Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

More free Mills and Boon ebooks January 30, 2011

Filed under: What I'm reading — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:38 pm

The lovely people at Mills and Boon have updated their Everyone’s Reading website with more free romance ebooks.

A fab opportunity to try out a series you wouldn’t normally read!


Last chance at free Harlequin ebooks! January 2, 2011

Filed under: What I'm reading — Autumn Macarthur @ 11:35 am
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If you didn’t visit the Try Harlequin site yet to download the sixteen free ebooks they have available- do it now! Then do it again next week.

The current books will be changing to a new selection very soon, and last year’s books won’t be available free anymore.

It’s a fab way to try books from a line you wouldn’t normally buy, and also to get the taste of the different lines if you are writing and aren’t sure which line your story fits. The other thing that’s super useful- it’s possible to gte the books as pdfs so they can be read on anything that reads pdfs. I hate this formatting and drm stuff, especially as Harlequin have stopped supporting mobipocket, the format I used to buy all my ebooks in ‘cos at the time it was the only ebook reader that worked on my pda. I’m now going to have to have three different sets of e-book software on my computer to be able to read books I bought and paid for, which kinda sucks.

But that’s an aside, the real thing I like about having some Harlequins in pdf is it makes it possible to do that thing so many writing workshops suggest- to take a book from the series you are aiming for, get out the coloured highlighters, and mark up different colours for dialogue, physical action, description, introspection, whatever; do the same with one’s own story; compare. I wouldn’t do that with a physical copy of a book, I’m too indocrinated into treating books with respect. But cutting and pasting a big chunk of a pdf into a Word doc, and using the Word highlight works great.

Thanks to Donna Alward for the message in her newsletter that the books will be changing-  Donna’s wonderful Hired by the Cowboy will be the free sweet Romance read. And thanks to Harlequin for making the books available- and for the bonus of new free books yearly- it’s a darned good idea and I hope it results in lots more readers taking a chance on something they wouldn’t normally read- and loving it!


Fab Superromance review- and I have an epiphany (again…) December 29, 2010

A wonderful review over at Dear Author for Karina Bliss’s latest Harlequin Superromance. I love her stories, and I’m really looking forward to reading this one, though I do have to say stories that start with the hero or heroine trying to pick up someone else tend to squick me out a bit. It does seem to turn up a lot in these “best friends into lovers” stories. That’s possibly just me showing my personal preferences, or it could be my age. I read Blaze now, so I can handle the heat, but I was brought up on Sweet, no-sex romances. I definitely want one man-one woman stories, even a start showing the heroine with someone else just sets the tone all wrong for me. I’m old-fashioned.

I’m realising that a lot of what is wrong with my stories is exactly what the reviewer commented on- they read like they were written by someone’s Mum in 1983. Co-incidentally, about when I first tried writing a romance!

I had a small epiphany yesterday, when I realised the problem with my WiP and the real reason why the situation and the heroine’s backstory just weren’t gelling was her age. I started writing with her 28, a good age and one I usually like for heroines in stories I read.  But the way she was living and the things she was doing seemed too immature for someone of that age to still be doing- I felt impatient with her, wondered why she hadn’t grown up. I tried changing her age to 24.  Better, but still not right. Suddenly I realised- she’s forty!

Everything fell into place, beautifully. All the pieces of backstory that didn’t fit, the conflict with the hero that felt contrived, the motivation for her doing what she was doing. It works. Or at least, hopefully it will work. I still have to write the story, of course. It’s a good lesson in the importance of making sure I know my characters, really know my characters, before I start. The essence of the story, as I mapped it out using the Beat Sheet from Save the Cat, is identical. It just works so much better now!

Where I went wrong was not even thinking about it. The story was aimed for Harlequin, so the heroine had to be in her twenties.  Realising, no, she doesn’t, is a wonderful change, and is absolutely right for this heroine, even though I know it stops this story being a fit for any of the Harlequin lines.

That wasn’t the epiphany though. The epiphany was that this is the sort of story I want to keep on writing- sensual stories, set against a small town or community background, with grown up heroines.

There doesn’t seem to be much available for women of a certain age, who want to read about women their own age finding true love and happy endings, but who still want stories with good sex too. There’s women’s fiction, usually with an unhappy ending but a  life lesson learned; for a short time there was “hen lit”, which seems to have fizzled; there are a few sweeter romances with older heroines, with the bedroom door tight closed; or there are hot stories about women half my age, or over ten years younger at best. The only exception seems to be abominations like Sex and the City 2, which I totally detested for the shallow pathetic characters, caricatures rather than heroines anyone could identify with. At least what SATC shows though is women in their forties and fifties, still wanting love and sex. Where are the romances, for and about women in their forties, fifties, and beyond, with heroines who are falling in love and having the hottest sex of their lives? Few and far between, it seems, certainly from the major romance publishers. Which is understandable given the huge costs of paper book production and distribution.

