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Sharon J's Writing Blog
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Thank You :-)
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Thanks to everybody who sent us their congratulations. We were both bowled over by the ecards, emails and comment messages we received. That so many people cared about us getting engaged was totally unexpected and, well... what can I say other than thanks?

We're off to Llangollen in about an hour so don't expect any updates here until Tuesday evening at the earliest. Mind you, as far as I know there's a NWG meeting on Tuesday evening so any post I make will undoubtedly be after the national average bedtime (is there such a thing?). That's assuming I'm not so inspired to write that I throw myself straight back into the book and completely forget the blog. If that's the case, don't expect anything until Wednesday.

Would you mind airing the blog out before I get back and perhaps putting a duster round? Thanks :-)

Posted by Sharon J on 2:12 PM   
Comments  6 comments »
Strange Happenings In Nantwich
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Do you see the ring on the photo? Of course you do. You can hardly miss it, can you? Well let me tell you a story.

Today I had to go see my accountant. Not the most exciting way to spend an afternoon but these things have to be done. Because my daughter wanted a lift to college at 2pm, we decided to kill two birds by dropping her off first and then going into Nantwich early so that we could go to the market. That didn't happen, though. Instead we ended up at the Civic Hall because, unbeknown to me beforehand, they were hosting an antiques fair.

As luck would have it (or not?) I only had £20 on me so there was no chance I'd spend money I couldn't afford. I was happy enough with that; it would still be enough to allow me some little extravagance.

As Richard had to go elsewhere for a few minutes, I mooched around alone, looking at all the beautiful bits and pieces on display. So many things - so little money! When I finally bumped into Richard again I felt obliged to hint about the beautiful ring I'd seen on "that stall over there" (picture woman pointing widly so as gentleman by her side can't possibly mistake where the ring can be found).

Obviously, I was hoping he'd buy it for me but really didn't think it would happen. What I wasn't expecting was for him to slide it on the third finger of my left hand and ask me to marry him!

Weyhey! I'm engaged! And it happened in the middle of an antiques fair in Nantwich Civic Hall.

We're going away to celebrate on Sunday. Just two nights at a B&B in Llangollen but hopefully it’ll be nice and romantic being as it's just the two of us. Should I pack some frilly knickers?

Today's word count isn't worth mentioning - I've been too busy with other things. I have to re-arrange the way I've been doing my accounts and download tons of online invoices and bank statements so that nice mister accountant man can sort out my proof of income for 2005/2006, and going out today left me exhausted so I slept for about 4 hours afterwards. Let's just say the total increased by point four percent.

Not to worry. Tomorrow's another day :-)

Posted by Sharon J on 11:22 PM   
Comments  21 comments »
I found this "How Nerdy Are You?" quiz on Kate Hardy's blog and had to give it a go.

I am nerdier than 28% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

I'm pleased to report that I'm merely a wannabe nerd.

It's late and I should be asleep. I'll log off now and do some in-bed reading (A Nanny For Keeps - Liz Fielding) instead of doing silly quizes.
Posted by Sharon J on 2:12 AM   
Comments  8 comments »
Uncooperative Heroines and Short Stories
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Chapter seven has just ended with Sherry phoning Leo's house but not wanting to speak to him. She wants to speak to the housekeeper instead, only I don't know why.

It's so frustrating because I hadn't planned this at all and until Sherry tells me why she wants to talk to the housekeeper, I can't move the story along.

I've tried asking her nicely, I've tried threatening to force her into doing something entirely different if she doesn't let me in on the secret soon, and I've tried ignoring her. Nothing has worked. What's a woman to do?

Wait, I suppose.

In the meantime, let's talk about something else.

One of the Nantwich Writers' Group posted a message on the group blog yesterday informing the world (or those inhabitants who visit the site - probably very few as yet) of a competition that Woman & Home are arranging. There's a laptop and £2000 up for grabs so if you're a short story writer, it might be worthwhile having a look.

It's funny because although I love writing, I've never been much use at short stories. I just can't think up many stories that can be given a start, a middle, and an ending within a couple of thousand words. I love reading them and am always in awe of those who are good at it. I just wish I was better at it myself. Is there a key to writing short stories that I don't know about?

PS: I found a very interesting feature on The Telegraph's website today that authors of romantic fiction might want to take a look at.
Posted by Sharon J on 6:36 PM   
Comments  5 comments »
Proper vs. Improper Writing
Are published writers necessarily better writers than those who are unpublished?

I was talking about writing to a distant family member today. I told her I'm a writer and gave her a brief run-down of what kind of things I write for a living. I also told her I'm writing a book. At this point she became somewhat more animated. "Oh, you're a proper writer then," she said.

A proper writer? I'm not quite sure what she meant by that and even though I queried the comment, an explanation wasn't forthcoming. I settled down with the belief that she didn't quite understand what she meant herself. Then came the next question: "So where can I find one of your books?"

"Err... on my computer."

Ahhh... right. In that case I'm not a 'proper' writer, after all.

