Wednesday 12 December 2012

Second Book Syndrome

Yes there is a proper name for the way I've been behaving and feeling these last few months working on Book #2! The whinging that 'I suck', the endless rewriting of scenes, the feeling that the story/characters are just not sparky/engaging/funny enough. I sweated blood over the wretched thing and for the bulk of the time I really wasn't feeling the magic.

Second Book Syndrome is apparently notorious among people who are writing their first book since receiving a publishing contract. In a nutshell it's the fear that you will be a one-book-wonder, that you will never replicate whatever it was that made your first story good and saleable. It's documented! Which in some way should make me feel better about myconstant moaning and self-criticism about Book #2, which I call The Date Pool and my lovely editor calls 'Alice & Harry'. As I wrote it I could imagine my editor reading through it, shaking her head sadly and saying 'she had so much promise...'

Although technically The Date Pool is my third book for Mills & Boon, the second one (The Proposal Plan, release April 2013) was actually written before the first one and was initially rejected (are you with me?). Therefore, The Date Pool is the first thing I've written since being offered a contract. This is the first time I've actually had an obligation to deliver and the first time that I've had anyone apart from myself to let down. And I think that is at the hub of it.

 If you Google it, there are TONS of poor souls out there, just like me, who have struggled with their second book. And if you've stumbled on this post because you are Googling it, just like I did, in the desperate desire for some snippet of advice that will magically provide the answer, I'm really sorry to tell you that there is no amazing cure. What I can do is tell you what I've learned from the last six months in the hope that it will help in some small way.

Firstly, know that you are not alone and that all the people I encountered who blogged about their experience did come through it with a finished book.

Secondly, the nearest thing I found to a solution boils down to one thing: DISCIPLINE.

Set yourself a daily word goal (mine was 1k) and do not give up until you reach it for that day, even if you are still fiddling at three in the afternoon and your house is turning into a pigsty.

Keep going. Even if you think you are writing total crap, keep going. Because most of the time, it will turn out not to be total crap. Some of it might be, but you can weed that out when you've got yourself a full draft to revise. I definitely turned a huge corner when I managed to type THE END. The work was by no means done, I still had loads of revisions to do after that, there were scenes that needed ditching or rewriting and lots of dross to cut, but making changes was so much easier than writing from scratch. And the advantage of having invested all that angst and effort into getting to the end of a full draft was that I really knew my characters well by then. Revisions were much easier as a result.

I said to DH as I finally handed it in after the last few tweaky revisions, 'I'm actually pretty pleased with the story now.' 'Great,' he said. 'Because you've done nothing but moan about it for the last four months.' O_O

I am not the only one at Chez Phillips who was pleased to see the back of this one!

And so it is with enormous relief and excitement and happiness that I am able to announce that The Date Pool (that name will SO be changed!) has been accepted and is scheduled for publication in August 2013.

Thanks everyone for all supportive comments and kicks up the butt during the last six months. X

Wednesday 5 December 2012

I'm Visiting the Pink Heart Society...

Secrets of the Rich and Famous is being released (albeit in a small way!) this week (7th December), hurray! It is part of the Mills & Boon Direct to Consumer programme this month plus if you are in the UK there are limited print copies available on Amazon UK. The eBook is also available from the Mills & Boon website (see my blog sidebar for links). I will let you know when I have dates for wider publication.

I'm over at the Pink Heart Society blog today, sharing my call story. Come and keep me company if you have time!

Friday 30 November 2012

Celebrating The Minxes of Romance New Release!

This week sees the release of the first anthology bringing together the talents of the fabulous Minxes of Romance, BLAZE.

Q: What could be more appealing than a lovely romance anthology?
A:  A lovely romance anthology with firemen!

This collection includes eight stories, all set in a fictional village in England's beautiful Lake District, and with each story focusing on a different member of the local retained firefighting crew.

It showcases the writing talents of eight of the Minxes, two of whom write for Harlequin Presents, another for Harper Collins, one for Pocket Novels and still another successfully self-published. Eight very different voices to try and a mix of heat levels to suit all tastes.

There are times when shorter length stories are exactly what I want - the fact that it's possible to devour the whole thing in one hungry gulp is brilliant - and a linked collection of stories like this one has added appeal because you still get that wider familiarity with characters and setting that usually only comes from a longer-length novel. They are also the perfect 'taster' for trying out an author for the first time - if you like what you see, there's always a backlist to follow up!

So what do you think? Do you like anthologies? Would a group of similar-themed stories or a linked collection like this one be an added appeal or do you prefer the depth of a full-length novel?

BLAZE is available now!
- Buy from
Buy from

To find out more about BLAZE, you can read Minx Romy Sommer's interview over at the Hot Pink Typewriter Blog from Monday or visit

Monday 19 November 2012

The Next Big Thing!

I've been tagged in a blog chain by the lovely (and recently signed) Rae Rivers - read about her Next Big Thing here. Not that I need an excuse to blather on about my first release lol! So without further ado...

