Friday, January 22, 2010

False Starts

I have now started "Beneath the Ionian Sun" four times. Four different beginnings and I'm now so far behind my self-imposed schedule that I feel like crying.

Why, you might wonder, is this so hard when I already had such a good grasp on my characters?

I started Attempt #1 on a high and the words just flowed. I worked on that opening for three days. The story starts on Corfu, with a summer romance between hero and heroine. A brief encounter that both know will not last. Then the doubt set in. How could I hope to hook a reader (or an editor) with a story that opens with sunshine and roses? I needed more conflict!

So I rewrote the beginning, starting at the moment of most dramatic conflict. Attempt #2 opens when the hero and heroine are thrown together months later and he discovers that she's pregnant ... and that she planned to keep it from him. Enter the next set of doubts. I've seen this opening done countless times. Where's the fresh twist I need to hook a reader?

Then I had lunch with my local writing group and as one of my friends told us the story of her Christmas holiday nightmare I thought "what a great story that would make". So began Attempt #3. But the words just wouldn't come. Writing this opening was like sweating blood.

I brainstormed with my crit partner and dearest friend Mandy and worked out a story that really excited me. Summer romance gone. Secret pregnancy gone. This morning I started Attempt #4, hoping a fresh start and a clean Word document would help the words start to flow. No luck. Still sweating blood.

So what's a girl to do? Go with her head or with her heart? My heart is still back there with Attempt #1. Mandy is liable to kill me, but I'm going back to that story. I'll layer in some conflict between the sunshine and roses, and tell the story of my heart. [Sorry, Mandy!]

Now I've got two weeks of catching up to do to get back on track ...

Monday, January 18, 2010

My first sale!

And yes, I really am talking about selling something I've written!

The Wild Rose Press has offered to contract a short story I wrote ages ago, currently titled Let's Misbehave. This story is set in 1920s London and is completely different to what I usually write, but it was also the most fun I've had writing and the words just flowed out of me.

There are still some major revisions to get through, but I'll keep you all updated of progress as it happens.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kreativ Award

My blog has been awarded a Kreativ blog award by Kaily Hart. Thanks, Kaily!

Here's how it works: I get to thank the person who bestowed it on me, reveal 7 interesting things about myself and then pass it on to 7 other bloggers. So, here goes:

7 Interesting Things About Me:
  • I grew up in the lush, tropical coastal town of Durban, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa
  • I'm addicted to chocolate
  • I dropped out of Film School in my final year
  • I spent two years living in London (and I sometimes still miss England)
  • My first (uncompleted) novel was an epic set in the dark ages. One day I still want to go back and finish it. With what I now know, it'll be a very different story ...
  • Both my daughters were born in water births
  • My biggest fear is that I will never be as good a mother as my mother is. (She's the most incredible woman alive!)
7 Interesting Blogs I follow:

  • SA Romance Writers - because I blog there and because South African romance writers really need to come out of the closet and band together
  • Pink Heart Society - for all the effort these writers put in to share their knowledge and experience, and most especially for the droolworthy Males on Mondays.
  • Jackie Ashenden - for sharing her personal journey to publication with her blog readers. And for being the person who sort of introduced me to blogs and blogging.
  • Kate Walker - for her incredibly useful 12 Point Guide and for 'giving back' to aspiring writers.
  • India Grey - her posts are always amusing. I can relate. Except that I don't clean the oven - I pay someone else to do it.
  • Lucy March - I only discovered this blog recently. I admire her ambitious goal to blog daily for the next 516 days. Rather you than me, Ms March ...
  • Amanda Acton - who kindly nominated me for a Superior Scribbler award ages ago, and which I was naughty enough not to follow up. Thanks for thinking of me, Amanda!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Name Game - Finale

And the winner is ... [slitting envelope open] ...

For the hero .... Lorenzo
For the heroine ... Melissa

Thanks so much to everyone who voted, and especially to Mandy for suggesting their nicknames too. It was pretty much a landslide for both names.

