Saturday, May 03, 2008

Weekend Wind-Down : Wanna Have Fun?

Anne McAllister, having sent off her book this week, has wound down so far she isn't even here. But her column is!
All Americans over the age of ten know the story of Tom Sawyer by legendary author Mark Twain. Tom is our quintessential All-American boy -- generally good-hearted, not given to minding very well, perpetually avoiding Aunt Polly who would like to wash his ears and neck and generally shape him up, and almost always in possession of a good idea for getting out of working too hard.

My kind of guy.

And as I've just had sooo much fun this week getting my book off to my editor this week, I'm going to take a page out of Tom's book and let you have fun for a while.

One of Tom's jobs, as you may recall, was to whitewash a fence. It was not his idea of a good time. He'd rather have gone fishin' or exploring or done almost anything else. But he was stuck until he had a brainstorm.

He started whitewashing, but whenever other kids came along, prepared to feel sorry for him or give him a bad time, he brushed them off.

It was great fun, he told them. Too bad they couldn't do it. Well, maybe he'd let them if they were really nice. If they paid him, he might just allow them to help. But they'd have to take turns . . .

Amazing how much fun they had while Tom supervised.

So . . .

I'm thinking about a new book. It has to be a Harlequin Presents (that's what I have a contract for).

But I have such an embarrassment of riches in terms of possible scenarios, I thought maybe you would like the fun of helping pick some of the main bits.

I can't decide if I want to set it in a big city or a Greek island or some other enticing spot that might require a little on site research.

I have heroes galore. I have the standard sorts of "plot contrivances" I can play with, like a poet has 14 lines and a choice of rhyme schemes when he wants to write a sonnet.

And it's one of the most fun parts of writing a book. You didn't actually think sitting there typing was all that amusing and enchanting, did you?

Of course you didn't.

So . . . I thought maybe, while I'm off playing with the 8 month-old granddaughter you guys might whitewash the fence . . . er, play with some ideas for me.

Here are some of my options for settings:

  • New York City
  • San Francisco
  • Greece (I could go, I could go, I could go!)
  • Ireland (ditto)
  • Some island somewhere
  • New Zealand (I could go again!)
  • a ranch in Montana (yes, this might be a busman's holiday for some, but maybe not for a Presents hero and heroine.)
  • your suggestion

And then I need a hero. Some of these guys have turned up in other guys' books and tried to shanghai the plot:

the Irish ne'er-do-well
the Greek troublemaker
the Greek-American loner
the Navajo rancher
the hard-edged tycoon with a chip on his shoulder
your suggestion

Who he is will dictate who the heroine is, of course. But then, I do have to come up with a starting point -- some situation or contrivance that will get them together. Unless they've already been together -- and that's a potential "romance" starting point in and of itself. So among those I have are:
  • fake fiance
  • second chance
  • marriage of convenience
  • workplace romance
  • virgin & the bad boy
  • taming of the shrew
  • cinderell
  • wounded hero
  • pygmalion
  • opposites attract
  • revenge
  • your suggestion
What every writer does with those elements is different. Some are more 'natural' fits than others. Keep in mind that anything I am likely to do with a revenge plot is even more likely to give my editor hives.

But if you've always wanted to write a book because it's such fun (it is, it is, it is!) but the authors have already got all the good ideas and you don't want to be bothered with having to sit there and type, take a shot at suggesting starting point (and people and places) for my next opus.

Who knows -- you might be my muse.

I hope so. Because otherwise I'll have to ask you to write next month's column instead!

Commenters will have the satisfaction of knowing they've contributed to Anne's R&R as well as having a chance to win a copy of her Fiji island getaway book, The Boss' Wife For A Week. A winner will be drawn on next Thursday (when she gets back from R&R) and announced on her blog.

Her most recent release was
One-Night Love-Child in which Flynn Murray, who hung around for six years (count 'em; he did!) waiting for his heroine's letter to catch up with him, finally got a happy ending. You can look at this to see if you think Dev deserves a book of his own.

And watch for Antonides' Forbidden Wife coming in November from HM&B Modern and (so they tell her) January 2009 in Presents.

And now...for some big news from our correspondent in the trenches, the fabulous BIDDY with her BOOK WITH BIDDY feature!

