Brass monkeys!

So today I step under the shower and it’s freezing!

A trip to the boiler in the garage tells me we have an electrical fault that cannot be mended with a simple lever adjustment – thanks to the magnificent Wayne for advice, and to Mr S for wise counsel from Paris. Yes, dear, I have my thermals on! (it’s always tough love in this family)

Meanwhile, preparations have been made, both an emergency call out and the old log fire and kindling standing ready (Just don’t snow.) 

When I think back to chipping ice off the inside of the bathroom window when I was a child, 🎻🎻🎻 this slight hiccup seems quite mild. And back then, ( in the dark ages), not everyone had a bathroom, so I think we’ll get along here with an extra layer and a few hooch-spiked mince pies to warm us up 😜

Stay warm, safe, and happy!

Love

Susan xxx

Mincepies and Mayhem!

Yes, I believe in letting my guests know what they’re in for when they arrive for a Christmas party, so Mincepie-making season is in full swing. (I did promise ‘hard liquor’ to wash them down, which probably accounts for acceptances to my invitations arriving so promptly! And will no doubt account for any ensuing mayhem at the party!)

I’m not too keen on bought mincemeat – too sweet – so I add a good slug of brandy, a grated cooking apple, and a good couple of handfuls of Zante seedless mini currants.

Pastry isn’t a problem as my maternal grandmother was a champion baker. ‘Eeeh, that’s champion’ 😜 All joking apart, pastry has never frightened me – though it may frighten my guests if I don’t get the balance of fat and flour just right – and before you ask – I cook and bake by sight, touch, and smell – if it looks okay and the Aga doesn’t go out, I’m probably all right.

Christmas decorations are creeping out of the cupboard Yes, I know it’s early, but I bought this new thingy – shown below – and I wanted to know if it would hang nicely above the inglenook. Mr S was pressed into action, with the agreement that once it was up it wouldn’t be coming down again until twelfth night. Meanie! So now it looks quite lonely, don’t you think?

I received a mail asking why I write a blog when I could be writing another book…

Because I like to wind down like anyone else, and I like to chat, so usually when Mr S is taking a bath, I Blog. I love chatting to you, my friends. It relaxes me, and I’m happy to share whatever’s going on – within reason, you’ll be relieved to hear – whether that be some writerly thoughts, or how to prevent mincemeat from setting your teeth on edge because it’s too sweet!!

OK – here we go – not pretty, but the pastry is super-light and buttery, and the fruit is juicy and well spiked with hooch. I promise to dust with icing sugar for my guests. I’m going to eat the one I cut into and don’t want the extra sweetness icing sugar brings, so, like so many things on planet-Susan, you’re seeing the naked truth. 😉

Have a great evening! Hope you didn’t expect anything that looks remotely shop bought!!!  I cut them out with two tumblers of different sizes. I did have cutters for a while, but lost them, and water glasses work just fine. Like so many things in life, it’s the taste and the bite that matters…

Love to you all,

Susan xx

Out with the old, in with the new 💃

Hope your writing mist clears in double-quick time, and you are back to this…

 before you know it!

I started the book again this morning – or rather, my hero started the book again, and I let him run with it. I’ve no doubt my secondary character was watching proceedings from somewhere, but poor old Tom stood in the shadows and didn’t get in the way.

I’m not fazed by the word count set back. What will be will be. So don’t you stress, either.

That amazing and inspirational woman Helen Keller wrote, Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

May your hope and confidence never die.

Love

Susan xx

Where to start. When to start. And when to pack it in and start again.

📕 Today I made the classic mistake of rushing headlong into the next book. Yes, the idea is clear in my head, but instead of introducing my red-hot hero on page 1, I chose to begin with a passage of introspection, courtesy of a bit-part character called Tom.

👨🏻‍🍳 Not Tadj, the impossibly red-hot, powerful and wealthy ruler of Qalala, but Tom, a restaurant manager. Tom would have done very well if I wrote beta male heroes, but for Modern/Presents/Sexy, poor Tom was way off base.

🚦So it’s not just the first line that’s so crucial, but where you start your book, and the character/s you bring into that first shot. Start somewhere exciting! Lights! Camera! Action! You’re the director. Dive into that shot to observe, then report the first of many dramas as it plays out. And get your hero on the page as fast as you can, so we can all enjoy him!

