Monday, July 30, 2007

Seven Ways to Generate Plot Ideas From Magazines

Here's a short article I wrote some time ago that might inspire some of you:

Seven Ways to Generate Plot Ideas From Magazines

So, you’re stuck for an idea to write a short story? There’s an easy way to come up with some great plot ideas by hopping across to your local newsagents, or leafing through an old magazine. Women’s magazines are the best for this, if you are targeting that type of a market. By looking through one of my old magazines that cost the princely sum of 68p (less than a dollar), I’ve come up with the following ideas:

1. Reader Real Life Stories

A double page feature entitled “My wife was 6 months pregnant with our twins when she left me for another man.” We often hear of married people running off with one another, but rarely when they are pregnant with their husband’s babies. Another real life story has the title: “Is this the worst slimming club in the world?” It goes on to explain that the members of the club have failed to lose weight and most of them have actually put it on. When it’s someone’s birthday they bring in pork pies, scones and cakes. No wonder they can’t lose weight! There could be a great humorous story there!

2. The Health Pages

Here we have a case history with the heading: “I’ve had 18 strokes and I’m only 24.” What must it feel like for someone to have a brain haemorrhage at such a young age? To end up in a coma for days and now to live their life in a wheel chair?

3. Horoscopes

It’s all in the stars. There are 12 plot ideas here from Aquarius to Capricorn! Chose your own birth sign reading and write it up as a plot idea. If you don’t like yours very much there are another 11 to choose from. For example Leo reads:

“Full of bright ideas, you’ll be dashing around, keen to make your mark. But the Full Moon at the lowest point of your chart hints that you need to draw back from too much work. Slow down and enjoy just ‘being’ for a couple of days. You’ll receive a surprise invitation.”

What plot idea could you generate from this horoscope reading? How about someone who works for an advertising agency who is a very creative person? She has been working hard on a particular project and is ‘burnt out’. She is ordered to take time off from work by her divorced boss, who pops around to see her with 2 tickets for a night at the theatre. Will there romance in the air?

4. Blurbs

These are great for inspiring ideas. A blurb is a couple of sentences that describe what a short story or article is about. For example I found these embedded within articles and features in the same magazine;

“It finally sank in - I’d been deserted.”

“After weeks of misery and indecision, the Peacocks are finally a happy family...”

“The words can also signal commitment and that can scare some men.”

“I fell in love with a cottage and three weeks later I’d moved in.”

“I nearly died laughing...”

“Hurting myself made me feel better, but who would understand why?”

There are six possible short stories from these blurbs, there were many more I could have chosen from the magazine.

5. Problem Pages

The problem pages from a magazine are great for plot ideas as they involve conflict. There are 5 readers problems on the page in front of me: a woman who doesn’t fancy her husband anymore; a woman who has 2 failed marriages and met a man who was 12 years younger; a mother who can’t stand her son’s girlfriend; a widow who is about to marry for the second time but has doubts; a woman who had a date with her postman but now he has cooled off. Any one of these problems would make a good story.

6. Short Story

We all know that we can’t plagarize another’s work, but how about reading a short story, then writing another from a different character’s viewpoint? Names and settings need to be changed, but with a little skill you could come up with an entirely different story. For example, a story where a mother in law is being difficult, seen through the eyes of her son’s wife, could be turned around so that it is viewed through the eyes of the mother in law.

7. Writing from photographs

They say that every picture tells a story. How about looking at the photographs in a magazine to see if you can come up with a plot. For example here are some photographs I see in the magazine in front of me:

A teacher leaning over a desk to talk to 2 boys in what looks like a science lesson.
A young girl sitting on the beach. A boy and girl sitting behind her are talking to one another.
A woman on a swing.
A man and a woman carrying a desk into a removal van.
A woman sitting in a field where 2 young boys are playing football.

So we could have at least 5 possible story ideas here:

A teacher who is thinking of giving up the profession maybe? A young girl who feels excluded, as her best friend now has a boyfriend? A woman sitting on a swing thinking back to her childhood? A couple who are having to leave their home? A single woman who has to look after her nephews for a week as their mother is in hospital?

