Friday, 31 October 2008

Taking a breather

I ought to confess that I haven't yet read A Country House at Work even though I've had it sitting in my This Week slot for several weeks. Suffice to say that it details the lives of servants in country houses, and right now I don't need to know about servants but I'll keep it against the day that I most surely will.
I have begun a new Stephanie Laurens book. This one is about Sir Giles, and was published 2007. I may keep a count of the er, h'mmm, sex scenes this time just to see what percentage of the book is taken up by them! It could become my new hobby.

Things are calming down in my life. I've sent copies of FAG off to hopefully be reviewed by local press. I've posted the cover on here, my website and notified my critique group and my local and national writers group. The next step will be to begin tapping into Yahoo groups and breaking the news there.

I have finished off and despatched a short work for the UNDONE series, sent off two historicals and now I can concentrate on Daisy. This time I am weaving a "crime" into the romance and finding that I keep losing track of who done what where. But now that I have only one work to worry about, I should get to grips with it soon even if it means sitting down with a print out and noting, synopsis style, what has happened so far. In fact, that would be a good idea for several reasons. I've got about 31,000 words down to date, with several completed chapters of what happens later in the story already complete. They just need working in. Reminds me of reading Diana Gabaldon's website and seeing that she writes each chapter and prints it out. Then she'll do another, and another, and at the end, she sits on the floor with all these chapters spread out around her and decides their order in the final book. Makes my eyes water just to think of it!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

My cover!

Here it is!
My cover!
My very first paperback cover!
And the publication date has moved up to January 2009!
I'm very pleased with it. I didn't want what I call a "half-naked-couple-in-a-clinch" cover even though a good friend of ours reminded me, once he heard I was writing, that "shagging sells!"
My publisher assures me that the runes top and bottom roughly spell out my name and the title and not something like "Halfdan was here...."
The other highlight of the day was the visit to Bowes Museum to hear Phillippa Gregory speak as part of the Durham Literary Festival. She is smaller than I imagined, and spoke very well for over an hour. Mary Queen of Scots she'd always avoided as a heroine because everybody's done her, and besides she'd always thought her an idiot. Mary had claims to three crowns and lost them all. She had three husbands and lost them too. Well, to lose one is unlucky, to lose two is careless and to lose all three must mean she was an idiot.
Phillippa went on to explain how she'd come to realise that most of the original documents were written by Polydor Virgil and deliberately biased. There are one or two letters, but they are suspect. No one wrote of Mary until the Victorians took her up, and they too were biased, though in a different way. They saw her through a blinkered male perspective and the resultant histories made her sound romantic but idiotic. (I rush to get this down before it all fades away. If you get the chance to hear Ms Gregory say it, do go and listen. She says it all so much better!)
So she read My Heart is Mine Own by John Gay and began to see Mary in a different way, began to do the research, visit the locations, and walked around the house talking to herself until she felt she had grasped Mary's "voice"- how she felt, how she was - and then began to write. The tale begins once Mary leaves Scotland and instead of finding herself at the head of an army ready to take back her Scottish throne, is quietly taken to Bolton Castle and locked in. Her jailor is Lord Shrewsbury, married only 14 months to Bess (of Hardwick fame) and inevitably, he falls in love with Mary. To make matters worse, Bess is a self-made woman of frugal habits. Can you imagine anything worse if you were Bess than having this Queen thrust upon you, demanding not only 32 courses at dinner every day but white wine too - not to drink, but to wash her face?
There was much more and all of it entertaining. Such as why Ms Gregory uses the first person - to really get inside each of the three protagonists - and why she does not write of Mary's death -
because the sixteen years of Mary's imprisonment were filled with plots to escape and that would have been too tedious to recount. So the book covers only a portion, and uses the Duke of Norfolk's execution as a forerunner of Mary's own death.

Saturday, 25 October 2008


I have my book in my hands! FAR AFTER GOLD! by Jen Black!
Half a dozen ARCs arrived in the post today. It felt strangely unreal to think that I'd written it, because it looks like a normal paperback book. Stylish, even. One for me and the others to go out for reviews. I love the cover and I wish I had the approved cover art to put here for you. Soon, soon... so come Monday you know what I shall be doing - I'll be making those all important calls to secure reviewers. Wish me luck!