Don’t panic. I know when I’m beat and spent the rest of the day cleaning my study! Tomorrow I’ll start again in the right place, and with the hero I’m aching to write about centre stage!

⭐️ Make sure you’re signed up to my Newsletter (you can sign up on the Home Page right here on the SS site) for the big draw coming this weekend. 5 free copies of my latest red-hot bundle are up for grabs. You have to be in it to win it 😉

Released on Friday on all platforms, Blood and Thunder books 1-4 is available for pre-order right now, and for a special bargain price.

Good luck! And enjoy!

Love to all,

Susan xx

First lines

The last Blog made me think about first lines.

I always advise ‘press on’ (please don’t ask if I do this or not – I can only tell you that getting the first draft down without stopping is the right thing to do – I can’t swear that I do it!)

But each time you open your manuscript to start work, what do you see? The first page. And yes, I try to tighten this a little more on each occasion.

But…

That first line is all-important. It sets the mood, and may also introduce your main protagonist. You might have the essence of your main character down from the get-go. If not, there’s nothing to stop you changing up that first line when you know them better.

How do you get to know them better?

By seeing how they react to the challenges you place in their way – the things they say and how they say it – what they care about – what concerns them, and, ultimately, why they deserve that HEA

Here are some first lines from a small selection of the many, many books I love.

We came on the wind of the carnival’.

Magic is already in the air for me when I read this first line from Joanne Harris’s novel, Chocolat

‘Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York

As a very young girl, this first line from Betty Smith’s wonderful novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, seemed packed full of promise, and still does. Take me to this place!  I thought. I couldn’t wait to learn more about Brooklyn, New York. How exotic and wonderful it sounded to a young child who had never travelled out of the UK. And the novel is about a young girl. I couldn’t wait to discover how Francie’s life compared to mine.

J.K. Rowling really nails the first line with this, from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Harry Potter was a most unusual boy in many ways.’

Take another look at your first line. And another. And another. Remember how quickly we make a judgement when we shake hands with someone we’ve never met before. Of course, when we get to know them better we may change our minds about that first snap judgement, but the reader may decide there and then, that they don’t want to read on. Don’t take that chance. Make your first line count. Make it stupendous.

You know you can do it. I know you can do it. Now go write it!

Love to all,

Susanxx

 

Know thy characters

Oh, the agony of the first chapter… make that first chapters (I’m not even going to go into the agony of the first line- because that’s a whole book in itself!)

The first three chapters are the foundations of the book, so I’d better know my guys before I get to the end of them. Sometimes I interview them and jot down notes. Sometimes I just jot down notes. But I always know why I’m writing about these people, who they are, where they’ve come from, and what has brought them to the ‘meet cute’ point.

And that first meeting isn’t always ‘cute. Sometimes it’s downright traumatic – like the time the heroine was a stowaway on a racing yacht and threatened the hero with a knife, thinking he was a pirate…but that’s another story. But there has to be something behind their paths colliding I can build on later on in the book.

She had the figure of a glamour model, the face of an angel—and she was threatening him with a knife.’

That first line isn’t enough. My H and h have problems to fix- and that includes both emotional and actual problems.  And it was up to me to make sure that the hurdles they had to negotiate became higher each time.

This leads on to the 5 P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

(known as the 6 P’s in my family, but I’ll leave you to add the extra P if you want 😉 )

Know your characters. What drives them? Maybe they appear so different it seems that they could never be a match. BUT Do they have the same goals in life, the same principles, the same standards and beliefs?  I am as different to Mr S as you can imagine. He’s sporty. I’m not. I’m a musician. He loves silence. (maybe I need to hone my musicianly technique 😜) He’s a businessman. I’m a dreamer etc etc etc. But right from the start, our goals, standards and beliefs were the same, so however unlikely other people thought our match, it worked for us.

Love your characters, and think long and hard about them; know them before you start your book. They can still surprise you along the way with secrets you didn’t know, but that’s the joy of writing. 🙂

Wishing you joy as you write, as well as the most wonderful weekend with those you love. Take time to be with them. Those characters you know so well will still be waiting for you to uncover their story on Monday morning.

