Monday, 28 January 2013

Top writing tips

io9 has it's top tip for writers based on Tor (a fantasy publisher) writers tips.

So what is the top tip?

Never finish a writing session by finishing off a scene.

Even if you're in the grip of the muse and the words are flowing like cheap hooch at an Irish wedding (I'm Irish before you get offended), stop before you finish. If you can bring yourself to do it, stop in the middle of a sentence. Using the Slaughtered Lamb Entrail Method™, you'll find that you're keen to get back to the page when your next day's writing session begins. Moreover, you won't be stuck at the beginning of a new scene, staring at the flashing Cursor of Doom and wondering what happens next. You'll always have something to pick up and run with.
Personally I think that’s a rubbish tip. When the creative juices are flowing, roll with it. Once I've written what's I my head, that frees me u to consider the nest steps.

What’s my top tip?

Throw out your television!

Okay, maybe that's a little extreme, just unplug it and out it in the spare bedroom for a few weeks. The first few days will feel really odd, like you've lost a friend or lifeline. When your friends or colleagues talk over the water cooler about last night’s shows, you won’t be able to join in, you'll feel like you're missing out! Like you're a freak!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dissecting Frankie

There have been a few reviews criticising Frankie (from the Past Due series) lately and I just wanted to address them. These are a couple of the comments. 
Book 1

"The only other problem I had with the series was Frankie. She is suppose to be this emotionless, cold MI5 agent. She never lets anyone get close to her because of her psychic abilities. However, the entire series, she is always leaning or crying on someone's shoulder. In my opinion, Frankie needed more 'tough girl' scenes. And the girl falls in love quickly... and often."

"I do agree that Frankie seems too weak in certain areas for such a tough girl"
The thing is, they're right. Frankie was always written to be a flawed character (as are all my characters, but Frankie perhaps to a greater degree).

I hoped that the writing made her flaws clear but just in case it didn't come through, or you saw things differently, here's the reasoning behind Frankie, her weaknesses and her (numerous) flaws. 

In some ways Frankie is tough; she will face bad guys when she knows that she doesnt have a hope in hell's chance of besting them. She will insist on going along when she is the weakest member of the team (ie, the others are vampires or shapeshifters). In that way she's brave.  And foolish. There is a huge self destructive streak in Frankie. She's spent her life not being believed, being ridiculed, feeling rejected and she's internalised all of that. She's definitely not suicidal, but there is a big part of her that's tired of the struggle.

Her bravery is sometimes just bravado though. At the end of the day, she'd just a woman who's struggled to fit in her whole life. She built shields and defences, like an abrasive attitude to keep people out but she's still just human. Deep down, she wants the kind of things we all want (love, acceptance, peace) even if she won't admit it.

When it comes to matters of the heart though... well then it really starts to get complicated.

[Spoilers for the books from here on out]

Monday, 21 January 2013

Getting to know Annabelle and Richard

An awful lot more research goes into a book than the reader ever sees. I do try and include some historical knowledge in my books, because I assume most people who read historical fiction, like history.

Even so, an awful lot gets left out so here I will share some details and images about Annabelle and Richards lives that will help you "see" them in a little more detail. Click on any of the images to enlarge.

Wyatt's Coffee Shop

Annabelle runs a coffee house on Cockspur Street, which was at the end of Whitehall. Part of Cockspur Street is still there, but most was demolished when the Charing Cross junction was expanded.

On the right you can see 'West Country Mail at the Gloucester Coffee House, Piccadilly,' by James Pollard. Or in other words, a mail coach leaving from outside a coffee house on Piccadilly, which was just around the corner from Cockspur street. It should give you a little idea of what shops, and coffee houses looked like in Regency times.

This picture is a very rare find indeed. A genuine 1830's cooker that was left untouched since world war 2. This is the kind of thing Annabelle baked in. The grill in the centre houses the fire, there is an oven to either side of the fire and on top, a hob where pots and pans sat.

For more details of a genuine regency/Victorian kitchen, please click here, and discover how this treasure trove of history was discovered.

