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30 October 2009


The Month It All Happens!
November is traditionally the month when writers lock themselves away and scribble and scribble and scribble. If they are lucky they will emerge on the 1st December feeling very pleased with themselves and 50,000 words richer. If not they still may have written more than they have ever done in a month. For those who are not writers and for some reason might read this blog (heaven knows why!) or maybe you just haven;t come across this pheomena, the challenge I'm talking about is Nanowrimo (in short stands for write a novel in a month). So tomorrow is the last day to get your self prepared and hyped up, sharpen your pencils, fill up your fountain pens and exercise your typing fingers.

Three Cheers For!...My Writing Highs and Lows

Well as you know, my writing has been a bit hit and miss, but when I sat down to consider my achievements this week, it ain't that bad. Well that's my view anyway.

  • Three blogs submitted :)

  • Two articles submitted to Suite 101, one funnily enough on Keeping a Writers Blog and the other is the start of a series, Characterisation using the Zodiac :)

  • Nine queries submitted this very afternoon (haven't submitted any for 3 weeks!

  • Synopsis of WIP The Promise has been shaken out of me and now sits in the inbox of my fellow writers (Writers Abroad). We have our first 'international' meeting tomorrow afternoon

  • The beginning of my plan for November has begun, but as you know from above, I plan to go into writing hibernation (blogs apart that is)

Have a fruitful writing week...

28 October 2009


Apolgies in order
Yet again as I haven't finished reading Drop Shot by Harlan Coben. I only started it at the weekend and it's an easy read so I should have. I must admit I'm not enjoying it all that much but as I'm now two thirds through, I guess I should finish. My Man Friday has nearly finished The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. The word 'engrossed' comes to mind! Anyway, I will submit a review next week. Currently planning lunch as we have some friends visiting, then out for a birthday bash on Sunday and then I plan to go into writing hibernation for the month of November. Delicious!

26 October 2009


Current Work: Catch up - Again!!
Listening to: The sound of a dripping tap, I must turn the radion on!
Reading: Drop Shot by Harlan Coben

Writing Routine
We all have some sort of routine for some part of our life. As a writer, I try not to be too pedantic about my routine as I fear if I can't write at any time, I never will again. So I don't say I write best in the morning, or in the bath or need to be surrounded by magic stones (or should that be mushrooms?). I tell myself, 'I can write at any time I want'. That said, I'm sure there are particular times when I write better, but I think that I write 'differently' and therefore bring something new to my writing. What is she waffling on about I hear you cry (well I would if anyone was there!) But as you know, routines sometime have to be put aside for many reasons and that is a good thing too. There is nothing like getting back in the groove, whatever groove that might be. One thing I did achieve last week was a submission to Suite 101 on How To Organise a Novel so take a peep. And now I must dash, my list of 'must do's' is enormous. Ciao for Now....

21 October 2009


Fiction Feast
When you live in a foreign country, finding books to read in your own language can be difficult. But these days we have Amazon who provide a wonderful, fast service and we are lucky to have two other sources to hand. Firstly, our family and friends - who as part of their visiting rituals bring along their reads on condition that they leave them and pick replacements from our shelves. The second is that we have discovered a small library of English books provided by a local Italian Osteria. There is no charge for this service and you don't even have to return the book you borrowed, just as long as you leave something in its place. Not half bad at all.

Book Review
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
You must all remember the film - Jude Law (sigh), Nicole Kidmand and Renee Zellwegger? Now the only bit I can remember is when Renee Zellwegger caught the rooster which had attacked Nicole and broke its neck. Next shot was a big boiling pot of rooster. It's taken me some time to finish this book - well over my one week target. Now part of that has been just down to me - I've sort of struggled to keep on top of it. Another reason is its style. It took me some time to get used to it. There are no speech marks, nothing to delineate dialogue and I found that a little startling and if I'm honest, it almost spoilt it for me. I suppose it's what we get used to but with a little time I soon learnt who was talking out loud and when but it does read a little like a child would write - but only in style.

Charles Frazier is a good story teller, and in Cold Mountain he follows the lives of one man and one woman during the American Civil War. The chapters alternate between the two main characters - a style I like because it helped me understand them. They were clearly set in my mind, helped by the images of Jude Law (another sigh) and Nicole Kidman. Inman, the male character has met and already fallen in love with Ada (Nicole). We are told about his love for her as we follow his journey from a nearly fatal injury sustained in the war and his treck across the country to return to her. It is her and his love for her that keeps him going and which helps him to survive. Inman started life as a fairly level headed, gentile man, but war changes how he views his world and he doesn't let anything stand in the way of his objective. Which is to return to Ada.

Ada is a preachers daughter who lived a very enviable life before the death of her father. They moved to Cold Mountain because of his ill health and after a ropy start with the locals, they began to share his faith with the community. Ada had barely to lift a finger, preferring to draw, and paint and generally live the life of a lucky young lady. She responds to Inman and is equally attracted but their quest for love is interrupted by the war. Ada has to learn to survive after she discovers that her father did not make the preparations to allow her to continue her accustomed lifestyle. She struggles and you almost believe that she will starve to death as she has no idea how to provide for herself. And then comes along Ruby (Rene) who shows her how getting her hands dirty is the only way to go. Ruby has not experienced the fineries that Ada has and wouldn't thank her too either. All she expects is to be treated equally and that she isn't there to empty anyone elses bed pot.

