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Showing posts from March, 2010

First Review for Till the Day Go Down

"This is a rip-roaring romantic adventure that grabs the reader from the first page and never lets go. Jen Black conjures beautifully the wild, dangerous world of the English Scottish border in the Tudor era and the reckless, warring men – and women – that inhabit it. Her descriptions are so vivid that they transport the reader right into the heart of the story. Harry is an engaging hero, dashing, courageous and with just enough hard-headed realism about the need to choose a rich bride to make him entirely believable and make the reader sympathetic to his conflicting desires. Alina is his match, a heroine whose behaviour is true to the conventions of her time but who nevertheless displays plenty of spirit. Their attraction is instant and their love story irresistible. They are supported by a rich and well drawn cast of characters who are a joy to meet. The plot gallops along at a cracking pace with plenty of intrigue thrown in to keep you turning the pages to the end. I loved it!

First words

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First words, first pages, openings, call them what you will, they're often difficult. I thought that once I'd fnished the first complete draft of my wip, I'd go back to the beginning and go through again and make a much more thorough job of it. The thing is, I keep tinkering with the first lines. Should it be dialogue? Action? Description? Or something completely different - if there is anything that would not fit into one of those three boxes. Well, all right; it could be internal dialogue ~Last night I dreamed I went back to Manderley. Personally I'd slip that into the dialogue box for my purposes here, but you may feel differently about it. Thinking over the possibilities, I grabbed the book I'd last read and admired and knew to be sucessful, and opened it at the first page. Then I got out 3 mini magic markers in diferent colours (I hasten to add that this book belongs to me) and marked out in orange all the bits that described the lead character. With yellow

Fantasy land

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Two silver horses drew me to the edge of the water while dh examined the Falkirk Wheel (more of which later). As I edged around looking for the best shot without said wheel dominating the horse sculptures, I noticed the panda in the background. Yes, a panda. A panda looking as if s/he is pleading with a higher authority about something. I include a blow up taken from the original to prove it. What the story was there I haven't a clue, but somebody, somewhere, ought to incorporate it into a novel. Along with the horses, of course. I had a really good moment today on visiting Blackwells bookshop in Newcastle. My book was there on the shelf for all the world to see. In the A-Z section, along with author C J Sansom , whose wonderful Tudor-set stories I've recently read. Really good historical novels, though I've seen them shelved in the crime section. The hero, lawyer Matthew Shardlake, solves a crime, sometimes two crimes in one story, but the world he inhabits and moves thr

Mars Wark

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The facade is almost all that's left of a residence built in 1570 by the Earl of Mar. The fact that it still stands at all is due to the good folk of Stirling claiming that it stopped the wind blowing down Broad Street. By today's standards the stonework looks dour and grim, but when new, with all the shields and armourial bearings carved into the lintels painted in bright colours, it would look quite different. Probably looks different when the sun hits the sandstone, too. I have finally reached the end of my first draft, so my first visit to Stirling in years has paid off. Now I'm ready to incorporate the detail, newly fixed in my mind, into the pages. The visit to the castle wasn't too expensive, perhaps because the Royal Palace is not part of the tour at the moment. The rooms are being refurbished to look as they did in the days of Mary of Guise and James V - almost exactly the time of my story. They should be ready by next April. Pity it wasn't this April, bu

The value of critiques

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Some wonderful comments attached to the last post, and all worth reading. I shall certainly read them over again from time to time to keep myself grounded. I sympathise with the writer who said she got too close to her own work - yes, recognise that trait! When a critiquer asks a simple question and I realise I've missed out a whole chunk of information because it had all happened in my head, but never got to the page.... oh, yes, been there! And the critiquers who are too nice - that's a difficult one. We all like praise, don't we? One of the good things about critiquing is that it allows us to see other writers work before it reaches the final, polished stage. There are two ways to go with this. Personally I don't see much point in showing a first draft - unless you write comprehensive first drafts! - my word count alone grows by at least a third in a second and third draft. I like to get the outline down and then go back and layer in description and emotion, but tha

Critique or not to critique?

