Saturday, March 31

"Haunted Hearts" = Award Contender

This is a piece of news I've known about for some time, but I have (mostly) sat on it until I could make a proper announcement -- and now I can!

As you may (or may not) remember, before I submitted Haunted Hearts to a publisher I sent it to the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers Scheme ("NWS") for a critique. This was an absolutely invaluable opportunity for me as a member of the RNA, and I can say fairly confidently that I don't think HH would have ever been published if it weren't for the critique report I received from the scheme.

Any manuscript that goes through the NWS and subsequently becomes contracted for publication becomes eligible for the distinguished Joan Hessayon New Writers Award. I am thrilled to announce that HH is one of this year's contenders! There is quite an extensive list of nominees (some of whom I know), made up of a wonderful mix of writers, books, and publishers. You can view the full list here. Congratulations to all!

The winner of the award will be announced at the RNA's Summer Party on 30th May. I'm hoping to attend but it's really quite close to my due date, so I'll have to wait and see.

In other news, I realized I should have provided an update for the Top 100 Favourite Romances yesterday, being that it was Friday. There's been a small shuffle in placings since last week, so I've annotated each placing a la the music charts :)

5. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (-1)
4. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding (-1)
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (new entry)
2. Persuasion by Jane Austen (non-mover)
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (non-mover)

I'm planning on leaving voting open well into April -- possibly until the end of that month -- so please do continue to send in your nominations for the list. For more details on the aim of the project and how to get involved, click here.

Friday, March 30

Reasons Why I Can't Wait for Birth

  1. We will finally get to meet Flump and find out if we have a son or a daughter.
  2. To get the ever-looming spectre of labour out of the way.
  3. So that I can get a comfortable* night's sleep once again.
  4. I'll be able to put on foot-cream myself and won't have to ask The Bloke to do it for me.
  5. Because waiting for something to happen is one of my worst "things".

*Note that I say "comfortable", not "a good night's sleep" or "an uninterrupted sleep". I'm no fool.

Tuesday, March 27

Falling for Forensics

Now that I've agreed with myself to shelve You Don't Know Jack, I've been taking things a bit easier. I have a new idea that I'm currently exploring -- working title of which is Wisteria Cottage -- but other than that I've been reading, napping, catching up with paperwork, and watching many episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

The seventh series of CSI has recently started here in the UK, on the Five channel, but I only watched it for the first time a few weeks ago. I, or should I say we, got hooked straightaway. The Bloke and I have watched the Miami and New York versions when there isn't anything else on, but for us, original Vegas is the best. We're also fortunate enough to have Sky Plus, and since both old and new episodes of CSI are playing on three different channels, we've series-linked all of them so that there's always a nice little bunch sitting in the planner for us to watch when there isn't anything else we fancy.

So, do you watch CSI? If so, which is your favourite team -- Las Vegas, Miami, or New York?

Just finished reading: Swept Away by Karen Templeton

Friday, March 23

Does My Flump Look Big In This?

A couple of weeks ago Judy Jarvie posted a picture of herself+bump on her blog at the 27-week stage of her pregnancy. I promised I'd do the same, and since you'll see from my "Flump's Progress" ticker bar at the top of the page, the time has come. So, here we are -- me, Flump, and Popple the devil-dog, who also wanted in on the action...

By the way, I know it looks like I'm consciously thrusting out my chest, Dolly Parton-style, but I'm really not -- I'm just throwing my shoulders back for posture's sake!

It's also Friday today, which means it's time for the first update in the Top 100 Favourite Romances nominations! In descending order, here are the current top five titles:

5. Katherine by Anya Seton
4. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
3. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
2. Persuasion by Jane Austen
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Do you agree? Disagree? Want to have your say and get your favourite romances on to the list? Then click here to find out how you can contribute!

Tuesday, March 20

All Change

I haven't done any writing for the last week or so, due to a feeling-pretty-icky patch and a proofreading job. During this time I've thought a lot about You Don't Know Jack, my writing in general, and the kind of romances I love to read.

I've come to a conclusion.

As much as I was excited about YDKJ and enjoyed working on the first two chapters, the tone, style, and targeted subgenre (light chick-lit) were all ones I was unfamiliar with. I felt I had to struggle to write what I've done, as if I was forcing myself into a particular style. And as much as I like to read the kind of book that YDKJ would have been, if I am honest about it, it isn't my favourite romance sub-genre.

My favourite kinds of romances to read are home-and-hearth stories, romantic suspenses, and light sweet romances. That isn't to say that I don't like to read comedy romance, spicy romance, or historical romance, because I do, but the former list comprises my real favourites. If I slot what I've written already into subgenres, The Little Shop of Dreams is a sweet romance, Haunted Hearts is a romantic suspense (with light paranormal elements), and One Shore Thing is another sweet romance. Write what you love to read, right?