The picture is of Durham Cathedral. For both of us it was a case of going back "home." So many of the old places are gone, replaced by cafes and restaurants and it is difficult to walk twenty yards without the smell of food and coffee drifting out on the air. No wonder the nation is rapidly gaining weight!
The cathedral is about the only place safe from change. Difficult to remember cowering by the walls as the old red buses lumbered up the middle of Silver Street. Now it is a pedestrian thoroughfare, and probably rightly so given the size of modern buses. They'd be scraping people off the walls these days. Traffic has increased so much that only those who pay or have special passes are allowed to drive up to the cathedral.
Sometimes I'm surprised the weight of motor vehicles doesn't tilt the world off its axis.
On the other hand, we've all adapted so well to having cars that our lifestyles are now built around them. We live in places inaccessible by bus or train or so far away that to get to work in the morning we'd need to leave home by six to get there by nine - and this in a country as small as the UK. The old corner shop has all but disappeared because we all drive out of town to shop at the superstores like Tesco and Waitrose. Our lives are so busy that we don't have time to spend travelling anywhere by bus when we can get there in a third of time by car. Governments are going to have a dickens of a job persuading people out of their cars. I'm off to Bowes Museum tomorrow. How will I go? By car, of course. I have no idea if I could get there by bus. To go to Durham, much nearer than BM, I would have to use a minimum of two buses (a maximum of three) and the journey would take me two hours and four minutes at best, two hours and twenty five minutes at worst. And that is with connections within minutes of each other. Imagine what would happen if one bus was late...
No contest, is it?

Friday, 24 October 2008

Autum colours are slow

Autumn is coming slow this year. Only the horsechestnuts have turned so far and the rest of the trees are thinking about it. For sheer eyecatching colour we'll never outdo places like Canada, but we do get a sublety here in a our native trees which I find pleasing. The ornamental rowan in our garden is bright scarlet, yet the same variety of tree fifty yards away on the other side of the cul-de-sac is still partly green.

Today I finished the final check on WsB and sent it off on its journey to some publishers' in-tray where it will wait to be judged. In fact I was so keen to send it off that my finger slipped and the publisher duly received a copy of their last post to me - and I didn't realise I'd sent it until the automatic acknowledgement popped in to my in-box. By then I'd sent off the real post, and duly received another acknowledgement. They'll be tired of me already.

Today I sent my publisher an author bio and a photo of me. I expect it will go in the media kit he's proposing to put together. Any day soon I should receive some copies to give out for review - if I can persuade any newspaper reviewers to take it on!

I bought a ticket to hear Phillippa Gregory speak on Sunday. She's taking part in the Durham Literature Festival (17th-26th October) and we'll drive down to Bowes Museum for 3pm since that's where she going to be. Look out for pics of the museum....and maybe the lady herself, if she doesn't object.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

If only...

Lots of water coming down the Tyne today after all the rain. The river looks high, but not noticeable so until it hits the weir - and then look!

No salmon leaping today.

"The spine of your story is defined as what happens to your hero as we chart his transformation from the start of your tale to its finish. The demarcations of growth that hero goes through IS the story."

Quote gleaned from Blake Snyder's blog today. I wish I'd read this before I started writing my Victorian piece, because I got in a tangle with it. The happy couple had adventures, sure - but I'm not sure they transformed. I don't think they grew in understanding by one teensy, tiny inch. In fact, they didn't seem much different at the end of the story to how they were when they began.

Soon I shall be concentrating on them totally, and they'd better look out. I've only 40 pages of a last edit to do on WsB and will complete that tomorrow morning. Then I have the last three chapters of HsD to edit - funny how I've fallen into this trap of doing things in tandem. That may take a day or two. Then I will be clear to concentrate on one story and that, I can tell you, will be a relief. Though I live in fear that all 3 heroes will merge into one, and thank the Lord that doublet and hose, like knee breeches and cravats, are a world away from frock coats and Norfolk jackets. The costume angle keeps me sane!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Skipping sex

I thought it was about time I commented on some of the books I've been reading and listing on here. (If you haven't noticed, look to the right....)

