Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Lucky Button

Big son has just gone out to brave the motorway to get to yet another interview at noon. At least he’s getting the interviews and second interviews, but as yet no graduate job. I’m sure children don’t appreciate the anxieties of their parents – I want the best for him, but know there is nothing I can do when he’s at this interview.

He’s continued to surprise me through his educational years getting ten GCSEs when I’d resigned myself to him getting none, these were followed by three A Levels and an AS. He graduated in the summer with a 2:1 in Business Studies and Marketing and I cried all the way home after the graduation ceremony. I think I was letting out the tension of struggling with a dyslexic child through the sausage machine of education – his reading age was 8 when he went to secondary school.

Anyway back to today, I knew he’d shout if I did it, but this morning I was tempted to press a lucky button into his hand when he left. I gave him a button once when he was scared at nursery and told him to press it whenever he felt scared. Needless to say he lost it, but I’d tried. So I’ve sent him out, tall and smart this morning with a metaphorical lucky button and a blast of Reiki. Good luck son. Maybe today is your lucky day.

Friday, 16 December 2011

December being such a short month this year and Christmas coming early!

I once sat next to a colleague at work as he was making excuses on the telephone for not having completed a piece of work. In a voice without any hesitation he pronounced, ‘What with December being such a short month this year and Christmas coming early…’ We never let him forget his words, but I think I’ve started to believe them!

Finishing NaNoWriMo on 28 November, I went into a sort of shock. The post Nano decline made it impossible to write anything or even think logically. I may have completed 50,000 plus words in November, I hope coherently, but I haven’t written hardly anything since.

Following the Nano shock came Christmas panic. I have now written a family newsletter, 144 cards and purchased all of the presents. Phew! Now I wonder why I set myself such impossible targets. The quilted Christmas table runner I began before Nano still needs 75 gold stars stitched into it. I am also making a quilted mat for my Mom – needless to say it is nowhere near finished and the one I planned for my sister not even started. Mmm revision of goals needed perhaps?

I’m also helping a friend with her family tree – no pressure, she wants to give it to her son on his 50th birthday at the beginning of February! However, this one lights me up, I love tracing family trees. Gold stars may lose out to ancestors.

My diary for 2012 lies empty, not because I haven’t anything to put into it, but because I need to sit down and transfer everything over. Last day of term today – I wonder if I could trust my eight year old to write in all the birthdays? He’s just graduated to pen at school and his handwriting is far better than mine. He was star of the week for a poem – A recipe for Christmas – I can’t tell you how proud I was, particularly as he wrote the lot in class so the teacher couldn’t claim parental assistance. Maybe he has a few of my genes and we do have Browning ancestors!

Anyway less rambling. If I don’t get around to blogging again before Christmas, I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

NaNoWriMo Success

If I’ve been blog-quiet for the last few weeks it is because I’ve been working on my NaNoWriMo 50,000 word manuscript to be written in the month of November. I finished the challenge at 50,103 words, but this is by no means the end. The manuscript has a way to go yet and the dreaded editing of course.

What have I learned over the last month? –

• That saying I haven’t got time to write isn’t true – I easily managed 1,700 words a day.

• That I am definitely happier writing longer pieces of work.

• A confirmation that characters can have minds of their own and lead your book into unexpected waters.

• That a theme is definitely emerging in my work which seems to point towards my genre being romantic suspense.

• That my hunger to be published is growing.

This is the third novel I have now completed at first draft stage and I am now determined to edit all three and send them out to prospective publishers.

Off to celebrate now with a cup of tea and a bar of chocolate. How do you like to celebrate your achievements?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Serial First Drafter?

Day 7 of NaNoWriMo and I am enjoying writing a new story. This one has the chain saw carver in it, who was the subject of an earlier post. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a planner and very organised. When writing a first draft, however, I tend to be a panster not a planner and enjoy this unaccustomed freedom.

I am a little worried that I am becoming a serial first draft writer though. After this one I need to settle down to edit the last few. Does anyone else have this problem?

I went to a talk on Saturday by Sue Johnson about the two books she has had published this year and her road to publication. Fable’s Fortune is doing well and her latest “how to” book Creative Alchemy is very useful and a wonderfully tactile small size.

creative alchemy book

Good luck to my fellow NaNo writers – keep going!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Friendly Blogger Award and Historical Author Talk

My blog has been awarded a friendly blog award by Catherine Miller. Thank you Catherine.


In keeping with the award I must tell you seven things about me and recommend fifteen other blogs. So here goes:-

1) I met my husband on the internet! Married nine years next January.

2) Once starred as the Artful Dodger in the school play.

3) My first car was a Mini City nicknamed “Beep Beep”.

4) I have a Black Country accent and am proud of it.

5) I love watching Grand Prix. Favourite drivers are Jensen Button, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber.

6) My favourite bird is a goldfinch.

7) Suffer from “Stationary Acquisition Disorder” – pens and notebooks.

I recommend and pass the award onto the following fifteen blogs. It was difficult to choose, but these are some of my favourite reads. Please check them out, all are worth following.
I went to a superb talk/writers’ panel at Kidderminster Library on Monday evening – Elizabeth Chadwick (Lady of the English, To Defy a King), Jane Sanderson (Netherwood) and Barbara Ewing (The Fraud, The Circus of Ghosts). Some useful tips emerged:-

1. Write to entertain.
2. If you write historicals try to include a real minor character.
3. Again for historicals, ask yourself - “Is it possible?” “Is it likely?”
4. Don’t feel you have to include all of your research. “As you know Bob” moments make books boring.
5. Try writing in ten minute bursts with thinking time between.

I came back full of writing ideas so I'd better get back to it. what has inspired you lately?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Reading, Research and News

I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks. It has been a funny old time and I haven’t felt quite right one way or another. Hopefully on the mend now and bouncing back to my old self.

Happy birthday to Teresa Morgan

Get well wishes to India Grey, who had a nasty accident in London.

Congratulations to Sue Johnson on the publication of Creative Alchemy. This is a little book with an amazing feel and a lovely cover. It is billed as a writing course in a book. It was featured on Pauline Barclay’s blog this week.

I had a great lunch last Friday with Sue Johnson, Sue Watson (Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes), Ellie Swoop (my writing buddie) and Sheila Hames (an up and coming regency writer). We talked non-stop. Ellie and I also had lunch with Sarah Broadhurst. It was interesting talking about books from a reader and reviewer's point of view. Check out her blog for great book reviews.

At the weekend I went to a woodwork tool exhibition in London. Hubbie and little son wanted to go and I needed to do some research on chainsaw wood carving for a story. The poor guy doing the chainsaw demonstration couldn’t have been further away from the image of my hero. It was a little off putting that he kept completing these huge supposed mushrooms which to me looked more like sculptures of a certain part of the male anatomy! Nevertheless, I got my research information and hopefully can make my hero more realistic now.

I have been reading some great books:
Lots of my friends have been getting publishing deals. If you read this blog please feel free to mention your publications below and congratulations from me.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Are Boxes the Answer?

