Sunday, July 31, 2005

Off on a cruise

I am away on a three night cruise to Norway -- Newcastle to Bergen taking in a little of the Norwegian coastline along the way.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Large Print and TLS

I found out today that Thorpe has made an offer to publish The Lady Soldier in Large Print -- hardback. This is good news. One more edition as it were. Hopefully, Hale will be able to sell TLS on to a few foreign publishers as well. Every little bit counts! In case anyone doesn't know Thorpe gives all its profits towards supporting the blind. As someone who suffers from cataracts (I am putting the operation off until they really effect my vision), I do appreciate this sort of publishing as I know there comes a time when reading normal sized print is difficult, if not impossible.

The Times today has a review of Danielle Steel's latest book. The reviewer admitted that she didn't usually read such books as she felt adult reading should have some sort of intellectual or emotional challenge to it. That reading for pure pleasure as an adult was somehow wrong. Where did this sort of attitude come from? Since when has reading had to be Good For You? It brings to mind those dreary moral Victorian tracts or badly cooked vegatables or many repetitions of stomach crunches, and a sure way to turn people off reading. If something isn't fun, why do it?
I love to read. Depending on my mood, I read all sorts of things. Reading to Escape is not a sin. Or something that should be done only in private. What a puritanical attitude. Why should I feel guilty about reading? Surely there are many worse things one could do. And reading exercises the brain. reading commercial ficiton can be a great to revive a flagging brain. There is only so much of Mao's misery I can stand at a time. (I am slowly making my way through Chung's Mao -- very depressing but fascinating in small doses) Reading for pleasure is surely one of the best reasons to read and nicest ways to pass a few hours.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Another day in the summer holidays

Today my eldest has persuaded his grandmother that they really need to go to the Metro Centre. I am not quite sure why, but I think it involves the purchase of a book on operating systems.
Ever since, the youngest forgot the password at Easter, the children have been locked out of their computer. According to my mother, there are always backdoors into computer systems.
She wants my eldest to give it a go. My mother is like that -- full of good ideas. Before she retired, my mother had something to do with computers and thinks the children should be interested in things like machine language and other programming rather than playing computer games.
Me? I have visions of my eldest becoming a computer hacker. I quite enjoyed the long ago film --War Games and hope to avoid my son trying this sort of thing. However, he seems to be very interested in the notion of back doors and my mother is encouraging it. Just like she sent him a book on C++ programming.
I don't mind as long as it doesn't mess up my computer or I have to endure sudden late night knocks on my door, asking probing questions from men in black suits with dark glasses. At which point, his grandmother will have to sort everything out.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Lady Soldier reprinted.

The Lady Soldier has been reprinted. Kate tells me the copies forBook Groups Online are being sent out this week. Northumberland Library has received their copies as my eldest got a notification that his copy was in. Also the winners from the Romance Junkies chat have finally received the copies I sent by surface mail. So much relief all around.
It is rainy and cold here so we did not join the crowds on the Tyne, waving goodbye to the Tall Ships.
I woke up early this morning with an aha moment on my current wip. I knew an important plot point had to happen, but was not sure why. Then this morning all became clear.I had to get up, rush down stairs and scribble it down before it vanished forever. I then looked at the clock and groaned -- a few minutes past five. Why, oh why. There was no point in going back to bed as I'd only wake up again. Also I was not nearly as productive as I should have been as I used it as an excuse to go on the internet, instead of being good and writing a few thousand more words.
However, with this particular wip, slow and steady seems to be the order of the day. A little bit at a time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Ducks revisited

The summer is moving on and the Indian Runner has been doing her thing --sitting on eggs. For the past six years, she has tried and failed. This year was no different. She is a poor sitter -- no ducklings emerged. And I heaved a sigh of relief as I made sure the nest was clean. We had quite enough trouble with ducklings earlier.

The Junior Duck Patrol is much less bothered about people than the older ducks. When my eldest is filling up their water, they come off to the hose and demand a shower. They stand mouths open, wings flapping under the water. I must try to get a photo of this.