The permutations are endless. You could switch points of view, come up with different ideas, and so on. So next time you are stuck for a story idea pop over to the newsagent or get out all your old magazines and get writing!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Reading romance novels aid weight loss?

I don't know where I read this, but I wonder if it's true. Can reading romance novels help keep you slim? And if so, how does this concept work?

The only thing I can think of that makes any sense, is that reading romance novels can give the reader a sense of well being. The Happy Ever After ending is the normal prerequisite in this type of novel, so consequently, this might make the reader feel more content with life which in turn stops them dipping into the biscuit barrel.

On the other hand, I suppose the reverse could happen. What if a woman is married to a couch potato who belches, scratches his balls and refuses to get off his backside as she serves him hand, foot and finger. What if the lady in question reads of this fantastic, have-a-go hero with rippling muscles and a well toned torso who f***s like a dynamo. She glances at the couch potato, realising she's spent her best years with a man who cares very little for her.

Does she do a * Shirley Valentine and go searching for her own hero or settle for what she's got, pull out a packet or two of potato chips, a box of chocolates, a bottle of Strongbow cider and join her Mr. Couch Potato [ala Wayne and Waynetta]?

I plan to give the * Romance Reader Diet a go. I intend to read as many romances as I can lay my sticky little fingers on over the next couple of weeks and I'll let you know if I end up like Waynetta Slob or Winona Riding.

Watch this space...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Another nice review for Return to Winter

I was pleased with the review I got today from The Long and Short Reviews blog:

When Stephanie Baynham comes home to Wales , the lover she ran out on nine months ago, Dylan Pryce-Jones, is waiting at the airport for her.
Will he understand why she left him without warning, during the afternoon of Matt and Sandy's wedding celebration?

Later, she returns to her apartment and finds a threatening message scrawled on her mirror: "You're Dead!" Could her life really be in danger?

(176 pages) Spicy Return To Winter is a contemporary romantic thriller. There is a cleverly British setting that offers that a bit of old-world flavor, since a big part of the setting is in a castle. Yet, the setting comes with a very contemporary twist, as the castle is home to commercial "Celtic-style' wedding ventures.

From the start, the main character's concerns and actions are intriguing. In the earliest pages, readers will believe they can sort through these webs of love, admiration, and danger, but it is quickly apparent that this is a far more complex tale than it seems. The setting may be old but the threat is most definitely modern and presents an ever-increasing danger. There are some sharp, emotional contrasts between the evil intentions of the bad guy and the warmth of the holiday spirit surrounding those desperately striving to get away from him. And, as much as one roots for a certain romantically involved pair, one cannot help but feel badly for the one lost along the wayside.

This story moves ahead quickly with just enough description to give it an authentic air (like sponge pudding for dessert, piped-in Celtic music at the reception desk, and the like) although one does wish for more physical descriptions, at times. This story is carried on excellent dialogue and unpredictable action, and those who and enjoy the odd steamier scene will not be disappointed either.

Reviewer: Nancy Lindley-Gauthier

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Another Excerpt from It Happened One Summer

“I don’t know if I can take much more of this, Matt.” She stood in the doorway of the bedroom behind him, like a little girl lost—a far cry from the strong, confident woman who sent him out shopping for her dinner party that morning.

“This person may just want to knock you off balance in some way. I think it may be an idea if you went along with these e-mails. It may help the police catch the culprit.”

“You mean I should try to get into a conversation with the Grim Reaper?” He nodded. “I don’t know if I can. I just want to switch the computer off and not check my mail ever again.”

“I’ll tell you what... how do you feel if I pretend to be you? The author will have no idea it is me responding, will they? And you don’t even have to look at any of these e-mails.” He wanted to spare her any further trauma, but he had to find out who this person was before they got to Sandy.

He got up and held his arms wide open for her, “Come here...” She didn’t hesitate to go into them, as if they were her sanctuary. Heck, he wanted to tilt up her chin and lower his mouth to her lips, to lose himself in a kiss with her. But he knew that wouldn’t be the right thing to do—the timing was all wrong. She was vulnerable right now, and he had no intention of playing on that fact.

