Friday, December 30, 2005

Two good books and the start of a roller coaster ride

Right before Christmas, I had the pleasure of reading two good Mills and Boon books. When one is under the weather or waiting for an operation, a Mills and Boon hits the spot perfectly.

The first book I read was Kate Walker's The Antonakos Marriage. Kate had already described a bit to me, and this helped inspire my latest wip. I was anxious to see how she handled the whole thing, and had I merely been inspired. I need not have worried. The two are VERY different. Thus proving, a little sentence by one writer can spark a whole new train of thought for another. However, it was certainly a page turner and as I had several hours waiting for my operation, I immersed myself in the book. As luck would have it, I was called to go up to the surgical area just as I reached the final chapter. Therefore that night, reading with one eye, I had to finish the story. I had to know how it ended. A fantastic way to escape.

Kate Hardy kindly sent me Her Celebrity Surgeon. This arrived on the Thursday before Christmas. I was very good and did my revisions for the day before starting to read it. I really enjoyed this one as well. A few chapters would be fine I thought. My dh forced me to go to bed without having finished it, and so I was up at 5am, reading it. I thought Charlie was a yummy hero. I don't think it was a weepie, but it was a page turner just the same. And I do want to read the other 2 in the series...perferably as soon as possible.

My own version of a roller coaster ride started today when I pressed the send button for TSD. Fingers majorly crossed. I do think the revisions made it a stronger book. I could understand ( I hope) what my editors were asking for. No doubt I will feel less sure once I know my editors are back from their Christmas break. I simply wanted to get it off my desk! It had also gotten to the stage that it was ready to go which is more to the point. Ihave decided that doing revisions off hard copy is easier in a way.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Eye operation etc

My eye operation was a success. Each day that goes by, my vision improves.

As a really nice incentive to get well, my editor's assistant emailed me my revisions as well a copy of my cover. As soon as I have figured out how to get permission to publish it on an open forum, I will.
I am so proud of it.

The revisions are not difficult and do make a lot of sense. Always helpful. But some of them such as changing a basket of wool in peas or changing the colour of a cloak from green to purple, I should have noticed.
With my new improved vision, I am also catching some of my typos. Cringe.

Nevertheless as I am not allowed to cook, clean or otherwise lift things, working for short burst on TSD has helped. Although the roller coaster feeling will no doubt start, the minute I press the send button and return the manuscript to my editor.

Christmas was lovely and peaceful. My best present was my sight. A cataract operation is a wonderful thing. You do not realise how much sight you have lost, until you get it back!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Season's Greetings

I would like to wish all readers of this blog the joys and wonders of the Holiday Season. A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I shall be taking a short break as I have my first cataract operation this afternoon.

The eye police -- my dh ably assisted by my children have threatened bodily harm if I go on the computer to early. My eldest has agreed to pick up my email. But they all want my eyes well as soon as possible.

So see you in 2006!!!!

Friday, December 16, 2005

A refugee from the Christmas Fair

Today is the younger two's Christmas fair and I am not going. My excuse is that it is primarily for the children. I have sent in items requested and have sent the children with slightly more money than I would have spent if I had gone.
At the fair, there is about a half hour for the parents to look around and all is calm, serene and sedate. The studnets manning the stalls are unfailingly polite. Then the bell rings; the hordes of children descend. Chaos is probably too mild a word for the noise and bedlam that follows, but it is great fun ofr the children and raises a lot of money for the school. Parents retire hurt to a cup of coffee, mince pie and pained expressions.
If I went, I'd feel guilty about not helping. But I gave up doing the PTA several years ago when my dh threatened to go on strike. Making polite chit chat is okay but the mothers I would speak to are all on stalls...
So I am staying at home,wrapping presents instead.
The children will come home with tales and presents. My middle informed that it was all right because she had helped decorate the hall, put up stalls and was working on one. My youngest came home with a request for mince pies yesterday and so we baked some for the stall he is doing. The childen are doing their bit.
The wrapping of presents is getting to be a necessity. I have to find where I have hidden them all. It is no good doing my usual rummage on Christmas eve. One year, I discovered a second lot of stocking stuffers in April! Oops.
But everything that needs to be sent, has been sent. It is just the wrapping and final few Christmas cards that need to be done.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Why write this story?

The post brought the return of the Donald Maass book from my critque partner who hopefully found it as useful as I did.It was a good time to get it back. I know some people find him frightening, but I find him rather comforting. I like the way his mind works. I am probably wierd, but I have known that for awhile!

I dipped into the book at the Stakes chapter.
At the end of the chapter one section struck me. Whenever you are writing a book, you need to know WHY you are are writing the book. And if I stopped writing this particular wip WHY would it matter. The old why question again.

There are many valid reasons for writing a particular book, but I do think it is helpful to know WHY you have to write this particular book now at this given moment in time and space.

Why am I writing PBB? Because the hero would not leave alone and kept whispering in my ear, because I really want to write about roman marriage and show another more human side to Rome. Because the conflicts of the characters interest me. And ultimately because it is a story I feel the need to write.

If I stopped writing this particular book, why would it matter? Because I want to tell Lupus and Aemilia's story. Because I keep thinking about the story. Because I hate leaving anything half done. Because I believe in this story and its ability to speak to people other than myself. Because I love the characters and would hate to think their story would be untold. Because the subject interests me and then it would haunt me and I'd be writing a version of it anyway. Because it has captured my imagination and refuses to let go.

The purpose of the exercise was to remind me that I am writing from my heart. If you write from the heart it shows in the stakes you give your characters, and the situations they face. Because you care, it shines through in your writing. Or at least that is the theory...

So go on -- do a little soul searching. Why are you writing your wip and why do you need to finish it? Are the stakes high enough for you?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Frosty mornings and frustration

Today was sunshine and heavy frost. The cobwebs and leaves finely etched with white. The sun bright enough to hurt your eyes. Absolutely glorious. The sort of winter weather I love.

I have been working hard on my wip, but I am at the point where I normally query. I can't query at the moment because I have not heard back on TSD. When I first started submitting, I did send in another full while they were still considering the first one. This gave the editorial staff a chance to guide me on to the strong mss. I don't know what would have happened IF I had not given into temptation and sent the second one in. Had I waited, I porbably would not have made some of the errors but who knows.

After thinking long and hard about it, I can't ask for status on the one currently sitting on my eidtor's desk. She knows it is there. She told me so in mid-October. Under my contract, HM&B have 90 days to decide. I should stop being impatient and realise that my editor looks after other authors besides me. She will get to it when she can and her words will be like gold dust. I know the wait for GH was worth it.

My wip is moving forward, (I have reached the approximate half way point) and I am in love with my hero which is always a good place to be. Besides, the further I am with this one, the less I will have to do when I can submit the full. Thinking positively here.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Winter means wet

It is tipping it down, the sort of weather that makes me want to curl up next a fire with a good book and a hot mug of tea.

Last night, having rescued Liz Fielding's The Marriage Miracle from my middle's room, I was able to do just that. Luckily my dh had decided to have an early night as tears were streaming down my face. It was such a lovely lovely book, unput downable. Kate Hardy has already tipped it for a RITA and if it doesn't get one, all I can say is that the book that does win will have to be out of this world. A thoroughly enjoyable story and I urge anyone who hasn't read it to do so.

I did my usual bit at Tesco of rearranging the books so that books by friends will appear first and foremost. Umm all the Liz Fieldings were sold out. Most of the HIstoricals had gone as well. I managed to pick up The Christmas Visit which is a historical Christmas Anathology.

My middle tells me that The Captain's Lady which is by a new author whose name escapes me is very good. The book is missing, presumed in the middle's bedroom. I have read Jenna Kernan's Winter Woman and enjoyed it. One good thing about the combining of Harlequin Historical and M&B Historical is that more Westerns are now making their way over here. This one dealtwith trappers and was set in 1835 in the Rockies. As my mother lived in Denver for a few years, and when we visited, we did ltos of sight seeing, it was great to read about the region.

One of my favourite restuarants in Denver is The Fort which is run by Sam'l P Arnold and is an exact replica of Bent's Old Fort. If you ever are in Denver, make the time and go. You won't be disappointed, but the Hailstorm drinks are not for the unwary.... The food at the Fort is modelled on recipes from the 19th century. Mr Arnold is one of the foremost food historians of the era. His Eating Up the Santa Fe Trail gives real insight into the way everyone ate. Much better than I had imagined. I read the book when I was going through my trying to tame the solid fuel Aga stage and was really fascinated by the way people cooked in the past. As the Aga has been converted to oil, it is no longer a necessity to use the heat but old recipes still hold a fascination.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Finding inspiration

After complaining about my deflated ego, I did bother to read the RWR. And this month, it wasn't so bad. Gayle Wilson had a lovely inspiring piece about Writer's gifts. These include Patience, confidence, imagination, balance, courage, support and above all self-discipline.
The article is the sort of thing, I should type up and put on my wall behind the computer for those moments when the crows of doubt circle.
The other great article was the Progress column by Barbara Samuel entitled stay the course. Funnily enough she was talking about the very things I was feeling and the need for mental training, to prepare for the long haul of making a career out of romance writing. I loved her points from It is always going to be hardto get the work done to There is never going to came a day when you have it made to There will always be someone just ahead of you. and 4.Some books will kick your a$$. But that is all about staying the course. She says -- if a book is hard to write, it probably has something special to deliver. Which is a great way of thinking about things.

