Sunday 31 October 2010

Limbering Up for NaNoWriMo

I'm raring to get going with my NaNo story. I know some people have concerns about the content with people's NaNo entries, but for me it's a way to keep to a deadline. The camaraderie and daily increase on the word counter keep me writing when I'd otherwise probably find a reason/excuse not to and it's easier to work on a dirty draft than no draft at all. I pretty much know my story and characters and can't wait to get going.

No doubt by Wednesday I'll be wondering why I'm putting myself through this self-imposed torture, but towards the end - going my my experience last year - I'll be obsessed with getting my story down and the feeling of achievement at the end is well worth the month of maniacal typing and angst.

My family simply think that I'm a little crazy, but that's nothing new, and I'll still be reading/reviewing for Novelicious and Bookersatz throughout the month, but as I only work part-time and have one teenager at home, I have more time than most to do any writing.

Good luck with everyone taking part. If you haven't already entered and think that it might be fun to give it a go, there's still time as it doesn't start until 1st November. Here's the link

Monday 25 October 2010

Note to self...

This morning got off to a dramatic start. A driver under the illusion that he's Jensen Button decided to overtake three cars at once, then as he flew by me in a blur, the van in front started to pull out, just noticing the speeding fiend in time to pull in and let him pass. Just as JB wannabe passed the third car I noticed another car coming the opposite way. How he didn't collide with anyone is beyond me.

Sitting at my desk at lunchtime, I decided to have a quiet look at a few blogs on my blogroll. I started with Christina Jones's Bucolic Frolics where she posts about the local Am Dram Society putting on Rebecca in the scout hut. You have to read this, because I can't explain it well enough to do it justice. I began to laugh and just when I was almost hysterical trying to hold back my amusement, if not my tears of laughter, my Manager thankfully made a joke giving me a reason to laugh out loud. I'm sure he and the rest of the team think I'm a little odd - probably always have done so - as his joke wasn't funny enough to induce such amusement.

So! Note to self: If you don't want to get caught out reading blog posts whilst at work, do not read Christina Jones's blog posts. Save them until you can laugh out loud.

I love living in Jersey and am lucky to be able to visit the mainland several times each year, however, I can't go to everything I'd like and here is a picture of some of the Choc Lit writers - Sue Moorcroft, Christina Courtenay, Christine Stovell and Margaret James at their recent Girls Night In held at Waterstones in Bury St Edmonds. Hopefully they'll be doing more and I'll be able to attend one of those.

Thursday 21 October 2010

A Clash of Innocents by Sue Guiney

A Clash of Innocents is Sue Guiney's second book and as part of the blogsplash to celebrate the publication of her book, Sue very kindly answered a few questions for me.

1. Cambodia is an unusual and interesting setting for a novel and a place that I’ve never visited even though it’s history does fascinate me. Can you tell us what inspired you to write, A Clash of Innocents?
My family visited there in 2006 to work for a couple of charities, building houses for the poor and working in an orphanage. It was an opportunity whose time was right and I had always wanted to visit SE Asia. At the time, though, I had no notion of writing a book about Cambodia. I was still completely absorbed by my work on “Tangled Roots.” But the place took hold of me, and before I knew it, there was a story I wanted to tell about it.

2.Can you tell us a little bit about the main characters in the book, especially Deborah Youngman?
Deborah is a feisty, self-sufficient, no-nonsense American woman of about 60 years old who settled in Cambodia 10 years earlier after working as a nurse for various health agencies throughout Asia. She runs “The Khmer Home for Blessed Children” which she took over from a group of missionaries. She is single, has never been married, and has officially adopted one of her first Cambodian charges, a girl called Sam who, at the time of the book, is just eighteen years old. The idea for Deborah is an amalgam of several women I encountered while in Cambodia, and I started to wonder why someone chooses that sort of life, a life that seems on the surface to be all about self- sacrifice. Especially if their motivation is not religious, and Deborah’s definitely is not, why and how does such a life choice arise?