Sandy looked up into his eyes, holding his gaze for a moment, “Matt, I think I should cancel the dinner party this evening.”

“No, don’t do that. Look, one of your guests could be the Grim Reaper. You know what they say: Keep your friends close, your enemies closer. He felt her shiver in his arms. “I’ll be here to support you. I won’t be drinking and I’ll be keeping an eye on everyone.”

“But suppose it is one of my guests. How would they have my e-mail address?”

“It’s not as difficult as you might imagine. I found an old pal of mine when I came back to Britain, just by typing his name into one of those ‘People Search’ engines. The search turned up a few other people with the same name, so I contacted all of them to find out which one it was. Don’t forget, this person may already have your e-mail address if you have given it to them at sometime or another.” His heart sank when he remembered Sandy had entered her e-mail address on her employee details form. Would she think he was harassing her?

“That’s the worst part Matt. The not knowing, it’s killing me.” He watched her face crumple as she began to cry again. He hoped her words wouldn’t turn out to be prophetic

Friday, July 20, 2007

It Happened One Summer Releases Today!

Three Suspects...

Two Lovers...

One Stalker...

It Happened One Summer releases today in digital format. It will be published in print on 12th of October.

Here's a short excerpt:

Matt was dog tired. The constant worry about
Sandy’s safety was getting to him. He took a soak in a cool
bath and went to get a nightcap downstairs. He hadn’t
drunk alcohol since before the dinner party, but he needed
a whisky tonight.

As he poured the drink, he felt like he was being
watched. He couldn’t see anything outside in the garden
from the kitchen window, and told himself it was his
imagination playing tricks.

He put on some classical music, Vivaldi’s Four
Seasons, and flopped down on the sofa in the living room.
The whisky tasted good. He placed his glass on the coffee
table; his eyelids were getting heavy. He was almost
asleep, but not drowsy enough to miss the clatter outside.
He jumped out of the settee and made for the back door.

Whoever it was would get a clout around the head for
their trouble. He’d had enough of this palaver. They,
whoever they were, were messing with the wrong guy!
He sensed the person was still outside. There was no
way they could escape without him seeing who it was. He
switched on the outside light and walked outside carrying
a baseball bat.

The garden was quite small. He could see the shed
was still locked and the metal dustbin lid lay on the floor.
This was no cat or dog out here; this was a human being.

“Show yourself, whoever you are!” he shouted so loud
he frightened himself. “Come out, you coward.”

Matt watched the person come out from behind the
shed, put down a package and hold up their hands as if
they were about to be shot.

“Well, well. Look who we have here. Our mystery

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Plotter or a Pantser: Which One Are You?

When you write a novel, do you plot it out thoroughly from A to B, fly by the seat of your pants, or perhaps combine a mixture of both methods?

I use a mixture of both. Because I'm a character driven writer, in that I allow my characters to tell their own tales, I tend to not want to know too much before hand. I usually have a beginning in mind, perhaps a situation the protagonist finds himself/herself in and I often have an ending in mind, but other than that, I have no idea how I'm going to get from A to B.

I love the element of surprise. So often I find myself gasping in horror when a character decides to kill another character off, or the heroine does something foolish.

I once tried to plot out an entire novel before hand. A well known romance author taught me to do this during an online writing class. On paper, the story looked fantastic with its twenty outline points. I think the plot was an interesting one too. But do you know what? It's been two years since I outlined that novel, I even had a title for it, character charts the lot, but I've yet to write the damn book. I think creating that outline zapped a lot of my creativity and spontaneity.

I think I'm better off sticking with what I know and that is, I don't really want to know too much in advance.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Potter book under guard in U.S.

Imagine your book causing such a furore that it was put under guard. And what if your book was so successful that school children eagerly read it upon purchase! That's what's happening with yet another of J. K. Rowling's books, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows".

