Monday, March 30, 2009

Busy - but not too busy to say . . . .

I'm deeply involved with a dificult Greek hero (OK - I really must wake up - when I originally typed that I put 'a difficult Greek heron!). Anyway, this one, Nikos by name, woke me up before dawn cracked with the words (or something similar) 'I'm going to tell her today'. And that threw me.

Because, you see, in the way that this book worked - the way I thought it worked - the way I had planned - he wasn't supposed to say a thing today. He was supposed to tell her tomorrow. (These are the book's 'today' and 'tomorrow' of course - but the way I'm writing it they might turn out to be my today and tomorrow too.)

Anyway, that woke me up, almost yelling at him 'But you can't tell her today, it will ruin everything . . .'

And then I realised that he could - and in fact, if he did, then it made for a much better pace to the story because then . . .
But that's what I have to do today.

But before I get down to things with Nikos, I need to tell you about something important that's coming up and that I'm really happy to be part of - and that is Brenda Novak's On-Line Auction to Benefit Diabetes Research.

The 5th Annual On-line Auction for Diabetes Research will open May 1st and run through the month. They are currently gathering items and plan to make this auction the biggest and the best ever. Last year, they raised $252,300. They hope to break $300,000 in 2009.

I've been in touch with a lovely lady called Olga (Olga if you're reading this - then Hi!) And I've been delighted to offer a lot for this auction and hopefully raise lots of bids to contribute to the final total. My contribution is a 'Writers' and Readers' Basket' and you can find the details here.

The winner of this bid will receive the Writers' and Readers' Basket with these autographed books:
THE ALCOLAR FAMILY TRILOGY in one volume (Mills & Boon By Request Reprint)
CORDERO'S FORCED BRIDE (Harlequin Presents February 2009)
BEDDED BY THE GREEK BILLIONAIRE (Harlequin Presents November 2008)
THE DUKE'S SECRET WIFE (Mills and Boon 100th birthday Special Novella)
All books are packed into one of my Kate Walker book bags.

I know that bidding doesn't start until May 1st - but lots are already being added and there are some really wonderful items and treats to bid for. And it's all in such a wonderful cause. So you'll want to take a little time to browse, see what's on offer and decide what you want to bid for - won't you?
Brenda Novak 's On-line Auction for Diabetes Research website can be found here. And when May 1st comes around, I'll remind you to go visit again - and to start bidding!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

RITA Nominees

Yesterday was the day that the finalists in the RWA's RITA contest were notified - always an exciting day in the romance writing world. And I was specially thrilled to discover that three of my friends were nominated in the Short Contemporary Category for the Rita this year.

Two were Harlequin Romances - Both Jessica Hart and Barbara Hannay are former winners in the Traditional Category. And there was Medical from Lilian Darcy in the line-up, too

But if I'm allowed to be a little bit partial, my special cheer was for Anne McAllister. It's no secret to anyone who reads this blog that Anne is a very special friend of mine, and so I was thrilled to see one of her fabulous Antonides books on the list too. A book that you'll remember from the Here Come the Grooms Contest way back in January.

Antonides' Forbidden Wife was Anne's book in the now traditional contest that she, Liz Fielding and I have run for the past 3 years. I said then that it was a really good book and I'm so happy to learn that the RITA judges agreed with me.

I wrote about this book on January 20th - and I think I might as well copy here what I said then - so I can then say -'Can I pick 'em?' And also because it says something important about writing romance - whichever line you're aiming for.

. . . And what I had planned was to write about the book I've just been reading - and enjoying. And that's Anne McAllister's contribution to the Here Come The Grooms Contest, Antonides' Forbidden Wife.

Lovely book. I really enjoyed this one - an Anne McAllister classic. I'd say it was a keeper but then all of Anne's books are keepers for me. In much the same way that she's a keeper as a friend. But the best thing about this book is the important lessons that it has for would be writers.

Let me go back a couple of steps. I recently had an interesting conversation on a separate loop with some not yet published authors who were discussing the way of writing for Presents. And some of these writers had, as many of the would-be Modern/Presents writers I talk to have - strong opinions on what a Presents novel 'should be. As many of you know, I read for the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme (have I got all those apostrophes in the right place? I hope so). Anyway, many of those writers too have the very definite opinions on what a Modern Romance writer should write. They tend to be fixated on the wham bang impact of the novels - and I do NOT just mean sex here - they look at title buzzwords like revenge and forced and blackmail and unwilling and focus on the flash and anger and explosions of some of the stories. And the sex.