So in the end I felt better about myself and more positive about my outlook. Sure nothing else happened yesterday except I decided to look at the glassbeing half full.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Deflating one's ego

The post brought this month's ego deflater also known as the RWR. Some parts of it are interesting, but mainly it serves to remind me exactly how far it is that I have to go. Equally, how many other writers there are out there, each seeking the same thing.
In the first sales column, there are always multiple books sales, by someone who has just produced their first full length mss. Well, it took me 7 full length manuscripts before I got a sale. And although I have options on my contract, it is not the same thing as being a multi-book contracted author. I am somewhere down the ladder there.
There is always advice about agents. A slight sore point, if I am being honest. Yes, I know at the moment, I don't need an agent, but I have dreams of writing single titles and getting on best selling lists. I am going to need an agent at some point and this is going to mean writing the single title and sending out, hoping that it and my past track record will tempt an agent. sometimes this is an exhilerating thought and others, absolutely terrifying.
Then there is the helpful advice generally includes someting about people not selling books after they have made their firstsale. Not necessarily what I want to hear as I wait for my editor's thoughts on the one sitting on her desk.
finally there are the contest wins. Sometimes, I think great but I sold, will these sell? And others I think, but I wonder if I would have even placed in the contest, and well...are these the mega best sellers of the furute and where does that leave me?
But all in all I think it is good for me not to be comfortable, too sure of myself. Every now and then I need to be reminded of the competition and that I can not become complacent. I have to stride forward and keep trying.
Now I simply have to attack my current wip, and strive to make it the best it can be, all the while knowing that there is another person just like me, trying to do the same thing.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday musings

My word count was better this week. 6k or 25 pages. Not bad considering I tok a day off to write a blurb for TMI.
I reached a point in my mss, took a look at my synopsis to find out what comes next and have discovered that I have taken a leap away from the synopsis. I am of two minds if it is better this way. I think it is, but it did mean that I had to do some hard thinking when I was cleaning the kitchen this afternoon. Exactly what is going to happen next and why? This is one book that keeps insisting on going its own way. Most annoying when I get stuck. And of course I can't decide whether or not this is a good thing. It does seem to be working, but it is a rather new experience for me.
I found yesterday that one of the regular visitors to this blog --Pam Cleaver died on 23 Nov. She was a very kind lady who had the grace to be interested in my ducks as well as many other things. Although she had suffered from ill health, the end was sudden. She leaves behind a world made better because of her small kindnesses.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

No snow

Wales, Cornwall all had snow. We didn't. Northumberland had a beautiful clear and then rain. Now the forecast is for snow on Monday and I am praying the same thing will happen -- mainly because I hate driving in the snow.
Liz Fielding who is a writer I very much admire has started a blog and she also has a must buy book, The Marriage Miracle out this month. From the sounds of it, it is a three tissue box weepie. Read the extract. It sounds like just the thing to treat myself with.
Anyway, I am going to WHS this morning and checking to see if they have put out the HMB early as is their wont. The problem with popular authors and WHS in Hexham, unless you are quick, they are gone. sold out. What that says about Hexham I am sure I don't know but it does make me buy my favourites promptly.
Hexham has won the Favourite Market town 2005. I could be mean and say that I can't understand why. Familiarity breeds contempt. But I know many people have worked very hard to win this award and Hexham has improved over the last few years. As I live in the area, and have no plans to leave and in fact could not think of a more pleasant place to live, I suppose it is my favourite market town as well. Now if they could just get the hospital sorted out....

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Over the past year, I have had much to be thankful for. It is easy to go from day to day, not really thinking about your blessings and joys, which is why I like Thanksgiving.
Take away the turkey, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce and all the trimmings and you are left with a day to thank your family and friends, a day to mull over the good things in your life.
Some of my ancestors were at the first Thanksgiving. Some arrived in the US much later. All came to the US to make a better life for themselves and their families. On the whole I like to think they succeeded -- although the criterion for success has not always been measured in material things.
The basis of Thanksgiving dinner stems from what was available to the first European settlers in the Northeast of the US. The Turkey is the native game bird. Cranberries grow wild in swamps. Potatoes, corn, and pumpkins are native plants. In the South, things like oysters and pecans form part of the feast.
It is a chance to reflect that the harvest is safely gathered in and people are safe.
It came as a great relief when I was able to get the fresh ingredients that I need for my thanksgiving over here. We will not go into my dismay when I discovered that canned pumpkin was not available in Newcastle or my joy when due to Delia Smith, fresh cranberries became widely sold.
From its humble beginnings, the idea grew and took root in the American pysche. It is different from an English harvest festival and it transcends religious boundaries. It is a time for sharing in the bountiful harvest.
I won't bore you with those things I am thankful for, but suffice it to say my life overflows. And I always think of those Pilgrim fathers, having survived a terrible winter, and giving thanks for the new land.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Large Print cheque

The post brought my cheque and contract for the Large Print version of The Marriage Inheritance. Fair enough. A very striaght forward contract. The LP book will be mainly sold to public libraries, hospital libraries, Institutions for the Blind, Schools for partially sighted children etc. Something that is fairly close to my heart, so I am glad about that.
They also want a 70-8p word synopsis of the thing. Do they mean blurb?
I am sending a 172 word synopsis plus a blurb of 80 words. Please note I have not read this book for over a year but hopefully will come up with something suitable by culling the old synopsis.
It is harder than I thought. Writing blurbs is another art form that I have not mastered. I am totally in awe of my HMB editor who seems to do it effortlessly.
I have also transferred my synopsis/outline for PBB on the computer. I had a handwritten one in my lovely pink and yellow binder. Problem was that I needed something staring up at me as I work, becoming coffee stained and scribbled in pen. Also, my problem is that I keep wanting to lift my game. First drafts don't have to be lifted. They simply are.
I feeling more on an even keel, even though my word count will not advance much today. There again, sometimes one has to do other writing related tasks.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Misty moisty morning

Wonderfully misty this morning, so that all the spiderwebs glistened.
Sela stated that normally I blog about craft but have been blogging about my life. So this entry is more on craft.
Last night I pulled out my tattered copy of Writing the Breakout Novel workbook to see if it could offer any insight into where I have gone wrong. Note I am not sure if I have gone, it is just that at the moment, it can feel like pulling teeth and the way ahead at times seems shrouded in mist.
I know what I want to happen at the end. This is always a good place to start. I also know where certain things need to happen.
The thingsI have to remember is that things can always get worse. The rock I chuck at my characters haveto be boulders not mere pebbles.
There was two ways you can make things worse for your characters -- raise the barriers they have to hurdle or make what they are about to lose more valuable to them. Peaks and valleys rather than rounded hills and troughs.
One of the secondaries provides an antagonist role in a subplot. I know what needs to happen at the end, but needed to know why. Sitting and thinking about hte anatognist's outline and what plot developments are going to help his overall goal should help me be able to move the plot on.
There is a lot in the workbook that I need to think about because the wip is in its first draft stage, rather than its final draft stage.
Personally I like revisions (hence the reason I am looking forward to hearing my editor's thoughts) Generally speaking revisions are fun. You can play around with the story, decide what the essential elements are and how you can make the story stronger by incorperating the editor's suggestions but still retaining the essence of your story and characters.
TSD has the potential to be a very powerful story but without my editor's help, it will never achieve its potential. My fingers are firmly crossed that my editor sees the potential. Actually I know she does or she wouldn't have asked to see the full. She seemed fairly relaxed about the whole thing. As editors go through this all the time, they are relaxed. Authors how ever can get much more uptight.
Anyway, back to the word mines.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Damp Sunday

The forst has lifted tobe replaced by a cold damp that seeps into every pore of your body and stays there. Sometimes, I wonder if deciding not to put on the central heating this winter (except for when my mother is here) was such a good idea after all. I am sure if I had a fireplace in my study, I wouldn't mind, but that particular fireplace was blocked up years ago. My dh did make noises about unblocking it and putting a new fireplace in BUT the children's computer is there. Besides, how often would I use it?
My writing this week is been bitty piecey. Yes the total is not very high butI did revise the first three chapters, including chapter two where I knew there were problems. So although I have increased my word count by a mere 4k or 15 pages, the mss is stronger for it. Or at least I think it is. Yes, yes, I know I have to banish the crows of doubt. I do think there is a real conflict between these two and that it may be my best yet (I always think my latest is my best yet) but I keep being slow and easily distracted. Perhaps it is because I am waitng for my editor to get back to me on TSD which is bound to have lots of revisions (they always do) or maybe it has to do with my eyes. Or maybe it has to do with wanting this to be so good that I am scared to write it. But it is going slow, terribly slow.
Tomorrow won't be much better. My youngest will be off school -- a bad cough and cold. Then in the late afternoon, I have to pretend to be terribly important and official and do the governor type things for my school. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are taken with different school matters. Thursday is Thanksgiving. But these are simply excuses. If I am efficient and dedicated there is no reason why I can't get a serious amount of writing done. I simply haveto prevent myself from being distracted.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Eye operation

The date for the right eye is 20 Dec.
The consultant is from New Zealand, and has connections to Stanford which is where my mother had her eyes done years ago. We had a dicussion about multi focal lenses but decided to go with one eye being slight short sighted, and the other long. The consultant thought it was best. He was wearing one contact in his right eye to simulate the experience so that he could better advise. The problem with multi-focal lenses is that with the lenses many people find their vision is not as good as it once was.
My eyes once done should be that of a healthy 65 year old's. As you get older you lose the ability to have your eyes multi-focal. Hence why many people use reading glasses.
At the moment, my eyes are dilated, so I am typing without my glasses. An interesting experience.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Christmas is a coming soon

This morning, the horrible realisation dawned. Christmas is fast approaching. I have to post packages to the US. I have purchase the dh's presents. He had made a helpful list. can I find that list? No. I am improvising.
Actually we have agreed on his main present, but it doesn't count as it is something he has to buy for himself -- ie an expensive watch. Last time I tried getting him a watch -- he did not like it. Since then, the watch issue has raised its head very few years...
Hopefully this will solve it. He is rapidly discovering just how expensive a watch can be. Most expensive discover thus far as one by IWC -- 133,000 pounds. Houses cost less than that. You'd have to have armed guards standing around you. I would be frightened to breathe. The only thing such a watch would be good for would be smuggling money out of the country. How many customs officials look at watches? Who would ever imagine a watch could cost that much money?
I believe he has lowered his sights considerably, and says that he is now looking at something we can actually afford without taking out a second mortgage.
On the writing front, I have made it to chapter five. My crows of doubt arealways circling. I went back and checked where ch 5 was in Gldiator's Honour and TSD (the one currently sitting on my editor's desk), both were in fairly dramatic places. I am hoping this one will be fine. It is slightly more domestic but still dramatic. Nevertheless, I manged my quota of words and the conflict seems to be simmering along nicely.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A better writing week

This week's total of 6 k is much better than last week's total of 2.5 k. I also managed 25 pages. They are solid pages, I think, not junk or at least at the moment I don't believe they are junk (thisis always subject to change) I find the longer I write, the less I like simply writing anything to get words down on a page. At some point, the pursuit of words per diem can become junk words. What is the point of typing the aliens have landed? Aliens have no place in my mss and are more than likely to take my mss off in a place where I don't want to go, then I have to scramble back, slashing and burning as I go.
One innovation is that I have taken to wearing the silver heart Kate Walker gave me to celebrate becoming a Mills and Boon writer. By putting on the heart, it is a signal to me that I need to start writing with my heart and concentrating on my writing, not on the internet, a big time waster for me.
Thus far, it seems to be working. I feel that I am getting somewhere, rather than nowhere.

