Sunday, 27 July 2014

How to Write a Romcom Bestseller in One Easy Lesson!

.:*´`*:. It's easy! .:*´`*:.

Think high heels, romantic scrapes and cupcakes, then just follow these few simple rules!

1.  Get the feel right first.  Read the early Jilly Cooper books (Harriet, Prudence, Octavia, etc), Bridget Jones' Diary, a bit of Sophie Kinsella and others of your choice, preferably whilst wearing kitten heeled shoes and eating cake, to get yourself in the zone.

2.  Next, choose your title.  Fifty percent of chick lit novelists simply select two items that begin with the same letter, one of them food/cocktail related, the other to do with clothing.  Here are some suggestions for yours:
Mojitos and Manolos 
Long Island Iced Tea and Leotards.
Angel Cake and Anoraks 
Banoffee Pies and Barbours
 Prada Heels and Pop Tarts 
Tangerine Cheesecake and Trench Coats
  See how easy it is?
The other option is to slip the word 'kiss' into the title, preferably with a reference to Mr Darcy ~ Kissing Mr Darcy, It started with a Kiss from Mr Darcy, Mandarin Cupcakes and Mr Darcy, etc etc. Any mention of Mr Darcy in the title will make your book a certain hit.

3.  Choose your heroine's name.  This should be one you might have given your dolls when you were a child, and will probably end in 'ie' or 'y' (or possibly 'ii'): Tillie, Poppy, Polly, Katie, Lucie, Tansy, Suzi - you get the picture.  The hero's name should conjure up a picture of smooth masculinity ~ Ross, Michael, Jared, Max, Daniel.  Darcy is always a good surname.  Just saying....

4.  Decide on names for heroine's chums.  Be creative. Sky, Jo-Jo, Tallulah, Pippa, Jools.  To go with the slightly offbeat name, at least one chum should have an amusing quirk that can be referred to sporadically throughout the book - having a 'thing' about firemen, swearing a lot, being gay, etc.  

5.  Now, you need a plot.  First, establish general 'ditziness' of heroine, who should be pretty but not too perfect.  In the first or second chapter she should meet her handsome prince to be.  This meeting could take either of these forms:
  • She makes a total fool of herself in front of him, eg, says wrong the things/dress inexplicably falls off during important meeting at work, or she could ogle handsome man in restaurant but when she walks past him her false eyelashes fall off into his soup, etc etc.
  • Alternatively, they can hate each other on sight, and/or have a battle of wills. After this, quirky best friend could point out that although hero is an arrogant git, he is kinda hot. 
  • Or, the first meeting seems promising, but then heroine is given the (incorrect) information that he is in some way unavailable to her, eg, married, about to be married, gay, or about to join a monastery/MI6. Although this is untrue, heroine must never be in a position to communicate with hero or anyone else about this, lest the misunderstanding be discovered (and thus ruin the plot).
6.  If set in the UK, be aware of class differences.  Use as many ridiculous stereotypes as you like: ie joke 'posh' names like Fortescue and Carruthers, double barrelled surnames with double Fs and Smythe as the second one. Ffossington-Smythe, that sort of thing. Mention barbours and grouse shooting.  Men can be called Sebastian, Piers, Giles, Ffreddie, and the women Arabella, Ffenella, Ffiona, Caroline. Working class men should be called Wayne or Dave. Women can be Kylie or Chantelle. Mention Eastenders and football.  Both sexes will have tattoos and fake tans, and drop their aitches all the time, which they will pronounce 'haitch'.
7.  During story, heroine should have several more instances during which she says absolutely the wrong things to people and loses other items of clothing, or parts thereof, in inappropriate settings.  Further wrong-place-wrong-time interludes can be manufactured to perpetuate comedic suspense, including zany mishaps where your heroine burns food/gets mistaken for an international diamond smuggler/accidentally lets out dangerous animal during trip to zoo, etc.

8.  Reinforcement of hilarious misunderstandings can be inserted into dialogue, in which main characters find themselves unable to express what they are feeling/thinking, rarely stick around to discuss anything, and flounce out of the room/into taxis/onto trains at the merest slight, like they do in soap operas. When female characters are upset, other females should attempt to commiserate by offering pinot, chardonnay, cupcakes and ice cream.  Chick lit heroines are never so miserable they can't be cheered up by sugar, and will only ever get woefully drunk about once, which will provide opportunities for more slapstick comedy.  She might also pinch cigarette off Sky/Jo-Jo/Tallulah, who could be the novel's token smoker (this could be her quirk - see how it all fits in?!).

9.  At some point, all misunderstandings, etc, must be resolved just in time, possibly just when heroine/hero (or both) is just about to leave area forever/marry hopelessly unsuitable secondary character (males should have boring name like Hugh, Neville or Roger).  Is extra effective if heroine happens to be mucking out pigs/covered in paint, or any other situation in which she might not look at her polished best, and can't believe this handsome, suave, perfect man adores her.  Don't forget to gather all the ends up quickly, just in time for the HEA - happy ever after!

