Thursday 28 April 2011

Lots Happening Over at Novelicious

There's so much happening throughout the day today over at Novelicious. We've got reviews, an interview with Kate Lord Brown and she's also kindly told us about her writing room. Later today I'll also be posting - at Novelicious - the winner of both Margaret James's wonderful books, The Silver Locket and The Golden Chain, so please pop over and leave a comment on one (or more) of the posts. Thank you.

I'm now off to continue reading, The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown. I put it down for a moment last night and then couldn't find it anywhere, it turns out that my daughter picked it up and was most put out that I wanted it back, as she was already on the second chapter.

Have a great day.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

A Week Off Work

We've had some incredible sunsets lately. This picture is of the sun going down last night, I think it looks rather like a huge blood orange.

I can't believe we've had such amazing weather over the Easter weekend, the days have been so hot that it's felt like the middle of July. Long may it last. I was out with the girls on Thursday evening and had a great time at Rach's house catching up over bubbles and a delicious chicken curry she'd cooked. On Friday I was a little quieter than usual, thanks to an over indulgence, but still made the most of the sunshine and read in the sun for most of the day.

On Saturday, I met up with my fabulous friend, Christina Jones for lunch with her lovely husband, daughter and son-in-law and it was great to catch up with her again. Sunday was another day of reading in the sunshine and on Monday I planted over 60 plants. The garden should look very colourful in the summer, but I'm a little achy from all the bending and digging.

I've got the next few days off work and today I've collated all the paperwork so that I can complete my Tax Return. It's one of those things that won't take long to do, but I absolutely hate doing it. I've also set up a new HP printer delivered from today and downloaded a book to my Kindle, which took far longer than it should have done, but I can never remember how to do it and Sas is at the beach with her friends!

Now, I'm off to write some reviews and then it's time to work on the last 30k words of my WiP.

So, what have you been doing?

Friday 22 April 2011

Talking to Margaret James

I'm thrilled to be taking part in Margaret's blog tour for her latest book, The Golden Chain, which is out on 1st May. (I've been lucky enough to receive a copy and have sore eyes from staying awake reading it for too long. I'll be reviewing it over at Novelicious next Thursday).

Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions Margaret.

1. Can you tell us what the best/worst bits of writing are for you?

Let’s start with the best bits! These are finishing a first draft, reading it through, and realising the story makes some sort of sense. Of course, it’s going to need a lot more work. It’s still very rough around the edges, the minor characters are still in greyscale rather than colour, and there could well be loads of continuity mistakes which I’ll have to put right. But at least there’s a satisfying story line, and the characters end up where they want and deserve to be, at least in my opinion.

As for the worst bits – the big challenge for me is always pushing and shoving my way through a first draft. It’s like slogging through an alligator-infested swamp with a heavy rucksack on my back and concrete boots on my feet, with the sun beating down on my head and the cicadas laughing at me.

Whenever I start something new, I always try to make a plan, and I usually know how a story ends. But the middle of a first draft is always a hideous mess for weeks or even months, and that’s when the three o’clock in the morning panics often start getting to me.

When I was writing the middle part of The Silver Locket, I was also thinking about how I could develop the story in The Golden Chain and beyond. So I had to make sure I planted the seeds of future stories, which I did by spinning a thread in The Silver Locket that turned into Daisy’s story in The Golden Chain.

2. How important is it for you to get your characters names right before you start writing the book?

It’s very important indeed. In fact, it’s vital, because I don’t seem to be able to write about them until I’ve got their names right. I hate having to change a name because it always seems as if I’m changing the character, too. I don’t know why it should be, but lots of authentically Victorian and early twentieth century names just don’t sound right to twenty-first century readers. I write historical romance, but I definitely couldn’t call a hero Archibald or Albert or Wilfred or Percy. A heroine called Doris or Gertrude wouldn’t be right, either – although I did sneak an Elsie into The Silver Locket as a minor character, just for authenticity. I love flower names for women, and luckily these are popular right now. So Rose and Daisy are fine, and there’s a Lily in the next book of the trilogy, although she’s not the heroine.

3. Do you start with the characters or the plot?

I always start with my characters and ask them what they want, in the hope this will give me a story. What’s your dream, I ask them. If you could have anything, what would it be? If I talk to them for a while, they usually start to talk to me and suggest how their stories could be told. I sometimes wonder if this is certifiable behaviour on my part. A few days ago, I was on a train and realised I was actually talking to myself out loud, which was a bit worrying. I’m hoping the other passengers thought I was praying, which somehow seems more acceptable. But I expect I sounded more like Professor Snape muttering spells to protect Harry Potter in that Quidditch match in the first book of the series – do you know the one I mean?

So basically, the characters come first and they suggest a story. I don’t think I’ve ever done it the other way round, although I do sometimes have a vague what-if premise wandering around in my mind, looking for some characters to act in a story.

4. Could you describe a typical writing day for you?

I don’t tend to have typical writing days. I try to be organised, but I do so many different writing-related things that I can’t always work according to plan. I never know what might be waiting for me in my inbox. I work for the UK’s Writing Magazine, and column deadlines tend to sneak up on me. Or my creative writing students all decide to work very hard and send in lots of coursework. Or I come up with a short story outline which I have to write down before it goes out of my head.