For my sins I look after the second-hand uniform cupboard at school. Whilst I love the accounting side of it – counting money and sharing the proceeds of sales between school and parents – I’m not so keen on the cupboard itself. I felt sick at the beginning of term when I opened the doors, imagine a jumble sale which has exploded. I decided that if I was to remain sane and do the job I had to restore order.

After a sleepless night punctuated by dreams of school tracksuits and blazers, a vision arose. Cue lots of teasing from parents spotting me sneaking into school with boxes. They may laugh, but when I open the doors to my domain now I am met with tranquil neat labels.

Returning home after the tidy up, I began to wonder if I had just been taught a life lesson. Was the uniform cupboard a metaphor for my existence?

Don’t worry, I haven’t packed up my world into boxes, but I have changed my way of doing things. I am determined to finish projects and not leave them around incomplete cluttering up my ,home and creativity. So far this week we have a completed tapestry and a bean bag. I now need to translate this way of working to my writing. All of those half-finished stories, poems and novels beware, you are about to be extracted from your boxes (lol) and finished. Watch this space and wish me luck.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Interview with Guest Author – Sue Watson

Today I am pleased to have an interview with author Sue Watson. We live close enough to each other to have a coffee now and then. We chat non-stop when we do meet.

Sue’s wonderfully named “Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes” was released by Rickshaw Publishing on 8 September 2011. Sue’s blog can be found here. She can also be found on Facebook as Sue Watson Books and on Twitter as @suewatsonwriter.

I asked Sue a few questions.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I have always written in my career – I studied English for my degree, then went on to become a journalist, then a TV Producer where I wrote scripts most days so writing has always been in my life. I used to be working on shoots and imagining stories and ideas for novels, watching and listening to everyone around me and always thinking how real characters make great fiction. It occurred to me one day that if I really wanted to – I should leave work and give it a go. My daughter was seven at the time so I combined the writing with being a ‘mummy,’ taking and collecting Eve from school and just enjoying doing stuff with her and doing my writing around this - which as a full-time working mother had been impossible.

How much of yourself is in your book?

I think there’s a lot of me in Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes and in the heroine, Stella Weston. None of the actual events that happen to Stella have happened to me – but while writing I definitely re-lived the frustration of being a working mum and having all those balls in the air! I worked through a lot of those old frustrations and I have to say it provided great therapy by exorcising some old demons. Through Stella I found my writing voice and I miss her already! I would love to return and spend more time with her and her friends, who make me giggle while I’m writing about them. I think next time we’ll go somewhere exotic and glamorous, make cocktail cupcakes and have a fabulous time ... I reckon they all deserve it!

I know that you used to have a very busy job in the media business. How have you adapted to being a writer?

Yes I was a TV Producer working for BBC Birmingham and London. I had a very hectic life and worked on some great programmes with fantastic teams. I also worked with some great personalities – as the producer of Points of View I worked with Terry Wogan and my first job was as a researcher on Good Morning with Anne and Nick. It was all great fun and I really loved my job – but I realised recently that I had been making (mental and paper) notes about everything that happened while I worked in television. This has all resulted in Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes - perhaps my whole working career has been leading to this book! And to answer your question more directly, I actually adapted to writing far more easily than I ever imagined. I don’t miss the drive to work or the stress of having to make a programme nor do I have to get up at dawn and work ten hour days or leave my family behind overnight to go off filming. I don’t even miss people (because writing can be lonely) because I have lots of friends who I see when I should be writing. When I have a deadline though I am strong, say ‘no’ to friends and stay at home with my pink laptop on the kitchen table. Here I meet characters who are all really interesting people – who do the most amazing things that make me laugh and cry – all from my kitchen table.

What would be your best tip for newbie writers?

Go to a Creative Writing Class. I attended Sue Johnson’s class in Pershore, Worcestershire – it’s a lovely, easy class because Sue puts no-one under any pressure, just guides new writers gently. She always makes you feel good about what you do offering changes and ideas but never criticising harshly. This approach was perfect for me – I had written all my life – but never fiction – so this was new. I believe Sue’s teaching style is perfect because it allows writing styles and ideas to develop and not be knocked down at the first post.

Let the words flow and try to write at least 1,000 words a day. It’s not always easy to find time to write especially if you’re a busy mum or you have a career and you’re juggling the day job and the dream- but stay with it. If some days you don’t get the chance to write – don’t beat yourself up – it’s not a race it’s up to you how and when you write. And you must enjoy it.

Get your writing out there – either on a blog, an online writing site, offer it to publishers if it’s a novel, magazines if it’s a short story. You WILL get rejections, but deal with them and move on – you can only succeed in becoming a published writer if someone else sees your work don’t be shy.
Finally – and this seems so obvious but the best piece of advice I can offer to anyone is ‘don’t give up.’ I had a long and frustrating struggle after what began as a fairy tale – and when it all collapsed around me I kept driving on. I don’t know why or how I did, but I suppose somewhere deep down I truly believed in myself as a writer. I also believed in Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes and really wanted to share Stella’s life with other people because I think she’s very real and sharing her with other people brings her to life – I owed her that.

This is your first published book. How different has the experience of writing your second manuscript been?

My second novel is called The Terrible Truth About Tanya Travis – it’s the story of a TV Talk-show host with a dark secret and is set in Manchester and Nepal (with a sprinkling of NYC). The character of Tanya is very different from Stella and I’m really enjoying getting to know her – though she surprises me some days! I have found it easier to write about someone who is so different from me –Tanya has a tendency to OCD and cleans everything over and over (unfortunately I don’t!) I also have a more practical approach to writing based on my experiences with the first book – which went through many, many edits. I am also really enjoying writing The Terrible Truth About Tanya Travis because now my first book is out I feel like a ‘real’ author. This has given me confidence in my writing – helped along by my fabulous editor Jo Doyle, who knows my writing well and guides me through some of the more dangerous potholes.

Finally, could you tell us something about your new release ‘Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes’?

Stella’s on the wrong side of forty, the wrong side of twelve stone and her life is careering out of control. She’s trying to be a wife, mummy and career woman all in the same life and it’s starting to dawn on her that something’s got to give!’ Stella has daily dealings with mummy guilt, husband combat mother madness and an evil boss. During tough times our heroine finds solace in baking and there’s nothing that the heady, sweet perfume of icing sugar can’t cure. But what Stella doesn’t know is that something is just around the corner that will blow her world apart.

Book blogger Lou Graham summed up the whole book in one phrase – which I have stolen shamelessly and used over again.

She said; “It’s like Bridget Jones Meets Nigella Lawson,” which I love!

Here’s a little taster – I hope you like it as much as Stella’s recipes which are at the back of the book!


I was just loading twenty packs of unsalted butter into the trolley when I heard “Stella, is that you, with 200 kilos of fat?” Al had warned me about the ‘food police’ that supermarkets were now employing; I knew I should have shopped online. I turned round expecting to see some sort of police/Tesco uniform but was equally horrified to see athletic ‘Jemma with a J’, my Lighter Lift counsellor, swinging her way down the aisle. She’d lost seven pounds once by taking off her cardi and cutting out biscuits for a week so felt it gave her the right to be superior and talk down to anyone over nine stone.“You should be enjoying a good brisk walk and a chilled glass of Perfect Peach,” she said, wagging her finger.

