Saturday, 25 October 2008

National Novel Writing Month

I haven’t taken up the NaNoWrMo challenge before, of drafting a novel in thirty days. However authors on all the Yahoo groups I subscribe to talk about it all the time as if it were a sort of ‘Rite of Passage’.

With my latest wip, ‘The Maze’ down to the last three chapters to go through Critique, I've had a story idea for a novel circling in my head for the last few weeks. So perhaps the month of November will be the time I get it off the ground.

The story is another Victorian Romance, but this time I’m going to stick to the traditional ‘formula’ of the two main characters meeting before page twenty five and having an HEA ending.

I have to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s about a 1650 word daily average – oh dear, put like that it comes home to me this is serious.

I have put a date counter and word graph on this blog if anyone wants to see how I’m doing and if you feel like joining me, and my friends Gemini Sasson and Ginger Simpson, who have signed up too, so we won’t be totally among strangers.

If you want to take up this challenge, visit

There are an amazing number of people doing it and they are all on the NaNoWriMo forum telling everyone how nervous they are, like a line of racehorses lining up in the boxes. So if you have a project in mind and need some motivation – here’s your chance.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Would You Let Your Child Do This?

No - not stand on a car......

My son intends to take part in The Mongol Rally in July 2009. [He's the one in the middle]
Basically, a group of two or more post-adolescent nutcases buy a clapped-out motor car, of 1200cc or less, [well, they wouldn't want to make it too easy would they?] in this case, two cars! and head off over the plains of Eastern Europe and try and keep the car going for as long as possible across terrain where they don't have proper roads, a chain of Marriott Hotels or even petrol stations. In fact civilisation there is, well let's put it this way - still evolving!!!

It's a 10,000 mile trip which, once they get past Germany and Poland, they travel through Slovakia, Hungary and Romania to Turkey and across to the scary-sounding-but-apparently-actually-quite-friendly-and-unmissable Iran.[Not my description] After that, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Krygystan, Kazakhstan, possibly a few more 'stans' somewhere around southern Russia and on for a couple of thousand desolate miles into Mongolia. The journey will take between three and six weeks - depending on how much trouble they get into!

'It'll be a bit of fun, Mum,' he says blithely.

Because the import tax is crippling on even second hand, almost scrapyard quality vehicles, the rally entrants pledge to give the car to the charity at the end. I haven't asked too many questions yet, but I took a look at the website and my maternal antennae immediately flashed to this....


These adventures are genuinely dangerous things to do. The website is written in a light-hearted fashion but you cannot underestimate the risks involved in undertaking this kind of adventure. Your chance of dying can be very high, some past teams have been seriously injured. These adventures are not a glorified holiday. They are an adventure and so by their very nature extremely risky. You really are on your own. If it all goes wrong, that's it, tough. Anyone sensible would advise you to stay at home and arrange your pants in colour order.

And in the FAQ under, What tropical diseases could I contract?

This is NOT a comprehensive list so for real information contact your local travel clinic who can also tell what to do about minimising the risk, but here's a guide:

* Hepititis
* Cholera
* Diptheria
* Meningacoccal meningitis
* The plague
* Rabies
* Typhoid

I don't want to see the comprehensive list!!!

Although this isn't the point of this blog - The expedition is seeking sponsorship for the Christina Noble Children's Foundation, an organisation dedicated to serving children in need of emergency and long-term medical care, nutritional rehabilitation, educational opportunities, vocational training, job placement and the protection of children at risk of economic and sexual exploitation.

Collectively, the goal is to fund the annual running costs of the Blue Skies Ger Village in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. They have also recently introduced the Sponsorship Project, encouraging teams and their supporters to sponsor a child in Mongolia.

The cars can be logoed up if anyone is seriously intersted and the trip is quite famous and is filmed and streamed all over the world. It's apparently a really big deal. Apparently there is a specific time you sign on and the 180 places were snapped up in three and a half minutes!

These particular three madmen have set up their own website called The Unprofessionals to track their progress from the preparation of the cars to the trip itself. Apparently they have to strip out the back seats for supplies and get in whisky and cigarettes for bribing border guards and local police!

Why couldn't he just sit in a bath of baked beans for the weekend or something????
Or join the army - at least he would have protective clothing. Oh hang on, apparently not!

What Is A Critique Group Anyway?

