Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Research Is Great . . .

.....and the fun part of writing historical fiction - but it's also a minefield of traps for the novice and the unsuspecting. I find it's too easy to become obsessed with the minutae of a place or an event that simply won't progress the story, no matter how hard you try and slip the little details in.
With my current project I am researching the English Civil War, a period I thought I knew something about! It's in fact a place where I could bury myself for years if I'm not careful and come out with few relevant facts I can use. It's all so compelling!
I have had to set myself some rules to follow:
* Understand the customs, clothes and manners of the time - women who wanted a career and studied Homer were frowned on even in the 19th Century.
* Find out what the surroundings look and smell like in your 'era'- and as I'm writing in the mid-sixteen hundreds, most cities were pretty disgusting - but my readers don't want to hear that. They want glamour and romance - not open sewers and rotting animal carcases cluttering the streets.
* Show enough historical detail to flavour the plot, but don't cloud the conflict and characters of the story.
* Have realistic ambitions for my characters - Women born into merchant families did not become duchesses, except as a royal mistress - and the competition for that post was fierce.

Most of the fascinating details that kept me at the library until closing time will bore my readers silly. My most dificult task is to avoid superimposing modern viewpoints on historical events. Child labour wasn't always viewed as abomination, but a means by which families avoided starvation and therefore a practical solution for both employer and family.

How many historical fiction writers have heard from a reader, 'I don't like the hero, he's too chauvenistic/controlling etc.'. When the author has kept him faithfully as a 'man of his time'.
We often have to work outside our own opinions, and yet still make our characters likeable.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

20 Days To Go!

The Unprofessionals are 20 days from departure to Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia via 16 countries, [giving Iran a miss with the current situation, hopefully] all in aid of the Christina Noble Childrens' Foundation.

Here is one of the promo photos done around London very, very early one morning. {The photographer whinged a little I hear}

They have raised £785 for the children's charity so far, and in Ulaan Batar, the car is donated and auctioned off to local villagers who wait months for these vehicles to arrive as imported cars are far too costly for the locals.

If anyone out there would like to contribute, please go to The Unprofessionals Website and click the 'Donate' tab to give something - even a dollar is welcome, they need to reach £1000 by leaving day.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Lets Be Friends

Nadine Laman of 'First Draft' Blog shared the "Let's Be Friends" award with me. Thank you, Nadine, a nice filip to a Monday morning, I accept your friendship and the award.

Blogs that receive the 'Let’s Be Friends Award' are purely for bloggers to find like-minded writing friends - as it's such a solitary and isolating occupation. So to bring attention to new writers, please deliver this award to your own list of bloggers. I clicked onto Nadine's list this morning and I'm still reading when I should be writing - so beware!

In the spirit of new friends - here are some I have only recently come across, - those of you who are on my bloglist and who comment on my posts are all great friends already. You know who you are but here's an acknowledgment, Ginger, Gemi, Lisa, Jen, Anne G, Anne W, and a hug for Mirella.

Nixy Valentine - who always makes me smile
Marsha Moore - ditto and cos she loves London as much as I do
Lisa Logan - cos you have to click the 'adult' button to read the blog!
Sandi Rog - because she needs a hug today too
Jennifer Haymore - a friend I linked up with again recently after a long break
Julianne Douglas My Nano Buddy, hello again

and of course a mention for Nadine Laman who started this!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

I Couldn't Go To The Conference, But........

This year's HNS Conference was held in Chicago and as I live in London, I wasn't able to go. Fellow author Dawna Rand did, however and I have shamelessly nicked this from her blog today.

C. W. Gortner, who happened to be one of the speakers had this to say.
* It took him 13 years to get published; but when he did, his book sold at auction
* He immediately went to New York to meet his editors and marketing people
* He spent half of his advance on marketing.
* There is value in virtual blog tours – but before going to a blog, check and make sure it has comments because comments mean traffic
* Marketing for the hardcover pays off in the paperback sales
* Use Google Alerts to see where you pop up in blogs.

Interesting stuff -especially about the 13years to get published - [but aren't I depressed enough as it is?] I mention him specifically, because this week I finished reading his book, 'The Last Queen'. Now that I write historical fiction, I tend to read the genre to see how other writers use terminology and portray events etc. - which has totally screwed my enjoyment as a reader, but you can't have everything.

So he’s getting two Google alerts on this - mine and Dawna's - and a little reminder that I'm the one who read it on my Sony E-Reader under the covers with the reader light on! He'll know what I mean!

I have to say -this book enthralled me. I knew about 'Mad Queen Juanna' of course, but MrGortner gave me a totally different perspective of her story. What a tragic, ill-used and sad character she was. A true victim of other's ambitions and betrayed by those who were suppposed to care about her. I was horrified, angry and moved by her plight all at the same time.

Great work Mr Gortner, this book is what I aspire to.

Friday, 12 June 2009

That Romance Question Again

I’m not naive enough to think writing romance was easy, but I was under the impression I knew what the criteria were, and when I started my Victorian Love story, that’s what I thought it was. Not so.

I tried again, and this story doesn’t fit the formula either – but undeterred, I’m going to have another go at moulding the plot to what the romance publishers want. It’s the singularly most popular genre at the moment and I don’t intend to let a couple of extra chapters and an incorrect PoV beat me!

