Monday, May 31, 2010

Going Postal and Steampunk

One of my favourite Terry Pratchett's -- Going Postal is being broadcast on Sky at the moment, the conclusion is today. Thus far, it has been a thoroughly engaging adaptation of the book. They used a steampunk type setting for the tv adaptation, and it really works. You can't really define Terry Pratchett as anything but fantasy, but the steampunk setting works for this production. My fingers are crossed that they do The Word at some point as well. I would also like some of the Watch books...
Anyway, the setting is Steampunk -- i.e. late Victorian with a twist. There are weird and wonderful machines etc and everything is slightly odd. But there are no trains, cars or electricity. The clacks which is sort of a telegraph cum internet runs on cogs, wheels and levers.
Claire Foy as Adora Dearheart is fantastic. I loved the four inch steel spiked stilettos.
If you are curious about Steampunk, this production is a good one to watch. And if you just like great entertainment, it is good to watch. I have no idea if or when it will go to the US, but I hope it does.
I am currently knee deep in my revisions and they are starting to make sense. My editor was right (editors generally are) and there is a lot of work. But hopefully at the end, it will be an engaging read with keeps the reader in the book.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

29 May and all that

Today is Oak Apple Day -- Charles II's birthday and the day that the monarchy was restored in 1660. Oak Apple because he hid in an oak tree to escape during the English Civil War

Today is the day that the Ottoman Turks broke the siege of Constantinople in 1453 and ended the Byzantine Empire. Some scholars also consider it is the date the Roman Empire finally fell as the Byzantine was merely Rome in the East. No word on if this was the Sultan's birthday...

Today in 1953, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay (his adopted birthday) reached the summit of Everest in 1953.

My daughter informs that it is a very good day to have a birthday. Today is the 17th anniversary of that date. She is having a quiet day because she has AS levels...A girl has to have priorities! She confidently predicts that when she becomes the Supreme Master of the Universe, everyone will be forced to have it as a holiday...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Zero-sum gain or fingernails on a chalkboard time

The phrase 'zero-sum gain' is like fingernails on a chalk board for me. I just read it on a worksheet handout for an upcoming RWA workshop on Professional jealousy. It is a common error of the English language and shows that the person using the phrase doesn't know what it means and is simply throwing the words about -- a malapropism.
The actual phrase is zero-sum game. Specifically, the phrase describes a type of game in game theory. I had to do game theory when I did my econ degree so indulge me here.
In a zero sum game -- if one person wins, the other loses. For example tic-tac-toe is zero sum. A cake is zero sum. If one person has a large piece, everyone else remaining must share less. The outcome is finite. Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed. One person wins and the other loses.
Romance writing is not like that. Romance writing is not a zero sum game because one person's success does not mean that everyone else loses. Things are created. The genre is infinite. There are always new publishing slots.
Romance is more like -- a rising tide floats all boats. It is a non zero sum game. Non zero sum games are actually far more interesting.
In order for one person to be successful, it doesn't mean that everyone will be less successful. The outcome is dependant on many factors.
It is why romance authors can take joy in others' success. They are not losing anything. It is not a one shot deal.
BUT please, please, please use the correct phrase and know where it came from.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

They may look innocent ...( a kitten post)

They look cute and innocent but they are fearless fiends. Earlier today, Heathcliff (the one at the back) was discovered hanging by one paw from the top window in the dining room. Inquiring minds want to know how he got there.
I have had to take to hiding my Montblanc pen, the pen I use for revisions. As soon as I put it down, it is a signal for a raid and the pen disappears...
And then there is the campaign desk incident. Thankfully none of the French door's windows broke but the desk needs new hinges after toppling over after being used as a kitten launch pad in a war.
Heathcliff has worked out if he comes and purrs lovingly, demanding utter and total adoration, he will eventually get fed. Note he only does this when he is hungry. Mr Darcy is very much This Cat Sleeps on his Own. He will not settle on anyone's knee but will consent to be being stroked.
Mr Darcy and Tess are great friends. Yesterday, they had a mock battle. Mr Darcy started it by biffing Tess's nose as she slept and then playing with her tail. When she started to get a bit rough, he showed her his claws and she backed away.
Both cats have been done and none of the nonsense appears to have stopped.
My eye seems better and certainly no worse. The painkillers are working. And I have been gardening in sunglasses. There is something therapeutic about pulling nettles and brambles...Hardy seems to be settling and stays near me rather than trying to wander down to the neighbour's or beyond. Tess keeps bring sticks for me to throw. When I throw a stick for Hardy, he takes it away and guards it. Hardy still manages Houdini like to squeeze under the kitchen cupboard. It is a particular favourite, particularly when he has rolled in something foul and knows that a bath is in the offing!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Should have worn sun glasses

Yesterday, as I stood precariously balanced on the weed choked slope, pulling brambles, a stick bounced free of its confines and hit me in my eye. Now I know what being poked in the eye with a sharp stick feels like -- painful. It hit the corner of my eye, rather than the eyeball. Basically I'm trying to rest it but if it still hurts as fiercely tomorrow, I will go see the doctor. Honest.

