Warm, Witty and Intimate Historical Romance.
The blog of a Harlequin Mills and Boon Historical Romance Author based in the North East of England -- her ups, downs and in betweens as she juggles life with her fiction.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Goals for 2009
1. Keep and maintain a regular programme of exercise. I love my Indoor Rowing Machine, but when I was so ill and the builders were in, I stopped rowing. I have started up again, but it is hard. Also I need to not be tempted to take shortcuts or simply do the minimum. This is about getting on top of my weight, rather than letting it control me.
2. Be more systematic about my approach to writing. I have been spending too much time frittering my writing time on the Internet. This is part of the reason why I did not write as much as I had planned to in 2008.
3. Revisit my writing goal plan and make sure I am on track. It is very easy to let things slip by without keeping my focus on what I want to achieve. It is about building a career.
4. Redo and update my website. After my computer crashed in September, this has been on my to do list. It has not been done and does need to be done.
5. Visit and enjoy Venice. The tickets are booked and paid for, so I am going. But I am determined to enjoy it.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Yesterday, we watched Joanana Lumley and the Land of the Northern Lights. As my youngest's dearest wish is to go Svalbard, there was a vested interest. A number of his Christmas presents revolved around Svalbard, including a treasured map of the area. His savings fund is called his Going to Svalbard fund...The current screen saver on the computer is the Northern Lights. Thus we could not miss the programme.
It was a lovely programme and Joanna Lumley showed a genuine enthusiasm for her subject. Rather like my son, she had wanted to see the Northern Lights since she was a child. ( I saw them once when I was at university) At the end of the programme she had seen them and had also travelled to Svalbard. The extreme cold she experienced has not dampened my son's enthusiasm one bit.
My middle child immediately declared that she also wanted to go and had wanted to go ever since she read a book with a girl and a polar bear on the front. Cue mass angst as she could not find said book and decided to accuse my youngest of hiding it. As his cubbyhole in the attic could probably rival the ice hotel for warmth, she did not spend a long time searching...However she did find another book that she has been searching on and off for.
It did make me think about childhood dreams of places. I know I used to want to go to England where I now live. Pompeii lived up to its billing for me as did Crete. And I adored Rome.
I do think there are certain places which capture the imagination. And right now, my fingers are firmly crossed that my son will someday get to see the Northern Lights and Svalbard.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Memories of student life 1985
It was set at the University of Bristol in 1985. As I was at university during this period (including being a Junior Year Abroad student), it did bring it back.
They did get the period right and the various different parties with the fancy dress and alcohol. At the time, it seemed to me that for some men, it was any excuse to dress up in women's clothes. There was a stage of Tarts and Vicars or Lumberjacks and Schoolgirls. I was sort of surprised that they did not show the ritual playing of Nellie the Elephant...And there are reasons why I came to prefer a quieter existence... And I would doubt a pre med from Minnesota would be over there as a jya. This is more because of the courses needed to get into med school in the US, but I thought having an American JYA was a nice touch.
It does seem strange that British nostalgia about student days has reached the time that I was a student. But it is a pleasant movie and the acting is good.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
The dwindling days of 2008
It tends to be a dreamy time as you are often not really certain of the day of the week. Far too much food is consumed as of course the new austerity will start in January and left overs need to be used up.
So did I accomplish my goals for last year? In some respects yes, but in others no. I did finish 3 manuscripts, but the second one is proving to be a pineapple. I predict with some degree of accuracy that I will see it come back for another visit...and hopefully this time I will understand what the editors are trying to say. And I had wanted to write 4 including a single title. The single title is proving problematic and I seem to keep changing my mind about what I want to write about. I think I have finally sorted it though.
But on the whole it has been a good year and a year to be proud of. I am moving into the middle part of my career as a writer. By no stretch of the imagination can I call myself new any longer. Yes, there are many who have been around longer than me, but equally there are many who are just starting out on their journey. I have a readership (which is hopefully growing and looking for my next book).
What it means for me is that I need to be very clear about my goals for next year and not simply let everything drift.
Anyway, here is to enjoying the last days of 2008, before worrying about 2009.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
10 November 1969
Friday, December 26, 2008
My husband and Mamma Mia
However, I was proved wrong. My dh loved the film and thus proved yet another reason why he is a keeper.
