When I went to London all was well. When I came back, PC was doing strange things. It won't let me send email, won't let me post on Blogger, won't let me upload files to my yahoo email account or anywhere else.
It's really frustrating because I need the Internet in order to send work to my clients, but it's being really naughty. I'm hoping that now that dear daughter has left to go back to her beloved, things will be better (we have a theory that the laptop she was using has been conflicting with mine).
I'm now posting from Richard's PC but can't use it often because he uses it for work. Just wanted to tell you all that I haven't forgotten you, that I'm still writing and that I'm missing you all something dreadful.
Nothing much to report on the writing front. I've been too busy getting my paid work wound up before I leave to put much into the book but I've made notes and written another couple of hundred words. Not a lot, I know, but a little is better than nothing, yeah? The laptop will be coming with me so that I can write while I'm stuck on my pump during the mornings. I could go long-hand but I know I'd just end up with cramp in my fingers so I'm better off with the lappy.
What else? Nothing much at all. It's too hot to even think, let alone do anything.
LINK Today I'm going to head you in the direction of Trish Wylie's blog. She has a really interesting 'course' going to help us newbies understand more about the mechanics of writing. I've been following it so far but haven't the time to read the latest installment as I really have to log off and get on with baking a cake now. Nip over and have a look, though. She's being lovely for sharing her knowledge with us.
Today I received my first rejection letter. HM&B didn't want Leo & Sherry's story. What's more, they so didn't want it that all they afforded me was the standard rejection letter without so much as a name on it.
I can't say I'm surprised; I was never entirely happy with the story. As I've said before (but some of you may not have been around back then), it started life as a 'Modern' but changed to a 'Tender' about half way through. That meant a considerable amount of re-writing, but even when it was finished, the story never really felt right - it just felt as though it was neither one thing or another. But I figured that since I'd written it, sending it off couldn't do any harm. So I did. And here I am, less than two weeks later, thinking "well at least that means I don't have to hang around before I can submit the next one."
I'm really surprised at the speed of their turn around. Everybody said it'd be at least three months before I heard anything but 10 days? Does that mean that somebody read the first page and thought "rubbish", printed off a rejection letter and sent it straight back? Probably.
But looking on the bright side, a standard rejection is the worse possible result so things can either stay the same or improve - they can't get worse!
And as I've always said, life goes on.
LINK Today's link is "Rejection Collection" - the writer's and artist's on-line source for misery, commiseration and sob stories. After reading some of the stories of editors responding to submissions with letters telling the author that his or her work stunk and basically to give up writing, my rejection letter sounded positively... well, positive!
Right now I'm enjoying the last hours of 10 days of peace. This afternoon my youngest child returns from Norway with her older sister (my middle child) in tow. We're now going back to listening to loud music, doors slamming, and taxi-ing young people to various parts of the town and surrounding areas at ridiculous times of the day and night. In other words, all will be back to normal.
It'll be lovely seeing Lise again. Now that she's living back in Norway, it's not as if I can pop round for a coffee and a natter. November last year was the last time I saw her. Mind you, she phones several times a week so I don't miss her as much as you might think. And anyway, our children are meant to grow up, fly the nest and set out into the big wide world alone, aren't they? Just as long as she knows I'll always be here to catch her if she falls, she'll be ok.
<-- That's her when she was little. They grow up so quickly! Linn Marie will probably have lots of talk about when she gets back, too, so I'm not expecting to get much work done today. I'm going to write one article now before I leave and, hopefully, get a few words about Darcie and Alex written, then I shall close the laptop until tomorrow. Or maybe late this evening. We'll see.
A quick look through the archive threw up a good few words and idioms that I hadn't heard of or, if I'd heard of them, understood. Like 'Lavender Language', for example. I'd heard of it but hadn't a clue what it meant. Now I know it's a special dialect used by the gay community. ' Tmesis' is one I'd never heard of. It's when you separate a word in the middle by inserting another word into it, like when something's "out-bloody-rageous".
