Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ASK THE AUTHOR - Dialogue


A writer recently mentioned that when she’d entered the Mills and Boon New Voices competition she was advised to “break up” the dialogue and wasn’t entirely sure what that meant so I thought it was the perfect moment for one of my occasional Ask the Author posts.

In the chapter on writing realistic dialogue in my Little Book of Writing Romance I explain that conversation in the real world is very different to that in a novel, or a film, or your favourite soap, for that matter. In the real world conversation often has little point to it. In a novel, however, it should have a purpose. It should advance the plot, move the story forward, tell us something about the characters who are speaking.

For the purpose of storytelling, you will need to cut out most of the small stuff. Obviously you want your conversations to sound natural, but your characters have to get to the point rather more quickly than we generally do in real life and, cut into the dialogue are the thoughts, feelings, the unspoken yearnings of the character.

In the following excerpt we have the perfect secretary, smoothing life at the office and, after yet another “nanny” crisis, in the home. This time, however, she comes prepared with a “lonely hearts” ad for him, informing him that his daughter is telling him that she wants is not a nanny, but a mother. She’s hoping that he’ll take the easy option. The one in front of him. When he bites, the dialogue to broken up by glimpses of her inner turmoil, reflected in her struggle with her hair. She’s been in love with him for two years and she’s putting herself on the line.

I could have written it like this —

‘Tell me, Jane, would you settle for a platonic marriage?’
‘Are you asking me?’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I want to know if you’d marry a man who wasn’t in love with you.’
‘No, Mark,’ she said. ‘Are you asking me if I’d marry you?’

In the context of the book, it’s still a strong, slightly shocking scene. But what are the characters doing while they are speaking? What are they feeling? This is a romance and I broke up the dialogue with emotion, feelings, the heroine challenging not just the hero, but herself. Does she have the courage to go through with her plan?

‘Tell me, Jane, would you settle for a platonic marriage?’
This was it. The opening she’d been waiting for. She swallowed. ‘Are you asking me?’ she replied, her voice perfectly calm even while her heart was pounding loud enough to be heard in the next county.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I want to know if you’d marry a man who wasn’t in love with you.’
She shook her head. More hair slithered from the grip of pins unequal to the task. ‘No, Mark. That wasn’t my question.’ He frowned, and she very nearly lost her nerve. It wasn’t too late to bottle out…‘My question was…are you asking me if I’d marry you?’

Here, an exasperated lawyer, being led a merry dance by a runaway heiress and struggling with an very unwelcome attraction, attempts to understand her. The dialogue begins quickly, but slows down, punctuated by his, character revealing, thoughts. By her slightly evasive answers. We know more about both of them at the end of this conversation.

‘Tell me about Fairfax,’ he invited.
       Emmy regarded him suspiciously. ‘What do you want to know?’
       ‘How did you meet him?’
       ‘He came into Astons for a valuation.’
       ‘The auction house?’
       ‘Mmmm. I work there.’
       It hadn’t occurred to Brodie that Emerald Carlisle might actually have a job. ‘Was he buying, or selling?’ he asked.
       ‘The lease on his studio runs out soon and he needed…’ Too late she saw the trap he’d laid. ‘It’s not easy getting a loan when you’re an artist,’ she said, defensively.
       ‘That depends on how successful you are.’
       ‘He’s very talented. He will be successful. But for the moment ...’ She shrugged.
       ‘I can see that it might be difficult.’ He could also see why he might be keen to latch onto a gullible heiress. ‘And was it love at first sight?’
       There was the merest hesitation before she said, ‘What else?’
       Brodie glanced at the modest engagement ring she was wearing. It was oddly touching. ‘And now he’s in France waiting for you to join him. Are you going to tell me where?’
       She gave a little sigh. ‘I’ve already told you far too much.’

Use what you have to break up dialogue. Where are your characters? What is happening around them? What are they feeling? What are they afraid of? What are they hiding?

