Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm Easily Pleased Me...

It can be the smallest thing that makes a writer do a happy dance in her living room you know... actually *making* a deadline... discovering a new hero inspiration pic... the cat not stomping on the keyboard for a full hour...

Or checking out how your latest e-book is doing and finding it at NUMBER FIVE IN THE EHARLEQUIN E-BOOKS BEST-SELLERS LIST!!!

GO FINN AND SHANE!!!

Yes, it might mean that just one person bought it in the last half hour but THANKYOU WHOEVER YOU WERE!!! You MADE MY NIGHT!!!

So if you'd like to make me happy dance in my living room again then you can pop over to the eharleqin E-Book site and get a copy of The Firefighter's Chosen Bride to see what I did to make the initial transition over from Romance to Modern Extra... or you could just order it and have it in your hand if you like... I'm not fussy ;)

To be honest I'm just plain old THRILLED that Modern Extra is making it to the States this coming month!!! It's a very exciting time for all of us Modx authors! And as to whether or not we see more of them there...well... YOU-HAVE-THE-POWER...

To see what people thought of the book formerly known as White-Hot! (the book that won a Cataromance Reviewers Choice Award btw...) in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand - you can read some of the reviews on the excerpt page HERE.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Writing Tips - The Michael Hauge RWA Talks Pt 2

So here we are again, about to delve deeper into the 'visible' and 'invisible' theories and again I stress that a lot of this is my interpretation on the notes I took from Michael's talks - so if they don't make sense at any point then it's not him it's ME... And I still stand by what I said in the last post about buying his books and DVD's - cos there is soooooo much more in them to get your little grey cells working - TRUST ME!!!

If you haven't already, or even if you have - pop by the last post again just to refresh your memory so you know where I left off and I'll try and see if I can confuse you some more... okay?

Now in order to make sense of what was said about CHARACTER + DESIRE + CONFLICT you have to understand how they all relate so far and then go back a step to what we all know matters MOST... the CHARACTERS...

Remember the CHARACTER is the VEHICLE FOR EXPERIENCING THE EMOTION. So how do we do this and how do we eventually tie the character to the desire and the conflict? Well, the first thing we've got to do is ELICIT THE EMOTION from the reader, right? And in category romance and film this is especially important because we have a very limited time frame in which to ENGAGE THE READER. C'mon - be honest - how many times have you sat down to watch a film and known inside ten minutes that it's either gonna be tough to get into or you're gonna struggle to enjoy it? Or maybe, like me, you're one of those people that reads the first coupla pages in the bookstore before buying the book? Well then you'll get what I'm saying here about having to ENGAGE THE READER from the get-go and you'll understand why Michael asked WHY WILL WE IMMEDIATELY EMPATHIZE WITH YOUR HERO OR HEROINE? What is the EVERYDAY LIFE he or she has been living and how will you reveal that before anything happens to drive the rest of the story forwards?

Now eharlequin is a useful study aid for this one, cos when you go shopping for books on there they'll give you the option to read an excerpt, right? Well those excerpts are taken right from the opening page of the book so you have a chance to study as many different openings from as many different authors and lines as you like! And I GUARANTEE YOU that every single one of them, however briefly, will show you a glimpse of the characters everyday life and thoughts before the plot begins... IT'S LIKELY TO BE BRIEF - no long back-story dump or introspection for page after page and it has common UNIVERSAL TRAITS which Michael tells us are used to get us to EMPATHIZE with the hero or heroine...

So what are these common traits?

The first one is SYMPATHY - If we feel sorry for them in some way we will automatically empathize with them, won't we? So if they're suddenly homeless or about to become homeless due to financial difficulties then we'll understand and feel SYMPATHY for their predicament. If they've lost a loved one or just discovered their job is on the line or they've been stranded in a foreign country and lost their passport - then we'll understand - we'll feel SYMPATHY. Make sense? And all those examples can be illustrated in just a few sentences and we've IMMEDIATELY ELICTED EMOTION because they're UNIVERSAL PROBLEMS the READER CAN UNDERSTAND. And I bet you can think up dozens of other examples for this. Even in a paranormal or a Sci-Fi or a suspense there will be common universal human problems we'll understand, because at the core of every story is HUMAN EMOTION - which the reader understands!

Then we have JEOPARDY - If your character is in danger physically, or even in danger of losing something of vital importance to them then we'll immediately EMPATHIZE with them, won't we? I could quote you the losing a job/home/loved one examples here again yes, but I could also get you to look at the number of stories that have started with an accident of some kind where the heroine is in JEOPARDY and the hero is first introduced to us as he RESCUES HER from that situation - a timeless theme romantically speaking... And we'll UNDERSTAND the heroine's dilemma, we'll EMPATHIZE with her and hence we have ELICITED AN EMOTION IN THE READER...

It may all seem fairly obvious so far - but go back and look at your current WIP as a reader and ask yourself have you given us a glimpse of your hero/heroines everyday life and have you elicited an emotion from page one? And ECONOMICALLY - without those pages and pages of back story to justify their behaviour or a tonne of introspection to explain to the reader why they say and do the things they do with their counterparts, as if your reader is an idiot that won't pick it up otherwise...

So what else can we use to ELICIT EMOTION? To make the reader CARE about these characters?

Well Michael says we can also make them LIKEABLE - And this one can be the cause of much writerly angst worldwide - particularly when it comes to the heroine - trust me on this! PARTICULARLY on the subject of is your heroine LIKEABLE? Because typically a hero, so long as he's stunningly attractive physically, is redeemable at a later point in the story... but, like Lizzie at the start of P & P... when it comes to the heroine, once your readers good opinion is lost... yuh huh. So if she's too guarded or angry or overly emotional then it may put your readers back up right? And the reader has to like her to care about her! So we have to balance out the way the heroine reacts with the reason WHY she does the things she does - in order to keep her LIKEABLE. We can use inner thought, we can hint through dialogue, we can have secondary characters state the reasons aloud because as a friend of the heroine (or even the hero) they will already know what happened to make them react that way, won't they? And again by using these methods to make the characters LIKEABLE we are using COMMON UNIVERSAL TRAITS so that the reader will automatically UNDERSTAND and EMPATHIZE.