I smiled sheepishly; “Jemma, hi. I’m...making a birthday cake for my daughter’s party,” I offered, feeling like a school kid caught skiving by the headmistress.

“I hope you’re not going to eat it,” she said, smug in her size-ten jeans and tight little top.

“Lovely to see you, got to go,” I said, grimacing and hauling the trolley in the opposite direction. It was resisting strongly under the weight of ingredients and its insistence on veering to the left was almost dislocating my hip. In my desperation to escape I yanked it forward, staggering past ‘Continental Cheeses’ in agony but with a determined gait, refusing to let her witness my pain.

Driving home with five million calories-worth of cargo I thought a woman is never free from guilt. If it isn’t my work or family I am letting down it is my own body. How could skinny Jemma think it was OK to jog up to me in Tesco like a bloody Olympic runner and tell me what I should be putting in my mouth?

Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes is available in paperback or Kindle editions.

Thank you for the interview Sue. I can’t wait to read the book and wish you every success with it. If you have any questions for Sue then please comment below.

Friday, 2 September 2011


I’ve been away and I never like to advertise my holidays on social media sites, so I apologise to those who thought I’d disappeared or ignored them.

We went to East Devon and unfortunately the weather wasn’t particularly kind. The place we stayed was lovely, with lots of activities for little one. The second week a child of a similar age moved into the other cottage and friendships were made whilst collecting the duck eggs! Hubbie re-discovered fly fishing and I discovered metal detecting. 42 finds all iron, but exciting nevertheless. I am totally hooked.

Our travels took us to Chesil Beach, Lyme Regis and Stonehenge.

Hope everyone has had a great summer. I’ll be back blogging regularly shortly.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

48 Ways To Get Your Manuscript Finished!

In honour of Sally Quillford’s 48th birthday we were asked to come up with blog posts based on the number 48, so I’ve written a list of 48 ideas to help you finish your manuscript. Some of these are serious others a bit silly and most depend on your character – take what works for you and try it. Happy writing.

1. Book slots in your diary for writing
2. Team up with another writer and encourage each other to complete.
3. Treat each chapter of a book as a short story (Thanks for author D.M. Harrison for this)
4. Get a publisher or agent interested in reading your work.
5. Focus all of your thoughts on your story. What you focus on tends to expand.
6. Set small, achievable goals, for example 1000 words a day.
7. Get someone to lock you in your study until you have finished.
8. Give up sleep.
9. Set your alarm for one hour earlier and write before breakfast.
10. Write in different venues to stimulate your creativity.
11. Do not allow yourself to have your favourite thing until you have finished. No chocolate for me then.
12. Use the #1k1hr on Twitter to team up with other writers.
13. Get a cleaner.
14. Get a gardener.
15. Tell yourself if you don’t write you have to clean the oven.
16. Buy a bag of small things you like, e.g. bath bombs, chocolate, new pen, etc. and reward yourself after every 5,000 words.
17. Divide the number of words you want to write by the days till your deadline and stick to the target.
18. Only allow yourself as many calories per day as words you write.
19. No social networking until the manuscript is finished.
20. No television until you are finished.
21. Divide your day into small slots using a kitchen timer – 20 minutes writing, followed by 20 minutes housework and so on.
22. Take research trips to stimulate your plot.
23. Go on long walks thinking about your plot.
24. Try periods of not allowing yourself to write at all, just allow yourself intensive thinking time until you are bursting to write.
25. Use spider diagrams to solve plot quandaries.
26. Write at the same time every day so that your brain expects you to write at that time.
27. Use a particular perfume to associate with each new piece of work to focus your brain.
28. Have a playlist of music tracks associated with your manuscript and play it each time you sit down to write.
29. If you get stuck have a shower – I always have loads of ideas when I am wet and have nothing to write on.
30. Treat all waiting time as writing time – dentist, doctors, school run, when friend getting coffee.
31. Multi-task – write when the family are watching a television programme you are not interested in.
32. Visualise your book on the bookshop shelves to encourage you.
33. Join an online writing group.
34. Do daily writing exercises to get in the writing mood.
35. Get a nanny.
36. Send you washing out to be cleaned.
37. Attend writing conferences for inspiration.
38. Fall in love with your hero.
39. Make sure you relate to your heroine.
40. Really want to know what happens at the end of your story.
41. Get an ironing lady.
42. Give up cleaning.
43. Produce an index card for each chapter and put the cards on a completed pile when finished.
44. Remember how to eat an elephant – a piece at a time!
45. Brainstorm plot twists with a friend or partner.
46. Have a progress chart or graph to monitor your output.
47. Get a dictaphone for car journeys.
48. JFDI – hubbie gave me this one, a company business term apparently - Just Fu**ing Do It!

If you have any other ideas please list them below. Happy birthday Sally Quillford.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Interview with Guest Author – Sue Johnson

Today I am pleased to have an interview with author Sue Johnson. I am particularly pleased to have Sue on my blog on the occasion of the launch of her debut novel, as I have been attending her writing courses for a couple of years now.
Fable’s Fortune is released by Indigo Dreams Publishing on 1 August and can be ordered from their website or from Amazon. It is described as a modern day fairytale.

Fable Mitchell is born under a roof of stars in a Kentish plum orchard, and her early childhood is spent in a house called ‘Starlight’ where she lives with her mother Jasmine and Gangan the Wise Woman. However, her life is not destined to remain like a fairytale. When she is ten, she is abducted by her estranged father Derek, now a vicar, and taken to live in his austere vicarage at Isbourne on the banks of the River Avon. Fable is unable to escape. When she is sixteen, she falls in love with Tobias Latimer but he dies in mysterious circumstances and Fable’s happiness is once again snatched away from her. She tries to rebuild her life and marries Tony Lucas because she thinks the omens are right. Fable soon realises he is abusive and controlling, but is trapped because she fears losing contact with her daughter. Nearing her 40th birthday, Fable hears Gangan the Wise Woman’s voice telling her to ‘be ready – magic happens.’ This is certainly true, but does Fable have the necessary courage to finally seize her chance of lasting happiness?

Born in Kent, Sue Johnson, has had a variety of jobs during her working life including training administrator, vicar’s secretary, cinema usherette and at one time ran her own patchwork quilt-making business. She is now a writer, artist and musician and most of her work is inspired by the stunning Worcestershire countryside where she currently lives. She is a Writers’ News Home Study Tutor and runs writing courses.

Short stories written by Sue have appeared in Woman, My Weekly, Woman’s Weekly, Chat, Take a Break and People’s Friend. She is published as a poet; including a joint collection with her partner Bob Woodroofe entitled ‘Tales of Trees’.

I asked Sue a few questions about herself and the book.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Even before I could write, I used to tell stories to my dolls and teddies. I can vividly remember ‘that’ lesson at school when they ask you what you want to be when you grow up and I said I wanted to write stories and draw pictures. The teacher said: “I don’t think that’s a proper job do you dear? – you’d better write about being a nurse.” (I had an aunt who was a medical secretary). I must have done a good job because she put the story on the wall – but I can remember feeling cheated.

Fortunately, the next teacher was a lot more encouraging and she used to leave me writing stories a mile long while the other children went off and did other things.

