Thursday, 30 September 2010

Research Opportunities

Research opportunities are everywhere. I find when I am writing about a particular subject or era references to it flood into my life. This is what I call “red car theory” (I’ll write that book one day!). In other words, if you buy a red car you will see many like it on the road even if you thought it was a rare model.

I am currently writing a historical romance set at the time of the Norman Conquest and all of a sudden, there have been a plethora of programmes about it from all sorts of angles. I have been able to set my SKYbox and record lots of research. One programme even had instructions for my hero about how to hold his shield and lance in battle!

It is worth watching out for themed events too. The Severn Valley Railway near to my home regularly runs 1940’s events. The Bewdley Museum has its own air raid shelter complete with suitably aged volunteers (including my stepfather) to explain everything. English Heritage has a whole programme of re-enactments throughout the year. I have been to Roman ones at Wroxeter, medieval ones at Kenilworth and Goodrich, civil war ones at Boscobel and Ashby. National Trust properties also give insights into different periods and often have guides dressed in period garments. Museums such as Beamish in county Durham, Blists Hill in Shropshire and the Black Country Museum also help you to get into period. Following these methods of research also allow you to include the whole family, often without them knowing you are working.

Whilst studying my current course of biography and memoir writing I have come across some wonderful real life accounts of various periods of history.

I once spent a summer on an archaeological dig at Dudley Castle – ok I ended up mainly washing bones found in the midden heap – but even that gave me an insight into the medieval diet.

My own family history is providing a rich source of potential stories and allows me to indulge my love of history and maps. You can’t beat a morning of graveyard hunting for research into potential stories!

Any more ideas?

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Perils of New Technology

Is it me? Am I just getting old? I find the increasing pace of technological change a little bewildering. Yet I was using technological devices almost as soon as they appeared.

My first mobile phone was shaped like a brick and weighed a ton, but at least it was relatively simple. I’ve had quite a few since then and my current model boasts so many add-ons that I do not understand and will never use. Added to this it is small and disappears in my handbag, resulting in the mad scramble to find it on the odd occasion that it does ring (I’m a texting girl!). Whenever I get comfortable with a device, it seems to need upgrading or dies.

The criteria for my first portable pc (note: not laptop) was whether I could carry it! I remember it weighed as much as my sewing machine and I was in danger of dislocating my arm when I took it to another office. Yet again though, I got good at using it and I used most of its facilities. Who would have envisaged how reliant we would be on these machines (especially writers). My laptop of eighteen months died a couple of weeks ago and I felt as if my right arm had been cut off. There was no question of not replacing it – how could I function without it? My new one arrives tomorrow, purple and shiny, and no doubt engendering another phase of insecurity as I learn its foibles.

My husband is a gadget man and likes to have the latest products. Consequently, our wardrobes and garage are a technological graveyard and we have more computerised game devices than is healthy. At least it means he can sort out my technology problems. I went into apoplexy when my laptop died as I had just written some (to me) important things. Not phased, he appeared with yet another device, dismantled my pc, took out the hard drive, and retrieved my documents onto this ancient desktop pc on which I am now typing. My hero (in more ways than one)! New technology is fine as long as it keeps working.

So wish me luck tomorrow with a new generation of pc all shiny and bewildering.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Active Imagination

I had a lovely time at writing group on Friday. I made a new friend, Susan Watson, who is having a book published next year with a fantastic title "Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes - A Recipe for Success!" by Rickshaw Publishing.

We had a talk by D.M. Harrison who writes westerns for Robert Hale. Apparently Robert Hale is the only British publisher handling westerns at the moment. I don’t normally read this genre, but it was fascinating getting an insight into her writing journey. I was so high when I came out I came home in a hovercraft! I think it goes to prove that writers should try to meet up with other writers to re-energise.

Big son went back to university on Friday night and I always feel strange when he does. This could have been the last summer he lives at home as he graduates next summer.

I continue to be fascinated by the feedback I am getting on my Mills and Boon New Voices story “Rosie’s Mystery Man” ( This is one of those stories that keeps playing out and evolving in my head. This one plays during the day and my historical one starts as soon as I get into bed! I was contemplating the feel of the tip of a steel sword and how to describe it on paper last night. Good job I have an over active imagination.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Characters That Won’t Go Away

To other writers I am sure this is a common experience, I have characters that won’t go away. They invade my day, no matter what I am doing and wake me up to make me see scenes from their lives played out like a film. Great I hear you say. Well it would be if they didn’t act things out too fast for me to record the action and I’m now starting to suffer from sleep deprivation. Is this why my writing tutor always looks so tired? How I wish I could capture a fraction of the emotion I feel with these characters and the expressions of their faces and of course the feel of his body when he holds her. Maybe they are spirits from a previous world or just over the membrane in a parallel universe, because it all feels so vivid and real. One thing is for sure – they are not going to let me rest until their story is written.

