Tuesday, October 30, 2007

COVER TO COVER: Life Happens


I should be busy trying to get this guy, Blane Andrews, and this girl, Camryn Henderson, together.
Well, okay, they are together considering I've finished the first draft of COURTING CUPID but in my mind, they won't officially be together till the book is polished, edited, done, dusted and sitting in my editor's inbox waiting for a read!
I had grand plans to start the layering process this week.
But like all grand plans, they suffer setbacks when life gets in the way...
I have a household of sick boys (and yes, including hubby in this because I think men tend to regress to boys when they're sick...not being mean here, just truthful!!)
Boys who are coughing all night, boys who need their noses blown, boys who are teething and scratching because their eczema is out of control...yes, I love my boys but right now, I could do with a moment (or ten!) to myself.
The interesting thing when 'life happens' is that writing is my saviour.
Writing keeps me sane.
Writing keeps me focussed.
Writing gives me a distraction from the everyday stuff.
Writing gives me an escape.
And life does happen.
No matter how well you plan, how much time you set aside for your writing, something will always pop up.
So deal with it.
But keep your mind fine tuned by thinking about your characters/story/next plot.
Jot down a word or two between baby feeds and nose blowing.
Look forward to that peaceful hour next week when you can dive back into your story.
Most of all, dose up on Vitamin C and garlic.
Those boys have a happy habit of sharing their germs around ;)

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Lurgy is back

Yes, the dreaded cold lurgy has hit our house again with a vengeance.
Kidlet 1's b'day on Saturday a fizzer, as he was too sick to want to do anything.
Bub has caught it too, so very disgruntled and clingy and generally unwell.
Hubby coming down with it.
As usual, Mum is the last one standing... ;)

Must admit, this is the reason I push myself when I have a deadline to meet. With kids, you never know what's around the corner and I'd hate to feel extra pressure with a book to finish and kids to nurse.

That said, I have to get back to editing COURTING CUPID. Maybe a little later than I first anticipated!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

New release dates!


For readers in the USA, I've got some great news.
Release dates for my first 2 Harlequin Presents have been moved forward.
PURCHASED FOR PLEASURE, previously scheduled for April, will now be out in February 08 (the same month as my next Harlequin Romance, EXECUTIVE MOTHER-TO-BE)
And MISTRESS TO THE TYCOON (titled BIG-SHOT BACHELOR in the UK) will be released the month after in March rather than July.

Looks like a few bumper months of releases coming in early 2008! And I'll post the new covers as soon as I get them.
In other lovely news, I found a wonderful 5 star review for Purchased for Pleasure on Amazon by Marilyn Shoemaker.
Here's a snippet:
Kate's character is smart, sexy, charming and very spirited. She gives as good as she gets but she does not want to loose her heart again....Have a box of tissues ready, there are times you will need them. However, this charming couple will have you laughing with their banter, sexy smiles and their journey at rekindling their love; it is absolutely an incredible love story, one you will not want to miss! Tyler James has two secrets you will learn and they both will tug at your heart. This sexy Seal loves to tease but underneath, he is tough and does not want to loose his heart again to Kate. She is like a magnet but he is determined to leave at the weeks end and not break Kate's heart.......wrong, he shatters it! Kate and Tyler's journey is up and down and at times you will want to knock their heads together. However, you will come away realizing what a talent Nicola Marsh has with spinning and weaving her sensual story in such a way, you will want to read more. Personally, I cannot wait for Nicola's next book!
Thanks Marilyn :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

COVER TO COVER: Letting your manuscript stew



Take one first draft.
Well done.
Leave to stew for a week, minimum.
Then take one pair of fresh eyes, one pair of eager hands with itchy fingers to type and a fresh perspective, re-open and start the editing process.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Wrong! If you're like me, it's hard to walk away from a manuscript, especially one just finished. Though exhausted, your mind is still buzzing with ideas, you're still in the characters' heads, the setting is still vivid and you want to get this baby off to your editor ASAP.
Instead, let it stew. The longer the better. There's nothing like tackling a first draft with a completely fresh outlook, and with the benefit of time away from the story.
It's too easy to get caught up in your plot or too close to your characters and after a while you can't see the pitfalls, the holes and the glaring mistakes. This is why time away is essential, especially if you don't have a critique partner to pick up a lot of this stuff for you in later drafts.
Fresh eyes brings fresh perspective, an eagerness to layer, and the all important clarity to make your story the best it can be.
So do what I do. Immerse yourself in the rest of your life. Keep busy. (You can give the sleepless nights a miss!) Read. Have fun.
And then take those itching fingers back to the keyboard and start the writing process all over again!!
(More on layering next week, when I actually get stuck back into COURTING CUPID.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Book launch!