We can make them FUNNY too - Because, as Michael states, we all like to spend time round people who can make us laugh! So if from the get-go we can add some humour (cos remember humour doesn't have to be slapstick to be funny!) then as readers we'll form a bond and we'll EMPATHIZE because we've become EMOTIONALLY INVESTED through the common universal love of HUMOUR...

And last of all Michael says we can make them POWERFUL - And by this he means they're successful at what they do. Why does this ELICIT EMOTION? Well, it does because we RESPECT their achievements. We automatically understand what it took for them to get to the top of their game in whatever they do. Because whether its as the CEO of a company or as a mother who has successfully raised a set of terrific kids - we UNDERSTAND the effort it took because it's a UNIVERSAL HUMAN EXPERIENCE and therefore it ELICITS EMOTION.

All makes complete and utter sense, doesn't it? And we've touched on a great many of these things in a lot of the Book With Trish series, haven't we? (please say yes!!!) So when we start to think about a new story and we begin to create our new characters - before they even hit the page - we need to think about these COMMON UNIVERSAL HUMAN THEMES that can ELICIT EMOTION IN OUR READERS. (*cough* do we get yet why I harp on and on and on and on and on about knowing your characters and making them REAL before we even begin? *cough*)

So once we understand why we can immediately EMPATHIZE with our CHARACTERS we then need to delve a little deeper and ask what is our hero/heroine's LONGING. And Michael describes this as being the deep desire he/she may only be paying lip service to...as to actually go after it would be too frightening. This means that your character is IMPRISIONED BY THEIR FEAR. And if they're imprisioned by their fear then the chances are they've been WOUNDED at some point in the past.

If they've been WOUNDED then you have to ask youself what IS your hero/heroine's WOUND? Michael describes the wound as being an unhealed source of CONTINUING PAIN - something that happened in the past (so prior to the beginning of your story) that they may believe they've dealt with but haven't and it gets in the way. He also says that the most deep-seated wounds often occur in adolescence (when our personalities are forming) ~ like Will in Good Will Hunting or my Teagan in Project: Parenthood who was emotionally starved during her teenage years. Wounds that go back that far can be the hardest to heal, right? So again, BEFORE WE BEGIN, we have to understand our characters and look at the WOUNDS they carry so we have a clear line of thought and emotion by that character throughout our story. We romance writer's would often consider THIS to be the CONFLICT - but Michael approaches conflict slightly differently and I have to say the way I do myself is closer to his reasoning (little did I know it) - so from now on I'm gonna refer to things the way he does, okay?

Then he asks us to as what is our characters BELIEF? And this follows on a logical path from their WOUND, cos if we are WOUNDED then we form conclusions about how the world works, don't we? In other words we form a BELIEF SYSTEM. In Project: Parenthood Teagan believes that in order to protect herself from being wounded again the way she was before then she's better to remain detached from emotional involvement - you see what I mean? And this is at odds with her natural human desire for love, isn't it? Even if she won't admit it to herself. (pay attention to this now because we're on our way to delving into the VISIBLE and the INVISIBLE journey's...)

Michael then asked the important question of what is our hero/heroine's IDENTITY? And he describes their IDENTITY as being synonimous with their PERSONA ~ the false front or mask people project to the outside world and hence to other characters they meet in the book to protect themselves from the fear they carry. So in Teagan's case her identity is that of a successful, confident, independent career woman who has no need for emotional involvement with a *significant other* in order to feel fulfilled... which we know is a lie...

And that brings us right back to her LONGING again. Full circle. What is your hero/heroine's REAL LONGING? The deep desire they may only be playing lip service to as to go after it would be too frightning due to the wound they carry from the past? And this may well be where the INVISIBLE starts to kick in... as they may even deny this longing to themselves or sometimes their fear and sheer depth of longing is so great that they can't even project it! Because at the end of the day, that longing is pretty much always the need for connection to another human being, isn't it? And the fear lies in the chance of rejection, doesn't it? A natural human reaction and a COMMON UNIVERSAL THEME. So Michael then gets us to make our characters fill in the blank in "I'll do whatever it takes to achieve my goal - just don't ask me to ------- because that's just not me..."

It's basically asking your character to say aloud the LIE THEY TELL THEMSELVES in order to protect themselves from pain or the anguish they felt before... So Teagan would say; "I'll do whatever it takes to achieve my goal (of being happy in the future) - just don't ask me to let someone close because that's just not me... (I do better on my own)..." And that's A LIE, isn't it? Because we ALL need people, don't we?

This statement then puts our characters outer IDENTITY (visible) at odds with their INNER ESSENCE (invisible because they won't let it show...) So it becomes a battle between the VISIBLE and the INVISIBLE doesn't it? Which is where the REAL CONFLICT LIES...

So Michael asks us about our characters INNER ESSENCE. If you could strip away all of their artificial beliefs (the lies they tell themselves to stay safe) and outer masks then what would be left? What is the REAL TRUTH - The ESSENCE of who they are? Who do they have the potential to become without all that additional baggage? And YOUR STORY then becomes the ability to answer that by having your ending allow the characters to LIVE IN their true ESSENCE - LIVE UP to their TRUE POTENTIAL. In which case we discover that Teagan's essence is that of a warm, vibrant, big hearted woman with the ability to connect with, share her life with, and truly love someone and therefore Project: Parenthood is the story of how she gets to BECOME that woman... See?

