Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Guest blogging

I'm blogging over at the address above this week, so pop over and have a look. It's all about the "behind the scenes" aspects of writing.

Thursday, 20 December 2007


Here's a wintery picture for you, taken a few days ago on one of our walks south of Stocksfield. The frost has relented a little since then, but it is still cold. Now it is damp, too. Personally I'd rather have the frost.
How many of you are on LinkedIn? Here It began in 2002-ish and it is aimed at professional people. My daughter-in-law put me on to it, but to be honest I found the initial page difficult to complete since I am no longer working for a living. It is also hard to find anyone else connected to the writing world. It seems that writers don't consider themselves to be a business, which is a shame.

Perhaps I should start spreading the word!

Less than a week to Christmas, and as usual everyone is scurrying around Getting Ready for Christmas. Lots of time for writing, I tell myself. And I have been good. I did my quota today and I will critique Rosemary's chapter just as soon as the effects of the cava we had with dinner wear off. Well, you have to get into the spirit one way or another....we've already demolished the (admittedly small) stock of wine we bought intending to drink it at Christmas...

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


I read, courtesy of Donna Alwards blog, that there is an article in the Spectator on writing, so I flicked through to read it. You can check it out Here

The article claims that authors of bestsellers write because they are driven to write by Passion. On the whole, I have no argument with that. Well, a little quibble, maybe. Because, of course, bestselling authors do not always write books of the same quality, but they may well have written them with the same passion. Dan Brown is a case in point. So is Harold Robbins, James Clavell.

I don't know if J K Rowling wrote with passion, but she certainly wrote with dedication. Some of the best bestsellers have been one-offs, like Gone with the Wind, Forever Amber or To Kill a Mocking Bird, (Stops to wonder if either of them were bestsellers of their time - probably not) which would argue that the passion was of short duration.

It also seems to me that without dedication and sheer dogged persistance, passion is as nought. Time is vital, too. Writing 90k takes time, and not everyone can stay home in the garret and knock out 5k a day without interruption. The need to earn a crust gets in the way, as does the need to sleep!

My thoughts boggle at something like Wuthering Heights. Written in longhand. What a stack of paper that must have been when it was finished. How did she keep track of details in all that mass of handwritten paper? Now we have the luxury of Find on our computers, but imagine checking back through 1000 handwritten pages to find if you've given Heathcliffe blue eyes or brown! Organisation and a good memory had to be a requirement for writing then. The thought of handwriting all those pages gives my hand Repetitive Strain Injury at the mere thought.

Any other ideas? I'd love to make a list of Necessary Qualities of a Bestselling Writer!

Monday, 17 December 2007


The first line of a well known poem springs to mind - "season of mist and mellow fruitfullness..." But really, this is not autumn, this is winter. The hard frost continues. The ground is like iron, the puddles remain frozen into inch thick slabs of ice and yet is is beautiful. We went for a walk and made sure we stayed in the sunshine as much as we could.

We are running a bird-feeding station in our back garden. One beautiful little finch arrived on a twig as we looked out of the kitchen window, and a minute later, fell to the ground. The crow who stands guard over the garden flew down, plucked it and ate it. It would be still warm. Life is hard for birds when the weather is like this. I don't know how they survive the long, cold nights.

My favourite Gethin is out of Strictly. I reckon Matt got in on a sympathy vote. Fancy voting for the boy and letting the man go. It's a bit like the Robin-Guy of Guisborne argument. It might have worked better if Gethin had not been doing two Latin dances this week. I don't know who chooses what they dance, but if he'd done a waltz this week, things might have been different. As it was Aleesha did the quickstep, all flash and glitter, and Matt did a waltz. Of course, he had Flavia to do the tango with him, and she is so much better at it than Gethin's partner Camilla.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Oddities of writing

I'm up to 20,000 words and already I'm altering the synopsis to keep up with the way the story is going. Is this bad? I don't know. I read on a lot of blogs that authors use ennegrams, horoscopes and strict character analysis prior to starting a work while others just sit down at their computer and think, "Let's see what happens today."

Some say you have to know your character in detail before you begin, because they drive the story. I agree with the second half of the sentence, but not necessarily with the first. I start with a rough outline in my mind of where the story will go and who the characters are, but beyond that, they (and I) discover each other as we go along.

Hence the changes in the synopsis. Sometimes the characters just don't react the way I thought they would, and rather than force them into a mould they obviously don't want to go, I feel happier bending the synopsis around them. The changes are not huge. The goal will still be met; but it might be met by a different route than I first envisaged.

After all, you don't get to know a friend all in one huge gulp, do you? So why expect to get to know a character before you test them in different and possibly vexing situations?

Just as a footnote - our first taste of winter has arrived and it is quite a shock to the system. We have temperatures below freezing again yesterday, and forecast for tomorrow. Yesterday we walked by the river at Hexham and at midday the sun was beginning to catch the frost-rimmed leaves.

This was the view north across the river into Northumberland. If you click to enlarge, look through the trees and you might see the Roman Wall.
I'm kidding - you won't, but believe me, it is up there, about three miles beyond the river.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Bits and Bobs

I know I said I thought Letitia Dean woud depart Strictly last week, but I was only a week out. She went on Saturday night because Matt, who mucked everything up, got the sympathy vote.
He forgot the routine halfway through in both dances. Gethin was terrific again.

