Saturday, February 05, 2011
We are firmly entrenched in winter here in Nova Scotia, and we needed a little reprieve. I consoled myself with a bit of visual inspiration:
First of all...we haven't given up hope of a vacation down the road. This picture seemed to pretty much seal the deal for me:
But that won't happen for a while. And we do enjoy summer here so we started looking in a different direction:
Yeah, that's more like it! Warm lake, sunny days, kids in the back...NICE.
The only problem with both scenarios is that they cost $$$$. More than we have at the moment. So I actually made do with something else - cheap, immediate gratification, and best of all, enjoyable RIGHT NOW:
That's right. CAKE. Butter Pecan Cake. YUM.
Meanwhile, if you're looking to beat the winter blahs, you can pick up my latest release out from Harlequin Romance this month! PROUD RANCHER, PRECIOUS BUNDLE hits shelves on February 8! And don't forget to visit www.eharlequin.com beginning on February 14 for the beginning of my online read, REMEMBER ME, COWBOY!
Friday, February 04, 2011
So what does that mean for an author? Particularly if the well is starting to run dry?
Sometimes ideas come from taking it back to the basics. You may think you know all that there is to know about your sphere of writing, but as John Steinbeck pointed out many years ago, part of the tantalizing mystery of the medium is that it can never be fully mastered. In other words, there is something more to be learnt. Also skills can become rusty and need to be freshened up. But they may not be the skills you think need freshening.
When I say go back to the basics, I don’t necessarily mean reread old craft books. Sometimes that works, particularly if you haven’t read them in a while as a little something might catch your eye. Sometimes though you need to read something new. Or approach things in a new way, for example taking a workshop. Or listening to a podcast. Or simply talk to someone else about writing. Anything to get you to focus on the basics in a new way and to take a new perspective on your work. Be humble and admit that you might have forgotten something. I find great comfort in John Steinbeck’s words because it means that I can keep learning.
Recently I decided to focus on building characters and so I read what I had but still wasn’t satisfied. (Neither was my editor with my partial) I then read Orson Scott Card’s Characters & Viewpoint and vistas open before me. Why didn’t I read this before? It was an oversight. Or perhaps I wasn’t ready to understand what it was saying. Sometimes you can hear things a dozen times but one person says it slightly differently. Light bulbs flash and the waters rush in, refilling that well.
Does anyone else have any good craft books that have recently invigorated them?
Michelle Styles writes historical romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Her latest is an Undone -- The Perfect Concubine. You can learn more about Michelle's books on her website www.michellestyles.co.uk.
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Brigid Coady talks about her love of Regency romances
I have inherited many things from my mother... some that I would rather I hadn't, but those are the genes you are dealt. Luckily one of the best things that I have inherited is my love of Regency romances. I was brought up on Georgette Heyer and I revisit her whenever I need comfort or cheering up. At a recent RNA meeting we discussed which of her books were our favourite. What is wonderful is the way that there is a story that appeals to everyone.
At the moment I am revisiting 'Frederica' yet again. There is something wonderful about the managing Frederica and the love she has for her family. The Baluchistan hound and of course the romantic scene which is ruined by the sudden mention of 'pork restorative jelly'.
This love of Georgette Heyer led on to other Regency authors and I have a LARGE collection of M&B Historicals which will never be let go. Nicola Cornick and Louise Allen being my particular favourites. Their strong heroines echo the strong heroines that Georgette Heyer wrote well over fifty years ago. And as we all know a strong heroine needs a strong and sexy hero. I'm still in love with Louise's hero Mr Eden Hurst *swoon*
I am looking forward to all the great Regency romances due out in 2011... and while I'm waiting I think when I've finished 'Frederica', I will move on to 'Devil's Cub'.
What is your favourite Georgette Heyer book? And if you haven't read her you must! Which more recent Regency romances have you enjoyed?
