Saturday 29 August 2009

Heros, RNLI & Awards

When writing a romance novel you need a hero who's strong and despite everything that happens during the story, ends up being a worthwhile and larger than life character.

Real life heros, in my opinion, are volunteers who risk their lives for complete strangers in difficulty, who are on call despite being at family celebrations, and who train to keep fit to enable them to be as physically capable of being the best they can be for when the time comes.

St Catherines Lifeboat celebrates 40 years of saving lives and are holding an Open Day tomorrow - 30 August from 12 - 5pm. The station is manned by 12 sea-going crew, 1 launcher/mechanic, 1 launcher and 1 shore helper. They live close to the station and are on standby 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

My uncle (although to be honest he's only a few years older than I am) is one of these men. He's been called away from many family celebrations, and received awards for rescues and his service to the station. Definately heros in my opinion.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Moonshine by Christina Jones

Look what I received in the post today. Don't you just love that cover?

There are certain occasions that I look forward to each year, Christmas (family getting together); my birthday (for presents, not because of my age increasing); Easter (chocolate); holidays (of course); but in the book calendar, one that I most look forward to is Christina Jones's next book being published, and I know that, without fail, I'll be absorbed into the pages of a fabulous novel.

So, once I've finished reading Sarah Duncan's, Another Woman's Husband (very good it is too), I'll settle down, without chocolate as I'm on another diet (Day 2 today), and read. I can't wait.

Monday 24 August 2009

Fun Monday

Faye at Summit Musings is holding a Fun Monday, about Back to School and asks "Do you also have that "Back to School" feeling even though you're all grown up? Do you still think of yourself as a student? A lifelong learner?"

She also asks, "How do you enjoy learning? Taking a class? Online study? "How to" books or DVDs? Tutorials on computer or TV? One on one with instructor or coach? Practice on your own?"

I'm constantly trying to learn as much as I can about the craft that interests me most, writing. It's all very well writing books, rewriting and editing them, but it's vital, for me at least, to have help or at least an indication of how best to do this.

So, my way of improving as much as I can has been to do several things.

1. Reading 'How To' Books
My favourites are: Stephen King's, On Writing - so cleverly written that it doesn't feel like a How To book at all; Wannabe A Writer, by Jane Wenham-Jones is an amusing, but informative book; Carol Blake's, From Pitch To Publication, telling you everything you need to know to get published. I also have a well-thumbed copy of Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, but there are many more excellent books, such as, Writing Romantic Fiction by Marina Oliver.

2. Attending Courses/Conferences
I was lucky to be able to attend the Writers' Holiday at Caerleon this year, as you can see from this post it was invaluable, and I'm still trying to soak in all the information and advice I received from my excellent tutors.

Romantic Novelists Association - For the past three years I've been attending the well organized and informative, yet fun, conferences. These last from Friday to Sunday and are in a different location each year. Next year it will be from 9th to 11th July at the University of Greenwich. The RNA also have a New Writers' Scheme, which allows unpublished members of the association to send in a manuscript, either full or partial, once a year (by 31st August) receiving a detailed report in return.

3. Online Forums/Blogs
I've picked up many writing tips from online friends, and endless support from writers forums I'm lucky enough to belong to, such as Novel Racers, and several private forums, where work is posted and critiques and advice recieved back. These help me focus as well as develop my writing.

4. Somewhere Peaceful To Write
I have the shed, which is where I prefer to write, but to be honest, I can write anywhere, as long as I have either a pen and notepad or my laptop. The main thing for me, is simply to get it down, then (try to) get it right.

Friday 21 August 2009

Friday Already

Thank you to Melissa who tipped me off about this book, War on the Margins by Libby Cone about the horror of the Nazi regime in Jersey and the bravery of the people here during the Occupation.

I've had a quick peek and it looks great, but am in the middle of Isabel Wolff's, A Vintage Affair (fabulous), so will have to wait before I can get into it.

Another thanks to DJ Kirkby for my fab Wordless Wednesday Award, love it. I love sunflowers too, but haven't any in the garden this year, which is a bit of a shame.

I can't believe I'm already nearly half way through my holidays and although I've managed some editing, I've not done nearly as much as I would have liked. Wanting to make the most of the holidays, especially whilst R's youngest son is staying, and then waiting for and receiving J's A Level results, means the editing has come in a sad second place.