What was the inspiration for Fable’s Fortune?

‘Fable’s Fortune’ began life as a piece of autobiography – 85,000 words of it! I’d just gone through a divorce and I wrote the first draft (back in 1998) as a form of therapy. I then went back to college and didn’t touch it for a long time – but by then the characters had grown and developed inside my head and had moved a long way from their origins. The magic and fantasy/storytelling elements crept in more and more with each redrafting.

I know there is an interesting story behind the naming of your character. Would you share it with us?

Fable was originally called Rose – which is half of my middle name. Then when I reached draft four or five of the book she suddenly started saying she wanted a different name. I looked in every book I could think of for inspiration but none came. In the end I decided to ask my guides/angels/fate to sort the problem. I put on my jacket (it was winter time) and walked into Pershore intending to buy a coffee in the first café I came to – and then listen out for the first woman’s name I heard. (This is something that has worked for me in the past). Two elderly women came in – complete with fur coats and wicker shopping baskets. “Of course, my daughter Fable…” began one of them as they sat down. I finished my coffee and raced home!

What would be your best tip for newbie writers?

Three things – because things always go in threes in fairytales:

Don’t be discouraged by negative criticism.

Learn to trust your own judgement and stick with a piece of work if you like it.

Don’t be put off by rejection. We all get them. Keep going until you’re successful.

Finally, could you tell us something about your new release ‘Fable’s Fortune’?

When the email from Indigo Dreams popped into my inbox last October saying that they wanted to publish my book, I was so sure it was going to be another rejection that I didn’t open the email until I’d sorted out details of the next publisher on my list.

When I finally opened the email I let out such a loud yell and leapt up in the air that the friends I had staying with me raced up the stairs thinking I’d injured myself!

Extracts from the book can be read on my Author Page on the Indigo Dreams website: www.indigodreamsbookshop.com

Copies can be ordered from any bookshop, Amazon, Indigo Dreams or Central Books.

I’m also really excited that ‘Fable’s Fortune’ has been selected to go to the Book Fair in Frankfurt in October. (Wish I was going with it!)

Here is an extract from Chapter Nine:

          Gangan opened the front door letting in a chilly blast of frosty air and a skitter of dry leaves. Jasmine wasn’t there.

          A brick struck the corner of the house and ricocheted off into a blackened clump of dahlias in the garden next door. I gazed into the darkness, suddenly noticing the semi-circle of women standing in the road outside our house. Mrs Cameron was the first in line with Marge Henderson next to her. None of them were dressed for a fight and must’ve been frozen in their pinafores and thin shoes.

          Gangan took no notice of the women. She peered into the gloom shouting for Jasmine.

          “Murderer,” shouted Marge Henderson throwing a half-brick that fell short of our gate, skidding along the icy road.

          The women stepped forward, moving unsteadily on the ice before being scattered like skittles as a black Morris Oxford turned into our street, headlights blazing.

Copies of the book are available from most bookshops, from the publisher’s website
www.indigodreamsbookshop.com, from the distributors Central Books – and
from Amazon.

I wish Sue every success with ‘Fable’s Fortune’. For those of you local to Pershore, Worcestershire, Sue is signing books at Number 8 Community Arts Centre, Pershore on Saturday 6th August from 2.30 p.m. Also on Friday 19th August at 2.30 I am doing a talk in Pershore Library on ‘A Novel’s Journey.’ Admission is free and includes afternoon tea.

Find Sue on Facebook and Twitter @SueJohnson9. Her blog is The Writers Toolkit.

Monday, 25 July 2011

10 Ways to Name Your Characters

A comment by Serenity Woods reminded me about a blog post I have been meaning to write. She said that her husband always knows she is contemplating a new book when she takes her book of baby names off the book shelf.

So how can you find inspiration for names? Here are ten suggestions:-

1. Baby name book

2. Mix up first names and surnames you come across in real life or in books and magazines. I amused myself waiting for my son’s graduation to start by looking at the possible name combinations in the programme.

3. One of my favourites is to look at names on memorial benches. These have inspired several of my poems and I thought at one time about trying to get known as a memorial bench poet.

4. Follow the celebrities and name your characters after the places in which they might have been conceived.

5. Experiment with the names of birds – Sparrow, Wren, Linnet.

6. If the story has a historical setting it is important to choose an appropriately aged name. There are several websites giving era appropriate name lists.

7. Try to avoid main character names beginning with the same letter, e.g. Simon and Simone. I read a book recently and had to keep looking back to previous chapters to understand who I was reading about, especially as the female character had a masculine nickname.

8. If someone annoys you the baddie in your story can always be named after them.

9. Use your writer’s notebook to record any likely names which might even be cars or business names.

10. Consult the Bible. My sister and I are not overly religious, but all of our children have biblical names. Naming a character has similarities with naming your offspring and if you get your manuscript published you will have to live with the names for a long time, so choose wisely.

Any other ideas? Or tales of how you named your characters below please?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Just When You Think You Have Finished!

Just over a week ago I was feeling elated about having written 80,000 words of my current WIP. Now reality dawns. I need to get into this, for me, new arena called editing.

With the school holidays underway and a very bouncy eight year old demanding amusement, my writing time will be limited for the next seven and a half weeks, but I am hoping that this might focus my mind. We always have this strange settling down phase where we both adjust to no alarm and externally imposed structure, but then we begin to enjoy our adventures and relaxation.

So the plan from here for the book is:-

1. Map out the story line including the passage of time and the seasons.

2. Ensure flashbacks and clues for the mystery are inserted at the right points

3. Closely examine each chapter to eliminate repeated words, phrases and clichés.

4. Re-write passages of “telling”.

5. Ensure that the correct point of view is maintained through scenes.

6. Flesh out my characters and ensure descriptive continuity throughout the manuscript.

7. Upload the “finished” version to my newly acquired Kindle for a thorough read through aloud.

Sounds simple! However, a new beginning for the story occurred to me yesterday and although this means a rewrite of the first couple of chapters, I think it is worth pursuing as it introduces the story in a more original way. This needs to be completed before step 1.

Maisey Yates was blogging yesterday about her process of writing http://www.maiseyyates.com/2011/07/17/no-sir-i-dont-like-it/ and about how many cookies she gets through when writing a book. Mmm…..I wonder how much editing chocolate I will consume?

Any editing steps I’ve missed or tips welcome below please.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Toe in Water – RNA Conference

On Saturday (9 July) I set off in great trepidation to drive to Caerleon in Wales for the RNA conference. It made me realise that I don’t drive far these days, but thanks to the satnav and Ellie Swoop keeping me awake we arrived safely.

It was lovely to see people I knew, people I had met on Facebook and Twitter and to make new friends. Isn’t it strange that from those little profile photographs you can’t gauge height or accent!

I decided to list some learning points from my first conference:-

1. If you put “big knickers” in your book people will remember it.
2. Queues are not always bad. You can make friends in a queue.
3. It is helpful to be able to say in six seconds what your book is about.
4. How motivating an “Ooo” from a crowd can be. (Got one for my 6 second pitch)
5. It is a truth universally acknowledged that romantic novelists like posh shoes.

