MsCreativity asked in the comments section what my diagnosis is being as I'm an intravenous feeder on lifetime TPN. At least, I think that's what she asked ;-)
Because most people wouldn't know what "Short Bowel Syndrome" is or why one would have it, I decided I'd write a post about it rather than explain in the comments. After all, for me and everybody else in my situation, it's a matter of the more people who understand the condition, the better.
Short Bowel Syndrome is a catch-all diagnosis for anybody who has had most or all of their bowel removed for whatever reason (or was born with very little or no bowel). In my case, a blockage in the artery that feeds the bowel caused my bowel to rot.
I'd been in pain for several months, on and off, with each bout of pain exceeding the last. Eventually the pain became so acute that regardless of what my GP had said about my health improving, Richard drove me to the out-of-hours GP at our hospital who immediately admitted me.
Once in hospital I spent the entire night screaming in pain and no amount of morphine would relieve it. Little wonder really, considering what was happening inside me.
The next morning I was taken down to theatre. The next I remember was waking up in HDU with Richard by my side and tubes coming out of every orifice, a bag on my belly and a tube stuck in my neck. I hadn't a clue what was going on but needed to know what was wrong with me. When Richard told me they'd removed my bowel, I was shocked, to say the least. Surely a person can't live without a bowel?
I now have about 14 inches of bowel left which was, luckily, enough for me to have a resection and get rid of the bag. If I'd have had to continue with that (it was attached directly to my stomach), I really don't think I would have coped. It wouldn't stay on so I spent most of my time on my back with Richard poised with a vacuum suction head, ready to suck up whatever came shooting out of the hole - mostly stomach acid which, if it didn't get sucked away immediately, would burn my skin. You don't even want to think about what my stomach looked like after a month of that! How he put up with spending so much time in hospital looking after me I really don't know, especially as we'd only been together for 6 months when it happened and he also had responsibity for running the home and taking care of a sassy 13 year old step-daughter. Talk about a real life hero!
What I didn't realise at the time—until the doctor told me later—was that I still only had a 50/50 chance of survival. It would be a month until I was told I was 'out of the woods' but those first 24 hours after surgery were crucial as most patients who suffer the same as I did don't live to tell the tale. I was also told that another day and I definately wouldn't have been here now. It's things like this that put life into perspective and is the reason why I'm not that fussed as to whether or not my manuscript is accepted. It isn't as important to me as it possibly is to most because, if they turn it down, I'll still be here. Nothing will have changed. Life will go on and there's always another story to write.
Anyway, because I don’t have a bowel, the only way I can be given nutrition is through TPN, which is a liquid feed given directly into a vein. In my case the subclavian with the line entering my body just above my right breast, travelling below the skin to the point where it enters the vein close to my arm, and then continues along the vein to the heart.
In order to be fed by TPN I hook up to a pump five nights a week (it's something like those you see in hospital when you're put on a drip) for 14 hours. As I also have to have any fluids administered in the same way, I have to be careful not to dehydrate as, unlike people with a normal bowel, I can't just drink some water - mine has to be pumped in. That's a bit of a pain in the butt because it means hooking up again which also means going through all the rigmarole of aseptic procedures. Believe me, that is one huge pain in the rear! Although not quite as painful as sticking a needle in my thigh every day! That's the only way I can adminster heparin, an anti-coagulant that helps keeps me alive. Without it a clot would form and what could happen then is anybody's guess.
Of the possible side effects of TPN, I've experienced all but one.
* My memory's shot - sorry, what was your name again and what time were we supposed to be there and what was it I was supposed to be working on today? I have to make a note of everything
* I often have trouble catching my breath although some days are worse than others.
* I have nights where I'm up and down all night because two and a half litres of fluid going in has to come out again!
* I'm easily confused so no more multi-tasking for me
* Sometimes I vomit several times a day. Not too good if you happen to be driving at the time (yes, it's happened!) but luckily I can go several weeks without vomiting so it could be worse.
* Too much walking (by that I mean a couple of hundred yards) and I'm up most of the night with leg cramps.
* My muscles are incredibly weak so just reaching up to the top shelf to get something down can sometimes leave me needing to rest. Other times I just ache.
* My hands and feet swell up so sometimes my shoes don’t fit. Again, this isn't a huge problem and doesn't happen regularly.
* My blood pressure's ridiculously low so jumping up too quickly can lead to dizziness. I've never actually passed out, though (touch wood).
* Some days I'm so weak I can hardly get out of bed. This happens about once a week on average.
There's a strong chance I'll develop osteoporosisand that my liver will eventually stop working as efficiently as it should. If that happens, my skin, hair and eyes will turn green.
I try to not let it get in my way too much, though. Mind you, there are times when it gets me down because ... well, my whole life's been thrown up in the air.
Obviously, there are things I can't do anymore but one thing I've learned is that it's always better to concentrate on the things you can do rather than those you can't. Last night we went to a gig at our local rock club and I even danced! Just to one song, but I did it! It hurt and this morning I'm suffering leg cramps because of it, but sod it - it was fun!
Why did this happen to me? Because I smoked. By the time I became ill I was up to 50 a day but really it doesn’t matter whether you smoke 5 or 50, if your body is susceptible, it'll build up fatty deposits and eventually a blockage will form. I was lucky - if the blockage had formed elsewhere, I could have had a massive heart attack or stroke. As it was, it's just the artery to my bowel and three of the four arteries in my legs that were affected. The blockages in my legs make it uncomfortable to walk, but I do try to push myself as much as I can. Sometimes it's just too painful, though.
Needless to say, I gave up the fags. So did Richard. Sadly, my daughter, Lise, still smokes. More than anything in this world (yes, more than wanting to be published), I want her to give up. I wouldn't wish what happened to me on anybody, and I certainly don't want to see my daughter go through anything even remotely similar. But she's been to the doctor to check whether she has 'sticky blood' (I do) and because she hasn't, she thinks she's safe. But she isn't. 'Sticky Blood' just makes you more susceptible but the lack of it doesn't make you immune.
I'm not going to preach to you, but if you do smoke, please at least think about what you're doing to your body. This isn't a dress rehearsal - we have one shot at life and it isn't until you've almost lost it that you really realise just how damned precious it is. A minute is all it takes to lose it.