I asked her whether 'proper' meant 'better' but after a lot of humming and haaing, I didn't actually receive an answer.

"What I mean is if you were any good then surely you'd be published?"

Hold on. I am published. I've had articles published. Doesn't that count? Well... not really. They're not the same as a novel, are they? Anybody can write an article. Ah. That old chestnut again.

Which reminds me of somebody else. This person was complaining about being out of work and that the only jobs she could get were so badly paid that it wasn't worth her while taking them (child minding costs, clothing allowance, travel expenses etc., would leave her no better off). After an hour of listening to her complaints, she asked how my work was going. I told her about a few recent projects and also mentioned that I'm currently writing a book aimed at Mills & Boon.

"Oh, but they're not proper books."

"No? What are they then?"

"Fairy stories for chav women. Anybody can write them."

First I was aghast that she thought Mills & Boon had specifically aimed for the 'chav' market, and secondly, I pointed out that if anybody could write them, why didn't she write one and make some money that way instead of complaining about being out of work.

But no, she couldn't do that because writing doesn't interest her, although if she'd wanted to she could write one easily.

Who I am to say she's not right? Maybe she could easily write a Mills & Boon, but I just can't help being left with the feeling that she wouldn't try because, who knows, maybe she'd fail and that would be far too embarrassing. It's an unfortunate fact of life that far too many people fear failure so much that they never dare try anything unless they're 100% certain they'll succeed.

Daisy (Keeping Up Appearances)And just to clear up the chav connection, when I asked her why she thought they were written specifically for 'chav women', she explained that the only person she's ever seen reading one is "Onslow's wife, Daisy". Right. For those who don't know, that's Hyacinth's sister out of "Keeping Up Appearances". Daisy was... how shall I put this without appearing rude?... not the brightest lightbulb on the council estate.

Now I'm no snob. I'm sure there are plenty of women like Daisy who read Mills & Boon novels--and long may they enjoy them--but I read them and have never considered myself a chav. My mum's best friend reads them and she's quite la-di-da in her own funny little way (thinking Hyacinth here), and somebody who works in the doctor's surgery reads them because I saw a Sophie Weston laying on the receptionist's desk a few weeks ago. Just those three comprise quite a mixed bunch.

Oh well. Not to worry. This 'improper' writer's going back to work now. Even though it's almost 2am, I have an 'improper' article waiting to be finished ready for delivery tomorrow morning.

Sharon J

PS: The book's over 60% finished now :-)

[UPDATE: I found this on another blog and, as it was appropriate to the discussions this post sparked, thought it would be worth sharing.]
Posted by Sharon J on 1:51 AM   
Comments  15 comments »
RNA Awards
Monday, April 24, 2006
Erica James - Winner of The Foster Grant Romantic Novel of The YearNo doubt most of you will have come across a few blogs mentioning the recent Romantic Novelists' Association awards ceremony at The Savoy in London. From what I've heard, a good time was had by all and my congratulations go to Erica James and Jessica Hart who won 'The Foster Grant Romantic Novel of The Year Award' and 'The Romance Prize For Best Category Romance Of The Year' respectively.

I noticed that The Independent ran a piece about the event congratulating Erica on winning the Foster Grant award, which I'm sure pleased her no end, but what I want to know is why Jessica wasn't mentioned. Is the winner of The Romance Prize not as important or newsworthy as the Foster Grant winner? I think that's rather unfair, don’t you? Unfair and discriminatory against authors of category romance.

Until now, I've always written my manuscripts first and then added the chapters afterwards by looking for the best hooks and placing them there. But a discussion at the last NWG meeting got me thinking that maybe I'd try doing thing the 'conventional way' (if there is such a thing) this time.

At the moment my WIP has an average of 5,300 words per chapter and I'm wondering whether that's too many. The longest has 10,300 words and the shortest 2,200.

I know there are no hard and fast rules around this--I've read books that have had chapters consisting of just one line and one that had just three chapters to about 100,000 words--but because, when I'm reading, I often find myself saying "I'll just finish this chapter first", it's important to me that chapters aren't too long or I feel as if I'll never get to the place where I can put it down and do whatever boring task happens to be waiting for me.

Having said that, it's also important that the end of the chapter has a strong enough hook that it leaves the reader hurrying through whatever chore or errand interrupted her reading, because more than anything else, she has to get back to the book!

So what do you think? Bearing in mind that I'm aiming specifically at HMB Tender, should my chapters be shorter or are they ok? I think perhaps I ought to split up the 10,000 word chapter as that's probably a bit too long to be work for those who do the "when I get to the end of the chapter" thing.

Any thoughts?

Posted by Sharon J on 3:09 PM   
Comments  15 comments »
Happy Birthday, Willy Waggledagger.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
And happy St. George's Day, too.

If I'd had a flag and a post, I'd have hoisted it today. We just aren't patriotic enough in this country.

Had Mr. Shakespeare still been alive, he'd be 442 years old today. I don't know how old St. George would have been. In fact, I don't even know who he was. How embarrassing is that?

