Friday, 24 February 2012

Hitting the wall

OK, I’m hitting the wall here … I’m on Chapter 9, thanks to a very late night session last night, but I’m still not happy with the way things are going and even if I romp home with the last two chapters, I’m going to have to go back and put the first five into the first person, after Frith won the battle for control of the story so spectacularly last week. 

In addition to which, the copy edits for Time’s Echo arrived yesterday and I have to write an illustrated talk on medieval shipping, a subject about which I know … er, not very much at all. 

Everything has to be done before the 13th, which would be fine were it not for the fact that I have booked to go to London for the weekend before the RoNA Awards ceremony on Monday 5th March.  I am so looking forward getting away,  but it’s going to take four days out of my schedule, and there’s a lot of nail biting going on up here …

So, JFDI: I’m cancelling everything, turning off the internet after this, and restricting email checking to twice a day (if I have the willpower).  Then I’m going to sit here until this book is done. 

Wishing the rest of you a much more relaxing weekend – and if anyone out there has a picture of a medieval keelboat, please let me know!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Clearing the mind. Or not.

Chapter 6 done, and now we’re on the dreaded Chapter 7, usual point of major crisis.  I’m at the fretful stage of writing, getting anxious about my deadline and Frith isn’t helping.  Having forced her back into the third person, suddenly up popped ‘I’ in the middle of Chapter 6 again.  I thought we’d been through this, and I’d decided that, Oh-So-Sensible Secretary notwithstanding, readers preferred the third person. 

No wonder I’m having trouble sleeping.  I write until about midnight at the moment – although rarely get down to any work until after lunch, so this is not as disciplined as it sounds – and then when I’m too tired to do any more, I fall into bed and lie there with my mind careening all over the place.  No sooner do I switch out the light than I think of something, and have to put it on again and drag out my trusty bedside notebook and pen.  I scrawl down enough to remind myself of it the next morning and try to sleep again.  Five minutes later, on goes the light.  More scribbling.  And so it goes on until the small hours while I toss and turn and wonder why my brain can’t be this active when I’m actually at my computer.

The current notebook is nearly finished and is full of incoherent and barely legible jottings that are nonetheless recognisable as the genesis of various scenes from books from Last-Minute Proposal onwards (had completely forgotten that Tilly was originally going to be called Lottie Vale!!)

Lottie, respelt, turned up in a later book.  Market scene email Lotty, I scrawled one night.  Or scene with Blanche?????  Obviously I was in the throes of Ordinary Girl in a Tiara then.  As it turned out, I did write Caro’s meeting with the Dowager as an email to Lotty, but clearly changed my mind about the market scene. 

In pub, mats hunting scenes or coaches, Lex thinks of hushed efficiency of office with nostalgia รจ but DEAL.  Hhhmmnn.  Juggling Briefcase and Baby, for sure, but it looks as if I cut the detail about the place mats.  Weird what seems brilliant in the middle of the night!  On the same page I’ve written, oddly: evening keep notebook by bed! Er …?

Mr B + H into study, is scribbled on another page.  Not quite sure why study was so important.  I’ve underlined it twice.  Deep voices shaken cloth in yard straightened carpet on chest – ah, this is Time’s Echo.  The scribbles wind round where I’ve written LINCOLN OTHER LETTER??? and CHAIRMAN? in large letters, which is bringing back vague memories of some editing crisis.   

Interspersed with ideas for scenes are urgent notes to myself about the vital stuff that spins round in your head when you’re trying to sleep: TEA BAGS.  Tony’s birthday.  Order lamb (underlined three times; clearly a worry). MA – shipping???? BLOG!!!!!  Who knew my life was so stressful?  

I’m feeling quite anxious just looking through the book for last night's notes now, but it’s a handy thing to have one beside the bed.  The theory is that once you write a reminder, you can put it out of your mind and relax, although I have to say it doesn’t always work that way for me.  If you’ve got any better tips for clearing your mind, please let me know - I'd really like some sleep before I get to the end of this book!

