Saturday, January 31, 2009
According to the electrician who showed up yesterday afternoon, the cable was too long and that was why the earthing wire touched the live wire. Surely that would have been obvious when he put up the lamp not two weeks ago? It is most perplexing (and frightening). Before this problem started in early December, the lights had been up for 8 years without incident. The electrician has no explanation as to why the wires should have suddenly burnt through... At the moment, we seem to be calling them out to deal with the problem on a nearly weekly basis. The firm is highly reputable. Fingers crossed. But the whole thing is odd.
The children have also been told to stop being rogue elephants when they walk up and down the upstair corridor...
Friday, January 30, 2009
Yesterday the venture that the Bonnycastles started to keep the presses rolling turned 60!
To celebrate Harlequin released 16 books from its backlist as FREE downloads. One book from each line currently published in the North American market. I found it impossible to get on yesterday and thought that people from outside North America could not download the books, but this morning, it was not a problem. The list showcases books that the editors feel represent the Best in the Line from recent years. So for historical, there is Elizabeth Rolls His Lady Mistress. For Superromance there is Janice Kay Johnson's Snowbound which won the Rita last year. For Kimani, there is a Brenda Jackson. I am looking forward to them and to trying a few of the lines that I have not tried. You can get the downloads here.
All sorts of other events are planned, including the draw for a Diamond necklace to celebrate the Harlequin Romance Diamond Brides series.
In other news:
I fond a hen's nest yesterday. A dozen eggs. I tested them -- dunk in cold water, see if they float. All stayed firmly at the bottom so all are good. It is a matter of a surfeit of eggs again. Baking appears to be the order of the day. The children have not had egg salad sandwiches recently so this might do as well. I forget if they like egg salad sandwiches. They did once but may have rebeled. The problem with a surfeit of eggs is that you know the hens and ducks will keep laying given the time of year...
The mole continues to elude me. The mole hills are less frequent. Sincerely hope that this does not mean the mole is preparing to give birth...apparently they go deeper then...Much easier to think of the Mole as a he than a pregnant she.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Kim S who does the Harlequin Historical My Space is doing a contest until 31 Jan where one of the possible prize is a copy of Viking Warrior Unwilling Wife. She also writes about her own inspiring life and her struggles after a car crash. You can read about it here.
I am working on my single title historical romance. It is fun to write but this paranormal keeps calling. It is a matter of taking notes. I am over page 100 with the single title and I hate not completing stories when I get to that point. And yes, I know both my critique partners' whips are out.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
I sent my Viking in again today, hopefully for the final time. It is a far better book and I do agree with the tweaks that I was asked to make. In the end, if the story flows, that is the main thing and I park my ego at the door...It is Ivar's story in case anyone was still wondering. And I was bound to hit a book like this. Tomorrow, it is back to the word mines and writing the mainstream single title.
My ego took a boost over the weekend. Jayne from Dear Author posted a B review of Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife. As I remembered from her review of Taken by the Viking that the Viking period is not one of her favourites, I was pleased that she liked it. You can read the full review here.
I have thought and thought about why the cover for Viking Warrior Unwilling Wife is not my favourite. I love the background. The woman is quite pretty. But the man neither engages the reader with his glance, nor does he engage the woman. Instead he appears to be lost in his own world and is not inviting the reader in. The picture on the inside front cover is much nicer and shows a tender moment where the coupl are actively engaged with each other. However, there is nothing to be done about it and I am allowed to have favourites.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
It is a wonderfully dry and witty book about the trials and tribulations of a lady during the 1920s/30s. I read at in my final year of university and adored it. Luckily EM Delafield wrote several sequels including The Provincial Lady in London which was given to me as a graduation gift and I can dip in and out of that one. Both India and I agree that when we go to London for a Literary do, is impossible not to feel like PL.
If you have read Delafield, you can tell where Helen Fielding got some of her inspiration. If you enjoy PG Wodehouse, you should like EM Delafield. If you are a Mother with Children, it rings true. However, unfortunately, she has fallen out of fashion. She should be rediscovered.
Recently, Jilly Cooper did a marvellous article on EM Delafield in the Guardian. It is worth a read if you want to know more. Suffice it to say that Jilly Cooper is a fan of the books. Better yet, try to find a copy and read EM Delafield's words. They resound through the ages.
Still working on my revisions and they are going well. And I shall be Good and not reread PL until I have finished them and my rita books...
Friday, January 23, 2009
The mole does not have a nickname. Any creature that I might have to dispatch does not get a nickname. It makes it harder. One more day of curing in the compost heap and the mole will be engaged in battle.