10.  Once you've published it and sold thousands of copies you can then think about the sequel - the Christmas version!  Write it the same as you've written the original, but substitute all the summery bits for snow, mistletoe, mulled wine, etc. Your title could be Manolos and Mulled Wine, A Christmas Kiss from Mr Darcy, Mojitos and Mistletoe, Furry Boots and Frappuccinos, etc.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

It wasn't like that in my day...

I felt compelled to write this post after reading a very good and amusing short story by writer E.L. Lindley -  READ IT HERE, ON HER BLOG - about a divorcee going 'out on the town' for the first time in years.  We had a bit of a conversation about how pubs have changed since we frequented them every Friday and Saturday night, and E.L. said this:  "City centre pubs are just awful, every time I go into one I feel as though I've inadvertantly stumbled into a hen party from hell" - which I thought kinda summed it up!

I live in the north east, (happily) a fair few miles away from the notorious Bigg Market in Newcastle, host to stag and hen parties, and in which one would feel out of place if fully dressed and not completely rat-arsed.

Ladettes out on the razz in the Bigg Market, appropriately dressed for the weather

I have never visited this area, and never intend to.  Okay, that's a bit of an extreme example, but, generally, isn't it a shame that you can't just go out in a town centre for a normal drink with your pals, without the boom boom boom of horrible music, bouncers on the doors, advertisements for ghastly cocktails, etc?  

When I was in my teens in the 1970s, my friends and I used to go from pub to pub with ne'er a care, dressed in proper clothes, rather than hooker gear.  We would buy normal drinks and put money in juke boxes that played music you could hear, but also talk over.  I also used to walk home late at night without my parents worrying; that's slightly off topic, though related.  Yes, yes, I know times change, but isn't it a shame that the ordinary town centre pub scarcely exists these days?  They're all turned into horrible, garish bars now, music blaring.  Ah, how I remember going to the Saddlers Arms in Bridge Street, Northampton, wearing jeans etc, drinking half pints of Directors and putting The Doors on the juke box - and I never saw a fight in there.  I had a shop down that road in the 1980s. When we opened in 1983 it was still an ordinary, quiet street.  By 1985 several of the establishments, including the Saddlers, had been turned into horrible extreme drinking hell holes, and that was when our window started getting smashed on a regular basis. The street used to have antique shops, a second hand record shop, a lovely independent book store, but they're all long gone; my old shop is now one of many takeaway food pit stops for the roaring drunk and ravenous.  These places ruin town centres.  

I'm happy to say that my most frequented pub in Northampton, The King Billy, has remained a rock music type pub throughout - the brewery did make an attempt to change it into a lager lout pub in the 1990s, calling it The Fitchet and Firkin, or something equally daft, but resistance was strong, and it soon changed back.

I know there are a few pubs that haven't been changed too much (The Wig & Pen, The Mailcoach, though I preferred the Wig when it was the Black Lion!), but mostly the rest of the town centre is pretty much a no-go area if you just want to go out for a quiet drink.  I wonder if the only places 'real' pubs still exist within town centres are at the seaside; when I lived in Cromer, in Norfolk, during the last decade, the five or six pubs in the town all retained that 'local' feel, as did others in Norfolk towns such as Sheringham and Holt.

The Kings Head, Cromer - my favourite pub in the town.  The second living room of many.  Wonderful food, beer garden - oh, sorry, Gail, I went into advertisement writing mode for a moment, there!

The argument might be given that the old pubs are changed into these grisly bars because that's what people want, but I wonder if this is so. After I left Cromer, Buffers Bar near the station was changed into one of those boom-boom-boom music, open until late, puke-up-your-thirteen-cocktails-outside type of establishments.  It caused havoc in that area of the town, and only lasted a couple of years.

As I noted in a comment below, (I imagine most) big cities remain okay, because they are large enough to confine it to one area, like the Bigg Market in The Toon, and Prince of Wales Road in Norwich.  

I suppose I just wish there was less of this

and more of this!

Isn't this excellent?  Don't know when this pic of the Saddlers in Bridge Street, Northampton was taken.

Very old shot of The Malt Shovel - out of the town centre, spruced up in a nice way, and still excellent.  I went there last year, and it was great. Average age of about 50, too!

Or were these chaps just the lager louts of the 1950s?  

I don't think so, somehow; maybe it's more to do with the drinking culture than anything else.  But that, of course, is a whole other blog post.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Cover Reveal!

Isn't it lovely when you see the cover for your new book for the first time??!

Apparently Mr Fussy Artist has still got some tweaks to make, but this is more or less it!  