The Burning of the Houses of Parliment

Fire at Westminster Palace (more images at the end of the post)
In my new book, The Reluctant Duchess, one character is caught up in the fire at the Palace of Westminster. This wasn't just a plot point, Westminster palace did suffer a bad fire. Click any of the images to enlarge.

We all know that Guy Fawkes tried to destroy Parliament but what most people don't know is that, where he failed, two workmen succeeded! No bombs, no explosives, no flammable liquids. All it took these men was  a bunch of sticks. Yes, sticks.

Before reading and writing was common, the Exchequer used tally sticks to keep track of debt. A stick was marked with grooves denoting ho much was owed, and the stick was then split don the middle, the Exchequer keeping half and the debtor keeping the other half. No two tally sticks would fit back together, except the two that had once been the same stick. This stopped people cutting extra grooves into a tally stick, or trying to make another with fewer grooves.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Reluctant Duchess, Chapter One

Time for another sample, this time my latest book, The Reluctant Duchess

Book blurb: Having been the sole provider for her family since she was 16, Lady Annabelle Wyatt knows an awful lot about responsibility but sadly, very little about love.

Richard Armstrong is just back from serving in the Army and is having difficulty filling his deceased father’s shoes, as the new Duke of Hampshire.
Richard is enamoured from the moment he sets eyes on the hard working Annabelle but she is far too bound by duty to admit that she reciprocates his feelings.
With a little meddling from Richard’s mother, love seems to blossom between the pair, only to be threatened by Annabelle’s vengeful brother. Can Richard and Annabelle find lasting happiness, or will her brother’s wrath separate them permanently?

Chapter One
As Richard Armstrong entered Wyatt’s Coffee House, he found it much like any other coffee house he’d ever been to; perhaps it was a little brighter, a little more cared for but generally unremarkable. He hung his greatcoat on the hooks by the door, took a seat at an empty table and as he waited for his friend, he glanced around. There was a tall, sandy haired man behind the counter, keeping water boiling over the fire and preparing the coffees. Along the counter sat plates of sweet treats, cakes and pastries under glass tops. As his eyes were drawn to the chocolate cake on display, Richard thought what a good idea it was, to display the cakes rather than just having a list on a chalkboard. Cleaning off tables and taking orders, was a waif-like woman of perhaps 25.
From the snippets of conversation that he could hear, it seemed to be occupied mostly by Members of Parliament. Given that the friend he was meeting was a member of the Whig party, that wasn’t wholly unexpected.
He dashed a hand through his dark, dishevelled hair, sweeping the stray strands back from his forehead. His mother wanted him to get a haircut but whilst he’d had the back trimmed to collar length, he was loathe to cut the rest just yet.
“A new face; what can I get for you?”
He looked up into the most perfect face that he had ever seen. Her blue eyes were framed by black lashes, which emphasised their light colour. Her heart shaped face was likewise framed by a halo of black curls, parted in the middle and swept back from her face, although over each ear, tiny corkscrew curls, too short to be bound, tempted him to reach out and touch them. Her lips were full and pink, with a perfect cupid’s bow and he had the overwhelming urge to kiss them.

Friday, 18 January 2013

‘The Next Big Thing’ blog hop

I've been tagged by JT Brown to participate in "The Next Big Thing". Thanks JT! Please checkout her blog and her answers.
I have a WIP cover too!

The premise is, you answer 10 questions about your latest WIP, then tag 5 other authors and ask them to do the same.

I have 2 WIPs on the go right now, one is finished and being edited, the other only had 10,000 words, so I'll answer based on the one I'm editing.

What is the working title of your book?
The Reluctant Duchess (is subject to change)

Where did the idea come from for your book?
Reading other period romances.

What genre does your book fall under?
Regency Romance

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That's a tricky one.

Annabelle: I guess my dream actresses wold be Carey Mulligan or Emma Watson. Both are fabulous actresses, both have a vulnerability to their looks but can still portray strong characters, and both are chameleons, so they could believably portray any character, regardless of how similar they look in "real life". They both also have the kind of ethereal beauty that I imagine for Annabelle.