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Thomas Cromwell by Robert Hutchinson is a good source of information on Tudor England. I'd already read his book The Last Days of Henry VIII and find his style readable, even entertaining and I recommend them both. He really brought home to me what it would mean to be living through the Dissolution of the Monasteries 1536-1539, and of course it's all good for my latest wip. I'm writing the last chapter, and because I'm keen to get started on the second draft, I'm doing some of that too while I wait for critique partners to do their worst - or best, depending on your point of view. Not that I always agree with them, but lots of the time they're right on the button. I learned very early that six critiques could seriously screw your self-confidence in writing. If they all say the same, that's wonderful; if they say the same and tell you it's marvellous, that's even better. But if six people tell you its wrong, for six different reasons, and then g

Tearing up the wip

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Yesterday I copied my first three chapters of my wip and then attacked them with a m achete. Keeping an original safe gives me the freedom to try whatever I like and still be safe in the knowledge I have a fall back position. So what did I do? I took out the first three pages and allowed dialogue to be the first line. Then I took out the second and third scenes that made up Chapter One and consigned them to the "maybe" folder. At this stage, the words in the maybe folder may be re-used, or they may remain forever dumped. Who knows? Next I copied the first scene of Chapter Two and added it to the end of first scene Chapter One. Now I have a first chapter that consists of two cracking scenes. (Crosses fingers here!) Then I repeated the process today with Chapter Two, with slight variations but following the general theme of cut and add-in. Now I'm sneaking a look at Chapter Four and considering moving it up to the end Chapter Three. This is not all. Now that I've a

Rejection rears its ugly head

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Saturday morning is usually the day when rejections fall on the mat beneath the letterbox. Agents and publishers alike must clear out submissions Friday morning, send the pile tottering off to the post office Friday afternoon so they have a clean desk for Monday morning. It makes sense. I could come to dread Saturday mornings. This one acknowledged my work as competent, which is good, if not something to set me dancing around the room. Better than telling me to give up and find another hobby, though! Evidently I did not set the agents's pulses singing, competent though I might be. Still, that comes down to personal taste, I think. Another agent may find that it does something for them, so I am not too disheartened. And I didn't wait ages to hear; I sent the sub off before I went on holiday, so it has only been 3 weeks. I still await a reply from a publisher who cited 6-8 weeks for a response and they're still within their time-frame. Last September an e-publisher got in to

Tunisian life

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Some parts of Sousse are not pretty. Others are cute. I took both of these pics outside the carpet-seller's factory. The children's nursery was directly opposite and the street was just that - the street outside with everyday life going on. If you click to enlarge the pic, you'll see the way some of the older ladies dress, in what looks like a striped woollen blanket. In the summer I could see that this way of dressing might be an advantage. The heat of the sun coupled with the sand blown on the wind must turn the skin to leather, and after our experience of a mild sandstorm, I couldn't help but think it was a sensible option. One afternoon we experienced a sudden crack of thunder and lightning lit up the sky. Just one of each. Then the rain came down. Big, fat drops that bounced off the tiles. People ran into the hotel drenched to the skin after only a minute. It lasted perhaps ten minutes in all, but the front of the hotel was awash and the maid was kept busy moppin

Sand storm

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The Royal Kenz hotel, our home for 14 days. Yes, I'd recommend it. The view from the other side is prettier, with the two pools and the gardens, but it is certainly a contrast to the view not half a mile away to the north, where we were told many of the local people live. So many unfinished houses do nothing for the ambience of the neighbourhood as you'll see in the second picture. The weather is still gently warm at this point and we continued to walk up and down the beach, lounge on it and generally catch up on our reading. I had Dissolution by C J Sanson on my e- reader and though I did not dare take it onto the beach in case sand found its way into the workings, it proved a good idea elsewhere. Light, easy to read even in the brightest sunshine, and very clear text. Wonderful story, too. Must find more of the author's work. By day four we had discovered that the weather changed around noon. The clear blue skies we woke up to each morning gradually clouded over and

Magic carpets

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The shot of the airplane wing should be fair warning - I've been on holiday and took lots of pics. We left the freezing conditions of England and flew to Tunisia to see if we could catch some sunshine. The first couple of days were so much warmer than we were used to, and we lapped it up. Locals, of course, scurried around in overcoats, hats and scarves. The beach was cool and misty but provided a lovely walk from the hotel to Port El Kantaoui - about five kilometres there and back again. Lots of chances to indulge a taste for retail therapy around the port - and when I say port, think of rubbing shoulders with the yachting crowd rather than ocean liners. Lots of leather goods, pottery and carpets spewing out of the shops and across the paving stones, plus lots of places to eat if you were in the mood. Silver sand, gentle waves and the kind of sunshine that keeps you warm but you can't see the sun. Click on the pics for a larger view. The second day was warmer, and we walked