Wednesday 21 December 2011

Featured Writer - Challenge No 27 - Sparkle!

Hello everyone! No doubt due to Christmas preparations our entries were down this challenge. Some have told me that they won't be able to post til the New Year, but I'll be keeping RFWer operational for those of us who are getting back into the swing of it!

Thanks to each and every one of you for your entries this week. Glad to see such powerful poetry packing a punch again! All entries so different but each so unique for our Sparkle theme.

A warm welcome back to Ruth. It was great to be reading about Stewart again. An excellent snippet. I'm sure we all enjoyed reading Anna's unique entry, complete with personal photos of her charming children. Simran wrote a heart-warming story whereas Francine entertained us with her twisted fairy tale. Roland managed to weave some more sparkle into his characters Victor and Alice while I had a smile on my face the whole time I was writing my Christmas Lights story.

So you've probably worked out by now that I can't help going with our powerful poets this week. All three stole the show with their sparkly imagery.

Tie for Runner Up. Andy, whose 'words are like music on a battlefield' is our first Runner Up, and Adura's poem which was inspirational as she penned a poem based on a real-life experience of keeping the spark alive, shares second place with Andy. Congratulations to Andy and Adura for such wonderful words this week. Both contained that romantic element.

Our Featured Writer this week could be none other than Heaven whose poetry, or prosetry as Adura called it, absolutely sparkled with romance and tragedy. Her Christmas Star poem blew me away with its story of deep love and 'hope...fluttering, sparkling in his chest.' So a big round of applause to Heaven! Her poem can be found on the Featured Writer page. I see two other people as well as myself have voted for Heaven as FW this week.

Please keep those poems/stories coming each fortnight.

Looking forward to reading about those Ties That Bind on December 30. By then your fingers should be twitching to get back to writing.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Denise (L'Aussie)

My little Christmas tree at my apartment. 
A much bigger one awaits at the beach. 

Sunday 11 December 2011

Challenge No 27 for December 16 - Sparkle! Challenge open to all!

Our current challenge is Sparkle! There's lots of sparkly things around at the moment so writing to this theme should be a delight. That doesn't mean your stories have to be all sweetness and light - there could be more to the sparkle than meets the eye.

As I've written on the Challenges page -

What sparkles in your life? What sparkles in your WIP? How many sparkly things can you think of? How can you make your story unique? What wouldn't you expect to sparkle, yet it did? Come on, challenge yourself! Sparkle us all with your 400 words of fairy dust!

An interesting little Sparkle poem can be found at the above link.

I got my idea for my Sparkle! story from a newspaper article (well, actually I often get ideas there!) Where do you get your ideas from? We know Nancy Williams dreams hers up when she's ill, Francine sees movies in her head, I get my ideas from a first sentence here or there or a photo, painting - newspaper, magazine, book, film...What about you? Leave a comment and tell us...

Linky will be up this Thursday December 15th so have those works of art ready!

Denise (L'Aussie)

Thursday 8 December 2011

Featured Writer - Challenge No 26 - Response to Image - The House in the Snow

Hi all! Great to be back and writing stories/poems for RFWer isn't it? Just finished my second sweep in quest of a winner for Featured Writer. I heartily plead with you if you have not disallowed 'Word Verification' please help your readers out by getting rid of it. It really serves no purpose other than to slow down your speedy commenters.

Welcome to our new followers. I hope you tippy toed around and read some entries and gained enough confidence to join us for our theme Sparkle! on December 16. I'm polishing my baubles in readiness!

I'm trialling a poll this week. It may be a bit of a dud as I didn't get the word around early enough, but I hope to poll you all on your choices in future. I know it's tempting to just vote for yourself, and that's okay if you really think yours was the best story. To overcome that I've been researching different polls and found one where we can have two votes. The Blogger Poll is very basic - allows one or multiple! (Postscript: Yes, a bit of a dud as only half voted when I went to air and no doubt some self votes there).

So, to our entries this week. The image conjured up largely atmospheric pieces. It was great reading the many and varied descriptions, along with misty characters. Thank you all so much for hours of reading pleasure. Being an Aussie from Queensland in the north/east of Oz, snow is strictly reserved for trips to Europe in the northern winter, of which I've had a few. Even been in a blizzard from Brussels to Luxembourg. Will never forget that! Magical! Whoops, sidetracked. Most of you are quite familiar with snow, especially at Christmas.

As always, it was terribly difficult to narrow down the wonderful entries to two sparkling ones. Most entries had atmosphere, great characters, some romance, some nostalgia, er, and some ghostly apparitions.

