Saturday, February 28, 2009

Working through problems.

There has been a phrase on the first page of my current ms, that has been bothering me. Yesterday, I think I finally figured out why and how to change it. Progress of a sort. I think it will work better. Three little words but it is a first page and so you have to be picky.
I have been taking my time with these revisions but now I am into the rewriting of a couple scenes stage.
The problem with this particular scene as that it has been rewritten from scratch at least three times before. It is a pivotal scene, but it has to be right. The big reason for the change is that I brought someone back from the dead, and my editor decided that it would be much better if he were truly dead and heroic,, rather than alive and brainwashed. So I have had to figure out how to do things, but I think I have it.

Repeat after me -- I do like revisions. In fact I love revisions. Revisions make a story stronger.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sudden inspiration

Sometimes, characters are just difficult. My heroine had been holding out on me. On the umpteenth time of reading my revision letter, I suddenly realised the problem and how she had to grow at the end, and why therefore as it currently stood, the ending felt flat.

Why do I hate opening my veins and bleeding on the page when I know it is what the story requires. The average reader will only get 10% of the emotion I feel. So I may be in floods of tears, bereft, wrung out and the average reader will go meh, okay. But knowing that does not necessarily mean I readily open my veins. It just means that I know I need to. And now I know why. Emotional stakes must be sky high. The heroine can not feel that she can just take up her old life. And she must be prepared to sacrifice something.

In other news:
Has an owl eaten the mole? My youngest heard the tawny owl in the back garden a few night ago. Tawny owls' favourite food is moles. Or he may have packed his bags and moved to greener pastures. In any case, no new molehills. The traps were undisturbed and so I have removed them. But they are in the greenhouse, ready for the next invasion.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Every scene needs to turn. If the characters feel the same way at the start as at the end, particularly the POV character, what is the point of the scene?
A simple enough concept. You would think I had learnt that by now. Or about dissipating tension in a scene by having it go on too long. Guilty as charged. But can I figure out how to change? Where is going to make the most impact when you know in your heart a scene needs to be there.
Then there is muddled backstory. Simply, simplify.
Ah my old friends, the Crows of Doubt have to call. Always good to have them drop in at this point in the revision process.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spring cleaning bees and bats

Yesterday, my husband deemed the time was right to change the floors in the beehives. Because we use varroa floors (basically wire mesh) to help control the varroa mite, they do have to be cleaned as the bees can not do it.
Normally I try to get my husband to do the job... Grumpy bees and all that. However, I also wanted to discover about the possibility of mice. Far better for me to do it as it would have been my fault....

The bees were sluggish until I moved the hive and then they began to get active. Why, oh why when you are just about to do something difficult does the smoker go out? With the weather starting to cloud over and become cold, there was no hope of abandoning and waiting for the smoker to start. I just had to keep going on with the operation. Success was measured in two clean hive floors, no mice and most importantly no stings... Of course, the smoker started belching out smoke and the sun beat down, the instant I got back to the garden room.

My husband decided to make the bat box more secure and so we had a bat flying about the garden in bright sunlight. It swooped low over the garden for awhile and then we think went back to the box. My husband and youngest son both commented that they did not think there was a bat in the bat box and it could have been just the first flight of Spring. I begged to differ.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sun is shining

The sun is shining, the bees are flying and there are no new mole my lawn. Of course the field on the other side of the road is full of fresh molehills. Is it too much to hope for? Has the mole gone to pastures new?

The lawn will recover in time, but for now, I swear I could see the molehills on google earth...
However my youngest son begs to differ.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Holding my breath

I checked the mole traps -- they were all fine. No moles, no collapsed tunnels. Nothing. There are no new mole hills either. This has been the case for a couple of days. Hopefully the mole has packed his bags and decided to visit a water vole or something.

The revisions are coming on. I am trying to make sure that the conversations are not over long and actually do have a point...the relationship does need to move.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The right to kiss at railway stations

Mills & Boon is leading the charge to get Warrington railway station to rescind its kissing ban.
There is a facebook group you can join.
What a silly fatuous way to spend money -- putting up no kissing signs in a railway station. The Telegraph was quite right to highlight it in an article. It is not lighthearted but an attempt to erode liberty. A Dolores Umbridge (the nasty bureaucrat from Harry Potter) moment for Warrington and Virgin Trains.
Think about it -- how many times have you picked your husband/partner up and given them a kiss? The open arms? The joyous expression of welcome?
Or at the other end of the spectrum, when you are saying goodbye and you do not know when you will next see them?
Long live kissing at railway stations, airports and ferries!

