Sunday, July 16, 2006

Off on my holidays

I am off to do Viking research in Iceland, and then visit relations in the US.
I shall be back on 8 August as it is doubtful I will have much time on the computer while on holiday.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Laurie Campbell's synopsis class

I took this class last year and thought it excellent. It is a great way to learn all about the black art of synopsis writing. I know my confidence and skills at synopsis writing came on in leaps and bounds after taking the class. A thoroughly useful class.

If you've ever had trouble writing a synopsis, here's a hint: pretend you're writing an ad.An advertising copywriter for 25 years, Laurie Schnebly Campbell was amazed to discover that the same skills which enabled her to sell bikes, bouquets and birdbaths ALSO helped her sell books. (So far, she's sold six to Silhouette Special Edition -- including one that beat out Nora Roberts for "Best of the Year"). Discover how to use those same techniques to get editor-agent "buyers" interested in YOUR product!workshops:
CVomments on past workshops:
"Thanks so much for an incredible wealth of information.
What a fresh, but extremely logical, approach to writing a synopsis!" — JoAnn Weatherly- - - - -"PLEASE keep me informed of any upcoming opportunities to hear you speak on ANYTHING." — Linda Lael Miller- - - - -"A fellow author has been raving about (your handouts). She said they worked so well that she plotted an entire book in 2 1/2 days." — Deb Cowan- - - - - - -

Now, regarding the August 7-31 workshop:"Tips From Madison Avenue: The Selling Synopsis" will be a month-long series of email lectures, with optional homework assignments along the way. Some people ask questions and chat about their assignments; others do the work but stay quiet; and I'm sure some never do it at all. The idea is that you can read the lectures and do homework whenever you have some free time, rather than getting all the info in one big clump. But sometimes when I give this workshop, a few people wait and read everything on the yahoogroup archives during the final it's just a matter of whatever works best for you.
Here's the syllabus:
• Advertising (what makes people buy?)
• Know Your Product (characters)
• Target Market (identify your own)•
Unique Selling Points (first worksheet)
• Summary/Opening (second worksheet)
• Brainstorming (third worksheet)
• Strategy (last worksheet of the class!)
• Your Synopsis (outline; no homework)
• Query Letters, Format & More (Q&A)
To register for the $25 email class, see

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Viscount's Betrothal

At the moment I am reading Louise Allen's latest -- The Viscount's Betrothal. I am enjoying it very much as it features an uncovnentional heroine -- very much in the mode of one of my favourite heroines -- Aemilia Peabody. The hero is just well very good. I was going to put up a copy of the cover but Blogger is being difficult....shakes fist at computer

I know Louise is a fan of Elizabeth Peters from a RNA conference workshop that she did several years ago. And I do so like it that she has created her own very strong heroine who is utterly right for the Regency but with that very steel back bone.

Louise's books are always good fun to read. My midde is now a huge fan of them. I kept having to retrieve her last one -- The Marriage Debt out from underneath her bed as she kept denying any knowledge of said book...

One great thing about Lousie's books is that because her heroines are so strong, her heroes have to match them in strength. It makes for an intersting contest of wills. Equally great is the way she dribbles in the history. It is very well done. Anyway, her books are a pleasure to read. I keep finding excuses to read The Viscount's Betrothal even though I am supposed to be doing proofs.

Nicola Cornick's latest is out -- Lord Greville's Captive. It is sitting on my TBR while I am on holiday pile because if I don't get the proofs done.... A Nicola Cornick is always a treat. I am looking forward to getting her first single title Deceived while I am in the US as it is supposed to be v good.

Today I shall be crazy busy -- finishing proofs, getting and the thousand and one jobs I need to have done before I go off on holiday on Monday. I am enjoying doing my proofs as I am falling in love with Sold and Seduced all over again. Although I keep thinking -- yes but is VW as good? You know the nice low swoops of the crows of doubt...

The ducklings are continuing to grow. They were wel behaved and once their mother decided it was the duckhouse or the net, and went in, protesting loudly, the little balls of fluff streamed in afterwards. The first brood now look like minature ducks -- so very different from the fluff balls of only a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

More ducklings

The inevitable happened. The first mother duck decided to sit on a nest when the Naughty duck turned up with her brood. I told my dh thre would be ducklings, and he said -- no, too late in the season. Guess who was correct?
We have 12 new ducklings. My dh was sent out and bought a new duck house. Several of the ducklings are completely yellow. In due course we shall have to give them off to good homes...I think.
Oh and he decided that today was also the day to pick all the gooseberries. I now have scratches down my arms.

Not much work on the new wip but I know my hero is going to be to die for.

