Thursday, December 31, 2009

Things that I noticed about the Modern Heat winner's first chapter

Well now the dust has settled on the Modern and Modern Heat competition, I have a few things that I noticed about Gill/Jilly's winning chapter that I found very interesting. Firstly, I'd like to congratulate Jilly on a great winning chapter, the characters are gripping and I definitely wanted to read more. Bravo!
The chapter opened with the heroine (Felicity) in the middle of a kiss-a-thon. She kisses one man, then is faced with another, who she thinks is 'pretty damned hot' who rips off his shirt, and kneels before her. She kisses him.
I've spent so much time analysing what I thought Modern Heat needed, and somewhere picked up that the first man to appear in the book should be 'him'. I've even culled earlier appearances of secondary characters because of it. In 'The Boss's Intimate Takeover' the hero (Ross) doesn't appear until 'man 3' and this doesn't take from the story at all.
Later in the chapter Felicity spends time with her 4 best friends. The bond between them is livened up with dialog, and their characters are well defined. Once again, this is an element that I would be nervous of introducing, having been told that the focus must be on the main two.
The editors said there were some main elements they loved about the story:

Gill has a cool, sassy, natural voice that leaped out at us immediately.

The hero and heroine were likable, intriguing, well motivated and had real layers and depth to them.

The sexual tension between the couple was absolutely sizzling!

Emotional conflict is woven in subtly but convincingly to ensure that we have a good sense of what will be keeping these two apart.

There is some great dialogue with a good helping of wittiness that had us laughing out loud at times!
To me, Jilly's win was well deserved, she has an excellent voice that I'm looking forward to reading more of. What I've learnt from the competition? That sometimes its right to go with your heart and write the story that's there, rather than limiting your options by thinking 'that's not right for Modern Heat.' Modern Heat is a young line, with more flexibility than Modern, and a line I'm pleased to see is continuing to evolve.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Onwards and upwards

I'm lurking in the no man's land between Christmas and New Year. The time when Christmas is fading into memory, and the family have left, and yet the New Year resolutions have yet to be set in stone. Its a funny time, full of random memories, not all of them pleasant, and lingering regrets. My blue period.
2009 was a good year, writing wise, and in 2010 I intend to focus even more keenly on my writing, and get stuff done.
Here's whats on my to do list for the New Year.

To complete revisions of Bound to Love for an interested publisher, and this time really make them rock so much that they 'win' publication. That's January sorted then and probably half of February.

To finalise book proposal for a factual book I'm working on.

To rewrite and edit my 2009 Nano book, Posthumous, and send it out to a few agents and publishers.

To start my new romance, 'Marrying Cade.' And to submit the partial to Mills and Boon.

And on stuff already out there........
I've got my 'beaming positive thoughts' hat, and I'll be putting it to good use in 2010.

To hear back from the agent who's reading Undercurrents. This is sort of out of my control, but I'm sending positive thoughts out there and willing good news.

To hear back from Mills and Boon on the partial of Catch me a Catch, also out of my control somewhat, but on with the 'beaming positive thoughts' helmet and sending it out there.

My To Do list is now out of my head and on my blog. Now all I have to do is to follow it!

Happy New Year everyone...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sell, sell, sell

