Sunday, 31 January 2010

Sam and reviews

Sam has returned home to the valley in the picture opposite and only just in time before we were totally exhausted, and got accustomed to having a dog in the house again. He was a delightful guest, and delighted to see his owners return. Anyone who thinks dogs don't miss their people should think again!
Seems there's a problem with the link to my first review so I'll try again: click here and I hope it comes up for you. It is in the Hexham Courant 22nd January in the Review section.
The last few days have been glorious dog walking weather, with blue skies and a hard frost firming the ground underfoot. Cold enough to make the eyes water on first stepping out, but warm enough as long as I kept walking and didn't pause for too long in one spot. I know you don't need to know this, but I am now an expert with poopy bags - one quick grab, a flick of the wrist and the neck tied off quickly before the odour escapes....told you, you didn't want to know. But I wish more dog owners would do the same.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Sam rules!

My routine has been upskittled this week by
the character you see in the pic - Sam. We're boarding him for a week or so while his owners
are away on holiday. He's very obedient, full of energy and wakes us up very early in the morning. Very politely, but rather early. As early as 5.44 one day when he was feeling unsettled. It's been 7.30-ish for the last few days. Even that is early for us!

What with two exercise classes Tuesday and Thursday, a Pilates class on Wednesday, and all the other things like grocery shopping and dog walking, it leaves very little time for writing. I'm out tonight, too, with the girlfriends.

And of course there's always the tennis - the Australian Open. I was horrified when Rafa had to withdraw early in the third set, and I hope it doesn't mean his career is over. It was interesting to note the manner of his going - walking straight up to Murray, embracing him, and apologising for withdrawing. No inhibitions about touching, standing close or letting his feelings show. Murray looked surprised, naturally, but seemed (to me, though some of you may disagree) slightly embarrassed by the closeness between them. An interesting sidelight on Spanish-Scottish behaviour. Or Spanish-UK habits if you prefer.

When I do get to my laptop, the writing comes easily enough. I have about eighty thousand words complete now and have a rough idea of where the last few chapters are going. I do waver about the actual ending. Will it be happy or sad? Not sure yet. Will there be a sequel? Possibly. I know I need to go through and check a few details and certainly write in more layers of feeling. That should come more easily as I know my characters so much better after all those words about them.
One of the nurses at the rehab class (there are two in attendance, just in case anything should go wrong) had seen the piece on me in the Courant, and spoke to me about it. I gave her one of the postcards I had Vistaprinted, showing the two covers from Quaestor. I find it difficult to know what to say in these situations.
I've just realised that watching the tennis and doing this at the same time has resulted in time moving on faster than I anticipated. I should have abandoned this and driven to my exercise class at ten o'clock in Hexham. I can't fly, and it will take me twenty minutes to get there, so I think this will be my first absenteeism. I can watch the tennis and then take Sam out for his second contitutional of the day. Probably I'll get more exercise that way!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Hexham Courant review

Click here to read the first review of Till the Day Go Down.
I handed a copy in to the Hexham Courant a week or two before Christmas and today was delighted to hear from friends that the review had been printed in yesterday's newspaper. I'm not sure that the reference to Catherine Cookson does any favours to either her or me, but since we are both local writers who write about our own locality, there is, I suppose, a certain resonance.
The reviewer mentions instant sexual chemistry between the hero/heroine, nicely drawn characters and praises it as told with relish and a fine read. He gives away one of the surprises of the story, but perhaps that will persuade readers to read the entire tale. I hope so!
It reminds me that I really ought to set about obtaining more reviews. It is a pity that Dear Author and the like don't do much for UK writers, tending only to go for known names. However, I could do more than I am currently doing - which is nix, nada, nothing!

Thursday, 21 January 2010


Avery nice thing happened today. someone I don't know sent me an e-mail. Nothing strange in that, you may say; but this lady complimented my writing. To be more precise, she said:
"Just finished reading Far After Gold which I loved and couldn't put it down. I did a module on the Vikings at Aberystwyth University and loved visiting the world of Flane and Emer. It was interesting to focus on what it would have been like to be abducted as a slave and own only the clothes you happened to be wearing. I thought your comparison between Emer and Katla who in the end were both exchanged for silver very interesting.

I look foward to reading more of your books in the future."
Needless to say, this gave me huge encouragement! I won't put the lady's name here in case that would embarrass her, but I certainly send her my thanks!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Sex sells!