Was a question my husband asked recently, even though I have been an active member of two groups for more than two years;
Me: It’s an online group where writers get together to read and comment on each other’s writing.
Husband: So how does it work then?
Me: I upload a chapter of my latest wip to the site and members will download it, make comments on the technical structure, characters and storyline and re-post it for me to look at.
Husband: That sounds like a lot of work.
Me: Actually it is, but the other members do it for me as well, so I receive a lot of help with my own story too.
Husband: What makes this group of random people qualified to do that?
Me: Some have degrees in creative writing and English literature, while others have years of writing and editing experience. But that’s not relevant, no one sets themselves up as an expert.
Husband: So why would any of them listen to you? And why do you listen to them?
Me: I offer advice which has been given to me by other writers and things I have learned along the way and pass them on to other writers. They don’t have to take the advice and nor do I.
Husband: But who’s to say you aren’t all simply recycling bad habits?
Me: Experience counts for a lot. The more you read, write and critique other’s work, the more you learn. My writing is totally different since I started with the groups.
Husband: In what way?
Me: Well, do you know what PoV, active versus passive voice, dialogue tags and showing versus telling means?
Husband: Not a clue.
Me: Well neither did I - but I do now.
Husband: But you spend more time commenting on other people’s work than you do on your own- what’s the point of that?
Me: Where else would I learn how to write a story unless people read it for me and give me feedback? Whenever I get stuck with a character or a storyline, the group have always got ideas on how to progress it.
Husband: I’ll bet they do.
Me: What do you mean by that?
Husband: Just that woman are good at making things up.
Me: There are men in these groups too – sometimes.
Husband: I wondered what the attraction was.
Me: I wish – no, this is intense training I could never get anywhere else. I wouldn’t consider anything I wrote ready for publication until it has been through at least one group. I’m putting my current wip through both of them.
Husband: Does it actually help, or do you just read what they have to say and stick with your original work anyway?
Me: I can if I want to, but actually I don’t. Every critique I receive, I run the comments alongside my writing to see if it makes the narrative sound better. It works more often than I care to admit.
Husband: So you re-write a chapter at least six times each? [Horrified look on face]
Me: More actually.
Husband: Is that really necessary?
Me: Writing is re-writing.
Husband: Who said that?
Me: No idea, I heard it somewhere.
Husband: On a critique group?
Me: Possibly. It's true though.
Husband: Hmm.......sounds like an awful lot of intense work for nothing.
Me: If you mean cash – and I know you do, that’s not the point. It might help make me a bestselling author. Even if it doesn’t, I really enjoy it.
Husband: But you are glued to that computer all the time!
Me: I think about my characters in bed too.
Husband: Pardon?
Me: Nothing. Oooh! What's that noise?
Husband: It's the vacuum cleaner
Me: I knew that.

Friday, 17 October 2008

I'm A Book Reviewer!

Historical Novel Review Blog run by Mirella Patzer, Lisa Yarde and Miranda Miller have asked me to join them as a reviewer as the blog is growing and requests for reviews of upcoming novels is increasing.

I’m very excited about this as I love reading the genre as well as writing it and from a practical point of view it helps to keep up with the kind of stories readers are clamouring for. The books range from medieval Mysteries to Regency Romps and my first review is now up on the blog.

'Dissolution’ by C J Sansom, is a murder mystery set in Henry VIII’s England at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Mr Sansom portrays the fear and suspicion of those days and the men who made their fortunes on the back of it with fascinating insight.

The Blog will also be presenting Author Promotions, starting on Sunday 19th October with Mirella Patzer’s Novel Bloodstone Castle. I have inserted a widget above – another procrastination toy which keeps me away from actually writing. Mirella has an interview and excerpts from the novel all next week, so do stop by and leave a comment on the blog.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Pet Peeves of Writers as Readers

I stumbled across the Blog of Nathan Bransford, a Literary Agent at the San Francisco branch of Curtis Brown by accident and spotted his request for things that annoy writers when they read. Some were hilarious as well as thought provoking. Read on.

I really hate when an author uses a ten dollar word like strabismic and then two pages later uses it again. Once is enough, and in some cases more than enough. I can just see them sitting there having just perused their thesaurus, thinking, "Oooooo, I love this word, it's so shiny and new, I just have to use it." And then an hour later, "Once more won't hurt." Yes. Yes it does. Just say squint.

Stilted dialogue and too much telling of the backstory. I'm reading one right now that has both and I'm ready to throw it across the room - And yep, you guessed it: it's a best-selling author who's well-regarded.

My biggest turn offs as a reader are when the author fumbles over words enough that you have to reread a sentence 3 times to make sure you're *not* the stupid one.
I don't mind reading that I'm stupid - I've grown quite used to it. However, I hate discovering that I'm reading something someone stupid has written!

Historical inaccuracies. Or geographical inaccuracy. Or embarrassing inaccuracies relating to science, the arts, cooking, name it.
In deference to your "de vivis nihil nisi bonum" policy, I'll name two Old Hollywood chestnuts: the movie Krakatoa, East of Java (not unless you sail around the world first) and all of Joan Crawford's lines from the godawful proto-cougar epic Humoresque, where she plays a patroness of the arts who, when asked what music she most enjoys, says, "Symphonies, mostly. Or any type of concerto.”