But the whole point about a romance is that it is about the emotional journey. It's the story of two people finding each other - and finding themselves along the way. And the word is EMOTION. Not revenge. Not anger. Not sex. Not even passion - unless as a passion. One of many passions. The range of Modern Romance - of all romance - is (and in the cases where it's not, it definitely should be) bigger and wider than the 'angry' emotions and the melodramatic moments that sometimes seem to dominate the stories - they certainly seem to dominate the stories that I get to read and critique.

Melodrama isn't emotion. Passion - sexual passion - isn't an emotion. It's what that creates or what the passion creates that is the emotion. The things, the responses it triggers off inside the mind of the hero or heroine. An alpha hero - we've been here before - isn't a bad, cruel, hard wicked man who has to be 'redeemed' by the discovery of love. He is a strong, powerful, hard, man who is sometimes driven by circumstances, by mistakes, by events, to make the wrong judgements and maybe even be cruel as a result. But he is above all a man of honour. A man who is capable of love (even if, like Santos in Cordero's Forced Bride, he doesn't actually believe it himself). He just needs to learn the way to get past the obstacles that keep him from recognising/believing in/expressing the love that is already there in him.

On Michelle Styles' blog today, (that post was on January 20th too)she makes an interesting point about putting emotion into a novel:
It is the old 10 percent rule -- the vast majority of readers will only get 10 % of the emotion you put in the book.

It's my experience that the emotions most readers do get are of the flashing lighting and banging thunder sort. Sometimes these drown out the softer, deeper, gentler - but infinitely powerful emotions that are what really make a romance what it should be - a love story and a relationship story. An EMOTIONAL story.

Which is where, to come back to the point of this posting, I would want to say to would-be writers - read Anne McAllister. Because it's in those emotions that Anne's writing excels. She creates wonderful strong, powerful, loving human beings in her heroes in particular. She doesn't write much - if at all - about revenge or blackmail or anger - but the emotions her heroes feel are strong and deep and very very masculine, very alpha, all the same. She creates honourable, strong (that word again) emotional men who are in conflict with themselves often as much as with their heroines. And the emotional reasons why they can't come right out and declare their love are as deep and important and powerful as any other more dramatic events.

Because very often the thing that keeps them quiet and hold them back is love itself.

Antonides' Forbidden Wife is a perfect example of this. You might start off wondering why on earth PJ ever let the past happen - but as the story goes on you begin to see exactly why he did. Exactly what his motives were. And you see that, just as conflict or strength sometimes shows itself in the quiet, deeper things rather than the storming thunder and lightning, so too love can show itself in a deep moment of silence, of giving that is stronger than passion.

I wish more of the would-be writers of Presents would study Anne McAllister's books and see the reasons why she's published in Presents and what her characters and stories add to the lione. A little more of that and little less clash and anger would add a great deal more emotion - and as the editor once said -

There are three things that sell - emotion, emotion, emotion.

Thanks for a great read Anne.

And congratulations again on this special nomination. I'll be cheering you on in Washington.

Here's the full list of nominees

A Mother’s Wish by Karen Templeton
Harlequin Enterprises, Silhouette Special Edition (ISBN: 9780373249169)
Gail Chasan, editor

Adopted: Outback Baby by Barbara Hannay
Harlequin Enterprises, Harlequin Romance (ISBN: 0-373-17526-4)
Meg Lewis, editor

Antonides’ Forbidden Wife by Anne McAllister
Harlequin Enterprises, Mills and Boon Modern (ISBN: 978-0-263-86478-6)
Jenny Hutton, editor

Falling for the Lone Wolf by Crystal Green
Harlequin Enterprises, Silhouette Special Edition (ISBN: 978-0-373-24932-9)
Susan Litman, editor

Last-Minute Proposal by Jessica Hart
Harlequin Enterprises, Harlequin Romance (ISBN: 13-978-0-373-17544-4)
Maddie Rowe, editor

Texas Heir by Linda Warren
Harlequin Enterprises, Harlequin American Romance (ISBN: 978-0-373-75230-0)
Kathleen Scheibling, editor

The Children’s Doctor and the Single Mum by Lilian Darcy
Harlequin Enterprises, Medical Romance (ISBN: 0-373-71454-8)
Bryony Green, editor

The Cowboy’s Christmas Miracle by RaeAnne Thayne
Harlequin Enterprises, Silhouette Special Edition (ISBN: 0-373-24933-0)
Gail Chasan, editor

The Right Mr. Wrong by Cindi Myers
Harlequin Enterprises, Harlequin American Romance (ISBN: 0373752032)
Wanda Ottewell, editor

For the rest of this year's nominations, go to the RWA site here
Congratulations to all the nominees

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Spring . . .

