Friday, 20 April 2018

Not quite a heatwave . . .

At least that's what the weather people say but it's certainly felt like one recently, with cloudless blue  skies, hours of sunshine and temperatures actually reaching double figures, even here in north west Wales!  I've been lucky enough to have the last few days off work so, after my morning writing sessions, I've been taking a stroll along the Mawddach in the afternoons. It is really tranquil and inspiring at this time of year, and it is lovely to see signs of early summer at last.




The trees along the river are bursting into bud, wild flowers are lining the paths, and the bleating of lambs and the sound of birds are a perfect accompaniment to a bit of head-clearing and gentle exercise.  And this afternoon, I saw the surest sign of all that summer is definitely on the way - the preparation of the cricket pitch on the Marian fields ready for the start of the playing season.



My walk today was especially satisfying because I finished the first 'dirty' draft of my current WIP this morning.  It still needs editing, of course, and a hefty bit of digging deep to really bring my characters to life before I send it off to the New Writers' Scheme next month.  But, having not finished a book for a while, my New Year's Resolution in January was to complete a story this year without fail. So, even though it's not quite the finished product yet, typing that final full stop just before lunch felt great :)




Thursday, 15 March 2018

Writing aides

We all use them and they come in many shapes and forms.  Having taken a week away from my WIP, I returned to it this morning and, as always, found it difficult to get going again.  Writing romance is a bit like being in a relationship - absence may or may not make the heart grow fonder but it is definitely out of sight, out of mind sometimes!  So as I sat there 'making notes' I got to thinking about the props and aides that writers rely on and I discovered that I am a real creature of habit - I don't need many aides but they are always the same ones, viz:




Coffee (obviously)
A cocoa bar (it used to be chocolate before I became a vegan)
Notepad and pen (essential for those 'why' questions)
A diary (as I like to record my word count and my thoughts about my progress, or lack of it, every day)
My invaluable little pink timer (this really works for me if I'm stuck. Setting it to a twenty minute countdown magically gets me writing, anything, even if I end up deleting it eventually)



I've also realised I work better perched on my breakfast bar as opposed to sitting at the table in my carefully prepared writing corner. Well, for one thing, it's nearer the coffee and cocoa bar, I suppose. And the view out of the window to the bird feeders is conducive to writing, although equally good for procrastination too!  

I guess at the end of the day, we writers find the ways and means that work for us, whatever they may be.  What are your favourite aides?

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Changes

I suppose Spring is a natural time for change, more so than any other season, and this month has seen my temporary job ending - along with winter it seems - at Lake Vyrnwy nature reserve.  One of the most stunning locations in the UK, it is beautiful no matter what time of year, but winter is particularly spectacular. Many places can seem bleak in February, but the splendour of the snow-covered hills and the torrent of water over the dam made for a breathtaking last few days on site.







While in between jobs, I have signed on as a volunteer at my nearest nature reserve Ynys Hir.  This wetland reserve near Machynlleth, with far-reaching views out over the Dyfi estuary,  is host to both water birds and woodland birds, including red list species like lapwing. Right outside the visitor centre are some feeders and many people go there simply to sit around the log burner, with a cup of the centre's very good coffee, and just watch the common varieties that come to feed - and the not so common.




A yellowhammer was seen there last year and at the moment there are lesser spotted woodpeckers around too. And, of course, grey squirrels and colourful pheasants pick up the occasional snack there as well.




And the upside of having some leisure time on my hands means more time to write.  I have been very good at sticking to my New Year's resolution of completing a book in 2018 and I have just submitted a partial to Mills and Boon. At the end of this week, I'll be heading south for another fabulous Fishguard weekend, run by the wonderful folk at Writers' Holiday.  It'll be a chance to catch up with old friends, meet some new ones, talk about writing, chill out in the bar, and of course get the benefit of the inspiring teaching of Kate Walker. 

The weather looks set fair too so, all in all, a lovely start to Spring!


Saturday, 27 January 2018

Reading outside the Lines

Do you - like me - read primarily within the genre you want to write?  Harlequin Mills and Boon publish several diverse lines, from historical to suspense, medical to nocturnal.  Aiming at the line that most interests me - Presents or Modern - I tend to read mostly within that line too, enjoying books that were published several years ago, sometimes decades ago, and also keeping up with current trends and new authors.

I was interested recently to see that Harlequin are running a new Blitz in February, this time on Romance (http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com) and it got me thinking of the books I've read outside of my chosen line and what made me place them on my book shelves, alongside the numerous Moderns.