So THE REAL CONFLICT Michael says is created when there is a TUG OF WAR BETWEEN IDENTITY AND ESSENCE. The fight between the VISIBLE and the INVISIBLE. Make sense yet???

Questions questions questions and then I'll continue... so that we can get round to announcing my WRITING CONTEST WINNER and the new competition for this next month and the goss on the new book I'm about to start writing...

And REMEMBER MICHAEL HAUGE'S WEBSITE and his BOOKS and his DVD's - links for ALL OF THEM in the last post!!!!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Writing Tips - The Michael Hauge RWA Talks

Yes, at your request here we go... Though only TWO of you asked for it so I hope everyone else is okay with it - if not - well - you didn't vote so you'll get what you're given... ;)

Now anyone who reads the blog here will know that I discovered Michael Hauge BECAUSE of the RWA conference. When I read through the schedule of the conference at home to try and decide what I wanted to try and get to I came across his name and the 60 Second Pitch book he had written, so off I skipped to Amazon to order it. And soooo much of it resonated with me that before I'd even finished it I went skipping back to order his other book on writing Screenplays. (And I blogged about it all here) Hence a fan was born in my house...

Now for the first of his talks we had a nice large lecture room, which is more than can be said of the afternoon sessions where they foolishly gave us a small room so that people ended up sitting in the aisles and crowding out through the doors that couldn't be closed. But even in the morning there were still people crowding in past the time we were supposed to begin so the sessions ran back to back without a break. (A blessing in disguise I felt cos man-oh-man can this guy pack a lot of info into his talks!) And despite note-taking like a complete lunatic all the way through I was glad I bought the DVD's afterwards so I could go through everything at a slower speed to take it all in! (I even bought a second copy of the pitch book just so I could get him to sign it...)

Both lectures carry over from Screenwriting to Romance/Novel writing and frankly it's a shame that a book hasn't been put together on the subject 'cos really - it makes PERFECT SENSE! And for me, it wasn't so much a case of learning something very new as having WHAT I ALREADY DO shown to me in such a way that I felt like less of a fraud (which incidentally I frequently do when faced with so many people trying again and again to break into the business when I just seem to have hit the right place at the right time - luck of the Irish they say, right?)
What the lectures also did was make me think more deeply about my longer book - the one I started just for me - and where it could be strengthened. And I think by having a method that makes sense to you, you can refer back to it in times of trouble to help you get through that inevitable *slump* we all hit (you KNOW the one I mean!). By using the method you examine what you've done and think about what's wrong or that's just plain not working or can be made stronger in order to write your way out of the hole and continue, right? Right.

So here we go. And I warn you - this is more than ONE blog's worth! Also, I don't wanna annoy Michael in any way by reproducing some of my notes so I'll say this and LISTEN UP GANG - some of this is MY INTERPRETATION of what he meant. And if you haven't already then GET HIS BOOKS either through his Website here or Amazon UK here or Amazon. com here. You can even buy the DVD set of his talks with Chris Vogler at Amazon.com here. If you want to understand some of the writing/pitching process then you know these kinds of books MAKE SENSE and if you get a chance, please do go to one of his seminars!(they're usually listed on his website) GO - TAKE A PEN AND LOT'S OF PAPER and MAKE LOT'S OF NOTES LIKE I DID!

So... Michael begins by outlining some of the universal themes which carry over from film to novels and vice-versa (using well known films along the way to illustrate his point - which you guys all know I LOVE). And the first thing he said that I started the silent head nodding thing at, was that every film and book's primary goal is to ELICIT EMOTION. In other words, he says that people who go to the movies/read a book do so to experience the emotions themselves. And that makes sense doesn't it?

We all know that a romance reader should live vicariously through the heroine. (I may have mentioned that a time or two before in my Writer's Tips and Book With Trish series - all of which are on the Writer's Tips page on my Website) So it makes sense that we ELICIT EMOTION in that reader. We want her to laugh, get annoyed/angry, maybe cry and definitely hope and want for the story to have a HEA (Happily Ever After) In fact the ROMANCE LINE will talk often about the ROLLERCOASTER RIDE and that ride will include all those things - the highs and the lows of falling in love along the way - right? So Michael is most definitely off on the right note - you with me?

