Writing in a suitcase

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My life is about travel. Travelling from Ireland (where I live) to Sweden (where I grew up) and back again. Visiting friends in the US and going for breaks to France (where I spent many happy years). And writing, writing all this time, while I’m in airports and on planes and sitting in strange bedrooms, with my trusty laptop.

The flight back from Sweden today was in quite a small plane. Cramped at the back of a Boeing 717, I put up my laptop and wrote a long scene, set in a restaurant high up in the hills behind Nice. I was there in my head while the plane brought me back to Ireland.

Isn’t that so weird? How, as a writer, you can be somewhere so different. I mean, really BE there and see and feel and hear your characters, while the air hostess goes: “More coffee?” And I look up, momentarily pulled back to the present and smile and shake my head. Then I dive back in and I’m THERE, in La Colombe d’Or, the most beautiful restaurant on the French Riviera, telling the waiter I want my steak ‘a point’ (medium rare) and frites with that s’ils vous plait’ and look across the white tablecloth at the rakishly handsome man, who I haven’t decided if he really deserves the beautiful Flora…

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And at the same time (nearly), I’m co-writing a political thriller with fellow writer Pete Morin and switching from the south of France to the windswept Atlantic coast of Ireland, where corruption is rife and murder and mayhem happen at the drop of a golf club.

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                                               Call me weird. Or just call me- a writer.

Summer is the Season for Shorts

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 Who reads short stories? I do. I love well written short stories. I don’t attempt them because they are notoriously difficult to write. Only a really gifted author can write a good short story. And, to quote some famous authors:

A short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger. ~Stephen King

Women want love to be a novel, men a short story. ~Daphne du Maurier

A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it. ~Edgar Allan Poe

The short story is still like the novel’s wayward younger brother, we know that it’s not respectable – but I think that can also add to the glory of it. ~Neil Gaiman

When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you. ~George Saunders

My friend, fellow writer Pete Morin, with whom I have the pleasure and privilege to work on a detective story, writes brilliantly crafted short stories. He is giving one of them away on his blog. This one, with the title Just Desserts is about an author who hunted down a reviewer and harassed her. Brilliant idea for a short story, which will amuse many writers. I have just read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. And when I had finished it, I wondered why on earth more people don’t read such stories; amusing, interesting and in short (pardon the pun) , true gems.

So do go and be ‘kissed in the dark’ by a stranger, enjoy this’ younger brother of a novel’ and come out of it ‘a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you’.

It’ won’t cost you anything but a few minutes of your time. And it will make a summer’s day all the better for having read it.

 

Doing it my way- the inside story of my writing process.

 

 

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Last week, I was asked to participate in a ‘blog roll’ by my friend and fellow author Rosalind James, a very successful author in the romantic fiction genre with her hugely popular Escape to New Zealand series among others. I greatly admire Rosalind for her beautiful writing and her settings in lovely locations. Her writing and mine go together very well, as we both write romantic themes, laced with humour and sensuality. I was very flattered to be asked to take part in this blog roll by Rosalind and said yes immediately. You can read about her own writing process here

 

The idea is to describe my writing process and how I produce a book so here are the answers to the questions:

1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

I have just published Hot Pursuit , the third and last in the ‘Hot’ series set in Kerry in the west of Ireland. At a bit of a loose end after that, I saw that my friend and crime writer Pete Morin was looking for a writing partner for his new Boston crime series. As I have done this before and produced two detective stories with Ola Saltin, I chatted a bit with Pete about it and, before I knew what was happening, had agreed to co-write with him, adding the twist of Boston-Irish political corruption to this series. We started work on the first draft a little over a month ago and have already produced 30000 words, which is amazingly fast.

But, as with all co-writing, there are lulls when you have to wait for your partner to write up a scene or do corrections, so, as I didn’t want to disappoint my romantic fiction readers, I decided to work on a romantic comedy at the same time. It seemed a little daunting at first, but now I find myself changing between two completely different modes of writing quite comfortably.

The new story is set in France and I have a new heroine, Flora McKenna, who gets a job in an estate agency in Antibes, a lovely little town on the Riviera.

2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

Not an easy question to answer. It’s difficult to assess one’s own work, but judging by reviews and comments from readers, I think it’s partly the humour that often include bitchy one-liners- you know, the things you’d love to say in real life bit don’t dare… Also the settings, as I have a very visual mind and like to describe scenery and draw the reader into the world I create. My stories are also set in foreign countries, where I draw on my own globe-trotting life for inspiration. My heroes are not usually alpha-males either. So, in a nutshell, my specialities are: humour, scenery, exotic locations and a different type of hero.

3. WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I WRITE?

I kind of fell into this genre with my first book, Diplomatic Incidents, which is now an e-book with the title Duty-Free. I drew on my experiences as the wife of a diplomat, using many of the rather ridiculous things that happened during my efforts to be ‘diplomatic’. Then I saw that the formula of romance + comedy suited me very well as I’m both romantic by nature, a bit of a day-dreamer but I also like a good laugh. I hugely enjoy this kind of writing and after thirteen novels, find it comes quite easily.

4. HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

Uh, oh… Well… Difficult to describe really. Sometimes I have an idea for the next book as I finish the previous one, but more often than not, the ideas come after a week or so of thinking about different themes and settings. Then I sit down and write a chapter or two into the first draft to see if it all works.

There are two kinds of writers; pantsers and plotters. I’m a ‘pantser’, which means you write kind of by the seat of your pants and don’t work out a plot or outline before your start, but just charge ahead and go wherever your imagination takes you. The ‘plotter’ kind of writer shudders at this and can’t understand how you could possibly write a whole book this way without a detailed outline. But I find it’s a great and very fast way to get the first draft of around 70000 words down in about three months. You just write and write, piling everything in and at the end of three months you have a story with a lot of possibly very bad writing- but it’s a story! My favourite part of writing is going back to the beginning and making it shine, adding dialogue, correcting mistakes and fleshing out the characters. Most of my writing is done early in the morning, and later in the day, I go back a bit and do some revisions.

The most magic part of my writing is, when I am so inside the story and the characters that I forget time and place and wake up in a daze hours later, wondering what happened to the time. Writers call that being in ‘the zone’ and it’s a wonderful, inspirational feeling.

 

5. AND ANOTHER PART OF THIS QUESTION, HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS NOT WORK?

I have never experienced ‘writers block’ but sometimes I get stuck in a story and don’t know what should happen next or what my hero/heroine should feel and say. That doesn’t worry me. If this happens, I usually take break, go for a walk or do something else. While doing this, new ideas pop into my head or I get a kind of ‘aha’ moment when I know exactly what to do.

But if I’m stressed or worried about something in my personal life, writing has to stop for a while. That feels hard and I reluctantly tear myself away from my story and deal with the problems or wait until I feel calm and ready to get stuck in again. The bottom line is not to worry if you can’t write for any period of time and be very sure you can start again, however long the break.

 

PASSING THE TORCH, OR WHO’S NEXT?

I was thrilled that two of my writer friends whose work I greatly admire agreed to follow me in this blog roll.

The first was Imogen Rose, whose amazing YA paranormal books have been hugely popular all over the world, entertaining young adult and older readers alike. Initiation, The first book in the Bonfire Chronicle series is a good example of this talented author’s work. You can find more about Imogen here:

https://www.facebook.com/ImogenRosePage

http://imogenrose.com/

http://imogenroseblog.blogspot.ie/

https://twitter.com/ImogenRoseTweet

https://soundcloud.com/imogen-rose-

I’m also delighted that Mary P. McDonald, author of the famous Mark Taylor thriller series, will be sharing her writing experience in this blog roll. Mary has been very successful with her thrillers and is now branching out into romantic suspense with Seeking Vengeance

Mary’s blog:  http://www.mpmcdonald.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MPMcDonaldAuthor

 

 

That empty feeling-when you have published your book…

 

 

I have just published my thirteenth novel, Hot Pursuit , the third and last book in my popular Kerry series. (or ‘Hot’ series, if you prefer). It took me about five months to write, including editing, proofreading, proofreading and more—proofreading. You might think I feel relieved the work is done, that the book is out there in cyberspace to be enjoyed by, hopefully, a lot of readers.

Yes, I’m happy. And also very relieved and proud of my achievement. Writing a novel takes a lot of hard work, soul searching and brain bashing. So having finished a novel that is as good as I can make it is very satisfying.

