Ally Blake Romance Author - Blog

Latest news from Australian romance author Ally Blake, writer of fun, fresh flirty romance novels.

Wednesday 28 February 2007

between the sheets: emotional stimulation

Sometimes we need to "fill the artistic well". To me this means surrounding myself with things that make me feel a certain way.

BEAUTY: The Oscars last night was perfect timing. Gorgeous men in smashing suits, beautiful women in glamorous dresses. Natasha Oakley has decided she wants to be Reese Witherspoon and I don't blame her. The dress, the hair, the make-up. She looked so lovely. J Lo looked sweet. Nicole K's red dress was sublime. Naomi Watts and her well-hidden bump looked lovely as always. And I am in no doubt that I want to be Helen Mirren when I grow up. Seriously that woman gets more beautiful every year. All that beauty and glamour lifts the spirits. For me anyway. I get the same inspiration when reading through the likes of In Style - inspiration for clothes, for colours, for characters.

MUSIC: I've been playing Jeff Buckley's Grace over and again the past couple of days as well whichy puts me in the right place for this book.

STORYTIME: I like to take my lunch in front of the telly, watching a taped epsiode of West Wing (which is getting so close to the end I am beginning to panic!!!), or perhaps an hour of a movie or TV show I love. When amidst my first Modern Extra Sensual book, I watched lots of Sex and the City. The attitude, the mateship, the emotion all helped get my head in the right place.

Another show that I know can give me the exact right feeling I'm looking for is Coupling, which makes me laugh so hard it hurts. the same goes for Arrested Development.

The movie Cyrano de Bergerac always makes me cry. More than cry. Bawl. To the point of sobbing. I watched it last week to prepare for my March Pink Heart Society Friday Film-night and this film moves me so much I fear the review will be about 2000 words long!!!

Often times it just comes to us. The scene brings it's own well of emotion, dragging us, in our track pants and messy ponytails into a world of glamour, or high stakes danger, or heartbreaking emotion all on its own. But sometimes we need a little help.

I guess it's like actors reaching inside of themselves for a past experience to bring out the emotion they need. For me these things are like a quick and easy way to tap into the emotion I am after. As well as giving me some time away from staring at a blank page, and relaxing me and filling my artistic well.

Today I'm thinking perhaps a little sweet teenage angst by way of John Hughes's lovely lovely lovely Sixteen Candles will go down well with my leftover meatballs on toast ;).

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Thursday 22 February 2007


Okay, so I've been tagged from a couple of corners of the world thanks to the lovely Barbara Hannay and Trish Wylie to share ten random things about myself. I always wonder when the time will come when I've told all my stories and none of this will be news anymore, but I so enjoyed reading theirs that I've put together one of my own so as to not be the block in the information flow ;).

  1. My favourite flower is the gardenia. I remember waking up in the hotel room in Las Vegas the day after my wedding and the whole room smelled of gardenias. Soooo delicious!!!
  2. When I grew up I wanted to be a teacher who played the flute. Not sure how those two things hung together in my little mind but they did. (Not a bad aim considering my little sister Suze wanted to be a tractor and marry my mother)
  3. Then I changed my mind and decided I wanted to be a Barrister. Not a lawyer, or a solicitor, but a Barrister – capital B intended. Likely the effect of watching too much LA Law with my mum and wanting to say all those gorgeous speeches and make people cry with my eloquence.
  4. My close friends in high school all went on to become doctors and lawyers and therapists and in great government positions. I was always the “I wonder what strange job she’ll end up with” member of the group.
  5. I wrote my first book wearing a white floral garland in the hopes it would help connect me to my muse. Truly! Looking back that makes me feel like a total goose, until last year I read the book by the guy who started Nanowrimo and he claimed to have worn a Viking helmet for the same reason!
  6. My middle name is Leigh – and I don’t know why! Must ask…
  7. I walk about the world with my head in the clouds most of the time I’m not the type to see a fifty dollar note on the sidewalk or mess on the coffee table.
  8. And I hate heights too. Perhaps I was asked to walk the plank in a former life and simply don't like looking down ;).
  9. I can’t cook – hubby does ALL the cooking and he always makes it look like it could be served at a restaurant. (Though that said I make a killer warm chicken salad and chocolate cake – so nice Trish Wylie used my chocolate cake in one of her books!!!)
  10. I like the colour red – my handbag, phone, business card holder, throw cushions on my couch, and utensils in my kitchen are all red. I have my eye on a red kettle and toaster. Might take some convincing hubby who is in charge of the kitchen (see point # 9)

I tag anyone who read this! Pass it on...