The library campaign goes on. The stakeholder meeting was held and typically the council said that there must be change. Actually no, the recent high court case said that Northumberland County Council LOST said that the public must be told that the status quo is ALWAYS an option. They have to consult properly. There is now four weeks until the next staeholder meeting. The council say that the village's needs could be met by a corner in the Co-op or a library van. Umm the village paid for a redundant Network Rail builing to be fitted out as a library decades ago BECAUSE the library van option was not working. They objected to the library moving to the high school two years ago, why should they have changed their mind? The fight continues.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Back from the RNA conference

The RNA conference was held on the very lovely campus of Newton Rigg near Penrith.
My dh drove me over, and we were able to stop at the Village bakery for lunch, arriving in good time for the conference's start.
It was wonderful to see so many old friends and to make the acquaintance of many new and interesting people.
Both my editors were there and I had a lovely time chatting to them. I was also feeling smug as VW was sitting in my editor's inbox with no way for her to look at it. Thus the pressure was off for me and I could soak up the atmosphere.
The first day was devoted to celebrations and to a saga panel. Nell Dixon swears she will not sit next to me again as we both nearly got a fit of giggles when a saga writer made several unfortunate remarks about M&B. Seeing Nell and Allison and having them stay in the same block as me was one of the joys of the conference. Nell has promised me a medical romance, and I am holding her to it.
I was aso finally able to meet Kate Walker's twin or rather partner in crime -- Michelle Ried. A thoroughly lovely woman.
The lass said about dinner the better. I am not mentioning about the bar afterwards as others may do so.
Saturday started with Kate Allan's very interesting workshop on marketing. There was a bit about Both Nell and Kate are quite keen, but is it one more thing? Then there was the HM&B workshop on emotional conflict. Very interesting and well presented. My editor put up a large poster of GH as well as poster of Julie Cohen's Delicious and one of the new covers for the Romance line -- such an improvement.
Kate Fenton was the keynote speaker on romantic comedy. I must find her books. I need to read this woman's books as they sound a thoroughly good read.
Lunch with fellow M&B historical authorJune Francis, HM&B Romance author Jessica Hart and NAL author Amanda Ashby. I am so looking forward to Amanda's book, You Had Me at the Halo. It sounds fantastic. We shall draw a veil over Jessica, Amanda and I stopping outside open windows and getting shush. My only defense is that I didn't realize where we were.
I went to Sue Johnson's workshop on banishing the curse of writer's block and found several useful tips. It is good to know that many people suffer from the same things as I do.
After tea, Penny Jordan spoke about her career and the way she works. Penny is an amazing woman. She has been a firm favourite for a long time.
Dinner was sit down and lovely. I was able to sit with friends and spent a thoroughly enjoyable evening -- even if Michelle Ried claims I could talk for England and America combined. Afterwards, back in Kate Walker's kitchen -- I shall draw a veil over, but I understand there may be photos.
In the morning, I attend Jessica' hart's enjoyable A to Z Writer's survival guide. Generally when in doubt -- drink or take a bath. She did make the point that sometimes -- good enough is okay. However, I suspect her good enough is somewhat better than me, and so I shall keep trying.
NIcola Cornick led a friendly and informative NWS session. There are exactly 250 NWS places. For the last three years, the places have closed in May, so if anyone is interested in pursuing this valuable scheme, apply for RNA provisional membership in January time.
Then there was the welcome news of the RNA PR campaign and how it is going.
Lunch and I don't think I disgraced myself.
Then I spent a little time preparing my workshop once again and finally I gave it. I am quite happy to send the notes off to anyone who did not see the workshop. My editor did say that I covered the bases correctly, but she may have been being kind!
At last home, and after a lovely supper I was sent to bed as I overtired.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Off to Penrith

I shall be away this weekend, being very serious indeed at the RNA conference.

There, on the Sunday I will be giving a workshop on Bringing your Historical World to Life. If anyone wants my notes etc, after the conference, I will be happy to email them. At the moment, they are rather sketchy, but I know what I want to say.

in other news: I have finished Virgin Widow!!!!

I shall go to the conference without a binder full of mss, and can relax and enjoy the good company and three days of talking about books.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fighting for a library

On Friday, I learnt that my little local library in Haydon Bridge has been earmarked for closure. I have become involved in the fight to save it.

Northumberland County Council appear on the face of it to be ignoring the Culture Minister's plea to consult local communiities before making firm decisions. Members of the local parish council were only told on Monday about an important stakeholder meeting to decide in principle the future of the library system. This isbreathtaking arrogance. Because only weeks ago, they lost a court case about the way they consulted over the proposed move to the three tier system. The public meeting is supposidly going to be held in the middle of school holidays -- grr.

My local library serves the elderly, the disabled and the young families in the village. Many of them do not have private transport to take them to Hexham for the main Tynedale library. It provides a vital lifeline for some people. The building was purpose built by fund raised through the Shaftoe Trust and other parts of the community, because the village desired a library. When my children were little and we only had one car, it served as a lifeline to sanity for me. We would go and get books at least one a week. When I became serious about writing, it is where I went to read Mills and Boon. I still use it for research and my children often stop in on the way home from school. The schoolbus drops them off outside the library.