The workshops I attended were very special. I learned loads in a short space of time. My novel was rearranging itself in my head during the day. For those interested I went to:

• Linda Gillard – Painting with words.
• Jane Wenham-Jones – Where’s my hook? What’s my angle?
• Flo Nicoll & Anna Boatman – Unpredictable journey to happy-ever-after.
• Liz Fielding – Blending humour with emotion.
• Rachel Summerson – Creating characters we believe in.
• Lorelei Mathias – Book marketing for small pockets.

Special mentions to Teresa Morgan, Talli Roland, India Grey, Sue Moorcroft, Anne Ashurst, Leanne Bibby, Alison Maynard, Elizabeth Hanbury, Sue Johnson, Jan Jones (for organising), Rachel Lyndhurst, Linda Gillard (for fantastic workshop), last but not least Ellie Swoop (for maltesers on way home).

Loved my ‘toe in the water’ experience and now want to join the RNA and go again. Pity I didn’t take any photographs, but there are loads on other blogs – thankfully not of me!

Have you had a great day recently? Please tell me about it.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

I Did It!

For those of you who have missed my many update posts on Twitter (@MSGray53) and Facebook, I finished my 80,000 word writing challenge yesterday. The aim was to write 80,000 words in 80 days and I finished early.

Don't worry this isn’t going to be a bragging post. I am pleased with myself, but I thought it might be useful to draw out the learning points, some of which may seem a little bizarre:
1)    A writing challenge is motivating.

2)    It is possible to fit the writing of 1,000+ words a day around a busy family life.

3)    The more you focus on your characters the more they with communicate with you.

4)    The more you write about a story the clearer the plot seems to become.

5)    Sometimes you have to write around a story to move forward. Those words may not get included in the final manuscript but they are beneficial for composting ideas.

6)    It is useful to write from different viewpoints. I would thoroughly recommend having a go at these exercises.
  • I had a go at documenting the emotions of both my hero and heroine and how they changed through the novel.
  • I interviewed my main characters to discover more about their motivations and backstory.
  • Sometimes I wrote the same scene from a different character's perspective.
7)    I may have written 80,000 words, but this is only the beginning. After a short break from this manuscript I will need to dive into new territory for me – editing!

I have to be careful that I don’t become a challenge junkie, as I enjoy first draft writing so much. This time I need to make sure I follow through and finish this novel.
Have you any comments about my learning points or any other gems to share?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Lady of the English - Elizabeth Chadwick

Last Friday evening (1 July 2011), I attended another book signing. This time it was at Waterstones in Worcester and was for Elizabeth Chadwick’s ‘Lady of the English’. Ellie Swoop accompanied me and it felt very strange walking through the deserted streets of Worcester after hours with all the shops shut and dark. We even had to ring the doorbell of the book store to get in.

We were early and it was amazing being inside a bookshop for almost an exclusive viewing of all the books. We started designing plot lines about characters locked in overnight. The audience for this event was larger than the Victoria Connelly event, but still not huge. Sarah Broadhurst, book reviewer and blogger, was there too. The ticket price of £3 could be redeemed against other book purchases and most people were buying books.

Elizabeth Chadwick turned up a little flustered about car parking and I immediately warmed to her. It is always a relief when published authors are human (although I don’t know why I would think they would be anything else!)

She told us about her early writing, her path to publication and how her writing has changed. Several things she spoke about struck a chord with me.

• When she was very small she used to make up stories about the fairies on her handkerchief.

• There was a dressing up box at school which inspired her and made history more real. I too remember my history teacher bringing in a big box of Victorian clothes – it was one of the best lessons ever.

• She talked about early inspiring television programmes, in particular Desert Crusader and The Flashing Blade. I haven’t been able to get the theme tune of this last one out of my head ever since. It must have lodged there in my teens.

• Elizabeth bought with her a selection of the research books she uses, including one about leprosy in medieval England and another about sexuality in medieval Europe. She buys lots of books and she said that the main problem is being able to find the one she wants on her bookshelves.

• I loved the fact that she writes her historical novels to contemporary music. She matches the mood of the music to the scene she wants to write. For example when writing a light love scene she was listening to Kiki Dee’s Amoureuse. She particularly likes writing to hard rock, punk and grunge. You can never tell by looking at someone can you?

• Her books have become more successful since she has centred them on women from history.

• The main ways that her writing has changed include, writing fictionally around real life characters and using the services of a psychic to gain deeper insights into her characters' lives.

I found the talk thought provoking and fascinating. The fact that I am still processing the content nearly a week later tells you the sort of impact it had on me. I have read some of Elizabeth’s early work and bought a more recent title on the night. I don’t cope well with reading hardbacks due to the weight of them so will look forward to reading ‘Lady of the English’ when it comes out in paperback.

Meanwhile check out Elizabeth Chadwick’s website and blog. She is also one of the authors on Twitter who you can have a great conversation with.

Have you learned anything about a published author that has surprised you?

Friday, 1 July 2011

High on Emotion

A lot of you will know that I am currently taking part in Sally Quillford’s 80k 80 day challenge and doing rather well. Today my total stands at 72,817 words with 18 days to go. It has been quite a roller coaster ride, but I have made myself write at least 1000 words a day.

Today I was trying to coalesce my plot so I decided to try some “emotional walk throughs”. I had more or less decided how the plot was going to flow, but today I wrote first from my heroine’s point of view and then from my hero’s, going through each plot stage and writing about the emotional reactions of these two characters. It proved a very worthwhile exercise as it enabled me to eliminate some red herring plot lines and to be very clear about what each chapter is trying to achieve. I wrote over 1800 words too!
I am now getting to the stage where this book is fully formed. It is the furthest I have got in any one manuscript and it feels good. Maybe I can at last see the attraction of doing this full time. I have almost a hunger to finish and start editing. The last 8,000 words of the challenge are going to be concentrated on the “thin” scenes. Then I think I will polish a few short stories and send them out, before editing working title ‘Rosie’s Mystery Man’ or ‘Legacy of the Past.’
So I am high on emotion this afternoon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Om_t5WCw0UE
Have you any tips for us about techniques which changed your view of your work?

Monday, 27 June 2011

Mr Darcy

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of a finished manuscript must be in want of a publisher. Sorry I couldn’t resist that take on the first line of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

On Saturday afternoon I attended a Worcester Literary Festival event entitled ‘A Weekend with Mr Darcy’. This was a talk by author Victoria Connelly. It was held in the board room at Worcester University’s City campus (co-incidentally where Victoria Connelly studied English Literature). This was a grand room, with the audience arranged on big comfy chairs, almost reminiscent of those musical soiree scenes from adaptations of Austen’s work. The university buildings were very impressive.

Ellie Swoop had accompanied me. Sue Johnson, whose writing class I have attended for over a year, was there (watch out for her book Fable’s Fortune to be published on 1 August). I had gone to meet Alison Maynard, another writer, in advance of the RNA conference and I also met Sarah Broadhurst, who reviews books on her blog.

Victoria Connelly was lovely. It is always a relief to me when authors are normal people – I don’t know what else I expect them to be! Victoria was elegant in a purple dress and had a lovely well-spoken voice. Cue my insecurities in case I ever get published. Can I do elegant and will my Black Country tones stand scrutiny?

