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30 September 2009


I know, I know - I feel like the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, 'I'm late...' Have been caught up with critiquing a novel I promised to complete by the end of today. Which is winging its way as I type. Now too tired to write any more, so book review will be posted tomorrow. Check in when I'm more refreshed!

28 September 2009


Must Do This Week: Finish feedback for a novel for my critique partner by 1st October (and that means she will be doing mine!! Eeks)
Listening to: Chickens squaking in the garden - we've let them roam free
Reading: The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

Crisis of Confidence

Writers I suppose, are a little like actors. They put a lot of effort into their creation or character, then prositute themselves or their work and wait by the phone, or the post box or the PC to find out if anyone likes what they do enough to say yes! Last week I had a particularly bad case of the confidence jitters which ran over into my Friday night. Not a pretty sight. And I know that JK and Virginia Woolf and many other writers with far more skill than I, were rejects, like the rest of us. But sometimes you forget that. Sometimes you think that you couldn't repeat the alphabet let alone write something that is meaningful. And when that happens remedial action needs to be taken because it eats away at you and if you believed everything that negative gremlin who sits on your shoulder nibbling at your consience, well, you'd never pick up a pen again. So I'm back here at my desk and now have got that rubbish of my chest, it's time to move on with renewed energy and a pot of positveness (can you get it in pots?). Until the next time.

Confucius Says...

'I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.' Gustave Flaubert

25 September 2009


Starting from Scratch?

I've dedicated most of this week to writing a draft chapter (5000 words) for submission to a Harlquin/Mills and Boon Competition. The driving force behind this has been that I agreed to swap chapters with a member of our online writing group. Nicola has sent me her chapter and at the time I was pulling my hair out with a re-write. Last week I'd clocked up 3000 words and thought it was sounding good. However, the gremlins got to work and by Monday I wanted to change it - as I said, didn't know the characters enough. So did I start from scratch? Nope, I actually used a bit of the beginning, none of the middle and a lot from the end of my first draft and then rewrote everything else. I just hope it reads better. I do know who my characters are now though and they will tell their own story - whether HQN like it or not. So am going to wing off my efforts to a cery patient Nicola in a moment.

Three Cheers For - the highs and lows of my week

  • Rewrite of HQN chapter - 5000 words I'm repeating myself, I know :)

  • Freewriting performed 3 days out of 5 - 750 words, not as good as last week:(

  • Began new scene in WIP The Good Life about 800 words I think, not bad :)

  • Have not looked at WIP The Promise - not good ;(

  • Two articles submitted to Suite 101 - one on a WarTime Diet which includes some fascinating facts on how rationing improved the health of the nation and one on European Day of Lanuages and how it promotes us to have a go at learning a language (and I'm an expert on one who does it badly) :)

  • Mapped outline of my first E book which I'm going to dedicate to HR practices :)

  • Hopefully by the end of the day I will have submitted three queries but have had a week of rejections :(

  • Have bored you all with my blog three times this week

Have a good weekend. We have a pups birthday bash on Sunday. My Man Friday will be reporting the event on the Casa Grotta Blog.

23 September 2009


Character or Plot?
I've been outlining a chapter for a competition for Mills and Boon as you know. I wrote 3,000 words (and more) and then re-read them yesterday. Now I want to change the whole thing! It just didn't flow nor fit in with the 'style' of M&B. It's all in the approach. I'm a character driven writer myself and hadn't really got to know the hero (an alpha male no less) and the heroine. They were a little faceless and bland and passionless and that's how my words read. So I have spent an hour getting to know them a little, finding pictures that will set them in my mind and hopefully they will now start to tell the story. I've only got til Friday, so they better get their skates on... Eeks!

Book Review

The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

Most reviews of this book have recommended that you think 'Da Vinci Code' and that's a fair suggestion. However, if you think that there is no need to read this book if you've read Dan Brown, you will miss out on an excellent read.

The action starts off at an exhibition where historian/archeologist Tess Chaykin witnesses a particularly strange and violent robbery. Tess, a single mother, is the leading character throughout this book and you get to find out about her desires, her deepest driven desires which is linked to the ongoing questions about God and spirituality.
The other major character is FBI agent Sean Reilly who is in charge of the investigation and finds himself drawn to Tess. Reilly despite his job of dealing with facts is actually very sympathetic and a believer.

The story is told in two time lines, one following the robbery in which an ancient encoder is taken from a collection of Vatican artefacts. Tess hears the robber (dressed as a Templar and on horseback) whisper a latin saying which drives her to delve into the possible hidden meanings. The second is way back in the thirteenth century following the final days of the last templars and their quest to pass on and protect their message and very essence of 'being'.
The evil rogue part is also two fold, one a fellow professor Tess had once fancied and is now obsessed with outing the truth about 'God' and of course the upstanding member of the religous bretheren who will do anything to prevent 'the secret' from being uncovered.