Bring out the cake, Minx, and get those knees up, Debs, cos we're gonna party!
Anybody else coming? Sue? Karen? You two have to be up for a party! And no excuses about moving, Sue!
Seriously, the first three chapters of Leo & Sherry's story are now at the HMB offices in Richmond (unless the post office hasn't done its job properly, that is).
I think I did everything right... manuscript in double spacing courier 12 without any kind of binding except an elastic band around both it and the cover page along with a cover letter, synopsis and an SASE.
The envelope didn't have any stamps on it when the photo was taken (the things you do for prosperity, eh?) because Richard put them on when he took it to the post office (and on the SASE, of course, otherwise it wouldn’t actually be one), but it didn't cost quite as much to send as I'd imagined. I was envisaging having to take out a loan in order to cover the cost of posting manuscripts but no, £1.97 or something like that I believe. I can live with that.
So now it's time to forget about Sherry and Leo and get on with Darcie and Alex's story. I'm actually enjoying their story much more, I think probably because I really like Darcie. The story's much better paced, too. Sherry never really 'took off' for me, I think because I had to change her when I changed the story from a 'Presents' to a 'Tender', but never mind, she's gone now so no point giving her any more thought.
I'm aiming to have the first draft of Darcie and Alex finished by mid August but that's going to depend on how much time I get while my daughter's visiting in July. I can't exactly spend all my time with my nose in the computer and just leave her to get bored, can I? We'll see. If it isn't finished by the time we go on holiday then I shall take my laptop with me. Yes, I know holidays aren't meant to be for working but I usually spend some time holed up in the caravan whilst waiting for my pump to finish (I'm an intravenous feeder on TPN, for those who don't already know) so I might just as well write for a while. And anyway, until you get paid for it, it isn't really work, is it?
Right. I'm off to accompany Darcie, Alex and Jack (Alex's son) around a Welsh castle. I just hope it doesn't rain.
LINKY LOU There are actually two links today. One I lifted from Amanda Ashby's blog but the other's been residing in the NWG links directory for a while now. Being as they're both sort of related to sending off manuscripts (you send them off and then you wait...) I thought it'd be suitable as today's link.
Almost every author blog has, at some point or another, a post about the difficulty in finding the right name for a character. Everybody has their own way of finding them and everybody has names they would never use.
I certainly couldn't give a hero or heroine a name that belonged to somebody I've had a negative experience with at some time or another, although I could quite happily use on of those names for the wicked step-mother type characters.
I have a word document that's full of names. Well, two of them, actually. Two documents, that is, not two names. One for female names and one for male. Every time I hear or see a name that I like the sound of, into the document it goes. It doesn't necessarily have to be a nice name as such, but one that I feel could be turned into a character.
Y'see, most times, when I'm developing a new character, I just pick a name and try to envisage who would have that name. What would she look like? How would she speak? What would she wear? Where would she work? In fact, I often find that's the easiest way to build a character as the times I've developed my character first and then tried to find a name... well, I wouldn't like to say how long I've spent trying to find the right one. No, the name into character way definitely works best for me.
Obviously, if it's the mean aunt or a miserable uncle I'm trying to find a name for, I'll only look at names that immediately conjure up unpleasant characters, but as I have them in a separate area of my file, that's easy enough. Where an Ivy, to me, would be a kindly woman, a Doris wouldn't. So I'd grab Doris from the list and start imagining her, gradually fleshing her out until I have a fully-formed character to use.
But I have been known to find character names purely by accident, too. Like the old woman I called Daisy because she was a miserable old cow and the hero I called Lance because he was so sharp witted.
I'm always fascinated by what others do so if you have the time, stop by the comments box and let me know how you go about naming your characters, would you? Or if you have a post on your own blog about it, just point me in the right direction.
During the past month or so I've noticed quite a few writers having a grouch on their blogs about their writing spaces. Either they're too small, too hot, don't offer an inspiring enough view from the window or have some other problem that's causing them grief.
I'd just like to say to all of you (no names, you know who you are) that whether you believe it or not, you're actually lucky to have a space to call your own. Having a place where you can go to write, keep your PC, notes, pens, pads and other paraphernalia, pin ideas to the wall, listen to inspiring music, keep your book collection or whatever else you do in your 'office' isn't something all writers have.
I write wherever I can. That's usually my bedroom, sitting on the bed with my laptop perched on my knees. After a while, that becomes extremely uncomfortable but I have no choice. There isn't room in the bedroom for a table, desk or anything similar, nor is there room for a comfortable chair. Richard works in the living room (he's also a writer) and as we spend too much time talking and not enough time writing when sitting together, that's out of the question. I could use the kitchen table, and indeed do on occasion, but I find it difficult to concentrate on my work when I'm surrounded by reminders of domestic chores that ought to be done (there's always an ironing pile staring at me; the dog brings mud in all over the kitchen floor; I start planning meals, etc.). There's no cubby hole under the stairs and the loft isn't of the type that can be converted. Even the landing doesn't have room for anything more than a bookshelf. The downstairs hall is about 1.5 metres x 1.5 so no hope there, either. We've considered an extra shed in the garden (after the girls of the NWG put the idea forward at the pub a few weeks ago), but can't see where we'd put that, either. Not without chopping a tree down and that's something I really don't want to do. We need all the trees we can get!
I'd love to have a little space to call my own but I don't have one and the likelihood of getting one in the near future is very slim. But what's the point in complaining? That isn't going to get me one, is it? Hard work is probably the only way I'll ever get one, and if that means balancing my laptop on my lap, so be it.
I know several writers have posted photos of their writing spaces but I'm not going to show you my bedroom. Some things I'll keep to myself. However, if you're interested, you can see Richard's writing space. It's the end of the sofa with laptop sat on coffee table. He does have a bookshelf next to him, though, so things can't be too bad :-)
I don't mean to sound preachy but instead of complaining about what you don't have, how about concentrating on what you do have instead? I don't have an office or anything even remotely resemblant of one, but I have a house where I can feel warm and secure, a family who respect my need to write, and enough imagination to be able to do so. That's not bad, really.
