She said it was only a quickie. The next day, some more dialogue took place…

One of my most successful author clients is currently making the switch from memoir-writing to fiction, and having had a look at it while formatting a proofreading copy for her, I noted that her style hadn’t significantly changed from ‘true-life journaling’ to ‘fiction/action comedy.’


In short, she hadn’t introduced enough dialogue. The only place that the characters were interacting, developing relationships, and building up their parts was still in her own head – which she was then ‘passing on’ to the reader in her own voice, almost as an afterthought.


It was written in what you’d call an ‘anecdotal’ style – lots of third-party reference to conversations, and descriptions of reports on third-party activity occurring away from the POV characters, but no actual conversations in receipt of these reports, or character-building reactions to any of these topics as they became known to the MC (main character) for the first time.


Here’s a couple of straightforward hints on writing dialogue for fiction, whether you are writing in first or third person.


Even in 1st person POV, you must write all of the dialogue. If someone in the novel is recounting a story or news to the protagonist, you must hear it with the character’s ears and let the reader know the character’s reaction to the news – otherwise it just sounds like you (the author) telling the audience what happened, with no actual action or reaction occurring for any of the characters. Whether they were present in the action – or not, and are just hearing about it from a third party. The reader is hearing about it for the first time too. Don’t just fob them off with a passing description of what they just heard.


For example, instead of saying, as you might in non-fiction/memoir:


It turned out that the truck had a flat. Someone had stolen the jack. They were stuck there for an hour.


You would write:


“What took them so long?” I asked, puzzled.
“They broke down!” my father exclaimed. “A flat.”
“But that takes no time at all.”
“The jack was gone. She thinks it was stolen.”


…And you would continue to show the whole conversation. Not just an introductory exchange, or then switch back to you telling the story. Let the characters unfold the story.


The first segment has no character development or character voice – it’s just your voice, the author, telling the reader instead of showing the reader. If you were writing in the third person (he/she) it would be a little more acceptable, but only if used sparingly. Never for first person. You need first person ‘ears and voice.’


It’s fine for non-fiction/memoir, when the reader is getting to know you, the author. But not for fiction – fiction demands that the author be invisible and that the characters do all the talking, even if the action being discussed did not happen to the POV character.


No matter how the news of the action reaches the POV character – telephone conversation, chance encounter, radio report – you MUST transcribe that report/exchange as dialogue. First person is no excuse – I wrote the whole of Death & the City from one POV and there was a ton of dialogue and action, including where Lara hears of action occurring away from her – I still wrote it as dialogue in scenes where she hears it as news for the first time (unless she was summarising a few incidences of a crap night at work, while on her own ruminating over her own mental health).


Whenever there is more than one person in the scene, THE DIALOGUE MUST BE WRITTEN. It doesn’t have to include every word spoken to a passing waiter, or regarding a ticket purchase for the bus. But all dialogue between recurring/important characters who are relevant to the events of the plot and outcome of the story must be shown.


With multiple POVs, including all of the dialogue is the best way for the reader to identify individual personalities as well. Otherwise, your own author voice is the predominant one, and the point of having first person/third person multiple POV is lost.


Remember it’s all about emotions and responses for the reader, especially in first person POV. Not the author telling the reader a story, sitting by an outdoor workshop campfire. It’s a play, being acted out in front of the reader. The reader is reading ‘I’ and ‘me’ in their own head – they want to know what that ‘I’ and ‘me’ is hearing, seeing, saying, tasting, smelling and feeling when they learn something for the FIRST time.


Not what the protagonist is picking over later – that’s not a story as it happens, it’s an anecdote (as in memoir writing) – of no emotional consequence to anyone.


Imagine you are writing a feature movie script. You wouldn’t write Scene One: X and Y sit in the restaurant booth and discuss their relationship. Scene Two: X and Y repaint the nursery together and discuss baby names. Scene Three… unless your movie is intended to be completely ad-libbed. You don’t ask your readers to ad-lib your novel. Even in the most artsy-fartsy literary fiction, it’s tedious when that happens (trust me, been there, read it, tried writing it, bored myself to sleep).


If your favourite author never writes the dialogue, try reading a few books by different authors. (And stop trying to emulate your favourite authors. They occasionally get things wrong as well).


You can see some further examples in an earlier post I wrote on Romance fiction writing.


Advertisements

New Year’s resolution – the importance of still writing for yourself

Happy new year! I hope you’re all looking forward to 2015, like I am, and to the opportunities and changes it may bring to your creativity.

