Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Dreaming up a hero...

I don’t know about you, but I love finding out the inspiration for other people’s stories – where the characters came from, why they chose a certain setting for a certain scene. I’m completely addicted to director’s commentaries on DVDs. I sometimes enjoy all the talk about which scenes they cut and how they used such-and-such and image more than the film itself.

Anyway, I thought I would blog about some of the inspiration behind Blind-Date Marriage. All of those who hate this kind of thing, prepare to hit the fast-forward button…now!

I’m going to start with my delicious hero, Jake. I’m not one of those people who can pick a picture of someone famous and use them as my hero. Even if I start off with a picture the character in my head starts to differ from them as I get more and more into the book.

The best I can do with is give you a picture of someone who is the closest match I can find. For Jake, it’s James Purefoy, and if you want to see a whole host of droolworthy pictures you’ll have to head on over to the Pink Heart Society and take a look at their most recent Male on Monday.

Jake likes to think he’s a tough businessman in control of his life. I felt so sorry for him when he met Serena and suddenly all his cool seemed to take a hike. But that’s what you get for denying who you really are and ignoring a whole side of your personality. Eventually it’s going to rear up and bite you on the bum.

Jake is much more creative than he gives himself credit for. He has a runaway imagination that quite often gets him into trouble and sometimes stops him seeing what is straight in front of his face.

I don’t exactly know where the idea for Jake came from. I just decided I wanted to write about a hero who had a very creative side that he wanted to hide. The idea drifted round in my head for quite a while until I decided he could team up very nicely with another character I’d been day-dreaming about. I’ll blog more about the heroine who brings him to his knees next time.

Friday, 24 November 2006


I snuck back into W H Smith and took a photo of Blind-Date Marriage on the shelf. I asked a member of staff if it would be okay first. She clearly thought I was barking mad. But here's the proof:


On a scale of one to ten, fifty-three is how excited I am today.

I was walking down my local high street and decided to duck into Smith's to see if my book was on the shelves. The fact I had checked at six o'clock yesterday evening to find last month's books (well, only one) still on the shelves made no difference. So, how shocked was I when I came face to face with a newly stocked display and my book happily sitting there, looking as if it hadn't a qualm in the world about being next to big name authors?

I'll tell you how shocked I was. After staring it for about five minutes and quite literally not being able to tear myself away, I walked straight out of the shop. And then I walked right back in again, because I'd completely forgotten I'd been on my way to buy drawing paper for the girls and inkjet cartridges. (Of course, I had to have another look on the way out of the shop as well.)

I then bumped into my mother-in-law, who I promptly dragged back in to have a look at my book on the shelf. And what do you think? There was a lovely lady filling up her basket with Mills & Boons and mine was in there! I saw someone buying my book! That was the point at which I did a little happy dance right there in front of the display.

Of course, then I had to explain myself and I got chatting to the lady in question.

So, hello to the lovely Dilys. Thanks for buying my book and I hope your dream of one day dancing with Anton Du Beke comes true. You made my day.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Kate's stockings

Now before you all think I've decided to write something a little steamier than a Romance, let me put you straight. Kate Walker is running a Christmas competition on her website and she has two Christmas stockings stuffed full of books to give away.

Blind-Date Marriage is going to be part of the prize bundle along with:
  • Christmas Kids and Kisses - 3in1 including Kate's "The Christmas Baby Gift".
  • Accepting the Boss's Proposal - by Natasha Oakley. (I've read this and it was fantastic. Jemima was a wonderfully real and sympathetic heroine and Miles was just plain yummy.)
  • The Italian Doctor's Bride by Margaret McDonagh. (The Pink Heart Society gave this a fab review).
  • White-Hot by Trish Wylie. (This one made me laugh and cry. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "pants on fire" and no, I'm not going to explain, you'll just have to read it!)
  • Chosen as the Frenchman's Bride by Abby Green. (Haven't managed to get my sticky paws on this one yet, but I wanna!)
  • The Italian Billionaire's Virgin by Christina Hollis. (Brand new Modern Romance/Presents author).
  • A Mistress for the Taking by Annie West. (Sitting on my to-be-read pile this very minute!)