Friday, November 11, 2005

What most women look for

According to The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease, the one thing that attracts most women to a man is his voice. A deep richly trimbred voice does a lot. After that, women are fairly evenly split between bums, chests and legs. With a tight firm buttocls taking first place of 40%. Even in the 21st century, research shows that women overwhelming want a man who looks he can wrestle animals and fight off invaders (and also kill spiders)

For men, one of the biggest turn on is women with hourglass figures with a wiast to hip ratio of 70-80%. If a woman is overweight but retains the curves, she is morelikely to be attractive to men than her rake thin sister.

Research has shown that despite media hype, the people who are most successful at attracting others, aren;t necessarily model thin and beautiful. Studies have found people prefer mates who are about attractive as they are (ie mates who are likely to stick around and not look for a better offer) They are the people who can display and use the courtship signals to their best advantage.
Women improve their attractiveness to men when they use the courtship signals.

Oh yes, lipstick was invented by the Eygptians. back then as now, the favourite colour is bright red, wet looking lips.

One display tact is the pelvic tilt orwriggle. It is said that Marilyn Monroe cut a bit of the left heel of her high heels to make it easier for her to wiggle. The reason men are attracted is because the wiggle implies wide hips that allow for childbearing. Men don't need such things, women do.

Fascinating stuff. Now to treansulate it into ancient Rome...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Body Language

One of my new enthusiasms is body language. It came to me when I read manuscripts for the RNA's New Writer Scheme that sometimes something was missing. Also that after writing a number of manuscripts, I didn't want to repeating the same gestures time and time again. So a little research was needed. I bought Desmond Morris's Peoplewatching and Pearce's The Definative guide to Body Language. Absolutely fascinating stuff.
There are definite gender based gestures, and gestures that dominant males do (display?) There is also a definite courtship ritual that couples go through. At each stage, it is possible to break off. Sometimes, the courtship ritual is condensed, and sometimes prolonged, but if the writer misses out on the subtle stages, it can leave a sour taste in the reader's mouth. For example, the hero and heroine barely meet, and he paws her breast. Several stages are missing. If however, they see each other, he helps her across the street, they speak a bit, his hand flicks back of a tendril of hair, the gaze deepens and he kisses her, the reader can see the progression.
With male gestures, I now know there is a definite reason for my editor's dislike of grinning heroes. Grins are much more common in nervous or young males, not so common in dominant males. A similar situation exists for winks. Dominant male gestures are more likely to lead the reader to believe that the hero is an alpha male rather than a submissive one.
Why do people speak of bedroom eyes? Because when people are aroused, their pupil dilate. It is one of the reasons that prostitutes used to use belladonna to make their pupils become larger. Larger pupils give the impression of attractiveness. One this was figured out, Revlon changed its marketing, and by simply increasing the pupil size in its catalogue, it managed to significantly increase sales.
There are certain signals that women give off in social situations to show that they are approachable. However, different cultures have different concepts of intimate space, and what may look like acome on may simply be a cultural misunderstanding. Men have varying degrees of success at reading these signals.
The next thing will be to translate this information into a workable tool for my writing.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Away to Stratford

It is my mother in law's birthday on Monday so we are going down to the Midlands to see her.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Vet Emergency

WIP + Who are you kidding

This morning I stumbled downstairs to discover the Border Collie was not well. Blood in his stools. Cue panic trip to vet. The vet who is wonderful has decided that it is a mild infection and the Border Collie is on sensitive food for awhile.Fingers crossed that this is the end of the matter. His lacerated paw from last week however has nicely healed.

While I was there, I got to peek at the kittens again. When the BC first cut his paw, seven one week old kittens were brought in. A car had run over the mother. They were a mess. One of the vet nurses is being a foster mother. The kittens have really improved and are no longer squeaking so loudly. Instead of being drowned rats, they are flufy balls of fur with their eyes open. However, we don't need a kitten. My two cats would get in a huff.

At the moment, I just want everything to settled down. The youngest's blcoked slavia gland is getting better. My eldest is coming to terms with his broken arm. The novelty has worn off, but the pain still appears and he is facing up to having a cast on for another month.

I just want to get through a week with no upset now. A small goal.

I did enjoy ROME last night. It was very authentic. I was glad to see the colours and the diversity. The plot at times left something to be desired. BUT hopefully it will get a few more people interested in the period. I was a bit disapointed as the BBC have decided to combine the first three episodes into two and so things felt a bit choppy. Then of course the dh switching channels to get the Man UTd score did not help either.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


WIP: PBB word count = 11.75 k

Last night I had an email from Thorpe. They want to published The Marriage Inheritance in Large Print for their Linford Romance line. It is soft cover, but it will get it into the libraries both over here and in North America as well as the British Commonwealth. I am very pleased as it was by no means a done deal. Yes, I know they often take MWSC, but not every one. It is a flat rate payment, but Thorpe did for The Lady Soldier as well.

Halloween was pleasant. My dh came home bearing gifts as he had time to shop in London. He went to Winston Churchill's old time makers --Tunball and Asser and purchased a silk knit tie. It could have been worse. He also brought some lovely Turkish Delight. The children were all pleased, especially when informed that this is what Edmund had in the Lion, the Witch and the Warderobe when he met the White Witch for the first time. My main problem was how to eat it without creating a snowstrom of icing sugar. My method needs perfecting.

As it is the begining of a new month, I need to buckle down and write. The younger two are still off-- another teacher training day. The eldest made noises about doing PE. A note was promptly written. Uh not a bright idea to do any sort of sport with a broken bone.

Monday, October 31, 2005


WIP: PBB 10.5k -- not bad, could be better.
Goal for next month: 60k = 2k per day. Verdict tough but should be able to manage it.

There is a loud cat fight going on somewhere out beyond the garden. Sounds like banshees wailing. My youngest is making noises about going up to the old cemetry, the one by Haydon Old Church where they dug up the crusader's sword. We took my cousin up one All Saint's Day and there were strange holes near the oldest graves. The graveyard was also hung in mist while the yew tree creeked. Not exactly the sort of place I want to visit on Halloween.

When my cousin visited several years ago, we also went to see Long Meg and Her daughters, a stone circle near Penrith. There, on AllSouls Day, a woman was walking around the stones, talking to each one. She looked normal enough, the sort of woman if you saw her in a high street, you wouldn't llok twice at but here she was talking and whispering to the stones. I have no idea if the stones spoke back. Long Meg and her daughters is great because it is relatively undisturbed, you can see how the landscape must have looked for hundreds of years.

The children have all carved pumpkins. My eldest tried but was excused on grounds of having only one arm. There is a fire in the grate. We are having sauages and colcannon for supper. My dh and I will have a glass of malt whiskey afterwards.
When I first came to this land, nobody clebrated Halloween. I was thought odd because I dressed my children up in costumes and carved pumpkins. They used to carve turnips instead.
GuyFawkes was much bigger, and people would go around collecting for the Guy. It is 400 years ago on 5November that the Gunpowder plot happened.

Three meme

As three people have tagged me:Sela, Donna and Biddy

I suppose I had best do this thing.

Three screen names that you've had: mmstyles, mlps, MichelleStyles
Three things you like about yourself: good at lateral thinking, good memory, good smile
Three things you don't like about yourself: big thighs, thickening waist, cataracts
Three parts of your heritage: Scottish, Norwegian, Swedish
Three things that scare you: Horror film, footsteps behind me in dark alleys, rats
Three of your everyday essentials: tea, books, my glasses
Three things you are wearing right now: wedding ring, glasses, watch
Three of your favorite songs: Holding out for A hero, I will survive, The Prickled Eye Bush
Three things you want in a relationship: friendship, understanding, and someone who isn’t afraid of footsteps in dark alleys
Two truths and a lie: I love the movie Braveheart. . I have been to the Tower of London.. I am a direct descendent of Edward lll.
Three things you can't live without: my family, books, writing
Three places you want to go on vacation: Prague, Pompeii, Portugal
Three things you just can't do: a cartwheel, a backflip, skip stones
Three kids names: Lottie, Max, Lucy
Three things you want to do before you die: see Pompeii, walk one of the great trails of the world, see my chidren grow up to responsible adults
Three celeb crushes: Russell Crowe, James Purefoy, Ray Stevenson
Three of your favorite musicians: Kate Rusby, Ralph McTell, Tom Petty
Three physical things about the opposite sex that appeals to you: shoulders, height, legs
Three of your favorite hobbies: Reading, needlework, gardening
Three things you really want to do badly right now: to work on my book, to see the front cover of GH, to not have to deal with dog poo in the hallway right now (and the chidren shrieking)
Three careers you're considering/you've considered: mother, writer , doctor
Three ways that you are stereotypically a boy: like spectator sports, know how to rewire a lamp, like logic puzzles
Three ways that you are stereotypically a girl: love reading romance, prefer flowers to vegetables, love dangling earrings
Three people that I would like to see post this meme: Nell Dixon, Anna, Michelle Willingham

Saturday, October 29, 2005

This and that

WIP: PBB Page count 38 pages, words 8.5 k = pathetic
Current Reading The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud (just nicked by my eldest who finished the Amulet of Samarkand)

I saw this on Diane's blog and so decided to borrow it. I had been envious of Kate Hardy's eye catching status checks.