His only comment was that it had been far too long since we watched Educating Rita. When he was a mature student, he credits Educating Rita with keeping him in university and has been a huge fan of Julie Walters ever since.
BTW the boys flitted in and out of the room as they were building models of tanks and thus were not too interested in the film. They however enjoyed Love Actually which we watched last night...and perhaps there is hope for them after all...
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The presents have all been wrapped, the cards delivered and all that remains is to wish everyone who happens on this blog -- a Merry Christmas.
Many thanks for all your support this year.
May 2009 be absolutely fantastic.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Kate Walker brought to my attention that Mills & Boon India are running a contest to find an Indian author for the Modern line. I think this is a wonderful opportunity. Also I would urge any would be entrant to read Kate Walker's book -- 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance if at all possible as it is full of tips and hints for any would be Modern writer.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Luckily I am blessed with lovely children who helped and a husband who when he was not busy dying from The Cold also helped.
Nell's suggestion of honey -- a teaspoonful taken every time one begins to cough really helped.
My hope is that the family will be well for Christmas. There have been rumours of the Winter Vomiting Bug in the village... My fingers are firmly crossed that we avoid it. Been there, done that one about seven years ago.
Currently I am busy working away on my latest wip. I ended up abandoning the one I start before the flu in favour of this one. But it is starting to come on and I am excited about writing it, even if it is slightly morphing.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Because Myer Briggs is Jungian based, it dovetails well with the Joseph Campbell/Christopher Volger theory on the hero's journey. Ennegrams are more Freudian based.
Switching things around helps to keep me on my toes. And I suspect that with this current wip, I will be using Jungian philosophy more to develop the characters.
There are two ways you can go about using Keirsey -- one is to create your characters and then use the personality test taken from the Point of View of the character to help determine the character's personality and how they would react in a given situation. Or you can chose one of the 16 personality types and mould your character around that. There are pros and cons to both approaches.
When you are integrating into a Vogler framework, then you also need to make sure you are aware of the archetypal role the character will be playing and how that role will effect the personality or vice versa. Every personality type can play every role but they will do so in a slightly different way as their world view is different. For example if a character has a Rational Architect type personality then they will approach the role of guardian of the gate in a different manner than if they have an Idealistic healer personality. Guardian of the gate is Vogler's way of saying that at some point along the journey, a character is going to point out to the hero all the problems they face and why they are not equipped for the journey. For example in Romancing the Stone, the publisher takes on this role when she tells Joan Wilder that she has problems negotiating department stores.
Anyway, I am enjoying going back and re-reading these things to see if I can polish up my characterisation. It is one of those things. Writing is not about standing still. You (or at least me) do not reach some magic plateau where all your skills are honed and you never need to think about craft again. It is always the polishing up of the clock face, practicing and relearning of skills so that you can use them better.
In other news:
Having had my dh decide to play a Christmas elf and do wrapping, we ran out of tape. The tape situation has now been sorted and I can make further inroads on the present mountian. Currently I am hoping that I have enough paper...The worst is when you suddenly discover a stash of things that you carefully hid away in the early autumn and then promptly forgot.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The annual Christmas wrapping fest
For a number of years, I tried to interest him by bringing up all the presents and wrapping after the children had gone to bed...BUT no luck. It is just easier to do it during the day with the carols on full blast and a cup of something warm by my side.
Thankfully, I only tried making my own wrapping paper one year -- potato prints on wall paper lining paper. The children were all under ten and had a great time making paper for Daddy's presents. It is though a rather messy job. Now I stick with the store bought paper.
The other snag in the system is that he likes the presents to appear as if by magic on Christmas Eve. This means not only do I have to wrap them. I have to make sure they go back to their hiding places/find new hiding places...There was the year where I forgot some of the hiding places...
The children break up from school tomorrow so the deadline is fast approaching.
Of course my characters are talking to me, whispering their stories to me, so I keep having hold that thought moments...which can be difficult when you are wrestling wrapping paper into submission...