And there may be more to be added.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Rain and rainbows

Yesterday I got wet. Really wet. I had been to the post office to post some books to Kate Walker (more on that later...) and got back to the playground to pick up my kids about twenty minutes early. Stupidly, I decided to wait.

It started to rain, freezing cold spiky drops. By the time my girls came out of school (late, of course, due to chatting with their friends - don't know where they get that from), I was absoluely soaked. The rain had gone through my raincoat and my legs were wet almost up to my knees. My trousers were the sort that stretch when they get damp, so they were trailing in the puddles by the time we left.

But life has a funny way of making up for raining on your parade (or school run, even). As we turned to leave the playground, we saw the most fantastic rainbow I have ever seen. A perfect arch, so bright you could see the colours repeating twice underneath the main bands. Not only that, there was a fainter one above it, making it a double rainbow.

I ran home with my soggy trousers, ditched them at the front door and ran upstairs to take a picture out of my daughter's bedroom window.

There. Isn't that beautiful?

You'll just have to come back tomorrow to see why I was posting things to Kate Walker...

Saturday, 18 November 2006

RNA Winter Party

I’ve been a busy bunny the last couple of days. Wednesday night was the RNA’s Winter Party and I also attended the RNA ‘Money Day’ on Thursday. Very useful, but more about that later.

Anyone who has read my blog recently and accused me of being organised would have had their opinion overturned if they had seen me trying to work out how to secure my coat on the hanger (plus lockable wire) in the cloakroom of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Thank goodness Liz was with me and came to my rescue. I could have been there all night trying to work out which way to thread the wire.

The library at Imeche, as it is known, is a great place for a literary party. It’s a lovely old room, stuffed full of bookcases and has lovely warm-coloured wood and wrought iron all over the place. While having my first glass of wine, a few of us perused the titles of the books nearest us. Not very romantic. Although there was one called ‘Internal Fire’, or something like that. Sounds a bit like an M&B from the eighties or Modern Extra to me. Not much evocative about ‘Theory of Gas Turbines’, though.

I had a great time (waves to anyone I met) talking to old friends, new friends, authors, editors and agents. I’m hopeless at networking, though. I forget all about it and just yak. I had a rather hairy moment in the middle of a heated discussion about CSI with some of the lovely M&B staff, though. Someone mentioned how cute they thought Nick was and, in my eagerness to agree, I choked on my wine.

Liz and I were very good and, because we had the RNA money day to attend the next day, resisted attempts to lure us out to drinks and dinner afterwards. Seriously, we should have haloes. I was going to post a photo of me and Liz, but I’m looking far too shiny and I have hamster cheeks.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Yummy Christmas food

My favourite thing about Christmas dinner is the bread sauce (picture me drooling right now just thinking about it) and my recipe is being featured on the Christmas recipe swap at eHarlequin.

Now, for all of you not in the UK (and probably thinking "Eeewwww!"), you can't knock it until you've tried it. Just imagine a nice succulent slice of turkey breast smothered with the most creamy, comforting sauce you could ever imagine. Just add a little dollop of cranberry sauce and you have perfection. The acidity of the cranberries set off the creaminess of the bread sauce beautifully. Scrummy.

My husband's family were all a bit sceptical when I brought it along to Christmas dinner many moons ago. But then again these people think pickled onions are a suitable accompniament to Christmas dinner. Nuff said. Now they beg me to bring some bread sauce every year.

Actually, even better than Christmas dinner is the leftovers sandwich I make on Boxing day: thick slices of fresh bread, turkey breast, pork and chestnut stuffing, bread sauce and cranberry sauce. Mmmmmm.

Friday, 10 November 2006

Great review!

I woke up this morning and found my book reviewed on the Pink Heart Society review blog.

If you haven’t found the Pink Heart Society blog yet, go and have a look here. It’s a great site dedicated to celebrating romantic fiction. They have great articles every day. Go and have a squizz!

Back to my review…

I was really thrilled with it. The reviewer said:

Blind date marriage is a humorous and touching story with a riveting plot, plenty of action and a loveable, quirky heroine. It’s written in a young, contemporary style and I absolutely loved it. A book you should not miss!