I think I went out of my comfort zone with YDKJ. I was thinking more about what I could write that would be good for my career, rather than what I could write that would just be good, full-stop. That pushed me off my path and got me confused, and that's why I struggled. YDKJ is a fun story with fun characters, but I don't think it's "me".

Instead, I have a new story brewing that's a lot more "me". I'm hoping to start exploring its possibilities further in the next week or two...

In other news, don't forget that I'm compiling a list of The Top 100 Favourite Romances and I want YOUR help! Click here for more details about the project and how you can contribute. I've decided to post a list every Friday of the current top five on the "leaderboard" -- there is a clear favourite already...

Just finished reading: The Devil Served Tortellini by Shirley Jump

Friday, March 16

100 Favourite Romances

Following on from my previous post and its subsequent enthusiastic responses, I'd like to compile a list of 100 Favourite Romances. When we use these "definitive" lists of classic fiction, etc., on our blogs I often wonder who first came up with the list and why they'd chosen particular books to be in it and not others. I've not seen one that's centred on romances (although they may well exist), so I thought I'd create one. Not just for a fun "tag" list for everybody to pass on, but also as a handy checklist that you might use to swell your TBR pile! (I, for one, have considered on more than one occasion that there are probably lots of seminal romance novels that I should have read but haven't.)

I want to hear the choices of readers, writers, aspiring authors, editors, and everybody else who'd like to have their say. So, how shall I go about this? Well, the best way I can think of is this...

  • If you are interested in contributing to the 100 Favourite Romances list, send me your top five personal choices for addition. If you really can't keep to five, more will be accepted -- but no more than ten! The titles you nominate can (and hopefully will) encompass all the different arms of the romance genre, from classical literature to category romances, "bonkbuster" doorsteppers to modern-day chick-lit, and everything in-between.
  • As the nominations come in I will compile a database of sorts that will include every title that is nominated -- no restrictions -- and tally up any multiple votes for particular titles accordingly.
  • After, say, a month of taking nominations, I'll collate and count and compile, and will therefore come up with a list of the top one hundred most favourite romance novels as nominated by everybody who loves romance and who was kind enough to share their opinion. I'll post the list here on my blog and after that, it will be open for tagging!
So, if you'd like to take part, just click here to send me your choices. Please note this link will take you to the contact form on my website. Spamwise, this is the safest method because like most other people, I don't want my email address to get picked up by a trawler bug. Please feel free to include your name, location, the "capacity" in which you are contributing (e.g. as a reader, author, editor, etc.), and also let me know if you'd like to be emailed when the list is completed. (Also, be assured that I won't be doing anything else with anybody's contact details -- I don't even have a newsletter yet!)

This is really exciting and I can't wait to see what everybody comes up with. Please do post links back to this post on your own blogs/sites and spread the word so we can get the most comprehensive list possible. Thank you -- and may the nominations begin!

Wednesday, March 14

How Many Have YOU Read?

Been a little quiet on the blog lately, mainly for lack of progress on You Don't Know Jack for the last couple of days. While keeping up with reading everybody else's, though, I saw this book list over at Liz Fenwick's and got auto-tagged :)

How Many Have You Read?
  • Look at the list of books below.
  • Bold the ones you’ve read.
  • Italicize the ones you want to read.
  • Leave same the ones that you aren’t interested in.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Out of the 100 books listed, I have read 26 and want to read four. Thus, if I do read the four planned books, my total will be 30. I'm not sure whether this is good or not! I admit there are a few books on the list that I haven't actually heard of...

If you'd like to do this list too, then consider yourself tagged. In fact, I've always liked to see a list like this but focused on, say, the 100 "best" romance novels, ranging from the classics to the bonkbusters to the category romances to chick-lit. Would anybody be up for compiling a list with me?

Friday, March 9

Dear Prime Minister...

Today, thanks to Benita Brown (a fellow member of the Romantic Novelists Association), my attention was drawn to a petition on the Prime Minister's website. The purpose of the petition is to request that people with the chronic blood disorder ITP (full name: Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura) do not pay for their prescription drugs and treatment. I was only too happy to sign this petition as I myself was diagnosed with ITP at 19 years of age. Fortunately an operation cured me of this largely unknown blood disorder, but others aren't so lucky.

To find out more about ITP, click here.

If you'd like to consider signing the petition -- and please, please do -- just click here.

Thank you.