Now it's full steam ahead on their story!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Name Game - Part 2

If you haven't yet voted for the name of my new hero, please visit yesterday's post.
Today is the heroine's turn.

She lives and works in London, and is slowly rediscovering who she is after escaping from a relationship with a controlling ex-boyfriend. She's learning to stand on her own feet and claim back her life. Then she meets the hero during a holiday on a Greek island and with him she finds it easy to be the person she wants to be: the passionate, fun-loving, bubbly person she once was.

But the holiday romance turns complicated when she falls pregnant and she and the hero are thrown together once again. He's no longer the easy-going man she met on holiday. In his home environment, he's cold and distant and just a little too much like her ex-boyfriend.

But this is a love story so of course we know that love will conquer all and there will be a Happy Ever After!

Please vote for your favourite (or the most suitable) of the names below.
A - Melissa (Lissa)
B - Penelope (Penny)
C - Samantha (Sam)
D - Shannon

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Name Game - Part 1

The start of a new year seems like the ideal time to start a fresh story. So it's time to name a new set of characters, and as there are just so many great names out there, I'm once again calling for votes by my blog readers.

Today I'd like to introduce to you my new hero, and tomorrow you'll get to meet the woman who's going to bring him to his knees.

He's a hot-shot divorce lawyer with a reputation as a hard negotiator. He works hard and plays hard, choosing women who know how to have fun without expecting him to get serious or stick around. As scion of a noble Italian dynasty with extensive properties, that's sometimes difficult ... most women see him as their meal ticket to the easy life. However, his experience as a lawyer has only confirmed what he learned young through his parents' bitter divorce: that love turns to hate, destroying everything in its path, and he has no intention of letting either emotion disturb his placid existence. Until he rescues a damsel in distress and a simple holiday romance turns into so much more.

Here are the options. Please cast your votes in the comments section.
A - Angelo
B - Fabrizio
C - Lorenzo
D - Vincenzo

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year Resolutions

I'm not a big fan of New Years' resolutions. They've never really worked for me - probably because I've never really been specific about what I want to achieve and therefore never achieved it.

A recent blog post by Michelle Styles over at Pink Heart Society on creating effective resolutions got me thinking though. Turns out I've been doing all the right things - I just called mine a Five Year Plan. I'm now embarking on Year Three of the plan to publication. Every six months or so I re-evaluate these to make them a little more achievable, but even knowing I trimmed the goals along the way, I'm happy with what I've achieved this past year.

My updated aims in 2009 were to complete the Playboy Duke's Reluctant Bride (check), submit PDRB to the RNA's New Writers' Scheme (check), write a second short story set in the 1920s (check - though I have one chapter yet to complete), enter the Presents Contest (check) and complete an entire novel during Nanowrimo (check). Even the one thing on my list which was outside my power to control (seeing Let's Misbehave published) is on the brink of being checked off.

These are monumental achievements considering writing still has to play second fiddle in my life to the day job and the family, and even more monumental if I look back on where I was this time last year. Last year I had two completed manuscripts and an understanding of how awful they were, and two form rejections under my belt. This year I face the future with a Harlequin editor who wants to work with me and my first publication imminent.

As for 2010? I'm sure these will be amended as the year progresses, but I'm going to take a leap and make this year's aims public:
  1. Enter the South African Essentials / Mills & Boon short story contest (and hopefully final)
  2. Write an entire new story by February and send off a polished partial no later than March.
  3. Polish said story to within an inch of its life, possibly with the help of the NWS.
  4. Write at least one further 1920s short story.
  5. See Let's Misbehave and An Innocent Abroad published.
  6. Write another full-length manuscript between April and November.
  7. Attend the RNA's conference in Greenwich.
  8. Write another 50,000 word novel during Nanowrimo.
That seems do-able. And now that it's out there, in writing, in public, does that mean I'm accountable?

What are your goals for 2010?

Best wishes to everyone for the new year. May this be the year all our dreams come true.