A new home for my blog!

This Blogger blog is no longer updated...

My blog has a new home on my new website!

Note: if you comment from this point forward on this blogger blog, I will likely not see it. All these posts are on my website now, so please comment there. Thank you!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hot Starts versus Twenty Two Pages of Description?

A couple of months ago on one of my writing loops we were discussing hot starts, those first lines of books that grab you and draw you in right from the off. I love hot starts; maybe it's because I can be an impatient reader, wanting something to happen, wanting to be swept away at the beginning of the book. There is a school of thought that says that modern life has trained people to have such a short attention span that if you don't grab them within 10 seconds you've lost them. I'd hate to think that I had the concentration of a gnat but maybe there is something in this.

One of my favourite first lines is: "I picked four of them up at White Waltham in the new Cherokee Six 300 that never got a chance to grow old." This, from Dick Francis's book Rat Race, flags up the drama that is to come, creates a sense of expectation and already has me on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happens. It's short, sharp and direct with an element of danger.

We all want to write a first line that is so memorable that people instantly recognise it and are drawn into the story from the off. “Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again…” Is this a hot start? It's certainly intriguing and mysterious, pulling the reader in. Other favourite first lines of mine are: "Penitence Hurd and the plague arrived in London on the same day..." from Diana Norman's wonderful historical novel The Vizard Mask and “It had been too long since he had bedded a woman,” Lisa Kleypas, Lady Sophia's Lover. Both in their different ways, grab the attention.

And yet in the historical novel or historical romance, and maybe in other genres too, isn't there room for the slow build up? One of my all time keepers, Daphne Du Maurier's book Frenchman's Creek, has twenty two pages of description before anything actually happens. It's incredibly evocative and atmospheric; you can taste the salt on the sea breeze and feel the wind against your skin and hear the seabirds calling on the Helford estuary. And all that description contributes to the feeling that you are slipping back in time to the seventeenth century. It calls to the imagination, it envelops you and draws you in in a different way.

One of these days I would like to write a book that starts in such a way, creating atmosphere, appealing to the senses, grabbing the reader because of the layer upon layer of vivid description. But in the meantime my next book, The Undoing of a Lady, conforms very much to the Hot Start:

"It was a perfect night for an abduction..."

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Cinderella Bloggers!

Hello! I'm back from Washington DC where I had the most fantastic time at the RWA Conference! I loved the city and had a wonderful time at the book signings, parties and workshops, meeting new people and putting faces to those I've been chatting with over the email for months or even years. In a few days I'll be posting my impressions of the trip complete with some splendid photos taken by my dh who had an even better time in Washington DC than I did!

First though, a small quiz. It's called "match the shoe to the blogger" and all you have to do is name the four Cinderellas whose shoes are in the photo above, taken after the Golden Heart and RITA ceremony on Saturday night. The prize for the first correct answer selected by Monty is a copy of my third Brides of Fortune book, The Undoing of a Lady! And here is a clue: There are two Word Wenches, one Romance Bandit and one Risky Regency blogger in the picture! Name that shoe in one! Good luck!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Time travel at Ashdown House!

Yesterday I was guiding tour parties around Ashdown House on a lovely, hot and sunny summer's day. For the first time we had other events happening at the house and it was fabulous! First there was an early music ensemble playing in the gardens. When we were on the roof balcony we could hear "Greensleeves"wafting up to us on the breeze which was wonderfully evocative. Then there were the living history re-enactors. A horse and carriage was taking visitors around the estate and it was extraordinary to see a historic vehicle using the old Ashdown carriage drive and the road down to the stables. But for me the absolute best bit was having the living history re-enactors wandering about the house and gardens and chatting to us all. On the guided tour we talk about the reasons that the staircase at Ashdown is so wide and one of them is to accommodate the breadth of ladies' skirts. I'd never seen a lady in period dress trying to ascend the stairs until yesterday and now I can see the problem! One of the other reasons that the stair is so wide is to permit a gentleman to draw and use his sword in defence of his house, fighting down the stair to give him the fighting advantage. Sadly health and safety regulations prevented us from trying to recreate this. Maybe one day!

I think I must be very susceptible to the lure of a gentleman in full cavalier garb (ok, I know I am!) but when a dashing cavalier who looks like Prince Rupert of the Rhine doffs his hat, bows and calls me "my lady" I'm afraid I melt into a puddle and am not fit to take a guided tour anywhere! And yes, I know I've illustrated this blog post with a picture of John Simm as Sexby in The Devil's Whore and that he was a roundhead not a cavalier but honestly, can you blame me?

I'm blogging today 5th July at Risky Regencies and tomorrow, 6th July with Sia McKye Over Coffee. Please come and join me!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Prize Winner!

Congratulations to Beth, whom Monty has picked to win a copy of The Scandals of an Innocent in the rugged hero casting contest! Thank you so much to everyone who entered. I really enjoyed the debate and hope you did too.

For those of you wondering how Monty chooses contest winners (and over the years I've had a few enquiries) I am indebted to my friend and writing colleague Kate Walker, who first gave me the idea. Kate's adorable cats feature heavily in her blog and I thought Monty should stir himself from deep Labrador torpor and do the same. So when a prize is drawn I put down numbered cards, one for each entry, each with an identical dog biscuit on it. Monty is then positioned equidistant from all the biscuits and the winner is the person whose card he goes to first. He particularly likes my website prize drawing with large numbers of entries because then it becomes a competition between us to see how many biscuits he can hoover up before I grab them back!