He then says that the CORE FOUNDATION of our story relies on three things: 1/Character and 2/ Desire and 3/ Conflict
Well that makes perfect sense too, doesn't it? Let's look at it a little closer... He says that the 1/ CHARACTER is the vehicle for EXPERIENCING THE EMOTION. And again - perfect sense - because if you look back at what we've said again and again on this blog and even already in this post we ALWAYS say that A/ THE READER LIVES VICARIOUSLY THROUGH THE HEROINE and B/ The HERO should be someone we would WANT and can therefore completely understand the HEROINE WANTING. So our characters ARE the VEHICLE FOR EXPERIENCING THE EMOTION - yes? Yuh-huh.
Then Michael describes 2/DESIRE as WHAT DRIVES THE STORY FORWARDS. So in other words in order to drive the story forwards we have to make that desire as far as possible away from the goal of achieving it. (The Goal being the fulfilment of the Desire) Let's just say in the Romance Line for instance, simplistically speaking, that the desire = the need to gain the love of the other character, yes? Well in that case we then have to think about what holds them back from achieving that goal, which brings us neatly to CONFLICT.
Michael says that 3/ CONFLICT is what CREATES THE EMOTION. And again let's break this down into Romance Writing terms - in order to make a story to begin with there has to be something strong and believable that holds our characters apart - yes? Otherwise we have a 500 word story. So whatever holds them apart (and away from that goal they desire even if they don't know they have the desire or deny to themselves that they do) is the CONFLICT. And when you have obstacles in the way - conflicts - then battling through them leads to an EMOTIONAL JOURNEY hence the reader EXPERIENCES THE EMOTION through the CHARACTERS JOURNEY. Still with me???
Now he then goes on to tell us that at least 90% of Hollywood movies have four basic DESIRES. So let's look at these and see where we could use them in a romance novel by giving you examples of where I've unwittingly used them myself...
The first one is TO ESCAPE.
- In a movie this could be as obvious as the need to escape a prison cell or a hostage situation or a poor background. But what could it be in a Romance Line novel? Well, for me in Project: Parenthood (my HOLT finalist this year) we had Teagan, the heroine, who was trying to ESCAPE from an emotionally starved childhood by burying herself in work and protecting herself from pain by making sure she would never be trapped in a similar kind of marriage as the one her parents had. Now this means that in order to create CONFLICT I then had to introduce something that would challenge the decisions she'd made, yes? That something of course was then my hero Brendan who tested her resolve and made her look long and hard at those decisions and face up to the fact that she might not have been completely honest with herself - hence causing emotional issues and an inner battle which is...? Yup, it's CONFLICT. (and watch as we come back to this book to illustrate visible and invisible journey's btw...)
The second one is TO RETRIEVE.
- Now this is quite simply to get something back, maybe even something you once had that you've since lost, right? So in a movie it could be a stolen artifact or a kidnapped child (and Michael was soooo much better at choosing those which is WHY you should go to his talks...) but in a Romance Novel how would this particular desire translate? Well, for me, in Marriage Lost And Found we had a couple who'd been married and then due to unforeseen circumstances been forced apart... They therefore, throughout the story, and whether or not they chose to admit or realize it til late on - sought to RETRIEVE the love they had lost... See? Makes perfect sense yet again - and now you can see why this man's way of looking at things makes sense of what I do...
The third is TO STOP something from happening.
- In the movies this could be as obvious as stopping an asteroid from hitting the earth. In my book O'Reilly's Bride aka The Pineapple (the book nominated by RT for Best Silhouette Romance of 2006) we had the hero, Sean, trying to STOP the heroine, Maggie, from seeking a partner on the internet when he knew what she actually needed was Sean himself. Now yes that was only his half of the story DESIRE-speaking cos you could then say that at the same time Maggie was trying to ESCAPE pain of her own by seeking the family she couldn't give Sean - but it does mean that our Michael is still right because those two desires are still on his list, aren't they?
And the fourth is TO WIN
- arguably the most important aspect of all romance novels because the DESIRE would be TO WIN the love of another, yes? Well yes, cos that's the whole damn point of the flipping story!!! So I'm not even gonna quote you one of my own as an example here - cos D-U-H...
Where it then get's interesting is that Michael then discusses the differences in a story between the VISIBLE and the INVISIBLE journeys. (HUH? I can hear you say) Well let's just look at all we've covered in the DESIRE category shall we? Remember the story is based on the CORE FOUNDATION of CHARACTER + DESIRE + CONFLICT according to Michael. And the DESIRES most commonly used are TO ESCAPE or TO RETRIEVE or TO STOP or TO WIN...
Well a great many of these DESIRES are part of the VISIBLE JOURNEY. They're obvious, on the surface for all to see if you just look at them as a reader. (not necessarily obvious to the characters themselves you understand... ) But when it comes to the INVISIBLE JOURNEY we have to look at the characters more closely and how their INNER JOURNEY OF TRANSFORMATION can add to the CONFLICT.
Right - seeing as this blog entry is already almost a flipping chapter long I'm gonna take a break at this point!!! I'll come back to the characters and their inner journey next time and how the INVISIBLE JOURNEY cannot exist without the VISIBLE one. If you have questions gang then you need to SPEAK UP as we go along while this is all still fresh in my mind! And remember this is MY INTERPRETATION of this talk and the very very best way to learn it all is to attend a talk with Michael as soon as you can manage it...
Oh and REMEMBER you can order the ENTIRE LECTURE 'Writing Romantic Comedies and Love Stories' from Michael Hauge's Website!!!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dallas Pics (Pt 2) - Conference Pics & Comments


