynne Robinson, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Literature?

  • Would you rather be known as a genius by hundreds of people, or mediocre by millions of people?

  • Would you ever write for a character you didn't create?
  • What's more important: Getting the words right, or getting the words sold?

  • Would you write in a genre you don't enjoy for a lot of money?

  • Have you ever submitted something that you know isn't your best work in order to make a deadline?

  • What is more important: Fans or awards?

  • Would you rather have a bestseller that is critically panned, or a poor seller that is critically praised?

  • Would you ever ghost-write another author's series?

  • Did this quiz amuse you, or annoy you?

Webster defines a hack as: a writer who works on order; also : a writer who aims solely for commercial success.

To grade this test, check your answers with the key below, and keep track of how many times you scored as a "HACK" and how many times you scored as an "ARTIST."

Making a living - HACK. Integrity - ARTIST
Fame & riches - HACK. Integrity - ARTIST
Dan Brown - HACK. Marylinne Robineson - ARTIST
Medicore - HACK. Genius - ARTIST
Words sold - HACK. Words right - ARTIST
Fans - HACK. Awards - ARTIST
Critically panned bestseller - HACK. Critically acclaimed poor seller - ARTIST
Doesn't count.
0-1 HACK answers: you are an ARTIST whose integrity is solid.
2-3 HACK answers: you are an ARTIST who realizes that publishing is a business
4-5 HACK answers: you have some artistic integrity, but you'd rather make a living
6-14 HACK answers: you are a hack, but may have some integrity left
15-17 HACK answers: welcome to hacksville, population: you
What's playing on my YouTube right now? Soundtrack to 'A Beautiful Mind'

Sunday, 24 February 2008

You earn HOW MUCH?

In December last year, R J Ellory posted on the reality of the Fiction Publishing Business and how much most authors earn from their hard work and emotional investment.

It is not for the faint-hearted. Some key take-aways?

*Only 2 out of 10 books published make a profit for the publisher

*In 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies.

*The average book in America sells about 500 copies. In the UK it is significantly less.
*The average income of a published author is in the region of £7,000 per year.

For Romance authors some of this data is already familiar through the online communities and sites such as this:

The harsh reality is that the ability of an author to support themselves through their writing truly does depend on both;

*their productivity [ more titles = more potential income as their brand becomes established] and

*their ability to stick their heads out, above the 1000s of the other titles published and get noticed. Quality. Content. Visibility. Presence.

In other words, hard work. And then harder work. Day after day.

But you already knew that. Because you are a professional.

Saturday, 23 February 2008


I have a new character in my thriller - his first name is Erasmus.

There is something about that name ..... I love it and all of the connotations that come with it. And to me, it is spot on for a detective.

The best known Erasmus, was Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1466 – 1536, a Dutch humanist and theologian, whose portrait was painted by both Holbein, as below, and Durer, but there was also Erasmus Darwin and other luminaries.

Sourced Quotes from Erasmus of Rotterdam-

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.

Un-sourced Quotes

  • I consider as lovers of books, not those who keep their books hidden in their store-chests and never handle them, but those who, by nightly as well as daily use, thumb them, batter them, wear them out, who fill out all the margins with annotations of many kinds, and who prefer the marks of a fault they have erased to a neat copy full of faults.

  • It is the friendship of books that has made me perfectly happy.

Got to love that.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Empire of the Sun soundtrack -

Friday, 22 February 2008

Writing the Commercial Bestseller

Crime and former Romance author Tess Gerritsen was interviewed recently by Sandra Rutton in SpineTingler Magazine about the very real and personal decisions writers take when framing their story.

For example;
Sandra Rutton : Recently, there was an exhaustive discussion about whether or not the mystery genre is stagnate. You stated:“If you write something different, REALLY different, you get punished for it in reader confusion and poor sales.

The vast majority of readers want the same thing, over and over again. If you give them something they’re not expecting, the chances are, only a minority will truly appreciate what you’ve done.“So your sales suffer. And that begins the downward spiral of your sales, a spiral that could well turn into a death spiral from which your sales may not recover. And then you can’t sell ANY books, and that’s where being truly creative got you.

“Some years ago, I wrote what I think of as my best book, GRAVITY. A thriller without any villains. A thriller set in orbit. It got the best reviews of my life and yet it sold the fewest copies. And it took me years for my career to recover from that disastrous experience.“Some of us long to write the truly creative, truly off-beat book. But we must do so with the full realization that for the most part, the reading public wants plain old-fashioned vanilla. “How hard do you find it to balance the scales between the idea calling to you, the thing you’d love to try, and the idea you know can sell?

