Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Being Somewhere Else

There's something empowering about being able to drop everything at a moment's notice and be somewhere else.

On Sunday, I had a call from Mum saying Dad had been hospitalised for severe abdominal pain. It took half an hour to shower, pack, make a few phone calls, and be on the road.

I should like to register my official thanks to work for being so damn accommodating and understanding. Marvellous people.

So I'm with Mum, and will be for another day or two, which is why it'll be quiet on here. Dad's had surgery, which went well, and is feeling a lot better. Now we wait to get the complete round of tests back (although his blood work, blood pressure etc etc was completely normal - he's an incredibly fit and healthy guy!)

Of course, Dad being Dad, when we visited yesterday, we were warned that he'd be very dozy and not very talkative.

We were hailed by his yelling after us (they'd moved his bed), and he proceeded to tell us everything they'd done, share jokes and silliness with us, and generally be on top form. About an hour and a half after coming out of the anaesthetic.

Super Dad, or what?

But because all super horoes have their 'voolnerable spots' (reference, please?) prayers and good wishes are very welcome.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Julie's First Page Challenge

Julie Cohen's been doing a First Page Challenge. She's challenged her blog readers to post the first few paragraphs of a story or two of theirs, and add notes explaining how they add character and conflict right away.

From the McAllister book (title tbc)

The video footage was from a CCTV camera perched above a courtyard. Okay, so this is something that's already happened, and is now being observed by a third party.

It gave a perfect view of the square yard, with the office buildings around the edges. They were new buildings, with little logos by the doors; a few businesses hiring premises. Only one logo was really recognisable, indicating a small office of the local National Park Service. Normality. A glimpse of the Ordinary World.

The film was black and white. In the corner of the courtyard grey geraniums flowered in grey pots. We're not seeing this in full technicolor - we're seeing a colourful scene greyed out. We're NOT in possession of the full picture.

In the middle of the scene was a knot of people. A row of people on their knees, hands behind their back. Four men and three women. One of the men was shaking so violently it was plainly visible; one of the women was sobbing. It doesn't take a genius to know by now that something is seriously wrong.

In front of the kneeling line were three other men. They were dressed in dark clothes, with ski masks. The man in front was tall, huge, holding a massive hand gun, and waving it at the kneeling people, in their suits and office hair cuts. His body language was taut, violent, and he stepped back and forth jerkily, shoulders heaving, mouth working. Without sound and without colour, the scene is detached, chilling.

Hmmm. You can't tell if the hero and heroine are even in this scene, yet, but the heroine becomes pretty obvious two paragraphs on. It's not a typical opening - it's on omnipresent POV for a start - but as a tense, intriguing starter I think it works. The character and conflict pile up a few pages onward....


She shouldn’t have come. Okay, we immediately have the heroine, and she's doubting herself.

There were doves in the courtyard, snowy white and silent. They slept on ledges and in niches, on the roof above the pointed Arabian arches, even on the bowl of the broken fountain. There's a sense of something dozing, dormant, and we get an idea of her being in Arab lands.

In Marianne’s mind’s eye, and in her Grandfather’s photograph, the arches, the walls and the fountain were bright and blinding white. Nearly seventy years ago they would have been, but now they were grey and peeling, and here and there a dirty orange stain showed were some elaborately carved bracket had rusted into memory. We can see that Marianne was trying to find something, follow in her Grandfather's footsteps, but that she was seeking something that doesn't exist anymore. It leaves her seeming a little lost, and that's very appropriate.

Marianne folded the map she held with careful fingers, and stowed it in her shoulder bag. For years she’d dreamed of visiting Morocco, the country her Grandfather had loved so much. He’d only lived here for a few years, but the place had burrowed itself into his soul, and woven its thread into the stories he told her years later. Now we have a location, and a visit that isn't quite the dream as dreamed.

When her father’s death dealt her grief and freedom in equal shares, Marianne had taken that rare and precious commodity in both hands, packed new clothes and a new courage, and booked her flight before she changed her mind. There's something of Marianne's fear here, and a suggestion that freedom and courage are things that are new to her.

That's another one that has more mood than character, and more tension than conflict. I was going for a kind of a held-breath sadness, and I think it works. I think. ;-)


The photograph was getting dog-eared now. It's been much handled, then?

Tristan smoothed out a folded corner and stuck it again to the black vinyl dash of the non-descript hire car. He shifted in the drivers seat and tugged at the knees of his rumpled jeans. It was astonishing how uncomfortable one could get, after three days living in a car.Hero, waiting for something, uncomfortable, but immovable.

He scrubbed a hand over his face, pushed it through his hair – hair cut time, but this job was hardly likely to yield time off for good behaviour and personal grooming – and settled back into the seat as best he could. He's here for a reason, the job. What job?

The street behind him in the rear view mirror was quiet. He looked again at the photo. Some sort of surveillance going on here?