PHS, guilty secrets and gardening

First of all, my post about Josh Groban is up at the Pink Heart Society. It is also the first time I have attempted to use youtube embedded. So I took on faith Donna Alward's instructions and they worked. An other reason to love my critique partner. Just to prove I can do it. This Josh Groban song Anthem from Chess really helped me get through the revisions of the Viking.

I have also discover that there is a survey about guilty reading secrets being conducted for world book day. I was honest and did admit that I do sometimes read the ending before finishing the book... But I have never claimed to read a book that I haven't and I have never written in library book, not even when I was little. They also ask which author/books are most enjoyable. No prizes for guessing that one of my choices was Mills & Boon. You can take the survey here.

Yesterday, it was a call to arms. Some people like Kate Hardy take their children to London for the day. We, on the other hand, used our children as unpaid slave labour and started to clean the garden. A good time was had by all, once they actually stopped complaining and started cutting down ivy and moving branches. There is something very therapeutic about moving lots of junk and trimming hedges. The children though beg to differ, particularly when sitting on their bottoms watching television.

Both beehives survived and bees were seen taking in pollen. The hazel is currently in flower as are the winter aconites, snowdrops and some crocus.

We also now possess an uber bird feeder with a cage around the peanuts. My husband and youngest are hoping this will prevent the jackdaws from nicking them all. At the moment, we do not suffer from grey squirrels. The reds did unfortunately leave the area a few years ago...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A four contract

Late yesterday afternoon, I had a lovely email from my editor offering a four book contract for four full length novels. We have agreed terms and delivery dates, so I am under deadlines again -- which feels good.

One of the nicest bits was in the memo offering the contract the words -- to demonstrate our commitment to and support of you. It is so nice to know you are wanted!

But the celebrations are over, and it is time to roll up my sleeves and get into this manuscript.

I am about halfway through Eclipse but am putting it to one side. When I am doing revisions, I find my own story consumes me and it is difficult to read fiction. My daughter will be pleased to get the book back. Yesterday after denying she was a fanatic, I casually asked her if she was reading Breaking Dawn for the second time. No, came the answer the fourth. I rest my case.

No new mole hills. The traps will need to checked but I worry that the mole has gone deeper and started breeding...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Viking accepted

I just found today that Ivar's story has been officially accepted! Into every writer's career comes at least one story that is difficult to get right. Hopefully, people will enjoy it. No word yet on title or release dates. It is enough to know that they want it.

I also received my revisions for the Governess story. They are far lighter. I can see what my editor means. As I had experimented with a story board, it might have made the difference. The big problem with this story is that I over complicated the back story and it over shadows the romance. The romance is the KEY to what I write. I am not writing the back story, just the current romance.

Twilight and my daughter

Right I am currently about a third of the way through Eclipse. I can totally see why India Grey's 14 year old daughter loves Edward. Knowing India's heroes, I can suspect her daughter has a tendency towards the same type of men as India. I also totally agree with her daughter that seeing the film with Robert Pattinson would be ridiculous and would ruin the books for me. Edward looks somewhat different in my mind's eye. Equally the girl playing Bella.
Edward is definitely a nurturing alpha hero, defintely in the presents mould, despite being a vampire. I feel sorry for him though as sometimes Bella does seem a bit too stupid to live, particularly as she grew up looking after her mother and spends time looking after her father who can't cook. I am grateful that she does live and am looking forward to getting some plot points solved.
I keep having this half of me which really enjoys the books and the other half muttering about pace, lack internal conflict and growth. My daughter currently refuses to speak to me about the books as she interprets it as I do not like the books. The fact that I am reading them shows I like the books. If I was 14/15/16, I would be in love with Edward. Edward is the main reason for reading the books.
My daughter is currently a fanatic and thus has no sense of proportion. She disliked that I pointed out that saying Wuthering Heights happened at the turn of the century England would mean readers might consider it to have happened at the turn of the 20th century, rather than during the Regency period. Wuthering Heights was published in 1847 but starts in 1801. It was minor point and pulled me out of the story. I blame the copy editor, rather than the author for not having it clearer as Myers does know the story.
My daughter however is continuing to work on her French and despite the odd outburst at me not to discuss the books... is very pleasant.