Tess Gerritsen: Oh, it’s really hard! When you take on a risky and starkly different project, you’ll face resistance from just about everyone.
Publishers want you to repeat your past successes again and again. Booksellers may not know where to shelve your new book.

Cruelest of all are the readers, who may simply pass by your daring new book and reach for someone else, someone predictable.
I’d like to believe that my readers are open-minded enough to stay with me, to follow me in a new and different direction, but I know many of them won’t. T

hey certainly didn’t reach for GRAVITY. When a book I love does poorly, I’m most disappointed in my readers.
I think the only way one can survive as both an artist and a working writer is to limit the number of risks you take.

You have to give the readers what they crave, the books they’ve come to expect from you.

But every so often, just for yourself, write a book you need to write.Otherwise you’ll get to the end of your career and look back with regret on all the projects you didn’t write, but dearly wanted to.’

For me this interview frames the very real decision making dilemma writers face;
there are storylines and fiction scenarios which the author is passionate about and wants to communicate to the readers;

*she has to frame those stories into a format and tell them the best way she can
*she has studied the market and recognised the framework of crime fiction tropes which seem to be common to the bestselling work by popular authors - but they may not be in the style she writes in.
*she want to be a contracted, working, professional author. She also wants to express her personal voice.
*she knows that literary agents and publishers run a business to make money and to do that they need to sell consumers something they need and want/ or will want.

Time to bite the bullet and get down to create a product [ a single title book] which can appeal to a wide audience and will make itself irresistable to the market which is totally crowded - and STILL retain a unique and special voice.

Better get to work.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Soundtrack music to inspire from Thomas Newman -

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Words from the Past

Came across these words of wisdom from Ian Fleming written in 1962.
And still spot on. I especially like his advice not to look back on the work from day to day unless you want to horrify yourself.
The amazing thing? These books were typed on a type-writer!
I think it was Earnest Hemingway who used to type using only half the page because he knew he would hate it all and cut most of his work later and rewrite. And then there was the hard work of page nos and formatting.

How soon we forget what it was like before cut and paste and Microsoft Word! And what about Spellcheck? Manual typing made you work harder.

Enjoy. the extract. Go here for the full piece :

HOW TO WRITE A THRILLER By Ian Fleming [ selected extracts]

People often ask me, “How do you manage to think of that? What an extraordinary (or sometimes extraordinarily dirty) mind you must have.”

I certainly have got vivid powers of imagination, but I don’t think there is anything very odd about that.

We are all fed fairy stories and adventure stories and ghost stories for the first 20 years of our lives, and the only difference between me and perhaps you is that my imagination earns me money. But, to revert to my first book, Casino Royale, there are strong incidents in the book which are all based on fact. I extracted themf rom my wartime memories of the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty, dolled them up, attached a hero, a villain and a heroine, and there was the book....

We thus come to the final and supreme hurdle in the writing of a thriller.

You must know thrilling things before you can write about them.

Imagination alone isn’t enough, but stories you hear from friends or read in the papers can be built up by a fertile imagination and a certain amount of research and documentation into incidents that will also ring true in fiction.
Having assimilated all this encouraging advice, your heart will nevertheless quail at the physical effort involved in writing even a thriller.

I warmly sympathise with you. I too, am lazy. My heart sinks when I contemplate the two or three hundred virgin sheets of foolscap I have to besmirch with more or less well chosen words in order to produce a 60,000 word book.

One of the essentials is to create a vacuum in my life which can only be satisfactorily filled by some form of creative work - whether it be writing, painting, sculpting, composing or just building a boat - I was about to get married - a prospect which filled me with terror and mental fidget.

To give my hands something to do, and as an antibody to my qualms about the marriage state after 43 years as a bachelor, I decided one day to damned well sit down and write a book.

The therapy was successful. And while I still do a certain amount of writing in the midst of my London Life, it is on my annual visits to Jamaica that all my books have been written.

But, failing a hideaway such as I possess, I can recommend hotel bedrooms as far removed from your usual “life” as possible. Your anonymity in these drab surroundings and your lack of friends and distractions will create a vacuum which should force you into a writing mood and, if your pocket is shallow, into a mood which will also make you write fast and with application.

I do it all on thetypewriter, using six fingers. The act of typing is far less exhausting than the act of writing, and you end up with a more or less clean manuscript The next essential is to keep strictly to a routine.

I write for about three hours in the morning - from about 9:30 till 12:30 and I do another hour’s work between six and seven in the evening. At the end of this I reward myself by numbering the pages and putting them away in a spring-back folder. The whole of this four hours of daily work is devoted to writing narrative.