Wednesday 21 February 2007

billionaires on my doorstep

What a lovely surprise at seven o'clock this morning!

A box arrived on my doorstep with a thump, waking the dog who preceeded to wake the household. Bleary eyed my hubby headed outside to collect the copies of both my tenth Romance and my first Modern Extra Sensual! The covers of which are both gorgeous. The couple to the left look exactly as I imagined Tom and Maggie, right down to the clothes. I love her outfit, her dead straight hair, the way she's holding onto her skirt. Love it!

I loved writing both of these books and couldn't help but dive in to reintroduce myself to the characters again. I started reading BILLIONAIRE ON HER DOORSTEP first and hit chapter five before I knew it. But with a deadline around the corner and a half dozen RITA books to read and judge, I'm going to have to save these for later.

For blurbs and excerpts and the like, check out the pages for:


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Saturday 17 February 2007

between the sheets: motifs

I love a good motif. I never set out to have them in my books, they just seem to evolve out of thin air. And I don't even know that they will be motifs until suddenly they are!

I’m sure it was Trish Morey who recently said on a loop somewhere (and I’m sure she won’t mind me quoting her here) that she loves it when those lines or moments appear at the begining of a book and you have no idea what they mean, or what they will allude to later on, and suddenly when you’re three quarters of the way through the book you realize that that one moment, that one line has such an important resonance it could almost be the fulcrum from which the whole book balances!

Or words to that effect ;).

For me a motif that has come into its own today. Henry V. Yes, Shakespeare’s Henry V. And yes this is a contemporary novel. Of 50,000 words. And in the middle of nowhere a couple of weeks back I had my hero quote from it accidentally.

Or perhaps I should say I quoted it accidentally.

'So how about we clap hands and a bargain.’ He held out his hand to seal the deal.

My heroine recognized the words immediately. Even before I did.

“Henry V,’ she blurted out, her eyes lighting up.

At that point I had to back up a step. And headed off the Google land to check that I had any clue that was the correct reference. And what do you know what? It was. Yay me! It comes from the proposal scene near the end of the play. I love this play. Adore it. Kenneth Branagh’s film would have to be one of my favourites. And the proposal scene is a delight. It's hilariously funny (especailly after coming directly after so much heartache and pain and blood and gore and loss in the great battle scene) and sooooo moving.

Now, from that one accidental quote I have since discovered that:

My heroine has a double English lit major

My hero’s house has a massive library that he loved trawling as a kid (mostly because he loved pushing himself around on the ten foot ladder on wheels mind you ;))

And while rediscovering the library today Hud stumbled upon a copy of Henry V and while reading the proposal scene he discovered amazing things about himself, his place in the world, and what he has to offer a woman

I can already see how this motif can play through the rest of the book – lightly, gently, sometimes in ways that nobody may even notice bar me, but I can even see how it will make an appearance towards the end of my own book.

Kissing a Fool, the George Michael song is still beautifully evocative for the feel of the book, but the title no longer resonates. I feel like I need a line from that scene to lock it all into place. Even though the title WILL change if the book is bought, I need to have a working title that takes me directly to the heart of the book.

Some ideas floating around in my head:

Rhyme and Reason (not quite magical enough)

Canst thou love me?

Take Me, Take a Bachelor (a modern spin on a line I can feel is going to be important later in the book)

Broken Music (pretty huh?)

The Voyager and the Mermaid (nothing to do with Henry V though it has a lot to do with the story)

Watch this space for the winning title. And if you haven't see the movie - DO! And now. It came out before Braveheart, before Narnia, before Lord of the Rings, and to my mind the battle scenes in this movie are far superior (and much copied). And as Kendall says:

It’ll make you laugh, and cry, and your heart go pitter pat. And if it doesn’t, well then I fear you’re just not human.

For the journey of writing a Harlequin Romance from initial idea to 'the end', check out the whole Between the Sheets series

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Friday 16 February 2007

how nice!

The lovely Fiona Lowe just let me know that I have been nominated for Reviewers' Choice Awards in two differnet categories from the lovely reviewers at Cataromance!

for Best Harlequin Romance
for Best Silhouette Romance.

