Saturday, April 09, 2011
So, here we are at this glorious country club with fresh flowers (pink of course) decorating every table, window, entryway (think Steel Magnolias, only not tacky). The yummy little pastries have to be mentioned. What wedding shower is complete without chocolate treats? And smiles all around as we celebrate the upcoming nuptials for Shane and Amy.
Needless to say, I love weddings. I don't even have to know the couple getting married to get in the mood for love:) Seeing them at the start of their lives together just reminds me of all that I need, all that we all need, is love. And I'm not talking love from a spouse, I'm talking love in general. Love keeps us smiling and that warmth spreading through our bodies.
Leave me a comment and I'll choose one random person to win a signed copy of, HER INNOCENCE, HIS CONQUEST!
Friday, April 08, 2011
So on Mother's Day this weekend my oldest son offered to take me to the movies (aw!). Of course there was a slight catch in that I had to pay, but as he paid for the popcorn and I got to pick the movie I wasn't complaining. Unfortunately when I looked at our local cinema listings it soon became apparent that they hadn't factored in the upcoming 'celebrate your mum' day and the schedules were packed with what I like to think of as 'dick flicks' - testosterone-fuelled thrillers which while sometimes exhilarating can also be dehumanising and exhausting, and don't have a lot of those touchy-feely moments that I enjoy.
Undaunted I decided to pick my movie according to eye candy treat factor instead and in a toss up between Jake Gyllenhaal and Bradley Cooper, Jake won. But apart from the fact that Jake was in Source Code, I knew nothing else about the movie, which I think is always a big advantage when going to watch a thriller. Because let's face it, the element of surprise (and the eye candy) can often be the only thing they have going for them.
As it turned out, Source Code had a lot more going for it than that...
It has one of those fiendishly clever but also deceptively simple plots which reminded me a bit of the old Twilight Zone series, or Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected — involved are alternative realities, parallel universes, an eight-second time-delay flashback structure (think Memento meets Groundhog Day), the race-against-time investigation of a major terrorist attack and enough twists and turns and adrenaline-pumping action to keep you ploughing through your popcorn at a rate of knots. Now, I'm not going to say anything more about the plot than that, because I wouldn't want to give anything away, and it's better to see this movie without knowing what the heck is going on, because then you're living it through the eyes of Jake's main character. He's as clueless as you are, when he wakes up on a commuter train travelling into Chicago living another man's life, in another man's body and sitting opposite a woman who he's never seen before, but who obviously knows him... And well, enough said. It's confusing, but in a good way that will get your brain cells working..
But what I really enjoyed about this movie, was the fabulous emotional punch at the centre of it all. Because as well as being a brilliant thriller, this film is a heart-breaking drama which deals with the richness of life (even lived in eight-second chunks), the finality of death, the discovery that human connections — family, friendship, love — are the only thing that really make a life worth living and a lot of other big important emotional (and dare I say, girly) themes besides.
Oh yeah, and Jake Gyllenhaal is HAWT!
Heidi is currently getting ready to do a series of M&B writing workshops in London over April, so if you're about come join the fun. Her latests Presents Extra, Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger is out now in the US and her first Riva, Cupcakes and Killer Heels, which is a linked book to Sexy Stranger, hits shelves in the UK next month. You can get a free Riva copy of Sexy Stranger or an ebook of Walk of Fame (aka Public Affair, Secretly Expecting) in the UK here. Come have a natter with her on her website, her blog, on Facebook or thru Twitter (@HeidiRomRice).
Thursday, April 07, 2011
Ever since I read Trisha Ashley's book Good Husband Material back in 2001, I've watched out for her books. They create a world that I feel I know at the same time that they invite me to explore parts of it I haven't visited yet, but am sure I want to know better. And I always want to spend time with Trisha's people.
I love her people -- and her animals (even her not-so-bright hens) and her chocolate and her roses and all the other intriguing bits of Trisha's world that amuse me, entertain me, and always make me eager to come back for more.