So if I write the stories I want to write, I will never ever have any chance of being published by Harlequin, no matter how well I learn to write. Maybe there is no market, and the best I can hope for is to get my stories published by an obscure e-publisher and sell six copies, all to my friends, who make polite noises but never actually read the things. Or maybe there are actually a lot of women out there who know that love and sex don’t stop at thirty, and would love to read stories with older heroines, who are just not finding the books out there they would like to read.

I discovered yesterday that at least one of the romance e-pubs, Wild Rose Press, has a line featuring older heroines, called Last Rose of Summer. I intend to read a few, see if I like them. The wonderful thing about e-publishing is it lets publishers take risks on books that might sell poorly. When fabulous big publishers like Harlequin have tried series with older heroines, sales weren’t good enough, so the lines soon folded. E-pubs can afford to get away with lower sales, so can publish a more diverse range. I’ll still keep reading the Harlequins I love, but it’s time to be more adventurous and venture further afield too.

Much though I would love to see my name there on the supermarket and newsagent shelves on the cover of a Harlequin/ Mills & Boon, it’s not going to happen. I love those books, and there are so many brilliant writers of all ages writing wonderful stories, for HMB, but I won’t be one of them. My chance of getting published is going to come with one of the e-publishers. I honestly think it’s time for me to stop writing the weak, cliched stories I’ve been labouring with, stories that were never going to fly because I didn’t believe in them, and because they read like the stories I tried to write when I was the same age as the heroine I was writing about. My writing can only get better if I try writing honest stories from my heart.

Any suggestions for great romances with older heroines for me to read? What do you think- would you read a story with an older heroine?

Oh, completely unrelated- if anyone saw the post I did earlier about the free Harlequin comics on Amazon, I took it down when I found they weren’t offering complete stories as the freebies, just samples. Still worth a peek at them though, just for the sheer awesomeness of a story written in English that’s been translated into Japanese to be turned into a manga, then translated back into English again.


Long time no blog July 31, 2010

Filed under: What I'm reading,Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:41 pm
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It must be a month since I last did a blog post- not good!

I have plenty of excuses, a wedding away, planning the trip to Australia, work insanity, and a dead laptop.

Truth is, I got depressed at the big number birthday coming up soon and all I hadn’t done that was on my “Do before I’m 50 list.” I’m over that now and ready to make a new and exciting “Do before I’m 60” list, that I hope won’t be cause for depression in ten years time!

There has been movement, even if a snail would seem supersonic in comparision. The partial for Lock and Cady’s story is finally close to ready to send.

I need to get Lock and Cady out there so I can start a new Medical story I want to sub in August. I was so determined not to try a Medical, but there’s a medically themed story that’s been niggling at me for years. Every time the idea comes up again I add more to it, and it’s just about ready to write now! My concern was that it might not fit the line as my hero isn’t a doctor, so I was going to reduce the medical contect, play up the community aspect, and target it at Superromance instead. But the Medical editors are actively looking for new writers and are fast-tracking all submissions  made this month before August 24, anything from one chapter and a synopsis to a full. It’s worth a try, though I’m not sure even if I Medical-ise itas much as possible this story will fly as a Medical. Will have to see what the editors think! If I get moving, I cam do one chapter and a synopsis by August 24.

I’ve learned a lot about writing in the past couple of months that I hope I can put to good use in the rewrite and use in the final pass through my partial. I’ve been reading  “Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore a fab craft book  recommended by Michelle Styles. She is so right about it- possibly the best craft book I’ve read.

I treated myself to a read this week, which was an unexpected learning experience, too. Not something on my TBR list at all. I bought a dinky little mini-notebook to use when travelling instead of my PDA which was driving me mad with the tiny screen and keyboard. It’s perfect apart from one thing- it uses a weird Windows operating system that no ebook reader supports, not even Mobipocket which I used on the PDA. All I can read on it are ebooks in either pdf or html formats.

I did have some pdf ebooks, so I transferred them all over and opened one at random to see how it worked. Oh boy, I lucked out! The book was a Blaze, Leslie Kelly’s “Slow Hands”, one of the Harlequin free full-length romance downloads. I possibly wouldn’t have chosen to read the Blaze, though one of my crit group is writing one and hers is fabulously good. I can be just the teensiest bit of a prude, plus I started reading one years ago and the writing was so cringeworthy I didn’t get further than 3 pages. This was different.