This was originally going to be a tutorial post, but I didn’t want to overload your New Year’s Eve inboxes and blog readers with something you’ll need a hot water bottle and supply of endless coffee to get through… so I’ll try and keep it on the shorter side 🙂

In a nutshell, when you set out to write for an audience, a target market, remember there’s still time (and a need) to continue to write and be creative for yourself alone.

Whether it’s therapy, or relaxation, or just for entertainment. Whether it’s recording your dreams or memories, or making plans for the future. You need to keep that part of your writing alive – the part that inspired you to write with a purpose in the first place – because nothing tries to suck the joy out of writing more than constantly thinking about deadlines, sales, and financial returns.

If you’re a compulsive writer and it’s something you’ve always done, it’s particularly important to keep writing for yourself, to preserve that feeling of serenity and the internal insights that arise from it. You will find yourself picking up inspiration along the way, and using elements of it in your commercial writing, but allowing yourself to BE yourself in your creativity, and taking time out from the ‘author’ side of it, is what will help prevent any disillusionment, doom and gloom taking over.

You don’t ever have to make your personal creativity public. Like a diary, you can write it in quill and ink in endless notebooks, or record them aloud using your phone, tablet, or computer. Keep your spontaneity going! It will do your mind and spirit good, as well as positively enhance your professional efforts.

Although I put quite a lot out there commercially, most of my creativity is still personal – I’m still developing my skills and different genre styles away from the marketplace. I still experiment and play with ideas, counsel myself with writing, and use other art forms like sewing, knitting, customising and painting to relax.

One of my longest writing therapy projects did eventually end up in novel form, and because I feel silly/embarrassed promoting it commercially – to me, it’s therapy I wrote for myself, in the guise of narrative fiction (written nearly seven years ago now!) – I give it away in regular Kindle ebook freebies, so a few times a year you’ll find it listed as free:

Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition

 Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition on Amazon UK & Amazon.com – search for it on your regional Amazon site as prompted by clicking here on the Amazon.com product page.

This is the version I made more reader-friendly by including shortcuts through the text, meaning you can skip through the internal monologue as prompted and read it more as an action novel, or read the whole thing in linear fashion as a semi-literary one. That was one of my technical experiments in ebook formatting that I’m quite proud of – you can see how it works by checking out the description and the ‘Look Inside’ preview on Amazon.

I’m still in two minds as to whether publishing it (unedited) was the true outcome or purpose, but in terms of the therapeutic side of writing, I definitely came out the other side feeling better for it, both internally and creatively. And having it out there, rather than filed away and forgotten, is a small reminder to me that writing therapy and self-analysis is worthwhile to some of us artistic types – even if no-one else reads it 🙂

I hope you all have a very happy and creative new year, and remember to make time for yourself in the process!

L xxx

If you’re seeing this post in your email inbox, and wondering how it got here, you can change or turn off email notifications in your WordPress Reader by clicking on EDIT below each blog you follow in the list here – https://wordpress.com/following/edit/

…Apparently, I can…

Hey, happy Sunday 🙂

I’m not sure what I expected would happen, publishing an unknown pen-name into the most overcrowded genre, with no advertising or solicited support. A dive into the community pool of obscurity, most likely. The genre has the highest turnover of readers as well, who devour a book in a day and are in a hurry to pick up the next one, like a chocolate fixation. Interest at the most optimistic level is likely to be fleeting.

I jumped the gun too, having had the book requested in full by Harlequin M&B and waited three months for a response after submitting. As the novel, a stand-alone story, only took me five weeks to write (76,000 words, a cakewalk compared to some of my others) I justified that part as not thinking it decent that I should have to wait more than twice as long for a reply than it took me to write. And I’d started writing four more in the meantime, which if I finish this year to follow it up with, would be unlikely to find such quick slots to fill in a traditional publisher’s catalogue.

Anyway. From my previous experience of running repeating freebies as promotion, when I put it on KDP Select to release it as free in the first weekend after publishing it last week, I was expecting a few hundred downloads on Amazon.com, a few dozen on Amazon.co.uk and one or two elsewhere. After the freebie ended this time, however, I had 1732 downloads on Kindle UK, outstripping everywhere else almost three times over, and had reached the UK #4 in its category and #24 in the Kindle top 100 bestsellers in Free ebooks. Two 5* reviews had turned up from nowhere, and it has continued to sell (and be borrowed on Amazon Prime) at an average rate of 1 per hour ever since.

As I only tweeted it about a dozen times for the freebie, and didn’t solicit or advertise for any promotion or ask friends for help, all I can guess is that folk genuinely like this book and are recommending it.