He didn’t need to. The woman in the picture was indelibly printed on his consciousness. Whoever she is, she's important. To the job, and to the hero.

Now that last one is the one I'm most likely to make changes to. It's okay, but it's not great, and I am terribly tempted to start the book with the moment he pushes the heroine off a train. *Grins Evilly*

Go across to Julie's blog and follow the links to other posts. It's all fascinating!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I'm a winter...

There's no mistaking it, winter stuck its cold nose on my bare leg this morning.

It was dark when I got up, and the windows (yes, THOSE windows) were rattling in outrage at the gusting wind. Rain was rattling on the skylights and dip-dripping through the Famous Unstoppable Leak in the kitchen roof.

Our house sits just off the top of a hill, with big buildings between it and the prevailing wind. The effect of this is to make most wind, even quite serious gales, sound like a train passing by somewhere else. Always a bit distant, safely away. This morning, though the train was still somewhere else, there was a parliament of wind-owls hooting right up by the house, that distinctive whooo-hooooo of whistling wind suggesting the weather was veering.

Or the farmhouse behind us had fallen down.

Who knows?

I've often said here that I struggle to pick a favourite season, but I love the transition between seasons. There's something exciting about the change, the first copper leaves scudding across the road, the first mist of green as the hedgerow buds burst. But I can't help remembering that as colours go, and skin tones, I'm a winter. Happiest in jewel colours and dark, intense shades.

There's definitely something about the extremes of weather in this season that issues a challenge to me. Much as I grump and stumble about in the dark mornings, and glare at the grey, dripping skies, I do love winter.

Bring it on!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Web Crazy, and From the Mouth of Husband

Everyone's talking web pages at the moment. Good ones, bad ones, what puts a site in column a and what relegates it to column b. Shannon's wondering about her own site (which is great) and so's Jaci (worth following the links in that one).

Appropriately enough, I've been wrestling through what I want for my own website, a process I've found as exciting as it is daunting. I've been mulling over tag lines, and thought I'd share one of Husband's offerings:-

Getting Squelchy at Gunpoint



We went to Staples today to stock up on office stuff and stationery (bliss). I made the mistake of taking Husband, who promptly disappeared into the computer section, then emerged to drag me back in there. He wanted to show me the new computer he HAD to have...

"Look, darling," I said to him. "The windows are falling out of our house and we can't even afford to fix them, WHY would we buy another computer?"

"Don't worry, it's okay!" he said, earnest, boyish innocence shining from his big, brown eyes, "it comes with Windows already installed..."

He narrowly escaped death.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pictorial Evidence 3


It would take far, far too long to tell you everything about the battle. It raged for over two hours, with waves of attacks from archers, foot soldiers, and Norman cavalry. But it was truly incredible to see something like this acted out in front of you by over 2,000 skilled and dedicated volunteers from more than 18 countries.

Here we were just behind the Norman lines, with the Saxons on the top of the ridge beyond. The Norman cavalry is just moving across to muster for a charge.

I remember the roars of Godwinson! from the Saxon side and Dex Aie from the Norman. The Saxon Housecarls cleaving the air with their great Dane Axes. The Norman horse thundering up the muddy slope. Arrows darkening the air and falling like deadly confetti on the Saxon shield wall. Water carriers weaving in and out of tired troops. The Flemish archers, dismissed, breaking ranks to loot the bodies of the fallen from both sides. The fall of the Saxon banners – the Fighting Man, and the Dragon of Wessex.

And then, over two hours later, it was nearly over. The Saxon left flank had broken, trying to follow either a feinted or a real retreat by the Normans, and cut down by rallying troops. After that it was just a matter of time.

It really was an incredible experience being there. If I had one criticism, it was that the colours were a little too bright for natural dyes, and everyone was just a smidge short of a smudge... everyone too clean.

But you can't have everything.

And 100 Norman horse is a great compensation.

Pictorial Evidence 2


I think my favourite part, though (apart from seeing Duke William charge all over the battlefield, a feat I was shamefully too busy gawping at to take pictures of) was the marketplace. Here all sorts of goods were being sold and made, from weapons to armour, leather belts to purses, wooden chests to chairs, animal pelts and fine and homespun cloths. And they weren't just for show, either. There was a brisk trade between re-enactors that was marvellous to see. I suspect that many of them stock up on all their needs at big 'mega-battles' like these.

Of course, no self-respecting 11th century army marched without its dogs. This one was taking the vast crowds well within its stride, and was very happy to pose for photos. I was too busy drooling over the Irish Wolfhounds to take their pictures, too!

Back in the camp, women were cooking meals, sewing, weaving, spinning... I have to say I found this aspect of the re-enactment really fascinating, and very, very tempting. There is so much about this I'd love. Children barefoot in the mud, arguing about who was going to play the vikings in their games, women tending the fire not as a leisure activity, but from the sure and certain knowledge that if it goes out, it would take a while to relight, and would mean a day without bread, and possibly without meat, too. Cooking this way takes time, and patience, and a good deal of skill. I so want to do this!