PBB is going more smoothly. Although you wouldn't know it from the word count. I am starting feel like this is actually going to be good, rather than fumbling around in the dark.

Chart Envy
I am always very impressed with people who do great big charts of full of pretty colours, and outlines fo motivations etc. See Julie Cohen's blog. Rather envious as well. My planning consists of a notebook, divided into hero, heroine, plot and actual writing plus ideas in the back. I mostly tend to work from a synopsis. Once I have sent the partial in, the synopsis I work from is the one page synopsis. I also have loads of notes cluttering mydesk, generally written on the backs of envelopes. My current one reads -- an another scene A's POV. Getting ready. Then New beginning needed. A's POV reason why she in C's study.
These are not colour coded partly because my children steal all my pens. I recently bought 15 new pens, five in blue, five in black and five in red. Under pain of death, they were supposed to remain in my pen holder. As of this morning., I have 2 black, one blue (without tops) and one red with a top.
If I had to search for colour coding pens I couldn't do it.
Maybe I am not a chart person. Or a mind map person. I know how to make mind maps but don't generally bother. I also know I should plot things on a calendar and a time line. Who knows what when. I keep too much in my head. Always have And rely on one word to make me remember what I was going to write.
My chaos seems to work for me, but there again I can't help being envious.

Other news:
I get to see the consultant about my eyes on Wednesday 16 November.
My eldest is getting fed up with not being able to carve his pumpkin.Rather he can't do the intricate carving that he wants to.
The Border Collie's paw is healing. He stepped on glass when out on a run with my dh on Monday. He is supposed to be being kept off the paw, but this is a border collie, and he is very active. The bandage is covered with a sock to prevent him from worrying it.
It has been so warm that we are still harvesting courgettes much to my eldest's disgust.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Half term

It is half-term here, so I am finding things to distract me from writing. BUT on the other hand, my muse keep throwing up ideas and the wip is slowly progressing. The point is that it is progressing and my guilt is starting to kick in.
TheBorder Collie sliced his paw on Monday evening.Blood all over the basement floor as that was the way my dh (luckily) decided to go in. I bandaged it, but resolved that I neededto replense my first aid kit when I hadto use duck tape to hold the dressing on. The vet the next morning was very kind about it.
My eldest went to the hospital yesterday and his arm is healing well. The consultant predicts four weeks and the cast will beoff, BUT absolutely no contact sports for a while.

I am going to be profiled on e-harlequin as a new author in December. Anyway, I have spent the last few weeks getting the info required. Agonizing over whether or not to have a new photo taken, but decidedthat I really like the one Norman Brown took of me earlier this year. And it appears from the email, it is what they were looking for. Phew, I had no idea how to change it to the pixels required. Or rather didn't want to take the time to learn.
Because of the profile, I have learnt that Gladiator's Honor will be out in North America in retail and direct in Spetember 2006. I have also had a sneak preview of the back cover copy. It looks good. Far better than anything I could do. I would buy this book on the back cover alone. Given the back cover copy, I suspect the front cover is excellent.

Also my editor said that she was quite happy for me to write another Roman. She also agree after that one, I can do a Regency if I wish. I will hear thier thoughts on TSD shortly. Editorial speak for this mss is on my desk and I have a pile of mss, but I know yours is there and I will get it done eventually. I don't mind as I can now concentrate on writing this first draft, knowing that it is in safe hands and when I get the thoughts back, I am sure they will make for a much stronger mss. The whole idea is to use the editor's professional eye and hope that one is able to improve not only that mss but subsequent ones as well. I do know that I am very lucky to be working with such a marvellous editor.

I have been having great fun reading Kate Hardy's latest. The Consultant's Christmas Proposal.A real three hankie job but wonderful escapism. It isall the more poignant for me as my dh's grandmother suffered from early onset of RA. After reading one of her books, I always feel that the world is nicer place, that the glass is half full, instead of half empty. I have also reclaim Nicola Cornick's duo from my middle and am looking forward to restarting these. The middle swears tht they are excellent and she just had to keep rereading them.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Last week's work

Last week, I wrote 5,000 words and 21 pages. At least four of which will probably have to be culled today as I thought after I wrote but there is no urgency here, no conflict, what is she is feeling inside her? I am simply describing the scene. Where is tension? This is praidly develoing down to a tea drinking, tension less scene. The choice is to either cut the scene or to up the tension through layering.
The problem is probably more that I have highlighted the wrong factors in the scene. She is nervous, tense but I don't think it is getting across to the reader.

I am reasonably happy with chapter one. Famous last words. My first chapters ALWAYS end up being changed. But it is at a point where I can move forward.

My goal for this week is to double the number of pages I wrote last week.

I also decided that perhaps I had best have a newsletter at some point and have included a newsletter sign up button on my website. Due to my dh deciding that I really ought to be helping outside (and bellowing), I have not checked if it works, but it should in theory.

The motivational factor here was the listing of Gladiator's Honour on Amazon UK. Obviously HM&B send a list of their intended releases a specific time in advance. But unfornately NO cover or indeed blurb. Just the title with my name. It will be more exciting as it gets closer and the paperback gets listed as well. But at least I know my ISBN number.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Procrastination and me

Yesterday was a wash out. The lab had to go the vet's. My dh was home and muttering about the autumn clean up of the garden and to top it all off my eldest arrived back from school with a broken arm. He had tripped over, picked himself up, walked home, and announced as he came through the door -- Mommy I think I have done something to my elbow. The boy was grey. Two hours in A&E and the x-rays show a clean break of the radius. My son is a trooper.
My dh has taken him into Newcastle to the Fracture clinic to get it properly set. The local hospital has not had a children's ward since 1990.
This morning I went to see the doctor and had it confirmed. I will have to have a cataract operation. My family has a history of early onset of cataracts. I have known this was coming since I was 10, but had entertained hopes. Fingers crossed it will all be done by Christmas, hence the reason for feeling like I am procrastinating with the wip. I wanted it significantly done and dusted before the operation, so that it can rest and then be edited once the Eye police allow me to. I do understand it is a life enhancing operation. Colours suddenly return. You can suddenly read small print again. And see dust (this is not what I am looking forward to)
So that is the reason why I feel suddenly driven. I also want to be deep in the next mss when my editor gets back to me.

Julie Cohen is doing a series of great blogs about internal/external conflict. Is writing about craft procrastinating or not?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Working on my procrastination tendency

I have developed a few bad habits -- habits that have eaten into my time management skills.
One thing I am generally good at is time management and completing things on a deadline. I like goals. I perform much better when I have goals.
Goals must be measurable and dependent on me.
One bad habit I have developed is checking the internet in the morning BEFORE I write. This is a fatal mistake. If someone has used the internet, it means it can wait.
I also notice that I have started setting my daily target of words lower and lower. Again, this is not good. My mind says -- ah but this is easy to accomplish, piece of cake. You can afford to goof off as there is no problem with getting one or two pages done. 500 words. Done in a jiffy, and then suddenly it is no words. Today so far = 395 words, pathetic. I need to get radical and start setting challenging goals. Instead of a comfortable 2 pages, I want to write 8 pages. You see even here I hesitate. I should put 10 pages because it is a nice round figure and barely achievable. But I am giving myself wriggle room. And yet I perform better if I have high expectations. I get more done, the more I have to do. Effiiciency is the name of the game.
In other news, I receive ed my pink first sale ribbon in the post today.For the RWA to count it as a first sale, it actually has to be a first sale to recognized RWA publisher. Neither DC Thomson nor Hale were RWA recognized. It pays to read the small print (something one can do to procrastinate!) When I get my cover for Gladiator's Honour, I will put it up under that. For the moment, It is stuck on the cover of The Lady Soldier. I do think it is a lovely idea though. I intend to enjoy the being new part for as long as possible.
Back to getting my (takes a deep breath) 10 pages done. There. That's my challenge for today. Equally getting the house cleaned before my dh comes home.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Writers write. At some point a writer has to stop thinking about writing and just write. It is procrastination to keep looking at the characters, finding reasons to preruse the internet or even answer emails. It is not writing.
Writing is putting one word after another until the tale is told. It is allowing ones characters to have a voice. It is about adding conflicts and giving a highly emotional satisfying so that the reader can put the book down with a sigh.
It is not about reading how to books or articles. It is not about endlessly graphing out characters arcs. It is not about thinking up new blogs to write.
My job involves putting one word after another. The hardest five minutes of that job is the five minutes beofre I start. It is when the flocks of crows come down. It is when procrastination whispers seductively in my ear.
None of that matters. What I need to do is write and stop thinking about what other people are doing. What other people are thinking, doing or writing is a matter for them. And for me AFTER I have done my writing. If I don't write, I cease to be a writer.
The following has brought to you by the Procrastination No More Society. The I need to reclaim discipline society. The I had better write this manuscript society instead of talking about it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Getting started

I have officially started this wip. My eldest keeps saying only x number of days til Christmas or Christmas will be here soon, and I keep telling him to hush. I have a complete rough draft to write before then. I want to enjoy my Christmas holidays.
In August I had the great pleasure of taking Laurie Campbell's course on tips from Madison Avenue -- Writing the Selling Synopsis. There were a load of worksheets. Most of which are easily adaptable to planning one's story as well as discovering what is important for a synopsis. I like doing questionnaires and interviewing my characters but they have to be the sort of questions that my mind can get around. The more in depth questions. If you ever have a chance to take acourse, the handouts are worth it. I really enjoyed her Hero's Fatal Flaw course that I took as well.
Kate Walker also has a good set of questions but I decided to try a combination of both this time.
Iti s not about finding out the physical appearance but what makes them tick. What sort of first impression do they make? Why? How does that change as people get to know them? etc After doing the interviews, I go through looking for key words to match up the sort of person they are with the ennegram personality type so that I can quickly delve into the reactions and the whys. It also helps me see where the flash points might occur. Why might this sort of behavior bother my heroine when it would not bother another person? Why if my heroine does this, will it get under my hero's skin? What is attracting? What is repelling?