I must give an honourable mention to Anna, whose story this week was so great. Anna, participating in RFWer has improved your writing remarkably. I'd be enchanted if you took the Encouragement Award again this week for your sweet and mystical story of Jakob and Jenny.

Now to runner up. Maybe because it resonated with me with the idea of experiencing a different kind of Christmas, yet hot and steamy in the cold clime. I loved the sensual goodness of Kerrin Hearfield's Snowed In. Congratulations Kerrin for a wonderful response to image. Please take the Runner Up badge for your blog.

Featured Writer this week goes to a traditional story of mistletoe, the heart-rending yet heart-warming story of two lost souls finding each other. Yes, Nancy William's story of Jane and Martin touched me. Nancy is a fine writer and her story zoomed to the top of my chart. Nancy, please take the Featured Writer badge for your blog. I'll be adding your story to our Featured Writer page.

I thought the quality was very good this week, maybe because there was more time to think about our stories/poems. I won't forget Adura's 'misled toes' for awhile, or Li's poignant story of homecoming, the romance of a place. We saw Andy speak with a somewhat different edgy voice this week with his cruel lover. And Donna's creepy ghost story will have me looking over my shoulder should I be renting a Christmas Cottage, lol. Everyone, you are such a great group of writers. I can't mention you all, heck, why not - Marsha, your story enchanted me, Roland, loved your Inn at the End of the World, Ballerina's Smile, a beautiful sensuous poem, Francine, as always your historical romance sweeps me away and I quite liked my little girl and her Dada. There were many potential winners this week! Can't wait to see you Sparkle!

Have a great writing week.

Looking forward to your entries for Sparkle! on December 16!

Denise (L'Aussie)

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Guest Post No 5 - Nancy Williams on Critiquing - are you a 'blaster' or 'respectful?'

Hello! Today we have our final guest post before we begin our writing challenges. I know most of you have been super busy. I've been visiting many of your blogs and been inspired by the body of work. 

Welcome to new followers. You're most welcome to post to the challenges, but you need to become a member to be eligible for the Featured Writer, Runner Up or the Encouragement Award. Becoming a member is easy, just read the Submissions Page then join up using the linky in the right sidebar.

I hope you're ready to post to the first challenge for this Friday, December 2. On Thursday linky will go up, ready to receive your fabulous prose or poems in response to the image in the left sidebar. Don't forget to click on the image for further inspiration. This challenge is open to everyone as are all our challenges! I'll be asking for help in choosing a Featured Writer so the award system will continue.

I'm also putting up the next challenge, Sparkle!, for two-week's time, Friday, December 16. This is my response to those who thought a month was too long between challenges. Will be great to have another challenge before the holidays.

So over to Nancy, a RFWer member from Denver, Colorado. Nancy has been very ill and I wish her a speedy recovery. Thank you for rising from your sick bed Nancy, and posting for us...

Critique: What works and what doesn't.

Hi everyone:

Denise has asked me to put together a post on critique. I hope this is helpful.

I have been a member of a local writers group for over eighteen years. In those years I have been a member of an in-person critique group and after only a few years I became the moderator of that group. That said I know a little about critique.

There are two types of groups. One that is hard core, nothing withheld, blasts you out of the water with their comments. The other type is respectful.

The 'blasters' believe that only this type of group will benefit a writer. They give no positive feedback. They tell it like it is. What's wrong with that? Critique is opinion. Many of the 'blasters' are not published. Often, they don't know what they are talking about. For example, I had a friend who was advised to change her voice. What is our voice; it is who we are and what we present our characters as. Why? Because she is an Italian American and thinks and talks in that kind of lingo and her series is a suspense drama featuring mob bosses. But they are misguided and totally hilarious. Not the average mob story. However, after reading only one chapter to the 'blasters,' she was told to change her voice. None of them knew what the story was about. (An editor has requested her book.)

A respectful group is the best. Why? Many of us are sensitive people. When you read our writing, you have a window into our hearts. It is hurtful to leave comments that are over the top negative and it isn't necessary. All of us had to start writing at some level. I trust that no one here is perfect, I certainly am not. A 'blaster' may easily harm a new writer, even a seasoned writer making it hard for that person to continue to write. I know several talented writers who put away their stories after being 'blasted' never to write again. A tragedy.

Examples: In my group I once had a married couple and the lady would start her comments with; "I would never buy this book, but…" Hello! Don't tell someone that. You're not looking at the final product. I repeatedly had to correct her and finally they left.