There are some shocking violent scenes, typical of the impact of war and the cruelty of man when he is threatened. But also there are some very tender scenes, one involving an old goat woman whom Inman stumbles upon in the woods. The scene when Ada and Inman are reunited was particularly beautiful - it brought tears to my eyes and I so wanted to believe in the happy ever after. Thank god I couldn't remember the film, because I would have been disappointed.

It's a great read - far better than the movie because it is memorable. The images and emotion which Frazier creates is far more dramatic to my mind than anything visual could possibly be. And I would read it again, for now I'm familiar with his style I'll spend more time on the story.

19 October 2009

Current Work: Just the basics, as visitors take priority
Listening to: Radio Sabasio (Italian station) the dulcet tones of some faceless Italian!

Reading: Well about to start - The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown - my dad has just finished it and looks a little vacant!

Itchy fingers
So plans for this week still rather sketchy as I find it difficult to write and entertain. Yes, I know we women can multi-task and I do, but sometimes its just best to concentrate on less. I really would like to get my editing done this week, didn't manage a word last week and only one article on Suite 101 on Learning Contracts, so check it out. Also have set a mini challenge in the spirit of Nanowrimo for our writing group so really need to be doing something.

One thing I did complete was Cold Mountain so will do a review on Wednesday, hopefully.

Thoughts on Writing...

'The profession of book-writing, makes horse racing seem like a stable, sound business.' John Steinbeck

12 October 2009


Just For The Record
I'm only doing a quick entry today to say that I might be a bit absent this week. Have rellies to stay which is great if not a little distracting - in the nicest possible way. So rather than set myself up to fail. If I blog I will if not I will be back on track next week.
I would really like to get the polished version (number god knows what!) of All Will Be Well to submit to some more agents, but other than that I haven't really set myself any goals. I'm listening to the sounds of footsteps up above me (quite a rare sound here) and a dripping tap (a job for my Man Friday) and still reading Cold Mountain.

See you soonest....please drop in whenever you like...

9 October 2009


Does it Fill you with Dread?
It does for me. But I quite enjoyed it. It was a bit like writing a micro/mini story - I got so carried away with it I almost forgot to make lunch! Lucky my Man Friday was here to remind me. No I'm not having a go, it really was my turn. But back to the synopsis. I know that they are critical to pitching a novel so it's not something we writers can choose to ignore. What I do want to know is - why does it feels so difficult? I have a theory. Well, its a kind of theory. I felt a little like I was writing the story 'out'. I don't know if any of you know what I mean by that? But I was worried that if I wrote a mini version I either wouldn't know how to fill it out because it had been done or that I'd set the story in stone and would not be able to change my mind. Now I know that''s silly but it did make me reluctant to put pen to paper. But I did and actually I'm quite excited about it.

Three Cheers for- The Highs and Lows of My Writing Week

  • Have completed a synopsis for a new project set way back in Saxon times - almost 2000 words :)

  • Had a short story rejected by Womans Weekly :(

  • Submitted two short stories for consideration (yes, I said 2) :)

  • Received another rejection letter from WW but don't know what its for :/

  • Submitted two articles to Suite 101. One on a Training and Development Policy and the other on Core Competency Frameworks :):)

  • Blogged three times :):):)

  • Begun to edit my novel in light of the very positive comments received :)

  • But now think I need to review the synopsis :(

On balance not a bad week...

7 October 2009


It's a small one...(world, that is!)
I'm always amazed how many 'writer's' I actually know. Well, I don't mean particularly well, but one could say - associated with. Since I had a small piece published in Writers News about our writing group Writers Abroad, I have had enquiries from writers living in USA, UK (a New Zealander) and Thailand! So our quest for diversity is certainly being met on a geographical level. We are all women though so we may need to work on that.
Then we were having coffee yesterday with a couple who had one of the kittens and who now lives in such luxury my Man Friday asked if they would adopt us! Anyway, it appears that they have a very good friend who is a published writer and touring Italy at the moment looking for a home. We're everywhere, in some nook or cranny. I think the word is 'serendipity' don't you?

Book Review
A Thousand Apologies, but I haven't yet finished reading Cold Mountain. It's taking a time - I'm not sure why. I watched the film some many years ago when it first came out but I remember so little of the plot. That's not such a bad thing. But I will complete it by next week. Promise.