Break out the champagne, hang out the bunting, start putting the nibbles in little ceramic dishes, and let’s get this soiree started! Yes after waiting almost four months I have heard from Mills & Boon in Richmond and the lady she says… “If you would like to revise in line with our comments we’d like to see the full manuscript” YAY! In fact double YAY even triple YAY with a cherry on top! The comments are around making sure I don’t reveal the conflict too early and therefore lessening the tension. I can do this… can’t I?

All that happened about ten days ago and since then I have been celebrating pretty much every night… which explains the fragile state I have been finding myself in each morning. No it is not me avoiding the revisions, I have been in Tuscany with the girls and inspirational it was too. A Tuscan book is now in the plan, with a working title of ‘The Italian Stallion’, hey it is about an Italian horse breeder nothing too smutty here; but not, of course, until after the revisions for Dream Date and finishing the Artist. Which of course means I have to put ‘The Artist and The Ugly Duckling’ to one side and start the revisions. It is a bit of a wrench really as the writing for the Artist has been flowing well; I have written about a quarter of it and had a wonderful revelation about Lucas last week. But then again the wonderful Jack and Zoe from ‘Dream Date’ deserve to be polished and let loose on the world. And here are the photos that inspired them; the PR guru and the singer/songwriter or in real life, Hugh Jackman and Lori McKenna (who actually is a singer/songwriter).

In previous blogs you will remember I was having a tough time actually sitting down and writing but this last month… watch my fingers fly across the keyboard of my lovely Alphasmart Dana! This has something to do with me and transport… I have been writing on the train to the new job which works out well for bashing out a first draft it seems to be the only way I can write anything planes, buses, trains they all seem to get my creative juices flowing. I have visions of me in years to come going round and round on the Circle line as I bash out books. My dedications will be to Transport for London, London Underground and the man who elbowed me in the chest while he opened his newspaper.

But a Dana isn’t great for revisions so how can I do revisions on a train? I have been trying to figure this out all weekend (between eating and drinking some wonderful Italian fare). The commuter train I am on doesn’t have little tables to rest on and at the moment I use my Dana on my knee with me hunched over it (I see some backache in my future.) Hmmm all suggestions welcomed at the usual place.

I have given myself until the end of June to get it all done, this takes into account the day job, the radio, the voiceovers and the family member relocating halfway round the world. But as a project manager by training and profession I have actually written a programme plan which has built in a lot of “contingency” and the deadline for that is before RWA Nationals at the end of July!! Well I need time to celebrate all those little steps along the way.

Congratulations Biddy!


  1. Biddy, fantastic news about the request for a revised ms! Good luck with it. Now you have a real incentive to get cracking with it.

    Anne, what fun! I have to say my vote would be for you to do a story in New Sealnad as that means you could go again and that's close to Australia so maybe we could catch up... Only trying to help here!

    Am currently doing the same thing, trying to decide on the story to follow this one. Will be interested to hear what you finally decide!


  2. Oooooh Anne!!!! Going on gut instinct here, Taming the Shrew, the hard-edged tycoon with a chip on his shoulder, San Francisco, workplace. They're the bits that got me off the bat.

    But I'd love for you to be able to go to Greece!

    And I loove painting! Was up late painting the skirting baords and window frames a week before bub was born.

    BIDDY!!!! Well done you. My advice for revisions? Print it out and take it with you. Single spacing, double sided, but on paper you SEE so much more.

    GO GET 'EM!


  3. Congratulations Biddy, what fantastic news!! Good luck with getting those revisions done.

    My vote: Taming of the shrew, tycoon with chip on shoulder, island setting--similar to Ally's.


  4. Great news Biddy!

    And I love that whole Taming of the Shrew thing -- such fun to do the role reversal thing. Get him out of his comfort zone -- no electronic backup.

    Can't wait!

  5. How about NYC for the setting, featuring the hard-edged tycoon with a Pygmalion theme.

  6. Thank you Annie, Ally, Kate and Liz - it is all printed out and I have had an inkling of how to change things to help with the revisions.

    Anne - I love the idea of San Francisco, Taming of the Shrew and either Irish Ne'er do well or Hard edged tycoon. Oooo all very exciting.


  7. Congratulations again to Biddy - not at al surprised, just delighted. I can't wait till you're deflowered! (Now are you going to explain that or do I have to?? ;o) )

    Anne, after revisions on a book from hell, I don't have enough brain power left to think of how you should write your next book . I have no ideas for my own! But I do have a vote for Annie's setting of New Sealnad - I'd love to find out what sort of a country that is!