I've heard of writers who have had to go out every day in order to write because their families simply haven't respected their need to write. At least I don't have to do that!
I've heard of writers who couldn't afford to pay the electricity bill and have had to sit in a cold room, huddled up in blankets in order to write. At least I don't have to do that!
I've heard of writers who have been homeless. At least I have somewhere to live!
Writers write. A pen and paper is all that's really needed. Everything else is a bonus.
We've had a steady flow of new sign-ups but few people are posting and those who have hadn't had much response. It's a shame because I honestly believe the forums could be a useful resource and for me personally, it's sad to see my hard work just laying there barely used.
So get your backsides over there now and start posting. Please?
PS: I just rounded 2,000 visits to my blog. That called for a celebration so I had a rum & raison flavoured choc ice! Yum! ~~+~~
If you haven't already been over to Liz Fielding's blog and read the extract from her latest accepted manuscript, do it now. Once you've read it you'll understand exactly why she's my absolute favourite Tender author and the person whose work inspired me to try my hand at writing them myself.
Mind you, whenever I read anything that Liz writes I always look at my own manuscript and sigh. Heavily! It just doesn't come anywhere even close. There are other Tender authors who I think I'm probably on par with (I hope so, anyway) but Liz is out there in a league of her own.
Thanks for the inspiration, Liz :-)
YESTERDAY'S POST Y'know, yesterday I was in a really cranky mood. I get like that sometimes but I'm wondering whether it would be best to stay away from blogland when I'm like that. I'd hate to think anybody took me seriously. I honestly don't believe Mills & Boon novels are aimed at women who dash down the corner shop to get their fags whilst wearing pink furry slippers and hoping the house won't burn down while they're gone because little Billy's asleep on the settee.
I mean, I read Mills and Boon and I'm not like that (but you only have my word for that, don't you?). I'm actually a highly intelligent woman with an IQ of 143 so if I can read... no, I'm kidding. I'm a pretty normal kind of person and I think that pretty much sums up who generally reads Mills & Boon. Pretty normal kind of women. Women who like a little escapism now and then, who perhaps have to do a lot of thinking in their work and appreciate not having to work too hard on understanding the novel they're reading but at the same time are given a damned good story that they can relax with.
That, people, is my honest opinion.
And as far as the flesch scores go, I don't think anybody was serious about 5 being optimum. I really can't remember where it all started but I'm sure it was all done pretty much tongue in cheek, as a way of firing back at those who believe... well, what I've already written above.
I'm sure it was just a group of writers (and aspiring writers) having a bit of fun, and as M&B authors, pretty much poking fun at themselves. And that's not such a bad thing. We all need to lighten up now and then and stop worrying about how others see us. I know I can get wound up by people who try to belittle me because I write romance (and category romance, especially) but I've learned that if I laugh with them, and then gently explain that "actually, it isn't quite like that" I get a lot further than I ever did by shooting off at them!
LINK OF THE DAY This is the Amazon link to Liz Fielding's books. If you buy anything through the link, the affiliate percentage will go to The Nantwich Writers' Group to help us save up for trips out, to get writers in to speak to us and anything else we may want to do. We would, of course, be very grateful :)
Do you remember when everybody was going on about flesch scores and how much their manuscripts scored? I seem to remember that for a M&B romance, a score of around 5 was optimum.
Well mine's a 6. At least, the first three chapters are.
Does that mean it's too intellectual for the average M&B reader? Or will I just be pushing their boundaries, forcing them to learn new words that have more than two syllables?
Sorry, but should any of you think I'm being serious, I'd better stop here and add that my tongue is very firmly placed in my cheek. I have no intention of stressing over flesch scores because I don't believe they have any significance so really don't give a monkey's whether or not my score is optimum or not. I'm as laid back about this now as everybody else was 'back then'.
It's a bit of fun, and authors need a laugh as much as anybody else, don't they?
I'm just having a laugh when I say my manuscript might one day be seen as intellectually challenging by a certain group of women whose lives generally consist of nothing more than Jeremy Wotsit interviewing dysfunctional families and part of Phillip and Fern. Only part mind; they need time to go out and buy their fags while the kids are at school.
Yes, I'm being disparaging. That's just a bit of fun, too. Sometimes I write something that appears to be serious but that those who know me would immediately realise is just a load of old pony. It's the way I am and I can't change that. Not sure I'd even want to.
I think I'm probably chilling with some nonsense because I've finally finished editing those first three chapters. What a relief that is! The word count's gone down by a couple of hundred (not surprising seeing as I cut an entire scene and part of another) but the whole thing reads better for it. I just need to know what flowers would be blooming in a garden on Tenerife in July. Anybody? No, I didn't think so. Back to the research board.
Once I've got the flowers, the manuscript's going to Richmond. Then I'll finish editing the rest (in between writing Darcie and Alex's story, because they're starting to get impatient now, bless 'em) and then put it away to be forgotten.
I've got a HenLit story waiting to go, too. The characters are nicely formed and because they're stuck in my head together, they're already starting to tear each other's eyes out. Women, y'know :-) Three of them, all dealing with the same man. How can it not go wrong?
It's funny in the ha-ha way, sort of like ChickLit only the women are older. The youngest is in her 30s but the other two are early and mid 40s. Definitely hens, right? When does it become BroilerLit, I wonder?
Q. How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb? A. Two. One to screw it almost all the way in and the other to give it a suprising twist at the end.
PS: Just wanted to add this: I don't believe that Mills & Boon stories are only read by the 'uneducated' and, if that were the case, I certainly wouldn't be writing for them. Maybe that sounds equally as disparaging but I'm afraid I can only write for an audience that's similar to myself and nobody is going to make me believe I belong on the sofa with Jeremy Wotshisname (although I do watch his show now and then)!
I'm not a happy bunny today. Nope, not one little bit. Even though I've finished editing and polishing the first three chapters of Sherry and Leo's story, I'm nowhere even close to being the bright little ray of sunshine I ought to be.
Because I can't think of a bloomin' title for my book, that's why!