I am also redoing my website and hope to have the changes done before 1 March. However, I suspect that my critque partners will be cracking their whips if I do not get writing.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Harlequin's 2009 Romance Report

The Harlequin Romance Report is online. The theme for this year is where fantasy meets reality in romance.
The report features the annual North American and International surveys on romance plus a list of Must See Travel destinations and a host of other articles which are designed to let the media help celebrate Romance.

moles again

The ground finally defrosted and this meant that I was able to dig up my mole traps. The mole had carefully filled each hole. SIGH.
I have reset the traps. This time trying the traps the way they appeared to go in the news clip I saw on catching moles.

However, I see there are several fresh mole hills this a part of the garden that is far away from the traps. Moles are tricky.

I also finished New Moon which is the second in the Twilight series. Some parts of it are slow. It is always difficult to write characters who are numb from grief. The last third got much better but Bella at times does border on too stupid to live. Edward however rocks. I totally agree with India Grey's daughter -- I don't want to see the movie as my picture of Edward is not like the man who played Cedric Diggory.
I shall be reading the next book, but my cold is getting better and so I actually have to work. But it is important to remember that sensual tension is built up in little details. It is not the full frontal that is important but the tiny bits. What is noticed and the little touches. It is possible to stay in the first 9 stages of the courtship ritual (as Myers does) and still create a sensual book -- full of longing and desire. Sometimes because authors go from 0 to stage 10 within a few pages, this message gets forgotten.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Twilight read

The box of books arrived yesterday. My husband raised his eyebrows. My daughter joyfully disappeared upstairs with the last two. As I have come down with a dreadful cold, I read Twilight yesterday evening.

It was fine and not vampire horror at all. A page turning read. It was more teen aged Presents with fangs, than blooding dripping horror vampire. If I was a teen aged girl, I would be in love with Edward. I found him far easier to fancy than the lead love interest in Wicked Lovely. But it did not have the in depth world of say Northern Lights. For some reason, Stephanie Meyers reminded me of Virginia Andrews who wrote Gothic horror/romance stories in the 1980s. It is the same sort of market. (And I did have a Virginia Andrews stage at one point -- I think my mother would have fainted in horror if she had realised at the time, but there again she did think a lot of what I read was trash...).

I had lots of questions -- questions my daughter assures me are answered in the next few books. For example where does Bella's mother fit into the whole thing. And why is the music important? And what is there about Bella that means her thoughts are hidden and why is she personally so attractive to vampires? Where do the werewolves fit in? And how does Edward being with Bella break the truce?

If I was reading from an adult writer perspective, I would mention the lack of internal conflict. Or rather the lack of sustainable conflict as Bella makes her irrevocable decision to be with Edward early on. The I love you bit comes too early as the saying it does not make matters worse. Stakes should have really been upped for both Edward and Bella at that point. It needs to make matters worse. Equally, there is no real sense of sacrifice in the end. What does Edward give up? What does Bella? In part because we never are Edward's POV, you never get this real sense that he is being pushed to the edge. Also, Bella does not really seem to understand what the stakes are for her, should she give up being human. The ending thus relies more on external conflict and feels slightly flat. You need more than yearning to hold a romance up. Also it would have been helpful to have some of the bad vampire bits foreshadowed earlier (for example had Edward ever hunted with the tracker/did he know him his past?), so there was this sense of menace building. It seems to come from left field as it were.

BUT if I put my adult concerns to one side (and I do try to do that) and read like a reader, it is a fun read and hearkens back to the days when I was a teenager. So it really depends on if you want to pick fault or if you are just going to enjoy. It is very good entertainment for teen aged girls. I suspect boys will be less enthralled.

I will read the next three, probably in the next week or so.
My daughter read the third and most of the fourth yesterday. She has promised to study and did spend an hour on her French yesterday. Bribery and corruption is all.

So read it to see what the fuss about...and if it gets teen aged girls into reading romance so much the better. Read it like a reader, rather than like a writer and you will enjoy it much better.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is the remenant of a popular Roman festival of fertility aka Lupercalia. Basically, youths ran naked through the streets of Rome, hitting people with shaggy bits of fur. Women would try to get hit as it was supposed to increase fertility. The festival was in honour of the She wolf who had suckled Romulus and Remus. The statue of the wolf is far older than the statue of Romulus and Remus beneath it. It may point some worship of wolves by the early Romans which was remembered in the myth.