If you haven't read Trisha's books, you can find out a bit more about them from Trisha herself who generously answered my questions this week. Then do go check them out on her website or have a look at the online booksellers. If you're in UK, you can probably find them at your nearest Waterstone's as well as other bookshops and possibly the supermarket.
Without further ado, here's Trisha!
I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, but I actually completed a children’s novel when I was eighteen. It was truly dreadful and totally unpublishable, but you learn such a lot from writing your first book. Of course you do tend to think your first novel is absolutely perfect, just like your new baby, cradle-cap, crossed eyes and all.
The Magic of Christmas, out this October, will be my twelfth romantic comedy, though it’s actually a major reworking of an earlier novel, Sweet Nothings. I always felt there was so much more I wanted to say about the characters and situations in that book, so much more material I wanted to add – and that’s what I’ve done! So I hope no-one minds if I count it.
I’ve had a couple of Regencies published in the past, too, most recently Lord Rayven’s Revenge – I love the Regency era and have a collection of newspapers and Ladies Almanacs from that time.
2) What started you writing in the first place?
I wanted to be a writer and painter from being a little girl and thought that all I needed to do to be a writer was read a lot and get on with life, so I went to Art College. I still paint, which gives me immense pleasure, but the writing has become the dominant strand.
I never intended to write a series, but several of the recent ones have been set in the same area of rural West Lancashire and so there was naturally some overlapping of people, place names and so on. I now do see the Lancashire novels as a sort of series, but they are all also stand-alone novels.
You will notice in several of my books that the heroine subscribes to Skint Old Northern Woman, the magazine Charlie in Every Woman For Herself started up: so that’s also a little link.
I get emails all the time asking me to write sequels to the Lancashire books, but I’d rather carry on doing linked but stand-alone ones for the moment. If one of my books is ever made into a film, though, then I promise I’ll write a sequel!
4) Are there more coming along in the same series of inter-linked books?
Yes: The Magic of Christmas is set in the same area and the new novel I’m writing will be, too. But Avon HarperCollins are going to reprint two earlier novels, Good Husband Material and Every Woman for Herself, set in Bedfordshire and West Yorkshire respectively, and I don’t rule out setting one or two future novels in other favourite locations.
5) You do a lot of first-person stories. Have you always done your books from a first-person point of view? What are the advantages? Disadvantages?
My Regency novels and most of my short stories are in third person, but my contemporaries are always in first-person. I find I can slip inside the heroine’s skin so much easier that way and become someone quite different from myself by seeing things through their eyes. So I’m a shape-shifter, really, even if I don’t have to put myself to bed in a bucket.
But when writing first person, you have to remember that the main protagonist can only know what she sees, hears, or is told about – you can’t just shift to someone else’s viewpoint. So that can be challenging. I quite often do introduce someone else’s first person viewpoint in some form, though, like diary entries or letters - or more directly, like the sections from Feargal’s viewpoint in Good Husband Material.
Multiple first-person viewpoint novels need a master storyteller, like Barbara Kingsolver with her novel, The Poisonwood Bible.
To a first-time novelist I would say: write in third person past tense and severely limit the number of your viewpoints. But if you must write first person, then don’t attempt to do it all in present tense. Sophie Kinsella makes it looks so easy, but it’s actually terribly hard to pull off successfully, so save it for a later novel.
6) Do you have a favourite setting?
Many! I love Wales, and three of my novels are set there. The Generous Gardener (paperbacked as Sowing Secrets) was set in the Conwy valley and inspired by the lovely Bodnant gardens. And Every Woman for Herself was inspired by the rugged Brontean moorlands of West Yorkshire, where I lived happily for several years. But I am deeply rooted in the traditions of rural West Lancashire and very comfortable writing about that area. So many people think of it as an industrial county, all smoke-blackened factories and back-to-back terraced houses, like in Coronation Street (a popular and long-running British soap series), but even in the industrial towns the lovely countryside has always been just on the doorstep and enjoyed by everyone.