That’s a writer’s dream. Still early days, but at the the moment I feel as though I should be pinching myself to see if it’s really me dreaming it.

Possibly in danger of giving myself a small identity crisis, but that’s nothing new. One audience for the zombie parody, one for the psychological introspection, and now another, under a new name altogether.

And it means the opportunity to invest more time in writing 🙂

It wasn’t a quick decision to write in another genre – I’d been writing experimentally in this genre for about twenty years, but never published anything. Writing and publishing my other stuff turned out to be relevant experience – the more you write, the more fluent you become. You can learn something new about language and prose every day, which I discovered when writing a novel as a blog in 2012. When you write in a fully-conscious state of mind, you’re less likely to repeat yourself or slip into stereotypes associated with writing.

But I found I also have to be aware of being a storyteller, imparting an atmosphere and emotional tone as a major priority – allowing the reader’s imagination to have as much control without distracting them with ‘wordplay’. There’s good writing that demonstrates the mental gymnastics and intellect of the author, and then there’s good writing that you forget is writing because you’re absorbed in the story. In this case, I was aiming for the second one – which meant switching off the part of me as a writer which wants to flash around some skills and intellect and behave as if I have something to gain by proving them. If being too clever makes your writing inaccessible, it’s like pricing your books too high – they may be praiseworthy, but only a few folk will invest in them.

For me, writing will always be a spontaneous activity, meaning that most of what I achieve is down to luck and enjoying the time spent by myself working on it, which includes any social media (I have a great deal of writer friends, but I’m not known for turning up ubiquitously on dozens of blogs or joining marketing campaigns and the review culture). One reason I enjoy writing as a career is it doesn’t involve any group effort or teamwork – and I’m not into competitive sports either 🙂

Genuine success will always be down to the readership in that particular genre and their judgement. It’s a very grounding and humbling thought, knowing that as the writer, you’re always outnumbered by the potential readers, by millions to one 🙂

L xxx

“Tell me honestly. Can I pull this off?”

Matt Lucas as Dongloor in Krod Mandoon

Switching styles, like Dongalor in “Krod Mandoon”, played by Matt Lucas

So yesterday I got bored, and to distract myself from watching my ‘selling’ items on ebay, I published one of my recent romance novels under a pen name I’ve been cultivating for a couple of months, Lauren Boutain.

This is the one that M&B requested the full MS of three months ago, and having just won round one of their Facebook and Twitter-based #TemptedToWrite contest pitching another idea, I have too many stories in my head now to sit around twiddling my thumbs waiting. For now, I’ll stick to self-publishing until something better comes along… (like I don’t know, having a life?) 🙂

I did get some encouragement from having had it requested, and a couple of good friends. Friends are very important when you’re venturing into anything new, and contemporary modern romance is definitely new ground for me…

Matt Lucas, Dongalor

Supposing Dongalor wrote the next romance blockbuster, who might he ask to take a peek? 🙂

And then there’s all the stuff I don’t usually write. The bedroom stuff… I found that was where planning to write under a pen-name up front really helped. Not by trying to distance myself from it – by getting inside the head of someone else while writing. And not just the characters, for a change. By being another author completely.

For the first time I started a Pinterest board for my muses and also a Facebook page early on.

However, I found that waiting to hear from publishers still didn’t really fit – I had momentum in my creativity, and didn’t want to let it drop once I’d finished the story, I wanted to get it out there and move straight on to the next. So I’m afraid to say that yesterday I decided I couldn’t wait for either the good news or a rejection, and published anyway 🙂

Matt Lucas as Dongalor

“Can I pull this off?” Chancellor Dongalor’s big, er, ‘reveal’

Ahem… probably the main relevance to Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire is I recently watched it all again on DVD, and the line “Can I pull this off?” (besides being bloody hilarious in this scene) is very pertinent to me as an author who has been writing contemporary romance mainly in secret for a long time, but has not yet put it out there for readers to judge. I’m feeling brave. Perhaps not quite brave enough to slap on a bearskin codpiece, but definitely to sneak a book out under the radar, in the deluge of self-publishing going on in the world today 🙂

If you want to take a peek, or a download for 77p (99c) and judge for yourself, you can check it out on Amazon Kindle here.

I promise I don’t do executions in response to criticism, unlike Chancellor Dongalor 😉

One Stolen Kiss

Does not contain zombies… 🙂

L xxxx

All Books Great and Small ~ Book Events & Promotions!

Click on the photo for my author interview by Hannah Warren!

It’s been very exciting in the past month!