Its a fast read, short chapters and the pace is easy to follow. Its also a kind of history lesson, as Tess shares her vast knowledge about the history of the time and the Templars. As you can probably guess, Tess isn't the religous type, but Reilly is... this is the cause of some tension as the story unfolds and we discover what the Templars were trying to protect. But is it too late for all of that? And what would be the consequences for the world as we know it now, centuries on, after years of brainwash and chinese whispers. The fallout would be horrendous - wouldn't it?

A great read, and one I'd read again because of its richness in character, history and debate.

21 September 2009


Current Work: I have to get this chapter for HQN comp done this week, its been taking over my mind!
Listening to: Dogs barking - yes plural, we have Berties sister and her mate staying
Reading: The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

How do you find inspiration?
As you know, I've been drafting a chapter for a competition for Harlequin (Mills and Boon). Now this is way off my usual kind of stuff. What do you immeditaely think of when you hear Mills and Boon? Yes, Barbara Cartland, pink and sugary. Well, I've never read any of BC's stuff but I know she was a prolific writer and did very well out of it. And I can say that current day M and B ain't pink and sugary. Anyway I digress, so how did I find the inspiration to write? Well, I looked at the guidelines, which are quite extensive and spent a lot of time learning about the 'alpha male' - for this competition it's key. That's not so hard is it? I mean what man doesn't try and be the alpha male - I know! I know! Huuuugggge generalisation on my part, but those of you who know me well will be familiar with my generlisations about 'things'. Anyway this time it is proving worthy because I have one, Italian of course and linked with a sight I saw from an apartment window in Amalfi many years ago, I had the nugget of a story. Also being married to my Man Friday. who is an F1 nerd. is helping shape the plot, so inspiration is all around, you just need to grasp it and put pen to paper. Famous last words!!

Confucius Says... Writers Thoughts on Writing

"No one is asking, let alone demanding, that you write.
The world is not waiting with bated breath for your
article or book. Whether or not you get a single word
on paper, the sun will rise, the earth will spin, the
universe will expand. Writing is forever and always a
choice -- your choice."

~ Beth Mende Conny~

Mmm... I like this one a lot...

18 September 2009


Blog Visitors
I've put one of those counters on my blog. I was just curious to see if I get any at all, as I've never once had a comment from anybody. Since I installed the counter which was about a month ago I've had 149 visitors! And not a drop of tea made. This week alone I've had 22, which is quite amazing. I wonder who you are. Don't be shy, say hello once in a while and make a struggling writers day...

Three Cheers for!
Well its the end of the week and I'm feeling pretty satisfied with myself. I seemed to have got myself finally back into the 'writing groove'. See what you think anyway. This may all change as we have the sister of our dog, Bertie, coming to stay for a week. And that means mess, walks and lots of running around my veggie patch! Emergency protection orders have been made.
  • 3000 words drafted for a chapter to be submitted to HQN competition

  • 2,500 words written for the WIP The Good Life

  • 1.250 words written - 250 per day in five minutes - on Write Everday prompts and five beginnings of a story or a chapter or a scene...

  • Two articles submitted to Suite 101, one on the great British engineer (my dad will like this one) with the amazing name of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the second on Travelling Abroad with Diabetes

  • Three queries submitted and follow-ups made

  • Research almost finished on WIP The Promise - some of this has taken me to accounts of POW's in the area here where I live so have become a little distracted along the way...

  • Short story submitted to Writelinkers for a critique

  • Short story edited for submission to market next week

  • Writers Abroad meeting held and enjoyed

  • Editing work for publishing house completed - a Swedish paper which caused a few headaches

Ciao until next week - Happy Writings...

16 September 2009


What counts as a word?
I have a conundrum. I came across a site whilst idling surfing... what? Was this identified in my timed action plan. actually it was just one of those click, oh click and then ooer lets click again type of moments. Anyway this author (and no I can't remember where after all that clicking) said that there is more to the word count than we think. Now I always thought that a word count was a simple thing. Count the number of words and eccolaqua (that's italian for voila) there is your word count. Wrong - so says said author. Apparently you have to estimate the space your novel will take when printed, i.e. how many pages it will take, how big the book would be. So the author kindly provides a formula (and hey maths is not my kind of thing) to work out your correct 'word count'? Doesn't sound like a word count to me... but this author reckoned it might be one of the reasons for rejection. Any takers?