Being as HMB have a tendency to call their stories things like "The Spaniard's Secret Mistress" and "His Pregnant Virgin Bride" (Ok, maybe not the second one, but you get the gist, right?), I thought I could just send my manuscript off without giving it a title. Or just call is "Sherry & Leo's Story", as I've done for the past three months. When it was a 'Presents', it was called "The Canarian Millionaire's Shagbandit" but since it's now a Tender, the shagging came out and the title was scratched. Not that I would have sent it off with that title, but at least it had one.
According to Julie Cohen, who kindly came over and left a comment after I'd posed the question of titles on the UK Editors Board at eHarlequin, it's best to give them a title as that's part of the sales ploy. Your title says something about the story, much in the way that the synopsis does.
Obviously, if that's the case, I'm not going to ignore her advice because I want to use every marketing tool I have available to me.
Being as useless as a [add something you consider to be utterly useless here] when it comes to thinking up titles isn't helping me much. Even when I write articles I usually end up agonising over the title for hours upon hours upon... and still end up with something really naff. Not that naff will matter when it comes to HMB. In fact a naff title is probably what's needed. It's finding something that's naff and still fits the story that's the problem.
Here's what I've come up with so far:
The Canarian's Forbidden Love - A typical HMB type title that fits the story because Leo's ex was emotionally blackmailing him, using his daughter as the weapon. Because he didn't want to risk hurting his daughter, he couldn't commit to Sherry.
Love Unleashed - Not typical HMB but it definitely fits the story. When Leo decides that enough is enough and calls Allegra's bluff (that's the ex wife), he and Sherry are finally able to be together and their love is well and truly unleashed.
The question is, which one should I go for? Or should I forget them both and find something entirely different?
I'm going to give myself until tonight to decide. If I haven't made a definite decision by then I'm just going to do the 'eeny-meeny-miney-mo' thing because the manuscript has to go.
TODAY'S LINK Being as I gave both my possible titles a run through The Book Title Scorer, I thought I'd share the link with the rest of you.
It's just a bit of fun, really, but here are the results for my titles (sounds a bit like Eurovision, doesn't it?):
The Canarian's Forbidden Love - 10.2% Love Unleashed - 63.7%
Basically, they're saying that if I go with 'Love Unleashed', my story will have a 63.7% chance of becoming a best seller, whereas 'The Canarian's Forbidden Love' doesn't stand much of a chance at all.
Of course, it's all a load of old baloney, because according to this thing, 'Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire' only stood a 14.6% chance of becoming a best seller and we all know what happened to that one!
Still, taking time out to have a bit of fun during the day never hurt anybody.
Does anybody know where one can find the guidelines for the ModX line? I can't see them on either M&B or eHarlequin but surely they must be somewhere? Or do you have to already be writing for HMB to write for ModX? No, that doesn't make sense because, as far as I know, Julie Cohen wasn't.
Anybody? Pretty please? With a cherry on the top?
Still busy editing. I'm gonna try getting the first three chapters polished up today so that I can send them off asap, but that depends on what else happens today.
It's my daughter's 20th birthday so she'll be phoning (it's free for her to call me from Norway so she does most of the calling) and that generally means at least an hour's conversation. Richard's planning a bbq and I'm hoping to get to the spooky church tonight (that's our local Spiritualist Church, for those of you who don't know). Will there be enough time left for editing? Watch this space...
LINK OF THE DAY Do you ever feel uncertain when it comes to punctuating your dialogue? I mean, Should you use a capital to start your speech tag when the dialogue ended with something other than a comma? As in:
"Could you pass me that towel?" she asked.
"Watch out!" shouted Jane.
I haven't used capitals, but is that right? Yes? No? Are you sure?
And what about that end comma; should it be inside the quotation marks or not?
"I like that," he said. "I like that", he said.
Which is correct?
And how do you deal with multi-paragraph quotes? Should you use a new quotation mark at the start of each paragraph or not?
And how about when you're quoting something somebody else said within your dialogue?
If it's all too much for you and you're no longer sure you've been getting it right, take a look at Punctuating Dialogue. It's written by Marg Gilk (whoever she may be) and, unless you're 100% certain of what you're doing, is definitely worth a look.
I've started editing! Or is it called reviewing at this stage? I'm blowed if I know. Does it really matter? I'm re-writing bits that I'm not happy with, taking out bits that don't need to be there, adding bits that are missing and all that jazz.
I know I said I wouldn't start until next week but today felt right. I woke up with lots of thoughts about Leo & Sherry tumbling around inside my head and knew I had to get on with editing their story or they'd plague me throughout the weekend. And nobody wants their weekend ruined by a pair of fictional characters, do they?
I've worked my way through the first two chapters, the second of which needed considerable work before I was happy with it. Because the characters had developed throughout the story, some of what was written back in Chapter Two just didn't fit their personalities anymore.
I also had to give the cat the chop. He only appears that once so there's no point in having him. Why sit him on the landing, forcing the reader try to remember him for no reason? If a character doesn't moves the story forward, even if that character happens to be an animal, then it has no business being in the story in the first place. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.
I'm really hoping to have this sent off by the end of next week. Once it's in the post, I'll bring out a cake and we'll have a bit of a knees up. You up for that, Minx? Debi? Sue? Anyone else?
I've been writing some erotic short stories today. They've been ordered by a client to use on a website and believe me, it's far more fun than writing about 'enclosures'. Or even mortgage options or online payment systems. But they all help pay the bills so I'm not complaining.
The short stories have got me wondering whether I ought to have a go at a Blaze, though. I've never read one, but I'm guessing they're just relationship stories where the sex scenes are more regular than otherwise and glowing red hot with lust and desire? I'm not sure yet, though. I already have a 'Next' that I want to write, and a main-stream 'henlit' story with a lot of laughs involved. That's my trouble, y'see. Too many stories, too little time.
Anyway, don't go thinking I'm procrastinating again just because Darcie & Alex's word meter doesn't change much, I'm busy with other stuff. And without the other stuff, Sherry & Leo will never be seen by an M&B editor.
