Thursday, September 29, 2005

Realistic romances

Over on Romancing the Blog today, Sandy Oakes asks:
Do authors back away from making their romances too realistic?

I suspect that part of the problem comes from the publishers wanting to back commercially viable fiction, and not being prepared to take 'risks', and consequent pressures withing the writing community to keep romance 'romancey'. Which is crazy, because there is a *huge* audience out there for a wide diversity of romance - from the lightest, fluffiest sugar-coated romance to dark, gutsy, confronting romance. Heck, there are 50 million romance readers in the US alone, and they aren't all going to like the same thing ;-)

Not all publishers are like this, however. I write at the grittier, realistic end of the scale and have had two full mss requested by NY publishers; in one ms, there's the body of a child on page 1. In another, the heroine is executed in the prologue.

If (when?) they're ever published, readers of the lighter kind of romance, looking for escape, probably won't read my books - but that's fine. Other writers target that sector of the audience, and my books will target another sector. There's plenty enough audience to go round ;-)

I write what I like to read - stories which are affirming because they acknowledge the darkness and problems in the world, yet also acknowledge the strengths and courage that exist within us.

While my stories have a very definite focus on the relationship between the hero and heroine, they're not what I think of as 'pink' books - Romance with a capital R. Mine are more a rich, dark red. I aim to ground my stories in reality, and reality is not always comfortable or happy or easy.

However, since part of the reality in which I believe includes the reality of love as a powerful emotion, (I blogged about this at The Belfry Collective the other day), then my stories do have emotionally satisfying endings - just don't expect pink frilly bows ;-)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A room of her own - with a view

A friend called on Friday night to ask if he and his 3 kids could come and stay on Monday night, on their way up to the Gold Coast.

No problems, of course - I'm looking forward to seeing them. However, given that life has been busy and I've only been doing the absolute bare essentials of housework, I was glad we had a few days' notice!

Since last time we had guests, I'd moved my desk into the guest room, but things were somewhat cramped, with the queen bed shoved over almost to the wall and my desk squeezed in so that I felt a little claustrophic. It's not that it's a tiny room, but an alcove at one end (where a piano will ultimately go) was chock-a-block full of boxes, cane baskets etc - fabrics, fleeces, papers, and old clothes I was sentimental about (and hoped to one day fit again!)

I've sorted through it all today, turfed out a heap of stuff (including clothes that don't fit), tidied away other things, moved my desk into the empty space, moved DH's old bookshelf in, and moved the bed back across so that there's space on both sides for guests.

And it's wonderful! I'm really glad I finally took the time and energy to sort it out and make the room more workable. The bookshelf has space for books and research papers. I don't feel cramped at my desk - immediately to my left is a window that looks out into the bushland around our place. To the right, I can see down the passage and out the french doors of our bedroom. It feels light and airy instead of cramped and cluttered.

I'm going to enjoy writing here now - although I won't be doing much until the rest of the housework gets done to prepare for our guests!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Piratical things for fun

I found this one on Claire's journal and am posting it here just for Kate, even though I'm a few days late for Talk Like a Pirate Day. (And she might already know about it, anyway.)

Go to:
and put in a web address, and it will translate the page into pirate talk.

Arrr, me hearties!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Cairns trip

I arrived home from Cairns around 8.30 last night. The trip was reasonably good, although unfortunately the conference wasn't the most rivetting! (Maybe because it wasn't a writing conference ;-) )

I did catch up with a cousin I haven't seen for many years, and met her husband and children, which was great. They met me at the airport and took me to their home - a beautiful Queenslander styler house - for dinner. So we had a wonderful relaxed meal outside in the balmy tropical evening, caught up on family news, and watched the cane toads hop across the lawn. (I declined the offer to play golf with the toads. Toads are noxious pests, and Queenslanders try everything to get rid of them.)

The only blight on the evening was that when I went to carry some of the plates up stairs, I stumbled and fell heavily, smashing two out of the three plates I was carrying and doing minor damage to assorted portions of my anatomy. I don't bounce like I used to, but I guess it could have been a lot worse.

