Tuesday, 31 March 2009

For Tudor Buffs

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the throne in 1509 in the White Tower at the Tower of London, showing the largest number of original weapons, armours and military equipment. Named the 'Dressed to Kill Exhibition', Runing from the 7th April to 17th January 2010, it will include:

* The ‘Silvered and Engraved’ armour of King Henry VIII (about 1515)
* The Wilton anime armour of about 1544 for Henry VIII
* The ‘Horned Helmet’ presented to King Henry VIII by the Emperor Maximilian I (1511-14)
* The ‘Burgundian Bard’ horse armour of King Henry VIII (1511-15)

It's quite expensive, at £17 for an adult ticket, but for those Tudor buffs it could be well worh it for your research projects. I shall certainly be making the trip there sometime this summer, the best time to tour those stone caverns as they can get very cold.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

University Boat Race

Spring must be here in England finally as today is the 155th running of the University Boat Race, that quintessentially English sport where two teams get cold, wet and exhausted, [rowers have been known to lose seven pounds in the twenty minutes or so it runs] by racing against each other. Starting at Putney Bridge, to Hammersmith Bridge, Barnes Bridge, and Chiswick Bridge to the finsih at Mortlake, a route of four and a half miles.

Both teams are traditionally known as blues and each boat as a "Blue Boat", with Cambridge in light blue and Oxford dark blue.

The first was the result of a challenge issued to Oxford by Cambridge in 1829 and rowed on the Thames at Henley. Oxford wore dark blue jerseys, later to become the Oxford blue, and Cambridge donned pink sashes. Oxford were the first winners. The second race was staged in 1836 when Cambridge adopted their own light blue, and was rowed on a five and three-quarter mile stretch of the Thames between Westminster and Putney.

Today’s course was first used in 1845, stretches from Putney to Mortlake. The race is held in March or early April, after the captain of the previous year's losing team issues a formal challenge. The average time taken to complete the course is 20 minutes, but Cambridge holds the record for the fastest time of 16 minutes and 19 seconds, achieved in 1998. Oxford won in 2008, but by the slowest time on record of 20 mins 53 seconds.

Cambridge sank in 1859 and 1978, Oxford in 1925 and 1951, and both boats went down in 1912 when the race was started in a virtual gale. The most recent sinking occurred in 1984, when Cambridge sank after ramming a barge before they were even under starter's orders. The remains of the boat now have pride of place in a Cambridge public house, and have been signed by all crew members.

I won’t be there personally, it’s not worth going anywhere near the river today as it will be chaos, but my daughter and her university rowing team will be on Putney Bridge to watch the start after their annual ‘Boat Party’. She has put on her facebook page she is
'Looking forward to boat race shenanigans' Some traditions are rather nice to keep, even if I will be watching it on tv!

Photo courtesy ofhkfuey97 on Flikr
Breaking News: Oxford Won

Thursday, 26 March 2009

I Don't Do Hunks!

First off, I do not subscribe to the ‘Young Hunks’ style of book cover with athletic twentysomething men with their jeans round their hips and shaved and oiled chests – I find them tacky.

Besides, staring at half dressed photos of men the same age as my son creep me out somehow. Then Ginger Simpson, who writes lovely Western Romances, and Skhye Moncrief, posted some of Jay Tavare and – I think I’ve changed my mind.

He’s a native American Indian who contributes to good causes and was apparently killed off early in Cold Mountain, but I didn’t watch that film so this is all new to me. Anyway who cares – just look!

So thank you Skhye and Ginger - he’s quite something isn’t he?

And there's more on their blog here

Sunday, 22 March 2009

St George for England

It’s Mothers Day today in England, but some even better news was anounced in the papers this moring - In April, our London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has arranged a week of festivities in the capital to celebrate St George’s Day and the achievements of England and the English. Yay!!!

In recent years we have been banned from displaying the English flag on the grounds that it is racist and could offend Muslims because of St George’s association with the Crusades.

And Boris Says:

‘St George’s Day has been ignored in London for too long but I’m truly pleased to announce some fantastic events to mark this occasion. We have much to be proud of in this great country. England has given so much to the world, politically, socially and artistically.

‘St George’s Day is a time to celebrate the very best of everything English and the Cross of St George will proudly fly outside City Hall on April 23. I look forward to hopping on a Routemaster and encouraging everyone to join in the fun and celebrate England’s great patron saint.’

The whole family cheered when I read this out at the breakfast table – it’s about time we were allowed to celebrate being English in England instead of bending over backwards to accommodate everyone else who chooses to live here. In any event, I doubt it’s the other creeds and religions who give a hoot anyway – but our creepy, apologist Government who have apparently passed a new law – if it’s fun, and people are in danger of actually enjoying themselves - ban it!

I signed the website asking for support too, and we'll be there Boris!!

Friday, 20 March 2009

Spring Is Here - Maybe

I received an message asking me what's the first thing I do when Spring arrives? My crypic response was that as I live in England, it's hard to know when Spring gets here, and for how long it intends staying. I received several mails back decrying my cynicism, so to show I do have a spirit of life renewal, here is a photo of the magnolia in my garden.

I must admit, it does look lovely and I'm looking forward to when it's in full bloom - the gardener on the other hand
[he came with the house] says it's a nightmare when it sheds! Oh well!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Are You Protecting Your Brand?

Everywhere I look this week I see blogs and writing articles about Authors needing to establish their ‘Brand’ in order to market their books successfully. My Book Marketing Network Newsletter popped up in my inbox this morning and again, ‘Protect Your Brand’ was there in lights.