I’ve attended three book events on all levels – the publishing house London hotel soiree, penthouse Royal suite, small invited crowd, free signed books for every guest (HarperCollins/Avon for Miranda Dickinson’s It Started With A Kiss):

The British movie-star celebrity house-party, decadent gourmet food, books selling as quickly as they could be handed out (Sophie Neville, Funnily Enough – whose childhood pets even stole the screen, on shows such as Animal Magic and All Creatures Great And Small):

And the intimate Oxford bookshop in steampunk fancy dress, great company, cups of tea and beer, open to the very friendly browsing public (Eight Cuts presenting both myself and Raven Dane reading from our books):

What I’ve learned from this is that there’s no wrong way to go about it. Whatever your budget, whatever your intentions, and whatever your personality, you can have a book launch or live event to suit you. Whether it’s busking on the street fielding the heckles, or gold-leaf invitation-only, Gucci dark glasses and red carpet compulsory – a book event is memorable. It puts a real person, the author, behind the world of the imagination.

Today I’m having another book promotion event of my own – online. I don’t have a pet celebrity, but I can give away free books for all you Kindle appsters!

Death & The City: Book OneFREE on Amazon Kindle today (Sunday 11th December), you can get both the full-length crime/humour/romance/lit-fic ebooks of Death & The City: Book One, and Death & The City: Book Two. (Click on the cover images for the Amazon Kindle Store links – promotion is valid in all Kindle stores worldwide).

If you miss today’s promotion – never fear. There’s another longer free listing, 48hours, for both Kindle ebooks again on Christmas and Boxing Day (time from midnight to 23:59 PST, or starting about 08:00a.m. Christmas Day GMT). So if you get a Kindle for Christmas, you know where to find a pair of good chunky free reads to get you started!

Death & The City: Book TwoAnd if you can’t get yours working on Christmas Day – don’t panic! Both ebooks will be FREE again on New Year’s Day and January 2nd 2012.

And if you miss any of the free promotions, all hope is not lost. You can still buy the 2-in-1 version (plus bonus feature screenplay) DEATH & THE CITY: HEAVY DUTY EDITION for only 0.86p/0.99c.

You can read the blurbs on my eBooks page above.

I wish I could be there to give you a sample reading in person, so to make up for the loss of laughs and chat, here’s a couple of tasters…

DEATH & THE CITY: BOOK ONE

…I slide the car sideways into a parking space on the snow and get out, pulling the Skellington hood over my head and face, and lock the car, catching my reflection in the car window. I look determined and businesslike and efficient through the eyeholes, like I know too well what I’m doing, sulky and resentful or not. I always surprise myself that I don’t look desperate or anxious. Why don’t I look scared of people, of what I’m about to confront? Maybe because I’m wise to the fact that the scariest things are inside my own head. I look like someone who has read a hundred psychology books and understood them all, and turned my own mind inside out applying all of the rules and finding the answers. I look like I know what I’m thinking and why. I look like I gave the laws of nature a fair chance, analysed all of the options and possibilities, and I’m just here to iron out a small kink in it, change a light bulb or battery to set the order of the Universe back to rights, replace a fuse. Not so much as even rewire a plug or do any painting. Something so minor that anyone with the right knowledge could have done it. Nothing to get dressed up for or flash any special identification, or make a big song and dance about. Nothing to advertise on the side of a Transit van, or open a shop for, or launch a website to tout for business on. I look like I’m just stopping off to buy an extension lead that no-one else has thought of on my way to a party, which will turn out to be crucial later on. Even on a bad day, I look like I know what I’m doing and that’s the reason it’s me there doing it. I intimidate myself, seeing that in the mirror every day. I think I’m the person who expects more of myself than everyone else expects of me. And that’s the reason I expect to look nervous, because I FEEL nervous, on the inside. I just don’t understand why it doesn’t show. I guess something in my past taught me to hide emotions.
 
I pass a postman as I head towards the City Centre Council offices, swinging my baseball bat cheerfully. We both grin and say good morning. He thinks I’m walking home late from a party. I think he’s a postman. It’s all good. Just goes to show, there could be a postal services employee tied up, minus his clothes in the back of a van somewhere, and someone was about to get a very special delivery. Anyone can put on a uniform. It’s the conduct of the person wearing it that counts towards its reputation. Postal uniform at 7:30 a.m. indicates postal worker going about their business. Skellington outfit at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday indicates party straggler. We share a humorous thought about the snow falling around us but don’t voice it. It would be too much like stating the obvious. The eye language says it all, the snowflakes melting into his sideburns, the flurries stirred up by the loops of my bat as I swing it. Snow in April. Wicked.
 
