Friday, 28 September 2007

Romance publishing

I journeyed to Alnwick today to visit with the Border Reivers group of the RNA. Great fun. I whizzed through the glorious autumn countryside in the Mini Cooper and enjoyed every moment of the hour and a quarter it took me to get there, possibly because I travel on back roads, not A -roads. Not for me the long straight boring stretches of tarmacadam - I opt for the bends, swoops and curves of road through Stamfordham, beside Bolam Lake, a swift jink through Scots Gap and over the top to Rothbury - slow down for the High Street and then rev up the hill by the Cragside entrance, over the next top, cross the main road carefully and then on - wave at the ruined castle - I must stop and investigate one day -and then down into Alnwick. Wonderful. The trees are beginning to turn golden and the hedgerows are alive with red berries.

We talked about the Radio Four programme on Mills and Boon. If you want to read an entertaining rant about it, do go and enjoy Trish Wylie's rant: http://trishwylie.blogspot.com/
She has covered it all!

On the whole the programme coverage was not as bad as I expected it to be. I think the people like Brayfield, Mary Evans and one or two other detractors condemmed themselves out of their own mouths - they cannot have read a M&B since the 1960s. Shame on you ladies, for not keeping up with the current publishing world.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Do you ever...?


Have you ever spent an hour recording music from a CD to a tape and then found you've got nothing on the tape? That's just happened to me. I wanted to add Josh Groban tracks to a half-empty Josuha Kaddison tape and I've wasted my time. Fortunately I wasn't sitting watching the wheels go round but getting on with my wip. I'm up to 45k now and going well.


The picture shows the sixteenth century staircase to the main entrance of Aydon Hall. My heroine is currently tripping up and down these stairs as she goes about her business. I had a good old mooch around there the other week and took loads of pictures to remind myself of the detail but really, if the place is clear in my mind, I find I don't need the detail. My reader needs a flavour, not detail. And anyway, how many readers will know enough about Aydon Hall to tell me I've got it wrong? It's not exactly on the high spot of anyone's tourist plans, so tucked away north of Corbridge. I'll just go on enjoying myself writing about it.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Success at last!

Finally I've found how to make the cover for my first book show up on the blog at the normal size. Phew! what a relief. It seems it's all to do with the white space on the cover - must be why publishers rarely choose to do white covers! A blue border, which doesn't actually appear on the cover, and the software seems to recognise where the edges are and prints accordingly.

We had the central heating on this morning for the first time, which means the temperature dropped overnight and the thermostat clicked in to warm the house around 7am. I have to say I approve. It must mean that autumn is here.

I received another communication from a law firm in America yesterday telling me that the Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix has "set a hearing on the Trustee's application to extend time to assume/reject author licence agreements ... and the various objections filed thereto." The hearing is on 16th October. This all about authors and software companies getting their rights/fees back from Triskelion. It seems that Shadows, nor any of the other titles snarled up in this mess are going to hit the shelves any time soon.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Critiquing


This is me feeling pleased with myself. Perhaps I shouldn't be, but critique partners can be so tough that when one says you're doing OK, I treasure the words like gold! Here are a couple of sentences I received today:

The strongest point I noted of this chapter was the dialogue – just wonderful, and so enjoyable. You have excellent chemistry between your two protagonists.
Fantastic work, loved it!


Now, I have to say that this particular critiquer writes a mean story herself, and sends my chapters back peppered with comments, not all as glowing as the ones I've quoted here. But it is encouraging to have something like this, from someone who knows what a struggle it can be some days to get just exactly the right words down on the page.


I'm almost up to the 40k mark with my latest story, and I'm approaching a love scene. I haven't yet decided whether to take them all the way or not. Save something for later, perhaps? ah, decisions! I could always take them to bed and then interrupt them, but that seems mean...

Sunday, 16 September 2007

New romantic hero



If you can imagine this man with dark hair curling over the collar of a velvet doublet or a leather jack, then you can imagine Harry, the hero of my wip. I'm up to 35k now and its going well. I'm tempted to try giving him a dye job courtesy of Photoshop, just to see what he looks like.

I checked my old blog on Yahoo 360 tonight out of curiosity and find it records 4,460 visits. I have no idea how it records these, and it does seem curious when I have not blogged there since April. My old website is similar - 879 visits. Perhaps I ought to take them down and ensure that people come to the newer sites, but I'm not sure. Perhaps people have these bookmarked and just make an extra click to get to the new sites. Then again, perhaps they don't. Perhaps they give up and go away without bothering.

Friday, 14 September 2007



Here's the Tyne Bridge with the thing I think fondly of as the big silver slug creeping up behind it.

It is actually the Sage music centre. Sometimes modern architecture leaves me cold and I agree with Prince Charles about carbuncles on the face of well loved friends. This is one of those occasions. Sorry Mr Designer. Apologies Mr Architect. Yes, I know it reflects all the changing light at every time of day, yes I know it is fascinatingly new and modern and at, no doubt, the forefront of technology in the building trade. (Not to mention it probably cost umpteen millions....) It is so new that most repairs to the structure have to be done by a new kind of tradesman - he has to have a certificate in abseiling. There was one clinging to ropes and floating about under the ceiling when dh and I walked in for coffee last week. Quite a conversation stopper. "Oh, he's slipped. No, he's alright. Just his rigging thingy jumped a bit..."