Both are still available on eHarlequin if anybody wants a lookie ;).
Or click here for the complete list where you'll find Fiona herself has three nods and other great mates of mine Nicola Marsh, Annie West, Trish Morey and Trish Wylie appear as well!

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Thursday 15 February 2007

between the sheets: head-hopping & POV

The questions I get asked most often by people looking to write their first book, are always about Point of View. Which characters head to be inside while writing a scene. When to change. How to change. Whether to change at all. How to track changes.

which character?

Cleverer people than I am say that it should be in the POV of the person with the most to lose by the revelations in that scene. I'm far more insitncitve than that. At this stage I just know whose eyes I am looking through in any given scene. Emotionaly I think it's better to be inside the head of the person who is feeling it the most. Whether that be elation, nerves, confusion, love, anger, terror... Readers can hook onto those emotions and be taking on a roller coaster ride. In my third book MARRIAGE MAKE-OVER the entire book was in the heroine's POV. Start to finish. Because the hero knew what he wanted - her. She was the one with the most to lose, the most growth to make, so it was far more interesting being with her as she struggled and triumphed.

when to change?

Again alot of it comes down to insitnct. I'm all for a nice cliffhanger! I love it when a character builds to a point where they ask themself a great grand question and.... point of view change. Perhaps the other character answers it for us, or them. Or perhaps the tension continues to build ;). I love a good segue as well. In Kissing a Fool I finished off a scene in the first chapter with Kendall sitting on the bottom of the shower. Straight cut to Hud in his shower as well. I'm a yin and yang kinda girl. I looove balance and symetry.

how to change?

When I wrote my first book, The Wedding Wish, whenever I changed POV I put a space between the last line of his, and the first line of hers, believing that would help readers differentiate whose head they were in and quick. But when the book actually turned up, I found those spaces clunky. Since then I have always been careful to make my changes of POV clear in other ways.

One way to do this is by putting the POV person's name clearly at the start of the sentence/paragraph. AND at the switch point give the new character something concrete to do or think. I do the very same thing at the beginning of any new chapter/scene to get the reader into the write POV in an instant.

These are a few I have used to date in Kissing a Fool.

eg. Kendall yanked the towel to her chest in a move of pure instinct.

eg. Hud ran a hand over his face and stared into the tree line.

eg. Kendall looked past Hud for an escape route.
eg. What on earth is he going on about?
Kendall thought.

how to track changes?

Since I am a bit of a messy writer while in the first draft I keep track by actually colouring all of my heroine's POV words purple and my hero in blue (as above). A bit weird to get used to but now I find it really easy. Gives me a very clear look at the POV balance as well when I do a 6 page "Print Preview".

Now the POV doesn't need to be balanced. There is no rule telling me that I have to write 60% heroine and 40% hero or any such thing, but again it's all about the balance, the yin and yang thing for me I think. Too much blue and I start to feel like my left leg is longer than my right and I'll walk funny all day.

And I always leave a line space at the end of a scene which I find a much more comfortable read.

In the end I'd do whatever suits you. I know authors who head hop brilliantly, (change from one POV to another mid-scene) and others who would never head hop in the one scene. I do both!!! Depends on who wants to say more and when ;). I just make sure to make the change OBVIOUS so the reader doesn't get halfway through the sentence and think "now whose green eyes am I looking at???"

For the journey of writing a Harlequin Romance from initial idea to 'the end', check out the whole Between the Sheets series


Wednesday 14 February 2007

things you could do today

- Get out a dozen new romance novels at your local library! -

- Eat expensive chocolate and not feel guilty -

- Watch a Bride and Prejudice & Shall We Dance marathon (I watched them both yesterday in fact - gooorgeous!!!) -

- Pluck a bunch of wild daisies from the backyard - or your neighbour's yard if necessary - sure they won't mind today of all days, and put it in a vase in your kitchen -

- Let him hold the channel remote all night (I know this will be hard, painful even, but thinks of the wife points it'll earn you) -

- Tell that special someone you love them... Actually you should do that every day not because Interflora tells you you should! -

(Okay, now can you tell "we" don't celebrate Valentines Day in my house ;))

Monday 12 February 2007

all talk

Today I took a library talk at the Lilydale Library in Melbourne.