Like many services, libraries are something we tend to take for granted. Yet they are as vital today as they were when William Ewart and Andrew Carnegie along with other Victorian philanthropists first founded the public library movement. For Carnegie, the library provided the vital knowledge that enabled him to go from bobbin boy to wealthiest man in the world. He endowed the branch libraries because he wanted to get books where they were needed most.

It says something not very nice about a soicety when they start closing libraries.

Luckily everyone in the village that I have spoken to, thus far feels as strongly as I do. This is something that must be fought. It will mean a decrease in a major service with NO decrease in the tax we pay. The bulding is sound, disable accessiable in a way none of the larger libraries are. It also has free internet access for those who wish to use and a highly knowledgible librarian. The County Council is on a cost cutting mission, and it should look elsewhere to find money.

Libraries are the cornerstone of life-long learning and should be treated as such.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth of July

Today is a day I can proudly proclaim that I am an American and proud of it. Some of my relations came over with the Pilgrims, and they continued to arrive for a long time after that. On most issues that have torn America apart, I have had relations on both sides. For example -- yes some of my relations owned slaves in the South but others founded the first abolitionist society in Chicago and helped found the Republican party. It made for interesting debates when my grandfather (a Southern gentleman) married my grandmother. I adore family history and won't bore anyone with anymore. But I am proud of the small part my relations played and continue to play in America's development.

I was disturbed to read yesterday's poll in the Telegraph. The questions were nonsensical. Why should a statistical organisation ask people -- do you like American, a lot,a little etc. They would NEVER have dared ask the same question about Asians, the Irish etc.

America is much more than it is protrayed in the media. Just as the UK comprises so much more than its media protrayal.
Anyway I simply want to say how much I love my countries -- the one of my brith and the country I now live and have chosen to bring my children up in.

The American flags are flying over the garden today, patriotic music is blaring and we are having a quiet BBQ today. But for once I am not going to make my seven layer dip. -- I have a mss to polish.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The next stage

The next stage in my wip has been reached.It is probably my favourite stage. -- the wip is off the computer and I amn dealing with the hard copy. I read it through with a blue pen, making changes as i go. THEN I read it through randomlywith a red pen, again making changes until every page has been randomly tightened. Hopefully after doing this, it will be at a stage that y editor can take a look and see the problems. Then comes revisions, which vies for favourite stage after this one. Revisions mean that my vision of the book is being helped to be realised. It is all about making a good book stronger. I like feeling that my editor are on the same team.

Also because of the lovely weather, this stage means I can put my straw hoat, and go outside to read the wip,rather than being stuck at the computer. Always a bonus.

In duckling news:
They are getting bigger and churping louder. They enjoy fosicking in the fresh compost that my eldest puts in their pen daily. Thus far, knock on wood -- all three are surviving.

And a cast went from the beehive. Annoying but there was not chance of capturing it as it came to rest high in the beech tree.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

About bees

Julie Cohen asked about bee swarms. And as it's warm, I thought I would answer.

When bees swarm, the first swarm happens when a queen cell is sealed. The current queen and a sizable portion of bees leave the hive to set up a new hive elsewhere. Sometimes, you also get casts when the queens hatch out and one by one they leave the nest, with smaller and smaller groups of worker bees. The first swarm may be the size of a football, and the last the size of cricket ball.
Once the old queen has left, it takes about three weeks, for the new queen to emerge, mate and start laying her eggs and then it takes about another three weeks for the new workers to start emerging.All the while the colony is not increaing, and so may not be able to take advantage of any honey flow.

Swarming used to be a desirable trait before they invented moveable frames as the beekeeper would have to kill the bees to collect the honey. This is when bees were kept in skeps (ie the traditional straw beehives). With moveable frames, the beekeeper no longer need to kill the colony to get the honey, so much of your time as a beekeeper is spent trying to avoid swarms as the more swarms, the less honey.

You can tell a colony is about to swarm when there is a build up of drone brood comb. Drone brood comb is usually the first sign, and then the heart sinks as one discovers fully developed unsealed queen cells. You can cut out the queen cells and buy yourself -- two weeks of time. Other method include the complex and complicated Snelgrove method. Keep doing this and they may give up all idea of swarming, but then once the idea gets in their tiny brains....

The main reason for swarming imho is that the colony gets too big for one queen to control. She controls the workers through her pheremones, but other beekeeepers may disagree.

Bees swarm because it is the way they increase their colony or so they think. Today, you have the varroa mite, and any colony in the wild has very little chance of long term survival. Unfortunately. As a beekeeper, you have to take precautions -- a specially adapted floor, treating with Apistan or Apiguard at the correct time, and there are few other newer methods.

A bee swarm is generally not dangerous when it first leaves the colony. This is becuase the bees gorge on honey. But after a few days, they become hungry and ill tempered. If you spot a bee swarm, the best thing is to call the council and they will give you the name of an expert who can come and remove it. Or capture it for you. If a swarm is in your garden, it belongs to you, unless the beekeeper saw it emerge from his/her hive. A nucleus of bees can cost about a hundred pounds to acquire commercially.

Thus endeth the lesson.