Book Review

Around Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks
This was a journey into a totally different read for me, hence I'm not going to use my usual format for reviewing the book. Its not a novel and neither is it non-fiction really. Tony Hawks is a comic, songwriter and writer generally it seems. He is a very funny man with a very distinctive voice and has been popular on TV and Radio 4. Anway one drunken night he made a bet with a mate that he could hitchhike around Ireland with a fridge as his companion. For one hundred pounds. I bet he regretted that the next morning, but give him his due, that's exactly what he did. Anyway the book is an account of this treck which he did indeed complete. It is one of the funniest reads I have read and the characters he meets come alive in your living room as he describes their reaction to his 'mate'. His trip attracted local radio coverage and the kindness and humour with which he was afforded was second to none. For me, married to man who spent most of his formative years in Ireland, Northern Ireland but is as English as they come, it was an education into the values and spirit of the Irish. They have a gift for the simple but obvious questions and replies that form the nub of so many jokes but they are so natural at it. The descriptions of the towns and countryside were also impressive, painting a picture of the country I have only seen in photographs. Because of his distinctive voice in the real world, I could really hear Tony tell his tale, a little like reading a Jeremy Clarkson book or column, you can hear his rants and raves.
This book has 135 reviews on Amazon and I can only add to what they say, you have to read this book. He's written a few more I see, but I feel a little reluctant to break the spell.

14 September 2009


Current Work: Everything!
Listening to: The gremlin on my shoulder shouting 'do something!'
Reading: The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

Never seems enough time...

Well there doesn't does there? I was reading the latest edition of Writing Magazine over the weekend. Lorraine Mace is an expat writer who has offered me some sound advice in the past and this time she was writing about her 'to do' list. She has this wonderful techie hubby who has worked out how much time she needs, when she needs to do what and has even given her an afternoon off! How cool is that? Can you knit me one Lorraine please? Not that my Man Friday is lacking in supporting a struggling writer, but he rolls his eyes in the air and lets out a long, slow sigh when I talk of diaries and planners. So I've just made a long list of all I want to get done this week (and there is probably more) and have started allocating it to days and hours I have available. Hope there is a bit of time 'out' but then that's what I probably spend most of my time doing! Talking about it instead of getting on with it!!

Confucius says....

If it weren't for the last minute, I wouldn't get anything done. ~Author Unknown
Tee Hee Hee....

11 September 2009


Queries that Bounce
As you know, I regularly submit at least three non-fiction queries per week and have been doing so for some time now. They cover a variety of topics related to my hobbies and passions including; writing, history, gardening, health and pets. Now there is one area which I practiced at as a professional (and a fairly well paid professional) for some time before my escape to the good life. Thats the area of Human Resources and Training and Development. These queries are the least successful, indeed I've been published in all of the other categories bar this one? I wonder why that is? Maybe I don't put enough effort into the query or come across as a 'know it all'? I don't know. But the articles in this category which I publish on Suite 101 are probably the most popular? Weird isn't it? Maybe its the medium. So now I'm plotting out an Ebook with all these articles in it. Lets see what happens. The thing is I'd much rather be writing about the stuff you can make up...

Three Cheers for! (or is it Boo Hiss?)

So despite my frustration with non-fiction queries what has gone well (and not so well) in my life as a jobbing writer?

  • Fourth (maybe fifth) rejection recieved for All Will Be Well as previously noted :
    Acceptance of non-fiction piece on female aviators On a Wing and A Prayer - Best of British Magazine :)
  • Two Suite 101 articles published. The first was Grandparenting From A Distance based on a more comprehensive piece published in Overseas Living. The second was Writing Academic Papers based on my experience as Editor for Emerald Publishing
  • Short Story completed called Love Online submitted to Writing Magazine for their Love Story Competition
  • Critique completed for Writers Abroad and ongoing critique of novel for critique partner Queries, blogs and admin completed
  • Outline of first chapter for HQN competition
  • Research almost completed (well is it ever?) for WIP The Promise

9 September 2009


And they keep coming...

Yep, just recieved my fifth thanks but no thanks from an agent regarding my novel, All Will Be Well.

Will it? I ask a little deflated.

At least they are writing to let you know, my positive side says.

Yeah, but thats the fifth rejection, they said 'not motivated' enough, that means boring, says the negative gremlin.

Ok, thats true, positive peacock retorts, but they do wish me well with finding representation and, yes and, they admit that its a very subjective assessment. (Sticks tongue out...)

Well I still believe it's good enough, look at JK Rowling...

Yeah, yeah, hundreds of rejections and now look - well you ain't no JK...

Onwards and Forwards...

Book Review

The Ice House by Minette Walters

Three women who live in 'the big house' under great suspicion of the other villagers, a missing presumed dead husband, a half eaten body and a cold dark place at the bottom of the garden. One of the key characters is a disgruntled police seargent, unhappy with life and the force but who does learn how to like himself a little by the end.

Its a regular 'whodunnit' but Walters keeps us guessing about it all from start to finish. She is very gifted at taking a very simple plot - dead body, very little evidence and one suspect - and weaving and winding her way to take us to different dead ends. He story telling is absolutely a dream and she keeps all the threads together neatly tying off the knots as she goes along.