Quotations are from — The Perfect Proposal (The Engagement Effect); Eloping With Emmy

For more on writing romance, Liz Fielding's Little Book of Writing Romance is available wherever eBooks are sold.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I Heart Mash Ups

It's been a while since I did a mash-up but here are a few blogs I've visited lately that deserve sharing.

First up, the fabulous Sarah Duncan, whose blogs on writing craft and the writing life are always full of wisdom. This one, on Networking is a class piece.

Northern Mum can make you laugh, or make you cry, sometimes cry with laughing. This will be familiar to any panicking working Mum who is always two-steps behind Dancing...


Good news is for sharing and I've already blogged about new RIVA author, Charlotte Phillips. Here is her take on getting the the call!

I've just read Barbara O'Neal's amazing new book, The Garden of Happy Endings. She is an autobuy for me, with a lusciousness to her writing that has won her a hatful of RITAs. She's releasing a bunch of her older books now as eBooks, and there are excerpts on her blog. But here's a classic blog post to give you a taste

And then there's the amazingly creative Jennifer Crusie talking about creating a story world on her blog.

Finally, the truly lovely Lilian Darcy will be my guest here on Friday  to talk about the launch of her latest mainstream title, SAVING GERDA. This is a beautifully written, involving story of two families at opposite ends of the social scale in pre-war Germany.

It just dragged me in and wouldn't let me go so my final link is to Lilian's website. I do hope you'll go and read an excerpt and then come back to talk to her here about her inspiration, the research she did and how it feels as a writer to step so far out of your comfort zone that it's like stepping off a cliff.

PS I will be guesting on Romance Book Paradise today - and giving away some books.  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday...

It has been a glorious week here in the west of Wales. Brilliant blue skies, flowers lifting their heads and saying “thank you, God”, swallows dipping and diving and taking advantage of the wide open door of the writing cottage to squat in the rafters if I don’t chase them out.

All my television watching time has been spent drooling over the wonderful gardens at Chelsea. Could I make a clover thatch on the shed roof like the one inspired by John Clare’s woodland walks?

Probably not — I’m a bit wobbly on a ladder — but I’m definitely up for a drift of wild flowers in the corner of my new garden. Foxgloves, daisies, bluebells — I might lift a few from this garden, and pot up a few violets to take them with me — creating a little woodland corner under the silver birch. And lavender, thymes and marjoram for the bees, because they need all the help we can give them.

The brilliant part of the week hasn’t just been confined to the weather. I’m blogging today at Tote Bags and Books about some very special news, so do drop by and share the joy.

As for me, it’s the best beloved’s birthday today so I’m taking him out to lunch. This photograph was taken in Zambia — where we met — a very long time ago. While his hair (still thick and curly) is now, like mine, silver, he is still my hero.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Back to Front


There was a time when a romance author’s backlist was something that gathered dust in the publishers attic. Occasionally, a favourite would be dusted off and reissued in an anthology, but after the first round of publication in the US, UK, Australia and around the world, most of the books only saw the light of day in three-in-one reissues in places like Lithuania unless an author moved into mainstream and hit the New York Times bestseller list.

Authors like Tess Gerritsen, Nora Roberts and Jennifer Crusie then found their romances dusted off and published in fancy new covers, annoying the heck out of their new readers who thought they were buying a mainstream Tess, or Nora, or Jennifer, but making everyone a lot of money. Including the authors.

Suddenly, however, the backlist is no longer in the back room.

With the wild success of the eBook — something everyone said would never happen — they are hot property. Many of my earlier books were digitised a couple of years ago by Harlequin when eBooks were just beginning to take off and they were testing the waters. And then the Kindle and Nook arrived and my reading life changed forever. A book at the press of a button, any size print I want. It’s an obsessive reader’s (one with dodgy eyesight) dream. But… but… While it’s great that those books are out there for the readers who missed them the first time around, how I would have loved to give them a make-over, bring them up to date, freshen the writing to reflect twenty years of experience.