I look up at the roof of the Council offices. So, he’s up there now, with the seagulls and pigeons, thinking about his career and how it had led to this. Inflating himself psychologically, whether he was compensating for something deficient elsewhere or not. He’s earned the right to be up there, in his world and his life and in his mind. He’s styled his life and image and personality around it, seamlessly meeting his destiny, waiting patiently 300 feet above the nearest decent toilet – while 300 feet above him he IS the nearest decent toilet for the sky denizens that like to crap on the town from a great height. He’s got through eight cans of Red Akuma just to get through the night, and will be lucky if he doesn’t have a stroke driving home afterwards. Who’d be a hit-man, I ask you?
 
He doesn’t look very comfortable as I step over the parapet. Looks like cramps, possibly a dead leg. A nice massage would sort him out. Shame I’m not in therapist mode. Could have made a good future customer contact. He looks itchy and cold and tired and that snowfall wasn’t on his agenda either. How do you expect a clear shot 300 feet below you through snow? Any normal person would have gone home. He obviously wants this one badly. Either for his ego or his reputation. The cold obviously means higher likelihood of his gun jamming through metal contraction anyway. He’ll have frostbite, cramps, probably break his collarbone if the gun actually fires with the kind of recoil it would give him, and the dead leg would mean he won’t be able to make a nice clean escape. He’ll be a sitting duck, 300 feet above a dead or injured body, with the police looking speculatively upwards while he tries to rub pins and needles out of every limb. If he had a plan before, I’d have loved an insight onto it.
 
I cut the City Council flag down with my penknife, wondering why he hadn’t thought of using it to keep himself dry and a bit warmer, then I walk up behind him. I don’t hesitate, exactly – I just sort of wait a moment. Maybe it’s just me. I always speculate about this. Natural selection. A tiger never attacks from the front. The survivors are those with eyes in the backs of their heads.
 
I look over my shoulder. A seagull is watching me from the parapet, and I put my finger to the lips – or rather teeth – of my Skellington mask. I look back at the sniper lying at my feet. He hasn’t looked up, and I’m disappointed. I’ve yet to meet another doorman with eyes in the back of his head. Some of them even seem to have problems with the ones in the front. I guess it’s me that’s waiting to meet my match, at the end of the day. When one of these guys finally turns around and clocks me standing behind him, I’ll have met my match. Then again, I probably don’t deserve that, doing what I’m doing. Maybe no-one’s coming for me. Maybe I’m alone in the Universe. I’ll get to the end having erased all the undesirables from the List, having made no friends out of it – just done what was expected of me, finished the job and gone home…
 
Lisa the bouncer

DEATH & THE CITY: BOOK TWO

A staff meeting at The Zone prior to opening reveals that after tonight, those of us on loan from The Plaza will be heading back there (to the sound of much groans and moans by those not looking forward to returning to Mgr Diane’s clutches), as enough new door staff have now been recruited for the venue to run on. And also a heads-up about a fire drill Evac at some point tonight, as the Fire Brigade are due to check our new alarm system and evacuation procedures.
 
I notice already that Hurst and Jag Nut are absent, replaced by new recruits, and also Niall Taylor, which gives me a small amount of relief. So it’s pretty much only me, Animal, Cooper and Salem left of the original reinforcements, that I’m on familiar terms with. Cooper is looking kind of deflated, like he can’t wait to leave and get back to his comfortable Plaza, with its dozens of secret links, corners and offices he can hide in. And Salem can’t wait to ditch the neon pink Zone front-door hi-vis, which he says is only suitable for Downtown Willy’s gay comedy club, opposite The Dog Star, where I shot camp hit-man Phil Preston the other day.
 
The new guys, in contrast, look serious and overly-professional, like an Airfix model Army. Probably recruited straight from the membership list of Heath Gardner’s gym and sauna, then vetted by Mgr Stacie’s eye for sun-bed use and good dental work. Hurst would call them shirt-fillers – new licence-holders, no old school experience in any of them. Just the one goofy-looking guy, who is probably the token First-Aider, perhaps from leisure centre pool life-guarding or the Territorial Army. Solange is flirting relentlessly with most of them, while Pascaline ignores everyone, texting on her phone in a corner, or vanishing to the toilets to make calls. Apparently those two girls are staying on here. Solange is happy, with so many Action Man dolls around her to choose from, while Pascaline just looks pissed off. She used to do Downtown Willy’s front doors with Phil Preston. Funny, I haven’t heard anything about who might have been sent to work there, as replacements. Mostly the two managers stand on the front doors of the club, as per their SIA licence-holder status entitlement, so Phil and Pascaline were the eye candy. Whose eye – it’s hard to say.
 
