Friday, March 31, 2006

It's too early for a swarm

It's too early for a swarm. This is what I keep telling myself, but the bees in the hive next to the wall showed all the signs...

I know a swarm in May is worth a load of hay, but a swarm in March? Unheard of.

I quickly went and put a super filled with frames on to top of the brood box. The supers are half the size of a brood and are what we use to collect honey. Rather than having a few frames full, this hive had every frame full of bees. As the air is still cold and a breeze was coming up, I did not bother to go through the frames. Instead, I plunked the super on top, gave a few whiffs of smoke and put the hive back together again.

In a week or two's time I will go back in, shake the bees down into the brood box and put the Queen excluder on. Basically I don't want generations of bees hatching in the super because they turn the wax black.

The Aga man has come, sucked his teeth and explained the part still has not arrived. It is on order though. In the meantime, he made a temporary patch. The Aga is now slowly heating up and the house feels right again. Somehow when the Aga is no on, it feels dirty and cold, lifeless, but when it is on...

I had my usual problems with wip and have now redone the beginning as I found a better way. Helped by the fact that I discovered one of the murals from Pompeii was of the seafront of Baiae in the time I am writng about. Sort of cool.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dear Francesca

When my dh returned home from Edinburgh on Monday, he brought with him a book -- Dear Francesca by Mary Contini. It is a travel cum tale of a family's history cum recipe book and it is excellent. Mary Contini has ties to one of my favourite food shops in the whole world Valvona and Crolla.
We first discovered the shop back in 1990 when my eldest was ababy and we had to get him a US passport. For some reason, we had not gotten the passport when I registered his birth and had to go up to Edinburgh. We had read about Valvona and Crolla as having great Italian wines, but I hadn't realised what wonderful food it stocked.
At the time, the North East was not really very good for exotic foodstuffs. Even cranberry juice was exotic. Thus going into this shop was special. So many different types of olives and salami. They had proper Italian cheese and flour. Anyway I have always held a soft spot for Valvona and Crolla and when ever we go up to Edinburgh, we always stop and stock up.
When I was about 12, some of my favourite books hadto do with immigrant families. I remember Mama and Sound of Music are two that spring to mind. Dear Francesca is like that, recounting what it was like to grow up in Scotland, if one was Italian. My only gripe with the book is that I would have liked to have had more about the families and how they coped.
Interestingly the families were from just north of Naples. Many of the foodstuffs they cooked harkened back to the Romans. Apparently some of the dailect is very close to Latin. This book confirmed my view that Roman cookery provided the basis many of the foodstuffs we eat today.
As soon as my Aga is fixed, I look forward to trying out more of the recipes.
Last night, we made the pasta carbonara --easy, tasty, filling and requiring only one pot. We were cooking over the cooking stove! The recipe is basically pasta, one egg per person, salt and pepper, lots of parmesan cheese( Valvona and Crolla have several good varieties) and a big blob of butter. Cook the pasta to al dente. Meanwhile, beat the rest of ingriedents together.Drain the pasta, put back in pan and add the egg mixture. Stir together until the egg is the consistency of scrambled egg. This takes about a minute. Serve with fresh bread and a green salad.
Absolutely delicious...but I would like my Aga back.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Gladiator's Honour audio

I found out today that Simon Poland did the reading for Gladiator's Honour. It is apparently really really good. He has done a lot of voice overs for the BBC including BBC wildlife programmes. His detail page at his agents says that he has a baritone voice. I think this is good. Deep rich voices that flow like honey.
I had suspected they might use a male voice...but there is a lot of Julia's POV. I only hope he didn't find the whole thing difficult and that my prose was reasonably easy to read aloud.
Also hopefully, people will like it...

Monday, March 27, 2006

A new novel

Today is the first day of official writng and my muse who has been whispering sweet blandishments has suddenly decided to take herself off in a huff, leaving behind her critical editing friend.
Every now and then she peeps around the corner and throws out a lure. She seems to be tapping her foot impatiently. Haven't you finished with this scene yet? There are times when my muse is fairly difficult.