Can you imagine what it would be like if Willy were to wake up and come back to join the living now? The amount of changes that have taken place would probably be enough to send a man insane. He just wouldn't be able to get his head around things, would he?

Here are some of the things that I believe would give him reason to stop for a moment in order to ponder upon:

* Huge, mechanical worms that transport people around London.

* Plays being enacted at either communal theatres or--and this has to be witchcraft--in people's own homes, without the need for the players to actually be present.

* Plastic cards you put in a machine that spits money back at you. Hold on... Plastic? What's that?

* A big china bowl in which to deposit one's body waste that sits copious amounts of water, seemingly from nowhere, and as if by magic, the waste disappears. I'm sure Willy would agree it beats throwing it out of the window!

and, of course,

* Machines that write stories at the press of a few buttons.

Personally, I'm enjoying my particular version of that machine at the moment. What luxury to have a laptop that races along! I can work so much more efficiently now! These things may well confuse Willy during his day-trip back to life, but oh for the wonders of modern technology.

The word count only increased by 498 yesterday but I did some re-writing and removed a good few words as part of my quest for tighter writing, so I'm happy enough with that.

Today I've been messing around with other things (including pumping more links into the NWG links section) but the writing hasn't been entirely neglected and I'll definitely work on it after dinner (or tea, or whatever you like to call the evening meal).

Oh, and before I go, I must tell you how pleased I was to come across MsCreativity's blog. She's just starting out on her first novel to submit to HMB, too. Well, it's her third but the other two were donkey's years ago so we're sort of in the same boat. Close enough, anyway. And that makes me feel less alone here in blogland, knowing that she's out there doing the exact same thing. We're aiming at different lines but that doesn't matter, does it?

Posted by Sharon J on 5:50 PM   
Comments  0 comments »
Friday, April 21, 2006
Did you know that tomorrow marks the start of National Downshifting Week? No? Well now you do.

It's the second year this event has run and the idea behind it is to inspire individuals, companies, children and schools to live simpler, happier lives and be kinder to the environment at the same time.

The following's a list of activities suggested for individuals:

* Book a half-day off work to spend entirely with someone you love, no DIY allowed. Yepp, I can do that.

* Cook a meal from scratch, using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, preferably organic. I don't do cooking and I'm not sure we could source everything locally anymore anyway.

* Cut up a credit card Are they kidding?

* Donate a bag of clothes, toys or useful items to a local charity shop, refuge or recycling centre. I do this once a month anyway, although we do have one organic food shop and a once a month farmer's market.

* Hand-make a simple card for the next birthday or event on your calendar. I've tried the home-made card malarkey and couldn’t get on with it. And besides, I have a draw full of birthday cards that would just go waste

* Eliminate 3 non-essential purchases this week. If they knew how my bank balance looks, they'd know I'm always eliminating at least 3 purchases every week!

* Plant something in the garden you can cultivate and eat and start a compost heap. We have a compost bin that's already too full up but don't have room for a second. No veggies but we do grow herbs.

* Consider reputable work at home parents and small local businesses, for services you need. Already do.

* Tonight, turn off the television, switch on the radio, play a few games and talk. We're not a big television family anyway so when we do sit together, it's usually to chat. And we do play games together, too.

* Volunteer an hour of your time to a local charity shop, animal shelter, hospice etc. I've done my share of charity work, thanks.

So that was it. To be honest, I would have expected more. But, having said that, there are some words of wisdom on the site that give food for thought (just felt like throwing in those clichés - it's sort of like being naughty in class, isn't it?) like:

* Kindness is infectious, give someone else the bug.
* A high street without decent, local shops, is a street that's lost it's high.
* Landfill is one stroke away from land full, and…
* The very best things in life are free.

If you're interesting in downshifting there's an e-book available from Holistic Local. Just click the link and it'll take you straight to it.

You're probably wondering what any of this has to do with writing. Well, the way I see it, reading is definitely part of downshifting in that the individual slows down in order to relax with a book. A good story gives us time out from our hectic routines whilst stimulating our imaginations.

The downside of books is that they aren't cheap. A friend of mine, who spends most of her leisure time parked in front of the TV and has perhaps read a handful of books in her life (or at least in the time I've known her), argues that SKY costs her £15.99 a month for as much entertainment as she wants. A book costs £6.99 for a paperback and takes two evenings at the most to read. So, if she were to read instead of watch TV, it would cost her more than £100 a month. Unfortunately, apart from suggesting second-hand books, there's no way to argue with that.

The laptop continued to close itself down while I was trying to work yesterday so by 5 o'clock I was so fed up with the whole business of trying to write that I went to Stoke and bought a new one.

The idea was to take advantage of PCWorld's "6 months interest free credit" by paying part now and the rest later so that the remainder could go towards the mobility scooter and then save up for the other half, but as I'd dashed out in a bit of a huff, I hadn't taken any forms of ID with me. No gas bill, telephone bill, credit card bill or any other bloomin' bill (and believe me, I get enough of 'em). I had to have a new one though-my work depends on it-so I had to pay cash (ouch… I can still feel the pain).