The JDP tend to move as a body. All turning at once. This can cause problems when one decides they are not going into the duck house. Then they all don't go in, and we play round and round the duck house with the dogs sitting at the entrance, guarding the escape route. Last night, I had about ten goes before the JDP tired of the game and went into the duck house. I was about to close the door, then the Runner flapped out, got past the two dogs, and had to be cahsed on the night time duck route (up the path, across, under several bushes, down and across by the pen, until she went into the house. I shut the door with a sigh of relief

Monday, July 25, 2005

Double digits

Today is my youngest's tenth birthday. Today as he keeps reminding me -- he becomes double digits. Funny for me, 25 July 1995 does not seem all that long ago. I remember most of it as indeed I remember most of the preceding days. I had one of these horribly long niggling labours. I was so glad when the consultant said -- this baby is cooked, let's induce. My youngest was three weeks early, but the contractions had been going on since the Saturday evening and I had had little sleep. I can remember wanting to sleep. It was also stifling hot. So hot that the midwife changed into her scrubs, thus alarming the consultant when he came to check. In the end all was well, the second stage was over in a matter of minutes and no stitches were needed. I was able to walk from the delivery room to the room where we spent the night. And finally I slept a bit.
So we shall be celebrating today and once again I will be reflecting on how quickly time does pass. My baby is now up to my nose in height and within a year or two will be taller than me. We will have cake this morning. My mother who arrived yesterday from the States hand carried over an American birthday cake --complete with roses made of icing. American birthday cakes are one thing I have always missed over here. Late my husband is going to take my youngest and my mother to see the Tall Ships. as his work is having a special do in celebration of the Tall Ships. The last time they were here, I went,carrying my middle in a sling as she was only a few weeks old. I can remember it being very hot and not liking the crowds.

I was reading Anna-Lucia's and Kate Hardy's blogs. It appears I am not the only one who made the mistake of drinking coffee in the evening. Last night, I had two cups of coffee, went to bed and ended up lying there with thoughts buzzing around my brain. Also from Kate hardy's blog she points the way to an excellent article on The Seven habits of A Highly Effective Writer. I agree with all the habits. If I did not write to a schedule, I would never get anywhere. I only started finishing my manuscripts when I refused to quit. Editorial feedback is important as is feedback from ordinary readers. I do have a plan for how I want my career to go. The one I struggle with is keeping my work and my life separate. And when the bus stops, I do try to get on as long as it is going in the direction I wan t to go. The problem with bus stops is sometimes a number of different buses stop at the same place and some will take you to the wrong place. But I do strongly believe in the eighth habit/attitude -- perseverance. The one thing that no agent or editor can see from a manuscript is the stick to itness of a person. The determination to succeed has to come from within.

And now I have to get my words written, so I can enjoy the day with my youngest.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Kate's sale

My friend and co-author of The Lady Soldier has just sold her first full length novel to Robert Hale. I am so proud and pleased for her. Four books sold in just over a year. I had the pleasure of reading an early draft and always felt the story had potential. If you haven't already, go to her blog and read the story of her perfect finish to a dramatic day!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

School's out

Today was the children's last day. Hooray, hooray, no more school run for six weeks! And I get them home.
I was very proud of my eldest. After his music was finished, he stayed and helped pack away all the musical equipment. Of course, this took much longer than I thought and I was very relieved to see him when he arrived back home. Now, if only I can convince him to be as responsible around the house.
I wrote approximately 2k today. I have found that I am having to keep an eye on the number of pages and the computer word count to motivate me. Sometimes I am even still having to resort to the timer. But one upshot as I get more and more involved with the manuscript is that I find I have less and less time for playing on the internet. Just as well really as my mother arrives for three weeks on Sunday and the children are on holiday.
After doing my words, I spent about an hour in the garden pulling brambles and nettles. They seem to be growing high in the dene this year. There is a certain amount of satisfaction in pulling huge clumples of brambles. YOu wrap the bramble around your hand and pull while trying to maintain your balance on a 60 degree slope. If you get it wrong, you fall down into the stream with a thump. In the end, it came out me -- one giant bag of brambles and nettles and no falls. Quite satisfying really.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Alphas and my writing