It was both heartening and frustrating to hear that Victoria has trodden the path to publication of most authors of numerous rejections. Her first publications were in German and one has been made into a film. These books have not been published here, although watch out for Kindle editions shortly. She is now published in the UK and US with Molly’s Millions, A Weekend with Mr Darcy, The Perfect Hero and shortly Dreaming of Mr Darcy. The last three are a trilogy tapping her knowledge of Jane Austen.

I asked Victoria about her writing habits. She writes 1000 words a day and as she suffers with RSI she uses voice recognition software Dragon Naturally Speaking. I was particularly interested in this, having tried voice recognition software when working on a non-fiction book some years ago. It didn’t seem to like my voice, but was very good at recognising my swear words when I got frustrated with it. Good to hear things have moved on.

It was a lovely afternoon. Afterwards we popped over to Worcester Waterstones, where Victoria was signing her books and bought a personally dedicated copy. We left feeling inspired and uplifted.

Have you any experiences of book signings, author talks or using voice recognition software you would like to share?

Monday, 20 June 2011


My imagination has always been overactive. As a child, I longed to see the Blue Lady at Haden Hall in the park near my home. As I was not allowed there after dark, I never did of course. She was supposed to float around the lawns at dusk (I don’t live near there now, but I suppose she still does). I was inspired by her story - Caught with her lover, a young monk, in the passageway that linked the house and the monastery on the hill, I imagined their cries as her angry father discovered them and had them walled up in the passage. There was a recent search made to try to locate the passage and I couldn’t believe they didn’t find the two entwined skeletons of my youthful imagination.

I searched Glastonbury Tor, convinced that I would be the one to find the Holy Grail. My fertile mind cartwheeled around the stories I had heard and read. The search of Tintagel proved just as fruitless, I couldn’t find Excalibur anywhere. It didn’t stop me feeling the weight of it in my hands and watching the glint of the sun on its blade. We had to go to Dozmary Pool too, reputedly where the sword was given back to the Lady of the Lake. Mom and Dad humoured me, even though they must have been bored watching the surface of the pool for an hour, just in case a hand emerged with the blade.

Reading widely, I was soon imagining myself as Lorna Doon and we visited the small church in Devon where a scene was reputedly set. I could feel the bullet entering my body and the blood pouring down my dress as I was shot at the altar while marrying John Ridd. My heroes and heroines circled around and thus I was never alone, despite being an only child until I was seven. My mind could always transport me to other worlds, as Merlin became my friend and a knight in shining armour always came to my aid in times of trouble.

I sailed the seas in a galleon with billowing sails and lived in a castle high up on a hill. I was the archaeologist who found Sutton Hoo and I knew what it felt like to go down with the Titanic. Big brothers fought my corner at school and in the holidays rowed boats to islands with hidden caves containing treasure boxes full of jewellery and gold ingots. We were menaced by pirates, but lived to fight another day.

What inspired you as a child?

Saturday, 11 June 2011

And the Winner is.....

The winner of the giveaway from my blog post of 3 June 2011, a Pdf copy of Something Blue by Serenity Woods, is Clare Kirkpatrick. Clare if you direct message me your e-mail address via Twitter or Facebook I will get your prize to you. I hope you enjoy Serenity's book.

Thank you to Serenity for allowing me to host an interview with her and to all those who commented.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Interview with author Serenity Woods plus Giveaway

Today I am pleased to have an interview with author Serenity Woods. We met in cyber space last year and have forged a link, even though I live in the UK and she lives in New Zealand. The wonder of social networking!

Serenity has had several publication successes. Her paranormal Black Hawke Down was published in e-book by Noble Romance in February 2011, followed by her historical Surrender Your Heart in March 2011. She has sold a contemporary romance to Samhain Publishing White-Hot Christmas, which is due for publication in November or December 2011. Readers in the UK may have come across Serenity’s My Weekly Pocket Novel Bohemian Rhapsody.

Her contemporary romance SomethingBlue has just been released. I can’t wait to read it. Serenity has kindly donated a Pdf copy of Something Blue to be sent to a winner chosen at random from those commenting below by 10 June 2011.

Details of Serenity’s publications can be found on her website here. You will find lots of generous advice about editing on her blog here. I asked Serenity a few questions.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing for a long time—since I was fifteen, in fact (I’m 41 now). I’ve always written romantic short stories, mainly because the short story market is so limited. However, I wrote novels in a variety of genres, from historical to fantasy to thrillers. I never had much luck getting agents or publishers, though, and last year, when I turned 40, I decided if I really wanted to be a writer, it was time to knuckle down and sort myself out. I’d won nine competitions over the years, so I thought I must have some talent. I decided to concentrate on romantic fiction because I’d had some luck with my short stories and seemed to have a knack at portraying relationships. Another deciding factor was that, because the genre is so popular, many publishers—especially e-publishers—accept un-agented submissions.

What do your family think about your work being published?

Everyone seems to be genuinely pleased for me when they find out I’m a writer and am doing quite well. Several members of my family and friends have bought my books and read them, and that’s nice, but I don’t expect them to be to everyone’s tastes. I think some are surprised how erotic the stories are J I don’t like to tell them they’re fairly mild compared to some of the stuff that’s out there.

You have produced a phenomenal amount of work lately. What is your writing routine like?

Finding the time to write and social network (and finding a balance between the two) is a problem I’m sure every writer encounters. I write after dinner and before we sit down as a family to watch TV – usually something like 6pm to 7.30 or 8pm. At the weekends, my family like to lie in, but I always get up around 7am and usually have an hour or two to write then, too. And any other time I can find! Re social networking, that’s more difficult; if I have a spare half hour, I prefer to write. What I do have is an iPad, and I often sit there and surf the forums and comment on Twitter and Facebook while I watch TV. It’s important to keep your name out there, but it’s more important that the writing gets done.

Do you ever get writer’s’ block and if so how do you get through it?

I can tell you with absolute authority that writer’s block does exist. I’ve had it less since I started writing romance. Before, I would often get frustrated because I couldn’t decide what to write, i.e. what genre, and that problem has lifted since I concentrated on romance. Occasionally I get stuck with a book where I realise a plot thread isn’t working, and with my novel No Lies in the Bedroom, I got two thirds of the way through and realised I’d written the dark moment too early, and got stuck. I went on to write another book (Seven Sexy Sins) before I came back and re-wrote No Lies. Both books have since gone on to final in the Harlequin Mills & Boon Great Beginnings competition run by the Romance Writers of New Zealand (RWNZ), and No Lies in the Bedroom came top in the rankings, so it shows that just because you get stuck, it doesn’t mean the end of the book. The top six stories are now being judged by a Mills & Boon editor, so I’m hopeful that maybe she might request a full of one of mine.

My only advice to someone stuck with a plot is either a) keep writing, writing through the pain! Just get words on the page, and hopefully you’ll write through the bad patch, b) jump ahead to another scene you may have in your head, and go back and fill in the bit you missed later, or c) work on something else and let the difficult bit stew for a while.

How do you feel about your work being labelled erotic?

