Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Penzance Litfest

I’ve recently done a workshop on writing erotica at the Penzance Litfest. It couldn’t be further away from writing for pocket novels, especially People’s Friend but it raises some interesting points. How much do we write what we want to write and how much of it depends on the publishers? I’m not saying I want to write erotica all the time but one has to be so careful about how much sex one puts into Pocket Novels. At least the editors are catching up a little and I was allowed a pregnancy with an unmarried couple in a recent PN ... but it always had to stop "beside the bed" (one up on outside the bedroom door).

The whole erotic market is quite different, as many of us know. It is often said that it’s all sex and no story but anyone who has written for that market will know how much effort it takes to make it interesting. Yes, there is lots of sex and special clothing, bondage and things to hit with or be hit by and all sorts of other strange things but to me, it is quite hard work, especially compared to pocket novels. I know there are people who write lots of erotica, who do find it easy.

I took some cover pictures with me and guess what? The whole group said they rarely choose a book because of its cover. Someone said that authors have little or no choice in the covers and so it means nothing to them either. So all you Indie folks who spend ages and money choosing covers, that particular audience out there don’t care what is on the front of the book! One rather sexy young man on one book did turn on some of the females, I must say. Someone said they’d buy that book just to look at him!

I doubt whether anyone is about to challenge 50 Shades but it was certainly an interesting experience. I suspect I shall stick to writing gentler stuff from now on ... although ...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Forgotten is out tomorrow free on Amazon for five days. It was rejected by Maggie because she didn't like my hero, a police detective. I think he is great, so please write a review and let me know what you think.
Driving home in the dark Serena stops to help an injured man lying in a ditch, but that is only the start of her problems. Someone is watching the apartment she shares with her brother, her mother is being particularly secretive, and police detective Jack Armstrong is convinced Serena is hiding something. Just when she thinks things can get no worse, her missing father turns up. This is definitely not the time to fall in love.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Chocolate Heroes

Is this a chocolate hero?!

A publisher of romantic fiction asks its potential authors to depict their heroes in terms of chocolate. We described one of our heroes as soft caramel with a touch of sea salt.

To tempt your tastebuds, types of chocolate bar include caramel brownie, strawberry cheesecake, nougat crunch, coffee blast and orange intense.

Trying to match people to a chocolate or chocolate bar is quite difficult and we expect everybody would come up with different ideas. Do you agree with the following or does the chocolate not match the person?

Usain Bolt is handsome, tall, athletic and fiery. He’s like lightning, exotic and not too serious. It doesn’t exist as far as we know, but an unusual mix of chilli (fiery) and coconut (exotic) chocolate perhaps.

Mr Darcy appears cold, aloof, proud, arrogant and unsympathetic. Actually he has a generous and upright nature. Which chocolate has an illusion of darkness, but is really quite scrummy? 80% chocolate with smooth, soft caramel inside (harsh and bitter on the outside and soft, smooth and comforting on the inside).

Nelson Mandela has been described as welcoming and friendly with a relaxed charm. He has been concerned with the truth and is regarded as having a moral authority. Gentle with a core of steel. Possibly smooth milk chocolate with hard caramel or divine hazelnut.

Lord Voldemort is powerful, intelligent, evil and has no conscience. He cannot comprehend love or affection and feels superior to everyone. He has been described as broken up and held together. Wasabi chunks encased in 99% chocolate, but that’s another invention.

What sort of chocolate would your hero be?

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Daily Writing Life

I was looking back over the topics we've covered to see what I could add that might be useful and generate discussion. With the recent upheaval and uncertainty of new contracts issuing from D.C. Thomson and the resultant discussions among us all both briefly here and in more detail on our group list, it's clear that we're all considering thinking outside the square or genre so to speak and realising that these days there are always other options and markets.

One thing we shouldn't let it affect is our daily writing life. We're writers, we need to keep writing. It's what we love and what we do, right? So here's just a snippet of my own typical writing day. I'm in the "retired" phase of life - family grown, abundant numbers of grandchildren arriving and the utter freedom to fill in all my waking hours doing what I love - writing. What else? :) If I wake in the night my mind is often turning over characters and story possibilities or hitches in the plot or writing. Once I'm showered, fed and awake enough each morning, my office is my haven. Housework and shopping are waaaay down the list. :)
My office 
After breakfast and checking of emails, I settle down to whatever is currently on the go at my desk. I've discovered over the years that even writing a saga of 100,000 words I still need to write the first draft in longhand. I know, scary thought, but the words just flow so easily through the pen and onto the paper. I've tried sitting and staring at all that white space on a screen and typing directly into the computer. Doesn't happen. Well, at least not as easily. So I'm resigned to the fact of how I am naturally meant to get words on paper.
When I'm in first draft mode, I aim for a certain number of pages or word count for the day to give myself a deadline - always flexible with "life" intervening - and usually come in roughly on target. As I mentioned I have an office and while writing the first draft, I CLOSE THE DOOR. I'm an absolute silence person. Definitely no music.
Later that day or next morning, I type up all my handwritten work, print out the new pages and start my next writing day with reading over and editing what I've written which quickly gets me back into writing mode again. I write pretty much seven days a week and it's usually on the same project. Once I start I like to finish but occasionally I may take a break and work or research on something else. And always during the writing even though I've plotted out most scenes and done initial research there are always times when you need a bit more information or something crops up in the writing that you hadn't planned and I need more info. When that happens, Google is my friend.
As soon as I get what is possibly another novel idea and I jot down scenes, characters, names, settings, dialogue snippets, a title etc. I make a file, give it the title and add it to my "to be written" pile. I can't start a new novel unless I have a title. Currently there are about 10 or 12 files sitting beside me on my desk for contemp sweet romances and another 10 or so in my filing cabinet for mainstreams and historicals/sagas. May never get them all written and I'm getting more ideas all the time, of course, but I'll never be short of material and I suspect we're all the same in that.
I'm currently almost done with my latest sweet romance, Outback Kingdom, but in the last few days have felt unsettled in its writing with the DCT changes so I'm taking a brief break to distract my mind and doing final research into the gold seeking era here in Australia which is the subject of my next saga. Plus thinking what my next contemp novel will be and what market I might aim it at.
So, onward and upward, writers. What's your day like? What are you working on? What direction do you see your future writing taking?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


The recent story about Nigella Lawson got me thinking. The papers said Nigella looked upset – but evidently  not angry. She should have been very angry. He may have had his hands round her throat, but she still had a knee free to use. And if she was upset, how much of her distress was caused by nearly being strangled and how much was due to the incident happening in public?
So what do women want?
James Bond doesn’t treat his women particularly well, and neither do Daniel Craig. Or Shaun Connery for that matter. Nora Roberts’ hero, Rouke, was a thief and a murderer in his early life, but he is so incredibly gorgeous we can forgive him almost anything. Superman treats Lois Lane badly, but she keeps coming back for more – and Tarzan started the whole macho thing in the first place.

So how much do we like our ‘little bit of rough’?  We obviously enjoy reading about it. Fifty Shades must be the most talked about book of the year, with Christian very much the dominant male and definitely abusive at times. But that is fiction. Women seem to prefer to take their thrills vicariously, and with our romance novels that is exactly what we provide. A few hours of vicarious pleasure. Where we draw the line is up to us. Female abuse in any form should never be condoned, but we can’t make our heroes too soft either, so we walk a tightrope every time we sit down at our computer.

What fun it is, though, to invent the perfect male. Someone who can make us go weak at the knees with just a glance, cook a perfect meal, and then whisk us away in his private jet to a tropical island.