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31 July 2009


Current Work: Queries, Admin - all I'm fit for in this heat
Listening to: Cold Play
Reading: I can't remember... a thriller and new (to me) author

August Slumbers
What a wonderful term that is and no - unfortunately - not one I came up with. August slumbers is how Italy manages the heat. Most Italians take their holidays during this month and the beaches are packed with parading bronzed bodies of all shapes and sizes. Those poor Italians who work for the tourist business of course are not on holiday, but even so the country almost comes to a stand still. And that's how my pen feels - at stand still. It's so hot here the ink is drying out before I've had chance to write anything down and thats if my mushy brain can think of something coherent to say. What do you mean when has it ever been different?

Anyway I think the Italians have got it right, switch off, keep cool and slumber away....

Three Cheers For...

  • I'm going to repeat it again at the risk of being boastful - my first fiction publication!! My short story A Room of My Own has been accepted for publication by the People's Friend. It's a first for me and I am very, very excited.
  • Not much writing this week, 2000 on The Good Life WIP but it really has been very hot

  • Two submissions to Suite 101, a follow up article on Creating Fictional Characters with MBTI Part One (four more to follow!) and Benito Mussolini - very apt for my part of the woods.

  • Applied for an About.Com guide - but will give details if my application gets through to the next stage.

  • Very outline draft of short story for competition in Writers News, deadline is looming so need to get on with it...

  • Healthcare Editing work - last minute review of paper which took some time

  • Got myself a critique partner from Harlequin!

  • Four queries submitted today and plans for August - that's easy - SLUMBER!

Ciao for Now...

28 July 2009


Current Work: Drafting short stories and scenes for WIP
Listening to: My Man Friday weeding the rockery (before the sun gets up)
Reading: Mercy by Toni Morrison

A change of scenery
They say that change is good for you. I wonder if that's the case for writers and where they write. I try and not have too many 'traditions' and 'conditions' for my writing. I try to write at different times of the day, in different places and different implements. I suppose I'm worried that if I can't meet the conditions I would set, then I wouldn't write. And that's not on. So today, because the weather report says it's going to be 'hot, hot hot' up here in the mountains, we are going to the beach and my pen and pad are going with me. The trouble is with me, I'm a great people watcher and just love to observe all the people - young and old - and make up stories about who they are and what they do. Most of this vanishes into the ether and I never think of them again. Today however, my thoughts shall be recorded (I hope). Shall report back at the end of the week.

Book Worm

Ice Cold in Alex by Christopher Landon

Characters: A Captain, his driver, a nurse (or two), a German in disguise and an ambulance called KATY
Plot: Set in World War II its a simple tale of a group of people trying to reach a safe destination and what happens on the way.
Setting: In the desert, in Torbruk - a place where many soldiers were captured in the war. The descriptions of the environment are quite atmospheric.
Quick Summary: Its a very simple, easy read. The characters are very stereotypical which is recognisable through their speech and actions. This is written in 'old fashioned' tense, no swearing only long lines to indicate naughty words so you can make them up for yourself! Its a rather 'stilted' read because of its style but thoroughly enjoyable. It really sums up what people went through and though about during such difficult times. Reminded me a little of my novel, which is kind of reassuring as this book was turned into a very successful film (which is now on my Amazon wishlist).
Recommendation: Definitely.

Confucius Says...Wise Words on Writing

'You must stay drunk on writing so reality never hits you'
Ray Badbury

17:45 Italian Time
Post Note
I'VE BEEN PUBLISHED!! And I just wanted to shout about it, so apologies for my gloating. A short story of mine has just been accepted by Peoples Friend and I couldn't wait until Friday's blog to say something. I can't tell you what a great feeling it is!!!

24 July 2009


Current Work: Queries, drafting, blogging and admin...
Listening to: I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue Radio 4 Listen Again
Reading: Ice Cold in Alex by Christopher Landon

Blog Exposure
I've been writing this blog for some time now, but I'm not sure anyone reads it. Apart from a few family members that is. I do try and put the link on most of the information that goes out but I still think I could do more to raise its profile. So how do you attract traffic to your blog and what changes do you need to make? I know I need to make sure I use keywords more for SEO (search engine optimisation) and shout about it more but what else is there to do? So something else to put on the 'To Do' list, else I'll be thinking I've gone a bit gaga, talking to myself and the big empty space known as the World Wide Web!!