  8. Biddy, way to go on the revised ms, best of luck with the revisions-on-a-train scenario, I had to do mine on a plane recently and found working on paper much better than working on the laptop. Then when you type them up you find yourself refining them even more and it makes the story even sharper.


    Definitely the Irish bad-boy for me, maybe you could make him an Irish bad boy billionaire with a chip on his shoulder just to fit in with everyone else. Plus I'd go for Frisco (cos I've just brought a plane ticket to the RWA conference) and Taming of the Shrew sounds fascinating (loved that update 10 Things I Hate About You with the late and much lamented Heath Ledger), but who's the Shrew, him or her???

    Heidi x

  9. Congrats, Biddy!
    Another vote for the Irish ne're-do-well. In San Francisco or New York City. And a Pygmalion theme.
    But I'll read anything you write (of corse!)

  10. Congratulations to Biddy!

    I vote for Greece and the hard edged tycoon with a workplace romance.

  11. Thanks Kate - we will draw a veil over the 'deflowering' comment and if it ever comes about we can explain it.

    Heidi - I have it all printed out but I think I need to do some extensive rewriting that is causing me some issues.

    Jill and Maureen - thanks for the congratulations!


  12. OOh, Navajo rancher... (thanks to Jennie for putting me on to Ruth Wind and her beautiful Native American heroes!) - and the taming of the shrew.... (the latter seems to be a recurring vote...)

    I reckon somebody is sending her to a Spa to get her to chill out before she has a nervous breakdown (or gives her boss one!) and she mistakes the Navaho owner for the hired help. (yep, that's an oldie but a goodie. Who doesn't love a working man who turns out to be filthy rich?)

  13. Ooh! Oooh! No , I know, New Zealand. Hunky Maori rugby player. Check out some old photos of Tawera Nikau (League, Melbourne Storm) or Taine Randell (Union, Allblacks). .. . what's your heroine doing there? A ski holiday (niiiiice ski slopes there) or visiting a luxurious spa for mud baths and hot springs (while they salve their recent rugby bruises?)...

    Do Americans watch Rugby?

  14. Congrats to Biddy! Great news. Keeping fingers crossed now -- and can do it because NONE are trying (well, except for this comment).

    Everyone else, I'm deep in the throes of R&R and have filed away all your suggestions. You're terrific. Thank you so much. I think we have votes for MOST of the heroes and most of the places right now -- and an overwhelming support for taming the shrew. I did one of those with In McGillivray's Bed -- well, she was as much of a shrew as I've done, and Hugh was definitely capable of sorting her out without her even being aware of it.

    So I'll give it some thought and let you know what I decide. Keep the ideas coming. Fun, isn't it? It's all the REST that's work!

  15. How about a wounded Irish ne'er-do- well in a marriage of convenience in Ireland...

    Debora Hosey

  16. omg, I reckon I've got about two dozen ideas just from looking at that list - one thing sparks another. What is that saying - ideas are everywhere, if you're paying a dime a dozen you're being overcharged?

    Pygmalion with a gorgeous islander and a snooty developer.

    The virgin (geek boy) and the bad girl (who makes no apologies for her mis-spent youth, thank you very much!)

    Workplace romance.... on the construction site! On a greek island!

  17. Well, I meant "Typing" not "trying" as I said above. So Biddy, I will be crossing fingers that are not TYPING.

    Debora, very very very tempting. Thanks for that. I may well get there if not with this book with one of those soon to follow.

    Pomo housewife, yep, lots and lots of permutations possible, put together with the fact that every hero and heroine will be different, you can have endless books. Of course that IS the fun bit. Then there's the work........

  18. Pomo, do Americans watch rugby? As a rule, no. But I watched a lot of it in NZ and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. And they should watch it, they should!!!!

  19. The work is the bit I struggle with.

    Of course, coming up with a fragment of a premise - is one thing, making it work is another. I really struggle with conflict. They meet, they fall in love, end of story. Novel over in two paragraphs.

    I think I might finally have found the solution that works for me though - the current WIP is a bit of an adventure, good guys, bad guys... good and evil, saving the world.. no idea what line it fits in, but I'm having fun!

    (Rugby is a religion in NZ, isn't it? :) Real men play rugby. None of that helmet-wearing nancyboy stuff....)