A WEIRD COINCIDENCE I could hardly believe this but earlier today I took a jaunt around some of the blogs that I link to and had a look at some of the blogs that they link to (still with me?). One of the blogs I landed on belongs to Nicola Marsh, an Australian HMB author. Nothing odd about that, but guess what? Nicola's using a picture of a bloke as inspiration for her next hero and who do you think he is? The self same bloke as I'm using as Alex! Yepp, it's true. Mr James Penfold. Not only is it the same man, but the same photo! Take a look at her post and see.
How weird is that?
The only difference is that she's writing a ModX whereas I'm writing a Tender. And she's called her bloke Bo.
I hope she doesn't tell me off for snatching him, because I didn't. Honestly.
TODAY'S LINK From now on, I'm going to start putting a link in each post. They'll always be writing related in some way or another, but not necessarily related to romance writing. It all depends what I find (I'm always searching out links for the NWG links directory) and what I think you'll want to know about.
If you're thinking of trying your hand at erotica (not trying your hand as in... well... you know), then please remember that babysitters aren't the only people to have sex, all black men aren't necessarily well hung and the missionary position doesn't usually lead to a woman having twenty seven orgasms.
Why is that the American versions of HMB romances always have better covers than the UK versions? Does Harlequin have some kind of rule that says our covers have to be crappy compared to those in the US? Because it sure as hell seems that way!
Just look at this one:
That's the UK cover of Liz Fielding's book "The Marriage Miracle". In this book, the heroine is confined to a wheelchair. Does it then stand to reason that she'd be standing nice and straight at the altar?
Now take a look at this one:
That’s the same book but in the US cover. Better? Yes, I'd definitely say so. Some have said it looks as if the hero's wading through water but I don't think so. To me it looks as if he's wading through a meadow of bluebells or some similar kind of flower. Or it could just be the way the late evening light's playing on the grass. Whatever the answer is, it's still much better than the UK version.
This is just one example but the same goes for so many HMB romances.
I really think a lot's lost because of the covers. Very rarely am I attracted to one; mostly I buy a HMB because of the author's name, which must make it difficult for newcomers if others do the same thing. And why should it be so difficult for the powers that be at HMB to find pictures that actually match the characters in the story? If I had a pound for every time I've read one about a blonde heroine who's depicted as a red head or brunette, or a dark hero who's depicted as a blonde, etc., then I'd have enough money now to take my family out for a very nice slap up meal.
Oh well... I don't suppose for one moment my rant's going to make a blind bit of difference, but it feels better to have got it off my chest.
EDITING Moving on, I came across an interesting blog post earlier today. It's about 'Weedy/Hedging Words and Negatives' and makes for some thought provoking reading. It certainly got me thinking about my own editing, anyway. Mind you, there are never any hard and fast rules. Take, for example, the part about negatives. The author, Jennifer, says that of the two following sentences:
The cave was dark. The cave was not light.
The first reads better. Well, that's true, BUT there are times when you'd want to use the second alternative. Well, I would anyway. I might write:
He poked around inside the cave which, although not dark, certainly wasn't light. Similar, he imagined, to what he'd see if he looked through a pair of ladies grey tights. Not that he'd ever done that. And if he had, he doubted it would have been in a cave.
I think it depends on what kind of pace you're looking for, who your target audience is and the genre. And being able to feel whether something sounds right or not. Perhaps that's where the skill of writing comes into things. Why some will make it as authors and others won't. Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not saying that was a brilliant example. It was straight off the top of my head and I'll probably look at it tomorrow and wish I could curl up and hide away from blogland for a bit, but it's there now and it's only supposed to be a quick example.
One thing Melly mentions is repetitiveness of words. That's really one of my pet hates when reading and a problem far too many authors appear to have. In fact, there's one HMB author (no names mentioned and don't even think about asking) that almost drove me to distraction by repeatedly using the same phrase throughout a story when so many other alternatives were available. That kind of thing really makes me wonder where the hell the editors are and whether they're actually doing their jobs! I mean, shouldn't they also pick up on that kind of thing? Not that I'm excusing authors and laying the responsibility at the doorsteps of editors, but surely it's a joint thing? Or am I completely off track?
Anyway, if anybody's worried about word repetitiveness, there's a handy tool called a Word Frequency Indexer that will tell you exactly how many times each word appears in your manuscript. It's dead simple to use and the results, when I put Leo & Sherry's story through it, were surprising. Not because I'd been repetitive, but because the word LOVE only appeared six times in 52,000 or so words! And that in a romance!
Procrastination - one of a writer's worst enemies. We want to write and yet it's not unusual for us to find ourselves making any excuse to not have to write. (Sue... packing, moving and unpacking aren't good enough excuses!)
If procrastination is a problem you find yourself dealing with now and then science-fiction writer, Jerry Oltion, has written an excellent article outlining all of fifty ways in which a writer can give him/herself a mental kick up the derriere. And judging by the number of visitors to this blog who have said something along the lines of "I haven't written anything for weeks/months", there are probably quite a few of us who could use some help on this score. I know I'm not alone!
One of his tips is "unplug the TV". There's more to it than just that, but it's an argument I've often used when people have said: "I'd love to write a book but I just don't have the time."
Err, excuse me, but if somebody manages to find the time to watch Eastenders, Big Brother, [fill in blank with mindless twaddle that passes as television entertainment] then surely they can find the time to write? It's just a matter of priorities.
I'm not so sure about the "read a book a day for inspiration" tip, though. I mean, A BOOK A DAY? One whole book every day? He's gotta be having a laugh, right? It takes me at least a fortnight to get through a book and that's if it really grabs me. I can't even manage a newspaper a day! Well, unless that newspaper happens to be of 'The Sun' variety because if anything's easy reading, that is, right? That and The Beano.
Anyway, it's worth a look because there are some good tips there, some of which I shall pin to my at-the-moment-non-existent-pin-board.
POPPY You'll be glad to hear that Poppy's operation went smoothly. She's now sitting on the sofa, doped up to her eyeballs, and probably wondering what the heck's going on.
After bringing her home, I had to take LM out to Tesco. When we got back, she wanted to do her usual "greeting Mum at the door" thing. Only every time she wagged, she lost her balance and fell over. As wicked as it sounds, I couldn't help but laugh. She's such a little darling!