Mgr Stacie looks happy with her own new eye candy, anyway. I imagine it won’t be long before Mgrs Diane and Melanie are sneaking up here, with their camera phones, or arranging V.I.P. staff nights out to The Zone in order to Facebuddy the new door supervisor talent. Mind you, most of the Zone’s barmaids also look like supermodels, so it’ll be a full claws-out competition if they set their sights on anyone working here. Would be a relief to the likes of Ryan, Joel and Harry though, to get a bit of breathing space for themselves. Doorman Harry’s actually married, although you wouldn’t think so to look at him, and by the way he behaves. Apparently his wife’s a geriatric nurse who likes to pole-dance when she’s drunk. My psychosis has a problem with trying to picture this, having never met her face-to-face. I don’t know if it means she’s a pole-dancing retired elderly nurse herself – or a nurse who treats older persons, and I don’t like to ask. Either would be believable – Harry has celebrity crushes on everyone from Shakira and the Olsen twins to Tina Turner, Ruby Wax and Joan Rivers. His only regret in life is he’s too young ever to have met Mae West. Bit of a strange lad at times.
 
I think I’ve missed his greetings of announcing he wants to punch someone, over the last week. It’s all a bit uptight and image-conscious here in The Zone.
 
Cooper hangs around the end of the bar, chatting idly with me as the shift starts on my bar island position, and I have a weird sense of him looking for his own reality check, which I can’t help noticing I don’t have a copy of on me tonight. He seems a bit too random, a bit too escapist in mood, like someone’s been trying to pin him down of late. I can imagine who that might be. He seems to want to talk work, and general doorman gossip, in a way I realise makes him feel more secure in his senior door role. Even though he’s several years younger than me and I’ve been doing the job twice as long as him, I’m always polite enough not to point this out. Not to his face.
 
“Have the others gone back to The Plaza already?” I ask instead, encouraging him with my lack of inside knowledge on current migratory door staff events.
 
“Hurst and Niall are back there tonight, Jag Nut went to his uncle’s funeral today, so he’s on annual leave,” Cooper divulges. He accepts a glass of water from one of the bar staff, and looks at the swirling bubbles from the tap suspiciously, putting it down on the bar and watching to see if they settle.
 
“What happened to his uncle?” I ask. “I heard it was something sudden.”
 
“Old landmine. He was clearing No-Man’s-Land ex-security checkpoints with his team abroad. Tripped a twenty-year-old roadside bomb. Unlucky sod. Puts me off the thought of going to war for real.” Cooper shakes his head as a thin cloudy layer of scum gradually forms on the surface of his glass of water. “What the Hell is that stuff in the water, are we really drinking this shit?”
 
“Might be residue from the glass washer tablets,” I point out.
 
“Don’t think I want to drink that either, the last thing my intestines need is a diamond-like sparkle to them,” Cooper remarks, and feels in his pockets around his phone and keys for change. “Another crappy tight-wad venue that won’t give its staff free drinks. Do you want a can of pop? It’s all right, I’ll sort you out.”
 
I accept a cola and we both snap our tins open in front of a passing Mgr Stacie’s cold nod of disapproval. Cooper glugs half of his in one gulp in order to summon a deliberately mutinous burp.
 
“Lara,” he teases, blaming me humorously. “Gross.”
 
I know it’s immature, but I grin anyway. The situation needs lightening up generally.
 
“Doesn’t matter, we’re out of here for good at the end of tonight,” he reminds me. “Might as well do what we like. Have a wander. It’s this bunch of stuffed shirts who have to impress the managers now, not us. I’m off to see if there’s anything not nailed down that would look good in the boot of my car.”
 
He grins at me and saunters off. This time I know he’s joking. Everything here is nailed down.

 

Happy reading!

🙂 xxx

 

Mills & Boon’s New Voices

The Mills & Boon New Voices contest (Football sentiment not included!)

Yay! I did it! I submitted a first chapter into the contest. Neptune’s Island is my first stab at direct romance writing.

And I found a suitable category – warm and fuzzy. I mean, Warm and COSY. As I can’t switch off my wit when writing, I was really pleased to see that romantic comedies come under this roof. Mine’s a rom-com with a sense of adventure – the holiday-read chick-lit.

No zombies in this one. Although at least one of my other outlines that I had in mind involved zombies, in the paranormal scheme of things, I’m saving those for later.