In everything that is going on here, I'd totally forgotten to post this invite here!
SIZZLE, SEDUCE AND SIMMER is a fabulous short story & recipe book anthology I was lucky enough to be a part of and it's officially being launched on November 1st at Dymock's in Melbourne.
All details on the invite above. Please book directly with the bookstore.
Hope to see you all there!
The book would make a great Christmas gift so if you can't make the launch, buy online here.
Will bring you more info about my contribution on my website and here early November :)

Friday, October 19, 2007

COVER TO COVER: Reaching 'The End'

With the bulk of my books, once I'm heading towards the end scene, the words are tumbling out so fast my fingers can barely keep up.
My characters are aching to get their happily-ever-after.
They need resolution.
And I want to tie up all those niggly loose ends I've created throughout the book.

So what's happening with COURTING CUPID?
Strangely enough, after writing half the book in a fortnight, the end is coming slowly. Very slowly. Try 2500 words all week when I usually write that in a night.
Now I'll explain why.

Ever had that feeling right before an important exam where you've studied your heart out, know everything there is to know, yet just before you enter the exam hall or turn the exam over, your mind goes blank?
Well, that's what has happened to me this week.

I've been so wrapped up in maintaining tension throughout this book, upping the stakes with each scene, that now I've reached the end and Blane and Camryn have the opportunity to resolve their differences, my mind has blanked.
There is so much that needs to be tied up all nice and tidily in one neat book that my brain is refusing to co-operate.
So how to get around it?

Step 1: Write.
May sound simplistic but that's exactly what I have to do: write. Let the words flow. Do what I've done for the rest of the book. I can always go back and fix and layer later. Can't fix a blank page, huh?

Step 2: Focus on obvious resolution.
Work on one problem at a time. Don't stress about tying up the rest of the loose ends. Leave this for the first revision pass, where you can jot down the threads that need tying as you re-read the book and follow up at the end.

Step 3: Think happy thoughts.
My characters have waited all book for this, all 50 000 words to get their HEA. Don't cheat them. Make this scene a cracker so you leave your readers craving more (and rushing out to the bookstore when your next release hits the shelves!)

Step 4: The fantasy of romance.
We all love sigh-worthy romantic endings but if you've had a strong conflict throughout the book, resolving differences isn't always easy. Therefore, concentrate on making this final scene real. If all can be solved with a simple conversation, then the odds are your conflict throughout the book hasn't been strong enough. Hence my difficulty in getting Blane and Camryn on the same page here...a good thing with regards to conflict, a frustrating thing when I want this book finished!

Step 5: Finish at all costs.
I like my books to flow in one, cohesive block. I don't jump around from scene to scene (though many writers do.) I write the first draft in one go then go back and layer.
With COURTING CUPID, now that I'm a tad 'stuck', I want to go back and read the whole lot again before finishing the book, but I won't. Why?

I want the ending to be instinctive, like the rest of the book has been. I want it flow on from the last scene, and not be contrived from something I've written earlier. I want it to be a natural resolution of everything that has happened before.
Plenty of time to tweak later.

Hoping to put all this into practice and finish the book tonight. But don't worry, that's not the end of this series. Plenty more to come!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

COVER TO COVER: Reality versus imagination


In this series I've already done a post on setting, so consider this an adjunct to it.
In COURTING CUPID, Blane takes a leave of absence from his high flying career to build his own house.
He wants a sea change. It's the first step in his dream.
I needed a small town about an hour or so drive from Melbourne(essential to tying in with city girl Camryn's conflict) and it had to be coastal.
My initial choice was Torquay, closely followed by Cape Schank, then Inverloch.
As fate would have it, I couldn't book accommodation at any of those places so I did a search on quickbeds and came up with Barwon Heads.
I knew Barwon Heads was down near Torquay somewhere so it would be perfect. (Little did I know how exactly right it would be!)
Now, I won't bore you with the details of a nightmare trip down there yesterday which took 4 hours instead of 1.5 (babies with eczema do NOT travel well!!!) or how totally drained I was when we finally arrived, but the place was perfect.
Stayed in a condo on a golf course but did the bulk of the research this morning in town...snapped many mental images, got a feel for what Camryn and Blane see, took a drive along the ocean coastal road, immersed myself in the ambience...perfect for the layering process I will commence in the next few weeks.

So my point behind all this?
When I was having accommodation hassles ages ago, I almost gave up and decided I could always create a fictitious coastal town. (After creating a fictitious Arabian desert country Adhara in THE DESERT PRINCE'S PROPOSAL out June 08, I knew how much fun it can be!)
While using creative licence is fabulous (just ask the great paranormal authors out there at the moment, or the talented authors creating wonderful sheikh and royalty books), in some cases nothing beats placing yourself in the setting of your book.
For me, the setting is interwoven with the conflict so I really needed to make it a focal point of the book, therefore walking a mile in my heroine/hero's shoes was crucial and very productive. I'm pleased to say that Barwon Heads proved a gold mine and my characters will be eternally grateful!
And the spooky bit?
After I booked the condo and checked out the town on line, I learned it was the place where they filmed the TV show...Seachange!
Had to be fate that Blane chose it for his very own seachange...

Friday, October 12, 2007

COVER TO COVER: Staying motivated

Marcy asked a great question in answer to my previous post on Motivation.

How do you keep motivated when you hit a section that is just not working for you?

This is when staying motivated is crucial to finishing the book.