So, I’m back to the tricky problem of discerning exactly what constitutes a romance as opposed to a women’s’ literature story. My research tells me the main premise of any romance, is to put a hero and a heroine together and keep them together-yet-apart, until the final page. The others are:

- The story is focused on the relationship between H & H
- H & H must meet as soon as possible. [Chapter Three won’t cut it!]
- They should be together for almost every scene.
- When they’re not together they need to be thinking about each other
- External conflict is solved by working together
- Conflict of secondary characters should be alluded to, not focused upon.
- Subplots exist purely to further interactions between the H & H
- The main - and if possible, the only - Points of Views, are the H & H
- There must be a Happy Ever After

My wip now conforms to all these points apart from two, so with another re-write, a shifting of events, oh and I almost forgot, more drama! I may just do it.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Review of An Accomplished Woman by Jude Morgan

The story opens in an art exhibition with a Regency Miss lamenting on the cavalier treatment of her brother by the woman he loved who had cast him aside. Lydia Templeton listens sympathetically and although I guessed she was the woman in question, I was still thoroughly entertained by the interchange and Lydia's bewilderment with a man whose favour she had attracted by no more effort than by, 'Suppressing my yawns in his presence'.

Lydia is an intelligent woman in her twenties, who once scandalized society by refusing the hand of wealthy and eligible Lewis Durrant. Having given up on Lydia as marriage material, she is selected by her Godmother to chaperone a young orphan to Bath. Pheobe Rae is a beautiful heiress who has two suitors. The sojourn at the fashionable spas is to enable her to make a decision about which, if either, of these young man she intends to accept.

Lydia tries her best to be impartial, and when Mr Durrant arrives in Bath purporting to be in search of a bride and latches onto the party to watch the fun, things become complicated. Miss Templeton is more engaging than she knows, because she manages to evoke strong emotions in men without even trying.

It wasn't difficult to work out what would happen, but to say the story was predictable would be an insult, nor was my enjoyment spoiled by this foreknowledge. The gentle, Regency language with its humour and visual richness, not to mention its irony, was a treat. Even 'must hate' characters were a delight and at the words, 'It's Mrs Vawser', I hunkered down to enjoy the outrageously entertaining dialogue.

A fabulous, gentle read to be enjoyed on a lounger in the sunshine with a cool drink beside you. Bliss!! I had the good fortune to meet the author too and my copy is signed. A definite keeper.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Needs More Drama.....

I'm not someone who takes much notice of Horoscopes, but today's caught my eye:

It's important now to build upon the structures you have already created. Lean on the foundations already built, without trying to start something new. If you become distracted with nearby shiny trinkets -- real or imagined -- remind yourself they won't shine light on your path of self-discovery.

Chillingly appropriate somehow as my agent forwarded this:

I really enjoyed the chapters you sent, which I found intriguing, well-written and atmospheric and which reminded me a little of THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON. Sadly, however, I didn't feel the plot had enough surprises to keep me hooked and because this is such a tough area of the market to get right...........

They, my rejections that is, appear to be getting better, so maybe one will turn into an acceptance at some stage?
Anyway, I pooled a couple of published authors, whose opinion I trust and it seems they agree with the assessment that 'there aren't enough surprises' in my stories.

I asked for specifics and this is what they said:
Injuring a five year old isn't tragic enough - kill him off
When your hero discovers something about his rival - don't threaten dire consequences, have the hero left for dead in a ditch after a sword/gunfight.

Increase the internal conflict - don't simply have the heroine wring her hands over a belief the hero isn't interested in her - have her accuse him of something he hasn't done, determined never to speak to him again and rush off to accept the villain's proposal of marriage.

Readers want to be brought to the edge of disaster and dragged back at the very last second.
[Hmm . . it appears my villain trying to drown my heroine wasn't enough.]

These roller-coaster stories are the types of books I enjoy too - but I feel this can be overdone to the point of non-credibility.

As a reader, once I reach the third, tied-to-the-railway-line scenario, I tend to throw the book in a corner, because 'Surely no one is that unaware'. And if she is, she's too dim to deserve the hero and would probably be content to end up with the villain anyway and spend the rest of her life in denial.

It seems I have a plot or two to re-work. Or maybe I need to start another....

Monday, 1 June 2009

24 Hours London

A fellow blogging author, Marsha Moore, has a book coming out which may interest all those planning to come to London and who wish to visit some off-the-wall and fun places that don't cost a fortune [Did you know the admission to Westminster Abbey is £15 now? Outrageous - I gave it a miss - but St Margarets is still free].

Anyway, the book - 24 Hours: London, is an hour-by-hour listing to all the cool and crazy things to do in the most fascinating city in the world. The release date is August, but it's available for pre-order now at Amazon.

Marsha has spent weeks, no, make that months, trawling through the city's alleys and byways collecting unusual information and now its available to all. Here are a few of the things she has found:

- London's ecological dance club, where the lights are powered by the movement of dancers on the dance-floor.
- The Kniterati, a monthly knitting book group.
- Colin Firth's coffee shop.
- A 24-hour beigel shop once frequented by Mick Jagger.
-Ghost theatres, ghost hunting, and ghost stations.

And much more - I shall certainly be in the queue for a copy and I love this city too. It's so diverse and always changing.