I was once told that my characters, (not in a current published book), were spoiled and he didn't want to read about that. Guess what, I couldn't work on that book for over a year. The argument for such a comment is; I need to show the characters change and grow. This person wasn't into fantasy and had a journalist background. His mistakes were always the same because he brought a journalistic style of writing to a fictional piece. This is different than voice, since it is dry and concise writing.

How to give feedback:

Our comments to each other are limited because of the blog structure.

The most important thing is to start with praise. What works? There is always something that the writer created that stands out.

Next, find one or two mistakes unless the writer has asked for more. If I have come across a 'blaster' comment for one of you all, I try to say something that helps elevate what that person has said. Remember, 'blasters' do not know everything even though they pretend to.

Don't touch a person's voice. We all have our own unique voice, if it doesn't work for you leave it alone.

In the blogging world, we come into contact with people from all over the world.
Don't assume they share the same writing rules. If you don't understand a reference, you’re a writer, look it up, increase your vocabulary.

I hope this will help. In January, 2012, I will add a critique post to my blog and take your questions. I believe examples are the best tools we can provide.

To all my RFW's friends, I look forward to reading your stories.

Thanks for having me Denise.

Thank you Nancy for your informative post. Critique can be problematic so we need all the help we can get. 

Madeleine has made a checklist for us to consider when commenting on each other's writing. In conjunction with Nancy's post, this should prove very helpful, along with the critique postcard that is available to use with your posts.

Now, let's get our stories and poems ready for linky on Thursday. Have a great weekend reading each other's stories. Don't miss Sparkle! the challenge for Friday, December 16...

RFW challenges are back!

Denise (L'Aussie)

Wednesday 23 November 2011

No 4 Guest Blogger & Bad Book Reviews - Francine Howarth

Today's guest needs little introduction, so I give you Francine Howarth, writer of Regency romance. Today she is sharing her take on bad reviews. Have you had one or two? If you're as yet unpublished, gird up your loins, because not all reviews are good! But Francine says they can work in your favour...

Hi RFWers and followers!

Well you can relax, the last thing I’m going to do is promote myself or my writing. Nor is this meant as a sympathy vote post. Hell, you must all know where my serious-writer blog is located and, that updates on latest releases are posted as and when along with book trailers.  If you don’t, it’s here. ;)

Here at RFWers we’ve had guest bloggers who’ve talked about “how-to write romance, how-they write and what inspired them”.  So, I thought I’d talk about something a lot of writers think won’t happen to them and when it does it comes as a shock. Now the sad fact of life is, that as soon as your book goes public it’s open to scrutiny from readers who are neither family, friends, fellow groupie writers nor critique partners. You are now fair game to raw critique and social graces of some reviewers leaves a lot to be desired.

Fear of a bad book review is something all published authors learn to live with, yet nonetheless dread them. In fact, some authors within our blogosphere have received the odd one or two since their books hit Amazon, and the bad reviews knocked them for six. Yeah, it’s not nice if a bad review pops up, but the best way is to ignore it and never respond by comment to the reviewer. If you do you fall into the trap of making that reviewer feel even more self-important, and said person will feed off the attention granted them.

Now let’s assess outcome of a bad review.

Can a bad review of a book be detrimental to sales of said book, more especially if the reviewer declares your book to be crap? The answer to that is NO. A bad review is likely to draw more attention to your book than dozens of good reviews. So don’t panic and don’t fret if a bad review surfaces. Books reviewed by professional reviewers, as in Sunday Newspaper supplements and magazines, will consist of overall summary and no spoilers. It’s rare in today’s newspaper or magazine review columns to see a bad review, yet in the 1960s and long before scathing reviews of books were quite common and some critics were infamous and dreaded by all authors.

With the coming of Amazon, Smashwords and Goodreads etc., has come the every “wo/man and their dog/cat” who thinks themselves a book reviewer. But, where a “professional book reviewer” now has a publisher remit of “just give a summary, no spoilers for God’s sake and don’t kick up a storm of protest to vile reviews” your average Amazon reviewer seems to have no concept of what a spoiler is (reveal of plot inclusive ending), and most reviews blow the gaff either as glowing or vile reviews.   