Julie Cohen sent me a coopy of Inside Romance, the joint venture between WHS and M&B. Gladaitor's Honour is shown on page four as a coupon for money off on an audio cd and on page 20 as part of the advert for the audio cds. Iti s also listed, highlighted in pink on the Series Shopping Guide. It gave me quite a thrill. But I still have no idea on who read it. I suspect when I finally do get my hands on a cd, I will listen in a darkened room, alone, so no one can see my blushes.

Bookworm on the net was blogging about Louisa May Alcott and Little Women. Little Women is one of my favourite books. When I was little, I used to recieve one of the Little Women dolls by Madame Alexander for my Christmas or birthday present. I think I must have read all the children's books Louisa May Alcott wrote. In the US Little Women is considered to be both Little Women and Good Wives whereas in the Uk, they publisahed in seperate volumes.
Amongst a certain sector apparently there is a raging arguement about whether Jo should have married Laurie. That surprised me. Perhaps, those people who think she should have are ignoring the fact that Little Women is fairly autobiographical. Amy was Louisa's sister May. The Professor was Louisa's made up fantasy man, her archetypal hero. Louisa was not interested in Laurie -- he was too near her age, the boy next door and slightly wet. She wanted someone with broader horizons, some one who had experienced life. Little Men makes clear the affection between the Professor and Jo. I always felt it was too bad that Louisa never found the man she was looking for.
The Alcott's house, Orchard House, in Concord MA is a fascinating place. and preserved to perfection. We visited there in 1999. It was a warm afternoon and the shadows were long. Down the road was Ralph Waldo Emerson's house. My dh stayed outside with the youngest and I took the other two on a tour. They were a bit young but I figured in years to come, they would remember. My middle has been glad since but at the time, she complained a bit. Walking through Orchard House is like walking through the novel. I loved the little desk Louisa's father made her so she could write and stare out a window. A few of May's drawings are still on the walls. You can see the staircase and the dressing up box. A thoroughly magical experience.
One of the reasons I believe Little Women endures is that different people relate to different characters. A sort of which Little Women are you? My Favourite was Jo but I know she is not the universal favourite. Some people are very fond of Amy or even Meg.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What sort of writer?

I pinched this from Kate Hardy.
But well really, I guess I found my genre. Can I have my Romance writer and proud of it t-shirt now...please?

You Should Be a Romance Novelist
You see the world as it should be, and this goes double for all matters of the heart.
You can find the romance in any situation, and you would make a talented romance story writer...
And while you may be a traditional romantic, you're just as likely to be drawn to quirky or dark love stories.
As long as it deals with infatuation, heartbreak, and soulmates - you could write it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I am not in Paris

I am not in Paris. I was supposed to be, we were all supposed to be, but we are not. Passport problems. I overlooked the fact that my edlest's passport ran out two weeks ago. Uh,,,how to feel really dumb.

Actually my dh discovered it. We might have been able to get a one day turn around, and make the plane by the skin of our teeth, There again maybe not. So we didn't go.

Luckily we discovered it. It would have been far worse if the expired passport had been discovered in France. I have heard a story about someone who travelled over, not thinking anything about it, spent threee days in business meeting and was then stuck. he had used his wife's passport, and the French authorities refused to let him leave.

It would have been awaful to be stuck like that.

Of course, my feelings of being super-organised and in control went down the toilet.

And as my middle says -- There will always be Paris. Someday we will go.

My eldest's passport is being renewed today...

Monday, March 20, 2006


My friend and cp, Donna Alward has sold to e-publisher Samihain. I am really proud of her.
When we first started working together, and she got one of my critques, she wanted to quit.
But I told her -- you can't do that, ALL of my cps get published. I don't know if my words meant anything, or if it was her own desire to perserve (perservance is all in this business). I suspect it was the latter. Her work has been getting closer and closer. Now she finally has a contract she is proud of. And I am so proud for her.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Blurb for A Noble Captive

My editor sent me the blurb for A Noble Captive today. It sounds very good imho. Hopefully other people wil think so as well.

Roman soldier
Strong, proud, honourable – Marcus Livius Tullio embodied the values of Rome. Captured on the high seas and brought to the Temple of Kybele, he was drawn towards the woman who gave him refuge.