Just finished reading: Three Down the Aisle by Sherryl Woods

Thursday, March 8

The Story So Far... actually going well. I've almost at the end of chapter two, which means that if I complete it by Sunday, I will have got chapters one and two done within one week. This would bode very well for me making my Flump deadline, but unfortunately it doesn't really count because all of chapter one and the majority of chapter two were first written when I had the initial idea for You Don't Know Jack about three years ago. So all I've been doing this past week is ripping the two chapters apart, taking out old story/character elements, adding in new ones, editing my so-three-years-ago writing style, and generally revamping them according to the new storyline. From now on I'm actually writing fresh new words, so I imagine my progress will slow up a bit.

Thanks to everybody who left comments of encouragement and inspiration. I'm sure lots of writers manage to write a chapter a week, and I think a part of me knows I could do it if I work hard enough, but it still seems like a scary mountain to climb. I suppose all I can do is write and see...

Had a regular antenatal checkup today and all is absolutely tip-top with Flump. He/she was cartwheeling about while the doctor was feeling my stomach and tracking Flump's heartbeat, and even with all her years of experience the doc seemed surprised by just how active my progeny is.

Future sports superstar?

Wednesday, March 7

Up Against the Clock

It took me a long time to get to sleep last night, so busy was my mind as it glossed over subjects such as more gardening, decorating Flump's room, my second chapter of You Don't Know Jack, and whether I was hungry enough to go downstairs for a post-midnight bowl of Coco Pops.

As you may know, my plan is to get YDKJ written and out on submission by the time Flump arrives, which gives me about three months. It sounded quite possible when I thought of it that way, but while I lay awake last night I did some calculations regarding total word count (70,000), the number of chapters the book would be split into (approximately 15), and how, therefore, I pretty much need to write at least one chapter a week if I want to make my self-imposed deadline. In fact, if I want time enough at the end to do revisions and a query letter, then I definitely need to do more than one chapter a week.

This scares me. It sounds a lot more unlikely that I'll make it when I look at it that way.


Just finished reading: The Learning Curve by Melissa Nathan

Tuesday, March 6

A Good Day

It's been a good day. The sun is shining and the chilly breeze has dropped, which means it's now possible to be outside in short sleeves without wishing you had a jacket or cardigan on you. As a result I've done a bit of (gentle) gardening. I've marked out a flowerbed that The Bloke is going to dig out on his day off, where we'll plant my budding honeysuckle. Then I planted up lots of seeds into pots, in the hope that some of them might flower in the summer (when I'll have no time, I'm sure, to do anything to the garden). I also planted up my blackcurrant-bush cutting, which I won in a Ribena promotion some time ago! Speaking of winning things, I was a bit surprised when the postman knocked on the door earlier and handed me a large brown parcel, because I wasn't expecting a delivery of any sort. I opened the parcel to find that I had won a Tommee Tippee Nappy Wrapper in a Tesco Baby & Toddler Club competition. So I've been able to tick another thing off my "Things To Buy For Flump" list without having to spend any money -- nice!

I'm just about to have lunch and then I'll be making a start on chapter two of You Don't Know Jack. Hopefully an afternoon of writing will prove just as fruitful as everything else I've done today :)

Sunday, March 4

Water Baby

You Don't Know Jack is away from the starting post -- will I finish it before Flump arrives? I hope so! That's the plan, at least...

Bloke and I went swimming on Friday afternoon. It's meant to be one of the best forms of exercise you can do while pregnant. I felt one or two kicks while I was actually in the pool but it was once we'd got out that Flump made his/her feelings known. I got acrobatics of all sorts, so I assume that means he/she enjoyed it :)

Just finished reading: Immovable Objects by Marie Ferrarella

Thursday, March 1

Some Updates...

I've been busy with proofreading for the last week or so, but I'm now back to writing time (for the foreseeable future, at least) and since my plans for You Don't Know Jack are all in place, I plan on starting chapter one today.

Haunted Hearts has received another review, this time from Maura Frankman at The Romance Studio. Among other things, she says:

"Ms Raymond has created a classic ghost story here. Two lovers separated by a mistake are brought together by the [paranormal] investigation and get a second chance to work out the past, unlike the ghosts in the house. The house is perfectly described for this story. It is an unhappy place with lots of unresolved problems just like Sam and Beth. The ghosts definitely want to be heard, seen and felt, particularly at the end."

The book scored 4 out of 5 and you can read the full review here. Thanks, Maura!

The book in which my novella One Shore Thing will be appearing, to be published by Moonlit Romance in May 2007, now has an overall title. Part of the "Moonlit Summer Beach Party Duets" series, the book featuring both mine and my critique partner Nell Dixon's stories (Nell's is entitled Making Waves) will be titled "A Taste of Summer". Keep checking back here and on my website for an excerpt of One Shore Thing and a sneak peek at the cover, once it's ready.

In a more writerly direction, Penguin Books UK posted a very interesting series of pieces on their blog last week, all about the art of the blurb. If you'd like to see what the experts had to say, just click here.