Several years ago, they thought they had found the Lupercal or cave at the base of the Palatine where the rites took place. However, it is disputed and the cave decoration may merely date from Nero.

The festival was so popular that when the time came, an alternative had to be invented. St Valentine was martyred on this date and thus his feast day was used to mask the rites.

Now of course, Valentine's Day is more about hearts, flowers and chocolates. But I thought it appropriate that my Labrador has his birthday today. He is 12.
So whether you celebrate Lupercalia or Valentine's, I hope you had a good one.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I broke down. I ordered the books.
All I can say is that my daughter had best study over the half term.
Sometimes, I am an indulgent parent.


My daughter has discovered Twilight. A friend of hers has lent her the first two books. She adores them. Apparently Edward is wet but there is a friend of his who rocks.
I was intrigued and asked to read them over half term. But no, she is returning the first two and getting the third one. Another friend of theirs had read them in 24 hours and my daughter is determined to repeat the feat.
I suspect that there will be a request for all four and this is a ploy...However, the books obviously speak to her.
Vampires in general are not my cup of tea. I can remember being physically sick after seeing Andy Warhol's Dracula. It probably had something to do with the train I had been travelling on that day hitting a suicidal man. But I suspect that I ought to at least try to read the books.
Does anyone know how long this obsession lasts? Should I get the books or not?

But it is the sharing of books that leads me to believe that ebooks will generally occupy a niche market as they can not be traded or transferred. When you find a great author, you want to share and many times, you want to put the book into the person's hand and say -- Read. I don't care what you say about not liking xy or z. Just read. It is a bit harder to do with an e-book.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Duck rescue

Last night, my youngest came rushing in, calling for my help. A duck had got his foot stuck between two rocks.
Grumbling , I grabbed a torch. Ducks are late night party animals and will not go to bed until it is nearly dark. Hens are far more sensible. I did think my youngest was over reacting as how can a duck get stuck?
One of the Drones club had manged to get his foot stuck in a gap in the retaining wall near the duck houses. I do not know how he did it. He was standing on the path quacking and looking forlorn, doing yoga. The rocks in the wall refused to budge. The foot would not move either. If left there, the duck would freeze or become fox bait.
I had to gently ease the foot out, while all the while the drake is flapping its wings. Thankfully, it did not lose the foot. There was some bleeding but it appeared superficial. The duck gave a mournful quack as I put him in the least populated duck house.
This morning the duck limps but lives.
Hopefully it will not try yoga again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Unusual Historical

I am blogging today at Unusual Historical about the Thingvellir. It is for the Humans in Nature month.

Hooray for India Grey who won the RNA Romance Prize yesterday for her lovely book Mistress: Hired for the Billionaire's Pleasure. It made me cry when I read it. It is a bit hard to direct the putting in of a bookcase when you have tears streaming down your face and all you want to do is to get back to the book. Luckily for people in the US, the book is currently out there. Read it with tissues handy.

My youngest has stayed well. Obviously know that he does not have a temperature has done much for his ability to stay at school.

Have pointed out to the youngest that it has been so long since he last rode his bike that the hens have started using it as a windbreak for a nest. He remains unconvinced by this. He did go down and retrieve the eggs though.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Mind over matter

My youngest decided he was ill. He came downstairs looking terrible and every so often would pathetically cough. I made him honey and lemon. No joy as he sips it. He claims he is becoming worse by the breath.
Finally, I took his temperature. Normal. I inform him of this fact. No temp, no vomiting equals school with an option of coming home if they can not hack it. He finishes his honey and lemon, jumps up and gets ready for school. Suddenly, he is well and racing around.
Tonight he gets an earlier does not matter that he is a teenager. He needs his sleep.

Does anyone know at what age man flu starts?

Also my eldest son has decided to grow a beard. It has been six weeks. He has trimmed it and neatened it. At the moment, he looks like a submarine captain. His moustache is very fair and very slow to grow. I live in hope that this phase will pass. But there is nothing I can do about it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ferreting and me

I grew up in suburbia. The only thing I knew about ferrets was that they were used in Mary Norton's The Borrowers. And there is remained for many years.