In a quintisential but run of the mill English village in present day and with flash backs to ten years previously when the abusive husband of one of the women went missing. The Detective in charge of the recent inquiry was present then and is convinced that she murdered him. The Ice House is a super title which describes both the poor being who is found half eaten by animals and who maybe or may not be the missing man?

Quick Summary
There are lots of little subplots, like the women portray themsleves (well don't deny the rumours) as lesbians. The woman abused has a daughter and son and the daughter harbours emotional problem exhibited through anorexia. The wife of a missing man appears to develop religous and sex manias - which is actually quite sinister and the Detective in charge has something to hide. The community have played a big part in the the ostrac... oh flip, can't spell it but they have shunned the women and my favourite character was Anne Catterel, one of the three women who also happened to be a writer.

Recommendation - Absolutely

7 September 2009


Current Work: For this week my key targets are finalising a short story for submission, writing a few thousand words for WIP The Good Life and completing research on the WIP The Promise. Also have to complete some more editing for my critque partner and Writers Abroad; Suite 101 submissions and all those other things which pop up!
Listening to: Radio 4 - A play
Reading: Just finished The Ice House by Minette Walters and haven't chosen my next...

Writers Tools
I'm a bit of a one for writers gadgets, maybe I put too much faith in them but never mind. I've just stumbled across a great little tool which helps with getting words down on paper. You know, the stuff writers should do, putting letters together, making words and hopefully making sense. Yes, you've got it - writing. Its a kind of free writing tool, you can set the time (I have set it for 5 minutes but will build up to 15 I think) and then you can set it to 'strict' so you can't type anymore after that time. Then you hit 'write' and it gives you a prompt and off you go! I'm not usually one to write straight onto the PC so its taking a bit of getting used to but its fab! You can save what you've written in word document and therefore add to your 'bank' of stuff to whip out and develop further. Here's the link, give it a go... Write Everday

Confucius Says... (Writers on Writing)

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury

4 September 2009


Werewolves and Genres
Yes, it's a full moon tonight - well over here it is so it got me thinking about werewolves and those kind of things. I've just drafted a small piece for children based on a 'writing spark' which mentioned werewolves and wobgoblins and things. I've never written a piece for kids before, probably prompted by the fact that I've had my granddaughter to stay. Feedback from my fellow writers was surprisingly positive, so I might develop it a little more.

Three Cheers For!

Its been catch up time, but that's what a writer pays for having time out. But what with a trip to the dentist this week and problems with our electricity which has caused disturbed nights I'm amazed I've got anything done. Here goes...

  • Completed my writing plan for September - I have big ambitions!
  • Published two Suite 101 articles, one on Female Aviators in WWII and the other on Critiquing Fiction - check them out by following the links
  • Caught up with my critique partner on our feedback for our novels - seems like we are both on track
  • Completed three blogs and tried to update a new theme but failed miserably, will try again
  • Drafted a short story for submission to a competition, deadline is approaching so need to get my skates on
  • Submitted a full article on Women Aviators ( a lengthier version of the above) to Best of British
  • Organsied myself a folder for my second novel WIP The Promise which included a book cover design, very simple but incredibly powerful
  • Have uploaded all chapters to date of our joint novel The Good Life onto my software. Currently stands at 30,000 words
  • Submitted 9 queries (yes thats nine), 9 follow ups and a short story for Yours Magazine (I own up that I didn't submit during the second half of August...)
So not a bad week all in all... have a good weekend.

2 September 2009


Blog Themes
I've just spent the best half of the afternoon trying to upload a different theme for my blog, and as you can see without much success! Why oh Why do I do it? I'm now fuming that I'm running out of time to do everything I should have been doing including this blog! Oh well, no doubt I shall waste a few more hours, I've fallen in love with the template. But at the end of the day, does it matter?

Book Review

When Good Friends Go Bad by Ellie Campbell
Characters - Four old school friends, Jen, Nutmeg, Georgina and the elusive Rowan. Also appearing are old boyfriends, husbands (current and ex), old teachers, daughters and various others from the past.

Plot - Well, it's a kind of 'what would you do for your friend in need' kind of plot with lots of ups and downs and tests on friendships that were made years ago and the rekindling of the reasons that made those friendships. Also old loves that should have stayed just like that and realising who and what is important. Its a humourous and funny tale of the four girls and what has happened in their lives up to this point.

Setting - present time in various places around the UK with a particularly wonderful scene set in Wales. Together with flashbacks to their school times which so ring true.

Quick Summary - I loved it as much as I loved their first one (the author Ellie Campbell is actually two sisters) and its their characterisation which does it for me. Each friend has been a friend in the playground, each grown woman as the fears and the challenges we all face and I can just see them so clearly in my mind as I'm reading.

Recommendation - you bet!