Time to drag myself away from 'New Words' now, though. There's work to be done.
About a year ago, a guy who was a member of a famous 70s Glam Rock group expressed an interest in having me write his biography. Unfortunately, a string of events led to us losing contact and it didn't happen. Shame because I think it would have sold reasonably well as he definitely had a story or ten to tell.
For the past few days I've been wondering whether to contact him again to ask whether he's still interested. My only problem is: where is the time going to come from? I'll still need to write the short, quick stuff in order to keep regular money coming in and what with the time I spend on the romance stories—and I'd hate to give up writing them now that I've finally got serious about them—how do I find the time to write the biography?
I'd really like to do it. In fact, I'm happy to do it for a percentage of the royalties rather than a fixed fee plus percentage because he doesn't have a lot to throw about (that's part of the story) and I really believe his story should be told.
Dilemmas. If only I didn't have to do the articles, life would be so very different. But hark at me! Who am I to complain? I get to do what I love doing and that sure as hell beats stacking shelves in Sainsburys!
TODAY'S LINK Did you know that The Guinness Book of Records holds the record for being the book most often stolen from public libraries?
Now I understand what Trish Wylie meant when she said that writing "O'Reilly's Bride" was like giving birth to a pineapple because that's exactly what getting words onto paper felt like yesterday. Not just words for the book, either. I had several articles that should have been delivered this morning but they're late because the words just wouldn't come. Every sentence was a struggle and when I reread what I had, it sounded as if it'd been written by somebody on a frighteningly high dose of opiates.
I'm hoping today is going to be better because not only do I have those original articles to deliver, I had another two on top of them! In other words, I've got my work cut out today. And there was me thinking I might get time to move a few perennials in the garden and plant a few new ones. Dream on! I doubt the book will be given much attention, either, but come what may, it'll get at least half hour, even if I have to put matchsticks under my eye lids!
Oh well, things can only get better :-)
LINK OF THE DAY Today's link is one I may need if I the aforementioned continues. It's "How To Finish A Novel" by Holly Lisle. It isn't long and waffly; just a nice succint article that explains some simple techniques that the author uses in order to get from "Once upon a time..." to "The End".
PS: Anybody know what's happened to Martyn Clayton? His blog disappeared about a week or so ago and hasn't re-emerged so I'm a little bit worried that something may have happened.
I have to admit that I'm pre-menstrual at the moment and tend to get weepy (have been known to cry at Coronation Street) but this is a seriously good read. One of the best 'Tender' stories I've read, anyway. It's full of unexpected twists and turns, the hero is absolutely adorable, and while I have to admit to not much liking the heroine to start with—she came across as immature and 'common' and I couldn't quite understand why the hero had fallen for her—she definitely grew on me.
I knew straight away, within the first few pages, that this was going to be a good read, and I believe I emailed Ally and told her so. If I didn't, then I certainly intended to (it's the memory, y'know... ). She took me straight to Rome - I was there, sitting by the Trevi Fountain, watching the gorgeous Italian as he looked around him, trying to locate his daughter.
It's a shame HMB books are only available for a short time because this is one that I'm sure anybody who generally enjoys 'Tender' romance would love. Your local library may well have it, though, and it's still available on Amazon, albeit at a ridiculously inflated price.
This was the first book I'd read by Ally Blake but it certainly won't be the last. She's now right there at the top of my 'must read' list.
I've put one of those map things on the sidebar, right down at the bottom, because I saw some other folks had one and thought it looked good.
I'm going to be honest, though. I haven't put it there for research purposes. I have no books to sell so what would I be researching? No, my map is there purely because I'm a nosey cow who likes to know what's going on.
'Tis interesting, is the map. During the two days is been there, this blog has been visited by people from:
UK (surprise, surprise) The Czech Republic Iceland Sweden France Malta Canada (Toronto) Australia (Sydney) US
When it comes to the American visitors, they've been from:
California Utah Florida (several) Alabama Pasadena New York
Interesting, eh? No? What do you mean, no? You don't care where I get my visitors from? Oh well... it pleases my tiny mind.
