Monday, June 27, 2011

Day in the Life of a Writer

When I’m on a roll with my writing, my day goes something like this:
Wake up, reach for my laptop
Realize that this is not romantic.
Put laptop down, reach for husband instead.
Need caffeine, stagger out to the kitchen
Don’t notice breakfast – busy reading emails.
There’s one from my beta reader – scary!
She says there’s not enough sexual tension in my opening chapters.
I dismiss this and decide she doesn’t ‘get’ my story.
I check my Amazon rankings and adjust my mood accordingly.
Then I check twitter, youtube, facebook and blog to see if anyone likes me.
While I’m in the shower, I realise there isn’t enough sexual tension in chapter one.
I spend the morning putting dishes in the dishwasher and tension in my writing.
Then I write to my beta reader to thank her for saving me from embarrassment.
I consider buying ‘Scrivener’, but I am wedded to the time-honoured technique of writing my outlines on the back of old envelopes.
I write as many words as I can before I am interrupted by loud growling noises.
Hunger. Lunch is that great writer’s staple – the cheese sandwich.
After lunch I’m writing so fast my fingers are flying, I only stop for dire emergencies like the premature ejection of the Disney DVD that the twins are watching.
Round about 4pm I realise that I haven’t done any housework and the laundry pile is blocking the sun.
I fling on a load of washing and return to my writing.
I discover that much of what I wrote earlier needs deleting.
Husband arrives home and wants to know if there is any dinner.
I tell him that we had a busy day, plagued by problems with the DVD player.
We open the wine and start defrosting the dinner.
After dinner I try to resist the temptation to write anymore – guided by my belief that if I don’t find time to interact with real people I won’t have anything to write about.
Later, on the pretext of ‘checking for an important email’, I reach for my laptop again…

Did any of that sound familiar? You are not alone! If it didn't - I envy you - you lucky thing! And if you've got any tips for how to make writing and family life fit seamlessly together I would love to hear them ...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Love conquers all

Why do I read romantic fiction? 

The critics of the genre dismiss it as predictable, formulaic, addictive, unrealistic, pornographic, bad for your mind, bad for your soul, bad for your body image, bad for your relationships, or just plain BAD. If recent articles are to be believed, romance novels are giving us entirely the wrong idea about most things, but especially about pectoral definition and what can reasonably be expected from a man with a twinkle in his eye and a well-sprung mattress.

I hereby announce that I fully intend to keep reading romantic fiction, teen fiction, historical romance, paranormal romance … the list goes on. Will it damage my mind and ruin my marriage? Come on! It’s commercial fiction, for heaven’s sake, not a hallucinogenic drug. I’m curled up with a good book, keeping the bed warm for my husband, that’s all. I’m reliving the moment when I fell in love with him – not searching for something or someone that doesn’t exist. Who are these sad people who imagine that good times, handsome guys and great sex are ONLY found in romance novels, anyway?  They obviously lead very sheltered lives. I shall ignore them. I shall flout the danger and read on, despite the risk of becoming a wildly optimistic person who hopes, nay, EXPECTS to find love, happiness, and fulfillment in life!

Today – I want to address the complaint that ‘all romances are the same’. Here is a (very) random selection of books from my keeper shelf, and yes, in every case, LOVE CONQUERS ALL. But that isn’t the point. It’s WHAT love must conquer, and WHY.  Here are just a few of my favourites: heroes so troubled and tortured that they almost seem beyond love, and heroines with more (emotional) baggage than Rose DeWitt Bukater when she gets on board the Titanic. But don’t worry. Love conquers all.

In Captive of Sin (Anna Campbell) the hero has been hideously tortured. It hasn’t affected his face or other crucial-to-the-plot parts of his anatomy, but he is ‘ruined’ emotionally and scarred just about everywhere else.  This book has the sweetest description of BAD HONEYMOON SEX that I have ever read – and the story of how the couple overcome Gideon’s difficulties is enchanting.

In The Marriage Bed (Judith Arnold) the hero weds a girl who is already pregnant by someone else – thinking that he’ll get shot to pieces in Vietnam and she’ll get the widow’s pension. I was drawn into this book by the true-to-life struggle to get him back into bed when he comes home; a shattered veteran of a horrible war. Crucial to his recovery is his love for ‘his’ daughter – but circumstances threaten to take her away, and the trouble begins. 

In Love You to Death, author Meg Cabot gives us a supercilious heroine who can see dead people, and shows that no guy (who dumps you) is worth dying for. But what do you do if the guy you fall for is just a ghost? Teen angst and great dialogue. You just have to suspend your disbelief ...

In Evermore, Alyson Noel gives us a heroine changed forever by the loss of her family, and a hero whose grip on immortality is both a blessing and a curse. I liked the flashbacks into their past encounters, and I am seriously envious of Damen's bookshelf!