Pagan priestess
Fierce, beautiful, determined – Helena despised all that Rome stood for. In sheltering Tullio, she had to subdue her awareness of him – or she might confess all! The soldier‘s strength and nobility tempted her to lean on him, but she knew that to succumb would be to betray her people.

Tempting the muse

I now have a working title for my next wip -- The Virgin Widow. It is up there in the cheesy stakes, but at the moment it works for me. I shall refer to it as VW. I am useless at titles but like to have a working one. It needs to be one I like and can work with, but it is also something thatI don't get too attachedto.
I also have the semblance of an outline. I knowe the major conflicts and I have done my character sketches, including preliminary names. I also know much more about the setting. It all sounds good,BUT I am not ready to begin writing yet. I have promised myself that I won't begin the actual process of writing until the 27th.
As next week I am off to Paris for the dh's birthday, there is little point in starting the hard grinding day to day output until after I return. A couple from Animal Aunts are coming in to look after the animals. We have used Animal Aunts for years and all the aunts and uncles we have had have been excellent. It is a company that I highly reccommend. It means that we can go away, knowing the animals are safe and well looked after. The dogs in particular enjoy the attention. The cats are a little more discerning.
Anyway, the muse has decided to be cooperative at the moment about VW. She is being totally useless about the article I am writing. It is half finished, and every time I think -- nearly there, she starts whispering more about VW. Ideas I have to take down before they are lost in the ether. The articlewill get finished today or tomorrow, but it is hard when my muse keeps saying -- come play with me. Come see what creative ideas I have. See look at the images. You know you really want to write this one...
I do but if I start now, I know I will end more frustrated. So it is a small matter of getting other things done first.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Wet soaking wet

It rains on the just and the unjust and today it is raining on me. A coldwet get in your bones sort rain. it makes me feel damp to look at if from my window. Even the ducks appear less than fond of this sort ofweather. And you know it has to be bad to make aduck look miserable.
The butter is out softening on the butcher's block and in a little while Iwill make some ginger snaps for when the children arrive home. At least they should prove warming as no doubt all three will complain of having to walk in this rain.
Therain sort of echoes my mood. I am on the day after I sent my mss off mode. A slight loose end feeling as I have not reallly got my teeth into the next one. I spent the morning doing a critque for one of my cps and thus have one less thing on my to do list for the week.
The two other big things are to write the first draft of my Reseach Behind the Book article and then to sort out the basics for the workshop I am giving at the RNA Conference in Penrith on Creating your Historical World. Maybe Making Your Historical World Come Alive would be a better title.
Anyway, it is going to be about setting.
And I need to do more preliminary work on my new wip. The whys and wherefores. I have a good idea of my hero and heroine which is a start at least.

Monday, March 13, 2006

And the waiting begins

I emailed my current mss to my editors this morning. It had reached the stage that I want their expert eyes to look at it. And I am looking forward to getting the revisions. Like Anne McAllister said in her comment on revisions, it is amazing what a few days or weeks can do for your prespective on a mss. But I think this is a pretty strong mss and certainly worthy of revising when the time comes.

I do go through my other revisions notes before I sent the mss off, and now wonder what gesture what I have repeated too many times. I tried to get rid of the ones I did last time, but havie this sense I have developed a new slight tick. A really good piece of advice myeditor gave me when I did the revisions for Gladiator's Honour was to just use another gesture. Simple, but until she had pointed it out, I didn't see how many times a tear had been wiped away. I have since learnt to use tears very sparingly.

The next one has been brewing in my brain for a few weeks. I am going to try to use some of the 30 days to an extensive outline ideas and spend time creating the synopsis etc before jumping in with both feet. But at least this time, as opposed to last autumn I have a definate idea that I want to write about.

And I have a few other things to do some critquing, write an article about the research I did for GH, etc etc. Not mention the fact the house does need a good dust and tidy up...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

An Ancient Meal

I have been interested in food and cooking for a long time. It really started when I first moved over to the UK and discovered that I could not go down to the local supermarket and get tortillas, refried beans or even chiles. An assistant at Tesco'sa laughed at me and told me there was no call for such things around here. I had a moment of satisfaction when they started stocking such things!