7) Do you have any particularly tough parts of the book to write? Are some parts always easy?
Well, it’s always tough to get going because I’m stepping out into the darkness with each chapter, hoping the magic carpet will unroll under my feet and carry me onwards. And it always does…though that doesn’t mean I’m not afraid one day it won’t!
8) Do you do much research? Hands on? Books? I’m particularly thinking of the chocolate making in Chocolate Wishes. Or the rose-growing in Sowing Secrets.
The topics in my books are all things I’m interested in, I just go into much greater depth researching them for the books. Some of it stays stored away in my head (I often surprise myself by what I know!) and some gets pushed out to make room for a new subject. I put on a lot of weight while researching chocolate making for Chocolate Wishes – but then, I’m always prepared to suffer for my art! I got fascinated by the various types of cocoa bean and also learned a lot about cooking savoury dishes using chocolate, which is something I’d never even realised was possible before starting out.
It’s all too easy to get carried away with research, because it is such fun. For instance, a very minor strand in Chocolate Wishes is that the heroine loves scented geraniums. So I found a geranium nursery and ordered some…and now I have millions of pots of variously scented geraniums everywhere!
9) Is there a method to your writing? Do you work things out ahead of time, or do you follow your characters and see where they go?
I am very much character-driven. With each novel I start by asking a major, life-changing question about what will happen to the main protagonist – the premise – which I will answer by the end of the book, and that’s both exciting and inspiring. I don’t know the answer when I first start to write it, but it will become clear to me as I go on.
So the story grows organically, though there is always a point when I must stop and carefully work out the timeline, before carrying on.
10) Some writers make collages or have ‘sound tracks’ playing in their heads or in their office. Do you?
An important ingredient for me is the Wall. It’s always the one right behind my pasting table (but that’s another story). Anyway, in the middle of the Wall I stick all the material I’m collecting for the current novel: cuttings, photos, dried plants, timelines, spider-charts, millions of Post-it notes covered in ideas and snatches of dialogue…tons of stuff, by the time I actually sit down to start writing it. To the left side of the Wall is a space where I start to stick things relevant to the novel I will write after the current one; to the right are ideas for future novels. As I finish one novel, any material left in the middle of the Wall is removed and replaced by that from the left hand side. Then one of the ideas from the right hand side is transferred to the left…Are you still with me? There is method in my madness…or possibly, madness in my method.
11) I know you have a Muse. Tell us about him. Any other sources of inspiration?
Muse, whose first name is Lucifer, slipped into my head and took up residence while I was reading Paradise Lost at school and has refused to leave ever since. He is male (unlike most Muses), steely-blue, wears a lot of leather, is winged, has talons (so that’s where my blue nail varnish went, then) and is devilishly handsome, if you like that kind of thing – but also neurotic, vain, bad-tempered and chancy. He only eats words, but gets through a lot of Leather Food too, so I’m starting to suspect that he does more with it than just rub it into his wings... Most mornings I have to arm-wrestle him into submission before he will deign to give me any help, but I always win.
I often say I am inspired by food, flowers and friends, because they are so often strong themes in my novels, but very often you can add ‘family’ too - perhaps dysfunctional, or not in the traditional mould, but loving relationships, nonetheless.
12) What’s next on Trisha Ashley’s list of books to write?
I’m just beginning the book due out next spring, but I’m still hugging the ideas close to my chest at the moment….and I’m really enjoying the research!
* * *
Thanks, Trisha, for answering my questions -- and whetting my appetite for a revisit to Sweet Nothings as The Magic of Christmas when it gets a revamp and expansion this coming holiday season!
In the meantime, a lucky blog reader will win a copy of Chocolate Wishes (just in time for Easter!). Just leave a comment and you will be in our drawing for Trisha's scrumptious book. The winner will be announced on the weekend in the comments. If you are the winner, please email me and I'll see that your book is sent your way.