My new wip has reached Chapter Five in 17,000 words. Not bad. I got to thinking how many stories I've actually written, and it sounds good until I confess not all are published. Banners and Dark Pool are, of course; Shadows was, suffered a hiccup and is on offer again. The Viking story is still on offer as a full ms with HM&B, the Victorian story as a partial with them. My Tudor story is going through the critique group, and the new one is set somewhere around 1800 so I'll call it a Regency. So I'm on with my seventh. Oh, and I forgot the Canadian one, which is on offer with PsF. So that makes eight. Amazing.

Now all I need to do is sell some of them, or even better, all of them.

Tonight is is going to be cold, down to -3C (is that 24 degrees F? I'm not sure.) so I took some bubble wrap and wrapped it around my hydrangea. The poor thing is confused by the mild weather, for it already has tiny green shoots. I fear it is very vulnerable. It has suffered in frost before, but I'll keep my fingers crossed tonight. One of my roses, the Alec's Red, is still producing buds, yet we had sleet yesterday afternoon. The A68 between the English/Scottish border was impassable. I saw pictures on tv where lots of cars were in the ditch but I don't know where they were taken. We don't handle snow very well here in the UK. It's not the soft fluffy white stuff we see when we go skiing - it's horrible wet, slushy, slippery stuff. Ugh.

Saturday, 8 December 2007


I've been out walking most afternoons this week and found it rewarding. Not only did I sleep better, but found these two cuties peering over (or through, if you're not as tall as your friend) the gate.

The weather was bright and blustery - so much so that on Thursday I was all but blown back up the hill home! The land rises about 90 metres from the river bank to the town in a distance of about in 1000 metres. Or put another way, 292 feet in two thirds of a mile. Either way, it is along haul going up, and a breeze going down.

Each day the river was different. We explored where the Whittle Dene joins the Tyne, and traced it north. One day we saw five living salmon and three dead. The other days the numbers had changed, and the last day we saw only dead fish. I think it is so sad that once they've struggled all the way back to their home river to spawn, most of them die.
Since the Tyne is the best salmon fishing river in England, I should take more notice of what goes on. Perhaps I will next season. Right now only three or four fish a month enter the river, if past statistics are anything to go by. But this is the time when the little smolts, no longer than a man's hand are fighting their way out to sea.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Romance fiction

If you click here, you'll see a diatribe about HM&B fiction in no less a newspaper than the Guardian.

It is written by a professional journalist who is content to base her views on research done 15 years ago. What kind of research does the Guardian put up with from its people? 15 years is a long, long time. If this is the best she can do, I think the Guardian should quietly pension her off. From the written list of her professional interests, she seems to have made a career out of writing about sex, but I don't feel this qualifies her to write about romantic fiction.

I wasn't reading the HM&B 15 years ago, and I'm still not reading the single line she chooses to discuss. (Presents) My tastes run to Historical, and the titles I choose to read to day have nothing in common with the titles she talks about. Someone should take her aside and tell her what research really, really means. She obviously doesn't know, poor thing.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Submissions and writing

I finished my latest story just before I went off to Cyprus and now it is going through a critique group. Comments on the first chapter were favourable, which is a good sign. I find this group most helpful and I learn a good deal by reading their work. Let's hope they stay with me to the end.

I've already begun a new tale. This time I've deliberately made my heroine older and already a widow. Not that it makes her old, or even what we would call mature these days. But by the standards of the early 1800s, she was no longer considered a girl at 26. It will be an interesting exercise, as most all of my other heroines have been exceedingly young.

I checked up on my submissions this morning. Samhain took 7 weeks to reject with this: "liked the premise of your plot and felt your writing was strong, unfortunately I did not feel sufficiently compelled by the storyline and the characters to offer a contract."

I'm still musing that one over. Perhaps I make my young heroines characterless?

Then there's the full submission to HM&B. The 18 weeks is up on 20th December. Perhaps I'd better give them an extra week or two before I query that one! The partial with them has only been there fifteen weeks, so....

I subbed to P'sF on 5th July. When I telephoned to ask if they'd ever received it, they said they had and though they had a huge backlog, I should hear something soon.

Yesterday I finished looking over Shadows, the book that got hung up in litigation over Triskelion's collapse, and subbed it to Dark Eden Press. (DEP) It's a fairly new online publisher, so perhaps won't have such a huge backlog of stuff to sift through. They deal with e-books only, which is what Shadows was written for, and promise a response within six weeks.

So, now it's a case of sitting back, getting on with the new book, and trying not to chew my nails as I wait...and wait...and wait. And I hate waiting for anything!

Sunday, 2 December 2007


I don't have any pics to offer of the Kykkos monastery, so click on this link and enjoy:

Though I have been told and read that that Makarios was born there, or studied there, I cannot confirm those facts, but he is certainly buried there! I can't think of the word for monks - do they study, serve their time, enter the monastery? There's proably a simple word to cover their training and I can't think of it today.

After reading Michelle's blog, I decided to watch Robin Hood on tv and I must agree that the actor who plays Guy of Guisborne is so much better than the actor who plays Robin. He does not have the stature of a hero at all, and his hair! Is it a wig? Is he bald already? That sounds cruel, but as a hairstyle - they should fire the hairdresser. I can't deny the actor is portraying a determined and well meaning young man, probably clever, certainly brave - but for sheer presence and acting ability the prizes go to the Guisborne character

Strictly was a delight yesterday, too. Gethin and Camilla - their dance kept replaying through my head as I tried to go to sleep - not thinking of the next chapter of the novel at all! - they were on fire! Even Craig, miracle of miracles, said it was fantastic. I suspect it will be Letitia who departs tonight.


Adapting to colder temperatures now. Frantically Housecleaning to remove a month's dust, the washing mountain has diminished and we'...