So the Hecks are back

Well, at least one of them is. And judging by the size of it (her?) even after a long winter snoozing, there's the hope that there may be mini Hecks on the way. Certainly this hedghog was very interested in the leftover cat meat that was tempting it close to the doors again.

And Flora the Floozie was very interested in the prickly thing she met for the first time last year.

Now I need to keep my fingers crossed that some of last year's mini hecks survived to ecome Middle Hecks. Because this one definitely looks like Heck Magna

Monday, March 23, 2009

Go read Liz . . .

I was going to talk about the fact that 22nd March 2009 marked the 30th anniversary of the passing of the PLR Act and how important that was.

But then I went on the round of my regular blogs and found that Liz Fielding had said everything I wanted to say and put it perfectly.

So I'll take a day off from serious blogging and say go and read Liz's Blog cos she says it all for me.

Thanks Liz! Not only a brilliant writer but a mind reader too.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mothering Sunday

Today is Mothering Sunday or Mother's Day here in the UK.

No one is absolutely certain exactly how the idea of Mothering Sunday began. However, it is known that on this day, about four hundred years ago, people made a point of visiting their nearest big church (the Mother Church). A cathedral is a very large church and the 'mother church' of all other churches in a diocese

People who visited their mother church would say they had gone "a mothering."

Also, young British girls and boys 'in service' (maids and servants) were only allowed one day to visit their family each year. This was usually Mothering Sunday. Often the housekeeper or cook would allow the maids to bake a cake to take home for their mother. Sometimes a gift of eggs; or flowers from the garden was allowed. Flowers were traditional, as the young girls and boys would have to walk home to their village, and could gather them on their way home through the meadows.The most favoured cake was - the 'simnel cake'.

Mothering Sunday is also sometimes know as Simnel Sunday because of this tradition of baking Simnel cakes. The Simnel cake is a fruit cake. A flat layer of marzipan (sugar almond paste) is placed on top of and decorated with 11 marzipan balls representing the 12 apostles minus Judas, who betrayed Christ.

After the sad news of the tragic death of Natasha Richardson, and now with the breaking news that Jade Goody died in her sleep, Mother's Day takes on a terrible poignancy with the reminder that for two families of young boys, as for many others, who have lost their mother far too early, Mother's Day will be a time of loss and sadness rather than happiness. We've been through this in the Babe Magnet's family when his younger sister was killed in a car crash, leaving a son and daughter even younger than the two Neeson boys.

So I'd just like to wish every one of my friends and readers a Happy Mother's Day full of love and togetherness. And remember my own mother on this special day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

How to tidy a room . . .

Yesterday I had to have my photo taken for the local newspaper.

This was for the article about my current book in the shops, Cordero's Forced Bride. This is the way the life of a writer goes - working on publicity for a book I wrote last year while I'm deep in the creation of the latest book.

And being deep in the creation of the latest book means that my office is is a mess - a total tip. So I looked around in despair, knowing the photographer was coming and you couldn't see my desk for bits of paper, notes, scribbles, empty glasses, empty mugs . . . And the floor to was full. It becomes my 'filing cabinet' at times like this and the closer my dreadline comes, the worse the mess.

I didn't have time to tidy or sort it so I resorted to the pragmatic approach - grab piles of 'stuff'. Take piles of 'stuff' to the dining rook. Deposit stuff on the dining room table. Repeat until the office looks presentable. Dining room now looks a tip but the photographer isn't looking at dining-room.

Firmly close door on dining room.

Open front door to photographer and smile.

The final irony of all this? The photographer has a rush of blood to his creative imagination and decides he wants to try something different - 'something different' involves me lying on the floor with dozens of my books in all sorts of translations spread out around my head. ('Well, these books all came out of your head,' he says!) Which means that by the time he is finished and leaves, the floor is in as bad a state as ever, with all these books now scattered all over the floor. And I still have the stuff that is piled up on the dining room table!

I haven't seen the photos yet but if any of them turn out OK, I'll share them with you. Though I suspect that the 'lying on the floor' ones are going to look wierd!

Oh yes, and when I had to move everything - there were two large lumps of fur that had to move from the windowsill as well.

I think they've forgiven me now that they - and their cosy beds - are back on the sill.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blogging at Pink Hearts

Today is my day to post a blog in my role as a columnist for the Pink Heart Society so that's where you'll find me.

As it's Writers' Wednesday, I'm tackling the topic of the dreaded Writer's Block and possible ways of dealing with it.

See you there?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jokes and Winners

Thank you to everyone who posted a joke for Red Nose Day. I added £6 to my donation as a result. Did you see the amazing result - the event raised over £57 million! With more still to be counted as donations are still coming in.