Here's my last pre-Christmas post. After this I'm forgetting about my blog and the internet in general, and concentrating on Christmas. Just back from Christmas shopping, where there was the most amazing attempts to sell me stuff I neither want nor need. I've been on the other side of the fence, trying to sell things to passers by, and so am totally unable to escape the clutches of desperate salespeople, once eye contact is made I'm trapped. I found myself so trapped this morning, 3 times.
First, I was trying to find out if they still made Arpege (by Lanvin). My mum's favorite is the dusting powder, which went out of production about ten years ago, so I was browsing in Boots (no luck) when approached by a helpful assistant.
"Arpege" I said when asked. "By Lanvin". A totally blank look. "How about Dior?" she replied, hopefully. "Nope." I replied, "I'm looking for Arpege. I don't know if they still make it."
"I've never heard of it. Who's it for?"
"My mother."
"She'd probably like..." And off she went, pulling bottles off shelves and brandishing them my direction.
"I really only wanted Arpege." Her face fell, and she started looking as though she was going to spray me with something. I got the impression she'd spray me with pepper spray if she got the chance.
"It's probably an old one. You should get her something else." Decidedly aggressive now.
I wriggled away, unsprayed, unsold. Walked down the aisle, and was grabbed by a woman lurking in the moisturiser section with what looked like one of those speed guns that the cops point from the side of the road.
"Your skin, I need to check your skin." She looked desperate, I made the mistake of allowing myself to be dragged to a chair, where she took my shopping off me. "How old are you?"
I told her, as she pushed the gun to my face.
"Your elasticity is great." Not great enough, otherwise I'd be springing away like that guy from the Fantastic Four.  "But your skin is dangerously dehydrated." God, how am I going to get away from this one? "I know, I didn't moisturise this morning."
"And by this evening, the levels will keep falling..." She stared at me earnestly, grabbing my hand and squirting gloop on it. Not my poor parched face, please note, but the back of my hand. "Now, you know Cheryl Cole, she uses this." It's Christmas, so I didn't tell her that in my opinion I could swim in the stuff and it wasn't going to change me into Cheryl. A face lift, tummy tuck, and bucket load of extensions wouldn't even do that.
She smoothed it over my poor parched hand. "There are a thousand litres of water in this jar alone..." One again I internally cursed my propensity for being nice. "How do they do that?" I raised an eyebrow, hearing a crack from my dangerously dehydrated face. No sense of humour then.
"They concentrate it." Spoken patiently as if to a moron. That was it. "Well, thanks and all that, but I'm not going to buy it." She stopped mid stream and stared at me as if I'd broken her heart. "Right." She turned away, leaving me and my dangerously dehydrated face to wander free.
I thought I was away from it all until I got grabbed by a twenty something man outside M&S. "Let me see your nails," he demanded imperiously, grabbing my hand. "I'm just..." I tried, but having grabbed he wasn't for letting go. "So, lazy or busy?"
"Busy being lazy?" I ventured, trying to pull away.
"Let me show you..." he breathed, rubbing at my middle finger with a block of sandpaper. A shiny pink nail emerged. "There!" he said triumphantly. "You're nail is in good condition, it just needs this." He pulled a box down and waved it in front of me. "For 29 euros your nail can be happy again."
For 29 euros I could get a bucketful of chocolate, then I'd be happy again.
"I'm not buying for me today." I waved at the handful of bags. "Christmas presents." He changed tack instantly, gazing into my face and batting long eyelashes. "You have children."
A bit of a no brainer, considering the state of me.
"Do they have the same eyes as you?" Startled at the tangent this was taking, I nodded, feeling decidedly uncomfortable. "That's good." He purred, opening a bottle and making me smell it. "Vanilla, it's delicious, yes?"
"Thanks, but I'm not buying." Once again, I found an opportunity for escape as the light went out of his eyes, and he looked like he was going to cry. "Thanks anyway, David." (He'd told me he was called David, when he thought I was going to spend 29 euros on a nail file.) "Happy Christmas."
I scuttled away, feeling like a mummy with one moisturised hand, and a shiny nail. The badges of being nice during the Christmas selling season.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Really superstitious...

Now, back to the usual programming. The previous post, although requested and useful to 2 at least, was rather like getting a parcel from Ann Summers and ripping it open to find... a calculator. Not really what I'm about, so here's more of the usual stuff.

As you know, like many of us I'm NTAI as regards the presents competition. Also have one full out there and one partial, which I'm also waiting for a reply about. I wondered, this afternoon, if there was anything I could do to keep things going my way, so to speak. Here's what I've been doing so far:

1. Wearing underwear inside out. My mum told me it was good luck.
2. Spilling salt on the floor then throwing it over my left shoulder. (Sorry for hitting the person lurking behind me).
3. Crossing fingers.
4. Willing good news my way, as per last year's hit, The Secret.
5. Leaving spiders unhoovered. Especially money spiders.
6. Touching wood, stuffed a wooden spoon down my bra.
7. Not walking under ladders.
8. Wrapped the mirror in bubble wrap, makes putting on mascara rather a hit and miss affair though.
9. Turning the horseshoes on the outside of my house so they catch luck, rather than let it fall out.
10. Staying well away from black cats, the dogs helping with this one.

My only worry is that when the call comes, I'll slip on the gritty floor, be unable to pick up phone with crossed fingers, damage my essentials with the spoon and be attacked by a room full of spiders.

What else should I be doing? Any ideas?

Formatting the darn thing - some MS Word powertips...