The following day we all went down to Babinda, an hour or so south of Cairns, and wandered through the rain forest where a river carves through the hills, with waterfalls, boulders, etc. Very beautiful! I also saw Ulysses butterflies for the first time - a gorgeous large brilliant blue butterfly. Then back to Cairns and the Botanic Gardens, where many tropical flowers were in full bloom and I walked around gaping in wonder.

The conference took up the next couple of days, but I did manage a few strolls around the city area of Cairns, which is a very short distance from the water, and wandered along the Esplanade and the laggon area. Yesterday I had a lazy morning and brunch at an open air cafe while trying to replot a novel before heading to the airport and my lunchtime flight. And then back to the real world and work...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

still here - I think

Life's a bit mad right now. I've got major projects happening at work, consuming time and brain space, there's a lot to do at home (I haven't done housework for way too long), there's writing to be done, and I go away again on Saturday.

But the following pleasant things have occurred:

1. The DH and I went out for afternoon tea at the local art museum on Sunday, and after we came home we went for a walk. Together. It's nice to take a little time now and then to stop and smell the roses umm... fresh air?? - together. We've had some rain, the dams are the fullest they've been in ages, spring is here and the wattles are blooming, and we were keeping an eye out, on our walk, for any sign of the orchids that come out this time of year, if there's been rain.

2. I merged two versions of chapter one together and am (almost) happy with the result. I can actually see this novel, which has had ninety gazillion versions, actually being finally finished very soon.

3. After a long day at work yesterday, I think the workshop that I'm developing to run tomorrow is getting near ready. It's a challenging topic, for a an intelligent, critical group, so I'm feeling a little nervous about it. But I think (hope!) I'm on the right track.

Once tomorrow is over, my evenings will be back to writing - although I go to Cairns on Saturday for a work conference, so I suppose I'll have to find some summer clothes and pack for that, too :-)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Growing characters

One of the most enjoyable parts of writing, for me, is developing characters. I love the process of thinking about, mulling over, characters, and developing them over time.

My stories are often born as the result of a dream. I dream a lot, and most of it is just crazy, jumbled up stuff (if anyone tried to analyse my dreams, I'd probably be locked up). But every now and then, I have a clear, short dream in which an incident takes place, and I get a *very* powerful sense of emotion from at least one of the characters - emotion that is still with me when I wake up.

So, often the character comes from the emotion. Who is the character? How did they get in that situation? Why did they feel that emotion? How are they going to respond to it? A number of my stories have begun in just this way - that powerful, instigating incident has become the prologue, or the opening of the first chapter.

Other characters grow a little differently, but I do seem to get some sense of who they are from the moment I start writing them, even if I don't know much about them then.

After I've done a little writing, playing around with scenes, maybe drafting a first chapter, I then usually start a somewhat informal character sheet. The character sheet I use is adapted from several that I found on the web, but I use it as a prompt for thinking, rather than as a form that has to have every space filled in. Sometimes things just simply aren't relevant to the story or to the character. But pondering the various things on the list does help me to flesh out and understand the character better - even if some things may not appear in the final story.

For example, one of the items on the sheet is 'most treasured possession.' When I was pondering this in relation to my character Gil Gillespie, I realised that if you asked him what his most treasured possession is, he'd scowl and say he doesn't have emotional attachments to things - or people. But I know that he did most of the renovations of his pub himself, that he has some woodworking tools, and that he finds it strangely peaceful, an oasis in a busy, demanding life, when he's working timber with his hands. So, thinking about just that one point on the list gave me a whole lot more to Gil. And, although he still won't get emotionally attached to things, he's going to fight a losing battle in trying not to become emotionally attached to people ;-)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Being Batty

Me? Shy, staid, respectable?

Obviously not.

(For the non-Bats reading this, I'm part of an online writer's group called the Bat Cave. Valerie Parv - aka known as Valkyrie, Bard from the Cave - gave me these Bat ears/antennae last year. So, of course I had to wear them to the breakfast gathering of Australian Bats at the Melbourne conference.)

(And thanks to Bronwyn Jameson for the photo!)