Next time, I will garden in sun glasses.

I never really considered the possibility of being hit in the eye because for so many years before I had my cataracts done, I wore glasses all the time. Live and learn.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Winners from my newsletter contest

I drew Teresa B's name and Cindi H's name out of the hat and sent them both emails. Thank you to everyone who entered.

It is my sister's significant birthday today. I still remember the day she was born. The people my brother and I stayed with had to go to a church dinner so we had a babysitter, several teenagers. It was all terribly upsetting. BUT it was wonderful a few days later when my sister came home. She *brought* me a stuffed hippo.
Anyway, I really wish I was there in person to say Happy Birthday but she lives an ocean away.

Ashes to Ashes -- the final

Ashes to Ashes had a very satisfactory ending. All emotional lines tied up.

It made a ton of sense. The writers had always said it was about death.

I was delighted to see Nelson again as I always thought he knew more than he let on. I still remember when he says in answer to Sam's question about how do you know when you are dead -- when you stop feeling.

Gene Hunt retains his integrity and you know what will go on...Long live Gene Hunt. next car -- a Mercedes? And sometimes all you can do is to go to the pub.

I had forgotten that the real Annie Cartwright was killed in the first series of Life on Mars in 1973 by Sam's father. It is only the shadow lands that she survives. So she did go into the pub with Sam.

I had been so worried that they were going to ruin it like the US series of Life on Mars. Were the choices made because they didn't think the US audience could handle death and the shadow lands? Thank goodness they felt the British audience was made of stronger stuff.
It is a classic series for many reasons. I suspect when the entire thing is watched again, little clues etc will be there. A much layered series this one.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Breaking the Governess's Rules

Yesterday, my editor emailed to say that my latest accepted ms now had a title -- Breaking the Governess's Rules. It fits the story because after a Disaster, Louisa has allowed rules to dominate her life. Only now she has re-encountered the man who ruined her life the first time... It is a March 2011 release in the UK.

My editor also mentioned that I was supposed to be hard at work on my revisions. I am (sort of) but think I have come up with a workable solution. My editor said it sounded fine as long as the emotional conflict was sustainable... Now to prove that it can work.

Oh and I have to fill out the Art Fact Sheet. Hopefully I will do it better than the last time...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Official Facebook page

Until now, I haven't had an official facebook page, just a normal facebook profile, but now there's an official one. It has all my covers,a place for discussions of my books, this blog is linked in the notes and I will be posting details of any events that I am going to attend. If you want to *like* it, please do. It will have my latest news etc and is really for my readers.
Now if I can just figure out how to get my photo changed, I will be happy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sometimes it is more difficult than others

Right, the Mess in Progress has been messing with my head. I suddenly realised that I had ditched the hook/set up that I had originally intended to write for something that I thought would be more powerful, but had neglected to add in another hook. The ms as reported here actually fell v flat. But while acknowledging this, I personally love bits and am stubborn.
This afternoon, my daughter served as a human sounding board until the point came where she said -- why don't you just ditch and write something totally new. Uh no. I like certain parts v. much.
The set up finally came to me and it does mean massive changes but it will also make it much better. Watch this space...

Set ups/hook are things like Marriage of Convenience, Amnesia, Reunion, Back from the Dead etc. I have not used this particular set up before but Anna Lucia will be pleased as it is one of her favourites...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Solar powered savings

As regular readers of this blog will recall, back in September my tumble dryer broke and managed to fry clothes. I decided to go green and to adopt the age old solar powered dryer method (and on wet days Aga powered drying). I had done it. Become used to pegging clothes out.

There were a few hiccups. Value washing lines tend to break in the wind. I am very happy now with the large Brabantia rotary and coverI found at Lakeland, combined with the four tiered indoor dryer (again from Lakeland) and the wooden airer over the Aga (got that when we moved in 14 years ago).

However, how much was I saving? A good tumble dryer costs around £300 plus, particularly as I wanted a condensing one. So I knew I had saved money by purchasing my various implements about £150.