But a BAD review can up your book sales. Strange as it may seem, people are curious creatures and BAD draws out the GOOD in most of us and what do we do when a bad book review pops up, we want to know for ourselves how BAD it is and more often than not the book is stunning for all the right reasons, in that it likely make us stop and think! I would imagine Sara Craven (Mills & Boon) author who dares to push boundaries has adopted elephant hide, because poor Sara has had more than her fair share of stick from Amazon reviewers. First off she was slammed for having a rape scene, and for having a heroine whom fell in love with the rapist. And, ever since that book it seems some reviewers purposely go out of their way to criticise her and ridicule her plots. Yeah, it’s a tough call to carry on writing when knowing malicious anonymous persons are lying in wait for your next book.

Luckily I have elephant hide, and I laughed like crazy when my latest “Scandalous Whispers” received the following review:

  “The hero and heroine are apart because of her mother's desire for Christina to marry a mean rake earl. Why Christina doesn't tell her silly mother she wants to marry Robert instead of the creepy earl and tell what the creep tries to do to get her alone and force his intentions on her is ridiculous! I love romance stories but this one just really misses the mark”.

Now bear in mind this reviewer titled the review thus: “Insipid”.

Did this review upset me? No.

Why not? Answer: I don’t do “Insipid”.  

As RFWers you all know that to say I write “Insipid stories” would be like saying I have a penchant for wearing pink, have fluffy pom-pom slippers and have a rose-tinted view on romance and adore stereotypical characters and mushy plots. As if – when in real life I love the waft of horse sweat, and don’t take kindly to horse shit from swanky dudes. The latter, fortunately, characterisation or caricature if you prefer, is moi, who loves a bit of romancing whilst able to smell a rat at fifty-paces. On the other hand, my character Christina is a young lady of the Regency era, and well brought up young ladies at that time were swayed by parental influence and often faced with arranged marriages.

Damn it all a 21st century chick-lit female is more than likely to knee a jerk / rake in his jewels and deflate all the tyres on his Porsche if he came on too strong. While a Regency Miss is far more likely to conceal immoral advances from a rake she despises for fear her parents think the worst and, get her wed to him quick sharp. After all, parental intention will be to prevent any scandal and save her from consequences out of wedlock despite protests that her chastity remains in tact. BTW: the latter is not my plot, there’s more to it than that simple equation. That said, there are 21st century women who can be pushy executives and high-flying businesswomen, yet become putty or simmering wrecks if a guy breaks through their defensive shield  and embeds a twisting screw! Same can be said of dude counterparts when temptation leads and things don't go his way!

Let’s be honest, here. Stand a 21st century young lady alongside one from the early 1800s little comparison can be drawn between them, beyond that of pent up emotions, raging hormones and young love exposed along with despair when things go badly wrong. So, what I’m saying is that the above review is written by a 21st century female who has little or no knowledge of life in Jane Austen’s era or, chooses to ignore it.  And, the strange aspect to the above review is that the heroine doesn’t even know if the hero is interested in her when the rake makes immoral advances, so why in hell should she tell her mother she loves Robert? I’m fairly sure this reviewer hasn’t even read the book, and has set up her review on the basis of info from the blurb alone and from reading the sample pages.

So let’s take a look at the differences in social behaviour 21st century Vs 1800s. Most young ladies born to gentry in the 1800s had little chance to rebel, their allowances ad dowry were subject to parental hand out, and if a young lady chose to run away she would have forfeited her allowance and her dowry. Young ladies of rank in the 1800s were very much under the control of parental persuasions, and I doubt many ran away for how were they to raise funds? That aspect I shall leave to your imaginations. And yes, some great storylines could come out of this kind of situation, but most would no doubt - in real-life 1800 mode - end in tragedy unlike the rosy-glow endings of your average historical romance novel. On the other hand a 21st century young women has every opportunity for independent living, and to make something of herself no matter her background. Success boils down to good manners, self-confidence and go-getting what it is you want from life. Sitting on your arse criticising others because they’re getting on with success is pitiful.          

So, chins up, and if you ever get a bad review, look on it as your having arrived on the book scene. Because hey, (a shout-out) someone other than a friend has gone out of their way to post up a shit review, which in itself says more about the reviewer than it does about your book. ;)

And so I say to my wonderful anonymous book reviewer (just in case you’re reading this): thanks for stopping by to post up your review. You did me a great service! Because, in essence, I was stuck for something to write about for this guest post and you provided the inspiration for a sufficiently long post to bore the pants off RFWers! :)

Have a lovely day

Francine X

Thanks Francine. Now let's hear what you think. Drop us a comment - do you agree with Francine's take on bad reviews? Do you have a story to share?

Don't forget our Dec 2 Writing Challenge - see sidebar/challenge page for details!

Denise (L'Aussie)

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Guest Post No 3 - Kate Walker on romance writing - Training Yourself as a Plotter. Reminder - Dec 2 Challenge!

