Monday, June 26

The Verdict Is In

There was an attempted parcel delivery card waiting on my doormat when I got home from work today. It could have been one of a few things -- the new set of hair straighteners I won last week on eBay; one of the last two packages that are yet to arrive from the Brenda Novak auction; my Amazon order that's been backdated because one of the books I ordered wasn't published yet... But it could also have been my New Writers Scheme report. So with that in mind, I jumped in the car and raced off to the sorting office, post-haste.

I was right. And for some unknown reason I had the strength to wait until I got back home, made a strong cup of tea, and sat down and logged onto Yahoo Messenger to relay the news to Nell before I opened the package!

I am a very lucky girl -- my report was wonderfully thorough and ran to 7 pages of single-spaced text, covering possible markets, characters, and plot. The greater part of the report was taken up with recommendations for ways to improve my writing, my structure, and in particular my characters. I agreed with every single point about my areas of weakness, and I can't believe I didn't see some of them!

My reader also said some very lovely things about my writing itself. Of course, I couldn't get away without posting a few snippets...

"Firstly you are to be congratulated on completing a full manuscript. This is no small achievement. I see from your form that you have already had a short story published and have won a novella contest. This success shows in the accomplished and fluent style of your writing."
"Your dialogue is easy and natural and your descriptive passages are very evocative. I particularly liked the phrase [when describing the oil paintings in the house] "the oils themselves looked dirty and jaundiced in the sticky summer air" and there were other lines equally good later in the book. You also write the sensual scenes with skill -- no mean feat -- creating a romantic and emotionally tense relationship between your hero and heroine."
"...your writing is smooth and stylish and shows a great deal of potential, and I wouldn't be going into so much detail if I didn't feel you had the ability to succeed."

"[Another] possibility is that you expand the book by 20,000 words or so and develop it into a paranormal romance in the style of Barbara Erskine or Susanna Kearsley. I felt the book was particularly reminiscent of Susanna Kearsley's style in Mariana -- the atmospheric country setting, the past and present stories woven together."

"This is your book and it is entirely your decision which direction you want to take your writing. I should add here that it is extremely difficult to get UK publishers to accept mainstream paranormal romance even though they all claim to want to discover the new Barbara Erskine, but it is not impossilbe and if that is the sort of thing you want to write then I would go for it!"

" have two very attractive protagonists and a wonderful setup in that they have had a relationship in the past that ended unhappily and now they are meeting again and having to dealing with all the past pain as well as present attraction. I thought that [your heroine], in particular, was nicely drawn and mainly sympathetic... [Your hero] has the makings of a very attractive hero. He's gorgeous, intelligent, and under the surface he is sensitive and thoughtful about how [your heroine] feels."

"It may appear that I have suggested a great number of changes to your manuscript but I would like to stress that there are many positive aspects of your writing. The first and most important thing is that you can write. You have a fluent style and a very nice turn of phrase...You do have the skill to succeed. I wish you the very best of luck with your writing and with this manuscript."

Excuse me while I get Kleenex!

I am so, so thrilled. It was such a fabulous report. All I want to do now is abandon my plans for The Guardians, revise HH according to my report recommendations and get it out there. Okay, so my reader didn't say I AM the new Barbara Erskine, but to have her name mentioned in my report is pretty thrilling. It wasn't long ago that I read Lady of Hay and really enjoyed it. How mad!

OK, I need to eat dinner. Been too busy absorbing.

Thank you, NWS!!

Saturday, June 24

My New Web Presence

No news yet from the NWS -- don't worry, as soon as I hear anything the news will be posted!

This weekend I shall be mostly:

1. Completing my character charts for The Guardians
2. Painting our bedroom
3. Going to Ikea to buy new bedroom furniture

I'm also happy to announce that I now have a website! I created it myself over the last couple of days and I'm really pleased with how it looks. You can visit my new web presence by clicking here and, better yet, fill in my contact form and let me know what you think!

Just finished reading: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. A definite keeper. "I couldn't put it down" is a cliche, but... well... it's completely true. If anybody has read "Rebecca's Tale" by Sally Beauman, who wrote the introduction in my copy, I would be interested to know what you thought of it.

Tuesday, June 20

Cover Girl

Today is a very cool today as the cover for the "Fall in Love" anthology has been released!

Isn't it bew-dee-ful?? I know the picture's not very big, but I just cannot work out how to enlarge it :/ If I can get a better version then I'll repost it. The cover was designed by Sheila Holloway, senior editor at Moonlit Romance.

I've got quite a bit further with my plans for The Guardians and since tomorrow is a Writing Wednesday, I'm hoping to get that all tied up ready for *actual* writing to begin. I have my characters' names chosen as well -- Annabel and Bo.

Will be watching the England game tonight with eagle eyes because, for the first time in my entire life, I have placed a bet on an event! Scary, I know, and very adult. I actually wanted to place a bet on the winner of Big Brother, but I found an offer where I got a free bet on BB if I placed a bet on a sporting event. So this way I've got two chances of winning some green. We'll see.