I have sooooooo many memories of my first ever RWA Conference that I'll probably end up bringing up random ones for weeks and weeks - just to warn you all....
I always knew that people saved up every year to go to this conference and that it was a big deal stateside but I think it took me to come over to it to understand WHY. And now I GET IT. And I think I'm gonna end up as one of those people that desperately wants to be at it every single year! Plus if it means I get to do an explore America trip each time then I'm pretty much already booking for next year. San Francisco folks... golden gate bridge... Alcatraz... Candlestick Park... And then there's L.A. and San Diego and and...SIGH...
One of the nicest things about the conference this year was getting to spend so much *quality time* with Fiona Harper and Jenna Bayley-Burke. I've met Fiona a couple of times in London now I think - actually maybe just the once - but we didn't get much one-on-one time as is always the way in London so this was our chance to really get to know each other. And d'ya know - we're very similar gals - and THANKFULLY find many things equally as funny. Then put us in a room with my conference roomie Jenna, who I'd only ever talked to online, and you had what pretty much became a giggle-fest for most of the week. I kinda LOVED that. And we all knew a mixture of people by the end of the week and had tales to tell over drinks so I think it's safe to say we've bonded now ;) As you can tell from the number of pics we're all in...
Another thing that I kinda hadn't expected, but as you can tell from all the pics - THOROUGHLY ENJOYED - was the social aspect. There are soooooo many lunches and dinners and parties and get-togethers that fitting in ANY talks becomes a bit of a challenge. In fact I didn't get within kicking distance of ANY until Friday morning. And the ones with Michael Hauge I wanted to do on the Saturday meant me dropping another meet and greet. But I think the trick is to look at the schedule when it first arrives - be very determined about the talks you just CAN'T MISS and then schedule everything else round it. Oh - and order the CD's of all the talks afterwards so you can take them home ;) Which I DID.
Another thing is - no matter how much room you've gotta make for it - never, ever go ANYWHERE without your camera!!! There are sooooooo many photo ops at the conference that a camera becomes as important as oh I dunno, let's say lungs shall we? Oh and may I just point to that pic of moi with the very stunningly beautiful Jane Porter and tell you that she's TINY??!! I mean really tiny - I'm only five six myself and I have flats on in that shot soooo...yuh huh. But man on man is she pretty and so so so nice. So if you haven't already been over to chat on Jane's boards on her website then shoo!!! And I even got to meet the lovely Jeanne who I *met* on Jane's loop before it morphed into the boards. Lovely also. But then I'm a great believer that our friends are a reflection of the people we are ourselves... hence why I have YOU LOT. *cough*
The beauty about a conference like this one is you get to make lots of friends and network. It's actually as difficult as falling off a rock. Cos you have all these like-minded people here in the one place all more than happy to be out of their caves and able to talk books until their throats ache. And thats pretty much what happened to me - I talked so much my throat ACHED every morning (STOP LAUGHING!) But there were just sooooooo many friends to make!!! Like Nancy and Elizabeth and Laura and Jennie and and and and... And there were author friends I'd met before and hadn't got to spend anywhere near enough time with - like the fantabulously wonderful Sandra Marton whose love of the outdoors, animals, good wine, beautiful glasses to drink it from and eclectic music tastes have bonded me to her for all time. I ADORE HER. And am only sorry we didn't have DAYS more to talk about life, the universe and everything. Tho for any of you M&B authors considering San Francisco next year - we HAVE already told Sandra she'll need a larger room for the pizza party... And she didn't say no, so...
And then there were the internet friends I'd never met face to face before that I just know, had I met them in real life before the interent instead of the other way round, I'd have got on with them equally as well... like Jenna as I mentioned and Penn from Fort Worth who has been a reader friend of mine through eharlequin for yonks and Gail from Canada who I never got anywhere near enough time to speak to and the lovely Wayne from eharlequin (same) and Michelle Willingham who I only spoke to a coupla times online after she visited Ireland last year WITHOUT visiting me (don't think we'll have that problem again thankyou very much!) It was funny in fact, the number of times you read someone's name tag or were told their name and nothing registered until they said I'm **** from the **** boards and then you had the loud OH HELLO'S!!!! There was a bad case of this at the harlequin PJ party actually. And we had the bestest ever chat about different ways that we work our way into a book and out of the inevitable hole in the middle. In fact, we almost had to be thrown outta the room...
Then of course there was the networking/business part where you got to hear from different published authors from different houses about how their working lives either differ or are the same as your own. I found this FASCINATING I have to say. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a Harlequin Mills & Boon gal and am MORE THAN HAPPY about that - especially when it's what I wanted to do from the age of eighteen... But I'm also a great believer in the fact that if you work in a particular area you should try and learn as much about that business as you can. How it works - what the differences and similarities are - what experiences others have had along the way - what the companies are saying about their lines right this minute - you with me??? Best way to learn all that? TALK TO PEOPLE. It also means you have an idea of things that are doing well, it encourages you to stretch your imagination a little and as someone who has always tried as much as possible to think a little *outside the box* I have to say I found all this pretty bloody envigorating!!!
One of the biggest issues a lot of people will face is the question of whether to Agent or not to Agent. So I spent some time at this conference looking into that. For category work I don't feel I need one - some people prefer to have someone to do the business end of it - I don't have a problem with that aspect myself. But I can understand why some would, so I *get it*. But if you work or are pitching outside category or to a company that doesn't accept unsolicited work like Harlequin does then suddenly the issue of an agent becomes more inportant. And the saying that it's more difficult to get an agent than an editor...well... I believe it! Hence why I attended a talk on the Friday morning to see what the experts had to say. And hmmm... I dunno... But we can chat about that sometime if you guys like...
When it comes to the talks, like I said, I didn't get to that many but I HAVE ordered the CD/DVD's and I got the best of from last year and LOADS of Michael Hauge DVD's. The Michael talks were as I've said, what I was looking forward to most - and gals - I gotta say - HE-DID-NOT-DISAPPOINT!!!! I scribbled notes like a lunatic and attended at least three hours of talks with him. And I came away with a warm sense of not being an idiot. I stand all the more firmly behind my Backwards Casting methods now and I even explained them briefly to the man himself after his talk when he was signing his book for me and he said *yeah, that makes sense* - so I can die happy now!!! I'm even tempted to send the first chapter and synopsis from my longer book to him for a critique... And I'm sorely tempted just for the hell of it to try turning it into a screenplay now that I've attended his talks. Well, we all need something to keep the creative juices flowing, right???


I have no problem sharing all my notes if any of you want to know the kind of things he was saying - so I can either blog about it next or I can get all the travelling stuff outta the way and then do it - YOUR CALL... I'll count the votes...
Anyways after the joys of networking and listening to talks and partying and dancing and meeting and meeting some more and talking and talking and giggling and listening and note-taking and signing books and swapping business cards and meeting Nora Roberts briefly outside
and dancing with the London Eds and and and and and and... we had the night of beauty known as the RITA and GOLDEN HEART awards. This was one of those things you should try and get to if you never have before - I swear!!! It was actually really good fun in places and to see how much it meant to the winners was a humbling experience. One I'm afraid I shall forevermore have to live vicariously. But it was an honour and a priviledge to sit beside our Fiona who had finalled for two RITA'S this year. We were all so very proud of her - and still are. Cos trite and annoying as it may sound - finalling is indeed a HUGE thing. Finalling in TWO categories with a FIRST BOOK??? Well... Need I really say more???
And then of course there's the fact that we all looked so beautiful. Despite my small accident when I mixed up a can of self-tanning spray with hairspray... Thankfully it would appear it takes the heat of your skin to make it work - PHEW!!!
So that was Dallas and the RWA Conference for me (loads more on the Pink Heart Society blogs we did of course!) and then it was on to Southfork Ranch... YES, YOU HEARD RIGHT. So Southfork next or Michael? YOUR CALL...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dallas Pics (Pt 1)

NOW - While the internet is ALLOWING ME to load some pics I'm gonna try and get caught up a bit. Cos lemme tell ya guys I'm so behind it's not even FUNNY. And you know I'm all about the funny so this is a bit of a crisis really...