Three Cheers For...

  • Two articles submitted to Suite 101, on Fictional Characters and Personality and the other on the great French writer Alexandre Dumas who wrote the Three Muskateers - All for One and One for All!

  • Submission of Short Story The Secret of Success to Womans Weekly

  • Five queries submitted, two are recycled articles that have been published

  • Submission of All Will Be Well to two agents

  • Development of 'alpha male' character for Harlequin WIP - I quite enjoyed this bit!

  • Hopefully found a critique partner to help with my Harlequin endeavours

  • Wrote an outline for next chapter of The Good Life

  • Plus lots of other non writing stuff such as the addition of three chickens (now known fondly as the Three Degrees) to our 'family; keeping in touch with family and generally melting because of the hot weather - oh yes that reminds me had a trip to the beach as well. Very refreshing.

Finally managed to add an image to this flippin' blog!

21 July 2009


Current Work: Short Story Editing, Drafting Chapters for WIP
Listening to: A panting, puffing Bertie
Reading: Ice Cold in Alex by Christopher Langdon

Fantasy Writing Day
I dream of days when I can just sit down and write, George Clooney appearing every so often with something cool and refreshing and to rub my tired shoulders. Lunch being served in the shades of the olives and the words tumbling from the nib of my pen like a water fall, creating credible characters and a sizzling plot... Hmmm... never quite seems like that. Though my Man Friday bears a small resemblance - if you squint a bit - so can't complain. But no, today I started about 6am, awake with the birds singing, off into the field with the dog -who sat chewing a bone he found whilst I walked around and around. Who is exercising who exactly? Then watering plants, tending to floppy seedlings who are finding the heat a little too much, emailing, doing whatever I do on the internet which seems to fill a whole morning and now it's time to make lunch - fresh pasta pancakes stuffed with riccotta and spinach with a white wine sauce. The writing? Oh yes, the writing has to come after all that, when I've had my siesta, taken the dog for the afternoon walk... I will get round to it. Honest.

The Book Worm

Behind The Scenes at The Museum By Kate Atkinson

Characters - Ruby Lennox is the narrator and we meet her mum, dad, sisters, aunts, grandmas and whole host of her family from long ago
Setting - Numerous from the second WW to mid 60's and beyond
Plot - Ruby tells the story from her moment of conception in the womb which is a really fascinating start. She recounts the tales of her family and their woes from their home 'Above the Shop' which is first a pet shop. The chapters are interlaced with footnotes which go back in time to her ancestors and explain some of the nuances of her family.
Quick Summary - Its a fascinating tale about Ruby's life right up to when her mother finally dies and how she feels about it. Its quirky, humourous and sad all at the same time. Kate Atkinson wrote When Will There Be Good News which was a fab read. This is one of her earlier ones and though I got a bit confused with all the characters at times, it really is very entertaining.
Recommendation? - Definitely

Confucius Says...
'If my doctor told me I only had 6 minutes to live, I wouldn't brood, I'd type a little faster...'
Isaac Asimov
This damn thing won't let me past images in again so sorry about that. I need to find out why... Grrrrr....

17 July 2009


Current Work: Queries, drafting and Writing Group Exercise
Listening to: The sounds of the printer - I've been busy!
Reading: The Scenes Behind the Museum by Kate Atkinson

Exercising your writing hand

As you know, I've recently set up an online writers group. We're a small crowd at the moment - four in total - but it seems to be working well. Part of the aim of the group is to complete exercises and submit them for feedback. We do this with short stories also which is so very helpful when you know that there is something missing, but not sure what. Anyway the reason for my babbling is that part of this helps you as a writer, to step out of your comfort zone, the world of what we know and what we're comfortable with and enter new horizons. It can be a little unnerving to say the least, but I think that utlimately it has to be a good thing as I might never try some of these things off my own bat. Well, I've reached the deadline for my submission of the latest exercise today and I still don't feel its good enough, but I'm in the same boat as everyone else, so I'll get on with it and forget it until our next meeting which is Monday. But go on, try something new, you might be surprised! I might start posting some of my stuff on here and see how it goes - now how brave is that!! only words at the moment... its the action that counts..