It's a beautiful, shiny Compaq Presario and although I knew my old one was very much outdated, I had no idea just how slow it was until I tried this. Where mine was a plough horse, this one's more like Sleipnir, although it does only have four legs! (Who? Go learn some Norse Mythology).

I'm like the proverbial pig at the moment. I can't stop looking a the lovely "Brightview" screen (the colours…omg… the colours!) and opening programmes just to see how quick it is. My old one was so slow that I'd click the icon to open Word and then knit a few rows or read a couple of paragraphs of a book while I was waiting for it to load. This one just goes "whoom" and it's there! Oh for the wonders of modern technology.

Couple this with the new mobile telephone I got on Tuesday (a pink and white Sony Ericsson - very girly, I must say) and I'm feeling as if my birthday must've been changed to an earlier date. Not that I get presents that cost as much as this laptop for my birthday, but you know what I mean.

I even wrote 1731 new words on her (her being the laptop) last night! It's sooooo cool to see that blue marker's moved past the mid-point now that I think I might celebrate at the weekend. A friend also got engaged this week but as she's in the States, I couldn't celebrate with her so two reasons for bringing on the bubbly! Well… a bottle of sparkling white has bubbles, doesn't it?

Posted by Sharon J on 1:11 PM   
Comments  5 comments »
Easy PC? I Don't Think So!
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Well, I managed to write 1,564 words last night but thanks to my laptop and its quirky little ways, it took about five times as long to write them as ought to have been the case.

The damned thing kept turning itself off! In the middle of a sentence the power would die and everything went black. I'd switch on again, open up my document, start writing and ten minutes later, black screen again! I was saving every 30 seconds or so to make sure I wouldn't lose what I'd written and going slowly doolaley.

I had paid work to do, too. I usually do some site reviews in the evening as they're relatively easy and only take about 15 minutes each but three reviews took about two hours! Can you believe that? I'd log onto the site, start looking around, make a couple of notes and bam! Black screen! Re-boot, log on, take a look around, make a couple.... and so it continued. Then the same old malarkey again when it came to doing the write up.

I'm surprised I have any hair left today!

Anyway, I think I'm going to have to invest in a new laptop whether I like it or not. It's an expense I could definitely do without but I have some money saved for one of those motorised disability scooter things that I was going to get for the summer, but I'll just have to take part of that and the scooter will have to wait. It'd would have been nice to have the scooter to get out and about more with, but that's life. Things don't always work out the way we'd planned them, do they?

I expect the HMB gang who are down at The Savoy are having a good time today and fingers crossed for those who are up for awards. I know they can't all win but I'm sure they're all very worthy candidates. Personally I'd like to see Kate Hardy come home with a prize because she seems such a nice person and nice people always deserve to win. I know that's not the criteria the judges use but I haven't read the book (I've bought it, just haven't read it yet) so I can't judge any other way.

It'll be fun hearing the stories when the romantics start trickling back at the weekend.
Posted by Sharon J on 11:22 AM   
Comments  12 comments »
The Halfway House
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
What a comfy place it is, this halfway house. Seeing its lights glowing warm and welcoming after the long, uphill struggle is too good for words. And now that I'm here I just want to sit back and put my feet up for a while with a vodka and lemonade (or two) before starting out on the next leg of the journey.

I won't be able to stay long because I can hear Leo calling me. He knows he's losing Sherry and without my help he has no chance of winning her love. The poor man; you can't help but feel for him, can you?

When I dusted off the original couple of thousand words I'd written of this manuscript I decided I'd finish it within 100 days. I've now worked out that for me to keep to that deadline I'll have to write an average of about 500 words per day from now until 9th June. Can I do it? I don't see why not because during the past 18 days I've averaged 690 words a day even though 7 of those 18 days were non-starters. I've said it before but I'll say it again. I will finish it! I will, I will, I will!

Cherry. This is for you. The film, An American Haunting, was... different. I found it quite spooky in places but the bits that were meant to be really scary weren't. Although it did almost make me lose my popcorn a few times thanks to the combination of unexpected movements and booming sounds. Waaahhh! Blimey - is that all it was? Recognise it?

All in all it was a decent enough film albeit somewhat 'Exorcist-y". Sissy Spacek played her role well as did Rachel Hurd-Wood in her role as the daughter supposedly being tormented by some kind of entity (I won't say too much because it'll spoil the twist in the tale).

If you like classic horror films that are based on keeping you on the edge of your seat rather than the shock factor of blood and guts, go for it. Otherwise forget it.

Ok folks. Can't sit around here all day.

Tatty bye for now.
Posted by Sharon J on 8:24 AM   
Comments  11 comments »
This and That
Monday, April 17, 2006
856 words. That's hardly what I thought I'd manage yesterday but, once again, I got tied up with the website. I know I said I wouldn't but I was trying to get the group's blogs sorted out and then there were some more links to go in and before I knew it, several hours had passed.