One morning, an American woman in her late 20’s arrives at the Home’s door wanting to help. Against Deborah’s better judgment, she allows this woman to stay and become a part of the workings of the Home. But who is she and why is she there? And here’s a fun fact: careful readers of “Tangled Roots” will recognize that this woman is Amanda, the woman whose own wedding begins the novel, whose wedding is seen through the eyes of her favourite uncle, John, the physics professor. (I love doing that sort of thing!)
And I must mention Kyle Mackenzie, the irascible, adorable, larger-than-life Australian minesweeper.

3.Do you plan a book before writing it, and if so how much planning do you do before starting your first draft?
I tried something different with “A Clash of Innocents” in the hope that it would take me less than nine years to write (that’s how long “Tangled Roots” took). I used something called “The Snowflake Method” which leads you to completely outline each chapter in exact detail planning carefully where each conflict will arise and timing it all to a tee. Actually, it drove me crazy and I ended up just using the idea of it. So I did outline the entire structure, planning what would happen in each chapter, so I always knew where I was going. I just didn’t know how I would get there. That bit of inspiration I left up to the little writing magician in my head. I did, though, write out details of each character’s life in advance – who they were, where they came from, early lives etc. I do need to know who a character really is before I throw him/her life into turmoil.

4.Can you tell us something about your road to publication? How long it took and how you went about finding a publisher?
This itself is a long, roller-coaster of a story. It started back in 2005 when on a whim I sent the text of a poetry play, “Dreams of May,” to an indie press whose work I liked called bluechrome. He published the poetry and then after struggling in the States to find a big publisher for “Tangled Roots,” I gave up and gave it also to bluechrome to publish. I was luckier than some. My novel was published in both hard and soft covers and distributed fairly well. Alas, I never got any royalties from it because the publisher subsequently went bankrupt, but I did have the invaluable experience of being a published writer.

Fast forward to 2009. I’m chatting with another former bluechrome author, Adele Ward, at the poetry launch of a mutual friend. Adele knew my work and began to cautiously feel me out on the subject of publishing with a new indie house that she was about to form with Mike Fortune-Wood, formerly of Cinnamon. Several weeks of talks followed and I had to decide whether I wanted to throw myself into the maelstrom which is finding an agent (my previous one had retired at the same time bluechrome tanked – talk about bad timing!) and then trying for a big publisher. It was a difficult decision and forced me to think about my goals and the reality of the present market (especially for new literary fiction). But when I did, I realized that it was a great honour to be asked to be a company’s first publication and to launch my book along with Ward Wood. I also know about and trust the business acumen of the two principals. I felt that by joining Ward Wood I was doing something bold and daring, but also sensible. And I’m absolutely thrilled. I know it was the right decision and I know that my work has now found a home. I guess I’m just an indie girl at heart.

5.You lead a very busy life writing not only fiction, but plays and poetry too, so I imagine that you have to be pretty disciplined to be able to fit everything in. Do you have a specific daily writing routine?
I most certainly do, although it’s had to change over the years. The big step for me was announcing to myself and the world that writing was my job. Okay – not a full-time job, but a job nonetheless. That meant I had to find a time when I sat down to do it, whether I felt like it or not, and for me, that’s mornings. The 3 hours before lunch became the time I would go to a specific place and either write, or apply myself to the business of writing. While I still had kids at home, that meant taking a look at my diary each week and finding the 2 or (if I was lucky) 3 mornings for my writing job. And that’s what I did for years and I was able to accomplish an amazing amount just by setting aside time and sticking to it. Now that I am in my second year of being an “empty-nester,” I find I work all the time. And I mean ALL the time. Whether it’s actually writing, or submitting or blogging or writing articles or networking, I’m always at it. And I fold in my work with my theatre charity, CurvingRoad. You see, with no kids around and a husband who has always worked crazy long hours, I do finally have time. But to be honest, I’m doing too much right now and realize that I need to find some balance and down time. It’s especially difficult to turn on my “writing brain” when my “business brain” is in overdrive.