Friday, June 16

As We Speak... entry is being read. I have heard from the NWS organizer and I received my self-addressed acknowledgement postcard in today's post. I am so excited I can't even really describe it. This is the first time that somebody other than me and Nell have read HH -- and not only that but whoever my reader happens to be, they are an expert in the romance industry -- most likely an existing M&B or Silhouette author.

*bites nails*

At the moment I am reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, partly to start fulfilling the massive gap in my readership of classic novels. I have to say I am really, really enjoying it. So far I am a bit creeped out already, and am finding the male protagonist, Maxim de Winter, quite alluring. I don't know if that makes me weird, as I've never heard him referred to as a classic "hero" e.g. along the lines of Mr Darcy!

Planning on finishing off my brainstorming for The Guardians this weekend, and hopefully it will result in an actual synopsis-style plan for the story so that I might soon start to write again -- joy! :) :)

And hello to my boss, who found my blog earlier this week!

Just finished reading: Delicious by Julie Cohen

Sunday, June 11

Postage Imminent

Now my manuscript is ready to send off to the NWS. I'd finished going through the actual book itself, and then I was reading through the entry guidelines ready to start filling in the submission form and realized I had to write a one-page synopsis as well. This was something I was never looking forward to -- trying to encapsulate all the important points of the characters, the story, the plot, the arc, their relationship, and how everything changes across the span of the book IN ONE PAGE.

But I finished it up this morning and Nell's just taking a quick look at it for me before I print everything up ready to send off. I'm so excited to receive my report on it. I think the usual turnaround is about a month. Once the package has gone tomorrow I'm going to dive back into my brainstorming for The Guardians. Although I had two other ideas yesterday as well...

Tuesday, June 6

The Guardians

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, my sunburn from the weekend has finally faded, and I'm working on ideas for my next book, which at the moment is titled something roughly like the above. (How weird is that, saying "my next book"? Yeeshk...) I'm feeling excited about it already but the book involves some legal wrangling -- on my characters' parts, I hasten to add, not my own-- so at the moment I'm trying to think of different ways of making the setup believable and as near-true as I can get it. Don't worry, Nell, you'll get my rambling brainstorm document soon -- haven't seen one of those for a while, have you?! :) :)

The revisions of HH are completely done now -- both my own edits and those from using Nell's chapter critiques, and all I have to do now is one last read-through before printing it out ready to send to the NWS. That's top of my To Do list for tomorrow's Writing Wednesday.

Random noticings from last night's TV:

1. I am getting increasingly irritated by the number of times Grace and Lisa in Big Brother feel they have to insert the word "f******" into their sentences.

2. The last scene of the ER season finale with Luka and Abby was a big fat dramatic tearjerker, to say the least (and I must track down the song that played behind it).

3. The Punisher is a film which, though very violent, has some funny parts and one hell of a gorgeous leading man -- although you wouldn't really guess it from his profile picture on IMDB. So to save you some work, look here and behold the rather luscious Thomas Jane:

Just finished reading: Living Dangerously by Katie Fforde

Sunday, June 4


Congratulations to the England football team on their win yesterday against Jamaica. I can't say I actually watched it, since I'm not really into football, but when World Cup fever starts to spread? The England flags flutter from the cars parked down the street and you hear the sound of cheering from a neighbour's TV as you enjoy the sun, and it's hard not to get excited for the home team.

And it's goal for me, too, because I've finished revising Haunted Hearts!


So I'll be sending that off to the New Writers Scheme this week and eagerly awaiting my report. What's also very cool is that it's only 2pm on Sunday so I have another four or five good hours of sun with the most burn-worthy time of the day over, in which to sit in my freshly-mown garden with a cold drink and the Katie Fforde book I'm reading. I know I said I was also going to work on brainstorming for my next book, but I'm so pleased to have finished revising that I'm going to enjoy the sun as my reward. And who knows, I may not be able to stop myself from scribbling anyway, so I'll take a notepad outside, too.

Friday, June 2

Whines, Wins, and Work

Try saying that quickly five times...

I think I've hit that lull that magically appears once you've been back at work for a bit after a holiday. You know the kind -- where you wish you could take off on a trip whenever you felt like it, with affording it and getting time off being completely insignificant factors.


(That was the "Whine".)

On to the "Win", and bestselling romance author Brenda Novak's auction in aid of diabetes research has now come to a close. I'm happy to say I won a bunch of cool stuff! It's even cooler to know that the money I'll be paying for my prizes will go towards finding a cure for diabetes. It was a shame in more ways than one that I lost out on the chance for a read of a proposal by a Silhouette editor. Maybe next year! In fact, speaking of next year, I'm already hoping that when the auction comes around again in May 2007, I might be in a position to donate something to be bid on -- I'm thinking... copy of the "Fall in Love" anthology in which Little Shop will appear, Cadbury's chocolate, Twinings/Whittard teabags... some kind of British theme.

And concluding with "Work" (or "Weekend"), my plans for Saturday and Sunday are to finally finish up my revision of HH so I can get it off to the New Writers Scheme, and to start brainstorming on the idea for my next book. Please wish me concentration and discipline, because it looks like it's going to be a nice, sunny weekend, and the thought of sitting in the garden with some pink lemonade and a selection from my T(o)B(e)R(ead) pile might get very tempting.

Just finished reading: Trading Secrets by Christine Flynn