Tuesday, February 28, 2006

2nd cataract op

My 2nd cataract is being done this afternoon. So there will a brief haitus on this blog.

My wip is finished and now on paper edits so from whereI stand my deadline looks very achievable.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Revisions and me

Kate Hardy recently asked what is the favourite part of writing for you. I put my hand up and said revisions. Not the usual response I know. Many writers hate revisions.
I love other parts of writing. It is fun doing the first draft, but really it is only between you and the computer. You know that things will change and you are doing your best, but there are ALWAYS revisions. Some of these you will pick up, some the critque partners will pick up or have questions about. Questions are good. They force you to think why, and some the editor will spot. It is all about taking the rough lump of clay and moulding it.
Doing revisions is not a sign of failure. Revisons help make a good book great.It is a sign that your editor believes in you and your book enough to give guidance on how to make it stronger. Revisions give you a chance to rethink and revisit your characters. At this point for me, my characters are old friends.
They can also show up where you took a wrong turning, where you took an easy option.
At their best, revisions challenge you. They give you the ability to take your book to the next level. Writers tend to like to stay in their comfort zones. A good editor inspires the writer.
Sometimes, the longer and more detailed the revisons, the more the editor can see. I have heard of NYT best sellers that have had twenty five pages of closely written revisions. The editor believed in that book and wanted it to be the best book possible. Editors do not ask for revisions lightly. If they see too many problems, they will ask you to put the ms aside for awhile and write something new. Revisions mean they can see something worthwhile.
Revisions are an opportunity rather than a road block.
Revisions are a helping hand up, a way around stones in the road.
When you are doing revisions, you know the characters and the basic situation. You also know one way it didn't work. Or in my cases, several ways it didn't work.
Revisions force me to concentrate on what is the essential part of the book. How can I keep those things that I want to keep and still make those changes that the editor sees as essential? How can I learn from the revisions I am asked to do so that I make other mistakes next time?
At the moment -- I keep hearing the lovely tones of my editor -- such and sch would never intentionally put the heroine in harm's way. It is something I have learnt and I have to make sure it is explained. One of the best pieces of advice an editor gave me was to make sure the turning points are active and come from the actions of the main characters. Hopefully through the process of revision, my own eye is developing and I am more able to step back and make the changes before the editor has her read through. But there are ALWAYS revisions. And sometimes there are more than one set.
In the final analysis, it is about trusting the eye of your editor. And a good editor is worth her weight in gold. At the moment, I am very lucky with my editors. Their guidance has been clear, and has sparked ideas about how I can make the ms better.
Now if I want to get to those revisions, those final tweaks, I have to finish the last chapter and epilogue...
So in my humble opinion, revisions are not something to be feared or fought against, but are something to be embraced. They are about making the book the strongest it can possibly be.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The heart shaped box

For Valentine's Day, my dh gave me a box of Thornton's chocolate in a heart shaped box. I saved the box, intending to put my first reader letter in it. And today I received one -- from Allison Littlehalles who had successfully bid for The Gladiator's Honour last autumn in the Larissa ione Appeal.
As Allison likes the period, and is also a writer, I was a bit nervous, but she enjoyed the book and wrote a really sweet note. Which I am trying desperately hard not to gush about.
Anyway, I have printed the letter off, and it i snow residing in my heart shaped box.

And as I struggle to get the end of my current wip, it has given me a significant boast. Maybe I am doing something right...

I have had feedback before on The Lady Soldier, but somehow it was different as that was a joint effort. It is hard to explain. It was as if the praise belonged to someone else -- Jennifer Lindsay, not me. I have heard other writers who write under pen names say that they feel slightly divorced from their books when they see them in print. So maybe it was that.

Hopefully this will be a good omen for Gladiator's Honour when it goes on general release and for the Roman time period in general...No doubt there will people who don't like it or who think -- oh yuck, but for the moment, I am going to bask in the sunshine. Because, reader feedback is a gift.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Current things

As Kate Walker tagged me:

· current clothing: flannel nightgown and bathrobe – it is winter in Northumberland!
· current hair: brown with silver, a mess
· current mood: resolute
· current refreshment: peppermint tea
· current annoyance: the guttering as it was the first thing we asked to the builders to fix and they have done everything else but have left it for another day!
· current avoidance: the ironing and housework
· current smell: peppermint
· current thing you ought to be doing: my Roman ms which is nearly finished
· current thing or things on your wall: calendar of women reading my aunt sent, front covers of my books, Gladiator’s Honour has a pink sale ribbon under it, unicorn that I stitched when I was 16.
· current IM/person you're talking to: no one is up, but it will probably be my youngest Tuppence the cat just came in and is meowing at me.
· current jewelry: wedding ring, my g.g. grandmother’s black ring and my watch
· current book: Hadrian’s Empire – When Rome ruled the World by Danny Danziger and Nicolas Purcel
· current worry: avian bird flu will come to Britain and our hen and ducks will end up being culled because there is no way to keep them indoors -- despite them not going near wildfowl or ever being moved and therefore having only a very slim chance of contracting the thing...I remember Foot and Mouth.
· current favorite celebrity: umm James Purefoy but this will change when I start my next ms.
· current obsession: my Roman ms
· current love: my DH
· current longing: to have my Roman ms finished
· current disappointment: Tuppence my cat keeps scratching hwhere her eye used to be, and so she keeps having to wear a cone.
· current lyric in your head: Holding out for a Hero
· current music: the dawn chorus of birds outside my window
· current favorite book: These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
· current favorite movie: Casablanca
· current wish: to have the Roman period become a popular time period in historical romance novels.
· current desktop picture:. Chronicles of Narnia photo still from the movie. My eldest put it on before Christmas and I haven't bothered to change it.
· current plans for tonight/weekend: read, be with my family, watch a bit of the Winter Olympics

I am tagging Sela Carson, Nell Dixon and Liz Fielding with this.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Nearing the end

I am so near the end of this wip I can almost taste it. And what is more, I think I have finally figured out the ending.
When I started,i thought I knew the ending, and then I thought -- hold on, it will work better this way.BUT I have found an even betterway IMHO for it to work. It means layering a few extra bits in, but hopefully it will be piognant and exciting at the same time.

When I am getting near the ending -- I keep thinking, but how can they NOT get together. Why would they NOT get together. What sort of choice would they have to make to make it impossible for them to get together? Then how to arrange the peices so they can in truth have a HEA.

Having roughed it out in my notebook, it is now up to me to write it.

Shall I explain about my notebook? It is a Moleskine, the sort that Bruce Chatwin and Ernest Hemingway used. VanGogh and Piccasso used the artist's version.So I figureI am in good company. I have a small Moleskine for my purse, but at the moment I am using the larger one my mother gave me for Christmas. It a bardboard bound covers with rounded corners, and an elastic closure. There is bookmark for marking where you are and the lines are ruled The paper is acid free. It comes in basic black, but it is handy to carry about and the pages don't tear out as with reporter notebooks.
When I get stuck on the computer, it is a wonderful feeling to sit down with the notebook and my fountain pen and watch the ink caressing the sheets of aper as the words flow out. I am not tempted to check the word count. I just write. Then when I transcribe it on to the computer, I feel virtuous as it always ends up being longer than I thought....

Other news: One of the Light Sussex seems determined to escape. She went AWOL again. And I can not discover how she got out, except there she was, pecking happily away on the other side of the fence. I have put another rock over the only possible hole, but it is a mystery to me. Unless she is jumping...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Five guilty pleasures

Having been tagged by Julie for the five gulty pleasures meme

Here are my five

1.Sitting with my back up against the Aga and reading, with a cup of hot juice in my hand despite the kitchen being a mess.

2.Going on e-harle even though I know I have a deadline.

3. Eating chocolate chip cookie dough or possibly sugar cookie dough -- a guilty pleasure from childhood

4. Taking a long hot steaming bath with lots of bubbles, despite knowing that I have probably run the hot water out.

5. Having a pedicure done at a spa and my toe nails painted purple.

I am going to tagged Kate Walker, Anne McAllister, Donna Alward, because Julie only tagged three. And therefore I can. So ladies what are your guilty pleasures?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Noble Captive

Ummm I totally forgot to post my wonderful news yesterday. I think I was too busy being on cloud nine!

It goes like this:
On Monday after coming home from exchanging a book for my youngest at the local bookshop (the one I last went into just before I received The CALL), I discovered a cryptic message from one of my editors -- was I going to be in tomorrow morning for a chat about contracts and books? Emailed back -- yes.
Then I began waiting. At shortly after ten yesterday, my very lovely editor called with the news that they wanted to offer me a two book contract.

The Sibyl's Desire did not work for them as a title and so it was to be called A Noble Captive. It is being published in Nov 06 as a hardback and Jan 07 as paperback in the UK. It will go to the US but the date is not set in stone yet. Because they do not have much Roman artwork, they have commisioned some thing from North America and it will have the same sort of cover both places. (This means I think that Gladiator's Honour will have the same cover in North America as well). I have been so worried. Both Sue and Donna are trying very hard not to say I told you so. I have been very worried. I am hoping for another wonderful cover.