LM (that's the youngest daughter for those who don't know) had to be driven to Nantwich because she wanted to go to the Jazz Festival with some friends. The bottle of vodka that went with her was rather worrying but she assured me she wouldn't get totally plastered and call me to come and rescue her from the evils of throwing up. On arriving back in Crewe I popped in to see a friend but only stayed long enough for her 2 year old grandson to empty the contents of her bin on the living room floor before retreating to the relative safety of home. I say relative because we have a rather nasty looking damp patch on the bedroom ceiling which could well come tumbling down on me at any moment.

Today is bank holiday so I refuse to do any paid work even though I generally work at weekends. Everybody deserves a few days off now and then and I'm sure my clients aren't working themselves silly every hour God sends. I'm up to the point where Leo and Sherry are going to do rude things on an antique Persian rug so I really need to press on and get past that part before I go to the pictures tonight.

A friend (the one with the grandson) and I are going to see 'An American Haunting'. We originally wanted to see 'Pierrepoint' but it's not showing anywhere around here. Fingers crossed we'll be able to see it next week.

Penny's added a 'hello' to the group blog. She's off to London for the RNA lunch and various meets with editors and stuff but has promised to make a proper post when she gets back.

Don't forget that the message boards (forums) are open to anybody so if you're interested in talking writing, feel free to join.

I'm off. I seem to be good at putting words to blog but it's words to book I need.
Posted by Sharon J on 9:21 AM   
Comments  6 comments »
Today Will Be A Good Day!
Sunday, April 16, 2006
So much for me getting lots of writing done yesterday.

I spent most of the day putting links into the directory part of the group site, a job that took a lot longer than I'd anticipated. Then, by the time I'd watched Dr. Who and done a few more of my paid website reviews, I was so tired I just couldn't concentrate. Two days out in a row is enough to knock me off my feet!

But today is going to be different. The site's ready to go so all I have to do now is wait for the other members to get blogging and join the discussion forum. I'm sure it won't be long before they start turning up. In the meantime I shall write. The sun's shining and I've a feeling the words are going to flow like milk when it boils over in the pan and makes a mess of the cooker - it just seems to produce more and more and takes on a life of its own.

I'm lagging so far behind my own goal at the moment that I need to write around 2,000 words a day for the next week in order to catch up. Whether or not I can do that remains to be seen but as I have no editor hanging over me with a deadline, it doesn't matter too much. Mind you, having said that, I suppose it's just as well to learn self-discipline from the start.

The couple of days I've spent away from the story have at least given me a chance to get used to the hero's new name and now I'm starting to feel that Leo actually suits him. What I have to do now is re-write a few scenes to fit in with a new layer of the heroine that I didn't know about before yesterday. It turns out her mother abandoned her as a baby, something she'd neglected to tell me before I started on her story. Oh well... it's all part of the fun, eh?

Posted by Sharon J on 11:26 AM   
Comments  0 comments »
Moved To The Nantwich Writers' Group
Saturday, April 15, 2006
A few weeks ago I started re-decorating my blog but you'll have probably have noticed that since that initial burst of roses, nothing more happened.

Well now you can see why.

I was busy building a website for The Nantwich Writers' Group and as each member was to have their own blog attached to the site, I figured that instead of having two writing blogs, I'd just wait and hook this one up to the NWG site.

So here I am in my nice new shiny room, trying to get used to all this blue. It's quite strange after the roses I originally had but I'm sure I'll warm to it. It's kind of like when you get a new hair do. You start a little every time you catch your reflection for a few days, but then you settle in with it and find it hard to imagine what you looked like pre-new hair do.

Anyway, now that you're here, can I tempt you to take a look around the rest of the NWG site? We have a links directory that we'll be building out with lots of interesting links for writers, a perpetual story that each member will be adding to, a group blog that'll hold our thoughts about the group and its activities, and a discussion forum that's open to everybody. All you need to do is register and away you go. Post 'til your heart's content.

The group's based in Nantwich and led by Penny Jordan of Mills & Boon fame. We're a friendly bunch so if you happen to live in the area, do feel free to contact us for details. You'd be more than welcome to join us.

As far as my writing goes, I didn't get as much done yesterday as I'd hoped. I spent most of the day working on my paid stuff (I wrote a dozen or so website reviews and worked on an e-book about copywriting which was far from interesting but as it helps bring home the bacon, who am I to complain?). In the evening we were out kicking up our heels at a pub in Shropshire. Ok, so there wasn't a lot of heel kicking going on but the music (two guys called something or other and somebody else did an acoustic guitar set) was really good. It all left little time for the book, though.

But today's a new day and I intend to use it.

Happy Easter folks!


[UPDATE: Daft duck that I am - I only went and deleted the entire blog so now I've lost half the posts and ALL of the lovely and useful comments you've left me over the past couple of months. I'm afraid this morose mood is going to shine through in my writing so I'm going to watch Dr. Who instead.]