Anne is celebrating! Just this week Romantic Times gave her its Reviewers' Choice award for her Harlequin Presents, The Virgin's Proposition as Best Presents of 2010!
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
First of all, apologies for the lack of pics in this post - because it's all about the written, typed and typseset word! (And also apologies for the formatting of today's post - it's a known problem with Blogger, and guess who uses the "problem" broweser? Yeah... and I can't face the hassle of changing.)
I used to be a freelance copyeditor, and one of my clients asked me if I'd project-manage for them while the desk editor was on maternity leave - effectively, meaning I'd do my usual job but also liaise with the author, the proofreader and the typesetter. This meant I took the book from the "accepted" stage through to final print. And I thought this might be an experience that other authors (and readers) might find interesting.
I should add that this refers to traditional publishing rather than e-books (of which I have no experience, other than the fun of helping with links, photographs and extra information for my ‘enriched’ Harlequin e-book, Hotly Wedded, Conveniently Bedded – which I absolutely loved doing).
Once your book is accepted by the editor, it goes to the copyeditor. The copyeditor’s job is:
- to pick up the author's typos (we all make them)
- to correct grammar and/or spelling
- to spot any holes in the plot or timing and query them with the editor (the quick way of doing this is to keep a note of what happens and when in each chapter - very broad brush-strokes, and very useful if there's a pregnancy in a book or to check that, in an office romance, they do actually have weekends)
- to put your book into “house style” – basically, that’s if the publisher prefers single or double speech marks, en or em dashes (spaced or unspaced), and -ise or -ize endings
- to do a style sheet so the typesetter knows which version of a word to use in cases where there are alternatives, eg wine glass/wineglass or wine-glass.
This stage can take up to a fortnight.
From there, it goes back to the editor to sort out any queries with the author. Depending on how quickly these are answered, this can be anything from the same day to long, dragging-out weeks of constant nagging. (Yup, I do indeed speak from experience, so as an author I always try to give answers on the same day, to make life easier for the production team.)
Once the queries are sorted, the manuscript goes to the typesetter. The typesetter takes the author’s electronic file, makes the changes that have been marked up on the hard copy by the copyeditor, and formats them as they will be seen in the finished book. That takes a week (can be quicker, but you need a really sympathetic typesetter AND you need to have booked the job in early enough – as with most things, unscheduled rush jobs tend to cost more).
The typeset copies (‘proofs’) then go out – one set to the author, one set to the editor, and one set to a proofreader (who picks up any problems from the typesetting, along with anything the editor and copyeditor might have missed). That takes another fortnight. (Again, it can be less, but you need to book it in early and warn the proofreader that it’s a rush job. And you never do a rush job if you have a typescript covered in copyediting corrections, because you know it’s going to take a long time to check thoroughly.)
Then the changes from the three sets are collated onto one set of proofs, which is then sent back to the typesetter. The typesetter produces a second set of proofs, which needs to be checked against the collated first proof. Any further corrections are made and checked. This stage – well, it depends on how tight the schedule is, but you’re talking at least three days. Did I mention that these are physical documents, so they have to go through the postal system or courier? Single-page PDFs are easy enough to send by email at the ‘further corrections’ stage, but not a complete set of proofs – a 512-page book is a huge PDF file and it’s cheaper/quicker/easier to use a courier. (In the days before broadband, it could take 15 minutes to download a single page. And that meant your phone line was tied up for that long, too. And that wasn’t actually that long ago…)
Once all the changes have been finalised, the typesetter’s file goes to the printer. After printing, the pages are bound and the cover added, and then the finished copies are shipped to the warehouse of the distributor.
I didn’t handle production past the ‘sign off and OK to go to printer’ stage, so I can’t tell you roughly how long those stages take or if there are any additional layers of checking – but I’m pretty sure there are, because you don’t want to risk having 20,000 copies of a book printed with pages missing, upside down or repeated in the wrong place!