They have read the partial for PBB and were very impressed and so were making an offer for it as well. Hence it is a two book contract. But (and here I know Donna is cackling madly and saying I told you so) I have to change the hero's name as Lupus doesn't work for them.

A wonderful wonderful Valentine's Day present from my editors!!!!

And they want me to concentrate on writing in the Roman period.This means the proposed Regency goes on hold and I start with my next planned Roman....onceI get PBB finished and off to my editors. This has to be done by 14 March. And it was me who set the deadline. It is nearly done honest!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Noble Captive

I have a two book contract!!!!

The manuscript formerly known as The Sibyl's Desire has a new title -- A Noble Captive. It will be out in h/b in Nov 06 and paperback in Jan 07. The NorthAmerican date is to be determined.

Also I now have a deadline of 14 March for my current wip -- PBB. I chose the deadline, but it doable as I want this mss finished and done.

I am just so excited.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The end is in sight

I have reached the point where the first draft will be finished this week. The end is in sight -- only three more chapters to go, and they have been sort have roughed out. Then I will put it to one side and wait to hear from my editors on what they think about the partial.

The next wip is already percolating in the back of my mind and I should be ready to get that started a bit once this is done. But for right now it is live, breathe and sleep the current wip.

I had a break yesterday afternoon because my parcel from M&B direct reader service arrived. Copies of Julie Cohen's first Fatal Attraction, Kate Hardy's latest Her Honourable Playboy and Julia Justiss's The Courtesan spilled out. The Mills and Boon website enables reader to order books a month before they are officially published.
I am leaving Julie's as a treat but did turn to page 51 where Biddy appears in a black skirt. Kate Hardy's the next in her Posh Doc series and screamed to be read. So, I did, and was very glad too. It was unputdownable and I ended up cooking with one hand as I tried to finish the book. My middle who had snuck read the first in the series, then took the book, and stayed up too late...

I have finished the Beau Brummell book yesterday morning -- a very sad end to the man, dying of syphilis in a madhouse. Dirty and alone. I suppose many in the Victorian world saw it as a comment on his lifestyle. His father had accumulated great wealth, and his younger son spent it., ending up back in the gutter. Of course, his elder brother and his sister managed very well and their families prospered.
And although it is easy to feel sorry for him, one has to think about the thousands of little people who lost their jobs by the virtue of his many brankruptcies. How much had his tailors advanced him?
It is interesting to note that the Beau was very different to say Count d'Orsay the bounder dandy who came after him. He was noted for his discretion, and was terribly upset if he inadvertently offended anyone. This being different than his deliberate attempts. His persona besides being the precursor of the modern celebrity is also the precursor of the modern sardonic hero.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Playing the proud parent

I glowed on the way back up the hill yesterday after my eldest's parent teacher conferences. So many compliments and enthusiastic teachers. So many teachers saying that they hoped he would take their subject at A level. They also said that he shouldn't skate and just be going into much more depth in the subjects -- something he needed to hear. What more could a parent ask for?

My dh is recovering and has gone to work. The hens thus far are keeping on our property.

The wip is coming along. As the only deadline I have at moment is self-imposed, I shall stop fretting about it. The next one has had character sketches started, as well as a fewdraft scenes. It is going to be a bit different than I first envisioned it.

My current reading is stil Beau Brummell by Ian King. He has now decamped and is in France, suffering from sphyllis and threatening to write his memoirs. PrincessFredica payed him handsomely not to write them. Whether this is because he had had a torrid affair with her or because she was protecting the Prince Regent and her husband who was at the time the next in line after PrincessCharlotte is difficultto say. Brummell and the Prince were very close when the Prince was involved with MrsFiztherbert. Was she is in truth his wife? Had he gone through with a marriage ceremony? And what other skeletons did Brummell know? Unfortunately he burnt his papers. When Princess Fred died, Brummell was busy at work on a paper mache screen for her. It could be read in a number of different ways... All very interesting.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

And the chickens went walkabout

Four of the hens escaped. The first I knew about it was when my dh looked out the window and saw them on the other side of the fence on the public footpath. As he is ill with a cold, he went up to bed. It is not quite call outthe priest I am dying, but he did wake at five so that I could fix him a hot drink.

I took the dogs thinking it would easy. Hah! The chkens resolutely refused to show me the hole they had escaped from -- the dogs did not seem to be any help. Then I took the dogs back, and go th the fishing net. They seemed docile enough.