I also figured out that I had started in the wrong POV. One trick Kate Bridges taught me is to always think about what the hero and heroine were feeling five minutes before the story starts. They have to have life before the story begins. Who has more at stake at the beginning?

Anyway, at least I have begun. Now as each day ticks away, I have to add more. Thedays of thinking are over and the actual writing must begin. A new hero to fall inlove with, a new heroine to empathise with. It keeps me off the streets and my mind from thinking about the manuscript currently sitting on my editor's desk, waiting its turn.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


I had a lovely time yesterday doing the basic plotting. With my writing, I need to know where it is going to go. I have to have an end picture in my mind. This was part of the problem with my last idea, no pictures were coming. I can tend to visualise the plot as a series of stills. If I do it right, the still become technicolour, do it wrong they fade to cartoon. I am not sure if that makes me a plotter. I can't do graphs on paper. Or a pantster as it all tends to be up in my head. I have to have some sort of road map. The road map may turn out to have a few detuors along the way, but generally it is just about there.
My road maps often become my synopsis. I like to leave enough wriggle room, paint with a broad enough brush sh=o that my muse can come up with some great solutions. SOmetimes, I realise the end is n't going to work and there needs to be a variation.

At the moment, I can see the stills. The hero is also very definate about his name. In other words, it is only getting changed if my editor suggests it isn't working. Otherwise it stays. He has appeared and said this is who I am, what are you going to do about it? He is also easy to fall in love with, and different from my other heroes to a certain extent. Much more dangerous. Also he appears to be adept at keeping the crows of doubt away.

The fun part is with a really strong hero, I getto create a really strong heroine to match him. Actually, the heroine is tapping her foot, rolling up her sleeves and waiting to get stuck in. She is planning on making him suffer. They are both telling me that writing their story is going to be much more interesting than doing anything else.

But I hesitate, I need more information. The pictures need to be clearer. I know if I don't get the preliminary stuff done first then I will have to do it later and it will take longer then. So my hero and heroine will have to wait fuming in the wings, until I know them better. Until I know where the story goes. But what I do know is that IF I can pull it off it is going to be a good one. The hero is really really good. Maddie put a germ of an idea into my head, and Kate Walker fanned the flames, until he emerged...alpha that he is.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Starting over

I realized yesterday that my wip was not working. This is not good when I have barely started. It was very much and so what? What happens next? Where is the conflict that will sustain these people through 80 k and give a satisfactory ending.?There has to be more here. There is a potential for dating scenes rather than true emotional scenes. This couple want to be together too much. The whys are missing. The overarcing story line is missing. In fact, it was simply a premise that might work, but would work better if done a different way.
I also had my muse whispering to me about a new story, one that has similarities but has a better plot. I blame Kate Walker for this. My muse kept whispering but if you do this way, it will be much better because... the conflict will be much more sustainable. And it is much more interesting and then you are creating a different hero, someone that is not too close to your last hero. Even though he is STILL going to be based on James Purefoy. And I get to describe a proper Roman wedding which shall be fun. This is something I have wanted to do for ages. And in a way it is telling half of the story I wanted to tell. I think I may have been trying to combine too many things.
But it does mean taking the time to sketch out what is happening and where the plot is going.
I need to get productive, but at least I no longer have the excuses of the NWS manuscript reading or the RNA worshop. It is 11 weeks until Christmas and I want this baby written.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Busy Times

Yesterday was an extraordinary day. The Day of the Workshop but also the day my author copies for my contemporary novella The Marriage Inheritance arrived in the post from DC Thomson. It is number 1494 and I presume out now in Asda and selected WHS. The nicest part was seeing the by Michelle Styles on the front. There is a heart after my name which Margaret Carr assures is A Good Sign and not everyone gets a heart. She had to waitseveral novellas for a heart.
The assuming thing is the couple on the cover look nothing like my hero and heroine. But it is MY words inside. The blurb reads -- When a business arrangement sees Caroline Adams involved with brooding landowner Rafe Worthington, it takes all her effort not to fal lin love.
I didn't think Rafe was brooding, but there you go. It is good that it is in print. It is a story that will remain close to my heart because the first draft of this was the first manuscript I finished when I decided to start being serious about my writing. It went through several subsequent drafts, but the essence of the story remained.
I now have to discover who I send it off to, to see if I can get TMI into Large Print as it might help contribute to my PLR.
Whatever happens this is the story that turned me from potential to published. Sometimes dreams do come true.

The workshop was wonderful. I was so pleased with the speakers. As they were all people I had wanted to hear, I assumed that others would as well. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was lovely to finally meet people in the flesh as it were. Anna Lucia is truly a genius at logistics. She was the heart and soul of the workshops. The wind beneath the workshop's wings.
I also had the great pleasure of hosting Eileen Ramsay for the night before the conference. I adore Eileen's writing, and her story of perservance in the face of the strong opposition has comforted me through rejections. If ever you get a chance to hear Eileen speak, do so. Also try to get her to talk about her other passion -- opera. A totally enthralling evening where I stayed up much too late.
I finally found out what the fuss was about Kate Walker's picture of Hugh Jackman. A very nice picture. I also loved her Snoopy pictures. She also repeated the words that kept me on track when I first started being serious about my writing. They want to buy unique voices, not people who write like somebody else.
Hilary Johnson spoke after lunch. She is a very talented speaker (and poet). She gave tremendous insight into the process of how someone goes about lifting their game as it were.
Wendy Robertson who writes for Headline rounded out the day. Again she was an enthralling speaker. She touched on many subjects, including the importance of archetypes and the importance of self-belief.
By the end I was slightly brain dead. Kate had given me two Anne McAllisters early in the day and Eileen a bottle of wine. Two perfect ingredients for spending a relaxing Saturday night unwinding.
Kate Walker also presented me with an abolsutely lovely heart locket for becoming a M&B author. It was all I could to keep from crying. The gift was absolutely perfect, but the it was who did the giving that made it so special. Kate always says -- write from the heart -- and now I have my heart to remind me and to keep the crows of doubt away!. She has been such a mentor to me, even when she did not know it. I plan to wear my heart with pride!!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

First Royaliy statement

My first royalty statement arrived from Hale yesterday and there was a cheque attached! Not much to be sure, but money is money and it means that we earnt out our advance. The strange sight was to see the 63 exported copies in there. Where to? Who in a foreign land is reading The Lady Soldier? Will they like it?
It was all rather exciting and yet another rite of passage.
I finshed my RNA NWS work. It has given me an appreciation of the very hard working editors that I did not have before. It also has shown me how several people can read something and still manage to miss the essentials.
Harlequin Mills and Boon publish romance. That is the growth of the emotional relationship between the hero and the heroine. It is their focus and they do it rather well. Because society has changed, the types of stories they have published have changed. The romantic fantasy has to reach today's woman, not the woman from the early 1980s. These plots are character driven, in that the characters of the hero and heroine play a large part in determining the bulk of the story. All subplots must connect with the main plot and the subplot must not take over the focus.
They aren ot easiy to write. It is perfectly possible to be able to write mainstream and not catagory. The converse is also true.
Hopefully some of my reports will touch a chord and provide an impetus for those writers to overcome the hurdles to publication. At least three of the manuscripts I read showed that the author could write, and if they had the correct plot, they would sell. One had a real spark and I c=sincerely hope she makes it. With the others, it is hard to tell. They may or may not overcome their flaws. Writing is a harsh business. There is little point in sugar coating something. You have to be honest. What I hope is that the writer can take something from my report and use it as a stepping stone.

Anyway, I shall be glad to get back to my own work. I have a hero I want to fall in love with. Actually Anna Lucia is using the same man as inspiration and I will be very interested to see our differing interpretations of the same source. I had decided to use him before I knew Anna had modelled her current hero on him. She gets him in contemporary dress. For me, it's Roman. If you need more convincing, you need to look at the second and sixth pictures of the episode 6 guide. or you can watch the video and hear his voice. A seriously good voice.
Writing can be such fun at times.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

goals and beginnings

Hmm I had a look at the M&B websaite where they list the current books and now the books for November. Suddenly I developed coldfeet. I didn't want to read any. I mean Ido want to read some -- Kate Bridges for one has a book out with an October release as does Louise Allen. But equally I know I shan't be able to read them, not until I get this book started and under way. It is one of those signs that a book is hatching. I don't want to read other people's work. So I shall buy the aforementioned books and wait until the mood strikes -- generally about the time I have to write a dss. But it is the fact that I feel this way that is a good sign. A sort of that may be out there now, but look at what I can do mentality.
My goal is to have the first draft completed by Christmas. Which is disgustingly close. As in 11 weeks away. To write 75/80 k in that time, I need to progress at about 8k per week. 8,000 is 32 pages per week or really 5 pages per day every day. This is doable as long as I don't play around on the internet too much. But it is solid pages, not junk pages written and then discarded because they don't really work and they would be rather silly anyway.
I have vague ideas of where I am going with this book, and now even a working title of The Unexpected Wife. I am absolutely no good with titles. If I get the first draft done by Christmas, then I should be able to get the polished book finished by my birthday. But the time of delivery will depend on what my editor thinks of the current work. But I need to have my goals. I also have to have another hero to fall in love with.It makes the waiting much easier.
I should have the basic synopsis done by the end of the week. However, my basic synopsis always changes.
I sort of know the ending to this one I think or at least where they will be. It is good to start getting images. Some people write to films. It is never like that with me. I get aseries of stills in my brain. If I am doing it correctly, the still come more sharply into focus and I can then see the next one beyond that as well as probably the last one. At the moment, I am sure of the sandals and sex bit. It is just the swords that is giving me problems but undoubtably I think up a decent subplot.
In the meantime, I suppose there is always my eldest's dragon to work on. I blithely promised him this three years ago without realizing the complexity of the cross stitch. He brings it up every so often. It sits in a corner and glowers at me.