Hi RFW members and guests. First, a message for all! Our December 2 Challenge is not that far away, so I'm reminding our members to get those stories/poems underway, and invite anyone who'd like to participate in the challenge to take the image for your sidebar, prepare your post, then sign up with the linky here on December 1st!

Challenge - December 2nd. Respond to this image in story/poetic form. 600 words maximum. Check out our Challenge Page above for more stimulus/details.

Now, over to our guest Kate Walker.

Today I'm taking a brief look at one of those questions - the one that every writer gets asked (often more than once) at every stage of their careers. And the question is:
Where do you get your ideas?
The honest answer is 'Life' - I have often tried to persuade my accountant that life is a claimable expense for a novelist but sadly I haven't yet managed it.  But every day I see, hear or read something  that interests me, intrigues me, amuses me and I often spend time wondering how I can work it into a novel.
So here are some of the tips and techniques I use when trying to come up with a new idea. Because, believe me, after 60  books, it can be difficult to think of something fresh and interesting - and something I want to write. I always work from the characters and their motivations, but I have to have some ideas as a ‘setting’ – a place to put them and a reason to start them off on their journey.
Filling the imagination ‘well’
Read Read Read – learn the plots that make successful romances – or any other type of story -  in the past and in the present – and the ones that have failed
Think about them – which ones can you still use?
Which ones will need changing to make them work today?
How?  In my own line, things like the use of condoms – for sexual health as well as contraception, scans, DNA tests have all changed the so-called ‘secret baby’ story from the  way it used to be when I first started writing.
So if you take those changes into account to make it more believable for today – how does that change the story and change the characters’ motivations and actions?
How could you turn a plot on its head?
For example -
Have her kidnap him instead of having him kidnap her? (I did this in Captive Lover 1987)
She wants the marriage of convenience and sets the terms for it – or thinks she does. ( The Hired Husband 1999). Changing the person who initiates the action changes the whole perspective, the balance of the set  up   and so makes everything develop along a very different path.
But of course you will always have to consider that most important question of all – the question WHY – why would this happen? Why would your character do this?
Take a different fork in the road
Watch soaps/dramas/films – stop it halfway – or at the end of the episode – ask yourself:
Where is it going?
Who will end up with whom?
What conflict/problem/sudden revelation/black moment is the writer going to bring in?
How could you do it differently?
What twists could you bring in?
Who could they end up with instead?
What if . . .?
People watch – in reality and in print
Read newspapers/magazines/watch people stories on TV – use them as your characters - see if you can see what will happen – check it against reality.
I once switched the radio on when I was about to do some ironing and I heard a man say ‘when I first held my son it meant so much because I was an abandoned baby and never knew my parents. So, alone of everyone in the world, he was the only other person who had my blood in his veins.’ I just switched off the iron(No hard decision there!) and went to write down that line and all the ideas that it had sparked off in my head for a story that would involve all those emotions he was talking about.
How could you rework a fairy story –
Gothic Cinderella?
Beauty and the Beast?
Or a classic ?
Jane Eyre?
Pride and Prejudice?
I just reworked Wuthering Heights for my new novel The Return of the Stranger and it was an amazing challenge.  There are no truly original plots in the whole of fiction   so you can’t hope to be desperately original – but you can be authentic  and put your personal spin on an old story so making it fresh and new.
 With every story you read, watch, hear - think about what was behind it, who is involved, why it happened - and consider what will happen next. Very soon just a phrase or even a name can spark you off. I know. I once wrote a book (long ago) simply because I was determined to get into the story the line 'I don't know who the hell you are, but you're certainly not my wife!' I did it too.  That was in a book I wrote years ago -   way back in 1988 - Chase the Dawn and I still get letters about that novel.

And the winner of Kate's novel from last week's post is Madeleine Maddocks! Congratulations Madeleine, and would you contact Kate via her website? Enjoy!

Thank you Kate. I learnt so much and I'm sure you have too. Thanks for sharing. Also thanks to my good mate Nas Dean from Romance Book Paradise in Fiji who answered my call for a guest poster. I think Nas has done us proud. 

Denise (L'Aussie)

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Guest Post No 2 - Kate Walker on romance writing...and a book giveaway!

Hello Romantic Friday Writers, members and guests. Today I have another special guest for you, this time to speak to us about romance writing, because that’s what we’re all about. I’ve tried to stress that romance writing doesn’t have to be all hearts and flowers and Kate Walker feels the same. Whether you’re writing a full-length romance novel, a novella, romantic poetry or romantic flash fiction, you will learn something today that will enhance your writing.

