Tag Archives: ideas

Something Different

I wrote this short piece for a Wattpad contest to tie in with The Handmaid’s Tale that I never ended up entering (I didn’t read the small print and it was only open to Canadians I think).

It’s been sitting on my desktop ever since and I haven’t known what to do with it.  This week seems a good time as any to share it.  I haven’t really written short stories before but I hope you enjoy it.  Please let me know what you think.

 

 

The Personal Touch

I’ve never done a TV broadcast before so I’m a little nervous. Wave your hand if I go too fast and I’ll slow down – as the donor said to the Handmaid. Haha! No, not really, we reduce sedation during collections but they’re never fully conscious.

I’m ready. Are you filming now?

“Welcome to North United Reproductive Centre. I’m Greta one of the Handmaids. Our official title is Manual Ejaculate Harvester but that’s a real mouthful so we generally go by the nickname.

“If we go into the collection chamber you can observe one of the donors. As you can see he’s in excellent physical shape thanks to a diet designed to ensure quality is optimum. We don’t want substandard samples slipping through. Careful, we don’t want anyone tripping and pulling out a sedation drip or feeding tube, and definitely not the waste pipe!

“Collection was originally done mechanically but it appears to be more efficient when a woman is involved – subconscious awareness on the part of the donor perhaps. A good Handmaid can extract the harvest in minutes. Eight tugs and a squeeze is the record to beat in this centre. The Personal Touch, as our sign says. Of course there’s no actual contact; Handmaids wear gloves – very strict hygiene regulations. It isn’t a glamorous job. RSA is a problem but we have in-house physio.

“The ethics? It’s a necessary evil. Our foremothers knew that whatever the race, religion or political leanings of the perpetrator, the common factor in almost all atrocities was gender. We can’t reproduce without them so the worldwide sedation of males was deemed necessary. I’m amazed it took so long to reach that conclusion, but I suppose the pioneers had to be cautious. Secretly manufacturing enough sedative was a logistical nightmare, not to mention building storage facilities for the donors. They had to look back to 20th century farming methods for inspiration. Can you imagine the organisation involved to ensure every woman across the world received the original dose and administered it on the same night? Imagine the repercussions of being discovered! Wives, sisters, daughters, mothers; all acting as one. We owe our brave foremothers a huge debt.

“We have enough stock to last for the next eight or nine generations. Thanks to screening, no male embryos make it to the implantation stage but if supplies ever run short we’ll allow enough to replenish supplies. Perhaps our descendants will discover how to curb their violent urges and free range males can be reintroduced.”

‘Fucksake woman! Concentrate! I’m losing it.’

The harsh tone pulls Greta from her favourite daydream back to reality. Concentrating, she finishes the client off with a few dexterous actions.

Without comment he zips his trousers, tosses £20 on the table and leaves the flat. Through the window Greta watches him glance furtively around and shuffle off. She has time for a cuppa before the next one knocks on the door.

One day, she thinks, remembering her daydream. One day.

 

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What’s in a name?

I was a chapter and a half into a WIP when I realised something wasn’t working. After redrafting and editing and still getting nowhere with what I knew could be a great story it dawned on me the problem wasn’t with the story but with the heroine. I just wasn’t feeling her (unlike the hero who was more than happy to have a go much earlier than I was expecting him to, though that’s another story…) and I realised it came down to one reason: her name.

I had inadvertently chosen the name of a real person I had once known and instead of picturing my heroine I had a subconscious mental image of someone who most definitely didn’t deserve to get her hands on my hero.  As soon as I went back to the drawing board and renamed the character the scenes began to come together.

Names are funny things. However much I plan, I can’t get down to the business of writing the story unless I’ve found the right name. I estimate I’ve spent as much time choosing names for my characters as I did for my children*, though for them I had the whole of history to go at rather that medieval England. I try to use authentic names for my characters.  I can happily spend hours poring over documents from the time for inspiration so you’ll never find a Lady Chardonnay or Sir Kevin but I’ve also developed a few rules too.