Lol. It makes me smile.

I’d never written a sex scene up until last year. The first long romance I wrote, Bohemian Rhapsody, for My Weekly Pocket Novels, was going to be a sweet romance. But when I neared the end, the characters got to the bedroom and, well, I couldn’t stop there J (They actually cut the juicy bit, lol, but they edited it nicely, so I didn’t mind.) I so enjoyed writing the sex scene that I knew from then on I wanted to write erotic romance. After saying that, I had huge fun with Something Blue, which has lots of kisses, but nothing racier than that.

I’ve yet to have anybody criticise me for writing about sex, but I’m sure it will happen somewhere along the way. But I’m prepared to defend it. My characters are always monogamous and they usually end up getting married. The sex is always fun, loving, and gentle; I don’t believe in one character making another feel humiliated or embarrassed (other than in the teasing kind of way). All I can say is that there’s so much unhappiness, misery, and sickness in this world, I don’t see the problem in bringing a little more romance and sex into it.

And if you don’t like the books, don’t read them. J

What would be your best tip for newbie writers?

Don’t give up! The biggest thing I’ve learned over time is that there is no ‘magic button’ in writing. I read so many books on how to write, looking for the ‘secret’, but there really is no one thing you can learn that will get you published. It’s a series of things: learning grammar and how to spell so you’re writing is readable and flows easily; learning how to plot so you have peaks and troughs in your storyline; learning how to write believable characters and dialogue; all this comes over time, the more you read and write. The only real secret, as Superromance writer Katrina Bliss puts it, is Grit. Determination. Call it what you will, it’s basically sheer stubbornness. They say the main difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is that the former never gave up. I actually think the percentages are something like this: 40% talent, 20% patience and 30% determination. Oh, and 10% luck. And maybe the patience should be slightly higher.

Just keep writing, and keep getting your work out there. Enter lots of competitions – I’ve entered hundreds, and the day you get placed in a comp, even if it’s only shortlisted, gives you such a buzz it’s unbelievable, plus it’s a wonderful thing to be able to tell an editor. Get yourself a critique partner if you can – I wouldn’t be without mine. I met Ruthie (www.ruthieknox.com) on the Harlequin Forums, and we hit it off immediately. We exchange chapters as we write them, and it gives me such a boost when she comes back and says she’s falling for the hero! Try to write every day if you can; set yourself a target, even if it’s only 500 words, and don’t leave the chair until they’re done. If you get stuck, write through it – just keep going, or jump ahead to the next scene and write that. Don’t give up!

Finally, could you tell us something about your new release ‘Something Blue’?

Of course! This was written as part of a call for a springtime anthology by Samhain Publishing. They’ve released it as an eBook, and will release it with another two novellas as a print book next year.

Here’s my blurb:

Josh Hamnett is Best Man at his mate’s wedding, and he’s determined that nothing’s going to go wrong on the big day. However he hasn’t planned on ex-girlfriend Kate Summerton appearing in the church, and he certainly isn’t expecting her to be the Chief Bridesmaid.

Josh and Kate’s break-up three years ago was so explosive that he can still almost feel the sting on his cheek where she slapped him so hard he saw entire constellations, not just stars. She was the love of his life, but he screwed it up and, after their monumental argument, he didn’t think he’d ever see her again.

Now he’s forced to spend the entire day with the woman who still haunts his dreams, who looks mouthwateringly good in her tight red bridesmaid’s dress. And to top it all, she’s not wearing any underwear. For a man with enough sex drive to power a small city, that’s not going to end well.

What ensues is a sometimes funny, sometimes poignant re-acquaintance of Josh and Kate as they gradually realize that they have both grown up in the three years that they have been apart, and yet the attraction between them hasn't gone away…

This is from partway through the book.

“Kate, promise me you won’t get drunk tonight and do something you’ll regret.”

Kate looked across at Becca. They were standing outside the reception hall, waiting for Alex to join them and start welcoming the guests. “I’m accident prone when I’m not drunk and in three-inch heels—do you really think I’m going to enhance my special abilities, especially on your wedding day?”

“I’m just saying…”

“Becca, you don’t have to. Honestly, nothing’s going to happen tonight. That relationship ended a long, long time ago. I have no intention of starting it up again, even if it was possible, which it’s not.”

The bride snorted. “I saw the way you looked at him—as if he was an ice lolly and you wanted to lick—”


“Deny it. Tell me you weren’t thinking about him in bed.”

“I…can’t.” Kate pouted. “He’s hot, and he was really, really good at it.”

Thank you Serenity. I really enjoyed my first guest author interview. Good luck with sales of Something Blue.

Website:       www.serenitywoodsromance.com
Blog:             http://serenitywoods.blogspot.com
Facebook:    www.facebook.com/serenitywoodsromance
Twitter:         @Serenity_Woods

Books: (Click for a link to Amazon)

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Ups and Downs of a Writing Challenge

Like many others I took part in the Nanowrimo challenge last November. It was my first one, but I completed it on time at 52,000 words and boy was it an exhilarating feeling. I did hope that the 1000 word a day writing challenge would stick with me, but of course life got in the way.

I’ve had a go at Twitter writing challenges under the #1k1hr tag and find those great for belting out 1000 words. Indeed at the last one I managed 1.5k in the hour.

I am now taking part in Sally Quillford’s 80k 80 days challenge #mywyn and I am enjoying this too, apart from last Thursday, when writing my words was like wading through treacle. I thought I would share some of the things that got me going again.

1. Support from Facebook and Twitter friends and comments on my blog.

2. Writing friends’ enthusiasm for my Tanner and Rosie story – they actually want to know what happens next.

3. Writing around the subject – I wrote biographies for Tanner and Rosie.

4. Asking myself searching questions about how I wanted my characters to change on their journey through the book.

5. Thinking myself inside the skin of my characters and writing about how they were feeling at that point in the story.

6. Interviewing my characters – I pretended I was a journalist and wrote out the interviews.

My manuscript now feels back on track and stands at 31,404 words on day 28 of the 80 days. I will do it – I am determined.

Have you any other ideas to share in case I get stuck again? What works for you?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Characters Calling and Tip for Blog Comments

Welcome to new followers. If anyone is having difficulty posting on a blog, a temporary fix is to uncheck the 'keep me signed in' box when it asks you to log in. Tip thanks to Frances Garrood on Teresa Ashby’s blog.

I have been taking part in Sally Quillford’s 80,000 words in 80 days challenge and have been writing a steady 1000+ words a day since 1 May. The wip I chose to concentrate on is Rosie’s Mystery Man, a contemporary romance.

Today I hit quite a wall and am trying to write through it. The problem is that the characters from another wip are calling me and seem louder and more insistent than Rosie and Tanner. It is all I can do not to abandon them and take up my historical again.

I’m writing this blog to ask for advice. Would a rest from Rosie do me good or is it the kiss of death for Rosie and Tanner?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Romantic Novelist Protest Blog

I watched with interest the furore about the recent article from Claudia Connell at The Daily Mail. She stereotyped all romance writers as old ladies with blue rinses, twin-sets, pearls and support stockings. Kate Johnson aka Cat Marsters urged romance writers to post photos on Twitter, Facebook and our blogs! To begin with, I thought as I was not yet a member of the RNA (hope to apply for New Writers’ Scheme next year) and not yet published, that I shouldn’t do it, but then I thought about it – I spend all of my time plotting romantic novels these days and a fair amount of my day writing them, so why not.