The revisions are coming on. It is now a matter of going through and making sure everything is how I want it. There were some parts that my editor did not mention directly but it was obvious the emotional intensity needed to be upped and the stakes needed to be raised. And there were a few sentences that once God and I knew what they meant, but now only God knows. It will be a better book...
Thursday, January 22, 2009
My traps are currently curing in the compost heap so that they can have the proper earthy smell. They need to smell like the earth. Moles are known to dig around traps...
On Saturday, I will find the mole run, put the set trap in, and carefully cover over the trap. Then I wait, having marked the trap with a stick. You apparently can lose traps. Also it takes practice. I am hoping to catch the mole alive and be able to give him a happy home, somewhere a long ways away from the back lawn. If the mole dies, then unfortunately it has happened.
After doing the research, I discovered that vibration does not work, nor does pouring Jeyes fluid down the holes or a host of other methods. The best answer is to trap them. Then you know. You want more than one trap. Persistence.
And I need to discover a duck's nest as the white duck was out again last night. No quacking until about 7, but it was still out of the duck house in the morning.
Revisions are coming on. It is little tweaks to increase emotional intensity.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Now I could curl up in a ball, but I really want this story to be strong. I sometimes find the third story to be the weakest. Some of the problems are of my own making as I threw out 90% of the story after the first revision letter. This was mainly because I wanted to and thought it would work better. It has in one way but other problems remain. Sometimes, you just get a book like that and hopefully the pain and suffering on my part will make for a better read. Ultimately it is about getting the best read possible for the readers. It is my name on the front cover and if the read is substandard, then can I ask readers to trust me with the next one? Better to make the changes now.
It is minor tweaks but then I do get to use Iolite as well. Kate Hardy told me about Iolite in December and I vowed if I got a chance, I would add it. It was used as the Viking's Compass -- the world's first polarising filter and used to determine the position of the sun. Determining the position of the sun becomes important when you realise that during the summer solstice, the sun never sets and you cannot rely on stars. Lief Erickson used one to find the New World.
So third time lucky.
In other news:
It was late night fun and games as one duck had not gone to bed. At about 1 am, it began quacking down in the lower pond. So after being nudged by my dh, I rose, pulled my hiking boots and a coat on over my nightdress, grabbed a torch and went out to find the duck. My dh is useless when it comes to putting the ducks away. Luckily the torch helped the white duck to decide that it did eventually want to go to bed with the other ducks and not stay hidden under various bushes or be quacking in the stream. The dogs aided just at the end, but I worried Joss the border collie would start barking and really wake the neighbours. The children slept through. I suspect the duck has a nest and I will have to find it. But climbing down the muddy slopes of the dene in the dark without a very solid reason is not on.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Sometimes things just strike me between the eyes. One thing is that the necessity of tying up subplots, particularly when certain things have been foreshadowed. Readers do wonder.
Readers do want the emotional payoff. They also want to believe that people are capable of being redeemed.
I know that I avoid bleeding on the page because it hurts. It is the old 10 percent rule -- the vast majority of readers will only get 10 % of the emotion you put in the book. In order to make sure that emotions are fully engaged, the writer needs to bleed. If you do not care passionately about characters, how can anyone else? It is something I do struggle with and when it is brought home to me, I go -- oh. it makes perfect sense now. Whether I can actually execute on that is another question. And each time I write, I do wonder if I will give enough blood.
Last evening I watched a programme we had taped about Sir John Mortimer. Like many driven people, he worked hard. When he was a barrister, and indeed I think for most of his life, he rose at 5:30 am and wrote. He also wrote before court. In other words he worked hard. His success was far from effortless, although he did like to pretend.
As some may know, he had a secret child. An affair with the actress Wendy Craig resulted in a baby boy who grew into a man before John Mortimer ever met him or indeed knew of his existence. He only learnt when a biographer interviewed Wendy Craig and she felt the need to confess. His son was grown and it turns out they get along very well. My dh turned me and said that he thought such things only happened in romance novels... I remarked that he had forgotten Peter and Dan Snow. Secret babies do happen. It annoys me when people say they are unrealistic... It is the motivation that is interesting.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I do need to remember that opportunities for good narrative action should not go to waste. Subplots should also always feed into the main plot. Climaxes in important subplots need to affect turning points in a profound way.
Also -- motivations should grow and change as the plot progress. This helps to show character growth. Turning points should change characters and their relationships.
Writing can be such fun at times. And I know with my own writing -- I may know the concept and good practice, but then why don't I apply them? Why do I like being nice to be my characters? Sometimes there is a temptation to not want to bleed.