An ideal day consists of starting work about ten – I’m not a morning person – answering emails, blogging and doing promotional stuff until twelve or so, then doing some creative writing of my own in the afternoon. I tend to set aside whole days for magazine work and tutoring. After dinner is usually my most productive part of the day. It’s when I tend to have sudden inspirations for story lines and plot developments. I sit on the sofa with my laptop, ignoring the television buzzing away in the background, and tapping away contentedly.

5. What is the best piece of advice you’d give to an unpublished writer?

It’s the advice which was given to me many years ago by someone who was (and remains) a very successful novelist – choose your rut carefully, because once you’re published you’ll probably be in it for a very long time.

My first published novel was a historical romance, which is a genre I’ve always loved, and am happy to go on writing forever. Although I have always made (and probably always will make) a few short forays into the modern world now and again, the past remains my adventure playground.

Many thanks, Margaret.

You’re very welcome – it was a pleasure to talk to you!

Margaret is a novelist, journalist working for the UK’s Writing Magazine, and she teaches creative writing for the London School of Journalism. She’s written a dozen published romantic novels and hopes to write many more. She’s on Facebook and Twitter – and you can visit her at her blog or on her website.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Novelicious: Women's Fiction Thursday With Debs

Please come and join me every Thursday where I'll be posting reviews, interviews, My Writing Room features and all things Women's Fiction over at Novelicious.

Please let me know if there's anything in particular you'd like me to include, all suggestions welcome, although unfortunately I don't have any more pictures of A&F topless models for you, more's the pity.

Friday 15 April 2011

Phew, It's The Weekend...

Here's a picture of the Abercrombie & Fitch model. Please excuse the strange picture, but I've had to cut my daughter from the photo (despite the huge grin on her face when she was photographed).

Lovely chap and so sweet when I went to take the picture and pressed the Off Switch instead, causing him to have to stand for longer than he should have needed to whilst I switched the camera back on again and figured out how to actually take a photograph!

And finally...

Here's the picture of the Art Deco house. Isn't it gorgeous?

We had a wonderful roast chicken supper outside this evening and thankfully it looks like the weather is going to be glorious again this weekend, so I fully intend to make the most of it, which basically means making the most of my lovely son before he returns to university on Monday (sniff!), driving my daughter to various parties and drinking coffee in my sister's glorious garden, then going home and reading, editing outside at home.

Have a fabulous weekend.x

Monday 11 April 2011

So Much Fun

My birthday weekend started with my beautiful neice delivering this wonderful cupcake arrangement to my office. Needless to say these light and very tasty treats didn't last very long.

On my birthday, I opened my thoughtful and beautiful presents, then met up with Rob, my children and family members (14 of us) for lunch. The afternoon was spent in the sunshine at home drinking champagne and chatting, followed by a Chinese take-away that evening. On Sunday I was taken out to tea by one of my sisters and then on Monday I met up with my Mother and Godmother for a lobster lunch down at St Catherines.

The weather has been glorious all weekend, as I'm sure it has been all over the UK, and I can't believe how many incredible presents I've been given.

So, thanks to my generous family and friends and to everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday on Facebook and Twitter. I've had an fabulous time. x

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Exhausted, But Happy

Grumpy was very unhappy that I went away for a couple of days, but Sas and I had a wonderful, although exhausting weekend shopping in London.

On Saturday we were up bright and early and made our way to Oxford Street. I was already exhausted by this point! We shopped until the point of exhaustion, then returned to the hotel with hands numb from the weight of our purchases. I say 'our' but Sas's clothes out-numbered mine by approximately 10-1!

Abercrombie & Fitch was the next place on our list. We arrived at the street and I pointed to a lengthy queue and said to Sas, 'I wonder what's going on there?" "Mum," she said, a glint in her eyes. "That's Abercrombie & Fitch and they're queuing to have their photo taken with the topless model." I rolled my eyes and went to the back of the queue, grumbling quietly under my breath. Eventually, we were allowed inside and, well, all I can say is, it was worth the wait.

Sas stood next to this beautiful man, whilst a beautiful girl took a polaroid of them. I said, "Smile," and went to take a picture with my own camera. Asking Sas if the flash had gone off, the topless model smiled and said. "I think you've just turned the camera off." (Note to self: Learn how to use the camera). Eventually I managed to take a picture, then Sas called me over and I had my picture taken with him too. Needless to say, I was still a little dazed as we wandered through the dark rooms while people danced on balconies and Sas shopped.

That evening we went to see Legally Blonde, which was excellent. Who knew Denise Van Outen could sing so well? The little Chiuaua who played Bruiser missed his lines at first, but no-one cared because he was adorable and did seem to remember the rest of his script. Great fun and definitely worth going to see.

Sunday we went to the Imperial War Museum and then it was time to fly home. Rob collected us from the airport, saying that my younger sister had phoned earlier asking him to pop to her house to check a problem with her car. When we got there she told me to go into her sitting room and look at her pictures (she's recently moved in and had only just put them up). I walked in and saw someone a lady sitting down. I remember thinking, who is this woman in Rach's house, then realized it was my mother! She'd come over as a surprise for my birthday (on the 9th) and I was so tired I hadn't even recognized her for a moment or two. So exciting and a perfect end to a memorable weekend.