Anyway, enough of Newcastle. I am off and flying on the new wip now. Chapter Seven is looming, over 20k words done, and this week I rubbed shoulders with real authors again, as opposed to the merely hopeful, like me. I went to Fenwicks for the launch of Benita Brown's Daughter of Fortune. She sneaked in The Dressmaker as well since she'd just got the new hardback with its beautful cover. What a varied writing career she has had! I thoroughly enjoyed her talk.

Dh and I snuk off to Wallington Hall midday to get a breath of fresh air, and fresh it was indeed. We abandoned our intended walk to the wildlife hide in favour of the most sheltered walks we could find to keep us out of the cold, cold wind which we hadn't expected and for which we had definitely not dressed. We had carefully spaced intervals of hot coffeee in the tearooms, a brisk walk to the walled garden and a brief but warm interlude in the glasshouse, a five minute sit in the basketweave chair out of the wind, then a brisk walk back to the car. I rthink autumn is upon us, folks.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

There's a review out for Dark Pool ~ check it out at http://historicalnovelreviews.blogspot.com
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Dark Pool by Jen Black

The reviewer concludes~

"What impressed me most about Dark Pool is the incredible historical details she skillfully weaves into her work. It completely enthralls the reader and transports them to a far off time and place. A talented storyteller, Jen Black truly brings the turbulence of the Middle Ages to the forefront. Her tales are never disappointing, always filled with unique plot twists and unusual circumstance. Her novels keep me reading with avid interest until the very last page."
Mirella Patzer

I'm very happy that so far reviewers have always commented on the research in a favourable way. I know I'd hate myself if they picked holes in what I'd written because I'd never bothered to check the facts. Anyway, I couldn't write if I wasn't sure about what I was saying, and it is always, always interesting to find out how people lived so long ago.

I didn't know, for example that the ladies of Sitric's court - and probably the other ladies in other courts in Ireland at the time ~used berry juice concoctions to stain their nails and lips. I suspect that their make up was less chemically laden than ours, and probably much, much healthier. I know that Elizabethans used white face paint that was full of lead, and that belladonna was used to enhance the beauty of a woman's eyes by widening the pupil, but thankfully I did not find anything worrying in the Irish cosmetics.

Saturday, 8 September 2007



This is the view from the top of Newcastle Keep, looking south down to the river Tyne. In the foreground you can see some of the medieval walls that surrounded Newcastle, and Armstrong's famous Swing Bridge is in the middle of the picture. In its day, (1876) it was the largest hydraulically operated bridge in the world. The whole deck rotated 180 degrees to free up both channels and allow shipping up and down to the Elswick works. Armstrong went on to supply the machinery to raise London's Tower Bridge. (1894)

To the left is the Tyne Bridge. The earliest bridge across the Tyne, Pons Aelius, was built by the Romans in about the same spot. A stone bridge replaced it in 1270 and was destroyed by the great flood of 1771 . In 1781 , a new stone bridge across the Tyne was completed. Increased shipping activity led to the stone bridge being removed in 1866 to make way for construction of the present Swing Bridge.


Discussion about the bridge began in 1864 but it wasn't until the early 1920s that proposals began in earnest. Work started in August 1925 with Dorman Long acting as the building contractors. Despite the dangers of the building work, only one worker died in the building of this structure, which cost £1.2m when complete.


The Tyne Bridge was completed on 25 February 1928 and opened on 10 October by King George V and Queen Mary, who drove across in their Ascot landau. The Tyne Bridge's towers were built of Cornish granite and were designed as warehouses with five storeys but were never used. Lifts for passengers and goods were built in the towers to provide access to the Quayside, but these are no longer in use. The bridge was originally painted green and the same colours were used to paint the bridge for the year 2000. The bridge spans 531 feet and the road deck is 84 feet above the river level.

There are so many bridges in Newcastle now that it is hard to keep track of them all. The most recent, and possibly the most famous, is the Millenium blinking-eye bridge. I'll have to see if I took a photograph of that, but I think one of the Keep's towers got in the way!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Chapter Four


This, folks, is Newcastle Keep. Believe it or not, the arch before it is the Victorian railway and today's trains screech by within touching distance of the stones of the castle. I kid you not. It must be the only building I know where a train rumbles by and you can barely hear it.
I've been very good and written 2000 words today. Already I'm up to Chapter Five of the work in progress, and the strange thing is that although I find it hard to plot in advance with this one, when I apply myself to the keyboard, characters just up and take over. Words start spewing out over pages. I struggled to curb this this for a while, but now I've decided to just go with the flow. I can always trim what isn't relevant at a later date.

So now I read in bed instead of plotting my next chapter! A fine excuse, perhaps, but true.


I've just finished Nicola Cornick's Deceived, which was excellent. Such a subtle plot device to use the notices in the newspaper. Now I've started June Francis's Tamed by the Barbarian. The titles HMB select always crack me up, but I gather they are intended to be "generic" so the reader will know what to expect. Possibly because the average HM&B reader doesn't have time to stand and read a blurb but needs to be able to grab a book as she goes by with the supermarket trolley and still be assured of a good read.

If it works, don't knock it, I always say.