I love it, it's got just the feel I was looking for - a bit like a fairy tale.

Here's the blurb again (that will have some tweaks before publication later in the month, too!)
(I wrote a post about what gave me the idea for it, HERE)


Four Valentine cards – from four different men!

Sophie Heron’s fortieth birthday is looming, and she is fed up with her job, her relationship, her whole life – not to mention her boyfriend’s new ‘hobby’, in which she definitely doesn’t want to get involved…Back in 1998 she had the choice of four men, and now she can’t help wondering how her life might have turned out if she’d chosen differently.The person to whom Sophie had always been closest was her beloved Auntie Flick, her second mother, friend and advisor. Before her death in 2001, Flick said, “when I’m up there having a cuppa with St Peter, I’ll have a word with him about making me your guardian angel, shall I?”

As Sophie’s fortieth birthday draws near, she visits her aunt’s special place: a tree by a river, hidden from the world. Here she calls on Auntie Flick to show her the way forward – and help her look back into the past so she can see what might have been….

I'm getting excited about it now!!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Twitterly thoughts

If I see 'Contributed tweets are provided by @SomeCrapApp' on your timeline, I don't retweet you. Why? Because it means you can't be bothered to actually look on Twitter and see what a person would like retweeting, or what might be of interest to your followers. Half the time you just retweet my conversation; I retweet people, not robots. Alas, you will never read this because you are rarely actually ON Twitter, so you don't read people's blog posts, either.

(ps, I know there are a few very busy people who use @SomeCrapApp but also do Twitter in real life.  I do not include you in this!!!)

If you want your tweet to be retweeted by some of these group RT things like Monday Blogs, authorRT and wwwblogs, please do retweet others on the timeline, don't just stick the hashtag on your tweet. It's the retweets that make these hashtags a good thing. The point of such things is that you share others' posts with YOUR followers, too - that's how it works!

I won't write anything else - I'll just recommend that you buy TWITTER FOR WRITERS by Rayne Hall ~ no Twitter using writer should be without it!  Click title for UK link. US link HERE

ps, I am not on commission, and have no vested interest in the book - it's just really, really good!

Friday, 4 July 2014

The strange inspiration for my novella, Round and Round

*Note on 9.6.15: I wrote this in July 2014, shortly before Round and Round was released.  I'm totally made up that it has since gained over fifty reviews across the Amazon sites and Goodreads :)

After the lengthy and complex tome that was Kings And Queens, I needed to write something short and light, before embarking on the sequel - so here it is!

Round And Round is a novella of approximately 36,000 words, which means it's about a half to a third of the length of a novel. 

This is the sort of mood I was looking for with the cover ~ I just love this picture, it's my current wallpaper on my laptop.


Two things gave me the idea for the story.  

In the early 1990s I had to make two decisions that both had a huge impact on the rest of my life.  A few years later, I had a dream in which I'd chosen the other fork in the road. When I woke up, I just thought, "oh, so that's what it would have been like".  That dream has always stayed with me; it was so vivid and I never doubted for a moment that it was showing me 'what if...'

The other thing was very strange indeed - you'll like this! In early 2001, my then-husband's father died.  A couple of months later we were out shopping and Alan suddenly said, out of the blue, 'get some batteries for the smoke alarm'.  We'd been in our new house about nine months; neither of us had ever looked at the smoke alarm. I don't think I even knew where it was!  I got some batteries, anyway, and put them in. That night we had too much to drink, I put something under the grill and forgot about it, and went to bed.  I was woken up by the smoke alarm a while later. As it was, we had to get a new cooker and have the kitchen redecorated.  I dread to think what would have happened if I hadn't heard that alarm (though I did have a houseful of firemen at five in the morning, ladies, so it wasn't all bad!).  Alan always thought it was his father who put the smoke alarm batteries idea into his head ~ a guardian angel?

Here is the first draft of the blurb for
Round And Round ~

Four Valentine cards – four men…
Sophie Heron’s fortieth birthday is looming, and she is depressed about her job, her relationship, her whole life – and her boyfriend has taken up with a new group of people with whom she definitely doesn’t want to get involved.
Back in 1998 she'd had the choice of four men, and can’t help wondering how her life might have turned out if she’d chosen differently.
Sophie’s Auntie Flick had been her second mother, friend and advisor. Before her death in 2001, Flick said, “When I’m up there having a cuppa with St Peter, I’ll have a word with him about making me your guardian angel, shall I?”

The two of them had a special place, a tree by a river, where they would go together. Now, Sophie visits this idyllic spot whenever she wants to talk to her aunt. As Sophie’s fortieth birthday draws near, she calls on Auntie Flick to show her the way forward – and help her look back into the past so that she can see what might have been….

They weren't like this, I'm afraid!
I hope you enjoyed the pictures, too!