Monday, July 31

Stop and Ask for Directions

I would, but I don't know who to ask. You see, it's like this...

I am always reading, and I make a concerted effort to vary and alternate the kinds of books I read. My basic rule is mainstream/category romance/mainstream/category romance/etc., which you should be able to see if you follow the progress of my Just Finished Reading footnotes.

So, for example, I read a single-title from any genre -- chick-lit, crime, classic, historical, contemporary, mystery, whatever -- and when I've finished it, I read a shorter category romance. This could be a Silhouette Special Edition, Silhouette Intimate Moments (Sensation), Mills & Boon Modern Extra, Mills & Boon Tender, or any number of collected backlist books from Silhouette/M&B lines that are no longer publishing. This way I get a good spread of all kinds of reading, all of which entertain me and help me learn.

But the wider I read, the less sure I am of where I should target my own writing. When I first started HH, I planned on submitting it to Silhouette Intimate Moments. Then I thought about Mills & Boon Tender for a while (before the word count and light paranormal aspect nixed that idea), before moving on to Silhouette Superromance (before the word count got in the way again), and then Silhouette Special Edition. Now I don't think it will be a Silhouette/M&B at all, since I am planning on submitting it to Moonlit Romance once my revisions are completed.

Meanwhile, my ideas file is floating ominously in the background, and my half-completed character charts for The Guardians are tapping their feet in rhythm with my typing. Once HH is out the door, I'm not sure which story I'll turn to next, let alone which line I think I should target it at.

The advice on reading all the different romance lines and deciding on the one you like best as the one you should write for is good advice, but when you're such a voracious reader, as I am, then where do you go when you like books from about five different lines in equal measures? Does anyone else have this problem?

[Deck News: First coat of deck stain is down (it's "light oak", Lis!) and pots are potted. Garden furniture hopefully coming on Friday, so will take a photo of the finished masterpiece at the weekend.]

Oh, and don't forget this week's Romance Junkies entries :D

Friday, July 28

Deck Construction Task: Check

And so the building of the deck is completed! Here's how it looks, with the boards and the slate edging all laid (and my mini finishing touch of solar lights):

The proper decorating is still to come -- namely staining the boards twice over, then adding all the pots and tubs and, of course, the patio furniture. I'll post another final picture once all that is done and it's looking really byoo-dee-ful.

In writerly news, I've pretty much completed the research I needed to do for my HH changes, so I'll start doing my revising in earnest in the next few days. I'm hoping it won't take too long, but who knows... I haven't read the book all the way through for quite a few months now and I might be underestimating the task ahead!

Just finished reading: Strange Bedpersons by Jenny Crusie

Thursday, July 27

Might I Remind You About...

...the Romance Junkies contest!

There are some good entries up this week, ranging from historical to contemporary, and suspense to paranormal. If you have a little spare time, please consider checking them out and casting a couple of votes. Go on -- you could help launch a burgeoning romance writer's career!

See this week's entries here.

Wednesday, July 26

Garden Update

The deck is almost finished now. Here's how it looked on Sunday...

...when the frame had been built and bolted into the ground using posts and concrete. Membrane was laid down to stop the weeds getting through, then overlaid with sand to stop it blowing away. Note the clear path where there's no sand, running from the door to the lawn. This was so Little Missy, otherwise known as Popple the Jack Russell, could go in and out without getting sand all over her paws. But what did she do? Yes -- she ran all over the sand anyway.

At the moment, the deck looks like this:

We stained the frame on Monday evening, then yesterday the shingle was put in and our friend began to lay the boards. He's coming back this afternoon and hopes to have all of the boards fixed by tonight. Yeeshk, look how awful my lawn looks... This is what comes of a hosepipe ban when your turf is less than one year old!

We are also having a brick-built barbecue and so far, the concrete has been laid, which currently looks like this:

This is the shady part of the garden, which might explain why the lawn looks so much healthier.

Can't wait to start having barbie parties on the deck!