Then Amazon gave us KDP and the world changed again. Now I’m not just an author, but a publisher, too.

Last year I dug out the Beaumont Brides trilogy, longer romances written for a British publisher in 1996/7 and gave them a new lease of life. It was a steep learning experience and earlier this year, after re-editing them and giving them to a new “clever clogs” to format them for me, I republished them all, along with a three-in-one volume containing all three books. The first of the individual volumes, Wild Justice, is free, so it will cost you about the same whether you prefer individual downloads or the big one — 300,000 words for $4.99.

Out of the sixty books I have written for Harlequin, just four titles have reverted to me and those are getting that lovely makeover. New covers — oh, the joys and frustration of hunting for the perfect image! — an update, if appropriate, to take note of modern technology, changes in currency in Europe, the fact that the Eurostar no longer leaves London from Waterloo, but St Pancras (I’ve been on it, and it’s fabulous!)

The first of these, Eloping With Emmy, was published this month and will cost you less to download now, at $2.99, than it would have done to buy it as a paperback in 1998 ($3.50). That is a serious bargain.

I’ll be following it with Old Desires in a month or two. The cover is done (here’s a peek), but I can’t get stuck into the serious editing until I have the book I’m writing off my desk. And moved house.

And of course, the icing on the cake, was the chance to put together everything I’ve learned in my twenty year career and pass it on to a new generation of authors in Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance.

It’s a new world out there and I am embracing it with both arms.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

NEW VOICES FINALIST GETS A HARLEQUIN CONTRACT!




Last year I was asked to mentor one of the finalists in the Mills and Boon New Voices competition. A huge honour, an enormous responsibility, a lot of fun.

When Charlotte Phillips made it through the first round, I was the very lucky author who was tasked with the job of guiding her through her second chapter. It wasn’t my job to write it for her, but to show her where her own writing could be strengthened, offer a little advice on what could usefully be left out, give her pointers on what weakened a scene, made it work.

Charlotte, let me tell you, was a joy to work with. Full of enthusiasm, excitement, passion, eager to learn, ready to listen, but with a deep down faith in her characters, their story. We discussed technique. The moment to leave one scene with the reader wanting more. How to add drama. How to bring dialogue to life.

When she made it through to the final four I was as excited as if I’d personally made that huge leap, a seriously champagne popping moment. She didn’t win the competition, the standard was phenomenal, but I never doubted that she would make it through to publication.

Since reaching the final four of the competition, she has been working on a new story with the same editor who does for me, what I did for Charlotte. Flo is a red hot editor who — standing back from the intense involvement that writing entails — brings a fresh eye to the work, picking up on any weakness in conflict, or characterisation.

The ability to accept that your book isn’t perfect, is capable of stepping up another gear, is one of requirements of every published author. We all dread “revisions”, but I’ve never had editorial notes that haven’t made my story stronger.

Meanwhile, if you want to share the advice that I gave to Charlotte, you can download Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo or Sony - links on the sidebar.

Follow Charlotte’s journey to publication on Twitter @charlieflips and on her blog Her book, as yet untitled (watch this space!)will be available in Riva in the UK in December (coincidentally, alongside the UK Riva release of The Last Woman He’d Ever Date).

Friday, May 18, 2012

THE MOVING CHRONICLES IV


See Liz. See Liz smiling…

Today contracts were exchanged with our buyers. Our house is officially sold and we’ll be moving in a little over a month.

Now it’s all about contacting the utilities and insurance companies. Changing addresses on driving licenses – which will mean a photograph for me, since I haven’t got one of the newer photo licences. Letting the removal firm know what’s happening. Arranging broadband.

There is an awful lot to do. It will require a list, but one of those really satisfying ones where you can tick things off. Even as I write this, I’m thinking of new things to add to it.

And, while I’m saying a fond farewell to this garden, there is a new garden to plan. It’s small (perfect), with very little in it apart from grass (again, perfect). We’re moving in the middle of summer which gives us time to get to know our plot, put a design together prepare the ground for the shrubs and trees that will arrive, bare root, in November.