5 October 2009


Current work: Agent hunting, synopsis draft for feedback and writing!
Listening to: Chickens clucking contendedly - its lovely
Reading : Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Finding a Home for your Novel
This is never as easy at is is to write. This is the hardest part. I have sent out my novel to (at last count) eight agents, 7 rejections and one outstanding. Now I have had the feedback from my Critique Partner which is very encouraging, I'm about to start afresh. I put it on hold pending her comments. So the trick is to find an agent who likes the genre - historical romance/historical fiction. Then check out if they have any similar stories - probably unlikely to want another. Thirdly do they accept email submissions? This last point is of particular importance to me as an expat living out of the UK. What about international reply coupons I hear you cry! Yes, well, I've heard of them, but no-one in Italy has. This is the same in Spain I believe. Technology allows us to move huge pieces of information effortlessly around the globe. Now, I understand that emailing manuscripts could have financial implications for agents and publishers, but I would guess that they would glance through the synopsis and first chapter to see if worth reading and then if they wanted to print it out. For me trying to post several hefty manuscripts would be a pain, not undoable though and I have not ruled it out. Just that I'm going to check out emails submissions first before I waste paper and postage as well as a chunk of my confidence.

Wilfred the Wise Writing Owl... intelligent thoughts on writing
Yes, I know, I was becoming a bit bored with Confucius so have adopted the sage owl as my muse for writers thoughts - but can't seem to upload the image at the mo. Bear with me.

"The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people. You're there, listening to every word, but part of you is observing. Everything is useful to a writer, you see -- every scrap, even the longest and most boring of luncheon parties."
Graham Greene (English novelist, 1904-1991)

2 October 2009


A Two Way Process
I've just finished critiquing a 100,000 word historical novel written by a Canadian writer called Nancy. In return, she has critiqued my first novel All Will Be Well which I am currently seeking an agent for. It has been quite an enlightening process for me. I read Nancy's work not just as a reader but as a fellow writer wanting to provide some constructive feedback. That kind of changes your relationship with the book but on the other hand provides a rich insight into the craft of writing. Now finishing the critique has almost took up three whole days of this week and I've probably spent at least three times that reading and writing comments. I'm a luddite, I have to print and then read and then comment and then type... so it's a bit like a snails pace for me. But the experience has been a positive one and quite an enlightening one, Nancy writes erotica as well as mainstream (the novel I critiqued was for submission to Harlequin/Mills and Boon). Boy can she write the bedroom stuff! Check out her website at E Jamie if you dare...

Three Cheers For.... The Highs and Lows of my Writing Week

  • Novel critiqued and feedback provided to Nancy! :)

  • My novel critiqued and positive feedback :) :) :)

  • Only one submission to Suite 101 this week, due to commitments I've already talked about. This article talks about the importance of Staff Induction :/

  • About 500 words written for the 5 minute Write Everyday prompt - will get back into sync next week

  • Three queries submitted but not just that, revised and amended and rewritten even more specifically for target market.

  • Planning for October completed - and as usual HUGE expectations!!

  • Three blog posts uploaded - this being the third. I try not to let this one slip

Ci Vediamo - see you next week!

1 October 2009


Read, read and read...

That's what they say. If you want to improve your craft, keep reading. Since living here, the changes in my lifestyle, however hard, have had one particular benefit. More time to read. And that has meant that I've read stuff I probably wouldn't have before. Despite my desire to enter the Mills and Boon competition though, I've never, ever picked up one of their books. Not because I don;t think they are good - I don;t know never having read them, but perhaps that is the reason why I'm struggling to write in their style. So for me, I think its good advice.

Book Review

The Street Lawyer By John Grisham

John Grisham is very talented, both in the writing and legal world. This story is set in present day and is written from the view point of the main protagonist Michael Brock. Writing in the first person is quite difficult to maintain (so I'm told) but Grisham manages to keep the pace going and at the same time allow us to occupy the life of Brock for a short while. Brock is a savvy lawyer, working to live at a very savvy lawyers firm. The firm owns his life but when we first meet him, that's OK because of the financial rewards that it will bring him. But it has costs, his marriage for one, to Claire who to fill the void which was once love, is chasing her own career as a brain surgeon.

Then Michael experiences a violation of his world and is shown what life is like for many of the homeless in Washington D.C. He is taken as a hostage, along with colleagues by 'Mister' a victim of the street but also, it appears, of Brock's firm, Sweeney & Drake. The hostage situation is quickly resolved, Mister is shot dead by a sniper, but Brock is traumatised by the event, one which he left covered in the lifeblood of his captor. Brock starts to think about things differently. From the street perspective rather than the cocoon of Sweeney and Drake. He starts to question each and every one of his personal principles and finds that actually, they weren't principles at all. One word described them - greed. His colleagues think he's having a 'breakdown' and at first are very sympathetic, but the firm soon changes its tune as Brock discovers the reason for Misters desperate actions. Through a brief encounter with a mother and her four children Brock uncovers the reason why they all perished in a car, on a cold winters night. He is driven, along with the help of Mordecei Green the director of a street legal clinic, to seek justice for the lives he's seen wiped out.

The story is one of change, for Brock. He has left his wife, his promising career and the guarantee of financial security but he has gained a life and a moral standing. Wonderful scenes and images are created by Grisham's ability to get inside the characters head and show us who he is warts and all. A good read all round.