My youngest son now has a friend who goes ferreting. My youngest has been out several times. They catch rabbits. Thankfully, the rabbits have been given off to other people to eat because I am not very good at gutting. My youngest being 13, enjoys the possibility of gore. I have asked if ferrets kill moles but his friend has not been forthcoming about this. He believes the breed is too big. Another friend of my son has a smaller breed of ferret that goes after rats. A distinct possibility.
My son returned home yesterday from ferreting. When asked about the heavy odour, he blithely informed me that the ferrets are going into mating season.
He had to wash his clothes and gloves before going further.
Have decided on point of principle -- do not want ferrets and will stick to attempted trapping of moles.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Six Degrees Game

I am blogging today at Tote Bags about the Six Degrees of Charlotte Bronte. I blame Nicola Cornick for the procrastination. Anyway, there is a chance to win a copy of Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife.

I discovered yesterday that bees do not see red. Their primary colours are ultraviolet, blue and yellow. They see red as black. Green tends to be more grey, but the ultraviolet really stands out. Of course, humans cannot see the ultraviolet. So the world must really look different.
Research has into bee sight has been done as scientists want to know why bees go for certain types of flowers.
Also some flowers such as tomato flowers, and honeysuckle are buzz flowers -- in other words they do not easily give up their pollen to the honey bee. Bumblebees with the way they collect nectar are the type of bee that these flowers need. It is one of the reasons why it is important to encourage all types of bees and hover flies in one's garden.

In the absence of checking my hives, I have been reading the British Beekeeping Association newsletter.

And there may be a reason why the mole has been winning. I think I put the mole traps in upside down...From seeing a clip on the news about the Devon molecatcher, it would appear the trap needs to go as the roof of the tunnel rather than as the base. However, I was comforted by the fact that he said moles were tricky and he did use the same sort of trap. When ground defrosts, I shall try...My husband and children found this most amusing...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Do I have bees?

The whole question of whether or not the bees have made it through the winter is currently vexing me. My husband even casually mentioned that perhaps I should consider reading the latest missive from British Beekeepers Association about what to do in the early spring. He suggested going to look at the hives. I looked. However, there is snow on the ground. Unlike moles, when the weather is cold, bees clump together and hibernate.
But I do worry. Part of this worry is because I did not put mouse guards on before I left for Sorrento in the autumn and by the time I had returned, the weather had gone cold and the mice would be hibernating. I did not dare check to see as the weather was too cold...and so on. Mice like to eat honey and hives make perfect hibernating places. This is the first time that I have not put mouse guards on. SIGH.
The winter aconite is in flower as is the hazel tree. There should be plenty of pollen and such like for them. The one good thing about the garden is that we do have year round flowers.
My husband said that he saw the starling looking interested in the hole in the wall where it had chicks last year. Spring will be here before I know it, and I will have my answer about the bees.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Lavender snow

Today the snow melts, but last night my husband and I went for a walk at dusk. The sun was setting and turned the snow a mixture of rose and violet. I was reminded of the old painting adage that white is never truly white. Hopefully the photo shows some of the quality of light.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Mt Molehill

We have snow -- about a foot. I had assumed the mole would be quiet. But no, Mt Molehill had just broken through the snow...The children think this is funny.

The children are also pleased -- no school and they will be going sledding. One of the Christmas presents was a sled, with brakes.

It will take a lot more snow though to equal the winters here in the 60s. Apparently people were cut off for weeks on end. Currently the traffic is flowing. But blizzard conditions have returned and I am pleased not to have to go out.

The traps will have to wait until the snow clears. However, based on the Mt Molehill evidence, I suspect the mole has not been caught.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Mole 13 Me 0

The title says it all. My daughter has pointed out to me that I am being outsmarted by a rodent who does not have a university degree.
A resetting of traps and this time, I have tried to make sure the traps can be easily sprung. My final trap is at a conjunction three tunnels. I live in hope.

Thus far the poltergeist appears to have given up electrics tricks. I have hidden the remote controls for the cd player in the kitchen as a few years ago the cats had taken to turning it on in the middle of the night. I am still attempting to figure out how they did it. They liked a certain jazz station (neither my husband or I could ever quite figure out how they got it to this one station)...But if we do have a poltergeist, I am do not want to give it the opportunity.

I also made a cherry almond cake as we are drowning in eggs. 15 duck eggs this morning...the only problem is that once I get accustom to the eggs -- the ducks will either start laying in strange places in the garden, build nests and have duckings or stop laying altogether. But I will enjoy the surfeit while I can.