What is the title of your book?
Secrets of the Rich and Famous

How did you come by the idea?
After finalling in New Voices I was lucky enough to be given the chance to work with a M&B editor to develop a story from scratch. I was asked to submit three story ideas and the RIVA team picked the one they thought was the strongest. I got the original idea when I saw a news story about executive house sitters - people who get to live in gorgeous houses at a fraction of the rent in return for keeping the place occupied and secure. I wondered what would happen if you were using a posh place like that as a cover story for something and then the real owner reappeared, wanting it back. That is essentially the beginning of Secrets...

What genre does your book fall under?
Contemporary Romance

Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it were a movie?
As I mentioned in my last post, Alex was always based on Alex O'Loughlin, who plays Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-0. I didn't really choose an actress for Jen from the start but I think Kate Hudson would be good.

What is a brief synopsis of your book?
Jen is a village journalist trying to get a foot in the door at a top women's magazine by pitching an article that investigates whether an ordinary girl with a high street wardrobe and an overdraft can land a Chelsea millionaire. Since a man like that would immediately think gold-digger, she needs a makeover on a budget and a fictional new life. Jen has bagged herself a Chelsea apartment to house sit, passing it off as her own, and is scuppered when the real owner, Alex, returns, needing the property back as a bolt hole from a media scandal. Having flown halfway round the world to escape the press, he isn't impressed to find one of them has moved in with him. Jen sees him as a fantastic source of information for her project and when she ropes him into helping her, sparks begin to fly.

Will your book be self-published or traditional?
It will be traditionally published by Mills & Boon RIVA.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I'd been targeting M&B for a while and doing well in New Voices really made me more determined than ever. I began to take my writing more seriously and I was determined to grab the chance to work with an editor and throw everything at it. Thankfully it paid off!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
As this book was written with editorial guidance, I submitted three chapters at a time and then received feedback and revisions on them which I did before proceeding with the next part of the story. This kept me on track and avoided major rewrites/ revisions at the end. Chapters 7-9 took about 3 months including time waiting for feedback and then I wrote the final three chapters in two weeks! By then they'd offered me a contract and asked for the end to be completed quickly. I nearly had a meltdown over it, but the pressure must have done me good because they accepted the final part without revisions.

What about your book might pique the reader's interest?
I think (hope) it's a fun story that will make people smile. And it's set at Christmas time in Chelsea - twinkly lights and frosty pavements - what's not to like!

For the next author in the chain, check out the fabulous (and also newly signed!) Christy McKellen's blog to find out about her Next Big Thing!

Tuesday 13 November 2012

My First Cover!

Here it is! My first ever cover for Secrets of the Rich & Famous - I can't describe the unreality of looking at it and seeing my name on it! It's an old-style cover since RIVA is still in its relaunch stage until the end of the year, but I don't care! I'm so delighted with it and I couldn't wait to share!

Here is the back blurb...

"Can she fake it until she makes it?
Join me, journalist Jen Brown (aka Little Miss Ordinary), as I research my next article: can anyone bag a Chelsea millionaire if she looks the part? I'm discovering that the glossy, I-haven't-spent-any-time-on-my-appearance look isn't quick...
To make sure I can fake it with the best of them at the whirlwind of intimidatingly glam Christmas parties, I've blagged myself a secret weapon: the help of genuine billionaire and deliciously gorgeous film director Alex Hammond."

The girl on the cover really looks perfect for my heroine Jen, skinny and blonde, she even looks like she's wearing  fake tan just like Jen does, but interestingly the guy looks nothing like I imagined Alex to look. In my head Alex looks like Alex O'Loughlin (you see, I even gave him the same name!), who plays Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O. Here's a pic on the right in case you haven't seen him.

 But to be honest, they could have put two warthogs on the cover with my name underneath and I would still have been excited! It's the stuff of dreams.

Secrets of the Rich & Famous is due to be released 7th December, but due to the RIVA relaunch it will only get a limited release - it will be part of the UK Mills & Boon Direct To Consumer programme. There will also be a few print copies available on Amazon UK only, click here if you would like one and it will take you there. Hopefully a wider digital release will happen at a later date.

In other news I have emerged from the revisions cave and have pressed SEND on the full MS of The Date Pool. There are likely to be still more revisions but hopefully not horrific ones now, so I am feeling much calmer and am busy catching up on neglected housework and family stuff for a day or two.

Back with a progress report soon!

Friday 19 October 2012


Greetings from the kitchen Revision Cave!

And thank you so much for all the lovely supportive comments I've had on here and on Twitter following my recent conviction that I suck at writing. I feel particularly bad about said wallowing in the light of SYTYCW, since so many of the entries I read were fantastic - I have no idea how the judges manage to whittle them down to any kind of shortlist - and I know there are lots of people out there who have as their goal the very thing I have been whinging about.