With my love to all the readers and writers out there,
Susan xx

Gin as food

 Who needs puddding?

Sent off the revisions today for a 💙💎Sapphire Sheikh💎💙, so am celebrating with Curry Friday and strawberry flavoured gin.

Inspiration for the next book…

Or possibly…

Maybe both?

Wishing you all the most wonderful weekend with those you love.

And leaving you with this last thought to spur you on in all you do…

A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do
A woman must do what he can’t…

OK, sounds as if we have a pretty busy weekend ahead of us 😉

Love from temporarily word-weary (but not for long 💃)

Susanxx

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

The more it changes, the more it remains the same indeed!

 This is my beautiful person-dog, Finlay in 2007. During my life I have been blessed with the most wonderful dogs, and Fin was one of my very special friends. We all miss Finlay. She was truly the most faithful person-dog ever- so clever, so kind, so loving. I miss you baby.

Here’s a Blog I wrote back in 2007! I thought it was particularly appropriate for NaNoWriMo 2017, and that you might be as interested to read it, as I was when I found it again today…

06/01/2007
Writing for Harlequin Mills and Boon

Writing for Harlequin is a dream come true, but every published author you care to name was once unpublished.
We all dreamed the dream, and along with the dreaming we worked our socks off and still do.

(The Greek’s Bridal Purchase was a February 2007 Harlequin Modern/Presents release)

I promise every manuscript is read and given due consideration by an outstanding editorial team.
If you receive anything more than a standard rejection slip, soak in every tiny bit of advice you are given in the letter.
If you do receive the standard rejection slip, don’t give up- your next book may be the one that tugs at an editor’s heartstrings.

Please remember that some of the best guidelines out there are available from www.eharlequin.com and many of the associated sites.

Join your local chapter of the RWA, RNA, or whichever writers’ group you have in your country to share your highs and lows, and to know that you’re never alone.
Listen to all criticism, even when it hurts; there may be a grain of truth in there somewhere.
Accept praise with modesty, but don’t think about it too much as you don’t want to become complacent!

Finally, there are many self help books out there to guide you along the road, and one of the best is by my dear friend, Kate Walker. (Kate’s 12 point guide is still one of the best self-help books out there)

I hope this has given you a boost. And my final piece of advice is of course, NEVER GIVE UP. And that goes for today in 2017 every bit as much as it did in 2007!

Hope you enjoyed this dip into the archives❣️

Love to you all,

Susan xx

❣️👩‍💻Happy NaNoWriMo 2017👩‍💻❣️

And it will be…some of the time. The moment an idea strikes is exciting. When a book is accepted for publication the feeling is impossible to describe. It’s beyond wonderful. And neither of these things change. The bit in the middle…the writing? That’s hard, dedicated work. Tubs of bum-glue required. There are no short cuts. Sure you can plan, and that does help, but those characters are going to take over at some point. Just don’t allow them to run wild! There are always numerous twists and turns available. It’s up to you to choose the best route.

Be prepared to do a lot of polishing on that first draft. It’s a great achievement to finish a book, but in many ways that’s just the start of the process. You have your story down. Now you have to make it both accessible and entertaining for the reader. Be tough on yourself, and especially on those ‘pet’ phrases. Are they clever and effective, or just clever? If they don’t add anything to your story, get rid of them. They may work somewhere else.

Writing is like acting. Put on the costume and live each role with absolute sincerity. And don’t forget to have fun!

I’m going to be a week behind you as I have some polishing to do on the book I’m working on now, but I will be experiencing the same rush of excitement when I face that blank screen, the same period of head-scratching, and the same frustration when it seems I’ve dug myself in to a hole. But we will dig ourselves out, and even if we have too scrap as many as 5, 10, 15, or even 20 thousand words – or heck, if we have to scrap the entire thing and start again, we will, because that’s what we do.

Courage mes braves! No one said this would be easy, but it can, and should be, one of the most thrilling activities you will ever engage in. Go forth and enjoy! And write write write!

My love and best wishes for huge success to all the writers and readers out there. We’re interdependent, and so we should be and in fact we are that very best of things: a team!

Susan xx