Brigid is revising her YA novel 'The Stone Voice' and has agents and publishers interested. She is also starting work on her next YA book, tentatively called 'The Silver Assassin'.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
I’ll admit it. When it comes to “my process”, I’m a fickle creature, constantly in pursuit of that singular system that will miraculously facilitate my knocking out the books in a timely, reliable, efficient fashion.
I mean who wouldn’t want that?
And just so we’re clear, it’s not that I have any delusions about writing suddenly becoming an easy breezy endeavor. It’s work. I know this. Like I know it’s the kind of work that I love.
The part I fantasize about is the ability to make it happen faster. I long for a process that streamlines my productivity. I would love to be the kind of plotter who can lay out their entire storyline at the beginning of a project, know exactly how long it will take them to finish. Adhere to the framework established and turn in a captivating, polished, finished project on time.
I KNOW there are writers out there who can do this.
And I’ve tried to become one of them. But alas, I’ve yet to find a way to make it work for me where I don’t end up writing something that feels vaguely detached. Definitely not what you want in a romance that hinges on emotional connection. Heck, not what you want in any kind of non-technical writing!
So, I must embrace what works for me. My process.
While I’m not a plotter, I don’t exactly fly by my seat either. But like many, I’m a mish-mashy, inconsistent blend of the two. I usually start out with a scene I can’t stop thinking about, a conflict to build from, and a few plot points that break down the major turns in the story. Once I’ve got that initial work done, I’m totally pumped and can’t wait to take off.
Only after that initial rush, I often find myself with so many ways the story could go—so many attitudes and reactions my people could take—I just can’t quite figure which is going to be right. Which puts me at the second stage of my process—one that I revisit frequently throughout the book. The wheel spinning stage. The part where I so desperately want to go, but every time I try to get hold of a piece of the road to take off from, it slips out from beneath me—ending up as a bunch of splatter littering my CUTS folder.
I try it this way. Then that way. Then another. Until something clicks. And by clicks, I mean reconnects me to the story in a way that’s almost physical, and is so totally better than all the rest of that splatter behind me, I can’t help but take off. And for a while I fly. The story flows. The road is smooth. I hug the curves, utterly enjoying the ride… Until I veer off track and end up in another gunky rut. And the spinning starts again and I pray it won’t take me too long to catch some traction and I just keep at it, trying this and that, until…click…catch…and aahhhhh. Time to fly.
It’s an imperfect system. Unpredictable. And at times, exhausting. So, yes, I’m always searching for a way to do it better. Faster. More smoothly. I get fed up and take it personally, and call my process all kinds of nasty names. But the thing of it is, until the day comes when I land on this ever-elusive “perfect” process, this imperfect version is what I have. And most importantly, it (eventually) gets me to where I want to go. A finished manuscript that I love.
So as frustrating as it can be, and as much as I wish I could make it better, this process is mine and I’m grateful I have it.
What works for you? Do you love your process or grudgingly accept it while eyeballing the horizon for something better?
I'm on Twitter and Facebook too!
I'm on Twitter and Facebook too!
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Payton hasn't seen Nate Evans in years—not since he used to hang out with her brother in high school. But now she and Nate are guests at the same wedding where the notorious millionaire offers her a wild proposal—a sexy, scandalous and irresistible affair!
Nate's outrageous proposition was supposed to stay only paper-thin; it was merely a ploy to distract the tabloids from another, all-too-real scandal. But neither he nor Payton expected such a very public affair to prove so very hot in private…
Or to have such lasting consequences...
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Today, Fiona Harper shares one of her family's favourite comfort food recipes - perfect for a chilly February day!
This recipe fast became one of my family's favourites after I tried it a few years ago. It's one of those dishes that you can leave simmering on the hob while you get on with other things. The dumplings are a lower-fat version involving no suet and are so filling that there's no need to cook potatoes as well.
Lamb & Parsnip Stew with Dumplings
SERVES 4 (and sometimes more!)