Some of you  may know that in a previous life I trained people on the use various computer programs. Well, today I had a request from a friend to post about formatting, and although it isn't my sort of thing anymore, I'm being good and putting some stuff out there that may be useful to someone. If not, don't worry, I'll be back blogging about love soon, if you're dying to know more, just comment, and I'll see what I can do...
So, here it is:
Some Microsoft Word powertips for manuscript formatting. Lesson One…

Okay, you’re starting your manuscript, and you want to make sure that it looks the part. The very first thing you need to do is define how your page looks, so with a blank document open, go to page setup and set your margins to 1” all round. Now, before you press the okay button, press that default button. Now every time you start a new document it will have the margins you want!

Next, you need to set a header. Choose Header and Footer from the view menu, Type in your surname/name of book then hit the tab key twice to advance to the right margin, and press the insert page number icon (hover over the little page with # in it, it tells you what it is in a tooltip). Click in the document body to put the header away.

Put on invisible characters from the toolbar by pressing this icon in the toolbar. Now you can see every time you hit the return/enter key, tab key or space.

Choose centre from the toolbar to centre text. Add 8 returns/enters, then type Chapter 1, then add one more enter. Align this last one to the left using the toolbar icon.

Select this last return character and choose double line spacing from this icon on the toolbar,

 the line spacing option. Choose from the drop down arrow on the right.

The first line of each paragraph needs to be indented. So set a first line indent by going to the ruler, and clicking and dragging the top triangle to the ½” mark.

Now you can work away and type your document.
For breaks between scenes, centre and type 5 *’s.

Tip time: Select and copy the eight return characters, chapter 1 and the return after it, and the first letter of the first paragraph. Then choose office clipboard. The office clipboard is a great way to keep a number of items while you’re working that you can apply later in your document by just selecting them from the list. Saves time!

Add in your 5 *’s. Now you can apply them from office clipboard too, quickly and easily.

Practise some selection shortcuts when you have a bit of text. Here are some good ones.

Double click a word to select it.
Treble click to select a paragraph.
Move cursor to the left until it becomes an arrow and click to select a line, drag down to select line by line.
Point at text from left, hold the Ctrl key down and click to select everything.
Or select all from edit menu, selects everything.
Ctrl click to select a sentence.
Select a sentence, hold down Ctrl key, and select a non-contiguous bit of text (useful for italics or formatting)
And my favourite, click at the beginning of a piece of text, hold down shift key, and click at the end. This selects from point to point.

When you’ve finished typing for the day, you can add a tag then search for it using find from the edit menu. Just type it (eg xxx) then you can type xxx into the find box to return you to that position. Using find and its associated box replace, to quickly change all occurrences of a word through your book. Be careful of this one though, finding his and changing it to her could change words like history to herstory, so better do it on a one by one if this is a possibility!

Remember to save your document regularly, and if you are working with multiple versions, remember save as allows you to give your document a different name, effectively making a copy of the document which has a different name.

Needless to say guys, if you know all this just igore this blog post and visit again soon for more ponderings on writing!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bone Melting Attraction

Well now that the excitement of creating a new book during November is behind me, I'm blogging today about my next challenge. I'm going back to an earlier book, which I'll call BTL for short, with new eyes, and have discovered a truth that is, to me, mind blowing.
I found writing this one rather like riding a bike, patting my head and rubbing my stomach all at the same time. Weaving all the elements of story together was a challenge, and one I felt happy about, but with the experience of Nanowrimo over, I had a revelation. This book has a cracking plot, great character conflicts both internal and external and sufficient pace to make a great read. It also ticked the boxes with some great sex scenes and some sparky dialog. Why then, had it been turned down on its second read through by a publisher?
I've blogged about this book before. It was my entry for the Golden Rose Competition where it narrowly failed making it through to the second round. I was lucky enough to get critiques from 3 judges, and have had feedback from the aforementioned publisher too, but their comments, while pertinent didn't give me enough. I couldn't quite see what was lacking. Since Nano, I think I do.
Something Kate Walker wrote about in her book about writing romance was the key, and the answer is intensity. My characters fall in love, but in order to make this the great book I know it can be, it has to be more than that, they need to be completely fascinated with each other, from the moment they meet and this fascination needs to build until they can't even envision ever being in love with anyone else. Desperate, out of control love.
I eagerly printed off the last version and started to read. Yes. I was right. It's missing. There's too much following the plot and not enough following their own dawning realisation that they're obsessed with each other. They get caught up in events, and forget that they're in the grip of passion. For the first time I see it, I know why BTL hasn't caught and held the attention of the publisher, its just not DESPERATE enough.
So when December is over, and Christmas is done, I'm going back. Back to a book I thought I'd finished. And I'm writing about their love from my heart.
Wish me luck!