Caught one, popped it over the fence. Piece of cake. The other three scattered and went into the neighbor's garden. Two huddled on a precipe, the last one under a holly bush/ I went for the holly bush white sussex first, and managed to drive it down the slope into stream and through the watergate. Thew other two had vanished.

I then went back for the dogs. Then armed with dogs and fishing net, I tried again. The remaining two were back on the path, but when they saw the dogs, they took off under the holly bush. The dogs and I then herded them down to the watergate. Unfortunately the erosion at the watergate is such that both dogs were able to squeeze under. This is not good! We shall have to bank up stone.

Now throughly brambled, holly bushed and streaked with mud, I haveto get ready to brave the eldest's teacher in the scrum that is the high school's parent teacher conferences.

My dh has retired to bed, hurt. I expect the calls for the priest to start soon.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Setting outline

I had a look at the Writing the First Draft in 30 days website. There was a rather useful article about muses -- basically about making the muse your slave, rather than the other way around. In other words -- slow and steady wins the race. If you sit down at the keyboard, every day at the same time, the Girls in the Basement will start realising that you expect them to do their job...

Now Karen Wiesner speaks of writng several different outlines. A character outline -- how do the characters grow and change during the novel. A plot outline -- what events need to happen during the novel and a setting outline -- where do the events occur. Plus a free form summary of the beginning, middle and end. After she has done this, she pulls it all together into a formatted outline with outline capsules --giving day the scene takes place, chapter and scene number, POV for the scene, additional characters in the scene, location, the approximate time and a free form draft of what happens in the scene.

I had not thought to outline my book according to setting before. It is an intersting concept. Where does this action need to take place? Bearing in mind Donald Maass' injunctions that setting should serve dual purposes, I can see how outlining your novel in this way would work. For example in PBB, I need to make sure the action happens in enough places that the flavour of Rome is given, but not so many that it becomes a travelogue. It also means you can use the location for comparisons and contrasts and to build a sense of mood. I suppose it also shows you very rapidly if you have too many drawing room type scenes in your novel.

I see Michelle Willingham is goig to join me on my quest. It will be interesting to see how much different people get out of it, as there is no right way to write a book.

I have been reading the Beau Brummell book and have been learning lots about men's fashion. Skin tight pantaloons means they did not wear drawers. Men had to decide which side they wanted to dress on.even to this day, one trouser leg in a suit is made slightly larger than other so that men can shove their tackle to that side. It is a very entertaining book and a differnet way of looking at the Regency. It dovetails nicely with my Georgette Heyer book.

Monday, February 06, 2006

On writing outlines

As my crows of doubt are circling and the procrastination demons are whispering, I am avoiding working on PBB. However, I have had some very good thoughts on where it is going and have written about 1,000 words today, so I am about up to where I was at this time last week, when I had todelete a huge section that wasn't working. Equally I have discovered a way to add back some of the things that weren't working with a slight twist, so I am happy. And Iknow from my brief outline where the story has to go...
The monthly realty check ie the RWR popped through the post the other day. Whether it is because I have had my hardback copies of Gladiator's Honour or something else, I don't know but it didn't frighten me.One article about being left an orphan when your editor leaves, I could sympathise with, but really, having been there and got the t-shirt, it is not about one editor loving your work, but several. Writers are not bought unless a whole host of editors love your work -- unless of course there is only one managing and acquiring editor. In HM&B, books go through several editors and they are not bought unless the acquisitions com says ok. As with any other BIG company, editors are always leaving as they have lives other than the editorial arena. Being open and willing to work with an editor is a big key to success.
The article I was really intrigued about was -- Writing your First draft in 30 days. Instead of it being some article praising the write a novel in a month, it was an interesting way of writing a complete outline before you s tart the book. Now, I write a synopsis, and character sketches. I also go back and layer, layer , layer. At the moment I am inserting new material -- sometimes this works, but other times it takes awhile... Anyway,Karen S Weisner whose first writing reference title is called First Draft in 30 Days advocates writing a full outline that is about a quarter of the intended novel's length, dealing with each scene, POV, and everything you need for a sketch of the novel. There are six steps. One includes giving a setting sketch. In other words, sketching your novel out with regards to location. Doing some preliminary maps. I have not done this before, but could where this might work very well. You start chronologically,and go as far into the story as you can, then when you can no longer work chronologically, you start skipping around, working on scenes that will be in the later stages of the book. You keep working until your outline contains every scene you plan to have in your novels. Then you start going back over the outline, filling in holes. fleshing out scenes with dialogue, desxcription and action. And only once you have the complete skeleton do you begin to serious write and expand.
If you can't write an outline without writing chapters first (ie writing yourself into a novel), you do both. Eventually you should be able to get to the point of being able to write an outline without ever writing a word of your novel. The theory is that you can see the holes much more quickly and be able to fill the structural problems without having to redecorate. Once you are satisfied with your outline, then you add the flesh and bones. In other words, once you have your full outline, all you are doing is layering.
The method seems interesting and so I plan to try it on my next wip and see where I get to. It means I can do some of the initial planning now, when I get stuck on the writing of PBB. Wish me luck.
Has anyone used this method? Do extensive outlines work for you?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Harlequin Romance Report 2006