I always say yes without hesitation when asked to do such things. And I mean yes. Until the ngiht before when nerves get the better of me. Such nerves lead to one last read through of my notes before leaving the house which led to my being 10 minutes late!!!

A roomful of people awaited me as I shuffled in in my high heels, sweat dripping down my neck from the panic and the hot car. Thankfully the lovely gang had put on a fabulous spread of sandwiches and coffee for my lovely guest so they were kept occupied for a few minutes while I set up my display table, fanned myself down and caught my breath.

Whenever I take talks, my very favourite part is ALWAYS the questions and answer section at the end. Because I am pretty good at blathering. And then I can just wax lyrical about whatever the people in the audience really want to know. So this time, I came up with the idea of basing my talk around the most frequenlty asked questions I get at talks and at dinner parties when people find out I am a romance author;). Clever huh?

The talk went fabulously. The audience were smiley and well fed ;). They laughed in all the right places. Sighed in those I didn't expect. And had lots of new questions to ask at the end. We stayed back a good three-quarters of an hour past the end time. Fabulous fun!!! I highly recommend it.

These were the quesitons:

v How did you become an author?

v Is there a formula?

v How much money do you make? (I’m dead serious!!!)

v Where do I get my ideas?

v Can anyone write book? (or more precisely "anyone can write a book")

v Why romance?

v Will you ever try to write a different type of book?

v Do you simply wait for inspiration to strike?

v Does it get easier?

If you wanna know all the answers, tomorrow at 11am I'll be talking at the Wheelers Hill Libary at 11am. Come along if you can!

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Thursday 8 February 2007

at the zoo

Yesterday I went to the Melbourne Zoo. I loooove the zoo. My brother-in-law and his girlfriend are staying with us for a week and every visitor who comes to stay has to go to the zoo with us. House rules ;).

The Melbourne Zoo is something special. The grounds are gorgeous. The spirit is phenomenal. It really makes you feel like a home away from home. They’ve had amazing success at breeding endangered species and they put serious time and effort in keeping and upgrading the enclosures into the best they can be.

If I had to name my faves, I would have to include the butterfly house. So hot you can barely breathe. But it's stunning. The colour, the intricate beauty. The fact that they hardly live a life before breding and dying. So bittersweet.

Then there are the giraffes and elephants. Stunning. And the crazy snakes and so cute you want to take one home in your handbag meerkats. And the baboons are amazing. Huge red bottoms aside.

And then there are the orangutans. Hilarious! The baby is such a show-off. The mother indulgent and the father seems to think them both far too forgiving of the crowds going and gahing at them. The gibbons are just as much fun. The black male is such a show-off. He hung around by the tips of his fingers for a while before getting swinging enough to all but hit the glass we were watching him through. Cheeky monkey indeed! We stood there giggling for ages!

I could spend all day watching the Sumatran tigers. The grace, the markings, the power. They get my vote as most beautiful animal. (Though I have to admit the seal trainer was pretty cute ;)) I only found out when I got home that the tigers have cubs!!! So we are going back in a couple of weeks with my in-laws and my friend Sheree’s family for Twilight at the Zoo – an afternoon of animal watching followed by a picnic and a night of Jazz at the zoo itself!

How’s that for civilised?


Tuesday 6 February 2007

between the sheets: writing is rewriting

I've spent some time over the past days writing the same scene - Hud and Kendall's second meet - over and over again.

Mostly it came down to having written the beginning of the scene and then going away with my Alphasmart without a copy of thew file and having no idea exactly what point I was up to ;) so in order to get the flow right I just had to start the chapter again. This may feel a sound redundant. But I have not found it to be so.

In the rewriting - not editing, but actually typing the words "Chapter Two" and starting the whole scene afresh with no preconceived notion of where it has to go - I let my muse take off into the pine forest between Hud's house and Kendall's home town sending them in several differnt directions until I stumbled upon the right tone, the right mix of tension and interest and pulling away, and just the right language to set the mood I am trying to invoke.

Some writers can't move on until their last page is spot on. Natasha Oakley writes that way - and her books are gorgeous so maybe that's a good plan! Others write fast all the way to the end and have a short book which they then layer and edit. Nicola Marsh has a really good idea of where she's going, and she writes fast - so fast in fact it makes the rest of us whimper - and I think that produces a really clean book. Her books always feel like they were writtten in one sitting, they flow beautifully, the mood is spot on throughout and they feel sooo natural, which is a skill I just looooove!