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Kick starting writing
The basic premise is that you set your word count, and time. Then you set Dr Wicked as either gentle -- a small reminder, normal -- blazing lights and sound, or kamikaze -- will eat your words. You type your words into the box. When you falter for more than a few seconds, you are met with your reminder. The only way to stop it is to start writing again. Apparently there is a surprising demand for the kamikaze mode. So a step up from the alarm clock trick as it actually senses when you are not typing.
This is all about writing, rather than editing.
Bad pages can be fixed. Blank pages need to be written.
Does it work? Short answer: yes, it focuses your attention and forces you to write rather than worrying about the correct word. However, when you are a terrible typist like me, it comes as a shock that you just have to keep typing and not worrying about the spelling etc. It does make for interesting editing, but once I got the hang of it, quite enjoyable.
I am going to try using it for my current wip and seeing if it helps bring some of the joy back into writing as I was amazed at how much time I spend editing, rather than simply writing after doing the exercise properly. But it is only a tool. And it is only good for the first draft.
In other news:
After being ill for two weeks or so, yesterday, I finally started rowing again. Even though my time was slow, it felt good to be doing something again. The Cold has really knocked me around.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Newsletter contest winners
Avi J won the first prize of a hardback copy if Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife plus a paperback of A Question of Impropriety.
Vic W won a signed copy of one of backlist.
Judith Dennis won the writer's prize of me critiquing a partial and generally being a sounding board.
All winners have been contacted.
My cold is much better and I am starting to feel human again. However, waking at 3:30 am with my head buzzing about a story is not quite what I had in mind. Still, I did get quite a lot of plotting done. Sometimes, plots just happen and the knowing why is good.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
At Risky Regencies today
Christmas Tree 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
I have been battling through, thinking I was getting better and then my chest started to ache like a nasty chest infection is coming on. I did try my aunt's sightly odd suggestion of putting Vicks on the soles of my feet as it is supposed to help with a cough. It made my feet nice and warm but I am not so sure what happened with my cough...every so often it wracks my body...
I have now read Rubenhold's The Covent Garden Ladies which examines the milieu of Covent Garden in the mid 18th century -- looking at the rise of the high class bordello/nunnery as well the life a courtesan. Fascinating stuff. And some men did marry their mistresses... Rubenhold is definitely a non fiction author to watch.
But right now, I simply want to be well for Christmas.
We are supposedly getting our tree tomorrow which means suddenly Christmas will be in high gear.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
E harlequin open house today!
Later, there will be live chats from the US edited lines. It gets fast and furious, but it is an event not to be missed.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
Thinking about casting a hero
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Streaming colds and contest
Friday, December 05, 2008
Exploding lightbulbs and other mishaps
The street lamp was on, so it was us. I figured my dh must have switched something on that was not earth properly. I began to isolate things on the circuit board as he swore he had not done anything. I go to switch on the hall lights circuit and there is another bang. My dh who is trying to get the head torches swears there was green flash from one of the hall lights.
Right I figure -- time to blame the light bulbs as one of the hall lights went this morning. It must be the other one as lights with dead light bulbs do not work. The first light is very hot and I use rubber gloves. The second light ( the one that went out in the morning), I change and then go to put the glass light shade back on. The new light bulb explodes in my face, literally jumping out of the socket. Luckily all the shards go into the glass light shade. I swear at the terribleness of light bulbs, go and get a new packet and change the bulb, making sure it is firmly in place.
Then I turn on the hall lights. Another explosion and a green flash of light.
We go to plan B.
I keep the hall lights off and go to the play -- planning on calling the electrician in the morning.
My dh stays home, nurses his cold and makes supper. I arrive back to the news that the refrigerator is off. Was the motor blown by the fun and games earlier? Were we faced with eating a ton of smoked salmon? This is easily solved when I check the circuit board and see I hadn't switched on some sockets. This is after I change the fuse, read the manual and swore...
A hurried phone call to the electricians this morning. They come out and discover that somehow the wiring has worn away and the earthing wire is now touching the live wire. For some reason it burnt through. It has now been rewired and I am thankful that we did not have a fire!
Moral: if a light bulb explodes, or you get a green flash and the mains is tripped, it is probably serious and best left to the experts.