I thought self-doubt would be something that would simply disappear after I got the magical validation that is the publishing contract, but have to admit I have struggled with this darned book 2 far more than I have with anything I ever wrote on the journey here. I knew the constant thought that 'this isn't as good/sparky/funny as book 1' was inhibiting me, but I couldn't seem to help myself dwelling on it.

I submitted revised Chapters 1-6 of the Date Pool plus new Chapters 7-9 at the end of last week, absolutely convinced that I would receive back the revisions from hell, and very possibly rewrites. And having bitten my nails all week, yesterday I got an email back from my lovely editor.

Yes there are revisions. Of course there are. But they are not the monstrous rewrites from hell that I thought they would be. And she counterbalanced them with lots of things that she likes and that I am doing right. (*fragile ego sighs with relief*) What I have overlooked in my self-criticism is that I am not floundering around on my own to make this story work - she wants it to work as much as I do. And she is a brilliant  source of ideas, plot tweaks and suggestions on how to deepen conflict and improve scenes I already have. As I prepare myself for a couple of weeks working through these revisions, I feel part of a team and I feel like I have a sense of perspective again.

I know there will likely be even more revisions down the line. But I feel like the ones I have are doable, I'm even excited about them because I can see already how they will make the story flow and work so much better. And so meltdown is over, for now.

Scuttling off now to the cave and I will keep you posted!

Monday 24 September 2012

Book Two and Brick Walls

I know I've been a rubbish blogger the last month or so.

I am currently squashed under my insecurities about Book 2, also known as The Date Pool. I read on the internet that the second book (ie the book after you get your publication contract) is the hardest one to write and I would have to agree with that. I'm not sure why - maybe it's the worry that this time it matters whether I deliver or not - but I just know I'm capable of better than some of the dross that seems to be appearing on the page.

Chapters 1-3 have been revised and thankfully at least they seem to be working. Chapters 4-6 are currently pants. Fortunately I received an email from my lovely new editor on Friday full of encouragement (which is great because I'm now wondering if they will be regretting their decision to give me a contract) and fantastic suggestions, some of them specific (areas that are too dialogue-heavy) and some of them general (scene ideas that I can play around with). As always I wish I'd thought of all of them myself.

Anyhow...This week I will be sitting in the revision cave, also known as my kitchen, hunched over and working through the revision points one by one in the hope that at the end of the process I will also have serviceable Chapters 4-6. On the bright side the small one has started full-time school so at least I have plenty of time on my hands to angst over the story, and when I look back over my blog I can see that I was feeling pretty much the same way at the same point when I was writing Secrets of the Rich & Famous. Bit of a double-edged sword because I know I came out the other side with a good ms last time, but on the other hand I now fear that the pants-middle-bit and the feverish rewriting of it may be part of my process (please, no!).

Back with a progress report soon x

Saturday 8 September 2012

RIVA's Back! And So You Think You Can Write...

RIVA is back with a bang!

If you haven't seen the gorgeous new covers click here to find the launch books and there is also a very cute Facebook App, where you can find out more about the RIVA titles, their authors, and enter a competition to win lots of RIVA goodies.

I am so happy to join the line at such an exciting time and can't wait to see what people think of its fabulous new look!

And talking of joining the line, I know without a doubt that if it hadn't been for Mills & Boon's New Voices Competition last year I would not be where I am now. Since New Voices has been amalgamated this year into Harlequin's global competition So You Think You Can Write, I want to recommend to anyone who might be thinking about having a bash at it, to put any doubts aside and go for it. You can find all the details here.

There is a ton of information and lots of writing tips to be found on the competition site and I will be checking out some of the articles myself - (I think because I have a contract I should know what I'm doing but a lot of the time I still haven't a clue. Writing is a massive learning curve and I am constantly making mistakes. Fortunately now I have a lovely editor to turn me round when I end up facing the wrong way but I still love a how-to book or a writing article!)

My advice to anyone taking part would be to immerse yourself into the experience as deeply as you can. When I entered New Voices, I read as many entries as I could, left lots of comments, watched all the podcasts and read all of the writing tips and articles posted by Mills & Boon. I literally squeezed everything out of the experience that I could. Even if I hadn't gone as far as I did in the competition, I learned tons in that couple of months. So if you are going to give it a go, loads of luck!

Back soon with an update on The Date Pool. :0)

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Unexpected Happy News!

I received a set of revisions this week on the first three chapters of 'The Date Pool'. Not too bad thankfully, and as usual all the suggestions are wish-I'd-thought-of-that brilliant. I know they will make the story much stronger. I've already started on them and hope to get them out of the way this week, then I move on to writing chapters 4-6 and submit to my editor again at the half-way point.

I wanted to discuss one of the revision points before I got stuck in and emailed my editor to let her know, so when I got a phone call from her later in the day I naturally expected it to be about that. I was absolutely floored when instead she offered to buy my very first MS, the one I submitted via slush back in summer 2010, which went through two rounds of revisions under her supervision and was eventually rejected.

I am thrilled to announce that 'The Proposal Plan' (as I called it, the name may yet be changed) will be published by Mills & Boon RIVA in the UK only, in Spring of 2013!