And I have a TONNE of stuff from the conference and Michael Hauge's talks and Southfork Ranch and Nasa and and and and... oh and I know who my comp winner is now too so once I'm caught up we have a blog on THAT too... And that's before my Gabe revisions arrive and I start into a new Romance...

See? Busy busy little beaver. That's me. Some might say it keeps me out of mischief. But you guys have *met me* - right?

Now the Dallas City pics themselves I can't take credit for I'm afraid. These are thanks to our very lovely Fiona Harper, who got there a day before me sans airplane delays and had time to go to the top of the observation tower thingie and take these pics. It just felt that once my toes hit DFW Airport I pretty much didn't stop. So thanks Fi!!! LOVE YOU!


I have to say that I was glad by the time I hit Dallas that I'd had those few days in New York and Washington to acclimatise some. Cos lemme tell ya guys humid wouldn't even be in it. But by the time I got to the hotel I was fairly comfy in the heat, and even enjoyed the time I went outside to *network*. The Hyatt Regency is, as you would pretty much expect, stunning. With valet parking outside, a constant stream of limo's and stretch limo's and stretch hummer's - a fountain in the foyer and the 28 floors stretching way way up above you. Pretty damn impressive. And filled to he brim with conference attendees from a fashion chain and a tonne and a half of romance writers just settling in and ready to steal their rooms as they left...

I found Jenna at the check in desk and after a quick hug and explanations of how we'd managed to miss each other at the airport we made our way up to the 15th floor and found our room - which was lovely - with the largest, highest darn beds I've ever seen. They obviously ain't joking when they say everything in Texas is BIGGER. And I'll admit I did have a fear that if I rolled outta that bed during the night I'd need a hospital stay! But Jenna and I managed to, shall we say, *make the room look like home* fairly bloody quick and it pretty much had an invisible line that housekeeping feared to cross for the remainder of the conference.

So then we contacted Fi and we all headed downstairs to start our PHS Blogs and to get our bearings... And we were very good girls and didn't linger too long over dinner in the restaurant (where Jenna introduced us to Marguerita's - YUM!!!) cos we knew we had one heck of a week ahead of us. HOW-RIGHT-WE-WERE...

Okay - I'll bring you more later cos I'm off to shower and check out now so I can make my flight to New York... TTFN.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Update...

You’re gonna have to excuse my silence some gang. This is the second hotel in a row where I’ve had truly sucky internet connections! And yes, I AM suffering withdrawal symptoms… the usual shouting at the laptop, pacing, sweaty palms.. a distinct sense of letting everyone whose been following the big adventure down by not posting all of my gazillion pics both here and at the PHS…

GRRRR……

Anyways I have one more day here before I fly to where I KNOW I have good connection so expect updates all kinda at once when that happens – ok???

Meanwhile I have this to say about Houston…

IT’S RAINING.

LOTS.

Did I mention the RAIN???

Now any of you that know me will know I’m a tad of a…erm…fan… of thunder and lightning. I mean BIG TIME. And lemme tell ya – when it thunder and lightning’s here it ain’t kidding!!! When I flew from Washington DC to Dallas we were all sat in the plane at the gate for over an hour while we waited for the storm to pass over. Now I’ll admit I thought this was a tad wussy myself – I mean we fly in storms and rain all the time in the UK and Ireland, right??? Wellll….

When the pilot announced that there is a policy of not taking off for at least fifteen minutes after the last lightning strike hits ground due to there being some issues with lightning strikes and airplane fuel I thought – Okay – Really – you just take as muuuuccchhhh time as you need precious!!!

And I settled in to read my Gina Showalter Nymph King book…

(After all - I kinda promised myself before I left that this entire trip I would never need to use the word ‘plummet’ )

So of course now that I’m such an expert I’m watching the storms and wondering what book I should bring with me on the plane tomorrow when I attempt to get to New York again. Big book, little book, big book, little book. It’s a dilemma. Especially as I’m about to walk across the street and try to post a box of books home to save on all the hassle I’ve had with being over the weight luggage wise…. Hmmm…

And I’ve been reading LOADS. Am now officially a BIG FAN of Atlantean stories… particularly Alyssa Day’s Atlantis Rising and the follow up novella she did in Wild Things (which the lovely Jenna very considerately got Alyssa to sign for me at Nationals). Both Nymph King and Atlantis Rising were books I’d been wanting to read for AGES cos they appeal to both the romance and sci-fi nut in me and I couldn’t get them cos they weren’t out in the UK or Ireland yet. And you know how sometimes you look forward to books soooooo much that when you get them they’re a big let down??? Well NOT THESE PUPPY’S!!! Hot, hot, hot strong heroes and equally as strong heroines and that lovely elusive page turning quality we all look for… LOVED THEM. Only problem??? Alyssa’s next in the series is out in November in the USA and much as I now really REALLY want it… I think flying over to get a copy is a tad extreme…

MUST-FIND-A-WAY…

Have also read two time travelling Blaze’s and some of the erotica (Oooh-errrr!!!!) and an Avon Historical that’s bound for Natasha when I get home (yes Natasha along with a few others…)

Mind you – am now ready to WRITE again. Have gone just over two weeks without it now I think and the itch is back. I can feel a new romance calling me…

But today (while it RAINS) we’re going to attempt to visit NASA. Cos it’s pretty much INDOORS. And cos it’s why I’m HERE…

Ooooh and just to prove I still have my finger on the pulse of the rest of the world (am now most upset to be leaving US TV but that’s a whole nother blog – trust me!) can we just all send good vibes to one of my lovely finds from last years British Open Golf Tournament Sergio Garcia – who is doing rather well this year. GO SERGE. Mind now he can lose heart a little on the final day so he needs those vibes gang… And he has an Irishman close to giving him a run for his money so I’m torn… cute versus national pride…hmmm… (PS. Serge? Can we stick with the black? The lemon combo you wore last year? Not so sexy…but the black? Yuh-huh…)

And where has my other guy from last year gone?? Adam?? A-a-dam…???

