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.