The best beloved has his heart set on fruit. Apples, plums, cherries and soft fruit. Those big red gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries.

We have a stone wall which I see covered with David Austin’s heavenly scented old English rambling roses at the back where it’s high. And maybe a clematis or two. We’re thinking of lavender along the wall at the side of the house in the front, where the wall is lower. Not sure about what to do with the tree. I can’t imagine why anyone would plant what appears to be some kind of dwarfed eucalyptus in front of a house. No blossom, no lovely autumn foliage. With only its bark to commend it, I fear it may be a tree without much of a future.

For now though, I’m only planning a celebratory dinner at our favourite Chinese restaurant.





Tuesday, May 15, 2012

THE MOVING CHRONICLES III

Our moving date has been put back a month because one of the links in the chain is having a struggle to get everything done in time. It’s been a very long since we moved house and the last time we did it, we bought a piece of land and built our own, which means I had completely forgotten the frustrations. How slow it is.

There are other things, too. Weird questions keep popping up. Do we live near a church, for instance. I’ve never come across that one before, but apparently some poor souls inherited a house and found themselves with a vast bill for repairing the nave of the local church. Does anyone have rights to the trees, or the wildlife? And don’t ask me about radon gas.

I’m doing my best to remain calm under pressure and be grateful that I have time to enjoy, this one last time, the azaleas and rhododendrons that we’ve planted. The shrubs that we’ve seen from twigs to six foot monsters, the clematis that scrambles over the old oak tree. The bluebells that were a serendipitous extra that came with some topsoil we bought years ago. One last time to enjoy the clean, fresh leaves of a hosta that has travelled with us over four moves.

It’s too big, too established, too comfortable to shift again and I’ll be leaving it behind, along with a note for the new owners to mulch it with coffee grounds to keep the slugs from turning it into lace.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Six With Emmy...

For this Sunday Six I'm posting a snippet from my new eBook release, Eloping With Emmy.

It was originally published as a mass market paperback by Harlequin. Now it has a gorgeous new cover and the text has had a gentle update to take note of currency and transport changes.

It's a bit of a romp, a romcom road story. Come along for the ride with Emmy - if you can keep up with her!

Emmy had written on the long mirror, using green liquid soap. “Thanks, Galahad. I’ll send you an invitation to the wedding.” She’d signed her name with a flourish and added a kiss for good measure.     
   The window was open, swinging slightly in the warm breeze and he didn’t need to look out at the car park to know what she’d done. A quick check of his jacket confirmed that while he was on the telephone she’d helped herself to his car keys and climbed out of the toilet window.

The book is available to download at Amazon and from Smashwords. You'll find links on the sidebar.

 I hope you'll make some time to visit other Six Sentence Sunday authors and leave encouraging comments. (They'll love you for it!)

Saturday, May 05, 2012

ELOPING WITH EMMY

Long ago and far away, hot on the heels of the Beaumont Brides trilogy, I wrote my first book for Mills and Boon with dual viewpoint.

I didn't talk to my editor about it first, I just found myself starting the book with Tom Brodie, my hero, sitting across the desk from a man he disliked, wishing he was having dinner with the silver-blonde barrister with whom he'd been playing kiss-chase for weeks.

Upstairs, Emerald Carlisle, the man's wayward daughter, was having an equally bad day, but she wasn't taking it lying down.

It's the beginning of a roller-coaster romcom road book inspired by "It Happened One Night", but more akin to a Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn comedy. Smart girl doing whatever it takes to keep one step ahead of equally smart guy.

I had the best fun writing it. I hope you'll have fun reading it. 