Anyway, the tumour they removed was horribly large (they had it in a jar, ready to send to the lab) and evidently her breasts contained milk so she'd recently had a phantom pregnancy. They would explain some of the strange behaviour we witnessed a while back.
Now we just have to cross our fingers that the tumour is either benign or at least hasn't spread to any other organ.
PS: It seems I put the wrong URL in the link to the article (Seems? There's no seems about it. I DID put the wrong URL in the link!) The fault has now been rectified.
I'm totally enjoying writing this new story; it's flowing so much better than the previous one did. That's probably because it's started life as a Tender and hasn't been chopped about in the way Sherry and Leo's story was. I can just go straight in and write what needs to be written. I'm also finding Darcie a lot more fun than Sherry was. Her personality really sparkles and she's full of wit. No wonder Alex is blown away by her!
Today I've been working on what must be the most boring article in the history of civilisation. It was about electronic enclosures, a subject I knew absolutely nothing about. The research was heavy going because I really didn't understand much of what was written about it, either, but I got there in the end. I just hope the client accepts it.
I've written 2,600 words today on the new story so am pleased with that as I'm now, after two days of writing, almost 10% through. Once I pass that 10% mark I'll feel better as it's the starting out that I don't much like. No, that's wrong. I do like starting a new story, but once I've got those initial first words down I'm then eager to see it actually going somewhere.
I might start some serious revising of Sherry & Leo's story tomorrow but that depends on whether the time feels right. I know from my ordinary writing work that the best revisions are made when I've taken a good step back from my work and let it rest for a while, although with editors nagging for submission, that isn't always possible. Karen Dindia has a few useful revision tips on her blog, if you're interested.
One of the good things about being an unpublished novelist (is there such a thing?) with no contract or deadlines to worry about is that I can work at my own pace. I'm sure that must seem like a luxury to those who have deadlines looming and are dependent on the income so, for that reason, I'm going to enjoy being unpublished, at least for the time being.
How do the rest of you 'unpublished novelists' feel? Do you consider yourself in a position of luxury compared to those with deadlines? Or are you just eager to join the ranks of published authors and all that goes with it?
PS: We took Poppy to the vet yesterday afternoon. She has a tumour in one of her breasts and will be having an operation to remove it today. As you can no doubt imagine, I'm worried that it won't be good news but the vet did say that as it doesn't appear to have spread to the other breasts, there's a good chance they'll have caught it in time.
Here's a picture of her, taken last year. She's all dressed up and ready for Christmas. And--should you be wondering--no, we don't generally treat her like a human baby and dress her up. I think such things are terribly sad, especially when the owners say "but the dogs like it". They don't. They're dogs.
We're back to that old chestnut again - the word count discussion.
MsCreativity brought something to my attention that I hadn't heard about. Evidently HMB are now counting pages rather than words, so it'll be computer count rather than actual word count that matters. Has anybody else heard anything about this?
I really don't like the idea of having to do page counts as that doesn't suit the way I set up my manuscripts during the writing phase. I have just one long document, y'see, and no idea how many pages that will actually be covered when it's finished. Words are much easier to count.
For the time being, I'm sticking with the 50,000 - 55,000 words for the Tender line as I'm sure if it's wrong and they want to buy one of my stories, somebody at HMB will let me know. It would be interesting to hear what, if anything, others have heard, though. (Debi. Do you understand now why I fuss about word counts so much?)
Anyway, I'm now exactly 2,500 words into my new story. That equates to 4.5% of a 55,000 word manuscript. That doesn't sound much after working with 87.3% and the likes but I'm sure it'll soon grow.
I've put the 'old' ms away for a few days to let it rest before going for the revisions. Don't ask me why I've decided to do this, it's just something that feels right. I suppose we all have our own ways of working and nothing's more right or wrong than any other way. Didn't somebody once say that the only right way is the way that works for you?
I'm trying something new this time. I've seen quite a few writers use pictures of people (mostly famous but not always) as inspiration for their heroes/heroines. I've never done that before and certainly didn't during Sherry and Leo's story, but this time I've decided to give it a try.
Here's my idea of Alex. He's a 39 year old news reporter.
What do you think? Obviously he'll have to have that stubble shaven off for work but when he's relaxing... that's another story. I think he looks drop dead sexy, especially as he's wearing a suit. That's how he looked when he turned up at Darcie's house to take her to dinner, after she hadn't seen him for four years. How she kept herself from leaping all over him I'll never know! Perhaps I ought to be writing for 'Presents' rather than 'Tender', being as he's most definitely the kind of guy that women like Darcie would end up wanting to do the sort of thing you have to take your knickers off to do. My mind's eye has given him a few more 'smile lines' because of his age, but I think that just makes him all the more sexier. (Am I showing my age now?)
Anyhow, this is Darcie. She's pretty, isn't she?
She's 33, single and is perfectly happy with the way her life is, thank you very much. She hasn't dated since she lost her husband six years ago and doesn't intend to. I can see that Alex would be attracted to Darcie but although she can see he's handsome and loves him as a friend, she just doesn't want a relationship. She has her reasons, obviously, but I think Alex is going to have to show her a good time or two, don't you?
It'll be interesting to see whether having pictures of my characters will help them develop or not. I'll keep you posted.
PS: Have you ever wondered how a HMB novel is produced? If so, take a look at Fiona Lowe's website. She was lucky enough to get to see her very first book being produced from start to finish. Can you imagine how much fun that must have been?
We had a lovely weekend in Llandudno. The weather was fabulous and I managed to do more walking than I've done in a long time, something that made me feel quite good about myself. Every time I manage to push myself just that little bit further, it reinforces my belief that one day I'll be able to go for a proper walk (by that I mean walking the kind of distance most people walk when they go shopping in town or for a wander along the canal towpath, etc). If I make sure I'm well rested beforehand, I'm sure it'll happen.
