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Friday, November 25, 2011

Find Out Friday Interview

Today there's an interview with me over on Laura E. James' website. I met  Laura at the Festival of Romance and we're now firm friends. To find out more about my dyslexia, growing up, my eye condition, physio and my decision to become a writer head on over there... it was fun answering the questions so hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A week in pictures: The RNA Winter Party & Wordfall Book Launch

Last week was the most busy and fun-filled one I've had for a while. Not only did it involve the RNA Winter Party it was followed by the Wordfall Book Launch.

Oh, dear! It seems I've failed in my ability to use technology. Having a snazzy iPhone I thought it would do the job but it was selecting flash and making it look like we were drinking at sunset. So I trusted Talli to take some fab shots and she did so check them out on Talli's blog and the RNA blog.

Here's Anita Chapman, Sue Fortin, Me, Liz Harris, Jan Brigden and Liz Crump. We're all members of the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers' Scheme apart from Liz Harris who has just graduated to full member status after signing a contract with Choc Lit. An excellent reason to celebrate!

This time I made a point of speaking to some of my favourite writers. Here I am with Carole Matthews and I managed to chat to Katie Fforde and Judy Astley. I gushed a bit with enthusiasm. I hope it wasn't too obvious but I wasn't exactly cool. It's only now I've returned and seen the photos I realise they must have recognised my maniac status just by the look in my eyes!
Sue's not asleep - honest!
It was only by the time I was slightly worse for wear and at the after party I managed to work out how to use my camera. Vanessa Savage, Sue Fortin, Debbie White, Laura E James and myself stayed at Ramada Hyde Park together. It was a lovely place to stay and the bar seemed to cope well with our laughter, antics and desire for cheese and onion crisps. It made for a fantastic rounding off to a wonderful evening.
The book launch for Wordfall was the day after I returned. Here are some of the winners with editor and organiser, Penny Legg, the publisher, Tessa Lorent, and the Mayor and Mayoress of Southampton.
I really need to work on my reactions. The Mayor asked who wrote, 'Permanent Ink?' It's my ten-minute drama that won first place and you may be able to tell from my expression - I was a little shocked the Mayor had read it and told me it was excellent and would love to see it produced.
After signing the Mayor's copy of Wordfall. The first picture all week where I have a sensible smile, non-maniac eyes and my jaw's back where it should be. Why can't I manage that in every photo?
With such a busy week it is only right that I spend this week recovering with tea and writing. I'm not used to so much excitement in such a short space of time. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Remission

So many wonderful things have happened in the past week I really should be blogging about them. But then one single word outdone them all... Remission. What a beautiful word it is. How wonderful it is to hear.

Remission from what you may wonder? The eye condition I mention in my bio on the right.

I've had Uveitis (inflammation of the eye) since the age of seventeen. As it's been with me my whole adult life it's something I've come to accept. The daily tablets I take stop me from losing my sight and I've become accustomed to what I call my jellyfish.
An example of Uveitis
My eye condition flared up again at 21 and with investigations it was diagnosed as being caused by Sarcoidosis. It was an illness that often burns out after a few years but those years came and went with my condition being no better.
My eye during a flare-up in 2008
So I live each day, taking the pills, feeding the jellyfish, keeping them from getting to the point of clouding my vision. But, recently they seem to have given up swimming. I still have floaters in my eyes but they haven't troubled me in the same way I'm used to.

Today my consultant, Mr Nigel Hall, told me my eyes are in remission. It has just become my favourite word.  One I never thought I would hear. One that means so much. One that I thought I should share.

I hope everyone with an illness gets to hear it, at least once.

Stay well my lovelies xxx

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordfall Anthology: Book Launch & Radio Interview

September 10th last year was my most tremendous day of 2010. I guess picking your favourite day in a year is a bit like selecting your favourite child. You probably shouldn't for fear of offending all the other days but I had three really good (I'd go as far as life-changing) reasons to mark it out against the others.

The first reason makes it a good day annually. It's my Nan and Grandad's wedding anniversary and last year they celebrated their 61st anniversary. They have been tremendously supportive throughout my life and I am for ever grateful to them.

Second my husband received a phonecall with the good news he'd been successful in a job interview.

With that news, I headed to the Writing Buddies Meeting for the anthology results. The competition covered seven categories and was held in July. I went to results meeting nervous and absolutely convinced I wouldn't win anything. You can read how the event went on the blog post I wrote last year: The Anthology Results and a Cheshire cat grin!

I was astonished to find all four pieces gained either a 1st or 2nd place in their categories. In that blog post one sentence rings true to that whole day:

It does start to help confirm the notion that I am making the right decision in pursuing my writing dreams.

Until that day all I knew was I loved to write. Being told I was good made me think... Oh, maybe I really can do this.  It gave me the confidence to find a year later, I've written my first novel.

