Monday, 30 September 2013

HARVESTING YOUR THOUGHTS



In the Northern Hemisphere you’re all thinking about harvesting and battening down for the coming winter.  You have Halloween, with pumpkins hollowed out with cut-out faces and candles lit inside them. I believe you put these on your door step. You’re enjoying the color of autumn, the brisk winds spreading their colorful leaves over the ground and you’re making the most of every hot sunny day that sneaks its way into autumn’s progress, lulling you with memories of summer.
When your winter storms hit we hear about them on our news, in the midst of our summer days while we sit around in the long evenings, enjoying barbeques,  and the benefits of daylight saving - except for the children who refuse to go to bed while the sun is up.
September and October in the Southern Hemisphere are a time of hope and growth. We hope for a nice wet spring, warm enough to make the trees blossom and the grass grow. Our palates are blessed with the crunch of freshly picked asparagus, lightly steamed, then drizzled with melted butter and garlic. We don’t enjoy the equinox winds that sometimes blow from September till December, drying the ground, bending the trees and blasting the residents with its sharp edges, because winter is inclined to lash it tail down here, Down Under.
While you are snuggling down to write this autumn, preparing to put into words all your ideas and themes that summer activities have stopped you from doing – think of us. September October is when we dash out into the garden, plant and nurture, dreaming of a bountiful harvest.
Halloween is not very exciting down under.  An American custom, it’s still catching on. Children dress in costumes and knock on the door for treats.  Don’t ask them for a trick, they have no idea what you mean.  It’s like a begging trail. No pumpkins, but lots of witches and fearsome masks. Noses are turned up at homemade cookies, shop-bought sweets are the preferred treats. There is considerable parental resistance to this pseudo holiday.
Finding time to write in spring becomes a search for elusive minutes. Where have they gone? They’ve migrated north, to you. This is your opportunity to finish that novel, complete that poem, solve that plot hole and submit the romance you’ve rewritten three times. Grab the chance while your fellow authors, Down Under, are in the tight grasp of spring on the energy carousel.
I hope you enjoy your autumn and winter. I envy you, tucked up tight, snug inside, perhaps snowbound even, with all our spare minutes piled up in the hallway for you to use – until come April/May they wing their way south once more, for me to snaffle and devour.
Grab them, cherish them, use them well. I’ll be waiting for the leftovers!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

SEX IS SO SUBJECTIVE!




When it comes to writing about sex I’ve decided that the definition of erotic is entirely subjective to the reader. What to you and I might be a bit of hanky-panky fun, lightly illuminated and passed over quickly, can to another reader be shocking and extremely rude.

A reporter wanted to interview me about my futuristic romance novellas, so I sent her the cover and a blurb of my first book.  When I didn’t hear from her, I rang.”Oh, it’d be far too rude for me,” she said, “It says it’s erotic.” Ergo: no interview, without her even reading it.

I recently discussed with my editor the classification of a new release which has two paragraphs of sex in the whole 42,500 words. Sensual was the classification we finally agreed upon. However, my editor told me that when the writer stops at the bedroom door it is a “sweet” romance. When the bedroom door is open the classification is ‘erotic’: no in-between, no door ajar, no keyhole peeps just a door wide-open erotic classification. Of course there’s the flame rating, but I’m sure the ‘erotic’ classification must put off a lot of readers, who don’t even notice the flame rating. Perhaps the image of door and how far it is open, could become an alternative graphic for the heat rating of a novel.

On the funny side the daughter of a friend recently purchased one of my futuristic romances.  She told her mother she loved it and thought it was well written – but she now wonders, she told her mother, how she is going to sit and have a cup of tea with me ever again, having read the sex scenes. I didn’t like to ask if her reading experience has improved my image or tarnished it?