But then… I miss it. I miss all the characters that became my friends during this time. I miss the fun, the heartache, the wrestling with all their problems. Letting go of that world I created and so enjoyed spending time in was a huge wrench. For five months or so, I lived in Rita’s skin for part of the day, created her problems and tried to solve them. She was me, in a way, and I was her. With her, I fell in love with the hero and tried to make their story as romantic but also as believable as I could. I did my best to describe the setting and truly felt I was there as I wrote. I wore the clothes, drank the wine, danced and made love along with Rita. I was sad for her and laughed at her jokes, and got very, very annoyed with anyone who wasn’t nice to her. I loved her little flat in the outskirts of Dublin, furnished just the way I’d like it myself. I enjoyed the long walks she took on the pier and ‘saw’ the beautiful scenery. The peripheral characters were also fun to write and they were as vivid to me as the people I meet in real life. It all became such a fascinating world and I loved spending time in it.

My baby that has just left the nest

My baby that has just left the nest

I often wonder why writers actually write. What makes them put those first words together for their very first book? I know what made me do it. It all happened during a time when I had a lot of sadness. I started writing a story that was full of light and laughter, where nobody was sad or died or suffered from an illness. My escape, in turn, became that of others who, perhaps, read that story in order to get a break from their own hardships. It helped me. I hope it helped someone else too.

As I went on writing, I drew on my experiences and my stories became more serious, hopefully deeper and more realistic. I feel I have grown so much as a writer since that bright, fun debut novel I wrote nearly fifteen years ago. But every time I’m finished, there is that huge feeling of separation—of having had to leave people I love.

Writing a book is like having a baby. Like carrying this person for nine months and actually feeling you know this small creature. While you’re keeping it inside you, it’s yours alone to nurture and love. But when it’s born, you throw it out there, into the big bad world for all to see. Your baby is the most beautiful thing in the world to you. But not to other people. When the ‘baby’ comes out, you have to stand back and wait for the reactions of others, of readers and reviewers who might not like this new creation of yours. Worst of all—they might even ignore it.

I miss my ‘baby’ and the time when it was only mine. But toward the end it was hard and painful, when I had to do all that proofreading and editing and formatting and reading over and over again.

But then… as with having a baby, you forget the pain and say: ah, why not? I’ll have another one…

As my stories are very character driven, it doesn’t take long before another heroine pops into my head and starts having problems I have to solve for her. Right now, there’s Flora, who has just arrived in Antibes in the south of France to take up employment in a real estate agency with a very dodgy staff. She bumps into this dishy Frenchman and then, well, the rest is still in my head.

But parallel to that, in a kind of twilight zone existence, there is also the heroine of ‘Full Irish’, the crime novel I’m co-writing with fellow crime author Pete Morin. Finola McGee, political reporter for the Irish Herald who, with Boston lawyer Paul Forté of Diary of a Small Fish fame, cracks the case of political corruption across the Atlantic,  is a feisty heroine I’m also beginning to bond with.

Two ‘babies’ this time. I’m sure I’ll miss them both when the stories have reached their conclusion. But the remedy is, as always, starting the next one.

How one thing lead to another, and years later a story is born

A few weeks ago, I announced  that I’m starting a new co-written project with my friend and fellow writer Pete Morin. Nearly at 10000 words in and looking at chapter 5, I’m thinking back on my Authonomy  days and how I met Pete. Back then, (in 2008) we were both competing to get to the top of the Ed’s desk, me with a contemporary fiction novel, Swedish for Beginners and Pete with his legal thriller Diary of a Small Fish. I was less competitive and gave up when my book reached number 20 in the charts and went on to self-publish it, as I’m very impatient and found it hard to stick to the daily routine of reviewing and plugging my book. In any case, the superb writing of Pete’s book got him to the top and he received a glowing review and the gold star. Much later, he published it as well and it was a huge success.

During those Authonomy days we were part of a great group of writer friends who, to this day, keep in touch. We joked and laughed but there were some heated arguments too. Maybe because as writers, we have hot tempers and big egos.

That was six years ago and since then, we’ve kept in touch, comparing notes and sharing our individual writing/publishing experiences. But I never thought we’d work together. And even if the thought had entered my mind, I would have imagined that we’d end up arguing and give up on the idea. As we’re both quite headstrong, opinionated and stubborn, a working relationship was not something I ever thought would work. I think we agreed that it would be ‘volcanic’ at some stage.

But then, somehow, we got started . Threw ideas at each other. Plotlines. Chracters and their relationships. Settings. Twists and turns in the story. The Boston-Irish corruption plot grew and grew. We created two main characters, written from two POVs. Pete with Paul Forte from his previous novel and me with a new heroine, sassy journalist Finola McGee. Together, they will crack the case and reveal the villain(s). And, along the way, take the readers on a fascinating and intriguing journey. And we’re having a lot of fun writing it.