The words “now a major motion picture” in the title. I’m pretty sure we all know by now that a book and the film version share precious little. All that tells me is that this guy/gal has a damn good agent or some movie star’s personal phone number.

The Disorganised Author - Barbara Taylor Bradford announced on National TV this week, that her husband produced 'A Woman of Substance' mini-series! So it really is who you know!

Dropping me off in a brand new world at the start of the story, and then proceeding to give me ten million made up words without explaining any of them.

I don't want to know how the wind was lightly blowing across your shoulders as you walked ever so slowly through the forest, gazing up at the ominous clouds overhead. I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

Technical details that are outright wrong. There is no safety on a Glock to take off, the smell of Cordite is interesting, but it hasn't been used in small arms ammunition for 50 years.

Book Covers.
1) Ones which misrepresent the book's content.
2) Sexually graphic ones, especially if it's not Erotica. A naked guy on the cover makes me think it's porn. It does not make me think it's going to be a darn good story with a riveting plot and multi-dimensional characters.
3) Endless Parade of Sameness. Every other Romance novel has a naked male chest on it and many of those pictures are of the same cover model. Sure, he's hot, but let's hear it for variety!

Anything written by a celebrity

The segregation of African American authors in bookstores

The Disorganised Author: I’m not allowed to say the second one as it's not 'PC', but I so agree with this one - why is it relevant?

And the one which struck a chord with me was:

It’s very frustrating to read unpolished writing in print. As writers, many of us face rejections almost daily. We familiarize ourselves with the rules: no passive language, no negative language, show don't tell, no adverbs and adjectives, etc. We go over our manuscript dozens of times searching for these flaws and chopping away at it for months. Then it gets rejected on the basis of some missed detail or hasty judgment. Usually it's something that makes us think, "but didn't you read page TWO?"
And then we pick up the latest Huge International Bestseller and find elementary, amateurish writing that doesn't even appear to have been edited.

I'm not saying it's all that way, but it happens. Not every bestselling book is the work of a great writer. Industry is about making money; fame is unfortunately more important than talent or polish. That is what frustrates me most.

And finally, to make us all feel a little less victimised....

I find that I'm more generous with authors now that I am a writer. The stuff that used to tick me off -- like many of the things listed above -- I now overlook. Who knows how an editor has urged the writer to change, this, this, and that... and how much of it had to be done on a tight DEADLINE? How much of it had to be plugged in to make sense of a new ending or a new plot point?

It's worth stopping by Nathan's blog as he has some interesting articles about manuscript formatting, sending queries, what to do when asked for a partial etc. The bad news is he doesn’t handle Romantic Writers – but then nobody’s perfect!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Halloween Fiction Blog

Just in time for Halloween, a new blog site for lovers of horror fiction. Author Ron Adams has created a blog called, Shadows and Night dedicated to short fiction with a sense of the macabre.

He says it's meant to be a place to showcase not only his own writing, but the best short stories from any of his colleagues with a taste for the strange, the unusual, and the frightening.
So if you have a short story-your own work of course,that you would like to contributeto Ron's Blog- E-Mail Ron Adams

You have to be a grown up for this one! Join him at:
Shadows and Night

Thursday, 2 October 2008

I Love My E-Reader

For everyone who e-mailed asking what I thought of the Sony E-Reader - Well, I have had mine 24 hours now.The first thing I did was download the user manual onto my laptop. As the paper one opens out like a world map, I gave that up very quickly.

I was prepared for a lot of menus and buttons, which defeat me on mobiles phones - but there aren't many at all their functions are straightforward. The size of a small paperback but very slim, the reader is satisfyingly heavy and finished in a smart brushed steel and is supplied with a soft cover like an ordinary book. The text is easy to read and the font can be changed to three sizes.

Once charged, which takes about two hours and is done by plugging it into your pc, you have to upload the library software to import e-books from online stores, or CD. Then it’s simply a drag-and-drop process to get them onto the E-Reader.

About 100 books are included on a CD, and I chose a few old favourites like Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, but was also able to upload pdfs of my own books as well. The Kindle will only take its own format and some books are only available on Microsoft Reader – which is free to download, but not quite so much fun.
I love the feel of a new book and have shelves full I wouldn't part with, but more and more distributors supply books in electronic format and even Luddites like me are going to find they are the norm soon.

As mentioned on Ginger's Blog, whenever authors are interviewed and asked who their favourite authors are, they invariably stick to the more famous names. In promoting my own work, I would rather wave the flag for authors and friends published by independent presses, so hopefully, I'll read and recommend more of their work. So if anyone has any great Historical Fiction they think I MUST read available on e-book format – you know where to send them.

Oh, and I was invited by Kim Smith to join a new Yahoo Group called ‘A Cozy Home’, to see what goes on in the ‘Cozy Mysteries’ Genre. Nope - I don’t know exactly what that is yet either, but am intruiged and would like to learn.