Here's a clip of ELOPING WITH EMMY:

‘I’ll expect to hear from you within twenty-four hours that this matter has been settled, Brodie,’ Carlisle said, as he walked with him down the steps. ‘I want no delay.’ 
      Brodie considered whether to mention the possibility that the lovebirds might already have flown, probably to one of those romantic destinations where weddings could be arranged in a matter of days, in which case it was already too late. But as they reached the bottom of the steps he decided against it.
     What clinched it was the sight of Emerald Carlisle, her dress hitched up about her waist, clinging just above head height to an ornate lead drainpipe about twenty feet behind Gerald Carlisle’s back.
     Brodie knew that he should draw his client’s attention to what was happening behind him. Something stopped him. It might have been a pair of large pleading eyes. Or the deliciously long legs wrapped about the drainpipe. Or even, heaven forbid, the glimpse of something white and lacy peeping from beneath her tucked up dress.
     Or maybe it was just simple distaste that any father could conceive of locking up a fully grown woman simply because her idea of what made a good husband did not coincide with his own.
     Whatever it was he decided to take Carlisle at his word. Emerald Carlisle, he had been told, was no concern of his. And when the girl let go of the pipe with one hand and urged him, with an unmistakable gesture that left her swinging in the most perilous fashion above a well-tended rose border, to get her father inside the house, he didn’t hesitate.
     Patting at his jacket pocket he turned and headed back up the steps. ‘I think I left my car keys on your desk, sir.’ The “sir” almost choked him

Eloping With Emmy has now been released as an eBook on Kindle and at Smashwords and you can download it now at a special introductory price.

It'll take a few days for it to work it's way onto the Nook/Sony/iTunes platforms, but it will be there soon.

Friday, May 04, 2012

LOOKEE HERE!

Now this is what I call a cover! 


This is a German reprint of my Boardroom Bridegrooms trilogy - The Corporate Bridegroom, The Marriage Merger, The Tycoon's Takeover.

Thank you, CORA!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

BRENDA NOVAK AUCTION

It's the time of year when the entire romance community come together to support inspirational fundraiser,  Brenda Novak, raise loads of dosh for research into a cure for Diabetes.

A lot has happened in recent years, with an artificial pancreas undergoing tests right now to help control the condition. But a cure is the aim and Brenda has raised over a million dollars for research into a condition that almost certainly affects someone your know. In my case, it's the best beloved.

You can help by bidding for signed books from your favourite authors. There are unbelievable offers from authors you love. There will be jewellery, books, eReaders, a ton of stuff that you'd buy anyway.

Then there are the things that you can't buy anywhere. Would you like to have a famous author write your query letter? Or have an award winning author critique your Golden Heart entry? There's fabulous PR opportunities for writers, wonderful treats from writers for readers.

Now is the time to get that Kindle Touch you've been promising yourself.

 Or check out this fabulous  reader gear and writer wear from Jackie Braun.

Whatever you do bid for something, no matter how small.

The Moving Chronicles - Part II

It was a wild and windy dash down the M4 on Sunday for the second round of house viewing.

We woke to gale and lashing rain and we umm'd a bit and ah'd a bit and wondered if we should we risk it.

I tried to get hold of the lady we had an appointment to view with on Sunday afternoon to cancel, but she had an unlisted number. In the end we decided that we'd set out and if it was too bad, we'd turn back.


We were buffeted over the bridge in Swansea, caught sideways by gusts as we crossed rivers and roads where there was no protection, the motorway edges were littered with a swathe of green where new leaves had been torn from the trees, but finally we were half way with only the Severn Bridge ahead of us. (Does it remind of "The Bridge"?)

The dh - who hates driving - was a real hero. Doing something you hate in horrible conditions is the real deal.

We stopped twice for brief breaks, clutching hot coffee and wondering if it was worth it, but we arrived at the Shaw Country Hotel (whose lovely owners and staff are now part of our ongoing story) safe and well and with time to spare.


House number one, the one the dh thought was going to be perfect, should have been perfect, sadly wasn't.

House number two, the one the dh didn't want to see, ticked just about every box - including the extra of a view of the Westbury White Horse from what will be my "scribble".

Negotiations were entered into, a deal was struck, and with good luck and a following wind we will not be homeless at the end of the month.

Fingers crossed.