This Saturday 19th November is the book launch for Wordfall, the 2010 Anthology, Southampton Writing Buddies. It's taking place at Waterstones, Above Bar, Southampton from 5:30 to 6:30pm. You are welcome to come along.




It's turning out to be a bigger occasion than I ever imagined with the Major and Majoress of Southampton attending. The 12 winners (myself included) have been interviewed for BBC Radio Solent and have been on air today.


I thought I'd share a little about the pieces I have in there and the judge's comments:


Permanent Ink: Winner, 10 minute drama


Two sisters argue over getting a name tattooed. Megan is all for it and about to get it done whilst Heidi is trying to talk her out of it.

Judge's comment: This is an interesting piece with a fun twist in the tail. An excellent piece.

Keisha: Winner, Flash Fiction


A harrowing piece when the worst happens at Keisha's workplace.

Judge's comment: A brief, sad tale that evokes sympathy for Keisha, not least because she's been through this trauma before.

Guinea Foul: Second place, Flash Fiction


When guinea pigs meet foul play, thinks get messy between neighbours.

Judge's comment: An amusing piece.

Can the hashtag bring the writing community closer together? Second place, Non-Fiction Filler


A year later and this article is still current. Keeping check on the latest hashtags helps bring writers, readers and publishers closer together.

Judge's comment: This reminded us that in this electronic age we should all be twittering. We may not like it but publishers are certainly expecting us to do more of it.

If you do read any, I hope you enjoy and would love to see you at the launch but if you can't make that I will add my d├ębut radio interview below when it becomes available. Cringe.
 
Radio Interview is here: Scroll to 1:40 into the programme and you'll hear me!

Liebster Blog Award

Yesterday, whilst in the middle of re-writing chapter one, I received lovely news from Lucie Wheeler, swiftly followed by Liz Crump. Both have awarded my blog with a Liebster Award!


Here's what they said:

Lucie: I was awarded a blog award recently and I have been asked to forward it onto five blogs that I enjoy to read. I picked yours because I think you are so determined and hardworking and it is a real 'lift' to read your posts and follow your journey. 

Liz:  Aha! Great minds think alike Lucie! I also gave you the Liebster blog award for your interesting blog which is always on my list of blogs to catch up with :)

Accordingly, we've had a group hug on twitter. Both Lucie and Liz are on the RNA's New Writers' Scheme with me. We met on twitter whilst we were waiting to find out if we'd got in and I know I have some life-long pals. We met for the first time at the RNA Summer Party and I'm sure we'll be meeting regularly in the future and I look forward to celebrating when we all make it to full membership! Thank you to both you wonderful, supportive girls!

BTW - Liebster is a German word for 'my love' or 'dearest' so a blog award for blogs that you love! And in the tradition of the award I must do the following:

- Thank the person who gave them the award and link back to that person's blog
- Copy and paste the award to their blog
- Reveal the 5 blogs they have chosen to award, commenting on their blog to break the news!
- Hope those people in turn pay it forward by accepting and awarding "The Liebster Blog Award" to bloggers they would like to honour


Laura E James - Laura is also a member of the NWS. We met over the waves of twitter and her sense of humour always makes me laugh. She's started a regular Find Out Friday slot on her blog.
Sue Fortin (Love Reading Love Books) - Sue's blog features book reviews and author interviews. Another tweeter and NWS member.
Rachel Lyndhurst - Her latest blog makes this a good reason to follow. Plus all the photos she features!
Jane Holland (Raw Light) - Jane Holland/Victoria Lamb - She's a lady of many guises, each of them with more talent than should be humanly possible.

Four great blogs to follow but I've just realised I'm hitting on a theme. Tomorrow I'll be in a bar with all four of these wonders. So to prove my choices aren't being swayed by the fact I'm being let out for the day, my last award goes to:

Imram Writes (Flickimp) - His blogging efforts about his writing journey always remind me of my own enthusiasm. 

These are some of my favourite go-to blogs and if you're not following them, I strongly recommend that you do!
Off to go and start beautifying for the RNA Winter Party now. Yes, before you ask, it will take more than twenty-four hours for such a feat.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Time for a new counter - the re-writes begin!

Time to reset the counter for Miles Between Us back to 0 and you should find it to the right of this post. (At least you will if this post in still at the top of the blog.) It will creap gradually back up to 90,000 so you can see how I'm progressing with re-writes.

I'm not sure at this point how long it will take. Longer than I'd like, mainly because I feel a bit like I'm dealing with a tangled mess. I've changed the storyline more than once and to get it right, I feel another change coming on to improve the characterisation. At present, if I get complete before my birthday in March I'll be happy. I'd like it done much sooner but it took longer than expected last time so I'm trying to be realistic with myself. I know it will depend on how many changes I make but at the moment I'm going in for a penny in for a pound.