Kate has two medical romances coming out this month – The Doctor’s Royal Love Child (in the first Penhally series) is out in the US in April (featuring a royal wedding… just what we’re about to get in real life in April!), and The Fireman and Nurse Loveday (in the first St Piran’s series) is available on the Mills & Boon website and in UK shops in April.
You can find out more about these books, and Kate, on her website (http://www.katehardy.com/) and her blog (http://katehardy.blogspot.com/)
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Sometimes we're sure this can be fixed with a better camera. Digital cameras seem to improve weekly, so this new model must take better pictures. And maybe it does...but my soccer player was still blury and I seemed to forever cut off the baby's head as I tried to catch her whirling about.
Now, most photography tricks don't translate well into capturing toddler moments. Cherubs simply have no attention span for that kind of thing. So my first bit of advice?
JUST TAKE THE DARNED PICTURE. If you want a picture of it, snap one quick. And then...
STEP CLOSER AND TAKE ANOTHER. Thank goodness for digital. You can erase all the duds later on the computer.
THEN, FRAME YOUR SHOT. Think about what you want in a frame and go for that. Zoom in, change the camera position, move around so you're getting side light instead of back light.
What I'm saying is that you'll probably end up with 3-10 options instead of one. But, it's digital. That's what it's designed for. professional photographers take hundreds of shots for one print.
FILM SPEED is something we no longer think about. Remember buying rolls of film in 100 with the picture of sun? 200 with the picture of a house? 400 with the line drawing of a runner? Most cameras allow you to select this in your menu. We just don't and trust the green 'auto' box. Odds are, you're probably smarter than the chip in your computer. When trying for great shots, select your film speed.
LIGHTING is what separates snapshots from photographs. Most digital camers have an option where a strange graph pops up on your display. It used to be that I would push buttons until the annoying thing went away! Now, I use it. Try and keep the spikes in the middle for the best colors. Too many spikes on the left means shadows (which you might be able to fix on the computer later) too much on the right and your picture will be too bright (which you can't fix).
PRINT THEM WELL. An 8x10 from my desk jet is not wall-worthy. And...there are places where printing is actually cheaper than doing it at home.
And because y'all know I write books, I do use photography to help keep track of ideas. Detail photos to help bring a setting to life, landscapes for storyboards, I've even taken pictures of words I'd like to use for titles. I haven't managed to work any of them in yet, but I will :)
Go on...take a picture today. Maybe every day this week. Or this year.
Jenna Bayley-Burke is a best-selling author recently featured on Good Morning America. Kinda. Compromising Positions made the best seller list for Kindle for a few weeks, and GMA did their daily top ten list of Kindle bestselling ebooks and Compromising Positions made the list. But doesn't it sound better the first way? Be on the lookout for Jenna's latest, Private Scandal, available in 2 weeks. Keep up with Jenna's spin on things on her website & blog.
Monday, April 04, 2011
Sunday, April 03, 2011
Law dictates Casimiro cannot abdicate, so he must find a way to reacquaint himself with Melissa—his new queen!
Sharon at I(Heart)Presents talked about Minor Characters and Working Backwards.
Now a CEO, Joe hires Mirandi as his Executive Assistant. But on a business trip to the French Riviera, Mirandi discovers Joe’s devilish side isn’t far beneath his new, polished exterior. Especially when Joe pulls her into his hotel room and locks the door…
Life is good for marriage counsellor Megan Lowe—until the media discover that she's the ex-wife of Devin Kenney, America's most famous divorce attorney! Now the paparazzi are digging for a scoop just in time for the launch of Devin's new book. His gorgeous smile smirks at Megan from magazines and billboards, making him infuriatingly impossible to forget.
It's time for Megan to throw her very bossy rule book out the window and face her dangerously sexy ex. And their sizzling hot reunion—well, that's most definitely headline news.