In better news,
You can read the rest of the review here.
I am blogging today at Totebags about cyber holiday traditions. Basically I blame the exploding lightbulbs if it doesn't make sense. There is a contest with it though.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife copies arrive
Wealthy landowner Simon Clare shuns Northumbrian society. With his son gravely ill, the last thing Simon needs is an interfering woman assuming command of his household and nursing young Robert – no matter how sensuous her figure, or how tempting her luscious lips.
Phoebe Benedict knows what it is to struggle, and finds herself drawn to the badly scarred recluse. Despite his tough exterior, she knows that Simon is a father who yearns for his son to recover – and a man who misses the tender embrace of a woman…
‘Someone has to say these things.’ She stared at him. His mouth was inches from hers. His mouth swooped down and claimed her, branded her, and she knew her words were a lie. She did want something else. Phoebe stilled as warmth pulsated through her. Searing her with its fierceness. His lips called to something deep within her, turned the warmth into a raging inferno. Her hand sank into his hair and held him there.
The kiss lengthened, deepened. Her lips parted and he feasted, devoured her like a starving man. This was no gentle persuasion or chaste kiss but the sort of kiss a pirate captain might bestow. Plundering and taking. And she wanted more. His arms went around and held her body against his, her breasts crushed against his chest. Her melting softness meeting his body. His lips trailed down her throat as he entangled his fingers in her glorious hair. Held her there.
The mantel clock chimed the hour, bringing them back to reality. He stepped away from her, a stunned look on his face.
Phoebe looked at him, turned on her heel and fled.
Genius v grinds
The music flowed from his fingertips because he practised. He practised and played music because it pleased his father and because he had an aptitude for it. If Saliari had practised as much as Mozart and had grown up in the same environment, it is more than probable that he would have achieved the same level... In other words, Mozart worked hard, harder than most people realise and he did not just pick up a violin one day and compose music.
I can remember reading the autobiography of John Denver where he attributed his success at music to the hard work he put it. He spent hour upon hour during high school playing his guitar. He then toured and toured. This is not unique. Time after time when you really look at someone who has been a great success, you see that they may have had the predisposition towards something, but they were also willing to put the hard hours in.
Malcom Gladwell has recently written a book called Outliers: Is there such a thing as pure genius? You can read an extract of it here. But basically, he concludes that once you have the desire much of success stems from determination, dedication and discipline.
Twyla Tharp in her book, The Creative Habit also touches on this. The prima ballerinas always are the ones who are the first to the barre and who constantly practice and practice. They do not take their success for granted. It is a question of clock face polishing and striving to improve.
So what about romance writers? If you speak to any successful romance writer, they will tell you how hard it is. All the romance writers I know write because they love writing and reading. They have put the hard hours in. Some of it includes reading the genre and understanding the demands of the genre.
It is what gets me so cross about programmes about writing. Or having a go at writing a M&B. Do those presenters realise how long and hard the top talent have worked at it? Or how hard they do work at it? One of the reasons for M&B's success is that they have very hard working authors who are working to tell stories to the best of their ability. It is all about putting the hours in and honing your writing.
Over the long term, there are diminishingly few grinds.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Snow and moles
Monday, December 01, 2008
VIking Warrior Unwilling Wife published (officially)
This is the official date of publication for Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife in North America -- although I understand that it has been spotted in several places over the weekend. I gather that Harlequin Historical are in a better place than usual. This may be another sign that the historical genre is doing well.
I have sent out my latest newsletter which has details of the TWO contests -- one for readers and one for aspiring writers.
I will be at Unusual Historicals on Sunday, Tote Bags on 5 Dec and just confirmed Risky Regencies on the 14th as well as the E harlequin Open House on 11 Dec. There will be a chance to win a signed copy of one of my books at each of the places.
Also on 10th December my excerpt from A Christmas Wedding Wager will be up on the Writer's Vineyard. It is out this month in Australia as part of A Yuletide Invitation with Blythe Gifford's The Harlot's Daughter. There is a chance to win some of my books there as well. I like the cover but it is not very Christmasy. I think I preferred the UK Christmas by Candlelight cover or the US A Christmas Wedding Wager cover.