But what about the running costs? How much was I saving electricity? I had my answer yesterday when my electric bill arrived. Because I pay on direct debit and they adjust the bill after seeing the consumption, they will be refunding me over £240. I worked out that it was a £1 a day saving on electricity (approx). They have also lowered my bill by £20 per month but the calculation still contains tumble dryer usage.
All in all, I am glad that I did this.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reactive inciting incident

As I was asked:

Reactive means passive or reacting to something else rather than seeking to change your life.

Inciting incident is the thing that starts the story.

In my current mess in progress, the heroine agrees to do something for her brother. Her sole reason for encountering the hero has to do with her brother. And she is on the back foot the entire time. She is constantly running to stay in place, rather than making changes. Given a choice, she chooses the wrong one. The brother dominates rather than complicates.

But it was really the reactive inciting incident that sets the tone of the story.
The heroine who is supposed to be bossy or as my daughter's mug used to say -- I am not bossy, I just have better ideas is never given a chance to show her better ideas.

Anyway, it is a massive revision job and involves a new beginning and ending with quite a bit of tweaking in the middle. I do think I have an idea on how to go about it though.

One of these bright days, I am going to produce something that really sings! (Of course then I will worry that I have gotten it totally wrong!)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book release schedule for 2010

My editor has left me know my book release schedule for the rest of 2010. The Viking's Captive Princess is a Dec 2010 UK release and A Question of Impropriety is a Dec 2010 Direct and ebook release in NA. Impoverished Miss Convenient Wife is a January 2011 Direct and ebook release in NA.
Still no word on the title for the Mach 2011 release.

I remain mulling over my extensive revisions (or perhaps rewrite is the correct word here). Think Thomas Edison. He had discovered 10,000 ways that a light bulb didn't work before discovering the one way it did...

My editor likes my Roman Undone BUT it needs minor revisions to really make it great. These are to be done AFTER I do my other revisions. Contracted work comes first!

We have agreed more work -- Thrand's and Dagmar's story is to an Undone. And I get to do my Sinai and Ottomen Empire stories as a duo. Because of the changes to my current Mess In Progress though, it becomes a stand alone.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Going to Orlando RWA conference

I am going! The flights have been sorted. Now all I have to do is to wait for the hotel reservations to open.

I have learnt though that it pays to be persistent, even when you are called a stupid woman who doesn't know anything about the travel industry.

If you do suffer from a Force majeur (Natural disaster), under ABTA code of conduct, the travel agent is supposed to rebook or offer to give you the money back. Proving the Force Majeur can be difficult. Official documentation is v useful. You will not be covered under travel insurance.
Luckily some airlines are very good about this and will rebook once they are made aware of the situation. Even if you have difficulties in convincing the travel agent of the fact!

The important thing is to be persistent and not to be fobbed off.

One thing I learnt was that you do not wish to miss connections as you will be classified as a no show and ALL further onward flights will be cancelled. So simply saying -- okay I will make 2/3 of the journey does not work. It does need to be rebooked.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Revisons hit

My editor worked late and got me her initial thoughts. It is the Same Old Problem that has plagued me recently -- lack of attitude on the part of the heroine. What happens is that she becomes flat and the others around her are better defined. In short she is too bland and became a conduit of information rather than a Person in her own right.

The hero needs some adjusting as well.

But it is going to be a massive rewrite rather than simple tweaks. Luckily such things currently are par for the course with me so I am not phased. It is just a matter of working with it.

I did hear that the book that was accepted in March will be out in March 2011.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Character dimensions -- trying to explain

As a few people didn't understand what I was talking about yesterdya.

One of the problems with protagonists is that you can be so focused towards moving towards the goal/exploring the conflict etc that the protagonist seems flat, like an actor rather than a person. The personality is missing.
Equally you might know lots about a character but unless it is down on the page, your reader won't know. Been there, done that. In my head, but not on the page = flat character for reader.
More than stories, readers remember characters. They keep mental files about what they look like or how they react to others. And you want to breathe life into your characters. They need personality, in particular your protagonist.
You also don't want your characters all sounding the same.
Some of the trouble is that the writer only has a limited experience. It is why listening to how people speak, the vocab that is used etc is so important. Little details that give insight. Telling emotional details that add a richness to the world.
The metaphors and how people describe each other are affected by their life experience. Even the pet phrases and the cliches. They help define personality and character.
In revision it is all about taking those bland phrases such as She looked at him and changing it to give a deepness and texture to the character.
She glared at his unshaven chin, grimy t-shirt and overly-pleased grin. How dare he come to her dinner party dressed like some refuge from a used clothes shop and expect her to hug him!
She raised her eyes to his intense emerald gaze. Nothing else mattered not the spreading puddle of water on her best Oriental carpet, the whispers of the servants, or even the impropriety of the hour.