When I did a library catalogue search at my local library on Kate, there were 39 titles available. So Kate knows a thing or two about writing and publishing romance. We're not turning into a book giveaway blog but Kate is just so sweet she insisted on offering a free book to a commenter. I'll draw your name using may choose from any of Kate's books at the end of this post.

Take it away, Kate. 

Why I Write Romance

I’ve been thinking about writing romance - going back to basics and starting right from the beginning. This tied in with the fact that whenever I do a workshop  - as I’ve been doing for the Mills & Boon New Voices Contest – or other events like talking at a Festival of Women's Writing about my latest book 'The Return of The Stranger'  then someone - usually a reporter or radio interviewer has asked me the question 'Are you a romantic person?' I usually answer yes, but add 'if being romantic means caring deeply about things and about the other person - it doesn't necessarily mean hearts and flowers and all those things that the stores would like us to BUY to show how ‘romantic’ we are.'  The problem is that then when the quote appears the second half of it is usually missed off. 

Then recently, in a Q&A I was doing, I was asked what was the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me and I found that incredibly difficult to answer.  I couldn't think of something that would sound romantic  - to other people - and that was when I realised that, deep down, the most romantic things are often not the ones that people might really expect - and that got me thinking about Romance and what it means to me and why I write it.

You see, I think one of the reasons why I ended up writing for Harlequin Presents is that I don't find hearts and flowers and boxes of chocolates truly 'romantic'. Don't get me wrong - they're all very nice in their place and I'm never going to turn down a beautiful  (though I’ll pass on the chocolates – I struggle enough with my weight!) gift, but they are not at the heart of romance.

Let me tell you a story - a real life story - a real life romance story.

Once upon a time there was a lovely lady - she was beautiful, intelligent, generous, hard working - and very lonely. She had married young to a man she adored but the marriage had broken down irretrievably and they had parted very bitterly. She had young children to care for and she focused her life on them. She was a deeply committed Catholic and never thought of divorce - it just wasn't possible for her. But she got on with life, she bought a little house, she had a tiny garden and in that garden she grew roses.

She'd been brought up in Ireland, in the countryside and she always said that the best thing to fertilise roses was donkey manure. So if anyone ever asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she would always say she's love a load of donkey manure for her roses. But because she was a lady and elegant and stylish, everyone laughed and thought she didn't mean it– she couldn't want donkey poo! - so they gave perfume or chocolates and that sort of thing as gifts.

Some years later she met a lovely man - he came to work where she did and they fell for each other. But the lady's husband was still alive, and she still believed that she couldn’t get a divorce. And the new man was a Catholic too so he understood. Eventually there came a time when he couldn't bear staying and not being able to be with the person he loved. So he applied for a job a long way away and he got it and prepared to leave. But just before he left it was the lady's birthday and on the day he left he came to her house in his car - and in the car were sackloads of donkey manure for her roses. Those roses grew beautifully ever after.

That's romance. That's caring for the other person more than for yourself. It's giving the person you love what they need - what they want - not what you think they want. It's understanding that, no matter how much you might want something for them, it will not necessarily be right for them and it will make them unhappy even if you make them go along with it. True romance finds a way to love the person as they need to be loved.

So when I'm writing a romance, I'm not writing the sort of book that people describe as ' a soppy love story' or 'hearts and flowers'  or 'chocolate box' romances where the heroine is moping around without a man in her life and then when she meets the hero she 'swoons away' or her heart races in her 'heaving bosom'.  I try to write real relationships between people who really could exist. (Okay in a Presents novel the hero is usually a billionaire - but take away all the money and the power and the success and he's just a MAN underneath it all - and it's that man's problems I like to deal in.)

When I think of romance, I think of the way it originated as stories in mediaeval times - when knights of old used to court ladies - and act as her champion and fight for her honour at a tournament or in a duel or in battle. That meant really fight. A knight could be injured, maimed, killed - he took great risks for his lady and often she took them for him too - because women had very little choice in who they could marry and dreadful things could happen to her if she fell in love with the wrong man.  Modern romance (or Modern Romance if I'm thinking about the books in the UK! ie Presents) is very different and yet very much the same. The heroes and heroines I write about today aren't likely to be executed or killed in a hand to hand fight (though there might be a risk of that in some suspense story) so perhaps the physical risks are less violent.

But the emotional risks are every bit as dangerous - the emotional stakes every bit as high - or they should be.

