Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Creating Trouble For Tyler

Do we remember this pretty picture by any chance? Yes, thought you might. It's currently brightening the noticeboard in my office...

Writing Tyler Brannigan’s story as the next in the series was my editor’s idea. Although some of the scenes featuring him didn’t make it to the final cut of New York’s Finest Rebel, he stood out enough during revisions for her to want to see him get his comeuppance. And rightly so, too; to say Tyler was cocky would be a HUGE understatement.

One of the things I love most about linked stories, both as a reader and a writer, is how the world can expand with each additional book. By the time I got to Tyler’s story I knew a lot about his family history, some of their quirks, their love of interfering and (obviously) how both his younger brother and sister had met their partners. Certain things were set in stone; Sunday lunch at the family house in Staten Island, the Brannigan brothers as cops, their Monday night poker games-they’re all part of the continuity. Each story must stand alone, but with each new addition the readers of a series can build a more complete world in their mind. So with Tyler’s story I get to expand on what already exists while at the same time delving deeper into his corner of the world.

What I knew going in gave me a good starting point and plenty of secondary characters to use if I need them. In this story, he’s a detective with vice but after blotting his copy book one time too many with his superiors he’s been punished with a temporary reassignment and he’s none too happy about it. In order to get back to where he needs to be he has to protect the mayor’s daughter and keep her out of trouble during her father’s election campaign.

Enter Miranda and a whole heap of trouble for Tyler.

Miranda couldn’t be more different from Tyler if she tried. She’s led a privileged lifestyle (think of reality shows featuring rich kids and the likes of Gossip Girl and you’re on the right track) but in many ways is similar to a princess trapped in a gilded cage. Much of her life has revolved around a sense of duty to her family, so in order to balance things out she has found ways to escape and have fun. This may have caused several headaches for her security detail over the years but she’s not prepared to give up those small tastes of freedom, particularly when she’s given a new bodyguard who is determined to keep her in line. Suffice to say there's a lot of cat-and-mouse in this one.

So far the story is proving to be a lot of fun, even if the word-count is a tad slower than I need it to be. I think some of the problem was how difficult it has been to connect with the characters. On the outside neither of them are quite what they seem and while it’s gradually leading to a lot of quick-fire dialogue, there’s a fine line to tread while writing. If I’ve found them difficult to connect with then there’s a danger the reader will feel the same way. But at the same time if I give away too much at the start, it will dilute some of the impact of the reveals as we get further in. There used to be a time when I flew through the beginning of a book and slowed when I got to the middle. Any problems were then sorted out with edits after I got to the end and knew the characters better. Nowadays the beginning has to be close to perfect before I can move on. It’s like the foundation of a house, I suppose. Get that part right and theoretically everything you build on top of it is more solid. At least now I can say I know where I’m going and scenes are forming in my mind quicker than they did before. I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Deadline is Valentine’s Day so for the next few weeks there’ll be a lot of time spent in the cave.

Next week I think I’ll chat a bit about craft and the beginning of a story. I’m on the last leg of the re-vamp of my website and when I have another five minutes (insert manic laughter) will be going through some of the workshops and writing themed blogs I’ve done over the years in order to decide what to keep on the Writers Tips page. Simple fact is how I write has changed and while a lot of the ‘rules’ remain the same, how I approach things isn’t. It’s that whole ‘writers never stop learning thing’, isn’t it? With that in mind I’ll chat about some of the things the ‘new me’ has learned.

If you have any questions about the beginnings of stories or things you love/hate to read in the opening chapter or problems you want to brainstorm, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to cover them next week.

See you then!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cover Glee!

Just a quick fly by with the cover for New York's Finest Rebel (see last post for story info). Think this may possibly be my fav cover since my firefighter...

Back in a day or two with an actual blog. Promise!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Most Fun I've Ever Had Sitting At A Keyboard...

I promised I'd come back to chat about New York's Finest Rebel and here I am. I may have mentioned a time or two how much I love this story. I really can't remember the last time I laughed out loud the way I did when writing it, which is probably a little sad considering-technically speaking-I was laughing at my own jokes.

By now you know it's the second in a series of books based around the Brannigan family; Daniel being the youngest of the Brannigan brothers with Tyler and Reid's stories still to come. But the first seedling of the story didn't come from Danny. It came from the fabulous Jo.

One of the most difficult things to ignore is a fascinating secondary character. Although she didn't appear very often in The Inconvenient Laws Of Attraction, Liv's best friend Jo was one of those characters for me. When Liv first met her, Jo was homeless and living on the streets. I didn't need to know more than that at the time because it wasn't her story but no matter how I tried I couldn't stop asking questions. Why was she homeless at eighteen? Where was her family? How scary must it have been for someone so young? Keeping in mind New York's Finest Rebel was set six years after she met Liv, I then had to ask how she got from there to where she is at the start of her story. Suffice to say, I had tonnes to work with!

I think what I ended up loving most about Jo was her optimism. She's a tough cookie, don't get me wrong, but the joy she found in the kind of things many of us leave behind in childhood made me smile (watch for the swinging skirt/carousel scenes). She also has buckets of sass; a necessity when dealing with Danny, who has been her nemesis since Liv first brought her home to meet the family. Which brings us back to the man himself...