This week I need to write. Last week my progress was not good.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
I loved the way he could turn a phrase, or describe a character with a few well chosen words. He also had a wonderful work ethic -- rising at 5 am to write and did say in an interview that he hoped to be writing until he died. I hope he was.
Back in 1986, my husband (then boyfriend) sent me a copy of Paradise Postponed for my birthday. I have clear memories reading it on a snowy Minnesota day. It provided an insight into popular British culture that proved invaluable when a few years later when I moved permanently to the UK. Yes, it is satire but wonderful satire it is. It is the little things that are hard when you first move to a country. And when my children were little, I went and found Biggles books...as they were supposed to be good...
But it was the Rumpole stores where his genius took full flight. In many ways, he described a vanishing world where eccentricity and independence come to the fore. Rumpole was a great advocate for the independant Bar and the indivdual. I, for one am pleased that Sir John decided to write as well as practice law.
And if you have not read the Rumpole books -- read them and enjoy. Sir John Mortimer's words are his greatest legacy.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The only trouble is that my daemon sees the pile of books and goes -- oh good, a chance to play. Michelle won't want to write. Or whispers of stories will start to come in my brain.
Luckily currently BOTH of my critique partners are sitting with big whips. They do not take many prisoners either and have explained where they think I have gone wrong. It is now up to me to FINISH THE STORY.
Focus is such an important quality for a writer. You have to be able to cut out distractions. You have to be able to concentrate on one story at a time. I tend to be a monogamous writer. Some writers are polygamous but then my daemon goes skittering off. I do believe there is ALWAYS one story I want to tell more than the others. Sometimes the pure physical work of writing down an idea helps. In this case though, it is an idea that I have been toying with on and off for the last nine months. I know a bot more of how it would be done, but what I don't know far outweighs what I do know. The mythology may be in place but is the story?
I need to finish the current story. And probably write another story and then maybe I will have time.
Focus means that I get my word count done and that I actually work on furthering my knowledge of craft and the business. But without more stories for the shopfront, there is little I can do. Story is king and being distracted from my current wip is not good.
So it is a small matter of upping the stakes and making sure the tension really sings.
It is also giving myself permission to write crap and really meaning it. In other words not letting my words harden to the consistency of cement but being open to taking taking flight. So it is a small matter of resisting the terrible urges of the daemon.
In other news:
My dd's mocks came back as expected. She will be working harder on her French. She knows what she needs to do. They are pointers only. And a bit like her mother, she spends far too much time reading romance rather than acutally studying and making sure things are perfect. My eldest is taking his next exam today (not a resit) but thinks he knows the math. he has learnt the value of studying the hard way. It is terrible to look at a math paper and think -- I knew this 25 years ago but now it might as well be Sanskirt.
The electrician has taken away the hall lights and is rewiring them as it appears to be a fault with the wiring. Nothing to do with the leaking shower then.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
My eldest more than likely did not study as well as he should have done for his AS levels last June and is now resitting some of the exams. He has spent hours studying and does admit that he knows it much better, but I still worry. The exams start today and go over the next week or so. Fingers majorly crossed.
High school over in the UK is very different than the US as you do have the GCSE and then the A levels. In the US, it is grade point average and SATS. Here it is how well you have done on the course. Luckily with AS, there is a chance to resit the exam but it does add an extra work load...
One other thing I discovered this week is that BEFORE choosing GCSE courses, parents and students should investigate the university degree courses and their requirements. Several of my eldest's friends were rejected from Edinburgh because they had not read the fine print and did not know that they needed to have a foreign language GCSE. Because I believe in the importance in being able to speak a foreign language (however badly), it was a given for my children, but there will be students (and parents) who did not realize the importance of continuing with a foreign language. Many of the Scottish university science courses have a year abroad programme in an EU country. It is all about keeping your options open.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
I also recently had a review from Merri about Gladiator's Honour. Again it made my day and made me remember why I loved writing that book. Merri has recently started another review hub -- Book Illuminations. It is the bring together of several independent book reviewers so that they can review a wider range of books. I wish them all the best in their endeavor.
I love getting reader feedback. It is great to know that there are readers out there enjoying my books. I always try to pass on the reader feedback to my editors as well as they are always interested. With series books, a certain amount of sales are automatic, and they do like to know which stories hit home etc. It helps with future marketing. In fact, Harlequin Mills &Boon maintains special panels of readers in order to get feedback and so they can market the books better.