Three Cheers For...

A better week this week
  • Submission to Country Kitchen Magazine on the Health of the Nation. A piece about the role of the Ministry of Food during WWII
  • Query accepted on Grandparenting From a Distance for Overseas Living Magazine

  • Two articles submitted on Suite 101 on the History of Writing and the painter Edgar Degas - also recieved a little payment from them again this month

  • Submission of a short story 'My Little Warrior' to My Weekly Magazine

  • Submission of novel 'All Will Be Well' to two agents, one rejected (in a positive way!) so more agent research on the cards
  • Five queries pitched this afternoon

  • 3000 words completed for 'The Good Life' work in progress

  • Short Story outline for a magazine competition

  • Submission of writing exercise for Writers Abroad (I promise this will be done)

  • Editing of an academic paper written by Swedish authors (not the easiest job)


Post Note, the damn blogger won't let me put in the 'Hooray' graphic so you'll just have to imagine that its there. Grrrr.....

14 July 2009

Current Work: Short Story Development for Submission
Listening to: The searing sun burning through the windows
Reading: Behind The Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

Getting My House in Order
Figuratively speaking, that is. Feeling a lot more on top of things today, having caught up (is that ever the case?) with all the outstanding things on my list. It's a great feeling when you tick off each action, using red ink, one by one. Yes, I know, I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to sorting my 'must do' lists but you know I have my father to blame for that. But it's not a bad habit to get into and I must admit, it's very motivating to see all those red splodges all over the page.

Manuscript Preparation
As you know, I have a novel which I am touting about for some kindly and probably mad, editor to pick up and shout with glee 'this is the one!' Anyway enough of the dreams, what was I going to say? Oh yes, that's right. I spent a lot of time preparing and polishing my manuscript (ms). I wanted to make it look as good as I could. I even wrote an article about it for Suite 101. Anyway I have since transferred it to the new writing software I have called Write It Now. This programme is great, it's very versatile and allows you to move scenes and chapters around as you wish through a story board function. But I digress again, the thing is I uploaded it, then converted it to print for submission. Horror of Horrors it has so many mistakes (well my Man Friday tells me not that many) but anyway one is enough that I am having to do another proofread before sending it off the next agent on the list. I don't have a moral to this story apart from always, always print off the final ms even if you are sick to death of reading your own words. You need to see what they will see. And first impressions count.

Book Worm
The Broker - John Grisham

Genre: - its a crime/Thriller thing. Blame Man Friday he got me on to these
Characters: - Joel Blackman, an american lawyer and also known as 'Marco' in his alternative persona on release from jail. Various other baddies and a woman called Francesca.
Plot:Its America so its about greed and power and politics. Joel aka Marco is pardoned from jail by an outgoing president, and 'they' wait to see who will kill him first. We know very little of his crime at the beginning but follow him in his protected identity in Italy until he works it all out and... well that would be too telling wouln't it?
Quick Summary: I loved its pacey style, I suppose that's its genre but also because the setting was in Italy. Poor Marco had to learn Italian just like I am and it was so true how he struggled with the language. It's a page turner and although its mainly about men and their ego's it didn't put me off.
Recommendation: Yep!

You'll have to excuse the blank look of this blog as it seems to have a mind of its own and won't let me put any of the fancy stuff in. It has turned my cursor into a cutting tool in the compose box. But I can't (because I don't know how)sort it out so apologies....

Confucius Says...
Well it's more like a Jo Says... Technology is a pain, but a necessary pain...

9 July 2009


Current Work: Still on catch up... seems endless and PC is playing up!
Listening to: The printer churning out something Man Friday has produced
Reading: The Broker by John Grisham

Writing In the Summer Months
I always feel more inspired in the summer to get writing, make lots of plans to write and have the same opportunities to write. But somehow at the same time I find it more difficult to write. Having visitors is a welcome interruption to my routine and I have plenty of time to get things done - I even bragged last week about it making me more focused! It does to a certain degree, but the outputs never seem to materialise. I'm a bit plagued as I'm writing this as the PC has been on meltdown most of the day - it seems to get slower and slower and despite my cleaning it up and trying to run it on very little it just plays up. Which gets me mad and when I'm mad I can't write. The heat is also a little distracting and my writing brain seems to turn to mush around the middle of the day, but plenty of writers have the same dilemma, so there must be a way of getting around this. So what is all this preamble about? As you can see, this is the only entry this week, so I'm combining it all into one. Lack of sleep and visits to the beach and airport and cooking for two young men who have the appetites of an elephant (do elephants have large appetites?) has scuppered my plans this week.