Meanwhile, the New Voices competition at rumbles on. I think it is amazing that over 300 writers have submitted a chapter. My fragile confidence is growing a little with the supportive comments about Rosie’s Mystery Man. (Incidentally it isn’t this book that is haunting me). I have made new friends and joined the support group which is great fun – we are currently letching over photographs of potential hero templates. I have enjoyed reading the many and varied stories, although realise now that I will not get through them all. One slight problem is that my laptop died and took with it my password safe. Consequently I can’t log into New Voices as I can’t remember the password. I am also suffering with eye strain after staring at the computer for so long. What fun though. It has definitely raised the energy for romance stories – I am seeing potential plot lines everywhere, but guess I’d better get back to the characters I mentioned at the beginning or I won’t get any sleep again tonight!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Yorkshire Tea

Well I did it. I submitted my contemporary romance ‘Rosie’s Mystery Man’ to the Mills and Boon New Voices competition at It felt like leaving a child at school for their first day. Scary or what? I’ve had some good comments, although the strange rating system seems to be causing people problems. I sat in bed last night reading and rating other peoples. I don’t know if I will manage them all as there are over 100 entries.

Anna Esslemont
Went to the gym this morning and came across one of my favourite uplifting songs on my iPod – 'Yorkshire Tea' by Uscedwr. It is a really uplifting song particularly when you consider that the lovely Anna Esslemont who sings it has recovered from a life threatening illness.

Cormac Byrne
Cormac Byrne the percussionist is lovely and very charismatic. I think I may base one of my heroes on him one day. I went to one of his percussion and bodhran courses at Farncombe Centre in the Cotswolds and we were all in love with him after an hour (despite feeling like a dirty old woman as he is young enough to be my son). So I start the morning optimistic with Yorkshire tea in my hand and in my ear!

Monday, 6 September 2010

More Thoughts on Energy

My Aunt was taken ill on Friday and ended up having emergency surgery on Sunday night. It made me philosophise even more on thought energy.

Her illness would have affected the thoughts of immediate family, followed by close family and then more distant family, followed by friends and neighbours. It would also have affected all of the people at the hospital with whom she came into contact. At some point I must do the calculation of roughly how many people this event would have affected.

For my part I had a fitful night sleep punctuated by dreams of my Granddad (my Aunt’s father). By daybreak I had convinced myself that she had not survived the night, but thankfully that was incorrect. She has had two tumours removed and one to go. She has been constantly in my thoughts since I found out and I wonder how many others are thinking of her constantly too.

Moral of today’s tale I suppose has to be – Live for today. Decide what is important to you and do that. I was reading a blog over at Word Wenches this morning
And particularly liked part of Mary Jo Putney’s entry. I quote “In my experience, it’s best to concentrate on what’s essential, let the rest go, and don’t blame yourself for not being superwoman.”

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Energy of Birthdays

As it was my birthday yesterday, I was just pondering the effect of a birthday. I must be feeling philosophical today! It is the anniversary of your birth of course and makes you one year older. (She pauses to feel aches and pains!) Much more than this though is the fact that people think of you on this day, probably in many different ways, hopefully mainly positive.

Cards and messages arrived from many different countries, from family and from old and new friends. These cards, e-mails, text messages and Facebook entries mean that all of these people have had to think of me and care enough to tap the keys or write. Beyond this there are probably also a smattering of people who remembered it was my birthday but didn’t feel the need to act. All those energetic thoughts winging their way to little me!

I still think about my father and mother-in-law on their birthdays even though they are no longer with us, so maybe this focus of energy on an individual goes even beyond the grave. In conclusion, a birthday is a celebration of an individual and what they bring or have brought to the world. I must double my efforts to remember birthdays in future.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

How Exciting...

Just found out that I won a blog competition run by Michelle Styles guesting on Christina Phillips’ blog to celebrate the publication of Forbidden, her debut Berkeley sensation. Even more exciting as it is my birthday today – so an extra birthday present for me!

The competition was to post about something interesting that you have found during your research. I put up some names that I have discovered during family history research, namely Fanny Pee, Bathsheba Biddle (a nail maker’s daughter) and Felix Wildblood (who was a plasterer). I think Felix is worthy of a character in a Mills and Boon. Hmm, maybe I should write that one! I won four of Michelle’s books The Gladiator Honour, A Noble Captive, Sold & Seduced and The Roman's Virgin Mistress. Look forward to reading those.

On the birthday note – I wasn’t looking forward to this birthday and kept trying to ignore it. However, during the week a steady trickle of cards started to arrive from all parts of the globe and yesterday a steady stream of visitors. By the time I got to bed I had begun to feel very blessed with my wonderful friends and family. So Happy Birthday me and many more returns.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Summer has flown...

The summer has flown by this year. Normally I’m scratching my head trying to decide what to do with Daniel, but this hasn’t happened at all this time. The house is in need of an autumn spring clean (I never seem to keep to my cleaning routine when Daniel is at home) and I’m still remembering things I need to get before he goes back to school on Tuesday. Having had a house full, husband is back at work and big son will be going back to university in the next few weeks.

I haven’t done as much writing as I hoped and have put on more weight than I imagined! So by now you can guess what the next few weeks hold for me – cleaning, diet and writing. I’d also like to fit in a bit of family history research as I fancy giving my mother a “Who do you think you” are folder for Christmas (or maybe her birthday in February). Still haven’t decided which story (modern or historical) to send to the M & B competition. I’m in that phase where both stories seem awful and maybe I shouldn’t bother, but at least I know now that this is a normal stage for me. Any ideas on which story still very welcome.

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