Good writing that dragged me straight into the story. A lust-worthy and love-worthy hero. Hot hot sexxoring and plenty of it, but all safely vanilla, and so deeply anchored in emotion and real feeling. Beautiful handling of how the emotional attachment between hero and heroine grew, and the heroine’s emotional journey. A lesson in managing sub-plots so subtly the reader didn’t even realise they were sub-plots, they hooked into the main storyline so neatly. I was reading this book on two levels at once, devouring it like a reader, carried along by the story, but also looking at it as a workshop in how to write a darned good romance.

I strongly recommend this story, and as it’s free, how can you resist!


Productive procrastination May 31, 2010

Filed under: What I'm reading,Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:19 pm
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Well, that’s what I hope I’ve been doing!

Still no actual work on the rewrite, but I’ve gone through all of the first draft looking at what needs changing and what works. The bad news is- nearly everything needs changing, there’s a lot of work involved. The good news is- the love scenes worked, the black moment made me cry, and the happy ending made me smile. Please God the final version will do that for it’s readers too!

I’ve spent the last two days going right through Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook: Hands-on Help for Making Your Novel Stand Out and Succeed, workshopping the story. Twenty pages of notes later I have a deeper knowledge of the characters and their conflicts, and a load of ideas to power the rewrite.  (And a fifty work pitch too!) I know how I want the completely new first three chapters to go, and I know the ending I have will work, with some tweaking. There’s a swampy middle bit I have not much idea about yet, so I’m hoping that will work out once I get the rewrite started…

I’ve also been reading as many stories as I can from different lines with similarities in the situation and the conflict, whether that’s the secret child, old lovers reuniting, or heroines who’ve been raped in the past. Not to copy other writers, but to see if how they handled it can spark any ideas, show me what I need to make sure I do to make it work.

Liz Fielding’s “Five Year Baby Secret” reminded me that the hero is not just going to be a little annoyed, he’s going to be angry as hell, majorly pissed off when he finds she’s kept his child from him. Donna Alward’s “One Dance With the Cowboy” showed me how reunited lovers will have that same sweet yearning for each other, despite what has come between them. Both those stories showed that the same issues that drove the couple apart in the past will remain unresolved now- and they can only reach their HEA by both dealing with the past issues, as well as their feelings about their separation.

No similarity to my current characters in any way, but a deeply emotional (three tissues needed!) and very hot Superromance- Sarah Mayberry’s “Home for the Holidays”. What was interesting there is that she has the same double BM/HEA I gave my characters- where it looks like things are resolving and they can be happy, then bang, something even bigger comes between them to push them apart. For her heroine it was something totally unexpected, while I hope mine still works even though the reader will know it’s coming.

I’ve just finished an old Presents- Jane Porter’s excellent “The Sheikh’s Virgin”, recommended by my crit group when I asked for stories with a heroine who had been raped. From this I’m getting the shame and yet paradoxical fierce courage of the survivor. My heroine has the shame and guilt, but she needs to show more of the tenacity, fight, and will for life that helped her get through something  so devastating and soul destroying.

Now I have to say- enough of the procrastination. I still have more books to read, but it’s enough.

Tomorrow I start the rewrite. For real. No excuses.


My first post… May 15, 2010

Filed under: What I'm reading,Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 6:59 pm
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…on Seven Sassy Sisters is tomorrow. More than anyone ever wanted to know about me!

Not much editing on the story today. I’m reading a lovely Liz Fielding romance from a few years back, “The Five Year Baby Secret”, Donald Maass’s “Writing the Breakthrough Novel,” and this blog post from Les Edgerton which really hits home with some strong examples of showing not telling. A combination of the three have me rethinking the opening of Cady and Lock’s story to make it even better than the planned rewritten version. Yippee!


“Sinning” in style December 1, 2009

Filed under: What I'm reading — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:54 pm

I just read the first chapter of Sharon Kendrick’s new Presents, The Prince’s Chambermaid (the link should take you straight to a reader where you can browse the first chapter).


She commits several of the “sins” mentioned by the editors in their feedback to the Presents competition entrants, but does them so wonderfully well. What an amazing first chapter kiss! I want to read more. I want my writing to be so lush and sensual.

My competition chapter looks sad and pathetic in comparison, a little brown sparrow next to a bird of paradise.