Sometimes after reading the letters, I worry about the next book -- will it be strong enough. Will it give the read that readers expect when they pick up the book? Will they be able to escape in the world I have created for a few hours? And the letters do spur me on to try. Other times, I just bask in the fact that the hard work has paid off. Also I am not so egotistical to think that my books will speak to everyone. So many factors can go into whether or not a book appeals. It is also interesting to see what people pick up on...
Anyway I do always to try answer emails or even personal letters.
IN OTHER NEWS:
The problem with the electric has come back and I will have to get the electrician out again. This time, the hall lights have not blown, but they do keep blowing the mains if switched on. Rather worrying that.
And I am starting to lose weight again. It takes a long time but indoor rowing does work, plus we have not been having as many treats. It is all about lifestyle changes rather than dieting. One of the things I have been doing with the intervals is one quick interval followed by a slower one. It does make legs become jelly but I think it works. Apparently it burns two different types of sugar. The other good thing about rowing is that afterwards, my core temperature stays up for awhile and as we are in the dark cold days of winter, this is a bonus.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Actually I am having fun writing.
The Telegraph today (pages 10-11 Review) carries an article about the publishing industry, implying that it is not all doom and gloom. Generally speaking for most people, books are not luxuries but necessities. Yes, second hand booksellers are up but certain types of books are not down as far as one might suppose. The charts editor for The Bookseller apparently discovered his reasonable remarks about the non death of the celebrity memoirs, being edited out in favour of the high profile flops so that more doom and gloom could be spread.
Unfortunately I could not discover the article on the Telegraph's website or I would have linked to it as it is interesting.In fiction, the general thinking is that depressing is out and escapism is in. During the 1970's genres such as romance and fantasy thrived. In the 1930s, Penguin pioneered the paperback and cosy detective fiction was popular. Helen Fraser of Penguin points out that unfortunately the price of paper is going up, but they are hoping to offset with the cost of typesetting going down. She does not see this as heralding the dawn of the e-book though.
I have done a lot of thinking about ebook readers and whether to get one or not. I dislike reading books on the computer. My major problem with them (besides the expense) is the lack of being able to share. My dd and I both read romance. I often have to go and fish the books I thought I was reading out of her room. She may have her nose in one, with another ready to read. With an ebook reader, you can only be reading one book at a time on the reader and you can not share the books between readers. With the mysteries, up to four people in the house may be reading them( My youngest is currently gone on polar exploration. ) So for me and my family, it does not make sense as we share books.
A friend who I was speaking to about this problem also commented that she liked to bump into books -- so she had a book on the go upstairs and one for downstairs. Carrying a reader around seemed somehow premeditated and she would lose that guilty pleasure...
Anyway, the best guess is that e-books will reach the size of the audible book market in about five years time. They are a niche market.
Right, Donna's whip is going to be looming and I have promised chapters, so I shall work.
Friday, January 09, 2009
I have discovered the Mira blog where they will be discussing books on Fridays. Five books, five Fridays. One of the things I did last year was to help set up a reading group at the local high school and Mills & Boon were very supportive. They very kindly sent out a few copies of Maria V Snyder's Poison Study. After reading it, I became a firm fan as has my daughter and a number of Year 9 boys. Anyway, the discussion about Poison Study on the Mira blog will be next Friday. It is one of those books that after reading, you just want to discuss. Snyder plays around with a number of themes. And my daughter keeps reminding me that Fire Study is published on the 16th and we are waiting to see how various things such as the carved stones play into the overarching story. Also the contrasting societies which explores the whole concept of freedom and totalitarianism. It reminds me of Persian Empire v the Greek democracies -- where were people more truly free?
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Monday, January 05, 2009
Saturday, January 03, 2009
I only managed to ruin one candle this year, and the wax was easily remelted.
It is a timeless process. Beeswax has been used since time immemorial, just as honey has. Cave pictures have included honey/beeswax hunting representations. However, it was not until the mid 19th century that modern beekeeping was born.
Until the invention of whale oil and then paraffin, beeswax was the clearest light. It does not smoke like tallow. Its light though is yellower than the white-blue of paraffin. And when it burns, beeswax releases the most wonderful scent.
I tend to make taper candles as they fit into the candle holders.
Beeswax is also used in a number of products from cosmetics to furniture polish. The cleanest wax from commercial beekeepers tends to cosmetics and the worst for furniture polish.
Because the bee uses the very efficient hexagonal shape, it does not produce much wax and pound for pound, beeswax is more expensive than honey.
Anyway, when I look at my candles and my store of honey, I am very pleased to keep bees. It is a worthwhile hobby and hopefully one which will grow in popularity. However, despite bees being one of the most studied creatures through history, we actually do not know that much about them and the dangers the modern world/chemicals/practices present.