Rule 1. Heroines can have two syllable names but heroes should be called something short, or a name that can be shortened (nicknames and dropping titles is a way I like to show the growing intimacy between the characters).

My first hero, Hugh in Falling for Her Captor was named after Hugh Jackman – which probably indicates where my mind was while I was writing. I like single syllables that to me at least sound a bit tough and masculine to say out loud: Hugh, Will, Hal. Rhett… Han… Jon… Thor (?!?)…

Four books in I’ve already broken this rule with the hero of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge with a hero called Aelric who goes by the alias Caddoc but finding a one-syllable Anglo-Saxon name proved almost impossible (and be thankful he isn’t called Aethilberct).

SOR front

I’ve slightly backed myself into a corner with my next book to be released because when I wrote The Blacksmith’s Wife I didn’t intend Roger to be anything more than the villain (perhaps having a name that became slang for penis is part of the reason he was so bitter).  Now he’s got his own book as readers were intrigued by him and is saddled with a less than heroic sounding name even though the Germanic origin means ‘renown + spear’ which fits his ambition to be a great jouster well. Isn’t that a lucky coincidence!

Rule 2. After hours spent with my spellcheck trying to change my second hero Will Rudhale’s tenses, I added a new which is never use a name that is also a verb (‘Do you mean ‘will try’ not ‘Will tried’? No I ****ing don’t, nor did I the last 27 times!)

Rule 3. Avoid the Dickensian ‘Mr Nastyb*stard, official puppy kicker of London Town’ method of indicating character through names.  Having said that I’m having to seriously resist following the suggestion of Baron Longden Hardthrust of Broadshaft Hall.

Rule 4. The biggie. Avoid the names of friends and family. Especially men. Mainly because I have a low embarrassment threshold and don’t ever want to have the ‘so that’s me in the book is it?’ conversation (which amazingly I’ve had even when the names don’t match). Chances are if I know you then you are in there somewhere because all writers are magpies and collect mannerisms, features and conversations but whether you’re the love interest, villain or comic relief I absolutely refuse to say!

*One named for a series of inventors, the other after a character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer if you’re interested.

Do you have a favourite character name, or one that turns you straight off the book? Do share in the comments.

The Ideas Shed

When I wrote the story that became Falling for Her Captor I was really pleased with it as an idea. I had to be because it was the only one I had. When I got offered a 2 book contract I had a bit of a panic about whether I could actually write another book or whether that would be my one and only idea. Fortunately I had stuck a chance comment by one of the characters in FFHC about the hero’s parentage. This had given me an idea for a second book which I had already started playing around with when I got The Call. That turned into A Wager for the Widow which is my July release.

‘Where do you get your ideas?’ is a question writers get asked all the time. I’ve read some brilliant responses and I’ve answered it myself in a few interviews. The answer for me at least is they just sort of fall into my head. It’s a bit of a rubbish answer but also an alarming one because what happens if the ideas stop dropping in?

So far I’m relieved that doesn’t seem to be happening. In fact I’m finding I have more ideas demanding their turn. Sometimes a song sets them off, or visiting a new place that makes me wonder who might have lived there. Even a trip to the pub with a friend has given me a new plot to mull over (once I can decide what is in the mysterious box). About 3/4 of the way through writing A Wager for the Widow I wondered what would happen if the heroine did make the unwise decision she doesn’t make in that book (no spoilers just yet). That became the basis for my current work in progress.

Frantically scribbling a few sentences into my notepad (I used the last page yesterday. Must get another.) before I forgot an idea the other day it struck me that I’ve gone from one story via having a couple of plots in my head to now having a whole folder with Word documents. They vary from one line descriptions to a whole page outline of stories I want to write one day.
It’s going to fun deciding which one to do after I’ve finished my current book and the fourth proposal that I’ve sent to Harlequin.

Not that I’m complaining, I’d rather have a waiting list than none, but whatever happens, Taming her Ofsted Inspector is still at the bottom of the list.