It got five out of five hearts in all the review categories: Hero Hotness Factor, Heroine lovability factor, Awww factor, Stickability factor, Humour factor and Weepy factor.


Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Staying focused

Right. I said I’d post about what I did to tidy up Make Up to Break Up (Magic Hour) when the revisions came in. If I leave a note about it here I shall be able to come back to it when I’m panicking about the next book.

Okay, that’s not going to help. I’m already panicking about the next book and I haven’t even started it. I think it’s the literary equivalent of stage fright. My first book is out in the shops in a few weeks and I’m terrified people won’t like it – especially people that know me.

It seems to be having a knock on effect and I’m second guessing myself about book four and trying to be far too clever in the plot and structuring rather than just starting to write the darn thing.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. Paranoia aside, this is what I did to help myself focus on the central conflict of Make Up to Break Up:

1.I did a GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) chart. I didn’t go back and tinker with the one I did before I started the book; I did a new one based on what I knew about the characters now. It ended up being much meatier and more focused – especially the internal conflict.

2. I made a table with a row for each chapter and two columns: one for Nick and one for Adele. Then I wrote in what their goals were at each stage and what they were feeling. Not in great detail, just the main points. If their goal/emotional state was the same for a couple of chapters, it didn’t matter. I was giving myself a road map of their emotional journeys.

3. I printed out another chart (can you tell I love diagrams and charts?) a row for each scene and, using my emotional road map from no.2, I filled in what the main emotional focus of each scene should be, bearing in mind my editor’s suggestions. Then, when I revised each scene, I would check the little bit of blurb I wrote for each one. Anything that didn’t help the scene run in that direction was history. Whole pages of meaningless bickering disappeared instantly.

Now, I know this approach will send some people running for the hills screaming, but it works for me. When I have too many conflicting ideas swirling round my head I need to anchor them down in some way and creating something visual like a chart helps me focus. And at the end of the day, this was what this story had lacked: focus.

The things to strengthen it were already there in the text, but they’d just got muddied by a lot of extra stuff. In other words, my attempt at adding complex, layered conflict. I can’t remember where I read it recently (it may have been a Q&A on eharlequin) but someone said about conflict: Keep it simple. Keep it deep. I’m going to repeat that to myself while writing the next book.

Thursday, 2 November 2006

Five things

Oo-er. I’ve been tagged by Jess to list “Five Things You May Not Know About Me”.

Here goes:

1. I’m half Scottish. My grandmother was a Robertson, so if I have a clan to belong to – that’s it. King Duncan (the one who was murdered by Macbeth) is way back in my line of ancestors.

2.I was born prematurely – two months early – and weighed only 4lbs.

3. I have tinnitus, the condition where I hear noises in my head that aren’t really there. (I’m not bonkers, I promise!) I manage to ignore it most of the time, but when it’s very quiet I can always hear a high-pitched whine – a bit like the noise you used to get when BBC closed down for the night.

4. I’m addicted to playing Tomb Raider. A kick-ass heroine who gets to explore beautiful locations and exotic temples – what’s not to like?

5. I’m married to a forensic scientist. I can snort at CSI like a pro now. Why, oh why, do they do everything in the dark? Use the light switch, for goodness’ sake! Having said that, I love the show and watch it every week – even if I have it on good authority that half of the fingerprints on their computer are upside-down.

A note from Sharon, the creator of People Collection (which seems to have originated this "Five Things..." list), says: PLEASE LEAVE THE FOLLOWING IN ALL ‘PEOPLE COLLECTION’ POSTS:Remember that it isn’t always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for, it can just as easily be something that you take for granted like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it! :)

I tag two Liz Fs: Liz Fielding and Liz Fenwick!

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

It just gets better

Oooh! And I've just realised it's up on eHarlequin too!

Go on. Treat yourself for Christmas!

On sale!

Very excited. Blind-Date Marriage is on sale at Mills&Boon.co.uk.

It's finally happened. People can buy a book I wrote. Hee hee. Don't all start a stampede now.

...Oh, go on then, if you really want to!