I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to.

If you once look back, you are lost.

How could you have written this drivel?

How could you have used “terrible” six times on one page? And so forth.

If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain.

By following my formula, you write 2,000 words a day and you aren’t disgusted with them until the book is finished, which will be in about six weeks.

I don’t even pause from writing to choose the right word or to verify spelling or a fact. All this can be done when your book is finished.

When my book is completed I spend about a week going through it and correcting the most glaring errors and rewriting passages. I then have it properly typed with chapter headings and all the rest of the trimmings. I then go through it again, have the worst pages retyped and send it off to my publisher....

Then the book is published and you start getting letters from people saying that Vent Vert is made by Balmain and not by Dior, that the Orient Express has vacuum and not hydraulic brakes, and that you have mousseline sauce and not Bearnaise with asparagus.

Such mistakes are really nobody’s fault except the author’s, and they make him blush furiously when he sees them in print. But the majority of the public does not mind them or, worse, does not even notice them, and it is a dig at the author’s vanity to realise how quickly the reader’s eye skips across the words which it has taken him so many months to try to arrange in the right sequence.
But what, after all these labours, are the rewards of writing and, in my case, of writing thrillers?
First of all, they are financial. You don’t make a great deal of money from royalties and translation rights and so forth and, unless you are very industrious and successful, you could only just about live on these profits, but if you sell the serial rights and the film rights, you do very well. Above all, being a successful writer is a good life. You don’t have to work at it all the time and you carry your office around in your head. And you are far more aware of the world aroundyou.
Writing makes you more alive to your surroundings and, since the main ingredient of living, though you might not think so to look at most human beings, is to be alive, this is quite a worthwhile by-product of writing.

pic from Marvin Kover/Corbis

Monday, 18 February 2008


Jenny Cruise has been blogging about the curious nature of EARWORMS.
No, not crawly multilegged beasties - EARWORMS are the annoying songs that you cannot get out of replay in your brain.

It turns out the reason you can’t dump them is that your brain pays more attention to unfinished things. According to Bill Thompson at the University of Toronto, the key culprits are simplicity, repetition and circularity, and the worst of these is circularity; a song with a circular structure (verse/chorus/verse/chorus) will just cycle in your head endlessly eating its own tail while your brain tries to find the place that it ends.

And evidently almost all brains do it.

It is well possible that the reason that some babies cry and cannot sleep all night long is that the earworms are repeating bits and pieces of the latest Christina Aguilera song in their heads.

Which songs are the worst offenders? YMCA? The theme tune from your fav TV ad? Movie? Something you just caught a snatch from the radio?
Ah - that is up to you!
What's playing on my YouTube right now? 'In the Deep'- North and South. [Perfect match of lyrics and video.]

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Finding your Perfect Niche

Oui the frog sits on a miniature motorcycle in the eastern beach town of Pattaya.

Oui's owner Tongsai Bamrungthai says Oui enjoys playing with human toys and posing for photographs.

Vroom, Vroom. It is just one of those days

pic from Chaiwat Subprasom / Reuters

Friday, 15 February 2008

Category Crime

I noticed this item in the Bookseller Mag from last week -

Mills & Boon plots serial crime wave

'Mills & Boon is to launch a crime and thriller series in its first venture beyond romance publishing since it was founded 100 years ago.

Black Star Crime kicks off in August with five titles, and will initially publish five titles every two months.

The heavily-­branded short novels will be priced at £3.99.'

“Since 2001, crime and thriller sales have increased by 70%,” said M&B marketing manager Oliver Rhodes. “There were two ways for us to go. We could either do what everyone else is doing, and do it better, or carve out our own niche and try to create a unique proposition. The idea is that if people find something they like they can go back and find something similar. It is a brand promise.”

Black Star Crime will include a range of genres, from cosy mysteries to hard-core thrillers, with authors to include new names as well as more established writers.

M&B has liaised with Working Partners to generate some of the concepts, as well as acquiring titles itself, and is adamant the quality of the ­stories is paramount.

Launch titles include Runaway Minister by Nick Curtis, Streetwise by Chris Freeman, A Narrow Escape by Faith Martin and Murder Plot by Lance Elliott.
"This brings the best of our experience together,” Rhodes said. “We have been very successful with Mira crime authors such as Alex Kava and Paul Johnston. Also we are the only publishers with the know-how to make a fiction series work. We think this has massive potential.”