I’m surprised there aren’t more entries in this category yet. I thought chick lit was hu-u-ge. I love a sense of humour with my romantic stories. I read a few straight ones, mostly paranormals, and a few romantic dramas – but I have to be careful because quite often I’m inserting my own jokes into scenes at the back of my mind. Like that person in the cinema you can sometimes hear, who has a comeback occasionally funnier than the one Dwayne Johnson just said.

There are some great plot lines on the site already – fab identity mix-ups, awkward situations, and some great suspense openings. It’s very inspiring. The busiest category is Contemporary Romance, which I guess has the scope for everything that involves complex webs in relationships, skeletons in closets, old flames, and up-to-the-minute issues alongside the more traditional ones. I avoided that one, I suppose, because I haven’t had a relationship in real life, and wouldn’t know or identify with a real-life scenario or complex issue if it bit me. Biting is very boring in my concept of real life – it comes under Common Assault in nightclub incident reports, or ‘abuse of staff’ in a hospital ward. Extraordinarily dull.

I ended up with four ideas, but you only get one entry – and since I’ve found the door is open to chick lit and romantic humour, I’ve had more ideas arriving all the time. So I’d definitely be interested in writing more romance in future.

The www.romanceisnotdead.com competition entry website is a bit glitchy, and every time I click on a link or try to post a comment it crashes at the moment, but they’ve got ongoing maintenance to try and keep it afloat!

It’s nice to have freedom of imagination, even if nothing romantic has happened in real life yet. My friend Sophie Neville was discussing the age-old issue of husband-hunting with me at work the other day, and how she worries about her acquaintances currently in the market and the problems they face. She knows I’m also permanently single with no history or boyfriend experience, and when she asked my age, there was a full minute of rather horrified silence 🙂 I heard that life begins at forty, but I didn’t realise it meant literally ‘begins’ – I’ve had one blind date morning coffee since my 40th back at the start of July, and it’s lucky I’m more interested in dieting and writing at the moment, because dating so far has possibly been the biggest waste of petrol I’ve used in my life. The only other thing dating does so far is add to my caffeine intake 🙂

It is true that basically it just means I haven’t met the right man yet. It is really bizarre meeting up with guys you don’t know, and chatting over coffee. Perfectly normal and pleasant conversations, usually. But no chemistry. I know what a crush on a guy feels like, or regular physical attraction, but so far those things have completely failed to turn up on dates. Quite a few I’d have been open to second dates or longer chats – to see if it’s true that you’re meant to let someone grow on you first – but as it turns out, I haven’t been asked by any of those guys for second dates.

Luck of the draw, I guess. I’m not looking for dates any more because I’m too busy – but it isn’t the case that ‘not looking’ means you suddenly get asked out all the time. It just means guys click on the next online profile.

I could try just going out where there are people, but I don’t have any friends nearby because nobody else wants a 40-year-old single woman around either 🙂

So I’ll just fantasise about romance instead for now, and write it down – it’s much easier than finding it in real life.

🙂

Now that’s what I call a cover…

This one broke my world speed record for deciding whether or not to buy the book when I saw it in the bookstore. I think my exact decision-making process was “FWORRR!”

It’s staying where I can see it while writing. I might even read more than those pages in the middle when I get time…

Send him round. I’ve never had a real live muse before 🙂

The Great Cover-Up.

Had a discussion about book covers yesterday after getting some constructive criticism on mine. As an indie author – covers were the last thing on my mind. Until seven or eight months ago, I seriously never intended to self-publish.

But as an artist, over the years I used to think a lot about covers. Covers on published books attracted me all the time, although it was blurbs and first paragraph reads which dictated whether or not I bought a book. I realised that as well as covers, I’d never really thought about blurbs either. For me, the important thing was getting my interiors up to scratch, spellchecked and edited. Rarely when I do a drawing or painting does it come up to my own expectations, and sometimes themes in the books require more than a flower, a puddle of blood, or a cleavage…

My favourite book covers of all time always contained real art, especially fantasy art – science fiction book covers in particular featuring spaceships, alien landscapes and adventurers. Some of the best artwork on covers appeared in the 1980’s, mostly on historical romance covers, oozing classical portrait talent and dripping with Fabio.

Fabio LanzoniI could look at just the covers for hours, purely for the artist’s skill – I would study Boris Vallejo and attempt to imitate every line in pencil form. Nowadays, sadly, those style of covers are considered ‘cheesy’ and it’s all about graphic design and branding, creating a cover more simplistic and iconic, like a Coca-Cola label. I can recognise many of those ‘designer’ covers, but could tell you nothing about the story between the covers, or the genre, or the author – but with realist fantasy art, it was easy to understand what the genre and story was – especially if it was science fiction, romance, a pulp detective novel, or an early Ian Fleming.

