Monday, 24 September 2012

Minty and Luca; the evolution

I succumbed. I wasn’t going to put myself through it again. I really, really wasn’t. It’s a distraction, stress I don’t need; but, as the clock ticked down to the opening of So You Think You Can Write (SYTYCW) I caved. A global romance writing competition? Of course I was going to enter. Who was I kidding?

This year HM&B has combined elements of their two autumnal competitions - Mills & Boon’s New Voices and Harlequin’s SYTYCW. The first was a public first chapter competition with entries open to public comment and grading, which led to the dreaded ‘rose bombing’ and some very public dissatisfaction with comments received. The second also required a first chapter to enter but these weren’t available to view and entrants needed a finished manuscript in case they were selected to go through.

This year we submit the first chapter as per but they ARE available to view and subject to public vote, possibly comments but if so that functionality isn’t available yet. The top 24 then need to submit full manuscripts and three of those are then posted for public vote. Terrifying stuff. But so worthwhile. Previous competition winners have achieved publication and last year’s runner up Charlotte Phillips has three books waiting to be published. Three. In less than a year.

My chapter features two characters familiar to anyone who regularly read this blog. Some things haven’t changed; Minty still hides behind a carefree, frivolous mask and avoids all commitment, Luca still wants stability and a family. But many things have. These characters have been written and rewritten. And rewritten again.

First version: Chick lit lite with Minty deciding to marry her gay best friend because he was too afraid to come out to his traditional Italian family. Cue the arrival of his suspicious, handsome cousin Luca.
Second version (4 rewrites before entered into NV11): Minty is tricked by her gay best friend into a fake engagement when his cousin, Luca, comes to town
Third/Fourth version (NWS version) After one scandal too many Minty’s father cuts her off and she immediately finds herself back on the front pages linked to her flatmate’s cousin Luca, who chivalrously offers her an escape – and a job, at his Italian ice cream business.
Fifth version (RNA conference pitch) After her father cuts her off Minty’s flatmate offers her a job at his family business back in Italy. Only he’s forgotten to tell his cousin Luca, who is looking forward to welcoming him back into the business, that the job is for Minty not for himself.
Sixth version (SYTYCW) is very different. No flatmate,  a stronger set up and more sparks straight off – I hope! You can read it for yourself here: One Kiss or Two

Let me know what you think…

Friday, 21 September 2012

Summer, holidays & puppies

My thespian family dressed in their Mystery Play costumes
Just when it felt like summer may just have finally made a belated appearance it turned out that autumn was hot (cold) on its heels. It has been a chilly few days in York; tights, gillets and boots have been dug out and even seasoned Yorkshire folk have toyed with the idea of putting the heating on. Normally I love autumn, the leaves, the crispness in the air but this year I feel hard done by. I like my seasons to come in order and leave an impression not rush by with scarcely a deviation in temperature.
It was an odd summer. The Olympics and York Mystery Plays turned our lives upside down and all attempt at routine was lost - which played havoc with my writing and blogging. Not that I didn't have ideas, I had lots, just not the time or energy to get them down on paper. They included:

  • The history of York Mystery Plays (not writerly but as both my OH and daughter devoted over 4 months to it they were the event of the year in my household. They were spectacular btw)
  • My significant birthday and the resolutions I made upon it (write more, eat less, try & get up earlier)
  • Stephen King Was Right or Routine is Important
  • SYTYCW or here we go again although I should know better and am not prepared cue yet another frantic rewrite
  • The evolution of Minty through six SIX rewrites 
  • My awesome holiday to Austria, how it recharged what turned out to be very flat batteries and inspired lots of story ideas with amusing anecdotes (trust me, they were funny involving schnapps, hotel bands & the Heidi song)
  • This was our view sigh*
  • The awesomeness of Andy Murray's double win with some painstaking analogy about how working and waiting will get results
Instead however I am going to introduce you to the newest member of the household. He is very cute and very naughty and in just 5 days has turned our lives upside down. As it should be. Just think how much plotting I'll get done when walking him...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Book Launch

Last night the very lovely Pam Hartshorne, aka Jessica Hart, kindly invited me to the launch of her new book Time's Echo. Fittingly for a book partly set in Tudor York, she held the launch in the Medieval beamed splendour of the Merchant's Adventurer's Hall and treated us to delicious canapés and fizzy wine. Very civilised indeed.

Of course I bought a copy of the book and started reading it the second I got back home. I love Pam's romances and was really curious to see how she would tackle a completely different genre. Time's Echo is a timeslip, a genre I know very little about, and was described at the launch as part Philippa Gregory, part Barbara Erskine and part ghost story. Grace, who hasn't stopped moving since she was caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami, has ended up in York where she is sorting out her late godmother's affairs. She has never been to the city before so why does it seem so familiar and yet so different? And who is Hawise, the Tudor maidservant who she keeps hallucinating she is? She can't be possessed, can she?

I don't know the answer to those questions by the way because I am only on Chapter Five but so far it is totally enthralling and very atmospheric with a real sense of menace - and I am hooked!

York being the village masquerading as a city that it is, there were several guests at the launch that I knew, some I expected to see including fellow students from Pam's creative writing course, and a couple I really didn't, including a much loved colleague from years ago. It was lovely to catch up with Donna Douglas who is also a York writer. Her latest book The Nightingale Girls is currently flying high in the charts. This one I have finished reading and can thoroughly recommend. It's an engrossing read, set in a 1930s hospital with a huge cast of brilliantly written characters and with a brilliant sense of time and place.

I feel very lucky to know such talented writers who are so generous with their time, wisdom and advice. And who write such eminently readable books. So, if you'll excuse me I have an armchair to curl up in and a book to finish.