You can read the rest of what we’ve come up with so far on Pets’ new blog post. I think it’s going to be quite a story.

And the winner is…

susannefromsweden:

Pete’s take, which is very flattering…

Originally posted on Pete Morin:

Well, there’s an old saying about not knowing from whence your next opportunity may come.

When I put out the word last month that I was looking for a writing partner, I had it in my mind that I would find someone who was (a) male, (b) American, and (c) a crime or mystery fiction writer.images

Then one day my little Facebook inbox jingled, and I opened a note from an old Authonomy friend, suggesting that we talk about the idea further. We did so, emailing back and forth for a solid week. By that time, we had worked out a decent outline for a crime/mystery story involving political corruption in Ireland and Boston. And today, with Chapter 3 underway and our business agreement set, I am thrilled to announce that my co-author for the project is none other than Susanne O’Leary!

Susanne is not a man, she is…

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When Batman Meets Robin- OMG I’m doing it again!

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When I saw my long-time online author friend Pete Morin’s blog post about how he is looking for a co-author to work on his next project, I just skimmed the post, hoping he’d find someone who could match his quirky, snappy, funny style. I didn’t, for even a nano second, imagine that I would fit into that picture or that he would want me to work on a mystery with him. I even told him how it had worked for me and Ola Zaltin, when we wrote Virtual Strangers and its sequel, Virtual Suspects, two murder mysteries set in cyberspace and described how we had worked together.

Pete, who I met virtually on Authonomy way back when we still had illusions about getting that BIG publishing deal,  is the author of the excellent Diary of Small Fish, a legal thriller set in Boston, about which I said:  This novel has all the ingredients of a great read; an endearing main character, an intriguing plot, a compelling love story and a wry humour that makes you laugh out loud at times. Pete Morin manages to draw the reader into the story on the very first page and you bond with the people in it very quickly.The writing is so good I found myself trying to read slowly to make it last longer. I am looking forward to more books of the same calibre by this author. Little did I know that the next novel would be co-written with me. Life is funny.

As I said, I never thought I’d co-author again. After finishing Virtual Suspects and its sequel, I went back to writing romantic fiction, producing the very popular Hot Property, closely followed by Hot Gossip and now the soon to be published Hot Pursuit, also set in County Kerry, Ireland.

Being idle, not really thinking much about what I’d do next I was fooling around with the plot of a new romantic comedy  series while waiting for the final edits.Then  I saw Pete’s blog post. We chatted a bit and I threw him a few ideas.  Then it kind of grew and grew and before I knew it, we had agreed to work together on a project that will be, I feel, unique. How could it not? Boston lawyer and diplomat’s wife-turned novelist. Crime writer versus chick-lit author. Chalk and cheese. Abbot and Costello. Jeff and Mutt. Maybe our combo will be one of those? Who knows? But it will be a lot of fun while we write, I’m very sure of that. Life’s to short not to try something different.

I don’t know how this will turn out. But I do know that working with Pete will stretch me and challenge me. I might even get to ride in the Batmobile….

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P.S. As I don’t want to disappoint my romantic comedy readers, I will also be working on a new romance at the same time. Multitasking is second nature to me.

Sizzling Hot Chick-Lit, – A Page Like No Other.

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The Sizzling Hot Chick-Lit Facebook page is something I started on a whim to raise the profiles of a number of terrific chick-lit-romance authors. I thought if we worked together, we could be more effective in our marketing efforts. Funny how, when you start something with one goal in mind, it often turns into something entirely different.

This page was started about two weeks ago and we already have  237 ‘likes’ for our page. Initially we wanted to simply post links to our books and share them between us. This would create a kind of domino effect and give our own individual pages and profiles increased visibility. As we all write in the chick-lit romance genre- or, as I prefer, romantic comedies; lighthearted romance with a lot of humour, glamour and sensuality, it is a very good combination of books in this genre. The page would be a virtual, colourful buffet of all kind of delicious dishes.

At the start, that’s exactly what it was; links to our books, announcements about new releases and pictures of our covers. But then we had more ideas. We would make the page a fun page for all kinds of things connected to our books. Se we started to make photo albums of our sizzling hot heroes, sizzling hot book covers and now we also have sizzling hot fashion. We’re going to add a lot more: movie clips, music and all kind of fun, feminine things, all sizzling hot, frivolous and not the slightest bit serious.