M&B will spend around £100,000 on its launch marketing campaign, and is due to start presenting the series to retailers this month. The company is keen that the brand is not tarred with the M&B brush, and that it is kept as far as possible from its romance publishing.
“This has to get dedicated space in store or we’re wasting our time,” said m.d. Guy Hallowes. “It’s important that the books are racked together, with enough space to make impact.”

Two things come to mind.

1. They are aiming to create a NEW brand of crime book supported by the Harlequin Brand but kept separate from it. A category crime book.

2. They have used an outside company to source material. From what I understand, Working Partners is a marriage broker between agents with authors who can write in the genre, and the client who needs a book written to a specific brief.

With this in mind, I suspect they will not be interested in un-agented submissions, but I will certainly be following up on that one.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Out of the Box

BMW has a short ad featuring the work of an amazing engineer and sculptor -Theo Jansen.

You can see it here -

Lesson? If they give you ruled paper to write on - turn it sideways.

Love life. Live life. Enjoy life. Be fearless.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Thinking like a Company Director

The fiction writer is the CEO of their own company. So why not think like a business owner? Here are some helpful job roles to which I have assigned tasks.

Departments - each with their own palatial office. Snarf.

Finance and Investment. Yes, please, I would love a new desk/laptop/software for my birthday instead of bling and chocs

Leadership. No. I have already told you. No sweets until you have photocopied that article on ‘How to write a Bestseller’, then there is all that filing of Rejection Slips to do.

Change management. Well, yes, I could switch from Regency to Paranormal Erotica. I suppose. And graphic World War comics are always popular.

Executive education. I’ll take a copy of Heat, Woman’s Weekly and News of the World please.

Marketing. I can write a few words for the local free paper if you like.

Insurance and Pensions. [ What’s that?]

Health economics. I do NOT have writer’s bum!

Strategic Management. Maybe I should buy a diary – they are a bit cheaper in February

Human Resources - See under leadership.

Operations Management. How many words? By when?

Managing Technology. Yes, I know PRECISELY where to put that Memory Stick. And Vista means View doesn’t it?

Real Estate. But you said I could use the old coal cellar as a writing space – not a wine cellar. I don't mind having no light or heat. really.

There are of course, many more, but I think you get the idea.
Now please excuse me while I polish my candlesticks and chose which diamond necklace to wear today.

What's playing on myYouTube right now? Shayne Ward - Breathless.

Monday, 11 February 2008

February Sunshine

Here in Hampshire it has been a lovely sunny weekend with morning hard frosts and glorious star filled nights drifting into warm bright sunshine. Snowdrops, early primroses and daffodils. A taste of spring.
The early salads have germinated in the unheated greenhouse [ which reached 19C yesterday according to the greenhouse thermometer] and the first of the Spring insect life has emerged in my garden.

Red Admiral and Brimstone butterflys. A bumble bee - probably a queen from overwinter.
I can only hope they survive on the few flowering plants and early ornamental cherry blossom.

Of course once you are in the garden you start to notice the huge amount of clearing and clipping that needs to be done before the real Spring push starts. And did I mention the ground Elder?
I am always amazed the difference a little sunshine can make to the world- both external, and internal? We are stoking the fires of new energy and drive.
Jazzed up about YOUR work yet?

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Triumph of the Unconscious?

Billie Mernit - author of 'Writing the Romantic Comedy' and blogger extraordinaire, also teaches screenwriting.

His blog today is linked to a course he is running with guest of honour Nick Kazan -

'Perseverance was a theme in our discourse: working sometimes for years on a story to get it right, with the particular kind of stubborn will-power that's central to the modern storyteller's craft and career survival.

Simultaneously what struck me as a through-line in our conversation, surfacing in different contexts as we discussed how a story takes shape and develops on the page, was how much of the screenwriter's method is intuitive.
When he starts to write a scene, Nick favors literally closing his eyes and letting the images flow.

"Just watch what happens in the scene, don't try to force it," he said, "then write down what you see.

Then close your eyes again.

You're tickling the unconscious... If you let the movie happen, let the characters speak, then what you get is more visual and cinematic."

And we talked about how film operates like a dream.'

I have heard romance authors speaking about how they work in a similar way.

Maybe it is something I should try for myself? Give the girls in the basement something to work on during the night? Could be...

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Guys from Roswell to Toxic. [Yes, I know, I have no time to watch TV shows like Roswell.]

Friday, 8 February 2008

Know your Brand

CJ Lyons is a new Medical Thriller Writer to me, and there are some interesting articles on her website .

One in particular struck home - in 'Birth of a Book' she writes;

' You already know what kind of book you wrote and what kind of books you want to write. Now you need to consolidate that into a brand.

A brand is a subliminal promise to your readers—that any book written under this
author's name will promise this type of emotional experience.