Posted by Sharon J on 7:12 PM   
Comments  2 comments »
A Day Out
Friday, April 14, 2006
Yesterday I wrote 88 words.

Big round of applause please, people.

Thank you, thank you. Excuse me while I blush suitably for a moment.

Right. Why did I only write 88 words? Because I went out and did something cultured instead. I visited the Tate Liverpool!

For the uncultured amongst you, it's an art gallery. One of those places where they hang paintings by famous artists on the wall and have bits of tin cans and things on platforms with signs that read "Do Not Touch".

There's a story behind the visit, so I'm going to assume you're interested and tell you all about it.

Richard got into a bit of a discussion on a forum t'other day, when a woman said that Thomas Kinkaid was the original painter of light.

"Poppycock," declared Richard. "He's no such thing. The original painter of light is JMW Turner."

"Who's he?" replied the unknown woman.

Who's he? Who's he??? (For the best effect, this last line should be spoken in the same manner as Peter Kaye's 'Garlic Bread' catchphrase).

Honestly. Some people!

Anyway, this got us searching for Turner's work on t'Internet, during which we discovered that the Tate Liverpool were housing a display of his works until this coming Sunday 16th.

So we packed some egg sandwiches and a banana each, and headed for Liverpool.

The Turner exhibition was a huge disappointment. Only a handful of his major works were displayed and NOT the one I'd most wanted to see, Fisherman At Sea, even though it's owned by the Tate and the subject of the Tate Liverpool's exhibition was "Turner and The Sea". I was certain I was going to see it so you can no doubt understand my disappointment. They did, however, have Stormy Sea with Blazing Wreck, which is quite an interesting painting. I'm not sure it can be fully appreciated when viewed on a webpage, though, as there's so much detail to discover. Notice the dark figures on the shore in the bottom right hand corner? And the lobster pots, barrels etc with yet another onlooker in the bottom left hand corner? In the sea itself there are several ships that can be seen and a rescue boat coming into shore. Fascinating.

But back to the exhibition itself. The lighting was laughable and made viewing the paintings very difficult. Because the canvases are protected by glass, reflections from badly positioned spotlights obscured vast areas of the canvas making it impossible to view the entire scene regardless of which angle you viewed it from. And that wasn't just because I was sitting in a wheelchair, either. Richard had the same problem yet elsewhere in the gallery, where Henry Moore and Marie-Louise von Motesiczky were being exhibited, neither of us had a problem. I honestly would have expected better of The Tate!

Anyway, regardless of the Turner disappointment, we had an enjoyable afternoon in each other's company, something that happens far too seldom. Mostly work gets in the way of spending quality time together, or we have offspring and/or friends with us. It made a nice change.

Today I'm hoping for at least 500 words. It would have been nice with more but I've work to do and we're out tonight. We're going to see Jim Kirkpatrick do an acoustic set at a cosy little pub in Audlem, Shropshire. Should be nice :)


PS: For those of you who have no former knowledge of either Thomas Kinkaid or JMW Turner, please take a look at the following two links to decide for yourself who, of the two, is the true master of light. I won't really think you're a bunch of uncultured ignoramuses :)

Fishermen at Sea by JMW Turner

The Sea of Tranquillity
by Thomas Kinkaid

Or maybe you have a third option? If you do, please let me know about it.

Posted by Sharon J on 7:21 PM   
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Name Change
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
My hero's changed his name. As far as I was concerned, he had a perfectly good name but he kept whispering in my ear, telling me it was wrong. In the end I checked and found that his name was actually Italian rather than Spanish so he'd been right all along. Silly of me not to listen - of course he'd know better than me.

I'm having trouble getting along with this new name though. Hero seems happy enough with it but I keep forgetting what it is. It just doesn't fit his skin properly. What am I supposed to do? How do you write a story when you can't even remember your hero's name?

As soon as I heard it I knew it was him so the problem isn't that it doesn't suit him, it's more that my limited number of small greys are having difficulty pushing the old name out and letting the new name in.

I've had a pretty good writing day today, although you wouldn't think so if you judged on the word count alone. What's happened is that I've written the full answers to the questions I ask along the route, like "what's extraordinary about the hero?" and "why is the hero the only one for the heroine?"

There are lots more questions and I usually find them quite a struggle but I do feel it's important to have a fully formed answer to them all before I can write THE END. Not that I'm at THE END yet, but the answers to the questions that should have been answered by now have all fallen into place. It helps me understand their motivations better. Take my heroine as an example. After being hurt by her mother and her husband, as a way of protecting herself from hurt she's been determined not to love again. But she does fall in love. Why? What is it about the hero that's so special she's able to let down her barriers and go for it? There's no point just saying "because he's good-looking" or "because he's kind". Lots of blokes are either/or and many are both. There has to be a deeper reason, something that touches her in a way no other man is likely to. It's not until I've got all those things down onto paper (on my Q&A sheet) that I really feel I'm writing a story worth reading.

Anyway, enough of that. What's the time? Half eleven! I've a book to write!