Following the relaunch of RIVA in the UK and the introduction of the KISS line in North America, the intention is that titles will be simultaneously released in both lines from the middle of next year. In order to line the releases up in this way, there will be a short period early next year where a slot is available for a UK-only release. 'The Proposal Plan' will take up one of these slots.

I am absolutely over the moon that this story - which really was my baby - will finally see the light of day. I started it twenty-odd years ago, stuck it in the wardrobe when life and kids took over and only finished it when I stopped work to have the small one. With the encouragement of DH I finished it and sent it off, thinking that it might be rubbish but at least it wouldn't be rubbish cluttering up my cupboard anymore. The revisions were tough. The final third of the book was total cliche *toes curl as I remember*, and had to be completely rewritten, I had to cut one of the characters out and there were some major scene changes. But I loved the end result and I was so disappointed when it was rejected. I always hoped if I got published that I might be able to rework it one day and get it out there. I just didn't expect it to be anytime in this decade!

I am waiting to hear about the title and release details, and in the meantime I am cracking on with 'The Date Pool' with renewed enthusiasm.

So my message of the week is: never give up hope on those rejected MS's. They might make it out there one day!

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Loveable Heroines

I thought I'd post this week about heroines, since I am up to my ears in my new MS and (as is usual for me) my heroine, Alice, feels like my best mate and is hogging the story and my hero, the gorgeous Harry, feels a bit of an enigma to me. I have just submitted my partial of the story to my editor and I know the revisions she comes back with will relate to him.

My favourite heroines have always been quirky, funny and loveable and they are exactly the kind I like to write now. I remember watching a romantic comedy while I was at university and wishing I was the heroine, or failing that her best friend. In fact, I think my love of romantic comedy stems from that film even though it wasn't mainstream.

What film was this? I hear you ask.

In the early 1990s Rik Mayall did a series of three hour-long shows for ITV, called Rik Mayall Presents... and one of these was a romantic comedy called 'Dancing Queen'. Rik starred as Neil, a spoilt yuppy whose mates play a stag night prank on him. First they hire a stripper and ply him with alcohol, and then they steal his trousers and stick him on a train. He wakes up on his way to Scarborough with the stripper, Julie, sitting opposite him.

Julie was played by Helena Bonham Carter, totally against her usual type, and she is absolutely adorable.

The music is wonderful - Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel singing 'Come Up and See Me' as Neil runs trouserless around Scarborough clutching an alarm clock trying to work out how to get back to London in time for his wedding. And in the final scene Julie is twirling an umbrella about as she dances to ABBA on the beach and Neil speeds across the sand to find her   in his BMW.

Rik Mayall is surprisingly perfect as the hero. But Helena Bonham-Carter's Northerner Julie steals the show as she talks about her conflict ('I were too young, he were too fat') and asks about Neil's wedding ('What's your fiancee's name? Sophie? That's a pretty name. Julie's horrible. Makes you think of Julie Andrews.'). I don't think I've ever rooted for someone more.

Unfortunately I think the only way you can watch this now is on YouTube, but if you ever get the chance to see it, I can't recommend it highly enough. Very much in the mould of Four Weddings and a Funeral, the sheer delicious happy-ever-afterness of it is fabulous.

Anyone else remember it? And is there a film or story that really fed your love of romance or a hero/heroine that you really love?

I am off to get to know my hero a bit better.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Diving in!

I am excited to say that my story proposals were more on the button this time than they have been in the past *wipes brow* and my lovely editor picked out the idea that I liked the best!

 After a couple of weeks of major league character planning, during which I filled out huge character questionnaires and imagined myself shopping, holidaying and goodness-knows-what with my hero and heroine, I am now ready to start writing the story. So in the next couple of days (small one has been ill, so everything has been on hold) I will be revisiting my plot board and getting started on Chapters 1-3 of The Date Pool (my pet name for the story, although my editor is calling it Alice and Harry).

Hope to blog in the next week or so about how it's going, can't deny I am super excited to be starting a new story but I am also trying to ignore Captain Doubt whispering about one-book wonders.

In the meantime I am taking part in Tea Cooper's roundup of the progress made by some of the entrants of New Voices 2011. Come and join me over at her blog if you have time for 'New Voices - Where Are We Now?'

Tuesday 19 June 2012

The Lucky Seven

The fabulous and talented Lindsay Pryor has tagged me in a blog chain called The Lucky Seven, and since I am reduced to cleaning the house while I wait for my editor to give me the go-ahead (hopefully) on one of my story proposals, it is a welcome diversion *puts down the bleach and toilet brush*

The rules:

Post 7 lines from an unpublished work of fiction
Go to page 7 or 77, go to line 7 and post the next 7 lines or sentences exactly as you see them. No cheating!

So here we are. Seven lines from my unpublished New Voices MS, 'Honeymoon With A Stranger', which one day I hope to return to and rework and get out there! In this scene the heroine, Anna, has just twisted her ankle and is now on the phone to her pushy mother...