We all know the feeling well: the first chapters fly, maybe the whole first half of the book, then we get hit by the sagging middle (and no, I'm not just talking about my post-baby belly!!)
So how do you stay on top of it?
How do you get past the roadblock to creativity?

For me, I focus on that last word: creativity.
I sit with a blank sheet of paper and pen, and let the ideas flow.

Where can my characters go from here?
What can up the stakes?
Why are they behaving this way?
What will propel them towards the happily-ever-after they deserve?
Who has the most to lose?
What events can conspire against them?
What events can bring them closer together and up the tension?

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking.

I always find pen and paper extremely useful for 'unblocking'.
When I use this method, I also tend to end up outlining the rest of the book, even if it's only a line or two for each chapter and you'd be amazed how much easier it is to finish the book with something solid to refer to when your mind (or characters!) start wandering again.

Hope this helps get you past those mini blocks :)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The great cover...up!


Take a look at the cover for PURCHASED FOR PLEASURE on your right.
In the UK version currently on the shelves, Navy SEAL Tyler James is gorgeous, with the broad (bare!) chest I credited him with.
And SEALs have short back and sides.
And Ty is 6 ft 4".
And in his 30s.
Now take a look at the Aussie cover for the same book(out here in December.)
Is it just me or do these two look like a couple of teenagers? As for that hair...
I'm not going to say anymore.
I'll leave the comments up to you!
(For Aussie readers, this is one of my favourite books of all time so don't let the cover fool you...It really is a very mature story!!)

Monday, October 08, 2007

New website launch!

We have lift-off!

A new website is born…yes, the Modern Extra authors have banded our sassy butts together to create a new group website and its fabulous!

Want to know about ‘a day in the life’ of an author?
Maybe a… ssshhh…a secret or two?
How about booklists, bios and hot guys?

You’ll find all that and more over at SENSATIONAL ROMANCE so check it out!

And stay tuned for a monster book giveaway…

By the way, in case you haven’t heard, from January 08 Modern Extra will become Modern Heat in the UK, and will be released monthly as Harlequin Presents in the US. Great news, huh?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Working in waves

I'm working in waves at the moment.
One day I write like a maniac, the next I'm procrastinating.
Of course, it may have something to do with the sheer volume of stuff I have to do over the next month or two, mostly involving family and the kidlets, that my mind tends to wander all over the place.

This is where paper plotting comes in handy. No matter how rough, even if you've jotted down one or two lines as to what's happening in the next chapter, you can easily pick up the thread of the story.

I've got a lot of writing stuff on my plate too over the next few weeks: I'm being interviewed for an international magazine feature (and I'm going to be on the cover!), the short story and recipe anthology I'm involved in for MIRA is being launched, I've been approached to write a short story by an American magazine, several libraries have contacted me via my website for talks, I've got loads of Harlequin news to blog about...hectic, huh? Of course, that's with a deadline looming in there too...

Promise to give you all the goss about the stuff mentioned above as it happens!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

COVER TO COVER: Research

You’ve plotted your book.
Developed the characters.
Devised a rock-solid conflict.
Identified key scenes.
Now what?

Research!

This is the fun part where you can get to be as creative as you like, from a one-on-one personal interview with an expert in their field (wish I’d done this for my Navy SEAL!) to using the Internet.
Google will bring answers to your fingertips in a jiffy and you don’t have to leave the comfort of your desk.
Though if you’re like me and need to get a feel for a place if using it in a story, you schedule a visit.

The bulk of my books have been set in Melbourne (and yes, I’ve already raved about how it’s such a vibrant, cosmopolitan city in an earlier post) so doing first-hand research is enjoyable, accessible and fun.

With COURTING CUPID, I set the book in New Quay, Docklands, the newest hip precinct in Melbourne-and somewhere I hadn’t been yet! The Internet provided a veritable feast of information and pictures, so I had a pretty good idea of my book’s setting before I started.

However, I wanted to walk in my heroine’s shoes.

I wanted to feel what it’s like for her on a blustery Melbourne spring day as she looks out of her apartment, what would she see, what would be on her left and right as she strolled down the boardwalk.

So I made the trip into the city on Sunday. (Nice that it doubled as a family day out too!) Had breakfast in a swank hotel, followed up by a short drive to New Quay where we strolled, had a leisurely latte and soaked up the atmosphere.

(Should've taken a few more water shots!! I'm sure you'd rather see that than moi!! Was too busy snapping hubby and kids in front of the great water views.)

I have my book pretty much plotted on paper, rough as it may be, but it’s amazing how a simple stroll can spark off a fresh scene, a different point of view and best of all, give depth to the setting.
It’s all about perception, and recreating the feel of a place for the reader with words and doing first-hand research can enhance your layering, bringing your story alive.

When setting your story, it’s worth considering what’s closest to home. We often crave exotic locations or write about some place we’d like to visit when in fact, taking a look in our own backyard (figuratively!) can open up a host of research possibilities you never imagined.

(Note: I tend to do a lot of first hand research in Melbourne, especially restaurants and caf├ęs!!)


And remember, if none of the above works for you, inventing your own stuff is part of the fun of being a writer :)