In Second Chance Family (Karina Bliss) the hero and heroine have split up, blaming themselves and each other for the death of their baby. They’ve moved on, met and married other people, and made as big a botch out of their new relationships as they did with each other. The odds are stacked against this couple, but fate pulls them together again.

In the classic novel Outlander (Diana Gabaldon), the hero and heroine cross several barriers, he’s younger, she’s older, he’s Scots, she’s English, he’s from a brutal, male-dominated past, she’s a forward-thinking modern woman. He's single, she's married. He's a virgin, she's not. Fireworks are guaranteed.

And last but not least, I want to draw your attention to a little Indie book that captured my heart. Replaced by a Stranger (KC Stone) deals with a young woman looking for love outside her marriage. The books reads like a powerful TV drama, and tells the story of a foolish mistake that rips a young family apart. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that one man emerges as a true hero from a heart-rending love triangle. 

I'd love to hear about some of your 'keeper' books - and what you like best about them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What the reviewers are saying ...

I’m so thrilled with the reviews I’ve been getting for SCANDAL AT THE FARMHOUSE that I decided to indulge myself and give you some of the best bits. To read the full text – just click on the links.

This SWEET, sweet story captivated me …. I probably should let you know that I read it on one sitting, why would I stop?? I challenge you!

‘Ms. Young does an outstanding job of telling the story of young Clara's complex life - in a time where women are seen as property that can be bartered over like livestock.’

‘Cody is an excellent writer. Not once did she remove me from the story with non-period language or convoluted sentence structure. Her tempo is well paced for a novella, something I admired immediately. Her understanding of Regency Romance is excellent. Her lovers, Clara and Ned, are delightful and the story is lively.’

'this novella is fast paced and great for an evening treat.’

'This is a super fast read - I started and finished it last night as “before I fall asleep” reading, it was just that quick.  The characters are oddly adorable (I know, it’s a crazy descriptor, but they are!!!!), and it was really easy to identify with Clara – who would want to be married to a stodgy old man and be immediately ripped away from the only family and life she’s ever known?  I mean really, come on now.  This is a wonderful romance story, and definitely not trashy reading.  Great characters and a fast paced plot – if you’re into those things, you should really get your hands on this book!’

Of course – not everyone loved it. One reviewer couldn’t get into it, hated the heroine, and described it as ‘a tale of lust’. This surprised me, because although Scandal at the Farmhouse has a pretty steamy sex scene, it is deeply romantic. But I’ve come to realise that to be a published writer you need to develop an objective attitude and a hide like a rhino, and just to show you that I’m not afraid of a less than glowing review, here’s the link. It goes to show that you have just seconds to grab the readers attention with your opening lines – so thanks to that reviewer I am studying that aspect of the writer’s craft harder than ever. Blog post on that coming soon!
Watch out too for my 'LOVE CONQUERS ALL' post that I'm working on right now.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June 6 - Anniversary of the Normandy Landings

D Day has special significance for me. It is the reason and the inspiration behind the first 'real' novel I ever wrote: American Smile. I wrote it in three months, writing flat out six or seven hours a day and editing what I had written at night. I loved that book - it is still the book of my heart. It's the story of a girl searching for the truth about her ancestry - with the help of an American aircraft mechanic who already knows (at least part of) the answer.
      Emma Rowland finds out her mother was adopted during world war two - which puts a different spin on her 'English' heritage. She realizes that everything she thought she knew about herself was wrong. She sets out to find out who her grandparents really were. She meets shy but sexy Tyler at a dance and he agrees to help her find out what happened and why it has all been hidden for so long. The trail leads to a sharp-tongued girl from the East End of London and a handsome young soldier known only as 'Joe'.
     As they uncover what happened to Joe and Vera more than sixty-five years ago, Emma and Tyler find that they too are are falling in love. Without giving too much away - Tyler is hiding two things: the secret he already knows about Emma's family tree, and the fact that he knows a lot more about airplanes than he does about women!

      I decided to call the book 'American Smile' because of a chance remark that was made to me once at a party (which inspired the incident in the opening chapter, yes). A guy told me I had an American smile, and I didn't have the first idea what he meant, since I was born in England. Since then, I discovered that my own grandfather was involved in the D-Day landings and never returned. I can't tell you his name, but I think of him as 'Joe'. If, like Emma, I ever get the chance to go to Normandy and visit the graves of the fallen - I shall lay my flowers on the grave of the unknown soldiers. 
     I wrote American Smile for the anniversary of D-Day, and I've just made it available on kindle for 99c. There's a print version that you can buy on Amazon, too. The story is fictional, but it is based on a whole lot of historical research and inspired by a true story. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.