Loads of pics and updates from Dallas and Houston to come just as soon as I can get an internet connection that’s faster than a three legged octogenarian tortoise.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I'm still ALIVE

Just... but pooped...

Am planning on spending the day by the pool with a book...

Meanwhile til I get organized again to come back and tell you some of my more personal experiences fo the cnference there are still updates being done for the Conference Coverage over at The Pink Heart Society...

Just go over there and hit the link on the sidebar for the RWA National Conference and you'll get them all on pretty much the one page...

TTFN
Me

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Blogging The Nationals At PHS



All this week while I'm at the Romance Writer's Of America National Conference in Dallas I will be blogging along with Jenna Bayley-Burke and Fiona Harper at
COME ON OVER AND JOIN IN THE FUN...
You know you wanna....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Snapshots From Washington (2)


*COUGH* 97 flipping degrees!!! *COUGH*

I feel lucky to be alive....

Mind you - it was only 89 degrees in Dallas today according to my friends at CNN or Fox or whatever channel it was I had on while I had my shower... am now a tad worried I'll feel the chill when I get there... I may even need a sweater... mind you it might also mean that I look slightly less darned puffy when I get there! Less puffy would be good if I'm about to do the whole Glamorous Author bit!

Anyway - let's do Monday shall we?
So running on the theory that an early start might grab me a degree or two less I headed out with nice flow-y WHITE clothing on and bought myself a bit of a pretzel for breakfast so I could eat on the go... Washington seems to wake up later than New York btw... In New York you can have coffee and breakfast at hours when the majority of people are maybe only thinking about getting up or are hitting the snooze button for the second time on their alarms... In Washington it tends to wake slower and by degrees so that for the first hour I got to wander around with my pretzel with very few folks around me...

Off on the bus I went - first one of the day too and this driver was MUCH slower for picture taking so I got to take some pics that I missed yesterday in Dupont Circle and Georgetown... I loved Georgetown even more second time round - it's kinda like a different town inside Washington in the same way Greenwich Village is like a different town inside New York - and it had dozens of really cute little houses and streets and shops - so it was a perfect place for a heroine to live I felt. I'd put mine in one of the nice cool leafy streets within walking distance of the little stores and coffee shops and tarot card readers... hey - maybe I'd MAKE HER a tarot card reader...hmmm... see how my mind works???

From Georgetown to Arlington National Cemetary - which I reckoned if I could do before lunch then I might be able to cool down later with the air con in the Holocost Museum. And I'm glad I did - and that I took the time to just wander rather than taking yet another pre-paid tour... Yes it was hotter than heck and getting hotter - but I had the usual creams and hat and even a hand held fan and some iced water with me so I reckoned I was ready to explore.
And what surprised me wasn't the fact that it stretches out as far as the eye can see or that there's that certain calmness to the place, what caught me again was the little things - like the number of people who leave stones on top of the white headstones to show their love or the little white headstones for wives. I hadn't realized that wives could be buried there too - and there was something both very military and very touching about how every one read 'Wife of '. As if even in death they were claiming their man, you know? I kinda liked that.

I wandered in the general direction of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - and found the JFK Memorial along the way. There is a distinct sense of respect and serenity there. And rightly so. And I loved that Jackie is there and that they had carved in stone around the memorial some of JFK's greatest quotes. With any luck in Dallas I'll get to round the trip off with a visit to where he was assasinated and the museum in the Book Depository...

The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier, for those of you that might not know, is guarded by a marine every day. And lemme tell ya gals - by the time I hit there it was noon and the sun was blazing down on that marble all around him - and his uniform is DARK and it would TAKE A MARINE to be able to keep to that duty in those temperatures. It's basically like guard duty on the surface of the sun. So I watched the change over of the guard but that was as much as I could stand out of the shade for. Newfound respect for the Marine's I tell ya!!! And that was as much as I could take in the heat again I'm afraid so back to the air con on the bus for me and off to the Holocost Museum...
Which if you get a chance to go to - GO!!! They reckon you should give it at least a couple of hours... I was there three... and would have stayed more if my leg hadn't been up like a bap again by then. Now they don't allow any cameras in the main exhibit so I don't have any pics barring the front of the building. But I'm kinda glad about the camera rule - cos you don't really want anything to take away from it, you know?
They give you a little ID Card as you go in with the name and the story of someone from that time (I got a twelve year old French girl who was gassed at Aushwitz) and starting on the top floor you are told about the build up to the war, how Hitler came to power, the history of anti-semitism, how books were burned and ethnicity was decided and how you were graded. It was truly dreadful. And then on the second floor you were taken through life in the camps with a model of Aushwitz that was horrifying, a room where you could hear survivors tell their stories of the camps, videos of some of the experiments conducted on prisoners which was worse than horrific and they even had one of the train *carriages* that carried people to the camps, flagstones beneath your feet from one of the camps and shoes - so so many shoes and belongings. I think it's all of those shoes that really brings it home - in all sizes from childrens up - and nearly everyone who came round the corner and realized what they were seeing gasped. On the bottom floor you are shown the liberation of the camps and told stories of the people who risked their lives to hide or smuggle jews out of the varying countries. And then at the very very end there's a small auditorium where on the screen you can listen and watch as survivors tell their stories.
I managed to make it through the whole exhibition alternatively choked and angry and horrified - but it was that screen and those people at the end that did me in and yet I couldn't seem to leave. The clincher was a woman who had told her story all the way through to the death marches, telling how she believes she survived because her Pappa made her wear ski-boots in June when they were taken from their homes. Ski boots in June she had asked? And he had insisted she wore them. Those boots then took her all the way through the camps and was the difference between life and death on the death marches. They were marched from February to the end of the war. And she told of when the Americans found them. Suddenly we jumped to the American soldier who had found her and they jumped back and forth - both telling their side of the same meeting. He had walked to her and asked her in German and English which language she spoke. She said German. After so long in camps and treated like an animal she automatically said to him she was Jewish - thinking he would treat her differently - he in a choked voice replied 'So am I'. And he then escorted her back to the others, treated her with respect, opened a door for her, was surprised when - as he looked in horror at the sight of the conditions the other women were in - she then quoted german poetry at him. And she couldn't believe that he was so respectful and considerate after all she'd been through. It was the first time she'd been treated like a human being...