Friday, 17 February 2012

The West Wing and UST

I’m feeling bereft.  After catching up on the entire series of The West Wing on DVD, I saw the last two episodes last night.  Fabulously satisfying ending, gusty sighs all round, but I’m going to miss those characters so much!   I really didn’t want it to end.

I remain baffled by US politics after seven series.  The characters speak so fast, I had no idea what was going on a lot of the time, but none the less I was riveted throughout. I squirmed every time the allegedly British Ambassador, Lord John (!!!) appeared – is that what Americans really think of us?? – but otherwise thought the writing and acting were matchless.  Brilliant stuff.

I was especially happy that Josh and Donna got it together at last. Every successful series has an element of UST (Unresolved Sexual Tension) at its core, which keeps the viewers tuning in, just as the unresolved conflict in a romance keeps the reader turning the pages. The moment the characters in question acknowledge the feelings they have for each other, the UST disappears, and I lose interest.  Remember Niles and Daphne in Frasier?  Gil Grissom and Sara in CSI?

The relationship between Donna and Josh in The West Wing  was brilliantly done.  There was a real connection between the characters, and the chemistry was obvious to everybody else without ever being overdone. A look, a deflected question, a hesitation … the UST was there right until the end and  you were never quite sure that they would work it out.  When Josh was on that  plane, and Donna sat down beside him … phew! 

When I was looking for images, I came across whole websites dedicated to Josh and Donna, speculating about their life after the end of the series.  I’ve often done this with books too, if I really love the characters.  Being able to imagine what their life is like once the story has ended is the sign of a truly great character.

Do you have a favourite TV “couple”?  Now I’ve finished The West Wing, I need a new series to absorb me in the same way, and I’m offering a copy of We’ll Always Have Paris, awarded on the usual eeny-meeny-miny-mo system, for recommendations below.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Champagne truffles and royal weddings

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m still waiting for my truckload of roses to arrive, but it’s early yet …

However, there was a lovely surprise this morning with the delivery of a gorgeous box of pink champagne truffles from Mills & Boon, with congratulations for Ordinary Girl in a Tiara’s nomination for the RoNA Rose award.  What could be nicer than a totally unexpected present?

And talking of the RoNA Rose award, Liz Fielding and I can be found on the Harlequin Romance Authors today blogging about the inspiration behind our short-listed books, so do pop over there and have a read.  Liz has a photo of the  perfect Roman balcony that I can quite see as inspiration for Flirting with Italian.

I’m talking about the hours of onerous research I did on royal weddings, and here’s a sneak preview of the video that made  even me go ‘Aaawwww …’

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Third time lucky?

After yesterday’s excitement, I settled down at last to finish what was supposed to be a final draft and ended up a Shitty Second Draft.  At 157 pages (42,410 words) it was a pretty full draft, so I was relieved to get to the end.

Now I’m going to chuck it out and start again from scratch. 

Oddly, this decision feels better than trying to rework what I’ve done.  Somewhere in the process, I’ve got to know Frith and George and they’re not the cardboard characters who have been going through the motions for the last 157 pages.  So, deep breath, and fingers crossed that this draft will be the one where everything clicks.

I was so taken up with the RoNA Rose short-listing that I forgot to mention that The Billionaire’s Blind Date is now available as a digital download from the Mills & Boon site or Amazon

A novella, The Billionaire’s Blind Date was originally part of a special anthology released in the UK as All in a Day and as a duet called Here Comes The Bride in North America.  

Linked to Christmas Eve MarriageThe Billionaire’s Blind Date is the story of Clara’s mother, Nell and how her life changes completely in just 24 hours. 

The brief, a story that took place within a single day, had me scratching my head at first, but in the end the strict limits were strangely liberating, and I remember enjoying writing this story a lot.  Plus, I always loved Clara in RITA-winning (just thought I'd get that in!) Christmas Eve Marriage, so I was very glad to make her happy too!  

There's something very appealing about coming across characters that you're already familiar with from another book, I think.  I'd like to write more linked books, but it seems to be hard enough to write one at the moment, let alone a whole series.  But one of these days ...