Friday, September 30, 2005

On starting a new wip

This is none of my favourite times in writing. All roads are open to me. My characters are rough lumps of clay waiting to be moulded. My muse is calling, and I am ignoring the remaining unread manuscripts for a day or three. Mainly because I want to know how many I am going to have to wade through. Another (a novella) arrived today.
In August I took a class on synopsis writing from Laurie Campbell. As is her wont, she had a number of handouts. I think it total one every other day or 15 in all. Being busy, trying to finiish TSD, I gave them a vague glance. Brainstorming, interviews and the like are really only of any use when I am in that mode. Sometimes I find I can these questions and others, they are not how my mind works and I end up having a brain freeze. In writing, there is no right way, only what works for you and the girls in the basement.
However, in an effort to kickstart my muse, I began to wade through them. They are excellent. Three different types of interviews, and along with other types of worksheets to fill out. My muse wants to have fun. My muse is intersted. But first I have to decide on the heroine's name. It can change, but I stll have to have one to begin with.
Cue frantically searching through Roman name sites and books. I want someting that is still in use today, so it souds familiar. This Gladiator'sHonour's heroine was Julia Antonia. TSD's heroine is Silvana (finally spelt properly) And now this heroine, what is her name? I know a bit about her, but she is being reluctant with her name. Coy even. So I'll be mean and give her a name and see if she likes it. If she doesn't, another will come to mind.
I know most of the hero's name which helps. But I am still deciding between his nicknames.
Roman men had three or four names. Their first name which was only used by the family. There are about 16 possible names. Titus, Ciaus, Gnaeus, Lucius, Aulus, and Marcus are examples.
Then you have the family name such as Julius, Flavius, Fabius, Livius and so on. This told among other things if you were plebian or patrician.
Finally a man had a nickname which he was known by -- Ceaser, Vespasian,Falco,Valens and so on. This could be a reference to a physical appearance or something else.Strabo was given for someone had a squint.
Women;s names often consisted of the feminised version of the father's name, and possibly something else. Julia Majora. or Julia Seconda. Women however kept their father's anme and didn't change their name to their husband's family. This is perhaps because divorce was a frequent occurance and a woman was more liekly to remain loyal to her own family rather than her husband's. As a side note, I wonder when women started taking their husband's name, and was it to show their loyalty had changed?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

On being brain tired

I have a new appreciation for editors!
Over the past few days, I hae been doing not only critquing for my lovely cps but also reading for the NWS.
It is quite easy to tell whether or not a full manuscript is going to be suitable for publication or not. Or at least wit hteh ones I have read thus far. It is quite a bit harder to do reading with a view towards revision bit. How can you tell people -- this is not a romance. Or start commenting on things when it is clearly not ready for publication, but they have paid money to try to get a report...
When I am reading for pleasure, I can read a 100k book in a relatively short period of time. It takes a good six hours or so to actually read a manuscript properly and make note s on it. I can easily see what is wrong, but how to make it better?
Each time I open a new mss, I hope that this will be one that I can send for a second read. So far none of them have been for a second read. Even the one which had a second read way back in 2001. There were a lot of flaws, but I thought this woman had a really publishable voice. She simply needs the right plot. Or rather a tweaking of the current plot. Editors do this for a living and survive to tell the tale. Every day is like the end of the NWS period. They are such hard working people.
I am in awe of my editor and the fact that she saw enough in Gladiator's Honour. Fingers crossed she sees enough in T SD... The bnext one of course will be even better. I have to believe that my writing is getting better.
In the meantime, my muse is sulking at being ignored. She wants to get started on the next one. She keeps feeding me little scraps of details. Look see there is the hero and isn't he yummy.What do think about her for a heroine/ What about this time period? See isn't there a lot going on? Look at all the tension and conflict. What sort of woman is the heroine? Butthen the postman opens the door and deposits another beread asap as people are waiting.
Valerie Parv has a wonderful Muse Obediance training School on her website. Full of sage advice on how to make your muse behave.
I very merrily told Jan Jones who is organising the RNA conference that I would speak at the conference on something new and different. But what? What would be exciting? I could speak on Rome, but how many people would want to hear that? Or perhaps on warrior heroes? Maybe on effective habits for juggling several things at once.(Um after forgetting a staff committee meeting maybe not) I need to come up with something and with handouts. Possibly soemthing to do with historical writing.
At the M&B party last Friday, an editor (not mine) was talking about writers being arty people. I have neverthought of myself as arty. Creative, I suppose. Organised, yes. Disliking detail -- okay I'll admit to that. Lateral thinking perhaps. Full of ideas. Finding an excuse for a messy house, defiantely. But arty? Oh help. Arty means on another planet. While I know my dh and children sometimes think this. My eldest often comes and asks me if he can go to Moscow because once apparantly he did and I said yes, not realizing what I did. This is a source of great amusement. But I am not God's Daisy Chain type arty. I'm just me who has happens to have a vivid imagination. Vivid imaginations are best employed with writing books rather than worrying about people and situations.

Monday, September 26, 2005

And it's off

I emailed the latest mss to my editor today. My editor had very kindly said -- no problem, take your time. But I had finished it to the point where she does need to see it. Undoubtably there will be spots where she has questions. Editors are like that. There is no mss that has been written that can't stand a little revising. My fingers are firmly crossed that she doesn't see something fundamentally wrong, a chasm.
At the moment I am totally in love with my hero and heroine. Hopefully they and their predictament will make my editor feel that way as well. I teared up at several parts, but then I always tear up.
I figure that I won't hear one way or the other until Christmas time. My editor is a busy woman. I don't have the clout of a UK Medical author who said that if she hadn't heard within three days, she was on the phone to her editor, asking. Equally, things happen. I know my editor has the mss and she'll get to it. She has many more authors than just me.
Now I have to critque one of my cp's partials. I am waiting for another's full. Also I have a mss for the NWS to do. Then I have to start my next one -- another Roman. That would make three. And I would want my editor's input on whether she wanted more Roman or maybe a Regency or two and then back to Rome if the interest is there.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


On Firday, I w ent to my first Mills and Boon Author day. It was absolutely lovely.
First I was rescued out side the RAF club by Natasha Oakley and Trish Wylie. As we walked into the crowded room full of very famous people, I was very pleased to see Kate Hardy who introduced me to my very lovely editor. Kate is a marvellous person who really encouraged me when I first decided to start being serious about my writing.
At lunch I sat next to the thoroughly lovely Caroline Anderson. They did a shuffle the places and I had my pudding next to Sophie Weston and Lucy Gordon. Both of whom are ever so friendly. I got to chat to fellow historical writers Nicola Cornick and Louise Allen.
Then my editor took me off for a cup of tea before the reception along with Paula Marshall. You must have reservations for the Ritz five weeks in advance! The very nice frock coated gentleman pointed this out. The Ritz now does five sittings for tea starting at 11:30 in the morning. How that consitutes tea, I don't know. So we went to a little tea shop on the corner and had a lovely time talking about the NapoleonicWar and history in general. It was gently pointed out that I did not have to be a sober and diligent author, and therefore should drink champagne. Because of my nervousness, I had not dared touch the wine at lunch. I decided that I was pretty safe following my editor's and Paula's advice.
After getting lost (ever so slightly) we arrived at the reception at the same time as a group of editors from M&B. It was absolutely lovely to be able to put faces to names. I was really pleased to meet the rest of the historical team -- Jo Carr and Maddie Rowe. Jo had shoes to die for on. And Maddie had the most wonderful silver sort of cardigan on. They have all seen the cover of Gladiator's Honour and apparently, it is really good. Emily Rushton among others told me that.
I can't wait to see it.
Gladiator's Honour (Honor) will be in retail in the US -- second half of 2006 (September?) but I had several glasses of champagne at that point. Pictures are on Kate Hardy and Julie Cohen's blog. They were taken rather later in the evening.
There was a lovely toast and a presentation of Jessica Hart's Rita and Lucy Gordon's Reader's Choice award as well as several milestone awards for huge number of books written. The whole team spirit was fantastic. Rather than just a detached author writing a book, I really felt like I was a welcome part of the whole enterprise. A really nice feeling.
I was so pleased to see Julie Cohen who just is wonderful.

After Biddy picked us up, we went to an Italian restaurant and drank more fizzy stuff, plus had a great meal.We then stayed up very late talking which was fun. Luckily I remembered from my mis-spent youth about taking two paracetmol after drinking champagne to avoid a bad head in the morning. And I didn't suffer.
Biddy has a fantastic caff right near her flat. Think Withnail and I. Very old fashioned and popular with cabbies and builders. I had the set breakfast with real fried tomatoes, and thick builder's tea. The man in pink had a fantastic voice. he managed to look good even pouring the tea. And was very polite.
I then travelled back up to Newcastle where my dh and youngest picked me up.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Tomorrow = London

Tomorrow I take the plane to London and the AMBA day. It starts with lunch and getting to meet/renew acquaintence with some of M&B authors and the senior editorial staff. Then it is champagne and canapes with the rest of the editorial staff. Finally I get to help celebrate Biddy's birthday month. Then I catch a flight home at Saturday lunchtime.