Kate Hardy has a scheme to alphaise her heroes. In her blog, she points out some of the common failings of some alpha heroes. Flauts laid at their feet, damning them. And I do have to admit that if I ever met a hero who called the heroine a little fool, I would not warm to him. Some people do like pride comes before a fall heroes. There has to be more than that for me.
Alpha doesn't mean arrogant. Alpha means self confident. Alphas do like to protect and defend those closest to them. They demand respect, and do not give their own respect easily. But once you gain the admiration and trust of an Alpha, you are going to have it for a long time.
There are many degrees of aphas. Some exhibit unhealthy behavior -- see Tony Soprano for instance. Totally alpha, but totally repulsive. If you have ever watched The Sopranos (and I just finished series five and so am in withdrawal) you will see that his wife,Carmella, is in her own way equally strong. She is not a doormat. In fact, she is an alpha as well. She is used to getting her own way. I have found their relationship fascinating to watch.
Alphas are strong personalities. They are very protective of their inner core and dislike exposing their flaws. They also dislike having to depend on anyone else. Strength is important to them.
I like alphas. I tend to think that my heroes are alphas. There again, they have to be men I could respect. Before they can be heroes to anyone else, my heroes have to be there for me. I have to fall in love with them. And I know only an alpha that I can only create an alpha if I going to love him, I can not make him alpha for anyone else.Se;f-confident? Sure of his power? Yes, but not arrogantly so. He has to be my fantasy after all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Winding down the school year

My children are in their last week of school. This is all well and good, but I have to wonder what is the point besides some sort of glorified babysitting service. Reports went out either at the end of last week or the beginning of this. All the children had decent reports -- something to gladden the heart of any parent.
At least at my eldest's school, they call this week activity week -- several foreign trips have been planned as well as other non academic activities. My eldest is doing music week and spending the week recording a CD with several other students. My other two seem to be spending most of their time watching videos -- The Incredibles and Garfield feature heavily.
I could understand the point if they were taking exams as I used to or even if they were finishing off work, but watching videos? Surely they would be better off at home where at least there would not be any pretence towards learning. And then the government wonders why parents take their children out of school. Can someone please tell me what my children will be missing if they were away this week?
Tomorrow is my middle's activity day -- they are going on the top field and having a BBQ. On Thursday (the last day) they will spend the day in two big all school assemblies where sports prizes will be given out. The most boring day of the year, according to my non atheletic middle. On the one hand, I know it is good for the children to do these things, but on the other, I can see the point of leaving on holiday a week early.
Next year, I think there will be scope to leave early.
Rant over.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

HP and me

The new Harry Potter has arrived. My middle has read to page `145 and is taking a break, the other two children are out and so I saw achance to dive in -- having been an avid reader since just after the first Harry Potter came out and paperback and the second was published in hb.

The real question for me -- is have I guessed correctly what might happen, has she solved some of the pacing problems that affected the last book, and finally does it all hold up to the quality of the others.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Time Management and me

I used to think I was pretty good at managing my writing time. I sat down and I wrote, but slowly the internet has started creeping up me. Now I have a thousand and one excuses why I am not writing and it all boils down to one thing -- I have allow my habits to become distracted.

Setting word counts or pages to be done has not been helping. So I have started trying to writer with a timer. Forcing myself to sit there and work on my wip -- taking ti forward as it were for a set period of time. I have caught myself thinking thoughts like -- maybe I should check the internet, or I need a cup of tea but seeing that I am going tobe sitting there for a limited time period, I can force my atention back on my wip.

It is a matter of regaining the discipline I once had. I have to be strict with myself or else how will things get written.

In other news: the road outside my house melted yesterday. We had thought the subcontractors were not doing a good job two years ago and so it has proved. Yesterday's hot weather turned it into a sticky mess. I did not dare take the dogs for a walk for fear they would get tar on their paws.

I telephone the council to complain and once again it would appear that I am the first person in the area to complain. But as I told my husband -- if I don't call, how will they know?

I was pleased to see The TImes in its lead editorial starting to call Islamic terrorists cultist. I think it is very important to distinguish between the cult of death of a few and one of the world's great religions.