Thank you to Sue for such interesting answers and good luck with A Clash of Innocents, which you can buy from her publishers, ,, etc. You can also follow Sue on Twitter @sueguiney and her blog can be found here

Monday 18 October 2010

Racing Hither & Thither

This past week has been hectic to say the least. Last Sunday, Rob and I travelled (plane, train, coach) to see my son who has just started his second year at uni. We met for lunch and he was thrilled to tell us that he'd just been given a job (Sundays), then we went with him to see the house he's sharing with four friends. I shan't comment on their living room (the only spotless thing in there was the new tv they've clubbed together to buy), or the kitchen (um, enough said), but there was a new carpet on the stairs(!) and their rooms are lovely. Then it was time to take a coach and train to Southampton, where R & I stayed the night.

On Monday we donned our finery and were thoroughly spoilt when we attended the celebrations for Cunard's new liner the Queen Elizabeth. We enjoyed tours around the ship, drinks reception, lunch, Naming Ceremony with the Queen. Robert Powell (he of the beautiful voice, Holby & Jesus of Nazareth fame) announced the protocol for all attending; Sir Ben Kingsley gave a speech, then I nearly ran into him as the poor man was making his way to the Gents and I was thundering from the Ladies to find Rob. He's Rob said, "I'll bet you never thought you'd ever be in the same place as the Queen, Gandhi and Jesus all at the same time." Then it was coach, train, plane back to Jersey where we eventually arrived home (having collected the dog) at 9pm.

Tuesday - I was up at 4.50am for the red-eye to Gatwick, a 1.5hr taxi ride and an all day meeting. Then it was taxi, plane and home, again for around 9pm.

Wednesday - I was rather tired and couldn't wait to finish work and go home, but being a bit of a fool, I'd stupidly eaten a chewy sweet at the meeting the day before and managed to pull out a crown, so it was off to the dentist as soon as I'd left work.

However, today, Novelicious is back after the summer hiatus. You'll find interviews, my review of Victoria Connelly's fab book, A Weekend With Mr Darcy and so much more.

Helen at Bookersatz has posted my review of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. This is a timeless book and I can't think why it took me so long to read it, so if you haven't read this yet, please go and read the review.

Right, I'm off to light a fire and start reading Margaret James's, The Silver Locket. Can't wait.

Friday 15 October 2010

The Tapestry of Love by Rosie Thornton

Yesterday was publication day, so I'm afraid this post is a little late, but I'll tell you more about my busy week in my next post. To find out more about Rosie Thornton's, The Tapestry of Love you can read Helen Hunt's wonderful review for Bookersatz here.

Rosie's site tells us the following: "A rural idyll: that's what Catherine Parkstone is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the CĂ©vennes mountains. Divorced and with her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you're no longer just on holiday, and Catherine finds herself with unexpected battles to fight. French bureaucracy, the mountain weather, the reserve of her neighbours - and most unsettling of all, her own fascination with the intriguing Patrick Castagnol.

The Tapestry of Love is the story of how a woman falls in love with a place and its people: a portrait of landscape, a community and a fragile way of life." You can buy the book here.

But that's not all. Inside The Tapestry of Love you'll find some fabulous recipes and if you can't wait until you read the book to discover them, you can leave a comment either including your email address, or contact me through this blog and I'll email the electronic recipe leaflet to you.


Thursday 7 October 2010

And The Winner Is...

The winners for the copies of Trade Winds by Christina Courtenay are as follows:

Livbet wins the signed copy (from the competition at this blog) and Lane has won the unsigned copy from the competition over at Bookersatz.

Thank you to everyone who entered both here and at Bookersatz and if Livbet and Lane could forward their addresses to me at: debs(dot)carr(at)jerseymail(dot)co(dot)uk, I'll get your books in the post. Congratulations, I'm sure you'll enjoy reading this fabulous book, I know I did.