OK, I’ll go for it – what is my brand and how do I protect it?

For those who were as jittery as I was about going about this, what with writing, researching, editing and all the other things authors are expected to do to ‘put themselves out there’, I read the article and guess what? I am already doing it – apart from Twitter and I make no excuses for not going down that particular route!

Websites and personal blogs which attract readers are the best way to give yourself a web presence, and which author these days doesn't know that. Then there are the various social networking sites, like MySpace, Bebo, Ning, Red Room, Authors Den, etc. I have cut down on these lately, simply because 96% of the contacts are other authors promoting their own books. It’s lovely to network with other writers, and I love to know what’s coming out in the fiction world, but how do I connect more with people likely to buy my novels?

Having current works coming out all the time is definitely key, and for someone who hasn’t had a book published in seven months – I need to make that a priority.
[If only]

One tip I saw which sounds like one worth following, is made by Joanna Campbell Slan, author of the Agatha-nominated Best First Mystery Paper, Scissors, Death.

Joanna Campbell Slan says:
Compare your book to other bestselling titles/authors to help booksellers and readers get a better handle on what you've written. I explain that Paper, Scissors, Death is funny like Janet Evanovich, romantic like Nora Roberts, and full of the joy of women's friendships like Debbie Macomber. Readers know who they like and what they like, and your comparison helps them feel confident about their purchase.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Blue Monday

Even More Frustration - For those who were expecting my green blog background – my provider has problems with the bandwidth and it’s messed it up – so I am reverting to a plain page until I can find a more reliable one!

That’s the trouble with using online blog templates – they store their images with providers like Photobucket, then when they become popular with lots of users, the bandwidth gets exceeded.

As the images aren’t provided with the html code, I cannot make my own as I have with others such as the HNC blog – so I'm off on a hunt for another template......

Friday, 13 March 2009

Frustration Happens!

I subscribe to Nathan Bransford’s blog, who, for the uninitiated is an agent at Curtis Brown. His post on 'Frustration' was interesting this morning, not to mention relevant, and I have blatantly plagiarised it here:

There are more books than slots at publishing houses, and that's the case now more than ever. Frustration happens. It's the nature of life in the book funnel.

It's also just built into the business. When you hear about a publisher jumping from $2.5 million to $3 million in an auction for a celebrity book, it's easy to think, "Uh... that publisher just nickle and dimed my client and refused to give them even $1,000 more when they really deserved it. And they passed on another project because they didn't want to take a risk on a debut. But they won't even blink at jumping $500,000 in an auction for a book about Paris Hilton's Chihuahua?" (Okay, it is kind of a cute dog. Also I'm kidding, that's not an actual book. Yet. UPDATE: Oops! Yes, it is.)

And no, I’m not putting the link in. Anyone interested in that subject wouldn’t be here!!

He goes on to say that it’s easy to let becoming published become your entire life . Writing is time consuming, let alone the promotion, blogging, agent research, publishers and the industry news to keep up with. Combine that with a day job – or even a life, and there’s nothing left in either time or energy.

He says publishing cannot be everything – so take a break and when you come back, you’ll be refreshed and perhaps even with new ideas.

Good advice, Nathan – now all I have to do is follow it!
And the picture - doesn't mean a thing but I like it.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Editing Woes

"No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft"
-- H. G. Wells

When striving to become published, what everyone who has been down this route before will happily tell you, literary agents and publishing houses receive hundreds of submissions every day, so yours needs to stand out, be technically as perfect as possible and grab the ‘reader’ in the first few lines – or all that work you poured into your manuscript will be wasted. That writing a novel is consistent, repetitive and analytical hard work.

Editing is worse!

An acquisitions editor *may* give your chapter a two-page reading before consigning it to the slush pile. Many are tossed after one paragraph. Writers Digest 2008

Agents and acquisitions editors read so many opening chapters, their brains immediately focus on the basic mistakes we all make when we begin to write. They will not:

· Look beyond it and consider the work as a whole
· Assume any technical errors can be corrected during a later edit
· Take into account the writer’s novice status and ignore the grammatical errors and typos

No, no and no, – they will toss the manuscript.

Having a wonderful story and even the talent to tell it is not enough - it's the basic errors that will stand out to a publishing professional because they are trained to home in on them.

It’s a common problem that a writer overlooks mistakes when they proofread, because being emotionally tied into your creation means it’s hard to be objective about your own writing.

A professional book editor can and will recognize the repetitions, inconsistencies, clumsy phraseology and all the other problems the writer simply doesn’t see.

All this I have to take into account to edit my latest novel for my agent [how many times can I get those words into one post?] to ready the manuscript for a sales pitch. It’s nerve-wracking, in that every sentence I alter, each phrase I simplify and every modifier I check is correctly placed, I think, ‘Have I changed this for the better, or is it simply change for change sake?’

I have specific parameters to follow, like begin the story at a different point, and change the title. These are relatively simple instructions, however, when I have ‘finished’ the edit on a chapter and read it through, sometimes it has no impact on me whatsoever. Then the panic sets in that I have killed my story, stripped all the life and colour from it in an effort to be technically perfect, and rendered my characters two-dimensional.

At this point I often go running to my wonderful critique group to get a second opinion from someone who knows what they are talking about.

Has anyone got a formula [magic or otherwise] for seeing their way to doing this right?

And for a Tuesday laugh - take a look at this: Publishing 911 it's hilarious and compliments of Nixy Valentine, who I am sure wouldn't mind me passing on the link.