Just finished reading: Guarding Laura by Susan Vaughan

Saturday, July 22

Lucky Number 13 / Milestone Number 100

A few hours ago I posted about how I'd finally found my idea for how to revise HH, and I said I was about to start doing some essential research for it and then start planning out how to make the changes. I'm pleased to say I have done exactly that -- proper research, not attempted research (in which I dither about on the Internet looking at random stuff -- there's a difference).

Whenever I'm working on an idea for something -- characters, a plot point, a storyline, or a whole book plan -- I open a new document in MS Word and type, type, type. I type like I'm talking to myself, discussing each idea and its merits/downfalls as it enters my head. It's sort of a stream-of-consciousness thing and helps me understand why I thought of things and how I saw them linking together when I read it later on. Sounds a bit crazy, but it works for me. Once I hit on the idea I want to use, I save the "discussion document" and start a new file in which I go through the Good Idea in more detail and plan out how to put it into action.

This is what I've been doing today. I went back through my discussion document, separating out each individual idea I'd thought of and tidying up my rambling so that it reads more coherently. As I went through the document, I found myself marvelling at the number of different ideas I'd managed to rack up despite the fact that I was so sure I was thinking of nothing at all (at least, nothing useful -- again, there's a difference).

During my tidying, I numbered each idea individually. And guess what -- it turns out that the Good Idea I eventually managed to hit on after moans, gripes, Yahoo discussions with Nell, "yes-I've-got-it"s that were quickly followed by "nope-that's-crap"s, and more than a couple of 4-hour stints in which I sat, stared into the distance and typed four lines of poop, the Good Idea presented itself at...

... lucky number 13. Funny.

Then, when I logged in to Blogger to create this post, I realized that it would be none other than milestone post number 100.

And with that said, I'm getting back to work. In case you haven't guessed, it's been tough work trying to excavate the Good Idea from the recesses of my mind, but now that I've got it, I'm hanging on tight. I think I've got my groove back.

Eh...'s so sticky. And, yes, I know -- we're never happy. Moaning when it's too cold and wet, waiting for summer to arrive. Them moaning when it's too hot, hoping for thunder and rain every night.

We're having a deck built in our garden at the moment. Our neighbour, who is a builder, is doing it for us and it's going to look brill. Quite simple, without any balustrading or anything, but it's quite big (plenty of room for pots of flowers, which I shall be inheriting from my Mum when she moves to Spain at the end of the year) and will be edged with shingle and have a cut-off corner where you step down on to the garden path. I might try and post some before-and-after pictures.

In very good news, I have finally settled on an idea for the changes I wanted to make to HH. It's going to make my conflicts much more psychological, rather than being kind of circumstantial. Nell told me that the Mills & Boon workshop at the RNA Conference a couple of weeks ago placed much emphasis on "deep psychological stuff", so hopefully my new take on the story will point it in a better direction. Got some research to do today, then I'll start going through the MS and taking notes on what needs to come out, what needs to be changed, and what needs to be added.

Just finished reading: Marrying Max by Nell Dixon

Thursday, July 13

Don't Forget...

...that the Romance Junkies contest, of which I am one of the many entrants, is in full flow. You can go and vote on this week's batch of entries here.

Wednesday, July 12

Back in the Saddle

We had a lovely time in Cornwall and the weather held out for us for most of the trip, with just a bit of rain on Saturday night and on the drive back. Mannings Aparthotel, the executive apartment in Truro, was absolutely lovely and we would definitely go back there. The Carlyon Bay Hotel, by the sea near the Eden Project, was also lovely but *very* posh -- a true old-school English hotel. We didn't fit in as many activities as we would have liked, but we really only had two full days to get things done once the travelling was taken into account. Here are some highlights:

Sunset over the sea as viewed from Land's End

A sea of snapdragons at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

View from the boardwalk over Heligan's subtropical jungle valley

Flame-red lilies in the "Warm Temperate" (Mediterranean) biome at the Eden Project

Beautiful landscaping at Eden

All in all, a lovely trip -- and lots of lovely food, too. Cornish ice cream, local breads and butters, clotted cream teas, cheeses, smoked salmon... And, yes, the fish and chips at Rick Stein's was just as good as expected, if not more! I fear no other fish and chips will ever be able to match the taste and quality. They should give you a knife and spoon to eat it with instead of a knife and fork, because the fish just falls apart. Mmm, I want to go back already...