For example.... every book I write has a theme central to my life: they're all about
making a difference, trying to change the world.
For me, once I realized this fact, the tagline came easily: No One is Immune to Danger
Note that is an emotional concept, not a promise of specifics

This is a familiar concept to writers of Romantic Fiction, and most authors have a form of Tagline on their websites and promotional material.

But this article did make me consider one aspect which was new to me.

In ALL of the books I have ever written. Ever. Was there one common theme?

Was there one common element which was important to me and central to my life?

One common Tagline which has been there for the last 10 years and will see me through the next?

Well, working that one out should keep me busy for a while.

Second Item - I am thrilled to have been presented with a Blog award by both Liz Fenwick and Debs - thank you so much ladies. It makes me feel that this is not only a fine form of procrastination.,

What's Playing on my YouTube today? Power Wake-up Music.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Off to a Fast Start

Down to the Starting Blocks

I have now cut three full chapters - about 7000 words - from the start of my Romantic Suspense in order to increase the pace and get to the inciting starting point earlier.

Totally scary. I admit it. Better for the story and for the reader, but oh boy, does it hurt. THIS IS GOOD STUFF I AM CUTTING OUT HERE!!

Yes, I have kept it in another file, but now, all I have to do is weave all of the plot and character details from the cut chapters into the remaining text. Seamlessly.


Shoulders back, head high. Beaker of tea at the ready.

I am going in. And I may be some time.

No YouTube this morning. Listening to Harpsichord music on BBC Radio 3.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

An Overnight success

David Baldacci has created some fantastic thrillers over the years - although my favourite is still 'Absolute Power' - but I came across this article in the New Statesman which reflects his humility, and amazement at the way fiction writers are perceived.

'Most sane people don't believe they can play basketball like Michael Jordan or wear the Yankees' pinstripes like Babe Ruth did, or paint like da Vinci or Pollock, or sing like Kathleen Battle or Celine Dion, or act like Olivier or De Niro. Yet most people, sane or mad, believe they can write fiction. Writing is probably the one creative endeavour that everyone believes they could do, if they just had the time.'

Very apt considering the recent press on Category Romance.

What's Playing on my YouTube at the moment? Madeleine Peyroux -I'm all right.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Spring Clean with a new broom


1. Submit Short Category Romance and prepare to be patient. DONE

2. Clear desks. Back up work onto DVDs and hard drive. Clean up files on PC and Internet Favourites. DONE.

3. Attend RNA lunch and meet pals new and old, and chat for hours AND see Kate Hardy be presented with her award. DONE with a wide grin. Fabulous!

4. Start new romance story. Or not.

I have been working for the last 12-18 months on a number of short category romance titles, reading and writing exclusively in that genre, and have come to the conclusion that it is now time to step back, and spend the next few months reading and writing other fiction which I enjoy and love to write.

Medical Thrillers and Romantic Suspense.

Time to get the 'girls in the basement' into fitness training and fired up on something fresh.

So. Two new items to be added to the list.

a. Read and revise as necessary the synopsis and first 3 chapters of the Romantic Suspense novel I wrote 3 yrs ago. This was the one which had a second read on the RNA New Writers Scheme and had terrific feedback. It was originally marketed at the Silhouette Bombshell series and includes exploding yachts, motorcycle chases, handsome Greek coastguards and a deeply wounded heroine. Who can kick ass when she needs. In designer clothing.

b. Submit Romantic Suspense to selected agents and editors.

THEN back to my Medical Thriller. Tune in later.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Away from the desk

Since Mr Ray-Anne has a few days holiday, we took ourselves off to London yesterday for a spot of lunch – French Bistro – and an art gallery where we could both enjoy Victorian painting.
Shame about the lashing rain and howling wind, but it was worth it.

We have seen the fine examples in the Tate, but there are a number of places in London where you can see Pre-Raphaelites, and I have never been to the Guildhall in the City and the area around St Paul’s Cathedral and Bank of England.

Although the Guildhall does charge £2.50 for non London residents, the Victorian collection is well worth going to see. Especially the Alma Tademas, and original photographs of Victorian artists at work, including a very handsome Burne-Jones.

Added bonus? They found the remains of a Roman amphitheatre when excavating the extension and you can go to the basement and see it.
The building is clean, very well lit and quiet. Almost like having your own art gallery.

We finished the day off with a trip to see the refurbished St Pancras Station before heading back to the sticks.

I had forgotten how tiring walking around the city for 5 hours can be! Even in trainers.
I suspect the tube and black cabs will be much in use on Monday for the RNA lunch.