Security guards have been hired at one of Barnes & Noble's warehouses in the U.S. to ensure staff aren't trying to get away with free copies. The firm reckons their staff don't have time to take a peek, oh yeah, who are they kidding? Someone there must have taken a look to find out who Rowling has killed off. And if Potter lives or dies.

The nearest I have got to this as an author, are my counselling clients [and people my mother know] enquiring when my next book is due out. They've enjoyed the previous two [the ones sold for the cancer charity] and now would like to get their hands on a third. That makes me ecstatic. Especially when I know that some of them are cancer sufferers who have got some enjoyment from my books.

One lady, has sadly passed since reading my book but I got the message she enjoyed it, and another who has cancer but is nothing to do with out centre, [she's a relation by marriage], sent me a nice card when It Happened One Summer was released last year. The card read: "Thanks for a cracking, good read!" That means more to me than all the money in the world.

Another of my clients told me she read it through in one go last Easter on a nice sunny day in the garden. It got her back into reading again.

I'm happy for J. K. Rowling but I'm even happier that my books are touching people out there.

Monday, July 16, 2007

You Are 100% Psychic

You are so very psychic.
But you already predicted that, didn't you?
You have "the gift" - and you use it daily to connect with others.
You're very tapped into the world around you...
Just make sure to use your powers for good!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Watching You

I just completed another suspense novel and sent it off to the publisher this evening -- so fingers crossed!

Watching You is a bit different from my previous suspense novels. This time I go into the mind of a serial killer. As well as the hero and heroine's point of views, I use the killer's.

I had an absolute ball writing this book.

Here's a short blurb:

Angeline Hamilton is devastated to discover upon the reading of her father's will that not only has she lost her inheritance, but she has lost her family home too -- Tarrington Manor. She approaches the new owner, Sebastain Tremaine, under the pretence that she has applied for a job at he house.

Someone is watching Angeline's every move and wants revenge. He aims to get it the night of the masked ball...

What transpires is a tale of secrets, seduction and a simmering love affair that is further complicated by the losses in the lives of both lovers and the evil stalker they have to keep at bay.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Rodders was fantastic last night!

The Rod Stewart concert at The Millennium Stadium Cardiff last night, was fantastic! When we arrived in Cardiff, we immediately bumped into a couple of old friends who were also going to the concert, so we had a drink with them and something to eat before the show.

Rod was supported by The Pretenders, who were good, but I couldn't make out one word Chrissie Hynd was saying to the crowd!

Rod was in fine form for an old age pensioner of 62. He belted out the old tracks like Reason to Believe, Maggie May, Sailing etc. He has so much energy. Fatherhood appears to keep him young, he's hardly changed throughout the years.

The most touching part of the show was when he sang Cat Stevens's, Father and Son. A moving film of himself with his father and his own son growing up was shown behind him.

Rock on Rodders! I still want to listen to you crooning when you're in your eighties and nineties!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I've made a decision

I've made a decision, although knowing me, I'll probably feel differently tomorrow. I'm going to stop logging in to the missing dog website. It's been five weeks since Danny disappeared and there has been no concrete evidence to suggest where he is.

So far, there have been so-called sightings in Troedyrhiw, Merthyr Town Centre, St. Mellons in Cardiff, Tredegar and now a possible one in Brecon. I'm beginning to get very skeptical about it all.

I was just about to dish up Sunday lunch last weekend and we had a few special visitors to join us when Colin disappeared in the car. I found out that some kids had rung claiming they had seen Danny. He got there within minutes and found the children but no dog. When they gave him the description, he sounded nothing like Danny at all.

All these sightings are so vague and upsetting to be honest.

The type of call I have been waiting for since putting up posters and it going in the paper, is either: "Mrs Rees we believe we have your dog. We thought he was a stray and have been looking after him." Or: "There's a man living down the road who has recently taken a dog in fitting that description." Not something like: "I saw a dog twenty miles away two weeks ago that might have been Danny." I say: "Did he have one long pointy ear and one floppy?" "Er, I didn't notice." Believe me, mate, that's the first thing you would have noticed about him.