'I'm not thinking about your ridiculous day job, I'm thinking about the photo shoot, darling! You'll need to look glamorous, not swathed in bandages. The sooner you give this ludicrous hiding-out idea up the better. There's still huge interest in the break-up, Johnny's been working the press like mad and they say his record's on target for the Christmas Number One.'

'Mum, I couldn't care less what Johnny's doing and there's going to be no photo-shoot. I'm fine here. This place belongs to Jack Hamilton-Walsh and it's a publicity-free zone, thank goodness. It's perfect.'

'You don't mean the rugby player?' Her mother zoomed in. 'Mr Fix-It?'

That's it. Obligation fulfilled. I know I need to tag another seven people but this thing has run for a while now and I'm going to struggle to  find someone who hasn't already been hit! So if you would like to keep the chain alive, please consider yourself tagged and let me know so I can come and read your seven.

Back soon, hopefully with feedback on my story proposals. Bye for now.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Nailing Down The Process...

I've hit send on four new story proposals and I'm waiting for feedback on which of these the RIVA team think are suitable to develop. (And crossing everything that at least one of them will hit the mark, it wouldn't be the first time if all four were knocked back). So I thought I'd make use of the waiting time by looking back at what I got right with this last MS that sold, as opposed to the previous stories that didn't achieve those dizzy heights.

I love reading blog posts by authors talking about their 'process'. I adore the idea that there are a list of rules which, if I follow them faithfully, the end result will be a saleable MS. This trait slops over into other areas of my life - I had a shelf full of How-To books on baby rearing. I read Gina Ford and Tracy Hogg, I am a devotee of Dr Christopher Green's Toddler Taming. I wanted to believe that if I followed a set of rules the small one would sleep through the night at six weeks. Some of the rules worked and some didn't (the small one didn't sleep through for MONTHS *grits teeth at memory*). And it's the same with my How-To books about writing. Some of it works for me and some of it doesn't. The trick is to pick out the things that do work.

I thought I'd start with planning, since that is one point that I have nailed down about myself. I am not a pantser. I am in awe of them. How do they manage? How do they know they can sustain their conflict and story for the full 50k? I need to know where I'm going at all times. 

My most recent submission that didn't make a sale was my New Voices entry, Honeymoon With A Stranger, and as I've mentioned before, that story was an example of me starting out as a pantser. I dashed off one chapter because I thought I had an interesting initial hook situation, but I had no idea where the story was going after that. None of that mattered because I didn't expect it to get anywhere in the competition. It placed well in NV because I had no choice but to do some plot development and I had Liz Fielding in the background advising me and helping me brainstorm, but the moment the competition finished and I tried to complete the MS, it got harder and harder to continue with every chapter. I floundered around, not knowing where I was heading, my conflicts weren't strong enough, and as a result the story was rejected by M&B. My characters were good, dialogue and humour worked, but the whole thing fell down because it didn't have a decent story that could sustain me through 50k.

So when I started writing Secrets of the Rich and Famous, with editorial guidance, pantsing was out and planning was most definitely in. I did detailed character interviews and I had to submit a detailed story plan to the editor before I wrote so much as a word. It was broken down into twelve stages - I knew what was going to happen in every chapter, I knew how it was going to end. And in producing this plan, I used a plotboard. I hadn't done this before, and I have to admit part of the attraction was the fiddling around with stationery and colour coding - I like all that! This is what my plotboard looked like when I started out.

Pretty bare really. I split it up into five acts, put in lines for the mid-point, turning points and the black moment, and slapped on post-its for scene ideas and roughly where I thought they would fit in.

I planned to update the board as I went along, adding new ideas as they came to me etc, but this picture is also exactly what the board looked like when I finished the story. For some reason I never got round to adding to it and I never really referred to it, it just sat in my spare room. (At one point I hung the washing too close to it on the airer and it got dripped on - hence the pink streak!) 

In conclusion therefore, I could assume that plotboarding just isn't for me. But I know deep down that setting this thing up helped. It helped a lot. It made me visualise how the story played out and it forced me to think about how and where different events and developments happened in my story. And when I actually did get stuck into the writing I didn't have any problems with sagging middles or floundering about what would happen next, like I did with Honeymoon.

So this time round, I will be doing all the five act organising and plotting all over again. I might not plotboard - maybe I will set up a spreadsheet or draw a diagram, I haven't really decided - but I will do something visual to nail the story down before I start writing.

What works for you? Do you plan or do you dive in and pants?

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Monday 11 June 2012

An Update and a Title!

I am just about back down to earth now after a lovely Jubilee weekend of sunshine and celebrating. (There was wine, lots of it!) Before the long weekend my editor put me out of my misery as I waited for an email requesting revisions, or worse rewrites of the last quarter, by informing me they will be accepting the ms without further revisions. I was so relieved that I initially skipped over the last part of the email in which she offered me a contract  for my next two stories. To say I am delighted is an understatement. The DH broke open a bottle of champagne we'd put away years ago for a special occasion - until now there hadn't been one special enough!