Last read has been a Stephanie Laurens. This is perhaps the fourth one - I've done Vane, Devil, and Lucifer. This time it was one of the girls as protagonist- Amanda, to be precise. I adore the way the author gets her character psychology so right, the Regency times so precise and love her excellent use of language. can tell there's a but coming, I suspect - I now skip pages describing most of the sex encounters. At first it was Vane and Priscilla and the encounters were well done and in character. (And new, of course. To me, anyway.) Slowly, as I've found and read the other titles, I find the level of sex is increasing until in the last two books I've been tempted to count the pages that detail the encounters - sometimes seven, eight and nine page encounters and more than three, four or five encounters per book - perhaps more. What percentage of the whole book, I wonder? Not that it isn't well done, but...there's only so much lapping, laving and silken skin a person can take before it begins to feel just a tad repetitious. I'd much rather have more story, which the author also writes very well indeed.

Perhaps I've read too many of the series in too short a space of time. Spread out over a few years, would I notice? I don't know.

Does this demand for sex come from the reader, the editor, the publishing houses? and how much is enough? and how much becomes too much?

I'm wondering how far and where this trend will go. If you have a view, let me know! And if Ms Laurens happens, by some strange internet quirk, to see this - don't worry - I'll still be reading your books!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Too many eggs

Another view taken on our walk at Wallington. My local newspaper tells me that 20,000 grey squirrels have been culled in Northumberland this year in order to save the native red. We didn't see any leaping about at Wallington but then there were so many people and dogs walking that any self-respecting squirrel would be miles away. The greys, brought here in Victorian times, weigh three times as much as the red and eat three times as much. They also carry a disease that is lethal to reds, but there is hope that some of the native species have deloped an immunity.

I hope to have the cover art for FAR AFTER GOLD in about ten days, and then I can display it here and other places. Such excitement! Also I've finished off my attempt at a novella for the UNDONE series. That 13,000 words went off today.
Now I must concentrate on Daisy's story, which seems to have lost the plot around chapter 8, and read through Warden's Bride. (second edition with older heroine.) Sometimes I wonder if I'm trying to juggle too many eggs at one time...
All this sitting at a computer leads to wide hips and general unfitness in my case, so I am making a special effort to walk up the hill to Prudhoe every day. If not every day, then several times a week. It is too easy to look out of the window, see the rain and decide to stay indoors. Lately when I walk up the hill, I've had to stop more than once to ease the ache in my chest. So yesterday and today off I went. Monday I did a mile on the stationary bike - that has to count for something!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Kitchen and writing

The autumn colours are creeping in - this is a shot across the lake at Wallington Hall. The last few days have been splendid - clear blue skies, crisp weather and sunshine. Who could ask for more? Even dh was persuaded to leave his kitchen renovation and go out for a walk and a breath of fresh air. Everyone else had the same idea - it's a long time since I've seen so many people at Wallington.

Since my last post we've taken delivery of a new double oven and fridge and installed them into the awaiting units. I say "we" because I was involved in the heaving into place, positioning and levelling up, but dh knew what he was doing - I simply did what I was told! Both items look wonderful, and both work. All this installation work has meant not much writing or revision being done. That isn't too bad at the moment, because I need to think of a way to finish off the short story - it doesn't even have a title yet. H'sD is just about done; I'm awaiting critiques for the last three chapters. Daisy's story is renovation work (think re-writing, incorporating new with old) and needs to have time spent on it. I've aged my heroine in W'sB and need to give the ms a final check over then that too is ready for the world.

On Sunday I receieved an early version of the cover for FAG and I'm pleased with it - not a hero/heroine, sexy clinch or a heaving bosom in sight. I don't know if I'm allowed to reveal it yet, but as soon as I can, I will.

Thursday, 9 October 2008


This is a duck house, photographed at Jarrow acouple of years ago. Typical of Viking and early medieval dwellings to keep the birds safe overnight. The sort of duck house my heroine Emer would have known in the story FAR FROM GOLD.
Well, the edits for FAG are done and returned. It wasn't bad at all - only two points where a sentence needed to be removed and I didn't disagree with my editors decision. Apart from that, it was mainly removing commas and semi colons. That shows how long ago I wrote the story, for I rapidly grew out of using semi colons and hardly ever use them now. The incorrect commas, I fear, are partly a legacy of my critique goup and the computer grammar rules. At one point it seemed that where I put them in, critiquers took them out. Where I omitted them, critiquers put them in, and I became so confused they were spattered anywhere! The computer butted in whenever I used "and"... and as we all know, computers are totally inflexible.
Now I'm looking forward to a pre-release version of the book for reviewers in November.