350g (12oz) lean lamb (I often use shoulder, because it's so economical compared to leg)
1 tbsp plain flour
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
150g (5oz) carrots, chopped into medium-sized chunks
2 parsnips, cut into similar-sized chunks
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
300ml (½ pint) red wine
450ml (¾ pint) lamb stock
freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE LOW-FAT DUMPLINGS:
225g (8oz) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsps olive oil
125ml (4fl oz) milk
1. Season the flour with salt and pepper, then cut the lamb into 2cm (¾ inch) chunks and toss in the flour. (I stick it all in a sealable plastic bag and just roll it around until all the meat is covered.) Heat the olive oil in a large, shallow, heavy pan and fry the lamb over a high heat until browned all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2. Add 2 tbsps water and the onion to the pan. Stir well over a medium heat, scraping up the crusty golden bits from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat, cover and steam-fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Stir in the carrots, parsnips and bay leaves and cook for 2 minutes, then return the lamb to the pan. Stir in the tomato paste, red wine and stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1 to 1½ hours or until the lamb and vegatables are beautifully tender.
4. To make the dumplings, sift the flower and baking powder into a bowl and season well. Make a well in the middle. Combine the garlic, olive oil and milk, then add to the well and gradually incorporate the flour to make a soft, but not sticky dough.
5. Shape the dough into 16 small rounds and arrange on top of the stew. Replace the lid and simmer for a further 10 minutes. The dumplings will swell up and lose their slightly glossy appearance. Serve with veg of your choice (I like sweet petit pois) or simply on it's own.
Fiona's latest release, Three Weddings And A Baby is out now in shops and is online at Mills and Boon's website! You can even have a sneaky peak at the first chapter! The North American Version, Millionaire's Baby Bombshell, is also availble on eHarlequin now.
Do you believe in love at first sight? Jennie Hunter and Alex Dangerfield did, and they married just a few weeks after they met! But when Alex disappeared on their wedding night Jennie was left alone – and angry – in her honeymoon suite. A month later, and Jennie has given up hope of ever seeing her runaway husband again. Then Alex returns – with his toddler in tow!
Monday, January 31, 2011
My February (US) book, Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal has a hero who looks suspiciously like Richard Armitage in my mind. But since Mr Armitage has been a guest on Male on Monday before, I thought we could chat about someone new: Pat Rafter, Aussie tennis legend, undies spokesman, charity creator and all round good guy.
Let’s start with some facts – a little bio from his charity’s website, Cherish The Children:
The third youngest of nine siblings, Pat Rafter was born in Mt Isa, Queensland in 1972 and grew up to become one of the greats of Australian tennis. Throughout his tennis career, his commitment, generosity and down-to-earth approach have earned him great respect among sporting peers and the community.
His playing career commenced in earnest in 1991 when Pat turned pro. He went on to win the US Open in 1997 and then successfully defend his title in 1998. In 1999, he became the first Australian since John Newcombe to reach a number one world ranking and was Runner Up Finalist at Wimbledon in 2000 and 2001.
Pat was named Australian of the Year in 2002 and these days enjoys fishing, playing golf and going to the beach with his young family.
The thing I like especially about Pat Rafter is he seems like a genuinely nice guy. Sure, he’s gorgeous. Sure, he’s tall and broad and looks great in his Bonds. But there’s warmth in his smile. I like that in a man.
Apparently after he won the 1997 US Open, he tried to donate half the winnings to the Starlight Foundation anonymously. Word obviously leaked out about what he’d done, but even so, he also donated half his winnings the next year, when he won the US Open again.
Generous as well as buffed and gorgeous? Yep, that man’s a hero. J
An accident left April Fairchild with no memory, ownership of a multimilliondollar hotel and the nagging sense something wasn't quite right in her life. It also brought her intensely sexy businessman Seth Kentrell, whose late brother had left her the property. Seth believed her a gold digger - and how could April deny it, when she couldn't even remember her name? Now Seth was ready to play hardball to get the hotel back.
But April knew enough to refuse to sign over the property until her memory returned. And if that meant Seth needed to persuade her... well, that was something she could enjoy! At least until the whole truth came out...