Right off to watch the lunchtime news and then to set my timer and write.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Advance cheque

Just when I was beginning to wonder -- my advance arrived today along with one copy of the counter-signed contract. What this means is that the publisher has accepted the mansucript for publication with no more revisions. Yay!!! However at some point, I might have to do line edits for NA market and those would haveto be done within 14 days.
It is quite a good feeling to know that wheels are turning and I have fulfilled my part of the contract.
getting money for writing is always a happy day.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The waiting begins (again)

As I didn't get to the RNA cofnerence, I spent part of the weekend -- revising my partial and will post it off before I go pick my youngest up from school. Fingers crossed but I like it. Now go back to the familiar feel of churning stomach and antcipation.

M&B are now going to preliminaries on GH and so I have had to submit a 150 word biography and any dedication. As I have not heard any different, I assume The Gladiator's Honour is still the correct title.

Thank you to everyone who told me about the transport difficulties. Although it was very disappointing not be there ( and I do want to see pictures!!), in the end it was what was best for my family.

My eldest spent part of the weekend preforming in Vindolanda-- The Musical. he was not very appreciative when I said that the big problem with the story was that the hero was on the periphary. He had no stake in the whole story-- he was merely a watcher of unfolding events. The question why never got answered. But the songs were pleasant and the childen enthusiastic. The costuime were inspired by Rome rather than directly based on Roman costume, and they were designed by the children.

I shall have to go back to Vindolanda and take a closer look at the temple complex. It is something they have been trying to find for years and years. The broken statues are what I most wnat to see. It should be very exciting. I wnoder if they were broken up before the CHristain church was built in the commander's residence or after.

I have finished reading Joan Alcock's Food in Roman Britain. Although ALcock concentrates on Britain, she does give a general overview of the situation. It was enjoyable read. I have also just finished --See Delphi and Die by Lindsey Davies -- it is very curate's egg. I lvoed the whole tourist bit, but some parts were telegraphed or maybe signalled. Helena is still my favourite character.

It is wonderfully hot here. Clear blue skies. A real summer.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Not going to the RNA conference

Late last night, I bowed to presure from my family anddecided not to go to the RNA conference. There was no way I could justfy the worry I would put my family through as I was gong to fly down. My mother in particular was not keen. She had been caught up in 9/11 and really felt I should avoid getting anywhere near London.
In the end it came down to priorities and my family and their well being had to come before the RNA conference.

I am sure the conference will be wonderful. I spoke with Jan this morning and she said that most people had made it yesterday. The British spirit is very determined. And if I had been driving rather than usuing public transport, I would have been there. But this time -- no.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Old friends

Yesterday, my high scool librarian came to visit. She has been promising for about the last ten years, and finally her schedule was such that she made it up to Northumberland on her way north.

It was lovely to see her. It was also lovely to learn that the Uplans Mansion which forms the core of the school is being restored to its former glory. The mansion was built for Templeton Crocker and his bride, Helene Irwin between 1911-1917. Uplands served among other things as the headquarters for the Soviet Union's delegation to the founding conference of the United Nations Because it was turned into a school back in the 1960s, many of the orginal features still exist.
In the mid-eighties the silk wallpaper in the fiction room (the orginal library) had to be replaced but it was notdone sympathetically. However, Deb kept an old swatch of the wallpaper and it has now been recreated on ordinary wallpaper. The Fiction room was probably my favourite room in the whole mansion -- dark wood bookcases and a huge fireplace cast in concrete because they could not get the Italian marble. The bookcases had secret compartments which opened if you knew where to press. In my youth, I spent hours there reading. As Deb indulged in her taste for fiction, it is where I really discovered historical romance/romantic suspense. Many of her favourite authors became mine --Elizabeth Peters springs to mind. I always wait for her Christmas card with great anticipation as she includes a list of books she has read and enjoyed.
It struck me that my love of old houses and gardens springs from the time I spent at Crystal. Certainly I longed to see that mansion restored to its former glory, wondered about the people who had lived there and invented stories about them and their servants. At one point I took a course from Deb in the History of the Mansion. We wandered all over the mansion, looking at various features such as the servant's quarters which were between the main floors, the marble bathroom with its lion hard tap, Mrs Crocker's old dressing room with all the places for hats, how the lamps in each room reflected the intended the colour scheme for that room and the complexity of the craft work that went into the carving in various rooms. I used to long to see the gardens how they were orginally planned. Sometiems at lunch I would walk on the lip of the filled-in reflecting pools. From surviving pictures, I think the gardens were truly special. However, once the Crockers left Uplands (they got divorced), the next occupants, the Jacks, let the gardens go.