I loved all the jokes - though I was surprised to spot 3 of my own favourite jokes already in there. Ray-Anne's writers'joke is mu favourite writers' joke ever. The penguins have always been a favourite of mine, and Cats' Meals on Wheels has too.

Jill, as I find golf every bit as boring as you do, your joke did translate well. Donna - I nearly snorted me tea over yours and Julie, yes the Magnet loved yours. (No doubt the farmer was saying 'Get orf my land!)

I really thought that Sid would choose the Meals on Wheels but when I put the names out and he had to pick he actually went straight for JILL's entry.

So Jill will you please email me and I will sort out your prize for you.

Thank you again to everyone who joined in.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Red Nose Day

It's Red Nose Day.

Here in the UK that doesn't need any explanation bit in case anyone doesn't know what it's all about, it's when everyone has permission to be totally silly, do daft things in the hope of raising lots of money for Comic Relief and the charities they support.

Last time this happened - in 2007 - I joined in on this blog by asking people to post their favourite jokes in the Comments section and for everyone who posted a joke I would donate £1 to the Comic Relief fund. So come on - make me laugh - it's all in a great cause! And there will be a small prize for the one that Sid likes best.

And in the spirit of Red Nose day, to mark the end of the No Kissing ban in Warrington, Mills and Boon will be kissing and making up with Virgin Rail - here are the details:

After Virgin invited us to 'kiss and make up', Mills & Boon are going to pop up to Warrington station tomorrow.We're bringing a couple of M&B heroes and local Warrington author Annie Burrows. In tow, we'll also have M&B books to give out and cut out book covers for passerbys to have their photo taken with.There will also be book giveaways at Euston and Glasgow so if you're in the area drop in.

Meanwhile I will be chatting to Judy Theobald over on Radio Lincolnshire at 11.10.
PS You can listen to the interview on the listen again facility here
(about halfway through) though I felt a bit daft talking about my book Cordero's Forced Bride being 'just out' when I'd been into WH Smith in Lincoln and there were none left on the shelves! Nice for me but not so good for anyone who wanted to buy it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kiss goodbye to the Kissing Ban

This happened while I was in Wales, but I know other M&B novelists covered it.

Remember this? Back in February, Warrington Bank Quay station put a ban on couples kissing on the platform as they said goodbye:

No Kissing sign has been unveiled at a railway station in a bid to cut delays.
The sign was placed by rail bosses at the passenger drop-off point at Warrington Bank Quay station in Warrington, Cheshire.
Virgin Rail, which runs the station, said if passengers want to share an embrace before they part company, their loved ones should pay to park their cars nearby.
A Virgin spokesman said: "We have not banned kissing in the station.
"But we have put the sign up at the drop off point because it is not a very big area and it often gets busy with lots of traffic.
"The sign is a light-hearted way of getting people to move on quickly."
He added: "If people wish to spend a little more time with their loved ones before they leave, then they should park in the short-stay car park nearby."
The no kissing zone was created at Bank Quay's drop off point ten years ago following a suggestion by the local Chamber of Commerce.
The sign was created and installed as part of a "1 million refurbishment of the station which is currently under way.

Well, romantics like Mills & Boon weren't going to stand for that.

Using Facebook to start from, they launched a Kiss Goodbye To No Kissing Campaign and many authors, and other supporters signed up for it.

'It's our right to kiss where we like' they declared -
Mills & Boon have come out in protest against Virgin's ban on public displays of affection in UK train stations.“Romantic embraces and passionate kisses are a vital part of life and should never be discouraged. We don't believe that you should restrict passion to certain times or areas. Lovers should be free to express their feelings whenever the mood takes them,” says Mills & Boon Publishing Director Sarah Ritherdon. If you're as annoyed by the breach of our fundamental right to kiss in public, please download the posters, join the twitter activists (follow Sayyestokissing) and upload photos of you kissing at stations here.Join our fight and kiss goodbye to no kissing.

And yesterday those of us who signed up to the campaign heard that the course of romance and public displays of affection started to run smoothly again when after meetings and a discussion of views, Virgin have removed the kissing zone at Warrington BQ. Couple are free to kiss where they like and romance is once more restored.

The next piece of news is that Virgin told us they'll be running some romantic activity at Warrington station on Friday to celebrate Comic Relief and have asked if Mills & Boon would like to be involved. They're thinking of doing some sort of kiss and make up.

So if you're anywhere close to Warringto station for Red Nose Day, you might want to find out what's happening. I'd love to be there but at the moment I'm booked for another radio interview - this time on Radio Lincolnshire (94.9 ) with Judy Theobald. That's at 11. 10 am.