Work-wise, I'm still working on my plans for revamping HH, and although it's slow-going (and tremendously hard work), I am getting there bit by bit. At least, I think I am...

In other news, Nell is working on an exciting new story, Charlie Darling, which will be a medical romance. You can get more details on her blog. I'm really looking forward to seeing the first chapter -- no pressure, Nell! :) Also, another of her books, Marrying Max, is available in the shops now, so look out for it!

Just finished reading: The Bride Wore Chocolate by Shirley Jump

Thursday, July 6

Romance Junkies

The annual Romance Junkies writing contest has begun!

In this contest, writers submit the first chapter of a novel and each week a handful of entries are posted on the RJ website. Anybody can read the entries and vote on them, and even send comments to the author to let them know what they thought of their work! The top 18 finalists get a critique by one of the author panellists, while the top three will be read by Kara Cesare of the Penguin group (Signet/NAL/Eclipse). Kara Cesare will pick a Grand Prize Winner, who will receive an AlphaSmart 3000, but more importantly, I think, the chance of having a top editor read their work! There is still time to enter if you'd like to have a go.

Romance Junkies have issued a few rules for entrants concerning the publicizing of entry appearances. In previous years, apparently, some people announced that their entry was up and their friends then rushed over to the site to cast top votes for it. This was all very nice, but it meant that sometimes a more popular author would inch up the chart simply because lots of their friends voted for them, and not because passing readers were genuinely voting on the quality of the entry.

Therefore, I will say that I *have* entered the Romance Junkies contest, but under a pseudonym and with a false title. I'm not sure that I can even specify the week in which my entry will appear, so instead I'll post a quick reminder for you to check out the entries each week.

You can check out the first selection of entries here.

Good luck everybody!

Wednesday, July 5

You Can Go Your Own Way

...and my "writerly mind" did, for a while -- *way* out of the way. The cheek of it.

You see, following my NWS report I've made a list of the weak points in HH that need changing, all of which hinge almost completely on two major things:

1. A new reason why my couple originally split up (HH is a reunion romance).
2. A new reason why my heroine turns up at the hero's house at the start of the novel to do a paranormal investigation for him.

My brain has been refusing to work, which has been intensely frustrating -- I have even been reduced to searching Google for "reasons why couples break up". Desperate times, people!

But I think I'm getting there. I think that during today's Writing Wednesday I've seen a glimmer that could be the light at the end of the tunnel. Nina Simone, Fleetwood Mac (hence my title) and the ever-reliable Foo Fighters have been helping me. God bless 'em.

Saturday, July 1

Going to Manderley

Of course, I'm not really. But myself and the Bloke remembered that we had both booked a few days off work for next weekend, originally so that I could go to the RNA Conference and he could visit his Dad and family, who live nearer to where the conference is being held than to us. Finances at the time meant I never managed to book my place at Conference, but we still had that weekend sitting blank in our schedules. So we've booked another short break. And partly because of Daphne du Maurier, we are going to Cornwall!

2 nights in an executive apartment in Truro and one night in a manor house just outside the Eden Project beckon. I'm really looking forward to it, even though the weather forecast is looking a bit soggy. I'm hoping that will change. But seeing as we are going for the same amount of time we spent in Paris, we hope to fit a lot in. Namely: lying on the beach (if it's nice), picnics, swimming, the Eden Project, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Tintagel Castle, Lands End, Trebah Gardens, Fistral Beach at Newquay, National Seal Sanctuary, fish-and-chips at Rick Stein's in Padstow, St Michael's Mount, and -- just discovered -- the Cornish Yarg Cheese Factory!

Oops, I think I swallowed a guide book... But if you have any other sights to recommend, please do so!

Just finished reading: Their Unexpected Family by Judy Duarte