We spent an enjoyable time going around Vindolanda -- looking at Roman ruins. I found another reference book -- this time on Roman food and drink. Although specifically for Roman Britain, she has had to widen the scope to the whole period. It is an overview, rather that a cookery book, annd as such does not simply concentrate on gournet food. Apicus, the one surviving cookery book from the period has a lot of gourmet dishes but tell little of what was eaten when. I think it would be a mistake to think people dined on dormice every day. And Petronius's satire where he describes Trmalchio's feast has to be considered to be way over the top!

It was a wonderful feeling to be able to walk down memory lane and to realize how much a specific place and person influenced me.

In other news: I am off tomorrow at the crack of dawn to the RNA conference. It should be fun but exhausting. Hopefully I shall come back with plenty of inspiration.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Musing about my career

The RNA conference is looming. I had hoped to be well on my way with TSD by then. I do think TSD is a stronger book for taking my time, but now I want to get it finished.

The post arrived and I had a rejection from an agent on the Roman mystery. It was expected as the agent had taken her time. If agents are interested, they move quickly. As I am focussed on building my career with M&B at the moment, it doesn't matter. I look forward to the day when I am able to pick and choose agents. I also feel that if I can make a success of the Roman set romances, it will be much easier to sell the mystery one. Luckily, I don't think it will date.

The emphasis at the moment can not be on finding an agent, but rather on writing the next M&B and getting it accepted. Then writing the one after that. Then finishing the regional saga if I don't have tight deadlines. THEN and only then contacting agents. I have no need of an agent if I am going to stay within M&B. What is the point of paying 15-20% plus expenses for someone who is not going to be able to do anything?

I can see a lot of reasons why I might want an agent if and when I decide to go mainstream and hock my Roman mystery or Regional saga. Contracts and advances are variable. Also large publishers prefer to deal with agents. But why would I want to put a layer between me and M&B. Advances are standard at this level as are contracts. Equally I can see no point in having an agent for work done for Hale -- the contract is standard and the advances are not very much. Without clout, not much can be done. With clout and a solid reputation, a lot can be done.

So at the moment, I have to concentrate on the the things I can control and change, work to improve my position to a point that it is me who gets to pick and choose and NOT the agents.

Thus it is back to work on TSD with renewed vigour.

Monday, July 04, 2005

On being an American

Julie Cohen posted this little quiz on her blog. And given that today is the Fourth of July, I suspect it is as good a time as fly the flag so to speak. Given that I have lived in the UK for the last 17 years, I was somewhat surprised at my score of 71% but nostalgia runs deep. Some of my ancestors came over on the third boat after The Mayflower -- the Anne. Others came with the Massachusetts Bay Colony and so forth. Equally, I do try to make sure my children are aware of their heritage. And my paternal grandfather was a career Naval officer, who retired as a Rear Admiral.
My eldest was surfing the net the other day and came across the memoirs of a man who served under him. My grandfather was described as the model of a good officer and a gentleman -- firm but fair. In WW2 my grandfather won a bronze star for sinking the submarine that sunk the Yorktown. His medals now hang in my dining room. When I was very little I did not understand about Admirals and perks accorded to them. Iused to wish he was captain so that he could have been in charge of a boat. My mother pointed out that an Admiral was in charge of a fleet. I can remember cringing when we were given a private tour of the USS Enterprise and then sent to the head of the line for food. Why were we being singled out like that? Or another time, my grandfather was taking me out to lunch at the Officer's Club and parked in a space reserved for Admiral of the Pacific Fleet. I suggested we park else where --and he turned to me in his SOuth Carolinian drawl and explained but that was what he was.

It would be interesting to see where I scored on How British Are you?