The report arrived today. I think I signed up to get it, rather than it being something all authors get.
It is aimed at newspapers and magzines -- I think. This year's report is all on The Encounter.

It has some wonderfully cheesy chat up lines. Australia scores the highest for the most arrogant.
'Well here I am. What were your other two wishes?'
'Didn't anyone tell you that you wanted to sleep with me?I thought you knew.."
'Is it cold out or are you smuggling tic tacs?'
'Smart and beautiful -- you are truly the perfect package' --- made all the funnier because according to a poll Harlequin conducted Australians were the only country to say that intellect had nothing to do with a first encounter.
'How do you like your eggs in the morning?'
Although the Brazilian -- 'Memorize my name as you will be shouting all night long.' came a good second.

I did like the Canadian -- 'Do you have a band-aid?I scraped my knees when I fell for you.'
The German 'Do you believe in love at first sight or shall I enter the room again?' made me giggle out loud.
The Spanish -- I would like to be your pajamas so that we can share the same bed is slightly perplexing.

It is an interesting read, but not quite what I expected...

Friday, February 03, 2006

Standing up and being counted

As some of you may have read in the papers, there has been a rather huge comotion about some cartoons that were published in a Danish newspaper depictingthe Prophet Mohammod. Guns have been trained on the EU building in the Gaza strip, flags burnt and mass demonstrations held as certain muslims protest at the publication. The managing editor of a French newspaper has been sacked for daring to reprint the cartoons. Newspapers in Germany, Swizterland and Italy have published the cartoons. The BBC showed the cartoons swiftly. Channel 4 showed them in more detail. The Telegraph declined to published the cartoons on the grounds that they were offensive to some of their readers, but did point out that if one objects to Western culture and values , one does not have to live here.
I believe it is NOT blasephemy for an unbeliever to draw a picture and have it printed in a secular newspaper. The attempted intimidation strikes right at the core of Western democratic values.
I have seen the cartoons, and while they are not very good or indeed funny, by the actions of a few, they have become a symbol of free speech, freedom of the press and the cartoonists' right to satire. I may not approve of what they say, but I do defend to the death the right for them to say it.
You may view the cartoons here.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Gladiator's Honour in hardback

The postman brought a wonderful surprise today. My author's copies of Gladiator's Honour. It was wonderfully exciting to open the package and see it there in all its glory.

I know that there will other packages to open, particularly when the paperbacks get published.
But nothing beats that first moment, when you pull back the rather stubborn bit of cardboard and all is revealed.
My dh who happens to be home tday, blanched a bit when he read the back cover as I don't think he realised quite how racy this is. He did smile at the dedication and the biography, so that is good. It is about all I expect him to read....Racy romance is not really his thing.
I have signed the first copy I took out of the box, dated it and put author's copy and a huge number one on it. This is so I am never tempted to get rid of it.

Now I am a little nervous about reading it. Will it match up to my expectations or will I simply groan and think -- why didn't I do it differently?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tuppence update

Tuppence is getting better. Aftersulking most of theday in the airing cupboard, she did come out and deign to eat. This morning, she decided the left over tuna from my making of sandwiches was very muchto her taste.
Her sister, Penny is still refusing to recognise her. She hisses and does not want to eat. Whether it is the cone Tuppence is wearing or the smell from the operation...I don't know. The dogs have done the same thing. Most peculiar.

I am now going on an egg hunt every day as the hens have decided it is much more fun to lay their eggs in the garden rather in the nest boxes in the hen house. Why? I also have to be quick so that I get the eggs before the crows descend. Unfortunately the crows mostly get the duck eggs.

On the plus side, I am now for the first time in about a year having a surfiet of eggs and can comfortably bake again.

The wip continues slowly.