We stayed at The Grand Hotel and while the reception area looks very impressive, on the whole the place was pretty run down and I wouldn't recommend it. I certainly wouldn't go back in a hurry. The dinner was so-so, as was breakfast (according to Richard - I didn't bother with it) and the entertainment... well, let's just say that Stan the Man isn't going to be topping any music charts! The man couldn't hold a note if his life depended on it, and he couldn't even sing in the same key as he played in. He's one of those organists who sings old songs like "San Francisco", "Release Me" and "When I'm Smiling". It's just a shame he didn't manage to make us smile! Oh well, it takes all sorts and it gave me something to blog about ;-)
If you're ever in Llandudno, you really must take the tram up to Great Orme. The views are absolutely stunning and the trip itself is quite charming. It's an old Victorian funicular that's recently been restored thanks to some EU funding and some National Lottery money.
We got home at about 9 this evening, after taking a detour over Snowdonia. I went straight upstairs for an hour's kip (lots of walking, at least by my standards, leaves me totally cream crackered), after which I did some writing so I'm now 1,239 words closer to THE END and over the 50,000 mark! I can see a bottle of champers (or at least a bottle of Blossom Hill white zinfandel) is going to be called for soon.
I managed to get some writing done this morning and am now well and truly into the home run. 89% of the first draft is down, assuming I write 55,000 words. If I aim for 50,000, I've actually finished 98%. Wow! For somebody who's never finished a mss in her life, that sounds pretty impressive!
To be honest, I think this first draft is going to finish up somewhere around 52,000 words. Whether the revision leaves me with more or less words remains to be seen, but I don't think it'll matter too much one way or the other.
I'm at that point now where I just want to get it revised and out of the way. I've been working on it since March and feel it's time to move on to the next story. Once this one's sent off I shall get started on the next Tender as well as a hen-lit story I have whizzing around in my head. I'm not sure how working on two WIPs at once will work out for me (I can't read two novels at once) but I'll try anything once. Well, most things, anyway. If I can't get along with two, I'll just have to see which one dominates and concentrate on that one first.
Right. I have to throw some stuff in a weekend case now, and do some tidying before we leave. Daughter Nr. 2's having a friend round for drinks, loud music and dancing, so I can't leave the place looking like a tip (even though that's what I'll probably come back to). Don't tell me I shouldn't worry about it - plenty of people have tried that before and it doesn't work. I like tidy, ok?
Feeling less fretful today. Either the book works out or it doesn't. As I've always said, life goes on regardless. I've experienced a lot of crap in my life and believe me, there are things that are far worse than a book being rejected. I don't even know why I got myself into a tiz. No, that's a lie actually. I do know. I was pre-menstrual and as most women know, there are a few days every month when everything seems like a huge problem.
Am off to Llandudno for the weekend tomorrow. But not until after the match. No, it's not me wanting to watch it - I live with a man, y'know. Fingers crossed the weather holds out because I'm really looking forward to doing some serious relaxing on the beach.
I think, once I've finished this book, I'm going to end up working on two WIPs. There are two stories both banging around in my head at the moment, demanding to be let out and I really can't see me being able to keep one of them at bay. I think I'll probably start both and then see which characters most want their story told. That's still a couple of weeks off, though. I have to finish this one first. But then that's me. Always planning what's going to happen next, even though I'm spontaneous. Doesn't really make sense, does it? Life doesn't always.
I've totally lost track of the days this week. I just phoned the vet and asked for an appointment on Friday, thinking that would be the day after tomorrow. When she said "We'll see you at 3 o'clock tomorrow afternoon then" I started arguing with her. I was adamant that today was Wednesday and that tomorrow couldn't possibly be Friday, and the receptionist was equally as adamant that she was right. It took my daughter to settle it in the end. Hmmm... slight embarrassment there. Never mind, Poppy now has an appointment for Saturday.
I'm rather worried about her as she's developed a lump in one of her breasts (teets? I'm not sure what you call them on dogs). Crossing fingers it isn't... well... I don't even want to say the word in case I tempt fate.
All's hunky dory as far as the book's concerned. Yesterday I was whizzing along like there was no tomorrow. Maybe it was relief that we're all still here after the prophecies of 060606. Or maybe not. Probably not, actually.
Anyway, I managed just over 4,600 words which is probably my personal record. And all of them were good words. By that I mean words that won't have to be cut when I go back and re-read them today. I know because I've already done that and am happy with yesterday's work. Whoopee!
Today hasn't been quite as productive. 875 words so far. But then I've only written for about an hour so I'd be a fool to expect more. I've had a gazillion other things to do today, and another gazillion still undone, so may not get anymore writing time before tomorrow. We'll see.
But you know how I was worrying that I wouldn't be able to bring it all in under 55,000 words? Well now I'm concerned that I won't be able to make 50,000. Mad really because I'm only about 5,000 words off and the final wrapping up chapter hasn't even started so there shouldn't really be a problem. And what Debi said yesterday about sometimes having to elaborate on scenes made me think, too. Even if I do have to chop, I'll probably also have to put in more detail--more of the sensory stuff--so the word count really shouldn't be a problem. If I can wrap it up at somewhere around 50,000 (I think I may be able to go as low as 48,000 on this first draft), I should be ok.
Just stop bloody fretting, Sharon!!
I'm off to visit my friend in hospital now. It's about quarter of a mile to walk from the entrance to her ward and as there are no seats on the way I'm not quite sure how I'm going to make it. Considering I can only manage 200 yards at the most and that's on an exceptionally good day, I'm kind of dreading it but I suppose if I take lots of breaks along the way, I'll get there in the end.
Before you do anything else, I want you to take a look at this article that appeared in The Times on Sunday 4th June.
Go on, toddle off and read it. I won't write anything else until you've clicked the link and read what Gordon Brown has to say about writing off agents' fees against tax.
Ok... read it? Good.
What do you think? I first heard about this over on Kate Hardy's blog and personally I'm disgusted! How on earth does he imagine authors are to manage without the help of agents? He should try writing a book and getting published without an agent. Mind you, he's a name so he may well be accepted directly by a publishing house but, as you all know, such isn't the case for most of us mere mortals.
I just don't get how he can imagine agents are "wholly, exclusively and necessary" for dancers but not for authors. Where on earth did he get his information from?
Evidently the Society of Authors will be following this up, so fingers crossed they'll be able to lobby with enough clout to get Mr Brown to change his misinformed mind.