But I'll hope to hear more about the end to the kissing ban - and the kiss and make up as it happens.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Writers' Q&A - Query Letters

There's been a lot of interest in this Q&A - I'm really glad that the answers I've given seem to be helping. If you have any more questions, please post them in the comments. I'm deeply involved in my current book but I'll get to them as and when I can.

So here's the latest question.

Janet said:

Hi Kate,I love it when you answer writing questions. Here's one about submitting to M&B.

The Harlequin London office asks to see a partial in the first instance, rather than a a query letter, but it only seems polite to include a covering letter with the submission. What would you advise us to include in this cover letter?

I tend to give a few very basic details ie title, wordcount, and line targetted. But I often wonder if maybe also including an intriguing pitch paragraph/logline is a good idea? Or does the synopsis make it unneccessary?

Thank you,Janet

Hi Janet. I'm always happy to answer writing questions.

Now it's a l-o-n-g time since I submitted with the need for a covering letter (25 years!) but I'll tell you what I advise - what I would do if I had to write one now.

Harlequin Mills & Boon offices in Richmond UK are unusual in that they do ask for the partial (3 chapters) and a synopsis, unlike the American and Canadian offices that ask for a query letter and synopsis first. And yes, you definitely should include a covering letter with that submission. Think of it as your introduction to the editor who is going to read your manuscript. So as well as telling her the basics about your manuscript - as you said - the title, word count, the line you are targetting - you should tell her about yourself and what you are bringing to this submission.

Here are some basics to include:

1. Briefly pitch your book. What is the story? What line are you aiming it at? Show that you know about the line you're aiming for and why your story might fit into it.What are the hooks? What will make a reader want to read your book?

2. Your publication experience. If you haven't yet sold a book, have you had articles published? Short stories? Have you won writing contests? If you have published, have you been honoured in any way (awards, contests, bestseller lists)?

3. What writing organizations do you belong to, if any? Membership of something like the UK's Romantic Novelists' Association, especially if you attend meetings or the conference, shows a professional and committed approach to writing.

4. Optional: Any experience that you have brought bring to the writing of this book. If it's about a junior school, are you a teacher? If it's set in the theatre did you once act - even as an amateur?

5. Offer to revise if the story is close. Editors prefer to work with authors who are easy to work with.

6. Be sure to include your name, address, phone, email and send an self addressed envelope with postage for the return of the manuscript if you are submitting by post or tell the editor that she may shred the manuscript if it not suitable. But still include an SASE for her response to you. And although it may seem obvious, do make sure that you send your submission in secure packaging with adequate postage. It's not going to make a great impression if the script looks tatty and as if it has already been to 101 other publishers - and they have to pay an excess postage fee simply to receive it.

7. Try to keep your query letter to only one page in length

8. Don't try to be clever, cute or quirky even if your story writing style is like that. Leave it to your fiction to be that voice - this one is business, so treat it like a business letter. It doesn't have to be dry and stiffly formal - it can be personal in voice and style. But keep it professional.

9. Keep the presentation professional too. Luckily , with computers it is easy to create a professional looking letter format. Check spellings and punctuation - specially things like apostrophes etc! (I always stop and think twice before I write The Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme for example!) Don't send your query on cutesy letterhead or weird paper. Editors read a lot of letters/manuscripts/synopses every day - be polite in what you say and in the way you submit. If they have to struggle to read something written in a fancy font on dark red paper, it will not make you stand out except as a cause of irritation.

10. Finally on submissions - M&B editors do make a point of asking for only one submission at a time and not to keep on submitting while you are waiting for their response on the current one. Again be polite and professional and go along with this even if it seems infuriating and you have written a whole new book - or more - in the waiting time. If you do get comments and suggestions they would want to see in the next submission that you have worked on those lines. Submitting without hearing from them simply risks repeating all the same mistakes and so getting the same rejection/response.

And of course then you'll need lots of patience once you've sent it off. Good luck with the submission!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Keep it simple; dig deep

Another writing question today - Jo said:

When you advise would-be writers to 'dig deep', what do you mean?

'Keep it simple; dig deep' is a direct quote from an editor – and they’re always good people to take advice from! But apart from that, this is an approach to writing fiction – but particularly - romances that really resonates with me. I’ve always loved, both as a reader and as a writer, the sort of story that totally engages my emotions, tugs – no, more than tugs – yanks on my heartstrings and twists them into knots. It’s why I’m not a great thriller reader or lover of disaster movies – unless the characters n the story get me involved with them a big way.