So here is my contribution to the protest – this is what a romantic novelist looks like. I may be into my second fifty years, but I still feel 25!

Morton Gray
Hopeful romantic!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

I’m Normal!

Its official, I’m normal. Well at least my MRI scan says my brain is healthy and quite young for my age! Seriously, it was quite a relief as I had only gone to the doctors with ringing in my ears. They wanted to rule out anything abnormal, hence the scan, but it doesn’t stop your mind working on the possibility that there might be something terribly wrong. Today I am grateful for everything because there wasn’t anything awful found, so treated myself to a nice lunch with friends (Yes, including that Ellie Swoop again). Still have the tinnitus, but I reckon I can LIVE with that.

Funny thing is I can’t stop listening to Fleetwood Mac songs now! I practice self-hypnosis and so put myself in a trance to cope with the claustrophobia of the MRI. I had chosen Fleetwood Mac to be played while I was in the machine, so I reckon I have hypnotised myself into listening to it. Lol.

Whilst I was waiting for my appointment I was reading an interview with Jessica Hart on Nas Dean’s blog here about creating emotional conflict in your stories. There were light bulbs going off all over the place, the article is enormously helpful and I would recommend that you read it. Can’t wait to get back to my WIP now.

Meanwhile I'm back to practising gratitude – even grateful for the full washing basket, so there! What are you especially grateful for today?

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Value of an Opinion

I debated about putting my alternative first paragraphs on my blog, but it has proved useful and not as scary as I first thought. There has been a record number of hits on my last post. Pity all of the viewers didn’t comment or follow my blog, but maybe they will if they come back again. I had a couple of comments by email and Facebook as Blogger wasn’t allowing comments on one day.

So what have I learned?

1. I have some very supportive friends and followers out in cyber space.

2. For every person who loves your writing, there will be someone who hates it. You will never please everyone.

3. As you all know writing is a journey and I have learned a little more about the impact of my words. Pleased that the tone of the two pieces and their different nuances were reflected in the comments – maybe I can do this!

4. I have to write the book I want to write. My main problem is that this book started life as a Mills and Boon and has mutated into something different. There may actually be two books to be written from these beginnings. One more complex and the other light and sexy.

Thank you to everyone who commented, watch this space. Has anyone else learned anything from my post and the comments?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Help please - Which book would you rather read?

As part of the ‘May - You Write Your Novel’ #mywyn 80,000 words in 80 day writing challenge, I am re-writing and finishing a novel I started for the M&B New Voices competition way back last September.

I have re-written the opening paragraphs and my good friend Ellie Swoop is very clear about which version she likes best.

Below I give the two versions. Please comment to tell me which you like best?

Version 1

Rosie watched in horror as the stain spread across her dress. The red seemed to consume the fine white wool. As the initial shock wore off she turned flashing eyes to the cause of her disfigurement.

‘Do you realise how much this dress cost?’

‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you, but you did throw the wine over yourself.’

Rosie dabbed at the puddle on her chest with her napkin, whilst juggling her empty wine glass and handbag. She glared at the man in front of her. The dabbing was having little effect. The saying “if looks could kill” came to her mind. He might only have made her jump by speaking to her, but she was furious. If she hadn’t been miles away trying to work out the relationship of the couple across the lawn from her, the accident would never have happened. She remembered the countless hours of trudging around shops it had taken to find her dress.

‘I was going to introduce myself. You must be Rosie Phillips.’

Version 2

His body looked tantalising. Rosie’s mind somersaulted through different thoughts as her sapphire eyes widened. She couldn’t wait to see him naked and see him she would, she was determined. He had cyclist’s legs. They were tanned right up to the edge of his shorts. She wanted to know how far up the tan extended, to slide her fingers underneath the fabric to find out and then to caress the soft inside skin of his thighs, making him beg, plead for her fingers to go higher and higher.

Shivering in anticipation despite the heat of the afternoon, Rosie brazenly turned her attention to the triangle of flesh at the neck of his shirt. His chest was tanned too. Was he brown all over? Had some lucky girl been delighted by the sight of his unclothed torso this summer? Maybe she had slathered suntan lotion onto his back, his chest, his legs, his...

Rosie licked her lips and tried to regain some composure. She closed her eyes. He hadn’t even spoken to her, but she had singled him out as someone she wanted to spend time with even if only in her mind. Her thoughts strayed back to suntan oil, baby oil, olive oil...

‘Hello, you must be Rosie Phillips.’

She jumped, spilling red wine down the front of her pristine white dress. Muttering an oath and blushing to the roots of her blonde hair, Rosie frantically dabbed at the spreading red stain with a napkin. The object of her desire was right in front of her watching her efforts with a slight grin on his face. She couldn’t decide what was worse, having naughty fantasies about his body, swearing in front of him or appearing a clumsy idiot.

Which novel would you want to read and why did you choose that version? Thank you.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

I Must be Mad

I have signed up for Sally Quillford’s 80,000 words in 80 days challenge, details here. Having enjoyed Nanowrimo’s 50,000 word challenge in November last year, I am hoping to recapture the writing discipline I found then. It was only when I looked at the calendar and realised how much is happening during the 80 days that I started to have a little panic. Not least there is Hubbie’s 50th birthday bash and all the food preparation, cleaning and other work that goes with it. I need to go and get him another pressie too.

What am I going to write? Well I think I am going to take the plot for one of my WIPs and write it in the way I originally intended. I shall allow myself to read the material I have already written, but I will be writing every word from scratch. Changes in writing technique and voice seem to creep up on me and I know I can make a much better job of this book the second time round. This plot is still milling around my head and is demanding to be written, so here goes….

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Falling in Love Again

So you’ve reached that point in your book where you start to think it isn’t good enough. You feel like ripping it up or pushing the delete button. You’ve hit the confidence wall most writers seem to find at some point in their WIP. How do you get through it?

Action Plan

I’d like to explore ways to fall in love with your hero all over again, which just might get you back into your story with renewed confidence.

1. Study his star sign and the predictions for it in the newspaper, magazines or online. You might find ‘A Writer's Guide to the Zodiac: How the Stars Can Help You Understand Your Characters’ by Giselle Green helpful.

2. Put photographs of actors or people from magazines that have ‘his look’ around your writing place.

3. Search for aspects of him in the men you meet in your daily life.

4. Cook his favourite meal and then imagine him eating it while you enjoy the food.

5. Dream about him. Put his photo under your pillow at night and see what happens.

6. Play music that you think he would like or else makes you think of him.

7. Go on a date with him. You can imagine this or even book a show or restaurant you think he would enjoy.

8. Think about things that would make him laugh and surround yourself with them. Have fun.

9. Buy magazines which reflect his hobbies or interests.

10. Put the aftershave you think he might wear on an old jumper or scarf and inhale him.

Let me know if any of these are helpful or if you have any other ideas for reconnecting with your hero.

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