WORD COUNT I've passed 40,000. Funnily enough, it's now become very scary. I've about 15,000 words left in which to wind up the story and I'm not sure I can fit everything in. I know I shouldn't worry because I'll probably have to go back and tighten a lot of previous stuff anyway, probably even delete entire scenes, but even so...
Luckily I've lots of ideas for the next book so once this one's finished I intend to send it off and forget it about it while I get on with manuscript number two. I'm certainly not going to fret over it. If they want it, that's great. If they don't, then life will go on as before. Nobody will have died, and we won't have become homeless. There are worse things in life than having a manuscript rejected.
But before I get to that stage, I still have those final 15,000 words to get through.
Onwards and upwards...
PS: Iona has the centre page spread! I'll scan copies for those who have asked.
Things are looking better here at the moment. The big row blew away a few cobwebs but the underlying problem has been sorted. Not through lack of willingness on either side, but because we just can't find a practical solution. A couple of friends suggested setting up a shed for Richard in the garden -- to which he agreed -- only we can't figure out where we could put it without taking down a tree. Hmm. Some thought is going to be needed.
I told the girls at the pub t'other evening that I'd lost my engagement ring and Penny suggested I visualise it, make the picture bigger and stronger until the ring led me to it. I tried. I didn't work! Bummer! Does that mean it isn't in the house? If that's the case, I don't have a lot of hope of ever seeing it again, do I?
Haven't written anything so far today. In fact, I haven't done anything productive at all. I've been surfing around, picking up a few ideas for articles but that's all. Oh, and stuffing a few new links into the NWG site link directory. You'll find the link to it on the left, if you're interested.
I got the jim-jams for my hospitalised friend but it turns out she can only wear nighties because of her temperature. Blah! Gotta go out again today and do more night-wear shopping. And the jimmys were so pretty, too! Alas, too big for me. Still, I'd rather be the one out hunting down night-wear than the one stuck in the hospital bed so I am absolutely not going to complain.
Must remember to buy the Sentinel today.
PS: According to some folks, the world is going to end today. It's 06.06.06... 666... the beast will take power and destroy us all. Yeah, right. See ya tomorrow.
I had a lovely evening at The Rising Sun last night. Penny, Iona and Carole all came along and we chatted about Penny's new house, writing, people's views of romantic fictions (especially the views of journalists) and life in general.
Iona has been contacted by a journo who is doing a feature on Erica James and was looking for an aspiring romantic novelist who had read her. Iona hadn't but had thought perhaps I had, but unable to get hold of me (I was in Blackpool, thrashing my credit card), she took the interview. Just as well really, because I haven't read Erica James either. Anyway, the piece--including a photo--will be running in tomorrow's Sentinel (I appreciate that most of you won't be able to get hold of it but there may be an online version).
What else? Not a lot.
I've managed to write 1504 words today so am suitably pleased with myself.
I'm now going to get myself off my pump and down to the local retail park to look for some pyjamas for a friend who's been taken into hospital. As she has no family up here (I know the feeling) she's sort of reliant on the help of friends. Being as she was rushed in, she found herself there with nothing but one of those horrid hospital gowns with a split up the back and paper knickers. Lovely! Another friend was going to take some of her knickers up to her (yes, I know - I wouldn't either) but as she's a size 32, they'd probably just end up in a heap around Carol's ankles. I'll have a look for some drawers (my mum still calls them drawers) when I'm out, too.
PS: Today's title reminds me of H.R. Puffandstuff. Anybody else remember him?
Richard and I had one hell of a humdinger of a row which led to him saying he was leaving and me throwing him out (I'm not sure which came first but we both got out bit in) and since my daughter's staying at her boyfriend's, I'm here on my own. For some reason, the row seemed to loosen up whatever was stopping the writing from flowing and I'm thundering along. 1,300 words this evening.
BLACKPOOL Linn Marie and I had a great time in Blackpool. I have to admit that I was dreading it because of the weather we'd been having but about half way up the M6, the clouds parted and then sun came out. The evening was beautiful so we went for a short walk on the front and central pier before retiring to the hotel bar for a Baileys on ice.
That night I woke to the sound of howling winds and lashing rain. I couldn't believe it! We were there to go shopping but surely we couldn't enjoy it in that kind of weather? I went back to sleep feeling less than happy. But low and behold, but the time morning came the sky was blue and the wind had dropped to a breeze. More than enough money was spent but we enjoyed ourselves. Mothers and daughters just have to do the shopping thing now and then, don't they?
That evening we had a beautiful dinner at an Italian restaurant in Cleveleys before heading back into Blackpool for the Hot Ice show out at The Pleasure Beach. Talk about impressed! I loved every second of it and so did LM. Well worth £20 so if you're ever in Blackpool and you like that kind of thing, do give it a try.
Once LM has taken the photographs off of her camera, I'll post some. She's quite a funky little photographer, even if I do say so myself :-)
ENGAGEMENT I didn't tell you I lost my engagement ring, did I? It was a couple of weeks ago now. I was having dinner when I suddenly noticed that my ring had gone. I'd changed the bedding and flipped the mattress earlier so was hoping it was either under the bed or stuck between the mattress and the base, but as I can't move the bed, I couldn't find it. I felt awful - as if it was a bad omen. That our relationship wouldn't last.
And what happened? A big barny and Richard's gone walk-about. It's not as if this hasn't happened before but this time it feels more serious. Richard blames it all on me because I get annoyed at his untidiness. I guess he tries but I really can't stand an untidy living room or kitchen. Maybe I'm a bit extreme when it comes to this but things that aren't in their places stress me out. It's the control freak in me, I guess.
THOUGHTS FOR KAREN My problems suddenly disolved into nothing when I visited Karen Lee Field's blog. Her 18 year old son has committed suicide. God knows how a mother can ever deal with something like that and I really can't stop thinking of her and the pain she must be suffering right now.
My daughter, Inger Lise, had a boyfriend who took his life when he was just 17. Went into the forest, found a tree and hanged himself. Nobody knew anything had been wrong.
Why do these things happen? Why do people have to suffer? Both those who take their lives and those who are left behind?
I'm sorry, but that news really hit me quite hard.