Anyway, if you recognise yourself from the list, give me a shout. I'd love to know who's from where.
TODAY'S LINK I found this one a while ago and have found it very useful in helping me develop my characters and, not least, remembering those little character traits that can so often be forgotten.
The Character Chart includes all sorts of details, most of which I never actually use but are still useful to know because they're part of the character. Things like past failures that they'd hate anybody to know about, how they're perceived by strangers, how they like to spend a rainy day, whether they're frugal, a spendthrift or somewhere in between, and what they're most prized possessions are all go to make the character 3-dimentional.
Take my latest two heroines (the only ones you've ever heard about). Sherry would hate having to walk anywhere in the rain, while Darcie loves the feel of summer rain on her skin. To my mind, those two differences make them very different characters.
Leo's first memory was of his father lifting him onto a donkey's back as they brought the day's harvest back from the fields. Alex's first memory is of sitting on a chair in a designer clothes shop waiting for his mother who was trying on a dress. Just knowing those first memories tells me that these two people had very different upbringings.
I don't use every item on the chart but as I said, it's worth taking a look at if only to give you a few new ideas of ways to flesh out your characters.
My first four books were all hard sells: in the first one, the hero was a baseball player, in the second, the setting was South Africa, in the third, the book was set in Austria, in the fourth, the hero was a senator. So to recap -- avoid the stuff that makes Harlequin marketing cringe and that list includes -- no athlete heroes, no rock star heroes, no overly artsy heroes; no setting that involves lots of conflict, war, or poverty; no setting (for Presents) that is too cold and alp-y as the hot Mediterranean climes seem most popular; no heroes or heroines that are politicians, no plot lines that involve politics, lobbyists, or controversial issues...
Isn't that formulaic? Ok, not in the sense that the first chapter has to contain this, the second chapter that and so on, but if what Jane Porter's saying is right, then certainly there appear to be far more limitations than many would have us believe.
How on earth are we supposed to know what kind of careers, places and story lines to avoid? Doesn’t this mean we could go on writing book after book without ever selling simply because the hero was a journalist living in Belgium trying to help the heroine out of a legal tangle... or... well, anything really. How can we know that a hot-blooded Mediterranean hero won't be good enough just because he happens to dabble in art? Or whatever?
Will the editors tell us that that the hero's job was all wrong, or that we've set it in an unpopular location? And even if they do, how will we know that we won't make the same mistake over and over?
I'd like to believe that we should just write the stories we want to write but if we want to sell them, that could mean dozens of stories that just aren't right for the market. I know all about reading lots from the line we're targeting, but unless you want to go along the same road as other authors, isn't it only right that we should try to give our heroes different careers, different locations and different motivations from those we've already read (and hence, have already been written)?
I just feel that if I follow in other author's footsteps re careers, etc., I'll just end up with a story full of wooden characters rather than a hero and heroine that have grown in my imagination, and who others would enjoy reading about.
I have to say that I'm surprised nobody answered the question posed in my previous post, but then maybe nobody actually knew the answer. It doesn't matter now, though. I asked Penny last night at the NWG meeting.
The answer? She thought it would be fine to send in a second manuscript before the first one had been dealt with and after the group threw the question around a bit, everybody thought that it would only serve to prove that I'm not a one-book wonder and that I can write at the kind of speed required of HMB (they like their authors to deliver four a year).
So that's ok then. I don't have to worry about writing too many, although I think my next one will be aimed at the ModX line; the idea I have seems to feel more at home there. But that's a long way off yet and things could change. Right now I'm going to concentrate on Darcie and Alex, and just keep enjoying their story.
The meeting was good last night. Nine of us were at Penny's new house and although a thunder storm banished us from the garden and into the living room, we all survived the heat.