The vanishing snow revealed a dead pigeon, chest-down, wings half folded, in one of our ground cover plants. It has been given a hasty burial. No signs of attack, though we occasionally see a sparrowhawk in the garden.

Watched Rafa's first match in the Australian Open this morning - thank the Lord for red button viewing - and he seems to be almost back to form. I think he has changed his way of moving around the court, and certainly his serve has improved. It may be my imagination, but I see a lot more of the graceful side-steps we associate with Federer in Rafa's approach now.

Splendid party at the weekend to celebrate a neighbour's birthday. Another neighbour reports my book Far After Gold shocked her 82-year-old mother, so now all the other female neighbours are threatening to read it too. As one of the men pointed out, their desire to do so has nothing to do with literary merit, or a beautiful setting, but purely because its "sexy." Howls of derision greeted that remark. I confessed I was glad my mother wasn't alive to read it, for she would undoubtedly have had something to say on the subject.

Dh and I celebrated my being signed off from the Freeman, too. I can do whatever I want now, according to the wonderful Mr Hamilton. Though I have to say it is a strange feeling to sit opposite a man knowing he has had his hands inside my chest and stitched odd bits of me together again. He feels something of a stranger, yet also a good friend.

Now for some work on the wip. Decisions must be made. Am I going to complete the chapter with 1000 words of Meg's encounter with the Dowager, or make everyone wait and follow for that outcome and concentrate instead on Harry's story? I'll ponder that as I pop downstairs and make a lunchtime sandwich.
Both pics are of Prudhoe Castle in winter, just as the snow was arriving.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Buildings of interest

Corbridge has this curious building
next door to the ancient church, known variously as the Vicar's Peel
Tower or the Pele Tower.
It was a three-storey pele structure, with one room to each storey, built in the churchyard in 1318, and used as the vicarage for the adjacent church. It is built largely from sandstone taken from the Roman fortress at Corstopitum nearby. It was in use as a vicarage until the early 17th century.

Being used to Border raids from the Scots, it has its own built in defences, as you can see from the detailed shot of the roof corners. No doubt the vicar and his family ran to the roof and hurled stones and worse down on any marauders who dared to come close. Pass the hot oil, Charlie.
You can find out lots more history of the area by clicking on the following
link Happy browsing!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Coming and going

The snow is shifting at last. As always here, once the thaw starts, it goes really fast. The snow does not hang around. Which is good. Right now, the road verges are a dirty slushy brown and most unattractive.

Finally tackled the first page and re-worked it. I think it is good; but I'll leave it a few days and then re-read it. Maybe I'll think differently by then.

I'm looking for places to stay around Stirling. Must go and look at the castle soon. Really soon, before I start the second draft. Hopefully I'll take in Tantallon on the way back. Don't believe in writing about places I've never visited.
I'm over the post Christmas blues. I didn't write for so long I thought I'd forgotten how, but now I'm back in the routine - and enjoying it. Interruptions are not good for a writer, I've discovered. Writing is like a sport - the muscle loses the skill the longer you stay away. And we all know how bad an injury is for an athlete - Rafa, for instance. People were shocked when he didn't run out on the tennis court on day one after the 3 month injury period and starting winning everything in sight again. I think he's just coming back up to something approaching normal now, and I hope he does well in the coming Grand Slam in Australia. Three months off must play havoc with muscle memory and it all needs fine tuning again. Plus which he has to learn to play somewhat differently, in order to preserve his knees - so they say. Difficult task, when so much of the reaction play is instinctive. Instinct versus brain - and a fraction of a second to play the shot. He earns his place in my history book.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Snowy days and first pages

These poor sheep remind me that somewhere there's always someone worse off than me!
The snow goes on - another four
inches in the early hours, which makes our decision not to drive a hundred miles to a friend's party a sensible one.
I really have no excuse not to write during these snowy days, but I find I'm nervous about re-doing the first page of the current wip. Originally I began with a conversation. Some of the crit group thought there was too much info in it and suggested I began with a quieter sequence which introduced my protagonist. I liked both beginnings, but could see that one was too busy, and the other too quiet. Now I think that if I could somehow merge them both, I'd be on to a winner.
But can I do it? Successfully, that is.
Thank the lord for computers. I can play with the words to my heart's content, and still revert to the the originals if I so choose. Imagine doing this in the days of handwritten or typewritten versions. Shudders run down my spine at the thought. Worse still, imagine doing it with a quill pen and home made ink.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Team effort