I now have a title ....drum roll... 'Secrets of the Rich and Famous'. I'm liking the title lots - it's a good reflection of what happens in the story without being sledgehammer-descriptive. What I don't yet have is a mainstream release date - although I was told December when I got the call, the release is on hold for now while RIVA undergoes a relaunch a bit later this year. Just wait until you see the covers, they are to die for! It is a terrifically exciting time to have joined the line and I can't wait to see how it develops from here.

So that's my news for now. I'm getting back to normal. I've ejected the older kids back to school and I'm in the middle of writing proposals for my next story. I am also trying to nail down all the things I did right this time that I got wrong before - in other words finding my writing process. There's definitely another post in there.

Thanks so much everyone for all the lovely comments I've had. This has been a super happy few weeks for me.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

The Power Of Four

I have been tagged by the fabulous Michelle Smart. I now have a bunch of questions to answer and I have to pass it on by tagging four more people, apologies all!

 So here goes...

 Four places I have worked...

1) When I was a student back in 1993 I spent eight weeks temping as a Laundry Assistant for Anchor Foods at their Swindon factory. It involved loading huge machines with overalls covered in dairy products and then folding them up at the end once they were clean. I loathed the overalls used by the flavoured butter crew as when you checked the pockets you got a handful of garlic butter. Bleurgh!

2) Anchor was closely followed by a stint in the kitchens for an IT company. I was in charge of custard and don't think I got the proper consistency even once.

3) 2 years as a Recruitment Consultant for Reed Employment taught me that I am far too apologetic to be good at telesales. (Would you mind awfully giving me a couple of minutes of your time to talk about staffing needs? Oh, you've gone...)

4) Most recently I worked in various admin roles for the NHS. Best job ever because I worked with my best friends. Every day was like a party!

Four films I could watch over and over...

1) Jaws - first watched with my lovely dad when I was just a kid. The three lead actors and the suspense were perfection. I can be very boring about this film!

2) Dirty Dancing - Patrick Swayze. Need I say more.

3) Paint Your Wagon - a childhood favourite, laugh out loud, love it.

4) 50 First Dates - favourite romcom, best twist on the amnesia theme ever!

Four TV Shows... 

1) Dexter - I make the DH eke each series out over 6 months so I don't have to wait too long for the next one. Sad.
2) Supernatural - Dean. Closely followed by Castiel. If you watch you'll understand!
3) Game of Thrones - As long as I concentrate I can follow it.
4) Homeland - Best thing on TV in years. Except Dexter.

Four authors I enjoy...

1) Stephen King - the master of nostalgic childhood storytelling
2) Sue Townsend - laugh out loud fabulousness
3) Jill Mansell - I like my romance funny
4) Ally Blake (though close call with a number of other Harlequin authors) - I like funny, light-hearted escapism.

Four places I've travelled to... 

1) Venezuela
2) Italy (though not enough of it)
3) Formentera - Balearic Island holidays as a kid
4) France

Four websites I visit daily... 

1) Blogger
2) Twitter
3) Hotmail
4) Facebook

 Four favourite foods...

 1) Curry
 2) Christmas lunch with everything
 3) Chocolate
 4) Jelly Tots

 Four places I'd rather be...

 1) On a lounger by a pool in the sunshine anywhere exotic
 2) 3) and 4) See above

Four people I want to tag...

1) Tora Williams
2) Alexandra Fiennes
3) Jo Fino
4) Aurelia B Rowl

Sorry everyone!

Back soon with more news. Have a fabulous rest of the week!

Tuesday 22 May 2012

The Call!!!

I can't believe I'm writing this post!

A few days after I heard back from my editor with her advice and revisions for Chapters 7-9 of the WIP, I pick the small one up from preschool. I eject Dave the puppy into the garden for a pee break where he stands shivering in the rain. Then I casually check my inbox, only to find another email from my editor. Am I about for a phone call, she asks. I assume she's had another thought about the revisions and wants to talk them over with me, so I mail back to tell her I'm around for the rest of the day. A few minutes later she calls.

I only remember bits and pieces of the conversation. While we were speaking the small one opened the door and let Dave in, whereupon he immediately peed on my kitchen floor, and I still felt nothing but euphoria!

 Mills and Boon RIVA want to buy my book!!

 It turns out that after sending me the revisions for Chapters 1-9, my editor (who I really can call my editor now, hurrah!) sent the chapters on to the Senior Editor for the line, and she liked them enough to make me an offer! My celebrations are only just under way because I've sat on my news for a few days. Mainly because they wanted me to finish the book very quickly as they have earmarked it for a publication slot in December. That meant completing the revisions and writing the end in a very tight timeframe for my normal ability.