So when I advise writers to keep it simple dig deep – particularly that ‘dig deep’ point - I really going back to the tried and tested, often quote, Kate Walker’s most important question – WHY?

The important point about a romance is that readers read them for the developing relationship. They want to know what is happening between the hero and the heroine, what is keeping them apart and how they will overcome that and get together so that they can go into their happy ever after ending having convinced each other – and hopefully the readers - that this relationship has a chance of being one of those wonderful love stories that really does last ‘till death do us part’ and afterwards.

And that sort of love is not based on shallow or trivial things. It’s probably the deepest emotions possible. So to create a great love story you need to create one where the obstacles/problems that come between your hero and heroine – the thing that is loosely called ‘conflict’ are ones that matter, ones that really would keep them apart, ones that are worth possibly losing the love of your life/your soul mate over.

Now you can put in, say, a war situation where the hero and heroine are on opposite sides, or you can separate them physically or have other members of their families scheming to keep them apart, but none of these matter anything like as much as what is going on inside their heads and their hearts. In other words, it’s the internal conflict that matters, and the deeper that internal conflict the better. Because that means that each character has more to overcome and their character growth and development will be far greater and so, inevitably, the happy ending will seem far sweeter when it happens. We’re not talking about dramatic events or shocking melodrama. Too many complicated events, too many story events twists and turns will distract your reader, confuse, stop them concentrating on the emotional development of the story. If anything, my experience is that these tend to distance the reader from your characters rather than bringing them close. And bringing them close is what you want to do.

So you keep coming back to that question WHY? Why does your heroine not trust this man? You can say it’s because she’s been hurt before – but to tar every single male with the same brush just because one guy betrayed you isn’t really enough. So what is it about this man that makes her feel she can’t trust him either? What does he do, say – how does he behave to convince her that he’s going to do it too? Why does she believe that? What are her deepest fears? Her deepest convictions about this man? And what makes her think like that? Why is she made to feel this way?

One of the most useful things you can do is to keep asking your characters ‘Why are you doing this?’ or ‘How do you feel right now?’ and when they ‘answer’ – ask ‘Why?’ and again when they respond – ‘why?’ Imagine if you did this is real life, when there was a problem between you and your partner - if you asked why they would probably start of with some throwaway answer - ‘I’m cross’ – ‘I’m fed up’ – but probe deeper, keep asking that why and (as well as probably getting pretty infuriated with the questions) eventually they will give up the real, deepest reason for the way they are behaving. Human beings are not very good at admitting – even to themselves - the deepest motivations they have. We often cover our tracks by making trivial excuses, rather than admit to some of those deep, often dark emotions like jealousy, a sense of inferiority, a belief that we are unlovable etc.

Donald Maass (Writing the Breakout Novel) has a great exercise in his workbook. One is to look at what your character most wants in all the world and then consider what is the opposite of that – the thing that would most oppose it. How could you create a situation where your character wanted both of those things simultaneously? What inner conflict would that set up?

When we are writing romance you need to keep the focus on that emotional story, the emotional development, the emotional changes your characters go through right from the start and so leading into a believable ending. (I am not a big fan of those sudden con version/redemption endings. I believe that you need to see your characters change as they go through the story and not spring a sudden ‘but I love you’ ending on the reader. Wouldn’t convince me in real life so why should it in a story?) So you need to write about the things that matter most to those characters, the most individual, most personal, most intimate motivations they have. Because the more personal something is , the more you can believe that this might not matter to anyone else in quite this way, but it sure as hell matters to this hero/heroine, then the more involved with your characters your reader will become and the more involved they are, the more they will enjoy the story, and the more they enjoy it the more they will remember it – and you the author afterwards.

To quote two great romance writers -
Think of the emotion a scene needs – and double it – Emma Darcy

Don’t spare the agony – Michelle Reid.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Radio Humberside

Well that was fun. Thankfully the freezing fog dissipated and turned into bright sunshine so the journey was quick and easy. And then the radio interview went so quickly and was a lot of fun.

Lara King was so easy to talk to and we laughed at the same things. Kept having to remember when the mike was on and when it wasn't! Thank you Lara for making it so easy so that I didn't have a moment to have nerves.

And thanks too to Helen for friendly reception and the mug of coffee - hope you both enjoy the books.

Oh yes - the book. That's what it was all about isn't it? Officially today is the publication day for the UK edition of Cordero's Forced Bride, but to judge from the shelves in WH Smith, it has probably been out for a couple of days already. There were only 8 left of the 15 or so copies that had been put out. So that made my day too. And if you're in Grimsby and you're planning on buying a copy - I left some of my bookmarks there so if you're quick you'll get one.