Love is something we all crave - something we all hope for, dream of, work towards. It's what adds a special value to life and puts a whole new light onto each day. But love can bring those dangers as well - the loss of someone you love is the most devastating blow you can suffer. And the moment we accept that we love, we are also forced to accept the possibility of that loss.  But often love also gets trivialised - 'If you love her buy her XXXX chocolates' or 'show you care - with a bunch of red roses . . .'

Anyone can put on the trappings of romance these days - there are cards for every event, flower arrangements you don't have to think about, perfume or jewellery advisors in every shop. The ‘soaps’ are full of characters who say 'I love you' and then move on to someone new when the script writers believe that the story has got boring - because happiness is boring! It's when the chips are down, when the hard times come, when loving is a struggle, that real romance shows itself.  And that's why I write Presents. I write about characters who are faced with difficulties, with problems that could destroy their love- and they hang in there, fighting for what's important. For their love and the love of the other person.

And all the clich├ęs in the world - all the money, power, red roses, perfume . . . can't solve those problems for them - it's only by going into their own hearts and having the courage to be honest and open that they can win this particular battle. They might not risk death like those knights of old - but they do risk the death of their hearts and that's the real danger for a human being, no matter what century they live in.

So romance isn't in the things that can be faked - it's in staying with someone through good and bad 'for richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health.' It's in working at it and dealing with the hard stuff and caring enough for the other person to find ways through the darkness to the light.

Okay, I'd better get off my soapbox now,

But this is what is in my mind when I'm writing - that I need to show that this particular heroine is the love of this particular hero's life - and if I don't convince my readers that they're right for each other then I've failed. If they are going to be blown apart by some trivial problem or bicker so hard all through the story and then say 'Oh, I'm sorry - I love you' - it doesn't convince me - so how can it convince any reader? And if he treats her appallingly and doesn't have very good reasons for it - and she lets him walk all over her without a protest - then what sort of future would they have together? That's not love  - and it's certainly not romantic, not in my book. My heroes sometimes make terrible mistakes and behave badly as a result -but the heroines fight back. And when whoever made the mistake  ( because it can so often be the heroine as much as the hero)  realises what they've done they do the best thing they can to put it right  - because all the grovelling and apologising in the world is really pretty self indulgent - it not saying I'm sorry/I love you/I'll change over and over and over again - it's doing it.  Or refusing to do something if you know it's wrong. Sometimes the hardest thing you have to fight for love is the person that you love!.

That's what I try to put into my books - strong passions, strong characters, strong love - which I hope creates a strong romance  That's the main reason why I write Presents because the books offer me the chance to write about the things I believe in.


Thank you Kate. It was such a pleasure having you with us today.

So what do you think?
  • Did Kate inspire your romance writing journey?
  • Do you struggle with writing romance?
  • Are there any further questions you have on the topic?
If you'd like to read one of Kate's books, please leave a comment to see if it's your lucky day! I'll announce the winner at next Wednesday's guest post.

The Greek Tycoon’s Unwilling Wife
Bedded By The Greek Billionaire
Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride
The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge
The Good Greek Wife?
Kept for Her Baby
The Konstantos Marriage Demand
Cordero’s Forced Bride
Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife
The Proud Wife

Have a great week!

Denise (L'Aussie)

Thursday 3 November 2011

Inaugural Guest Post - Cathy Olliffe-Webster - on writing Flash Fiction and a link to a fabulous flash story!

Pull up your laptop and write!

Hi all, Denise here!

I got the idea for RomanticFridayWriters from my weekly participation in #Fridayflash. It is where I cut my flash fiction teeth. However, the stories are usually quite dark at #ff, so I was having a discussion with my Pommie mate Francine and ran the idea by her – why can’t we start a weekly flash fiction group for romantic writers? So, we sprinkled a little fairy dust and RFWer was born!
  I met some absolutely awesome writers in my weekly forays into #fridayflash. (I still participate when I can! It’s where I practise my paranormal, weirder stuff!) The flashiest writer I’ve ever met lives in the woods on the Muskoka River in Canada. Her stories taught me a lot, so I’ve asked her to guest post for us this week. And she’s indulging me by linking to my requested favourite story by her, Ruby Tuesday. She posted it maybe two years ago and it’s still ringing in my head, so that means it resonated with me big time! And it has a romantic element!

Cathy Olliffe-Webster.jpgSo take it away, Cathy Olliffe-Webster!