I always leave the group feeling motivated and raring to get back to my laptop and let the words flow. I said I'd get 1500 words down after the meeting, but I didn't. I stopped at 950. There comes a point where you just have to go to sleep, like it or not! It still felt good, though, and I even had a few ideas that I want to use in Alex & Darcie's story, one of which was spurred by Richard telling the group about our leaking roof and the other by a hairy moment I had during the drive back home.
It's hot here again and sitting in this bedroom with the laptop on my lap (why call them laptops when they're really not practical for use balanced on the lap?) is not where I'd most like to be. I might well knock off early today to sit outside for a bit, and then work this evening instead. That's the luxury of being a writer - you can pretty much choose your own work hours. Well... that's actually the reason why I have to work from home. When I'm feeling poorly, I can rest and then I can catch up later when I'm feeling perky again.
We didn't get to Tilstone Lock the other evening. They have a "No Parking" sign there now so unless you happen to live right on top of the place (which means in one of the half a dozen houses within walking distance), you can't use it for picnics. Shame, because it's so pretty there. Never mind, though. We went one lock further down to Beeston, instead (both are on the Shropshire Union Canal). Poppy got to run around, met another dog and appeared to wonder what on earth it was (she honestly seems to believe she's a human even though she's been properly socialised with other dogs). She was all tail between her legs and "rescue me - there's a hairy thing looking at me". Still, finding something smelly in the grass to roll in made her day (maybe not so human after all?).
I might drag Richard along to The Limelight for a quick drink this evening. I have to go down there to buy tickets for a "D-ran D-ran" gig this Saturday that a couple of friends and I are going to, so we might as well make the most of it with a bevvy on the terrace.
TODAY'S LINK Have you ever heard of the 'Snowflake Method'? No, it's not a new fangled form of contraception, it's a plan for writing a novel.
Written by Randy Ingermanson, it takes you through 10 steps of designing a novel from writing a one-sentence summary of your story to designing your characters and listing the necessary scenes that have to be part of the finished novel to the final step which is actually getting on a writing the darned thing.
I have to admit that I don't follow the Snowflake Method but I do use parts of it and found reading it was useful.
It's worth a look, anyway. Even if you decide it isn't for you, all you've done is wasted 15 minutes and you know you're looking for another excuse to procrastinate ;-)
PS: If you're around, Iona. That blue boat on the far side of the canal in the photo - it's name's IONA.
I've past the 25% mark on the new manuscript and am really pleased with the way it's coming along. Assuming I get enough time to write while Lise's visiting, I should have this one finished well within the deadline I've set for myself (13th August).
What I'm wondering, though, is whether or not I can send another manuscript to HMB before hearing back about the first? I mean, from what I've understood, they're quite understaffed at the moment so it's taking longer than the usual three months to hear back. Now even if I don't finish this one within my deadline, I'm hoping it'll be done shortly after, so probably before I've heard anything about Sherry & Leo.
Will they mind receiving another before they're finished with the first? If they do mind, I'll have to write something mainstream when I've finished this or I'm going to end up with HMB manuscripts queued up here and I don't want that.
If they won't be happy receiving another ms for the same line, could I perhaps write for a different line next time?
TODAY'S LINK This has nothing to do with submitting manuscripts but I think most of you, being big on reading, will appreciate it.
The Used Book Search is, as the name suggests, a used books meta search engine for second hand, rare, out of print books and text books. You can search, browse and buy online from thousands of bookstores worldwide.
To test it, I search for Penny Jordan, and received about 20,000 results. I then tried Camilla Collett, a 19th century Norwegian writer, and received about 30 results. It has to be said, though, that not all were by Ms Collett; some were about her.
I'm sure it's useful for those of you who are looking for something specific that's hard to find, though. I know I'll probably use it from time to time, anyway.
I'm off to Tilstone Lock for a picnic with Richard now. I've had enough of being stuck in the house in this heat, especially with the laptop perched on my lap all day, and as LM's gone to Norway for 10 days, we're all alone. What a luxury!