I am rather exited about all this. It is a chance to really feel like a M&B author. Also, a chance to try to understand what is actaully happening at M&B. I am also curious to see what these editors actaully look like.
I have p[ruchased make up for the occassion. And have decided on my flats rather than my rebellious boots because of the problems of going through security at the airport.

My current wip is almost there. But undoubtable my editor will find places it needs strengthening. I had hoped to get it out the door today but that is NOT going to happen. It will probably go Monday afternoon. Then I can have a few cleaning days off. My study is rather a mess. I suspect it will take my editor some time to read it, which give me a chance to make a good start on the next one. I only hope my editor will like it.

I drove yesterday. Not a problem. It helped that I was annoyed with my dh who suggested I might need to take remedial lessons! Men! He wasn't in the car. He didn't know what happened. Yes, I know in theory you do try to keep cars on the road, but when the car in question has started to fishtail and the decision is do you spin into oncoming traffic, or do you hope the verge will stop you -- I chose the verge. At least the two vans who stopped to help us were not hit. That accident could have been so much worse.
Equally I did not swerve around any of the dead rabbits on the road. Adventuresome lane changes may be off the menu for some considerable time.
Now all I have to do is wait for the sales invoice etc from the Renault garage, and then send all the insurance items off. Then wait to see how much they are going to offer.

I see that Galvaston is predicted to be hit by a catagory 5 hurricane. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larsen details what happened on 8 September 1900. Horrifying scenes. But they did not learn. Walmart was built where once an orphanage stood. The sea wall is only 17 feet high. The predicted storm surge is 175 feet. Technology helps but does not lessen the hurricane's power to destroy. My thoughts are with everyone affected.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Two days on

Many thanks for all the messages of sympathy and support.

The annoying part now is waiting to see if they are going to total the car, and if they do that -- how much are they going to offer. Thanks for a lovely public spirited man I know now the car did not roll but merely tilted at the end. Luckily, the bushes stopped it from rolling. So my fingers are firmly crossed that the car can be saved. It depends though on how much it will cost to repair. Any more than 60% of the value and they will probably prefer to total it.

I go through stages. Other than the ache in my right side where I Must have hit the door handle, I am pretty much okay physically. Sometimes, I relive the accident. The worst was when the car was zig zagging. You always think -- well if I had done this or that, I'd be fine. In my case, if only I had stuck to the outside lane, instead of worrying about what be coming up fast behind me.

Chances are I will not have to face this sort of test again.

After speaking with my insurance brokers, I felt weepy. I had to answer all sorts of questions. The hardest part was that I did not have a full copy of the policy in front of me. Where has the booklet gone to? All I had was the certificate of insurance and the renewal notice. I did however have the other car's policy. Most car insurance policies tend to be very similar. I can understand charging a deductible for new drivers and drivers under 25, but I am over 25 and have held a full British drivers license since Feb 1989. Hopefully the broker will send out another booklet and I can clear this up. When in doubt, go back to the policy as it tells you very clearly

I have just phoned the stupid body shop. They say that they are now not picking the car up and don't know who is picking the car up. Where it is stored thinks that the body shop IS picking the car up. I have telephoned my brokers who are clueless and who will try to get some sense out of the inusrance company. Argh!!!!!!!!

In the meantime, my dh is talking about taking the week off. He was already taking Friday off and there is not much work in his calender. His reasoning is that I need him at home as I am injured. Wonderful thought, but this usually involves telling me to rest and not go on the computer... I am NOT a good patient.

At the moment all I want is everything to be settled with the car and to be able to go forward, instead of being in limbo.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Car accident

I had a car crash.
I had dropped my dh off at the Newcastle train station because he was going to a meeting in York. I was on the way home, going along the A69 (think a two lane each way highway busy with Saturday morning traffic) when a large black dog ran out into the middle of the road. I swerved to miss it. Then becase I thought someone was coming up on the other side, I swerved back in.Mistake. I managed to lock brakes, trunedinto the swerve, went up a bank, rolled the car and stopped. The car was lying on the passenger side.
The younger two were in the car. We always wear seatbelts. They were fine.
My first thought was no one is going to stop. How am I going to get out of this? People, wonderful people stopped. One man helpd my middle child out through the window. Then I clambered out. My youngest climbed over the seats and out through the window. The man then climbed back, turned off the car, rescued my handbag and mobile. I am afriad the books my children were reading were left behind.
We were taken by ambulance to the hospital but x-rays showed only minor bruising on the middle's ribs. No games until they heal. She is not unhappy.
I feel a bit stupid. Why didn't I just move over into the far lane instead of worrying about the person behind me. If I had hit the dog, there was every lieklihood I would have been rearended.
I am not sure what happened to the dog. Someone said that another car hit it. In some ways, I hope that is the case as then its owners could be traced as their neglect caused the accident to happen.
It is going to be a nuisance while we get a new car sorted. The insurance have already said that they won't pay for a courtesy car in the case of totalling. We had also paid off the car back in July.Argh!!!!
But I am happy my children are fine.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Recharging batteries

Today I went to the RNA Northumberland meeting. Unfortunately Anna couldn't make it. One of the highlights for me is always the drive in the car with Anna, but I did cope.
I stopped at Barter Books and most everyone else who was going to the meeting was there. We may be able to talk the lady behind the counter at Barter Books into joining us as she wants to find a writing group. The best surprise was that Melinda Hammond, an author of ten swashbuckling romances for Hale was holidaying the area and had decided to come to the meeting.
We had a long discussion about writing -- blockages, brainstorming, and jump cutting of scenes. It was very useful to hear other people's takes on a variety of things, plus hear about people's news.
Everyone has volunteered to help at the workshop, so that is good news. But it is back to the nail biting and hoping that more people decide to come.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Next Round

I have finished one round of edits. Now it is time for the next one. The paper edits. I read through the mss, with pen in one hand and ruler in the other, making notes for changes as I go on. In this way,I hope to catch many of my mistakes and make for a more exciting read.
After I finish that, I have to go through the mss at random, using a different colour of pen, making sure that there is tension on each page.
After that, the changes are put on the computer and I will be done. Cue cheers.

Tonight I have a meeting. One of the things that will be discussed on the school's response to a child with food allergies. Since Friday, I have done a lot of thinking about it. On Friday, the head of the school sent home a notice requesting six discrete types of food not be sent to school -- Tracker bars, roast peanuts, Snickers, Mars bars and peanut butter. This is to protect a child who is severely allergic to peanuts. I saw red. If he is going to ban foodstuffs to protect this child, he needs to ban ALL nuts and nut products, plus any products made with peanut oil. Or indeed any product that might have come into contact with peanuts. This includes all cereal bars, bags of mixed nuts, trail mixes, biscuits with nuts, bakery goods, all nut and chocolate spreads, anything made with nuts and most chocolate bars. A large number of processed foods also contain peanuts. In order to know you have to read lists of ingredients. These lists change. Sometimes, mistakes happen. Recently oreo cookies were filled with a peanut flavouring and labeled as being original. A mistake on the production line but one which cost someone a life.
Banning a few items ultimately does not help that child. It simply means that a false sense of security develops.
Given the population of the school, such a ban is unworkable. There are 385 children plus staff. All of whom have to remember to be vigilant -- every day. Also there is a question of what happens if another child with a food allergy to milk or egg enters school. How do we treat them? It is simply impossible to ban everything.
By far the best way, is to insist on a cross-contamination prevention program. It was proved in a John Hopkins research paper that eating peanuts under normal cafeteria conditions does NOT put allergens into the air. But sometimes smears and traces of food are left on tables by messy eaters and a child can accidentally get foodstuffs on their hands. The best way to clean such things up is through ordinary housefold cleaners. Also all hands should be washed with bars of soap. Antibacterial rinses do not remove all traces.
At the moment, there is no system for washing tables, nor is there soap on a regular basis in the students' toilets. This is an accident waiting to happen, despite the head's pleas for people not bring in a few food stuffs.
Additionally ALL staff need to be trained in the use of epi-pen and the child needs to be encouraged to responsibility for his/her own allergy (ie eat only safe foods, eat in a clean place and not trade food).
All well and good but why was I so annoyed? Why did I feel so threatened? Simple answer -- I used peanut butter. Peanut butter for me is an important reminder that my children are also American children as well as British. When I first moved over here, peanut butter was difficult to obtain in Northumberland. It is not simply a snack, but a food I use extensively in preparing my children's school lunches. To be singled out when other food stuffs were not, got me angry. It got me even angrier when I discovered that other measures of basic hygiene were not being taken. It made me feel that my children were being singled out as they are some of the few that take peanut butter to school. Why peanut butter and not nutella? It bothered me that the head who is a friend dismissed my protest with the words -- it is not a cultural issue, it is only a snack and he is having to give up tracker bars. Actually peanuts and peanut butter is used extensively in African,West Indian, Asian cooking in addition to American cooking. In Middle Eastern cooking, pine nuts are often used. Pine nuts and sesame are related to peanuts and people with peanut allergies need to actively avoid these. How can he understand the significance to me when it has never come up in conversation before?
And how can he claim to be trying to save a child's life when he has not done the basic medical research and is not employing best practice?
Every few years or so, I encounter this. It is not that people mean to be unkind. It is simply that people failed appreciate that someone's culture and food might be different. Multi-cultural is not dismissing other people's concerns with a few glib or emotive words.
My heart goes out to the child and its parents, but the school has to make this child safe rather than paying lip service. The only way the child can be made safe is through proper hygiene and avoidance procedure by that child. That child has to take responsibility for his/her own allergy. IMHO. Ultimately their life depends on it.