I'm somewhere in between.

I write fast, flying into the mist as they say with no idea what will happen next, until I run out of puff. Once I hit the end of a scene, I re-read and tinker, making sure the language is right, the information revealed in the best way, the pace and tone consistent. At this stage I'm never too precious. A lot can happen in the writing of a book. Threads develop, others fade to dust. So many more pieces of the puzzle will be revealed to me as I write the book that I will have no choice but to go back later and delete scenes, rework them, move them. I have had to add in and delete whole chapters in my final edits. And if I spent three days getting one sentence just right, it would be all that much harder to pull it if the need came.

I think the more practice you have, the more you get it right the first time too. But if and when I do get stuck, on a dodgy word, paragraph, chapter I highlight the whole thing in yellow and simply get on with the story. Either onto the next scene, or write a scene later in the book just to get my muse flexible again.

So long as the words keep coming, there is always time to shape the book later on.

recent progress:

I wrote 5000 words on Alphie over the weekend and did much of the preparation on my upcoming library talks! Phew. That's some big relief. For dates check out my website.

For the journey of writing a Harlequin Romance from initial idea to 'the end',

check out the whole Between the Sheets series

And for more fun check out: Trish Wylie's "Book With Trish", Nicola Marsh is blogging about the very fast writing of her next Modern Extra, Anne McAllister is currently waxing lyrical about world-building on eHarlequin, where Natasha Oakley is chatting about her writing process all month too.


Friday 2 February 2007

getting down to business

I just stumbled upon the cover for my first ever Modern Extra on Amazon.
The editor who worked with me on this book promised me when she saw the cover a few months back that it was "to die for" and "better than Christmas". And now I know what she meant.

Is this not the most gorgeous cover you have ever seen???!! Now I can't wait to have it in my hands. Read the back cover blurb. Flick thruogh the opening chapter. Funny but it almost feels like my first book all over again. Too. Much. Fun!!!

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS will be an April UK release and an August release in Australia and New Zealand. Find an excerpt here...

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Thursday 1 February 2007

between the sheets: when life gets in the way

I'm off for a few days for a long weekend visiting family up north for my brother-in-law's 30th. What with trips to the airport to pick up my sister who's flying into Brisbane for a whole other reason, dental and optical appointments, and staying at three different houses over four nights I don't see much time for liesurely writing during our four day stay.

But there is a two hour plane ride each way. And that's where Alphie comes in.

Alphie is my Alphasmart. A small, lightweight, battery operated slice of pure heaven. Like any man, Alphie ain't perfect. But I like to see the bright side of things. The screen fits only four lines of text, meaning you can't tweak terribly much even if you want to (good news for those of us who can spend half an hour on one sentence!), it makes a clacking noise as you type (makes me feel as though I'm working hard!).

But I've dropped him on concrete, shoved him in my handbag a thousand times, taken him the world over as at less than two kilograms he weighs less than my purse, and Im still on the same 2 AA batteries he came with over two years ago. What's not to love?

So, as I head up tonight, I will take my Alphie out on the plane, annoying the passenger next to me with my clacking, kinda hoping he/she won't glance over to find me writing anything too saucy, and I won't have any clue how many words I have written over the course of the long weekend until I get home Monday night. Always a happy thrill!!!

today's progress:

Every single html file in my whole computer got snapped up by a virus. I can talk about it now, but the last two days have been rather hellish. Especially for a girl who had spent about 5 hours the day before updating three websites for other people only to have the whole lot snaffled before they even hit the airwaves. Waaaahhhh. But head down bum on chair I redid them all yesterday using old back-upped versions as templates. La-di-dah!

And for a bit of back on the farm fun, for those of you waiting on chicklet news... We are beginning to think that the three we gave boys names to might just end up being the boys! Still not certain but what with markings, and behaviour (mock fighting one another, shooing away other birds) it's looking that way. Did we mess with fate? Should we have named them all girls?

And for another chicklet photo, I snapped this one yesterday. Look up the tree. One of the crazy kids seems to think she's some kind of bird!!!

For the journey of writing a Harlequin Romance from initial idea to 'the end', check out the whole Between the Sheets series

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