So, I'm going to take them surfing, while I walk the Grumps and later intend spending a couple of hours in the shed before settling down to watch The Tudors and True Blood. Can't wait.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Congratulations to J

Congratulations to my son James for his A2 results.
A - History, B - ICT & C - RE. Huge sighs of relief (mainly from him) when he opened his confirmation letter for his place at his first choice university, and to his cousin Amanda who also did well.

So tonight, I'll be having a glass (or three) of this, with R, whilst J is out celebrating/commiserating with his friends, one of whom will be going to the same place as he is, which is fun.

I feel quite exhausted after all this and haven't got as far as doing any editing today, although I have been checking flights for him (and me) to go over in September to settle him. It's going to be a lot quieter around here without him.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

What Kind Of Book Are You - Quick Quiz

You Are Humor

You love to laugh at life, and if possible, get others to laugh along with you.

You believe there's always a humorous side to everything. And your sense of humor ranges from upbeat to very dark.

You are outrageous and very honest. You're often the only one willing to say what everyone else is thinking.

You are witty and verbally talented. You like to play with words and say things in interesting ways.

Monday 17 August 2009

Taking It Easy (When Not Editing)

My gorgeous daughter gave me these beautiful Sweetpeas yesterday knowing how much I love them. In the past I've always grown them, but for some reason they haven't wanted to appear in my garden for the past couple of years despite me sowing them as I always have done.

This morning I've been editing HH&S as now that I've spent some time away from my m/s, I can now see what the NWS Reader meant in her report, and thanks to my course with Marina Oliver at Caerleon, and my aunt (head mistress and avid reader) I think I've finally figured out where I was going wrong. Well, at least I think I have.

I finally stepped away from the keyboard and went with the rest of my crew to walk the dog along St Ouen's beach before stopping at Big Verns for a tasty lunch of tuna & pasta bake, yum. This also comes with a salad - ignored by me (tut tut) - and a baguette cut into smaller pieces with melted garlic butter spread on each piece - devoured by R and boys.

Have just discovered this fab new blog by the talented Kate Harrison, Read Like A Writer, which I've added to my blog list. Very helpful for a wannabe like me.

Now, it's back to the editing, as I have two weeks to do my best with this before prizing it away from my paws and sending it out into the big wide world. (No doubt to be sent hastily back to me with a big fat rejection letter strapped to it, but you have to give it your best shot).

Saturday 15 August 2009

A Good Day

Yesterday was our fifth wedding anniversary and as well as buying me a beautiful card and long-stemmed red roses, R also bought me this. As you can see it's sheds (well, beach huts, but I love them and originally wanted to paint my shed like one) on a piece of driftwood. I have pieces of driftwood of varying sizes in the shed, all collected from St Ouens beach over the years. Lovely, isn't it?

J took and passed his driving test, so that was another cause for celebration and then R, self, my two and his fab youngest son went to La Pulente Pub to sit overlooking the bay (St Ouen's of course) and enjoyed a tasty lunch. Then it was back home, where I continued reading, Rumour Has It, by Jill Mansell for several hours (loving it), whilst lying in the sun, and the two boys went off for a two hour drive.

Thankfully, today it's sunny and warm once more, so I intend to make the most of it and get back out there. Have a great weekend.

Thursday 13 August 2009

Left-Handers' Day & Being On Holiday

Being a Left-Hander, and having two left-handed children and two step-sons, and an aunt who are the same, I thought it only right that I wish any others of you out there in blogland, a very Happy Left-Handers' Day. To read more about being left-handed, quizes, and other interesting info go here

After an intense two weeks back at work I now have the next two weeks off (well, 18 days to be exact). I can't wait. I have a lengthy list of short stories I should be writing, competitions I want to enter, putting into practice all that I learnt at Caerleon, oh yes, and spending time with the three teenagers in the house. When they're here that is.

At one side of our house is a wall and behind it grows an Elderberry hedge which before being hacked down (on Saturday, sob) was over twenty feet tall. I loved it, but R didn't and even made coffees for the chap with the chainsaw. Anyway, as if that wasn't bad enough, I noticed that all the branches have been dragged into a heap and someone attempted to set it alight. It didn't do too well, but no doubt they will have another go and burning it tomorrow.