So for now, I am not going to keep logging into the missing dog website several times a day. All these leads [pardon the pun] are far too vague for me.

There has to come a point when I bring closure to this for my sanity's sake. There will always be well meaning dog lovers who will keep logging in and posting messages to Danny's page to say they think they have seen him.

I'm going to do as Ed kindly suggested, write a story with an ending about what really happened to Danny that night. I'll probably make it a happy ending, even if that isn't really the case.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Yesterday, was exactly a year since the book launch for It Happened One Summer took place at the castle. I had no idea back then that I would have flown away from my publisher and found a new one! The new publisher is The Wild Rose Press, who I have to say are treating me very well indeed.

The coincidence is that yesterday, I was sent the galley from them for the same book.

I am so glad I took the decision to step out, taking the risk with another publisher. My old publisher did not treat me well, that's why I left. I felt they didn't have my best interests at heart. I'm also now a Samhain author, who are also treating me well as an author.

Writers, I would say to you: Don't settle for second best, otherwise that's all you can expect.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Return to Winter is now available in print!

I'm thrilled that Return to Winter is now available in print!

Purchase here!

And here's an excerpt:

Stephanie sat in Dylan's armchair next to the fire place and kicked
off her boots. It was eleven-thirty. She must have dozed off as the
next thing she knew she was opening her eyes and the clock showed that
it was almost midnight. That was odd. Surely it wouldn't take Dylan
half an hour to fetch a couple of bottles from the cellar?

She slipped back into her boots and walked down the corridor in the
direction of the cellar. When she got there, the door was slightly ajar.

"Dylan!" she cried out, her voice echoing into the abyss. There was no
answer, so she pushed the heavy, creaking door until it opened fully.
She searched for a light switch but failed to find one. Perhaps if she
walked down the steps, there would be a switch at the bottom.

It was ice-cold as she descended the stone steps that had probably
been there for generations. Somewhere down in the very depths of the
castle, she heard a faint dripping sound.

Putting both palms on the wall, she scaled her way down in the inky
darkness. Good, she found a wooden rail she could hold on to.

Something brushed against her face and she almost cried out with fear.
Just a cobweb, she reassured herself. You're losing it, lady. Maybe
this was a daft idea and she should retrace her steps back up to the
top. But what if Dylan was lying at the bottom injured? That thought
was enough to spur her on.

Finally, she got to the last step and found a switch and the light
came on. It was very dim, but at least she had some illumination. She
searched around and found a small, dusty table, on top of which was a
candle holder and a box of matches. She struck one and lit the candle,
just as the light bulb fizzled out.

Shadows flickered in the cellar, casting an eerie impression. "Dylan!"
she cried out again. But all was silent. There were rack upon rack of
bottles down here. They must be worth a fortune, she mused.

It was no use, she couldn't find Dylan. She was about to go and then
let out a gasp, the hairs on her neck standing on end as she saw a
woman coming towards her carrying a lighted candle. Then she relaxed,
and let out a long breath when she realised it was only her own
reflection in an old bar room mirror on the wall.

How silly she was being, imagining all kinds of things. She composed
herself and made for the stairs. The cellar door slammed shut and the
candle blew out. Terror gripped her as she fought to keep in control
of her senses. The thud in her ears deafened her as she heard her own
heart beat as loud as a drum. What if no one found her?

"Help!" she tried to shout, but fear made her voice sound weak.
"Someone please help me!" Then she put her hands out in front of her
to try to find her way out.

Stumbling over something, she tripped and fell, hitting her head
against a wine rack. She put her hands out for something solid to help
her to get to her feet and touched something soft and warm. It was a
human leg, someone was standing by her side.

"Dylan, thank goodness. Help me up."

Two strong hands came towards her and helped her to her feet. Then
they forcefully grabbed her from behind, one hand slipping over her
mouth. This was her worse nightmare and she had no idea who it was.
Trembling, she feared she would black out and then what would happen?
Her legs felt like they were going to give way. I have to do
something. She tried to scream but the large hand was firmly clamped
over her mouth...