Posted by Sharon J on 2:24 AM   
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Poorly Thoughts
Monday, April 10, 2006
I haven't been feeling too brilliant the last few days so have neither blogged nor written. No writing for my paid work, and no writing on my novel.

But the break wasn't all bad because I've been knitting and when I knit, I get lots of ideas. Everything's fallen nicely into place for Dan and Sherry so hopefully I'll get to the end without a sagging middle or any other such trouble. The problem I do have is knowing when to put the bits in so that it'll fit nicely within 55,000 words. Still, if it's out by too much, I can always go back and cut/re-write/add or whatever.

I've even managed to get past the stage where another couple of characters start nagging me to write their story. That's when I usually give up on the current story because theirs always sounds like the better one to write. But not this time. I've had a chat with them, written what I suppose equates to a synopsis of their story, and promised them that I'll come back to them as soon as I've finished the work in progress. So far they seem happy enough with that. Admittedly they've been popping up giving me bits of extra info but I've decided to be strict. I don't need to know any more about them or their story at this stage.

I've added a bit to the ongoing story today so I'm now just past 40% (22,122 words) but my 'proper' work got in the way. Oh for the luxury of a year's sabbatical.

Posted by Sharon J on 11:27 PM   
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One Third & Counting
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Yay, I'm more than a third of the way through! I guess that means I'm heading for the traditionally saggy part, though. Hmmm... not so good.

Actually, I can feel it happening. I'm going to have to chop some of yesterday's dialogue because a lot of it was really just two people sitting around talking about stuff that the reader probably wouldn't give two hoots about. No, that's not true - she would want to know, but it should have been a lot tighter.

But that's fair enough; that's how I work. I write a load one day and then spend part of the next day editing it. Better that than having to stop the whole time to think "can I write this" and "can I write that". No, just chuck it all down while I have the story flowing and decide later whether or not I should or shouldn't have written it that way or this way.

The big problem now is: what next? I know what the next major event has to be but I have to work out how to get my couple from the point they're at now, to the point they need to be then without just throwing them into bed.

Time to bring out the thinking cap.

Posted by Sharon J on 1:29 PM   
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Time Management
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Today I downloaded a little alarm clock programme and timed my writing. I've wanted one for ages, not only for the book but for my paid writing - the stuff that pays the bills and buys my teenage daughter hair dye and shoes and things.

The idea with the alarm clock as far as the book goes was to set myself a time that I'd dedicate to that writing and not let anything else disturb me. I turned off email and shut my browser. Any research I'd need to do could be left until after my hour of writing - I'd just leave a gap where that stuff could be added later.

From 11:30 until 12:30 I wrote. In that time I managed to get down 1,202 words so as far as I'm concerned, it was a success. And those thousand or so words moved the story on considerably too, so I'm pretty chuffed. Far better to write for a solid hour than to write in snips and snaps as I usually do. From now on, I shall be far more organised time wise.

If you're interested, the programme I'm using is called "Kirby Alarm and Task Scheduler" and costs the grand sum of nothing. It's freeware and, should you want to check it out, it's available from this website. It's got lots of little cool features like sending an email at a specified time, or opening a programme. It can even let you know if a file has changed size. I like it, anyway.

Nantwich Writers' Group
Last night we had our writers' group meeting at Penny Jordan's house. It was the first meeting I'd managed to get to so far this year so I'd been looking forward to it. So many faces I hadn't seen since either New Year's Eve at Penny's or longer. It was good to catch up.

Penny was her usual inspirational self, full of fun and giggles. And it was probably mostly down to her comment that I'm not focused enough that I decided to do the time management thing. I did make sure I told her that I've become far more focused on actually finishing a story this time, though. It will happen! It will, honestly.

Luckily I'm one of two members who isn't worried about rejection. My philosophy is that if it doesn't sell, what's changed? My life will remain exactly as it was. Nobody will have died because of it and no other tragedy will have occurred. And there's always another story. One day they'll buy one... I hope :-)

Posted by Sharon J on 12:39 PM   
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My Canarian Hero
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Having ignored him for several days due to life's interference with the things I most enjoy, I once again turned my attention to my drop-dead gorgeous Canarian hero.

The more I get to know this guy, the more I like him. In fact, if the heroine of the story had been me instead of Sherry, I'm sure I would have fallen in love with him myself.

He may be filthy rich and terribly successful but that doesn't mean he has it easy. His ex is the bitch from hell, his daughter's fast following in her footsteps and neither of them are the least bit happy with the situation and will do whatever's necessary to ruin the story long before my planned ending.

Because the third character--my hero's ex--is so different to the two main characters, I'm having a lot of fun with her. Obviously, she doesn't feature anywhere near as much as my hero and his lovely heroine but her very existence is central to how the story evolves, so she's there, spitting and clawing her way into my thoughts, the whole time. And she doesn't like me one bit!

There's absolutely not doubt that I much prefer writing character driven stories as opposed to plot driven stories. Obviously, that doesn't mean my story has no plot--it wouldn't be a story if that were the case--but the plot is secondary to the characters; it's they who will ultimately (hopefully) keep the reader turning the pages.