I could feel myself starting to go at that point. And then it came, the one thing guaranteed to make me leave the place in tears...

He married her.

Out of all that came love. How amazing is that??? And that decades later they could tell the story of how they met to their children and their grandchildren and to us. It was the most beautiful thing.

Yup, another memory to take home from this trip. And one I had to tell you about cos I knew you guys would *get* why I felt it so much. So now I'm about ready to jet off to Dallas to meet my friends and editors and discuss love and romance and books for a week... *sigh* I just don't know the trip can get any better...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Snapshots From Washington (1)


Gotta say I was glad when the computer thingamy that controlled the STEERING on the plane to Washington failed it was ON THE GROUND... mind you - it did mean we were a tad in the way at the end of the runway for a while and then had to be towed in very VERY slowly...

Actually - also gotta say - worst flight I'd had in a long while. Seats were comfy, cabin crew were grand , tea was passable - good looking guy one aisle up on my rhs passed the time for me while I thought up a story for him... but there was something just not quite right about the cabin pressure and my ears were horrible and I felt queasy the whole way there. But then isn't there something about WHERE you sit on a plane that can effect that??? If there is then SOMEONE needs to come tell me so I can avoid sitting there AGAIN. Didn't like it. Didn't like it at all.

And if I thought New York was hot then DEAR GOD!!!!!!! You could fry eggs on the pavement here! Ninety four degees today! N-I-N-E-T-Y-F-O-U-R. Can we all say third degree burns??? Its as well I bought more sun cream and I tell ya - I'm lathering this stuff on every half hour at the mo - mind you - MAN am I gonna have the tan of a LIFETIME after three weeks of this!!!

So - when I arrived at my hotel it was to find that not only is it pretty much the oldest hotel in Washington DC it's also - wait for it - pretty much NEXT DOOR to The White House!!!
Now, as if that wasn't enough, while I filled in time til check in time with a nice lunch on the roof terrace of the hotel I noticed these helicopters in the distance... three of em... and then one flew away and two kept coming... and I thought to myself - nah, couldn't be... Well, they kept coming and then one turned and I looked around me to see if anyone else would notice if I yelled NO BLOODY WAY. There was, so I didn't. BUT YES IT WAS. And he landed on the lawn at his house pretty much next door while I sat there and thought - really - he didn't need to go to all that bother just to welcome lil ole me...

Did I have a camera? NO. Did I take a pic with my phone? YES but it bites cos I didn't get the zoom right. Will anyone believe me or will this be the fish that got away story of this trip??? Well I KNOW. You lot can debate amongst yourselves.

So to fill in some more time and so as not to get caught out again I went and got my camera and my suncream and my hat out of my bags and found ANOTHER open topped bus tour thingie - this time right smack bang at the hotel door!!! Now - remember I said about how different tour guides could make a difference to the tour? Well - different cities apparently make a difference too! Cos this bus didn't even have a guide it had a recorded commentary - and the drivers seem hell bent on making sure not to stay still long enough to let you take a pic of anything!!! Still, maybe New York just had me spoiled...
Anyhoo it meant I had to take advantage of the hop on/hop off part of it so I got off in the RIDICULOUS HEAT and slathered on more sun cream in the shade of some trees (where Sean made a red squirrel friend called Sam - apparently) and then I went off to do the Lincoln Memorial and The Vietnam War Memorial - the latter of which I was determined to see as for a long time I read a lot of books on Vietnam and was always deeply effected by the high cost for so little gain. And the memorial is very touching - one of my most enduring memories of this trip will be a pair of boots left at the foot of the wall with a simple message written on them...
'I haven't forgotten'

Amazingly touching.
Anyhoo after that I went and stood at Lincolns feet and read all the inscriptions on the surrounding walls and I gotta say the view from the steps all the way to the US equivalent of Cleopatra's needle in London is simply spectacular! And I could see whadyamacallher from Forrest Gump running through the water to him, I really could. Was almost tempted myself in that flipping heat! But the ducks looked kinda peaceful and I didn't know if I'd get arrested so....

But it really was just too darn hot for me in the end folks. And I was starting to burn. So I decided that tomorrow I'll try for Arlington Cemetary or The White House in the morning and then after a spot of lunch (armed with camera this time in case the helicopter reappears) and then in the afternoon I'm going to visit the Holocaust Museum - where my friends Alison and Shirley from the Liberty queue tell me they give you a name as you come in - and you then follow the journey of that name through to the end - where you discover what happened to that person in real life. I really don't think I can skip that. I don't think anyone should from my generation on...
Many many many more pics to come yet and then on Tuesday I'm off to meet Jenna, Fiona and the Eds from Richmond in Dallas - where if things keep going the way they are it'll be about 900 degrees and I'll DIE.
Oooohhhhh for some good Irish RAIN...