Book Worm

Echo Burning by Lee Child

Genre: Its a thriller, crime sort of thing
Jack Reacher (of course) he's an ex military man with a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's big, clever and not afraid of anything it would seem. He's a great protagonist and I really have a clear view of him sort of Hugh Jackman type of thing... oooerr that's got me all of a spin. Then there's Carmen, a Mexican woman he meets and her daughter and a host of other not so nice people. Oh yes, there's a lesbian lawyer called Alice (I think) who sounds pretty cool.
Plot: Well, as in all Jack Reacher novels there are good guys and bad guys and Jack is a good guy who sorts out the bad guys. Sometimes there's a bit of romance, sometimes the love interest just doesn't work out and you end up feeling sorry for poor Jack. But essentially he's a one man operative and I don't think anyone could tie him down.
Quick Summary: I've only just got into these novels, my Man Friday and his two youngest sons love them. They have a typical format and very stylised, but as I said you get to know and love Jack Reacher and want to know where he's going to end up next. This had an interesting addition of a small kid which isn't very common in these stories.
Recommendation: Definitely a yes, even if you don't think you like the genre - try it.

Confucius Says...Comments on the Life of a Writer

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

- Helen Keller

Three Cheers For... (well there has to be something? Doesn't there?)

  • Submitted five queries - yes that's 5, one was rejected last week and so I just winged it straight off somewhere else, and another was a follow up I just decided to submit somewhere else because of time constraints
  • One article submitted to Suite 101 on the principles of Lunar Gardening - it was really interesting researching this article as I sort of operate a kind of moon practice here at Casa Grotta - seems to do OK.
  • Spent a considerable time editing an academic paper written by Swedish authors, always quite a difficult process as you don't want to alter their style or message - still very satisfying
  • I hope to get the rest of the All Will Be Well manuscript uploaded on the writing software I have so I'm putting this in as a potential
  • Have done lots of research about submitting manuscripts to Mills and Boon following a discussion at Writers Abroad with my writing pals!
See you next week.

3 July 2009


Current work: Queries, fiction preparation
Listening to:
Crickets (or grilla's as we call them here) deafening!
Echo Burning by Lee Childs

Writers Abroad

As you know I've set up a virtual writing group call Writers Abroad. We've had our first 'meet' and have just completed a second critique on short stories and submitted our work on an exercise. What struck me as I read three wonderful short stories and pieces of free writing is how difficult it is to develop constructive, meaningful feedback. It's a skill I think that we have to develop and for that reason, we as a group have agreed to share our feedback with others. It takes time to consider the writings of another writer. A writer, like you who has toiled and sweated over every word on the page. A writer who has nurtured the characters as if they were children, developed the set and plotted and schemed. It's not a task that should be taken lightly and as with most things its a question of balance. The good and the not so good, things that worked and didn't work. All from a 'readers' perspective, for that is what we are when we're critiquing. We are the first audience, a serious and important position and I hope that I am treating my fellow writers fairly.

Three Cheers for...

So after a dodgy end to the month how have I got on? With visitors here and the temperature rising things tend to slow down a bit - but the key is to plod on.

  • Two articles submitted to Suite 101, Alternative Gifts for Grandchildren is based on personal experience of buying things for our grandchildren and the second on P.T. Barnum the famous circus owner.
  • Three queries submitted in plenty of time for seasonal articles
  • Planning for July completed, with hopefully achievable targets on the fiction front
  • Not done much real writing as I've been messing with my manuscript for submission. Its a long story and one I might go into next week.
  • Reviewed and provided feedback on three short stories
  • Submitted advert to Wet Ink an Australian writers magazine, promoting Writers Abroad