In a way, these ‘brand’ covers tap into a form of label marketing which goes along with clothing, soft drinks, and fragrances. You don’t have to know what it stands for, what the story is. It’s an accessory, a lifestyle choice. The reader who buys Alexander McCall Smith might also wear Alexander McQueen (ahem, if they’re lucky). The same goes for movie posters – but luckily, movie posters haven’t moved on as far as book covers. The most iconic artist posters include Star Wars and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and the films represented didn’t disappoint. You saw the poster, and the film lived up to it.

In Death & The City, the protagonist Lara has issues with personality and the way people market themselves, and their motives, and likens it to book covers. You see a big title and it represents a catchy blockbuster title, or a big author name and it represents a celebrity author. Pathway at dusk equals mystery. Pastel colours equals chick lit. Fangs and cleavage equals vampire horror. She compares the way one of her subjects of investigation was drawn unawares into prostitution by saying: Like she’d unwittingly bought a book about the sex trade, based on a misleading cover claiming to be a supernatural spy detective novel.

So I was aware of this ability for covers to be ‘misleading’ when designing my own, and also didn’t want to misrepresent myself as a publishing-house-style author while I’m currently an indie – no quotes from reviews on the covers or in the introduction, although I’ve had hundreds of comments from friends and peers, none that would qualify with the job description ‘Guardian Books’ or ‘TV Book Club’ – so I left them out.

Although I only have MS Paint to cobble them together, luckily Lulu.com on the hardcovers had an online formatter in which you simply upload images of the right quality – had a fun time searching for some I could use – until I can get the right images and artwork out of my head and onto paper, I’m happy with what I’ve done and feel that although amateur, it’s not misrepresenting anything.

But going by my taste in art, I have a feeling my own ideas brought to life won’t have any place in the contemporary market. 🙂

Writers Swap Reads ~ July 2011

Hidden

(Also on Amazon Kindle UK/DE. Paperback available from Amazon US, or Shalini Boland)

Went out for a birthday lunch today to meet the effortlessly fabulous Shalini Boland, rising Young Adult fiction star and author of Hidden, and the forthcoming futuristic/dystopian novel Outside. We did a book exchange – I got a paperback copy of Hidden (paranormal/vampire romance), and I gave her a hardcover of Living Hell, and threw in a paperback proof of Death & The City: Book Two to follow up the first one she already has at home. I told her about my own ‘challenge’ I’d set myself, to write a romantic novel à la Harlequin/Mills&Boon, and she shared some of the promoting tips she’s learned around indie publishing.

One of the things she’d heard about is running temporary freebie promos on eBooks. I thought this sounded like a fun idea. She also submits queries to book blogs for reviews/interviews and promotion, and is doing well out of it. In comparison to me, who hasn’t put together a press kit at all, and sells on average one Terrible Zombie Of Oz per week, she’s proof that marketing yourself a bit in the right places can definitely work.

Living Hell, on SmashwordsI’d already dropped my Amazon Kindle prices, having bought an Android-based eTouch Toys’R’Us tablet (it’s fantastic, and has the added bonus of a rounded shiny silver rear cover that looks as though you’re perusing the inside of a tiny Smeg refrigerator – and almost as heavy). I realised that for my £49.99 investment in this electronic toy, and downloading the free Kindle app, what I mostly wanted was to benefit from amazingly cheap books.

So I’d swallowed my pride and put my own prices down, from a few bucks to amazingly cheap as well.

Death & The City, on SmashwordsWhen I got home I checked out Smashwords, and had no new activity in the last month – but noticed they were running a July sale list, with vouchers which you could apply to your books to make them either discounted or free. So I signed both of my Smashwords epub/html/LRF/RTF format books up to it (Apple/Sony/Nook etc versions), and almost instantly sold two, and then two more. It was definitely worth doing – as it’ll be a while before I see any royalties anyway, gaining a readership in the meantime is definitely up there in my list of preferences.

I’d already decided to give myself a year, from publishing the first two in the Tales of the Deathrunners series (Death & The City: Books One and Two – combined in the hardcover edition, and in the Heavy Duty Edition eBook, which also includes an original feature screenplay), as well as Living Hell and The Terrible Zombie Of Oz. One year will be enough to gauge reader interest in whichever sequence of books is likely to be strongest – at the moment it looks like the title containing the most Z’s is winning – and I have sequels already in progress. In the meantime I’ll work on giving this Romance Fiction challenge a shot, and try and keep the zombies at bay – until appropriate for them to be unleashed 🙂

My Smashwords Author Page

Enjoy! 🙂