  Hi there! I'm here today to talk about how Friday Flash changed my life. 
  Really, it might sound a bit cliched, but I can’t put it any different than that. Before Friday Flash, I was an ex-reporter who missed writing and dabbled in blogging. Since Friday Flash I actually have the cojones to call myself a Writer, with fifty-plus short stories to my credit and a novel in progress.
I now have friends all over the world, including Denise who so kindly asked me to write for her – friends who mean as much to me as my childhood friends, as much as family members and colleagues.
  Writing flash fiction in a like-minded group can be a life-changer and, if you have any kind of a writer’s soul at all, you’d be daft not to try your hand at it.
  Jon Strother, the founder of Friday Flash, is a talented writer who blogs at Mad Utopia. He dreamt up the Friday Flash concept as a way for writers to showcase their work, to meet other writers and encourage the writing of flash fiction, much as Denise and Francine dreamt up RomanticFridayWriters to encourage romance writers to hone their craft and have fun doing it in a like-minded group.
  What is flash fiction? ‘Flash’ has nothing to do with taking your clothes off in public. It’s simply a short story, 1,000 words or less. It needs to be a complete story with a beginning, middle and end but other than that, you get an idea and run with it. Being given a weekly theme or prompt as at RFWer gives you a starting place, but that’s all! The rest is up to you to make of it as you will.
  I must tell you, though, writing flash fiction is addictive. Have you found that? I wrote a story almost every week, for an entire year. I wrote one the week I got married. I wrote one on my honeymoon. I wrote when I was sick. I wrote when I was tired. Nothing would dissuade me from meeting the weekly #Fridayflash deadline.
  Some people take an entire week to write their Flash. How about you?
  Not me.
  With a full-time job, two kids, a husband and a great love for the outdoors, I don’t have a heck of a lot of time for writing during the week. Thursday is my Flash night. I start thinking about a story idea on my way home from work on Thursday night. Sometimes I come up with an idea on that drive. Sometimes I don’t. After dinner and dishes I disappear into the bedroom with my laptop, close the door behind me and stare at the blank screen until the first line pops into my head.
  I  write for about an hour and a half. Sometimes less, if it’s a short piece. Sometimes more if I have extra words. (The word limit at #ff is 1,000). Generally, though, it isn’t a long time. When I finish I announce, loudly, “ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST!” and haul my laptop into the kitchen where I read it out loud to Dave, my long-suffering husband.
  This is how I edit. By reading to Dave.
  Reading anything out loud is the best way I know of to find mistakes in your flash fiction. They pop off the page when you read them orally. When you read a story to yourself, the mistakes stay hidden because you see only what you want to see. I can’t overstate the importance of reading aloud. Even if there’s nobody else in the house, it’s important to hear the words.
  But having a husband willing to listen and say nice things is very, very nice.
When the quick edit is done I post it on my blog with the Twitter hash-tag #fridayflash. I see you have similar options at RFWer. Social networks are the stuff of dreams for memes! (Yes, we have poets at #ff just as you have at RFWer, but I'm not one!)
  It’s important to travel around the blogosphere to read other writers’ stories after you've posted you own. I comment, then I hype their stories  on Twitter. This cross-promotion is also important to the group process. It helps your work, it helps other people’s work. It’s just win-win all over the darned place.
  If you write to a regular flash meme as at Fridayflash and RFWer, you will eventually begin to see a group of writers whose tastes are similar to your own. You will naturally gravitate to them and eventually you will find yourself in a supportive, friendly circle of people who are just like you.
  I haven’t written a flash for a few months, only because I’m in the middle of writing a novel. I miss it though. Miss the excitement of reading people’s comments about my stories. Miss reading other people’s stories. Miss the camaraderie and party-like atmosphere of Friday nights, a flurry of Tweets and woots and exclamation marks.

  The absolute best thing about being in a group like Friday Flash or RFWer? It hones your ability as a writer. My stories aren’t always fantastic – sometimes they are downright embarrassing. But the steady business of writing every week makes me a better writer. Gives me confidence. And besides, two or three of those stories I wrote were pretty darned good. If I do say so myself.
  And, of course, I do.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster is a writer and graphic artist living in a log cabin on the Muskoka River in Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada.

Thank you Cathy for sharing with us today. I wish you all the best for your novel and the NaNoWriMo experience!

Here is the link to Cathy’s amazing story, Ruby Tuesday.
  • What do you think? Did anything Cathy shared resonate with you?
  • How do you go about writing your flash fiction?
  • Has writing for RFWer made you a better writer?
  • What is the best thing about RFWer for you?
Please share your thoughts...

Denise (L'Aussie)