Just like our books, the page will provide an escape from the dreariness of every day life with romance, glamour, humour and a touch of sensuality. A boutique page full of gorgeous merchandise.

The name ‘Sizzling Hot Chick-Lit might to some, suggest that it’s about erotica. But it isn’t. Just a little bit of naughtiness here and there, perhaps…

And the authors of Sizling Hot Chick-Lit? Well, there is moi, in the company of a host of best selling, popular authors, such as:

Sibel Hodge  -romantic comedy and comedy mystery books.
Faith Mortimer- crime suspense, romance and action
Shani Struthers- chick-lit romance
Rachel Elizabeth Cole- fun romantic fiction
Rosalind James -romantic fiction set in New Zealand
Missy Marciassa- sexy, sassy romance
Kathryn O’Halloran – spicy chick-lit
Pamela Kelley – cozy mysteries and romance set in Montana
Emily Harvale –  romantic comedy/light-hearted humorous romance.

We have all joined together to make a page that aim to entertain and take you to exotic locations full of fashion fun and glamour.

Join us, ‘like’ us, have a glass of champagne, a nibble and a look at what we do. I promise you wont be bored! Click on the picture and it will take you there…

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Surviving in the Amazon Jungle – How authors and reviewers can co-exist in a hostile environment (and run to court if they don’t)

susannefromsweden:

This post made me laugh. Some heavy irony but so true. A must read for any Indie author.

Originally posted on Pete Morin:

Well, the RicePetition has lost a lot of its steam as author after author continues to sign it with no apparent understanding of exactly what it proposes (based upon their own comments), but in the meantime, there has been a lot of discussion, and agreement, that Amazon’s review guidelines could use a few tweaks and a lot more enforcement.

There has also been a fair amount of criticism that demanding the true identities of ten million customers of Amazon products was too high a price to pay for a few dozen militant female reviewers to be “taught a lesson” by Queen Anne.

In that light, I began to consider the kind of actions the author and reviewer could take to both clarify their expectations in the book review arena and provide meaningful remedies against wrongdoers. There is no reason to send the cockroaches into the woodpile when a few…

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Sex and the heroine

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I have had a long discussion with fellow writers about the heroine in my current work in progress: Hot Pursuit, #3 in my Hot series, after  #1 Hot Property and #2 Hot Gossip .

This was my question:

Lately, my heroines have become more sassy and independent, not denying their need for sex, even if it’s not about everlasting love and marriage.

The traditional heroine in romantic fiction is gentle and sweet and often comes across as a victim until the hero rescues her. She doesn’t initiate sex and is always a little coy when a man makes a move and the resulting lovemaking is often something she is pulled into against her moral principles. Some of my earlier heroines have been a little like this.

But when I started writing the Hot series, I thought I’d portray a more modern woman, who enjoys sex and is not afraid to show it. She can also have a fling with someone she fancies with no strings, until she finally finds ‘the one’.

In my current WIP, the heroine has a purely physical relationship with a man who’s drop-dead gorgeous, younger than her but not her match intellectually. Of course, later on she will meet someone with whom she finds that true love but her path is littered with temptations and complications. The heroine has a a sexual relationship with a man who doesn’t want more than that. So by mutual agreement, they see each other, have fun and their dates always end up in bed.

But  at the same time, she has a deep friendship with another man, who doesn’t ask for sex but leans on her for comfort and companionship. This man is troubled and damaged. She shares things with him she could never share with her lover. That relationship is platonic but very deep and loving in another way.

So, the question is: will this new kind of heroine, much closer to what many young women are like today, be sympathetic to the reader? Will it be acceptable that the heroine has needs and isn’t afraid to show it and that she jumps into bed just for fun from time to time? She’s a Sex and the City kind of girl. More Marilyn Monroe than Audrey Hepburn. More stilettos than sensible shoes…

This allows me to write some hot sex scenes… ;)

My question is: will this woman be sympathetic and more realistic? Or will readers hate her and label her as a slut?

Of course,  there are books in the romance genre from sweet romance (with no sex)  to erotic romance where they may be having sex even before the first date and everywhere in between. There will be readers who will see her as more realistic and sympathetic, others who won’t.  Tastes differ. Opinions vary. It’s still an interesting question to me.

I’ve had conflicting reactions to this query.  I’d love to hear more on this subject.

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