This morning I must return some books to the library, buy some cottage cheese which I forgot yesterday during the grocery shop, and then settle down to some work on Heiress's Dilemma. Critiques to check, amendments to make before it goes off as a complete ms. Meanwhile dh goes on working in the kitchen. Tomorrow the new oven and fridge arrive and then, dear friends, it will be complete except for a total clean down and re-arrangement of storage. I'll have so many cupboards I won't know what to do with them all! I expect I'll walk to the wrong cupboard for weeks until I get then hang of where I've stored everything.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Do I have time for Edits?

I received edits for FAR AFTER GOLD yesterday, and immediately set to work. By 8pm I reached Chapter Twelve and found that I was reading than checking, so I stopped. Today I was due to meet friends in Newcastle for a days shopping, which was great for friendship but bad for edits. (We devoured a white wine spritzer with Eggs Benedict in the new eatery where the old French Salon used to be in Fenwicks while Bill carried on with the kitchen re-vamp. Some days it feels as if I have all the fun!)
True to form when something important comes along - like receiving edits - I had also received a request for a full ms of Heiress's Dilemma from a publisher in America, I have a coffee date tomorrow morning, and I have just begun to play around with pictures for another YouTube video. I should also do some critiques for the group.
However, back to edits. No time to waste. When they are done, I'll get back to everything else.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

What is a trillion?

With all this talk of credit crunch and the BBC News endlessly going on about whether the American Senate might or might not vote $700 million/billion - I've heard both reported - to cover the deficit caused by mortgages that never had a hope of being repaid, I remembered Bill Bryson.

In 1999 he published Notes From A Big Country and he did a piece on the economy. This is what he says: "No matter where you turn with regard to America and its economy you are going to bump into figures that are so large as to be essentially incomprehensible." He goes on to quote the annual gross domestic product as $6.8 trillion, the federal budget at $1.6 trillion, the federal deficit around $200 billion.
Do you have much idea of what a trillion is? I don't. It looks like this:
$6,800,000,000,000. I'd like to work out what % $700 billion/million is of that total, but my calculator won't take that many numbers.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Autumn and kitchens

So far there are few changes to the trees, but autumn is approaching. The temperatures are starting to go down at night, and we have warnings of the first overnight frosts. No doubt in a week or two, these woods, where we walked last Friday - the day the car decided to play its nasty little trick - will be a mass of gold and brown.

I like autumn - especially its clear blue skies and brisk, bracing days. I'm less keen on the mists in spite of the mellow fruitfulness...we have picked a lot of blackberries this season, but the raspberries were not at all fruitfull. On the plus side, our apple tree produced its first crop of ten apples - hurrah! I noticed that we didn't have the usual hordes of bees this summer, and those we did see were a much smaller variety than the usual bumble bee. I've replanted lavender, which bumbles love, and some hollyhocks in the hope of tempting them back.

I often think this world is going to the dogs but now I'm convinced of it. Words I recognised drifted from the tv set and I stopped reading to find that Elizabeth Barrett Browning's wonderful words, from the poem that begins How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height... were accompanying an ADVERT. I was so shocked I didn't take note of the thing being promoted. Sacriledge, I thought. They'll have Shakespeare's sonnets advertising sausages next. Have admen no souls?

I've done work on critiques today. Critiques I've received, and critiques I've done for others. Often illuminating, often thought provoking work. But I must get back to my writing, which I've neglected it today. I think it was because I spent a good two hours this morning helping dh heave new kitchen units about between the garage and their final resting place in our wrecked (as of this moment) kitchen. We'll be in upheaval for a little while longer, too, but I must not allow that to stop me writing. And I must remember not to get too enthusiastic with the hoovering. We recently retired our ancient Hoover and got a new Dyson, and this is probably only the third time I've used it. Wafting the long nozzle about proved disastrous - it sucked down the pretty pink ribbon bow that decorates my bedside lamp, a green ribbon I never saw but it found somewhere and some old fashioned replaceable nibs for pens that I kept in a Victorian glass inkstand. They tinkled merrily as they vanished into the maw, and I haven't dared tell dh...but there seem to be no adverse reactions, and I got the ribbons back when we emptied the bag.

Lost dog!

Sunday 8 th May Slow start to a sunny day with a promise of high temperatures. Bill took Perla out at 7.30 as he has done all this month ...