I HEART Daniel Brannigan. I love how quick-witted he is, that he's a man of action, how he says what he thinks and doesn't care if people have a problem with it. He's just... sigh... and don't even get me started on the sexy!

Yes, the uniform may possibly have something to do with it.

Since the continuity of The Inconvenient Laws Of Attraction established the Brannigan brothers were cops, I knew I had to try and make each of them as different as possible. In Danny's case, he's the only brother who didn't want to go into the family business. Instead he joined the Marines straight out of High School. By the time the story starts he's a Marine Reserve and is with the Emergency Services Unit of the NYPD. There were a couple of reasons for this (linked to his back-story, so I don't want to give too much away) but when it came to his unit, I knew right away I'd found the right 'fit'. The ESU does everything from rescue potential jumpers on bridges to water rescues to 'SWAT' duties to dealing with biohazards. If I were to tell you their motto is "At Your Service... Anything, Anytime, Anywhere!" it might give you an idea of how diverse their work can be. I knew Danny would love that. It also gave me a nice angle to work with since he spends so much of his working life rescuing people and suddenly finds himself attracted to a woman who point blank refuses to be rescued, even when she has crippling blisters.

N.B. I should also mention what a terrible chore it was doing research for this part of the story. But since I like to be thorough and you would expect nothing less I spent many, many, many hours looking at pics/videos/films of the NYPD. I'm now considering becoming a stalker the next time I'm in Manhattan. Just sayin'...

Back to the subject of the book and...

Friends to lovers are one of my favorite themes in a romance (as witnessed by my first book, The Bridal Bet) but there is also something incredibly fun about 'enemies' to lovers. Danny and Jo have convinced themselves they hate each other and have been sparring for so long it's hard for them to adjust. But man-oh-man did that make for some lightning fast dialogue! Sometimes I would start a scene thinking I knew what was coming, then they would butt heads and bite at each other and more often than not I found they'd taken me in a totally different-and often hilarious-direction.That's not to say they don't still have some tough issues to content with-they do-but the journey was So. Much. Fun.

I'm going to stop talking about it now or I'll have nothing left to blog about when the book comes out. Next week I'll tell you a little about Tyler Brannigan (see last weeks blog for associated pretty picture). Have a lovely week my friends. How's 2012 shaping up so far?

It's back to the cave for me!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Starting The New Year With A Little Reflection (and a pretty picture)

Like always as we bid goodbye to another year, I find myself looking back on the past and hoping for good things in the future.

Last year my biggest hope was to be able to write again. Simply finishing a book felt like a huge hurdle so I took it chapter by chapter and after a long uphill battle eventually achieved my goal. I still had to reach out to my new editor, discover what had happened in the lines during my absence and make all the necessary adjustments to the manuscript but eventually-thankfully-I got there and sold my twentieth book. In many ways I felt like a new author again; quite possibly because I'm not the same person I was back in 2002 when I sold my first book. But that's life, isn't it? The things we experience form who we are. Personally I have to hope the changes will be for the better in the long run. If nothing else I guess I can say I'm stronger than I thought I was, even if there were days when it was difficult to get out of bed.

As a shiny new year begins I'm thankful for everything the past year brought me. I finished and sold two books and though that may not seem like much compared to previous years it was giant leap in the right direction. I even rediscovered the joy of writing with the latter and man had I missed that feeling! But more than that I was reminded how lucky I am to be part of such a great group of friends both old and new who cheered me on and offered words of encouragement when I needed them most. Family means a great deal to me, which is a big part of the reason why the last eighteen months spent watching my close family go through some trying times has been so difficult. But if there is one thing I've learnt along the way (and I'd like to point out I knew it before the Queen mentioned it in her speech) it's that family doesn't necessarily mean blood relatives. My family consists of more than my lovely sister and the amazing nieces and nephews I've watched grow and take their first steps into the world as young adults. Now it has members both at home and further afield, including some people I may never have met face-to-face but hope to, one day.

I'd like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you to you all for being there. You helped me through some very dark days and though a Tweet, Blog/Facebook comment or text message may not seem like much, each and every one meant more than I can say without getting emotional and giving you a hug. Suffice to say, I hope the new year brings lots of wonderful things your way!

For myself, I hope 2012 continues to allow me to rebuild my life. Things are gradually returning to a more even keel and I'm feeling more optimistic than I did a year ago. Work-wise I'm contracted for two new books; the first of which I'm working on now and will tell you more about in the coming weeks. In the meantime there are re-releases of His Mistress, His Terms and Her One And Only Valentine in compilations in February, The Inconvenient Laws Of Attraction is scheduled for the U.S. And Canada in March and New York's Finest Rebel is out in the U.K. and Ireland in April. Not a bad start to the year, huh? Especially when we take into consideration this time last year there was nothing visible on the release horizon.

Why the gorgeous guy pic you ask? Well, not that we need a reason for one, but I thought I'd give you a little glimpse of my new hero. In my little world this is Tyler Brannigan and if all goes according to plan I'll come back and tell you a little more about both him and the woman who is currently making his life difficult. Next week however, I'll be living up to the promise to tell you more about his younger brother Danny and the fabulous Jo from New York's Finest Rebel. Have I mentioned yet how much fun I had with that story?!

If I haven't said it to you already on Twitter or Facebook, HAPPY NEW YEAR gang!!!