Richard could be Rodrigo Santoro. Richard isnt Brzilian but he does have the right look (which he wears well) though he may look a little young to play Richard.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Lady Annabelle Wyatt has never known true love and as sole provider for her family since she was 16, doesn't think she's likely to, that is until a certain Duke catches her eye and quickly turns her life upside down.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

How long did it take to write the first draft of your book?
About 6 weeks. I'm half way through editing now.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I really wouldn't like to. You'll see why in the next paragraph.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
While reading other period romances, I soon got sick and tired of men hauling women around, yelling at them, kidnapping them, sleeping around (while the women have to be virginal). Call it hubris if you want, but I thought "I can do better that that". I just don't like double standards, so my male lead pays for his womanising. Not to mention that when a man pulls a woman around, grabs her, shakes her, throws her over his shoulder, ties her up and 101 other things that I am supposed to find masterful and sexy, I am completely turned off. Real men don't need to manhandle weaker people in order to feel like men, even regency men. 

I'll leave it up to my readers to decide if I was successful in creating a respectful regency gentleman, and if the regency genre can survive without the "rakes" and manhandling.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
One plot point in the books if the burning of the British Houses of Parliament (AKA Westminster palace), in 1834. While researching the time period I just became fascinated with the old Palace; how it looked, how it was used, when it was added to and of course, how it burned down. It really isn't a huge plot point but I will be posting a blog or two about the old palace, going into more depth, which I hope will add depth for readers, without bogging the book down with unrelated facts.

Blogs I'm tagging:

Questions for the tagged:

What is the working title of your book?

Where did the idea come from for your book?

What genre does your book fall under?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

At this stage, I will be self-publishing.

How long did it take to write the first draft of your book?

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Blogs I'm tagging:

Book Wank!!!

For once, this isn't Authors Behaving Badly but (depending on your point of view) AuthorsWife Behaving Badly or Fans Behaving Badly

Not 100% sure what's going on here, but I think its a lesson in keeping up with the times. 

The author of the Wheel of Time fantasy series unfortunately died before his series was finished, so his wife hired another writer to finish the series, based on his notes. The final book, 14, has just been released. 

Wanting this book to hit number 1 on the bestseller lists, the wife refused to allow an ebook to be published for the first for a year, but was eventually talked down into a 4 month delay for the ebook. 

Question: Why a delayed ebook release for A Memory of Light?

Answer: This is not my decision or Tor's decision, but Harriet's. She is uncomfortable with ebooks. Specifically, she worries about ebooks cutting into the hardcover sales. It isn't about money for her, as the monetary difference between the two is negligible here. It is about a worry that her husband's legacy will be undermined if sales are split between ebooks and hardcovers, preventing the last book of the Wheel of Time from hitting number one on either list. (Many of the bestseller lists are still handling ebooks in somewhat awkward ways.)

As the last books have all hit number one, she doesn't want to risk one of these not hitting number one, and therefore ending the series on a down note. (Even though each Wheel of Time book has sold more than its predecessor, including the ones I have worked on.) I personally feel her worries are unfounded, and have explained that to her, but it is not my choice and I respect her reasoning for the decision. She is just trying to safeguard Robert Jordan's legacy, and feels this is a very important way she needs to do so. After talking about the issue, we were able to move the ebook up from the originally planned one-year delay to instead come out this spring.

Most think that even with ebooks supposedly cutting into hardcover sales, this book wouldn't have had any trouble hitting number 1, as readership has increased for every book in the series to date.

Needless to say, fans are pissed that they can't buy the version which is most convenient for them (especially since all the others books in the series are in ebook format) just because a person who is not the author or the writer, doesn't understand how ebooks work. 

They retaliate by leaving hundreds of 1 star reviews. The worst (such as ones that wish for Mrs Jordan's death etc) have been removed, but there are still over 270 1star reviews and an overall rating of 3.3/5, in a series that is routinely rated 5 stars.

I'm not really sure who's side I'm on. As an author, I believe that reviews should be for reviews, not personal, non-plot related gripes (which should be directed by letter or email to the author or publisher). However as a reader, I want my ebooks and would think very hard before buying a non-ebook these days. 

Either way, the arguments are fun. Some liken leaving 1 star reviews to the Boston Tea Party and women'ssuffrage!