 I managed not to have a meltdown. Instead my lovely family have said nothing as I've allowed the house to revert to pigsty while I fiddle with the laptop at all hours. And I have told myself that if I can do this in the time required then I can do anything they might throw at me in the future. Today I have emailed over my full ms and signed my contract, and now I can finally relax and celebrate. I know there are likely to be more revisions, but the bulk of the work is hopefully done. I am so happy and excited I cannot begin to tell you!

Huge thanks to everyone who has offered me support and friendship since New Voices. Also for advice that's really helped, thanks to Scarlet Wilson, Maisey Yates and especially to Liz Fielding, who has kept in touch since NV offering me support and encouragement, and has never minded my mad questions.

Right, now I've pressed SEND, I'm off to clean the hovel house!

Monday 14 May 2012

Meltdown Is Over

I really should believe in myself more.

I wrote my last post as I was desperately trying to put together Chapters 7-9 of my WIP to send to my editor, who has been giving me feedback three chapters at a time. I was feeling pulled in all directions by the daily demands of looking after my tribe combined with my desire to just nail this story, and it felt like nothing was going right.

I had some lovely encouragement from friends, plus some brilliant tips on finding the time to write and juggle your life from the fabulous Maisey Yates. And after a few more days I finally managed to wrestle Chapters 7-9 into submission and emailed them over. I heard back from my editor the next day and I cannot express how relieved I was that she liked them. I still needed to do more revisions, my hero was still not alpha enough, but the bones of the story were there. It's a lot easier to improve what I have than write from scratch.

So all was not lost just because the puppy was peeing over the floor and I couldn't seem to sit down for longer than ten minutes at a time to write. Perspective thankfully returns.

On now to writing the ending, hurray!

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Swimming Through Treacle

Another long time, no blog. It's poor really, I wish I could fit everything in effortlessly. Like Maisey Yates for example, she has small children but is just so productive. Whereas I seem to have day after day at the moment where I reach the end feeling like I've run a marathon but with actually very little to show for it.

The WIP is currently half-finished. I received revisions on Chapters 1-6 at the beginning of April, mainly focused on building up the hero. I can totally see where the editor is coming from - I've got so carried away with my heroine that it's become very much her story, her journey. Strangely, considering my How-To book addiction and all the help I've been lucky enough to receive, this is the first time I've fully understood that it needs to be a 50-50 split story, a journey for both hero and heroine that converges.

Somewhere during April I've begun feeling like I'm swimming through treacle with this. The kids were off for the Easter break and at the same time we bought a puppy, something we've planned for ages. I knew the puppy would be hard work at first but I just totally underestimated the time I would spend supervising the small one with him, dropping everything to put him on his pee-pad (I have read everything I could lay my hands on about housetraining) cleaning up, driving the older two around (their social life surpasses mine) etc etc. When all I want to be doing is sitting at my laptop working out these revisions and then writing Chapters 7-9. The editor checked in with me last Monday and I just am nowhere near happy with what I've got, certainly not enough to send it in to her yet.

The frustrating reality is that much as I love writing and want to spend every spare moment on it, it isn't something I'm paid for and I have a million other things shoving it down the priority list. As a result I don't think I'm doing anything particularly well right now.

Sorry for being moany! I will hopefully have more positive things to report soon. In the meantime puppy has woken up so I'm back to supervising! Bye for now.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Nearly Halfway...

Bit of a long time, no blog, I know, but I've been making a super effort in the last month to try and focus on the story and not be distracted by Blogger and Twitter. It's definitely worked because I'm almost halfway through my first draft.

To back up and update you on what's happened since my last post...

I sent a detailed story plan to my editor and quickly received the go-ahead to start writing, along with a few pointers of advice on bits of the plan where she felt I might fall down if I'm not careful. I was told to check in after three chapters, which I duly did, and thankfully she liked them! She's told me to relax into the story now and take my time (clearly meaning don't screw it up by bashing out poor quality drivel in my haste to get the thing finished!), mining every scene for as much romance, drama and humour as I can. I also have to make sure I'm making the setting come alive enough - it's all meant to be really opulent and posh with my heroine as a bit of a fish out of water, and so sticking to my usual rule of minimal scene-setting hasn't been descriptive enough.

As I write this I am halfway through Chapter Six. Once that's done I need to go back over all six chapters and make sure I've covered all her advice points before sending the first half of the story back to her. I just hope I'm managing to maintain the standard.

Every little stage I get to feels like a mini-victory at the moment. I'm trying to write, without fail, 1000 words a day and so far that policy is really standing me in good stead. In the past I've had real motivational problems that I know were down to me storming through thousands of words on rare good days, then beating myself up every day that I didn't achieve that. Add in all the domestic stuff that doesn't get done because I'm fiddling with my writing and if I'm not careful I'm well on the way to a major guilt trip, feeling like I'm not doing anything well.

Talking of domestic stuff, in the midst of all this we've finally made a decision after discussing it for the past five years or so to get a dog. Puppy (provisional names: Dave (14 yo son), Basil (13yo daughter) or Bubbleguppy (3 yo daughter) - no one can agree) arrives on 10th April, and all hell is likely to break loose until I've got to grips with integrating him into our already manic family life. Really must try and get the lion's share of the MS done before this moment!