And for those who have asked (thanks Anna) I think you can catch the interview on the listen again facility of the Radio Humberside site . I can't be totally sure as it does say the 'highlights' and I haven't listened to myself. But if it's anywhere, that's where you'll find it,

Right now I have to pick up where I left off with a recalcitrant Greek and then next in blogging terms is answering another question . . . Back soon!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Do you lie about your reading?

An interesting article in the Telegraph today about the results of a survey orgainsed to mark World Book Day.

Readers were asked to reply anonymously to the questions which included one asking if they had ever lied about reading literary books "to make themselves appear more intelligent and sexy than they actually are."

Apparently two thirds of those who responded admitted to lying about their reading. And the book most people claimed to have read was 1984 by George Orwell.

The second part of the survey asked people what they really liked to read and enjoyed. And guess what was right in there, above authors like James Herbert and Frederick Forsyth but Mills & Boon. 5th out of a list of 10. Good for all those readers, that's what I say. At times when the subject finding ways of getting people to read and keep reading is being debated all over the place - how about taking note of a resounding vote for simple, straightforward reading for pleasure? If people were made to feel less embarrassed by the fact that what they enjoy reading doesn't meet with the approval of the elitist critics who seem to think that only reading thier choice of the 'right' books is actually worth registering, then perhaps the levels of literacy could go up through simple practice and enjoyment.

If you want to know the full results then here they are:

Books we pretend we have read:
1. 1984, by George Orwell42%
2. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy31%
3. Ulysses, by James Joyce25%
4. The Bible24%
5. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert16%
6. A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking15%
7. Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie14%
8. In Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust 9%
9. Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama6%
10. The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins6%

(If you want to know - I've read 1-5 of these and not the others. And no I've never lied about reading any of them - I can't actually see the point.)

Authors we actually like reading:
1. J K Rowling61%
2. John Grisham32%
3. Sophie Kinsella22%
4. Jilly Cooper20%
5. Mills & Boon18%
6. Dick Francis17%
7. Robert Harris16%
8. Jeffrey Archer15%
9. Frederick Forsyth13%
10. James Herbert12%

I suspect this topic might come up tomorrow when I have an interview on Radio Humberside.

If you can find the station (95.9fm, 1485am ) , I'll be talking to Lara King sometime after 10am. I'll be talking, amongst other things, about my latest book - Cordero's Forced Bride - which is officially published tomorrow. And possibly about living and working with another writer (aka The Babe Magnet) in a combinaton that's affectionately known as Crime and Passion.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Writing Questions and Answers

I asked if you had any writing questions and the first one in the comments section on Sunday was from Caroline who asked:

could you answer the question (from your experience) as to whether you should write the whole book or just stick with the first 3 chapters and a synopsis when sending off to HM&B. Thanks - Caroline.

Well, to start my answer, I'd have to ask another question. And that is -

Can you " just stick with the first 3 chapters and a synopsis when sending off to HM&B". Becasue I never have been able to and I doubt that I ever would.

It really depends what you're writing for, I suppose. If the sole aim is to reach for publication and to plan your writing only around editorial dictates and stick strictly to the guidelines then I can see there could be a need to get editorial approval on the characters and plotline you've embarked on. And then follow their directions in the hope of turning it a book.

But if you are writing that particular book because you have to tell the characters' stories. If there are voices in your head and scenes appearing daily in front of your mind's eye, then you are a writer - a creator of fiction - and writers write. Writers also have to tell the story, whether anyone ever publishes it or not. And I for one - and I'm sure so many other writers I know - couldn't write three chapters of a story and then abandon it

I understand that you might feel that if you send of the 3 chapters and a synopsis and an editor at M&B says 'sorry this just doesn't work for us. The characters don't convince, the plot doesn't fit into any of of very specialised lines of publication' that you'd feel bettter about only having lost those three chapters. If you've gone ahead and written the whole book, all 50,000 words of it, you've lost so much more.

But, no you haven't - not really. No writing is ever wasted. While writing that book, even if it's totally rejected, you'll have learned so much more about yourself and your writing. You'll have learned the commitment it takes to write those 50,000 words. Many people I know start out on writing, thinking 'Well, a M&B novel is such a short book - dead easy really - I'll bang out one of those in no time.' And then they get to, say Chapter Three, and find that they have 9/10,000 words - and another 40,000 to go. And they've run out of steam.

So for me, the important thing to learn is - Can you actually finish a book? Beginning, middle and end. Writing the whole thing - not just thinking about it and planning it. And can you find the stamina, the courage, the com,mitment to do it again and again? Because if you were to be accepted then that's what would be wanted of you. You might as well start practising now. I've read - and critiqued - so many first 3 chapters or so over my time with writing courses and the RNA's New Writers' Scheme - and I haven't seen any of them come back to me as full books or even full manuscripts!