I've caught myself referring to this as my practice novel and whilst, yes, it has been, it is also more than I ever believed I could achieve. So why not dream bigger and work harder? Considering that's what I'm best at I've decided I need to no longer see this as practice. Believe it's the real thing and you never know, it might just happen. I seriously want to add an, 'on the other hand, if it doesn't,' comment here. But that's against the ethos of what I just said. So let's get on with those words and hope one day they get to do the speaking for me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Learning from my mistakes: Quick, quick, slow...

Nearly a decade ago I made my first serious attempt at novel writing. I remember the first chapter set the scene and in the second I managed to reveal the rest of the plot. Oops. 

It's been a trait I recognise in myself. Always too eager to get to the punchline. 

In that example, I realised what I'd done and did my best to remedy the problem.

These days I like to think I'm more aware of pace and it was one of the areas my reader complimented along with timescale. They commented the ending was a bit rushed but I was aware of this in my attempts to get it in on time. 

So, why am I including this as one of my mistakes? Well, after reading some of the recommended authors I realise I'm still going too quickly. In the second edit I removed quite a lot in terms of word count thinking I needed to up the pace. But in reading other pieces, it is obvious that if you have the levels of tension right, it will keep the reader interested. 

In this re-write I'll be reinstating some of those sections but ensuring the tension and pace are present. One day I'll get it just right!

Friday, November 4, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Highland Storms by Christina Courtenay

Highland Storms is another triumph from author, Christina Courtenay. A follow on from Trade Winds but a complete stand alone novel. It follows the journey of Brice Kinross who's been betrayed by his brother and his own bride and is only too pleased to leave Sweden to take over the family estate in Scotland...

Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate.
But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome. The estate is in ruin and money is disappearing.  He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her?
Marsaili is determined to build a good life. She works hard at being housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her.  But she’s irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he’s made it plain he doesn’t want to be shackled to anyone.
And the young laird has more than romance on his mind. His investigations are stirring up an enemy.  Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – including Marsaili – even if that means destroying Brice’s life forever …

I love Christina's style and this book won't disappointment. The tale heightens to ever increasing danger for those involved and you'll find you won't be able to put the book down.

As part of Christina's blog tour I promised I would add my version of Brice. I have to say as heroes go, he really didn't disappoint. I think how I imagined him may have something to do with recently watching Crazy, Stupid, Love and discovering Ryan Gosling's six-pack so here's how I imagined Brice:

Okay, so it's a really bad, DIY job. But if I was going to cast Brice it would be Ryan Gosling with long hair!

And following on from Christina's blog tour one lucky winner gets to enjoy a copy of Highland Storms.

The winner is: @aesop57 who chose Hugh Grant as their hero!

Congratulations to them and for a winter pick-me-up, Highland Storms is just the ticket!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Learning from my mistakes: The Earthquake Plot

It's been eight weeks since I received my NWS report on my manuscript. Rather than ploughing straight back in to re-writes I decided to take some time to digest the feedback I've received.

I wanted to spend about six weeks away from this WIP to give me some distance and hopefully more objectivity. My report came back very quickly, which was great. It meant I took my break but with specific areas to work on. I've read up on this subjects, studied suggested authors and am returning to my WIP with a knowledge of where I went wrong and the hope I will be able to learn from these mistakes.

As part of this process (and in writing this blog) I'm beginning to realise I'm quite a visual person. I seem to understand things much better if I can visualise the problem. One of my mistakes was what I have dubbed creating 'The Earthquake Plot.'


In my report the reader said - 'the story relied on external events.'

It may sound silly, but I hadn't even realised. When I was blindly writing just to get to the point it was done, I knew I needed pace so events occurred to inject pace - right? Wrong. Yes, it injected pace but it didn't endear the reader to the story and it was covering up more systemic issues.

Those systemic (though not terminal) issues related to characterisation. When I started out I thought I would be able to make it up as I went along. I didn't push myself to create the characters at the beginning, thinking they would carve themselves out as the story unfolded. But they didn't. Not completely and despite finishing the story, the characters did not come out as the well-rounded people they should have become.

At first I wasn't sure why having external events was a problem in the sense that, as they happen in real life, why not in fiction? This is how I've come to understand why it doesn't work:

Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake.

You go to see the movie called Earthquake. You expect there will be said earthquake in movie. The whole movie is just a series of earthquakes. Hmm... no story in that. More of a documentary without the Attenborough voiceover.

Earthquake. Characters react to earthquake. Make decisions about their present situation based on experience from their past. 

A much better film. Okay, there is still an external event at the beginning but the story lies in how the characters react.

Using this rather silly example has made me realise the difference between internal and external story. For characterisation to be successful, the story needs to come from within character. Otherwise it's just a series of events.

I'm glad to say my WIP isn't all earthquakes but I now know what the reader meant by external events and how that affects story. Characterisation and re-plotting in progress and re-write to commence this week.