The thing I don't understand (okay, so you're wondering how I can actually pinpoint only one thing that confuses me) is that when there is an enormous field, why would someone choose to make a bonfire 12 feet away from a (my) shed, and my house. R came to the rescue - or could it be that he couldn't stand me whining any longer - and phoned the farmer asking him if they could move it away from the house. Thankfully, the kindly farmer agreed. I'm hoping that at some point I will be able to look at a bonfire from a comfortable distance, and not feel the heat of the darn thing as I type.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Home, Tired But Inspired

This is the view from the bedroom window of my flatlet in the flat where the lovely Annie and her photographer friend, Heather shared with my mother and me. It was such fun finally meeting up with Annie after all this time, and also Kev (aka Captain Black), although I didn't end up spending nearly as much time chatting to them as I would have liked.

The Writers' Holiday at Caerleon was everything I'd hoped and a whole lot more. Nothing was too much trouble for the tireless Anne and Gerry Hobbs who organize everything. This year was their twenty-fifth anniversary at Caerleon, and having now been, I can fully understand why so many of the people I met there return year after year. If you wish to book for next year have a look at the site here.

Everything from the courses, to the accommodation and the endless supply of food was excellent.

My two main courses were with Marina Oliver - Advanced Novel Writing - writer of over 50 novels, past chairman of the Romantic Novelists Association, StorytrackS and very lovely lady. I've faffed about with my manuscripts not quite knowing how to better them, but now, having learnt so much from Marina, I'm now armed (not dangerous, though my ex might beg to differ) with the knowledge to take them to a far higher standard, which can only be a good thing.

The other course I took was with another lovely lady, Della Galton - How to Write & Sell Short Stories. As with Marina's course, I've now come away with a far deeper understanding of (where the hell I was going so badly wrong) what I should be thinking and working on, if I want to write saleable short stories.

Both ladies were inspirational, as were the After Tea speakers, including Sue Moorcroft who held a fun workshop - I slunk down several inches when she asked for a brave volunteer, who was given a character and then we all fired questions at her asking about the character's life, etc. I thought this a little strange, until my mother and I did the same thing to each other in the pub (yes, there's an excellent pub there too) and found it far more useful than either of us had anticipated. In fact, it helped me to realize that I need to swap two female characters in the book I'm about to start writing.

Katie Carr My mother was amused when I wrote down the name and asked, "What are you doing?" I replied, "I don't want to forget her name and miss the talk." "But," said Ma, a confused expression on her face, "She has the same surname as you, and you have a sister called Katie. How hard can it be to remember?" She gave a talk about skeletons in your closet, and how your family history can help inspire you to think of different plots for your story, if you only ask, "What if?"

The evening lectures included talks by Teresa Chris, agent to so many excellent authors who basically told us that we wouldn't expect to exhibit at the Royal Academy without years of learning to paint, so why should we expect to be published and be successful without serving our apprenticeship with our writing. Also, never submit work to an agent if you haven't finished the novel first, and polished it to make it the best it can be.

Katie Fforde, who very kindly answered my garbled question, "What is your starting point for a book? Do you think if the character, or the plot first?" Basically, Katie starts with a spider graph, including all that she wants to include in a book and then works out how she can put it all together (I'm sure she answered that in a far more intelligent way, but my brain is still frazzled from all the concentration).

I was exhausted by Wednesday evening, not helped by the journey to and from Hay On Wye, when we met up with my friend Andrea, who laughed hysterically at the sight of me wearing my mother's ghastly hat. Hell, it was raining, and I didn't have an umbrella! Actually, I forgot I had the damned thing on. However, I was determined not to miss the truly unmissable Jane Wenham-Jones. She is one entertaining lady, and, having just finished reading her book, "One Glass Is Never Enough" a damned good writer to boot. I came straight home and re-read my copy of her how to book, "Wannabe a Writer?".

Zoe Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox series, who was fascinating to listen to, as well as amusing, and very friendly later as she signed her books.

On the final night we were treated to a "Welsh Night Concert" with the excellent Cwmbach Male Voice Choir, who have to be heard to be believed. Then Kate Walker (author of 57? books) made a presentation to Anne and Gerry, together with crime writer, Stephen Wade and a few others, who had arranged a collection and presented Anne and Gerry with a huge bouquet, a padded album in which we'd all been invited to write something (photos, cards, etc also inside), and Kate Walker's most recent book dedicated to them. It was a perfect ending to a fabulous week.

I can't wait to go again!