The words and word choice help to give a roundness to the character. They revealed something about the POV character as well as the other. Same situation for both. Different responses. By adding the extra detail, you enrich the reader's experience and you make your character more rounded.
It is about attitude and opinion. Your protagonist has to care passionately about things and this helps to define your character and raise them from blandness. It helps to create characters who linger in your mind or who you feel have a life beyond the page.
Think about the characters you remember. Do you remember them because they are bland or inoffensive? Or do you remember them because they cared deeply and passionately? Or noticed things or somehow leaped from the page.

It is about making your characters memorable. And for me, with my protagonists, often it doesn't happen in the first draft. It may take several goes before I can those little telling details down that really differentiate them. Other authors can the details much more quickly. It is just how I work.

Another problem comes when you have delved to deeply with the same theme or similair characters. Where they were new and fresh once, you start falling back and reaching for familiar words/patterns. Results -- flat characters who all seem to be the same and do not have a life of their own.
And I can always strive to be better. Nobody said writing was easy!

Does this help?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Character dimension

One of my weaknesses is character dimension (according to my editor who should know!) is character dimension, particularly in early drafts and particularly with my lead characters. It gets there by the end of the revision process but it can always be improved. With each book it becomes harder in a way because you are not trying to repeat character traits that you used in other books, but to a certain extent you have to. For example, a Viking warrior is going to be far more like other Viking Warriors... But your own life experience is by nature limited and thus you tend to create characters who resonate with you. Create too many, and they will start to be the same. Or your editor will start asking why are your characters too flat, too nice or too whatever.

It is one of the reasons why I love The Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon. In it she says that in her vast experience, the protagonist is often the LAST character to be well rounded. There are a number of reasons for this. Mostly I think it is because it is the protagonist's story and highlighting different aspects in revisions makes the protagonist be more well rounded.

Anyway, it is something I am working on.
She mentions character dictionaries -- i.e. developing a vocab for each character that reflects the character's situation. Certainly the use of a Word Menu can help shorten that process. A Word menu groups words, so you can easily find words on art history for example and if your protagonist was an art historian, you can use those words to develop speech patterns. These are different words than if someone was a photographer.

Dimension goes beyond goals, motivation and conflict. Dimension is about attitude and how the primary motivation/goal colours everything they do.

Anyway with my current revisions of the single title, I am really thinking about attitude and dimension and how to show things. How to change generic words into words that really define a character and make them memorable. It doesn't happen on the first draft. Nor second but it needs to eventually happen.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Rowing kicks my rather large behind

I am doing the indoor rowing 30 minutes at a time. 3x per week. It is not getting any easier but I am going further.
When I finish now my legs are jelly.Some day soon, I will start to feel my stomach contracting.
It will work. I know it will. Except why oh why did I let myself get in this state to begin with?
It is much easier to row with music on. I find it better to listen to the songs and sing along, so have knicked my daughter's number one musical cd. Nice. Jolly. Upbeat.
I have been requested not to play it at other times...

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Dr Who and cutting for pace

I had been really looking forward to last night's episode of Dr Who but was disappointed. My husband who is also a fan expressed his disappointment. The pace slowed to a crawl and the tension was really not there because that particular story didn't progress.
There was little development between River and Dr Who to justify the whole Amy walking amongst the angels.

It is like anything carried too far. With nothing added to the mix, the story stalls and ceased to be frightening, just becoming annoying.

However, I am looking forward to the next episodes. And obviously the last one is going to be on 26 o6 2010!

And as I am now revising. I get to be critical.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Almost finished

I've almost finished my first draft! It should be finished today. This means in the month of April I wrote 76k with most of that since 6 April.
Once the first draft is done, the harder part comes. The holding it in my affections while I examine ways to make it better.
There is no right way to do a first draft. Some people rewrite each page until it shines and then it is basically done, others go storming through. Some people think they are finished after a first draft. I know that I have just begun.

I want this to be AWESOME. It is a single title paranormal. I had a load of fun writing it. I loved being out of my comfort zone of historicals. It is also a large part of the reason why I'm going to Nashville... But to do what I want to do with it -- it needs revising.

Next week at some point, my revisions will hit. My editor has promised as we are meeting for our annual lunch on the 10th. The lunch is going to cover in part solutions to the problems that she sees.

The exercising is coming on. 30 minutes x 3 (or 4) does work. But I have a long way to go and Nashville beckons.