Friday 20 January 2012

A New Start

After only a week or two of nailbiting I was really lucky this week to get a phone call from the editor who's dealing with me. And so I have news about Honeymoon and a new direction.

I hadn't expected anything like this quick a response and was grimly settled into revising the second half of Honeymoon, all the while trying to ignore my gut feeling that it really wasn't good enough. Unfortunately I was absolutely right. I got some really great feedback though, and any low feelings passed pretty quickly. She reiterated that they like my voice and that they like my portrayal of the heroine very much. She said there were moments of brilliance, which was lovely. But the feeling was the story itself wasn't strong enough. If I'm honest I can see where she's coming from. I found it very difficult to keep writing as I got further through the story, it was like pulling teeth, but I plodded on regardless. So Honeymoon goes onto the backburner, at least for now. Perhaps I will go back and finish it at some point in the future when I'm more experienced and have a better grasp of what is required.

I am thrilled, however, that she liked one of my story ideas and after giving me lots of advice, has let me loose to start on a new project! I am beyond excited about this and filled with all the optimism that always seems to accompany starting a new story. I'd only supplied her with a brief idea of the story and a few lines about the possible conflicts for hero and heroine, so my next step is to go back to her with a more detailed synopsis and story plan. As a result I am now up to my ears in research, which is something I did hardly any of for Honeymoon, and I can't help wondering if that was part of the problem. As it was a New Voices entry, I dashed off one chapter of it without doing any of the usual groundwork beyond basic character sketches. When Liz Fielding first got in touch with me after it went through to the second round I had only the vaguest idea of where the story was heading and I could never have produced such a strong Chapter Two without her excellent guidance. I can't help thinking that the way the story weakened as it progressed was partly to do with my lack of planning before I started writing the thing.

So I'm determined not to let that happen this time. I'm doing lots of background research first, which currently involves watching episodes of Made In Chelsea (completely insane but strangely addictive). I also intend to spend loads of time on my character plans. Only then will I look at coming up with a skeleton plot. I hope (crossing fingers) that all this background work will stand me in good stead when it comes to actually writing it.

In terms of advice I can share...well what I can say is the editor used the terms 'sparkling, daring, edgy, glamorous..' an awful lot, and there's very much a feeling that it needs to have global appeal. I was told to make sure my hero remains extremely alpha as that was something I was losing sight of now and then in Honeymoon. She also advised me to read lots of the line, which I am already doing - I find this helpful in showing what kind of story and feel they are after, but at the same time it often fills me with a desperate 'I'll NEVER be that good..' kind of feeling!

So to sum up, one project on the back burner, and another at the starting line. I will post progress updates as I go along, but for now its back to King's Road for me!

Thursday 12 January 2012

Captain Doubt Moves In With Me

I've finally pressed SEND on my three story ideas and now Captain Doubt is sitting opposite me at the kitchen table as I type this.

I procrastinated and fiddled for three weeks before forcing myself to just send the wretched things.Not just about the ideas themselves (are they cutting-edge and twisty enough? Is there enough conflict to sustain 50k or am I so busy congratulating myself on being smugly original in the story hook that the whole thing will collapse after one chapter?) but also in the presentation (Should I write it like a synopsis? Are bullet points a good idea? Does the editor want a full bio of my hero and heroine? Should I name them? Aaaarghhh!) In the end I settled for something resembling a short synopsis of the story, plus brief details of the conflicts for the hero and heroine.

So now they are GONE. And there's nothing I can do about them except settle in for what I'm sure will be a long wait. Knowing this doesn't stop Captain Doubt whispering in my ear that none of them are a)good enough, b) original enough or c)sparkly/daring/edgy enough.

While I wait for a response from the editor on the story ideas, I debate what to do. Without knowing which (if any! - Captain Doubt) she will choose I don't want to start developing any of them until I hear from her. So I decide to go back and finish Honeymoon, my NV story. I am also waiting  for the editor's response on the first six chapters of this but am convinced by Captain Doubt that there is nothing in them that will change her view that we put Honeymoon to one side for now and work on something new. In fact as I read and get ready to revise Chapter Seven this morning I begin to convince myself that it's rubbish, my characters are developing in fits and starts, the plot is insane and the six chapters I've already sent are puerile nonsense.

I do have an idea where these doubts are coming from - in an effort to up my game I'm trying to read more, specifically RIVAs, so I can try and target what is wanted more effectively. And the quality of some of these stories is just so high and polished. Can I really aspire to reach that standard? I've never been on a writing course, I don't belong to any writing groups, don't have a critique partner and I don't belong to any associations. I have absolutely no experience.

Do I really think I can do this? Captain Doubt has not only dropped in for a brief visit, he's put his suitcase in the spare room and has taken up a chair at my table. He's here for the long haul.