And speaking of which, I now have 84. That's 16,806 words, of which 1,468 were written today. According to the flesch scale, as the story now stands it's suitable for 5th graders, which would be UK year 6--or 10 year olds. Sounds like I'm writing a "Ladybird" book, but that's actually just about right for a story with plenty of dialogue. There's more about this on Kate Hardy's blog.

Posted by Sharon J on 6:31 PM   
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My Bookshelf
I promised Richard I'd try to curb my habit of buying books until I'd read at least half of those that are already on the "to be read" shelf. I trip into town yesterday made a complete mockery of any attempt to keep that promise. It's just too difficult when there are books leaping out at you from every crevice! Bookshops; charity shops; the market, they all had books crying out for me to buy them. I came home with seven new additions to the shelf - five brand new and two charity shop finds.

My "TBR" shelf now consists of, in no particular order:

1. Last Rights - Barbara Nadel
2. Under The Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes
3. The Antonakos Marriage - Kate Walker (signed copy - won in competition!)
4. The Path of The Dead - Caroline Benton
5. The Spider's House - Sarah Diamond
6. Kiss & Tell - Cherry Adair
7. The Broken Gate - Anita Burgh
8. The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
9. The Five Year Baby Secret - Liz Fielding
10. The Lady In The Van - Alan Bennett
11. Acid Row - Minette Walters
12. A Piece of Cake - Derek Robinson (re-read)
13. A Friend of The Family - Lisa Jewell
14. Archangel - Robert Harris
15. The Silence of The Lambs - Thomas Harris
16. Whip Hand - Dick Frances
17. The Wedlocked Wife - Maggie Cox
18. The Magic Cottage - James Herbert
19. The Last Family of England - Matt Haig
20. Marriage Reunited - Jessica Hart
21. By The Light of The Moon - Dean Koontz
22. Perfectly Pure & Good - Frances Fyfield
23. O'Reilly's Bride - Trish Wylie
24. Strictly Business - Liz Fielding/Penny Jordan/Hannah Bernard
25. An Expensive Place To Die - Len Deighton
26. Love You Madly - Alex George
27. Butterfly - Virginia Andrews
28. Light as a Feather - Helen Dunne
29. Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen
30. Simply Divine - Wendy Holden
31. The Family - Anita Burgh
32. As Bad As Can Be - Kristin Hardy
33. My Canape Hell - Imogen Edwards-Jones
34. Victoria Line, Central Line - Maeve Binchy
35. Survival of The Fittest - Jonathan Kellerman
36. Moon - James Herbert
37. Still Thinking of You - Adele Parks
38. Make Us Traitors - Gilda O'Neil
39. No Gentleman - Andrea Young
40. Bad Boy - Olivia Goldsmith
41. Singing Bird - Roisin McAuley
42. Blind Date - Philippa Todd
43. I Remember You - Martin Edwards
44. September - Rosamunde Pilcher
45. The Smoke Jumper - Nicholas Evans
45. At The Villa of Reduced Circumstances - Alexander McCall Smith
46. Portugese Irregular Verbs - Alexander McCall Smith
47. The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs - Alexander McCall Smith
48. Misery - Stephen King (re-read)
49. Above Suspicion - Lynda Le Plante
50. Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier

No wonder he says "don't buy more books" every time I head into town!

At the moment I'm reading "A Wife on Paper" by Liz Fielding, which I have to admit I bought in a charity shop. Sorry, Liz! Which one will be the next to read is anybody's guest; I just dip in and bring out whatever takes my fancy at the time. Some have been on the shelf for a very long time without being read, but one day their turn will come.

As you can see, my taste in books spans everything from category romance to comedy and chick-lit, historical fiction, horror and crime thrillers. I don't get bored.

My favourite genre? I really couldn't say. There's something to be said for them all, but I do like a happy ending. Yes, even horror stories have them.

Posted by Sharon J on 4:32 PM   
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White Space or What
Saturday, April 01, 2006
I was on Julie Cohen's blog a few days ago when she mentioned her word count and how the white space count differed to the 'Word' word count. What I'm confused about, though, is which of them should we be counting?

From what I've understood, white space is counted as 25 lines per page giving an approximate count of 250 words per page. This means that my WIP has 19,000 words rather than the 15,338 of actual words that are counted in Word (why couldn't Microsoft have given it a better, less confusing name?).

At the current rate, if I write 55,000 'Word' words, the white space count will be around 68,000 which is far too many for M&B. But if I stick to the white space count and bring it in at around 55,000 words, I'll only have about 44,000 actual words. So what does one do?

One of the commenters on Julie's blog said that white space takes into account the gaps at the end of dialogue, chapters etc., which take up real book space. Makes sense, and which sounds to me as though I should be counting white space instead of actual words, but I'm not sure and my brain's confuddled.


[Update: I've since come over this article on Estimating Word Count and thought I'd share it with you]
Posted by Sharon J on 2:33 PM   
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