Anyway, my dh bought me a cookbook recently -- Casa Moro. Anyway, I decided to make flatbread and Syrian lentils. As I was making the dough, I realised that this was not a new meal, but in face a very ancient meal, and its ingredients probably go back far beyond the Romans to the early civilsations of the Tigris and Euphrates. Simplish to prepare, it tasted fantastic.

To make the bread:
Soften a pinch or so of dried yeast in in approx 175 ml warm water. The Ancients would have used a bit of dough left over from the last batch. Put approx 250 grams of strong flour, about a teaspoon of salt in a bowl and add the yeasty water. Mix. Add approx one tablespoon of olive oil. Allow to rest for 20 -an hour. The dough will become easier to handle. Divide into balls about the size of an egg. Roll and pull each ball out to paper thin. Cook on a hot griddle until bubbles form, turn over cook on the other side. Keep warm and fill with the filling of your choice. It is a bit like making tortillas but there is no saturated fat in the dough.

Lentils are very easy prepare and don't need to be soaked:
Fry several cloves of garlic in olive oil. Add freshly ground coriander and cumin seeds about a tablespoon each. Cook for one minute. Add approx 500 grams of Puy lentils and 1 1/2 litres of water. Add two handfuls of chopped corander stems. Cook three onions until carmelised. and then add that. When lentils are soft add salt and a few handfuls of cordiander leaves. Serve.

Simple. Comfort food to echo down the ages.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Paperbacks arrived

My paperbacks of Gladiator's Honour arrived -- or at least siome of them. After querying my editor, the rest are on their way.
I am heaving a sigh of relief because I have a number of reviews lined up, as well as having promised one or two to people. I also plan on entering several contests.
Between reviews and contests, the number starts adding up really quickly. The RITA in your first year, if you are very lucky could mean 15 books, the RNA Rose bowl 4 books. The HOLT Medallion is another 10 books I believe and so it goes. You have to know how many authors copies you want at contract time, not five months after the book is published.
Because I know reviewers can take a LONG time, I am sending my copies off to the reviewers I have organised. Some of the review sites have not bothered to get back to me. yet, so I am glad that I made the effort now. When I get my next batch, the other reviews and my friends are next on the list. RITA, RNA and HOLT are all for the back end of the year. I have to think about it now as the books will not be available then.
I am pleased with my cover -- same as last time, but more of a close up.
PBB continues along, but I find my eyes get tired. I rather overdid yesterday. So my great plan of being finished before the weekend has gone away. It will be done for Tuesday though.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A step closer

Yesterday, the post was exciting. First my contract for A Noble Captive and Book Two arrived. I suspect this means that my editors will change Book Two's title. They are much better at such things in any case.
Also a book arrived from M&B direct containing Julie Cohen's latest and two histoircals -- one by Gail Whitaker and another by Jenna Kernan. These are all April releases. I turned immediately to the back pages and there is was The Gladiator's Honour being trailed. This was a very exciting moment.

A hardened survivor of many gladiatorial combats, Giaus Gracchus Valens's raw masculinity fuels many women's sexual fantasies. Roman noblewoman Julia Anotina knows she should have nothing to do with a man who is little more than a slave but she is drawn inexorably towards the forbidden danger Valens represents.

My editor has surpassed herself! As a reader, I would want to read that I am happy.
I can't wait to read the marketing copy for A Noble Captive as well as seeing the cover.

PBB aka Book Two is nearly finished.It is going to be a matter of putting the edits on the computer.
My eye is so much better than when my right eye was done. If anyone knows of someone having a cataract op, tell them to go for the drops and not have the injection. The procedure is very quick. If I could hold my eyeball still, so can they. There is a clamp that holds the lids back and drops numb everything enough. The difference in recovery time is astonishing. Less trauma to the eye so the eye heals more quickly....
Oh and at Mass today, I was able to read the little words on the stain glass window behind the altar. Something I have not been able to do for a long time....Hooray, hooray. I might not need glasses for driving, except for proper sun glasses!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006