I am interested in food allergies because I am allergic to ketchup. If I consume even a little bit, I break out in a rash. Luckily I am not contact allergic and so can allow my children to enjoy ketchup on their chips and hamburgers and other products containing ketchup. But I have to be careful. Also as a teenager, I worked in A GirlScout camp kitchen where we had several campers with allergies. This is back in the days when allergy meant an actaul reaction rather than an intolerance.Back then we had to be careful about how we prepared the food, and the camp nurse gave us specfic instructions. We prepared most foods from scratch because of the problems. And because processed was too expensive. Peanuts due to Jimmy Carter having been president were in plentiful supply from the US government. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer and the peanut lobby was strong or so I was told.

FWIW I also think the British government's plan to use more chill-cooked foods in schools will ead to more food allergy incidents as no one will be able to vouch for exactly how food was prepared and IF there is any cross-contamination during preparation. It surprises that no one has objected on those grounds.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Fear of the odds

I received my copy of RWR on Saturday and read through it. It was then it hit -- how many people are out there writing, and what the odds are. Mostly I ignore the odds. You have to. You can only concentrate on writing the best story possible, trying to do justice in your head to the characters.
But this time, I gave a great big gulp! But now I havet o forget that and concentrate on my wip. My fingers are corssed that it will be good enough -- that the tension will be there and the conflicts strong enough.
The fears are always coming back to haunt you. YOu may know you suffer from a sagging middle or that your backstory might be muddled. And that you need to avoid repetition because it makes the story drag....then as you are working through the edits, you discover all this and think -- wh? Why didn't I see this sooner? Or how can I make this better?
There were other interesting articles in the RWR -- ones on what chapters can do for you. Some of the suggestions, I plan to put into practice at the RNA Northumberland. We can do a lot more.
There was an intersting article on multi-cultralism which made me think because I write about a culture that is very different from my own, am I a multi-cultural writer? My characters are pagan but I attend mass every week for example. They have slighty different value systems and were brought up differently to me. But the same is true of any character I would write. There again there are certain inate values that my heroes and heroines posess -- integrity, loyalty, courage. Human emotion has not changed for thousands of years. Passion, conflict and strong feeling all existed then. I just have to find a way to communicate to today's reader.

One hundred more pages of this round to go and then it is the paper round.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sometimes it comes right

This morning, I had a sudden flash inspiration. My cp had told me that the ending was weak. I had left a number of threads dangling. She wanted to see people punished etc. What happened to x y and z she asked. She also indicated her disappointment (not a good sign!) It had to be fixed but how. It suddenly came to me -- how this could be done. I t now reads much better, and I feel satisfied with the way my wip is going.
Also last night I read my new book on Merchants, traders andPirates in the Roman World and had a degavu moment. When I first started writing this, one character was named Archelaus and the sanctuary was going to be formerly of Apollo. I had too many As and changed the name and then I thought Apollo a bit obvious. It turns out that in 88 BC a pirate by the name of Archelaus destroyed the scantuary of Apollo at Delos, a trading port in the Med about where I set my fictional island. I must have read this somewhere before (I have read a lot of Roman history) but can't for the life of me remember where. But isn't it odd?

ANyway, I am starting to enjoy my editing much more. There are still mroe editos to work through. Places my cp pointed out that it didn't work for her. It should be finished before the end of the month. But I am just feeling relieved to have finally figured out the end. And when I did, it seemed so obvious. GRRR

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Cooking and history

At the moment, I am really enjoying reading about Roman cookery, particularly every day cooking.
Eating is such a fundamental thing and the way we get food to the table, the food stuff we eat, and preparation has changed through out the years. A study of food can give a lot of insight into the culture.
Romans had precursors of pasta, pesto, pizza, souffle, baklava, panforte and pancakes. They ate a version of the Mediterranean diet -- lots of fruit and veg, olive oil and wine. The sweet and sour combination of Roman dishes laid the foundation for French cooking. Dolamades ( stuffed vine leaves) , Greek yogurt and honey,tyropitas ( cheese and filo pie) can all be found in ancient recipes. Hams, sausage and smoke fish were also used.
There are differences of course. The pasta dough was fried and then used to scoop up thick soups. There were no tomatoes, chiles or potatoes. Even old world foods such as lemons, oranges, tea and coffee were not there. Sugar in the form of sugar cane was only used for medicine. The main sweetener was honey. And carrots were not orange. They were white and were used interchangeably with parsnips. The orange carrot was developed in Holland in the 13th century for the House of Orange and is a cross between the European white carrot and an Afghanistan red carrot. Major fruits included: apples, pear, plums and apricot. Figs were important. One quibble I have with Mark Grant is that he does not understand how French beans could be dried. Of course borlotti beans, and a number of French beans are routinely dried today. I use a lot of pulse in making soup or stews.
The need to get a good supply of wheat forced some of Rome's expansion. The distribution of spices around the Empire shows what trade was like. As food becomes plainer, one see the trade routes collasping. Items disappearing off menus, only to be rediscovered later.
I love thinking -- how and what did people eat? How did they cook? What were their favourite foods? How did the preparation of such foods affect their lifestyle?
I first became interested in the cooking history when I moved to my present house and had to cope with a coal burning Aga. Suddenly modern cookbooks with their emphasis on microwaving just did not suit. The timing was all off. I turned instead to cookbooks and recipes of the American West and then to recipes from earlier times. The breath of foodstuffs has astounded me. Delicate cakes made in difficult conditions. Cooking was a real skill. You had to know how to read your oven.
Personally I find the history of cooking fascinating, but so little of it is taught in school. Understand the need to trade food, and you can understand a great deal of what was happening through out history.

The post brought an envelope from Hale -- a photocopy of the Historical Novelists Society review of The Lady Soldier. It was a good review --ending with Fans of romantic adventure will enjoy this book. So I am well pleased, particularly as HNS can sometimes be a overly harsh on historical romance -- adventure or not. Goodness knows when my copy of the HNS Review will show up.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Cheese graters have other uses

The children are back at school and the dh is at work. The house is silent for the first time in weeks. Just me and my wip. It is very much at that curate's egg stage -- some parts are good but others -- hold your nose. Still there is time and reworking and rewriting can work wonders. I am not one of those who strives for perfect on the page first time. No, it needs to be perfect on the page just before I send it to my editor and then be willing to change. Or perfect on the page when it goes to the printer.

I suspect my editor is expecting this to have been lifted by several notches by the time she sees it. Fingers crossed it will be.
My current reading is Roman Cookery -- Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens. It is a fascinating study of the precursors of many of today's Italian dishes. Lagana is fried pasta that was then dunked in soup. Pasta as in boiled in water was not invented until the middle ages. But they had the dough.
They used a lot of cheese in cooking, particularly in making bread. The grater was a very important piece of equipment. Apparently in Lysistrada, there is an intriguing reference to a sexual position known as the lioness on the cheese grater. Don't ask, because I have not seen an illustration. But the mind boggles. I may have to find out a way to work this into the story. I will now appraoch a cheese grater with a different mind.

Of course many Greek dishes such as stuffed vine leaves have their precursors in Roman cookery. And like Greek food, the Romans seem to have weighed in heavily on the olive oil. Butter was considered only fit for barbarians. Interestingly, fish sauce which is often mentioned in Apicius has proven to be less well used in overy day cooking.Apicius was sort of the Gordon Ramsay cum Nigella Lawson aspirational cookbok of its time. Most people didn't have the time or the money to make most of its recipes. Salt seems to have been used more frequently. This is just as well as fish sauce always sounds revolting.

The honey harvest is done. 40 pounds in weight or thereabouts. an average year. And as it has turned colder, I am pleased I took the time yesterday.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

On being covered in a sticky film

Today is the honey harvest. Or rather the start of the honey harvest because due to a lack of Porter bee escapes (little plastic things that allow bees to exit but not return), it has to be done in two parts. Tomorrow morning, I will go raid the remaining hive.
The harvest is so-so. We will have enough honey for our needs and that is about it. I am not entirely convinced my dh's plan of using only single brood boxes rather than double (ie two) worked. We had the same number of swarms but the bee nest size was smaller, thus fewer workers.
The other problem I discovered is that somehow the Queen bee in the fourth hive became trapped in the super -- and we have a very small brood nest. I shall have to reunite this colony with the one next to it tonight.
In the meantime, I have spun out my honey. It is a lovely smell down in the garden room -- wax and fresh honey BUT there is is a layer of honey over everything including me.
One of the great joys of harvesting honey is that you do get to take a sample of fresh honey every now and then. Fresh honey is like nothing else in the world. Wonderfully sweet with the tang of wildflowers. My favourite is a little bit of honey comb.
To make matters worse, the plums are ripe. The plum tree by the greenhouse is notorious through out the village for its profusion of plums. This is because I think the people before never used to pick them and everyone would see this tree laden with Victoria plums. Me? I pick, give away and freeze. The courgette glut continues unabated, joined now by a tomato and chile bonanza. Fried green tomatoes are actually rather good.

I have start reworking TSD and can see what my editor meant by a bit of repetition. She was being kind. I need to nake it flow better. It was too static. Hopefully I will get through this round of reworking within theweek, and then comes the paper read through, and then the random read through. And finally, the I am totally sick of finding errors read through.

By answering my editor's question about a rough time estimate with the promise it would be in before 30 September, I have bought myself time. It also means I can enjoy my lunch with other authors and the senior editors later this month without worrying about whether or not my editor has looked at my full. There is also a party I get to go to. It will be my day for swanning around, being I am A Lady Novelist rather my usual guise of Mother and chief housemaid cum gardener.

The younger two have gone back to school. They were very excited about this. I suspect they were getting bored. It is good for children to get bored. It forces them to think creatively.

They also like being out of the house when I am editing. I have a tendency to play a single tune over and over again-- when I am taking a break. For The Lady Soldier it was a tune from the Sharpe CD. Love Farewell. With Gladiator's Honour, it was John Spiers and Jon Boden Prickle Eye Bush. The children have hidden the CD. I am not sure what I will use this time...