So finishing that book shows you can do it. Even if not yet to publishable standard. I know some people thinnk that they want to know if this book isn't going to work so they don't 'waste their time' finishing it. Because they could have been writing something new. But if you're always jumping on to that 'something new' you're too easily distracted by the next 'brilliant idea' and never completing the course.

Another point is that no synopsis is ever set in stone. Or it shouldn't be. If you write a book plan, a synopsis that outlines the plot and then you stick totally rigidly to it and never waver or change or adapt something then you are moving your characters around like cardboard cutout. You are telling them what to do instead of creating characters who come to life and start almost breathing down your ear as they tell you things about themselves. You might start out believing A B and C are going to happen only to find that really it's X Y and Z that matter. And it's only by writing the whole thing, by letting the story really develop, and letting your characters grow that you'll find out this.

Even a rejected synopsis - at the 3 chapters and a synopsis stage - isn't a dead synopsis. As you write the whole book and adapt the original synopsis as you go, you could end up with a whole new version of the story that works so much better and turns into a much more workable book. One an editor would be prepared to work on with you.

Finally remember the famous quote that is attributed to several people but mostly to Nora Roberts - the fact that you can always edit a bad page but you can't edit an empty page. The story, the characters, the plot, the writing, may all seem wonderful inside your head. It's only by putting them down on paper in reality that you can see how they will really manage in the cold hard world of publishing.

And as you asked for an answer for the question from my experience, I have to admit that I don't sell on synopsis - I always submit a full novel and see what my editor thinks. If there are any tricky moments in the story I want her to see it as a whole and see if it works out or not.

And if I was a beginner again and submitting those 3 chapters and a synopsis then I'd proably never send of my partial submission until I'd finished the whole book first. Or if I did ever send the 3 chapters off - knowing how long I might have to wait for a response - I'd have to fill in the waiting time by completing the book. Just to prove I could. And because I'd owe it to my characters to get them to their happy ever after ending.

(c) Kate Walker 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Happy Birthdays and Lemons!

I'm preoccupied with a difficult Greek hero who is taking up most of my time and attention but I have to blog today to say Happy Birthday to one of my favourite people - the lovely Abby Green whose special day is today.

As well as being a great writer, Abby is a wonderful friend. Her surpise visit to Fishguard was a real highlight of that weekend. She's also a great hostess on our frequent visits to Dublin - now more frequent because of her company - a tireless and generous chauffeur and a great sharer of Kir Royales in selected hotels etc. She also shares her birthday with my late mother so that's a special connection for me.

Happy Birthday Abby! I hope you have wonderful day.

(Abby's next book is The French Tycoon's Pregnant Mistress - out in April)

While I was away, another friend, Anna Adams sent me a special award for blogging - the Lemonade Award - for the ability to make lemonade out of lemons - metaphorically speaking. Anna, I'm so sorry to be late with this as I've been struggling to catch up since I got back from Wales.

I'm supposed to pass this on to 10 people who brighten - and sweeten - my days with their blogs but when I checked out Julie Cohen's blog (she's one of the ones I'd nominate but she already had the award passed to her by someone else) I found that at least half of her list matched mine.

But there's no harm in mentioning some people twice. So Julie, Janet Gover, Anna Louise Lucia, Biddy Coady Donna Alward consider yourselves re-nominated! And I'm adding in Anne McAllister, my dear friend Duck in Spain, Anna Adams back at her, Liz Fielding too. And I'd nominate Abby if she had a blog - oh, what the heck I'm nominating her anyway!

Thank you to Jo and Caroline wo have posted writing questions for me - I will answer those in the coming week - so long as Nikos gives me a moment's peace to do so. Still not sure what I'll write about for the Pink Heart Society blog but I'll come up with something.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Happy St David's day!

It's March 1st and a brand new month. It's also St David's Day so as he's the patron saint of Wales I want to wish a really happy saint's day to all my friends from Fishguard and Caerleon .

It's also the first Sunday of the month so that means that it's the day I post my regular blog over on Tote Bags 'N' Blogs so that's where you'll find me today.

And talking of blogs - my next posting on the Pink Heart Society (on 18th March) will be on the topic of Writers' Wednesday so I was wondering if there was any particular topic anyone wanted me to cover. Leave your suggestions in the comments secion - and if I don't actually deal with your request on that blog then I'll make sure I answer queries on here. We haven't had any writing tips for a while so I'll make it a mini Q&A if anyone has anything they want help with.

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