Yesterday the whole cul de sac turned out to clear the street so cars could get in and out. One man and his boys cleared half of it the day before but their efforts were snowed on. True to form, last night it snowed again, another four inches. But all that work wasn't wasted. Looking out of the window I see that at least three of our neighbours have made it to work by car today.
I don't have to go anywhere. I can stay indoors and write if I choose , or I can go splodging in the snow. H'mmm, difficult choice!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

More Snow

I ran out of reading matter on Saturday night due to the heavy snow falls. (Yes, I know that to you people who regularly experience heavy snowfalls, the eight inches we’ve received must seem piddlingly small, but to us, who haven’t seen snow that lasted more than 24 hours for at least ten years, this is A Big Event) So anyway, to get back to the matter of reading - I went back to Writing the Breakout Novel by Maass.
Bought it last year, read it and wondered what all the fuss was about. Let me tell you, what he writes is making much more sense this time around!
For example, his advice on first pages has really started me thinking. In general, I’m a fan of the in media res school ~ start with everyone on the run, and the reader playing catch up. And so, it seems, is he. His comments made a lot of sense, especially those on Bridging Conflict, so in case you haven’t heard, (but really to reinforce the information in my mind,) here is my interpretation of what he says:
Bridging Conflict – a mini conflict or tension strong enough to carry the reader to the next step in the narrative. The effect lasts half a page, and after that, another spark of tension is required. These little jolts continue throughout the story. He quotes the first lines Carson McCullough used in A member of the Wedding:
“It happened that green and crazy summer when Frankie was 12 years old. That was the summer when for a long time she had not been a member.”
Don’t those two lines make you curious? They did me. Wouldn’t you read on? I did.
So now I am busy rethinking the opening page of my wip. And I’m excited about it.
In spite of the fact that it snowed again last night and my exercise class is cancelled because people can't get to it.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Blue snow

Snow can be beautiful, but it can be an awful nuisance, depending how you look at it. Driving down the M6 in Cumbria on Christmas Eve I snatched this shot from the car. I have to admit it is beautiful with all those shades of blue. I took a lot more pics as we turned off to Sedbergh and drove east to Cowgill, and they'll probably turn up on here in the next few days.
But now I sit at home and see the down side. We have six inches of snow already and it is still falling. It looks as if it is melting, but come tonight sub-zero temperatures may well be with us once more. We drove through -7C as we drove home on Christmas Day, and that was at three in the afternoon.
My writing benefits. I completed a whole chapter in two bursts yesterday, and I am onto the last third of the wip. Plots are coming together as I want them, thank goodness, though there is still time for a few strands to come alive and unravel. I've just been for a walk (three days without outdoor exercise was more than enough, thank you!) and have returned feeling fresh and ready to read over the words I wrote yesterday - and strong enough to correct them if they're rubbish. Here's hoping they're not!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Literary success

Overnight we had snow for New Year's
Eve. I'm feeding the hungry birds, who desperately need sustenance to see them through the long cold nights, and hope the snow doesn't last long. There's ice under the new layer, which makes walking pretty treacherous.
Thinking back to yesterday's post about rave reviews favouring male writers, I suppose it is silly to deny an interest difference between men and women's reading habits. Would we not look askance at men who read nothing but chick lit? Or women who read only war stories and long, gory battle scenes ? Answer truthfully now, leaving all prejudice aside!
Authors are told to know their target audience. Therefore, it seems natural that women tend to write for women, and men for men, but somewhere among the multitude of books published every year there are novels aimed at a sort of androgynous middle ground - and they often do very well.
I'd put Wolf Hall in that band, and many of the books about which reviewers write glowing reviews. The Book Thief, and Robert Goddard's novels. (Once I've got my hands on Wolf Hall, I may have to revise that opinion, but from what I've heard so far....) It occurs to me that Pride and Prejudice sits there, too, for it is almost as much Darcy and Bingley's story as that of the Bennet sisters. Would anyone agree on that?
So perhaps the trick is not to write purely from the perspective of either gender, but to be fair and even-handed with the characters and their different gender viewpoints. In doing so, the book might then appeal to both sexes.
Happily it occurs to me that I am attempting exactly this in my latest wip, so I'll let you know what happens!