On another occasion I reached the last chapter of a novel without the two main characters having the opportunity to get together for some hanky-panky. I had a choice: leave out the sex and have a sweet romance, or put in a steamy climax and reward the reader for sticking with me the whole way. On asking for advice my editor said. “The choice is yours, but sex sells.” So once again I closed my eyes, stretched out my hands and with flying fingers gave my imagination free reign. Luckily I’m a touch typist and can do this when required to.

Now my grandchildren are reading my romances! Bang goes my reputation, out the window.  Fat chance now of being remembered as a sweet old lady. If nothing else I hope it helps them establish a warm, physical, relationship in their mature years. If they are ever stuck they can drag out one of my stories, find the well worn pages, turn to their partner and say “Grandma says………”
In fact I sometimes wonder from the prudery (new word I’ve just found) abroad how the human race continues to increase. Perhaps only the broad minded are breeding.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

IF IT ISN'T YOU - IT'S IRRELEVANT WHO WINS.



If it isn't you then it's irrelevant who wins.
At the moment I’m between projects.  I’ve just finished my first attempt at a Young Adult and I’m waiting for my brain to create a few bones to hang my next romance on.  I already have the two main characters and their personal conflicts, I just need some events/signposts to work toward; plus extra drama prior to the  resolution.

In the meantime I‘ve sent off several pieces of poetry to on-line poetry sites and a sestina to an international competition. I have resurrected two short fiction pieces and rewritten them, padding them out, adding senses, cutting away the dross I hadn’t previously recognized. I tightened up the story line and pace; and clarified a conflict. They’ve been shot off to a National Short Story contest. I don’t expect to be placed but the competition entry meant I had to revisit them. It was the spur I needed. I could now sub them elsewhere, knowing they are of a higher standard.

The result of entering any competition can only be a ‘good’ result. What you gain from entering is a fresh look at your work. You will be delighted at some of the prose you’ve created, possibly stunned at the errors you’ve found, but most of all you’ve fleshed out the bones. Just like a skeleton every story’s bones are different, although they follow a basic structure. Your bones are your individual voice and style. Don’t let them hang around. Give them a shake, wrap some flesh around them, change the heads about, alter the path they are walking. Rewrite that prose and send it off to find a new home.

I refuse to pay huge amounts to enter a competition. I look for those that are free or cost very little. I consider my time to be the price of the entry. Don’t get caught in a carousel of expensive competition entries. Pick one that appeals or could apply to a piece you have already written; and tweak your effort to suit the contest.
As I said at the beginning: it’s irrelevant who wins if it isn’t you!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

INSUFFICIENT SEX IS A SIN!




Today I received a rejection from a publishing company because my submitted novella “wasn’t erotic enough”. It made me smile.  I truly didn’t mind. I won’t be adding to the already explicit descriptions, or leaving home to indulge in some physical research sessions.  I have a fairly vivid imagination which fills in the gaps in my experience and knowledge.

 I can’t write a story without a plot. Scene after scene of erotic romping that doesn’t aid the plot, move  on the progress of the story line or is simply there for the sake of more sex, is not my style. I’m writing a story, not a series of descriptions of a physical marathon performed in situ, with gymnastic moves.

I did the best I could and I now have to find a home for this less than erotic romance. I could add some more sex scenes but I would then need to add lots of dialogue to keep my interest alert.  Perhaps I could introduce a sub-plot that is only ever discussed during sex? A different approach to consider but, nah, I don’t think so.

It boils down to this: I wrote it, I like it, and I’m happy to have it molder away in my pc’s innards than rewrite it adding lots of sex scenes.  I know it’s been done in the Grey story, but even that story had a compelling layering to it which made you read all three books to find out why the male lead acted like he did.  I don’t want my readers to be thinking as I did by the second book - ‘another sex scene. I’ll skip those pages and get back to the real story.’

Thinking of this reminds me of the comment made by Elmore Leonard in No. 10 of his rules of writing: “Try and leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

With that in mind I might have to remove all the sex scenes and turn it into a murder mystery instead.