Liz Fielding is an author who has published over sixty books in the traditional and contemporary lines but her writing somehow refuses to be typecast.  She brings a freshness and humour to her work and has been doing so ever since her first book was published, as she says "plucked out of the slush pile because my feisty feminist heroine made the editor laugh."  And it is this quirky take that made me enjoy The Secret Life of Lady Gabriella published in 2007. Who wouldn't want to find out what happens after reading the blurb at the back?

"Lady Gabriella March is the perfect domestic goddess - at least, that's what her editor at Milady magazine thinks! In truth she's simply Ellie March, cleaner and aspiring writer, who uses the beautiful mansion she is house-sitting to inspire her."


Another line I've dipped into only very occasionally is Medical, but I came across Amy Andrews' Valentino's Pregnancy Bombshell in the 3 in 1 Italians, published by Mills and Boon in 2015.  In this instance, the blurb wouldn't have gripped me particularly:

"One incredible night with deliciously  dangerous Valentino Lombardi left Paige feeling beautiful for the first time. Then Valentino arrives as the new surgeon at her hospital, playboy reputation in tow - and Paige must tell him she's expecting his baby."

So far so formulaic as regards the first line too:

"Paige Donald could feel Valentino Lombardi's gaze on her from across the alter."

But there is a tangible tension, a feeling that there is a lot lurking below the surface, right from the start, and from then on the book grips, especially when the heroine goes to bed with the hero in chapter one then leaves him asleep the next morning, following an urgent phone call, with the resolve:

"As far as she was concerned, if she never saw him again, it would be too soon."


Of course, the hero reappears far sooner than that and the developing relationship between them is done with such skill and feeling that I actually cried when the heroine tells him about the loss of her baby, the twin of her little girl who survived but is in fragile health. The hero has his own demons, and suffered his own losses too, and the growing together of these two scarred souls makes for a page turning book that is so emotionally satisfying that it transcends the particular line it falls into.

And the point of this blog?  Writing within a set line doesn't necessary have to mean stereotypical tropes or cliched plots.  At the heart of every story are the characters and their own emotional journey towards lasting love. And of course the unique and authentic voice of the author that can, and should, stand out whatever line she is writing for.


Monday, 1 January 2018

Resolutions

As someone who doesn't normally make New Year resolutions, this year I find myself making several.  And, while I aim to keep all of them, top of the list is to complete a book.

I once blogged here about the importance of always finishing a book  (April 2016 ) but for the last couple of years, I've been unable to do that. The reasons why have been many and varied but, on reflection, the main one has been a lack of focus and determination following a run of rejections.  Keeping going, keeping believing, fending off doubts and finding inspiration, let alone actually sitting down and putting fingers to keyboard, can be hard at such times.  Who was it that said that success is 99% persistence?  They might be right but alongside persistence is the support of fellow writers and friends who are there backing you every step of the way.  And, even more importantly, believing in you when you don't always believe in yourself.

So to all those fabulous people I'd like to say a HUGE thank you and wish you a wonderful New Year and all the best of everything in 2018!






Thursday, 21 December 2017

MERRY CHRISTMAS



Wishing you all a festive season filled with peace, love, friendship and joy . . .






 . . . and a year of high hopes and fulfilled dreams in 2018.

 Melissa x

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Where I'm At . . .

Well, blogging again, obviously, after several months away for various reasons. And writing again, albeit slowly, after several months away for various reasons.  Sometimes it is necessary to step away from your dream and rethink how much you really want that dream - or even if you still want it at all.  And sometimes the only way you can find out is to not follow that dream for a while and see what answer comes up.



So that's what I've been doing - taking time out to rethink. And doing some reading in my chosen genre too in an attempt to enjoy  reading romance again and to remember why I started writing it in the first place.   And I've been reading some truly amazing books by truly amazing and inspiring authors.

Sara Craven, who has just sadly passed away, began writing for Mills and Boon back in 1975. She's an author whose books I've picked up now again over the years, but reading some of her early and more recent work during my 'time out' has reconfirmed just what a brilliant writer she was, with some wonderful page turning books like Comparative Strangers back in 1988 and more recently Seduction Never Lies in 2014.  A truly gifted writer who will be much missed.






I've also thoroughly enjoyed Kate Walker's latest novel A Proposal to Secure his Vengeance, which I literally couldn't put down until I'd finished it - and that wasn't just because of the sexy hero, although I must confess to drooling a bit over that cover - and who wouldn't!

 Like Sara Craven, Kate Walker has also been writing romance for several decades now and what really struck me in reading both these authors is how their books have continuously moved with the times yet they as writers have remained true to their own unique styles and voices, and have written the stories they want to tell, which of course is why readers keep buying and reading their books year after year.

And that is something that every aspiring writer dreams of, isn't it?