Pictorial evidence 1

There was nothing at Senlac Hill when the battle was fought, no nearby town to clear up afterwards. In fact, a year or two later, when some Normans journeyed back through the area, they remarked on the piles of white bones where the battlefield had been. William commanded an Abbey to be built on the site, and this is Battle Abbey, in the mists of early morning.

You could walk through the sprawling encampment and watch the troops mustering for battle - and although I think the foot soldiers pictured here are Saxons, I couldn't swear to it. Both sides carried kite shields, and wore mail shirts and similar helms and devices, so you can imagine how difficult it was to tell them apart...

(more coming)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

More Hastings, Less Saxons

(NB - blogger's photo function doesn't want to play ball, so I'll post this introduction and try and get the pictures up tomorrow!)

Quick! Quick! Must blog about the Battle of Hastings before memory blurs!!!

It's not uncommon to build a holiday around one idea, adding other activities and visits to the core to make a longer break. I suspect, though, that most people build a holiday around a trip to a great city, or a particularly pleasing beach.

We built a holiday around a battlefield walk.

You see, I'd given Husband some vouchers for guided battlefield walks last Christmas, and one of them (we've done Shrewsbury and Flodden) was at the site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. A little research revealed that the walk coincided with a huge (HUGE) re-enactment of the famous battle, lasting over two days. Before too long, we'd booked cheap rooms, and planned to be there for both days.

Now, the first thing you need to understand is that Hastings was Normans v. Saxons, and that Husband supports the Saxons and I support the Normans. The Saxons were germans, who were also norsemen (vikings) and had invaded what is now called England some time ago and settled. The Normans were from France, but were not frenchmen, except they were a bit, and they were also norsemen (vikings).

Confused yet? Good, good... Let's try a summary for you.


The Battle of Hastings 1066

As succinctly as possible, on one side you have William, Duke of Normandy, sometimes called William the Bastard (but not if you wanted to keep your hands and feet - he once lopped the appendages off the entire able-bodied male population of a town for that one). William said that he'd been promised the throne of England by Edward the Confessor, a man so pious he never consummated his marriage, and so left his country without an heir. Without William's claim, Edward's heir would have probably been a man called Harold Godwinson (who incidentally was also supposed to have promised to support William) and Harold grabbed the throne and had himself crowned the same day Edward died.

William was pissed.

But William was the least of Harold's immediate problems. His own disgraced brother, Tostig Godwinson, had tagged along with the latest Viking invasion (led by another Harald - Harald Hardrada), and was threatening to take the Kingdom from the North. Harold assembled his army, marched north, whopped (sp?) the Vikings arses, killed his brother Tostig and Harald, had Tostig nicely buried, because it doesn't do to kill your brother AND annoy your God, and probably sat down to a roast deer and a sigh of relief.

But William, as you remember, was pissed.

And William was a "Don't Get Mad, Get Even," kind of guy.

So while Harold was still counting his bruises, the news came that William had invaded, built a quick castle, and worse than that was busily raping, burning and pillaging his way around the Godwinson family estates.

There was more than one reason they called him a bastard, you know.

So Harold came south again, a colossal march of hundreds of miles in five days, and reached Senlac Hill, just north of Hastings, on 13th October 1066.

They fought the next day. I could tell you about the shield-wall, cavalry charges, changing archery tactics, heroics, dead horses and dead men, but mostly you need to know it was a damn close-run thing, but the Normans won, and when the Normans won, lots of Saxons died. Oh, and although Harold was probably hit near the eye with an arrow, he wasn't killed by it. He was killed by several knights who hacked him so badly only his mistress could identify the body, it is told...

William was crowned King of England on Christmas Day, 1066.

Fora more detailed summary of the situation and the battle, see here. But what you need to bear in mind is that, marital allegiances and Victorian romantic glamourisation aside, there really wasn't a lot of difference between the two sides. Especially not in terms of arms, numbers, and 'right'.


Thursday, October 19, 2006


We're back, unpacked, tackling the Laundry Mountain (eight loads and counting) and getting settled back in.

We had a lovely time (more details later) and came back to find that the Gas company, Credit Card company and Taxman all owe US money, and that my contract had arrived.

Not bad, eh?

Monday, October 09, 2006

And that's it from me...

... for now.

Husband and I are off visiting friends and family, and shopping, touring battlefields and visiting museums.

As you do.

Wish me fine food and miraculously little weight-gain... ;-)

Back on or around the 20th.

See you then!

Things happen when you least expect it....

They really, really do.

In the second half of 2005 and the first half of 2006 writing productivity came in fits and starts. I had lots of boosts - a great read from the Romantic Novelists'Association's New Writers Scheme for the follow-up to McWife; sponsorship to attend the RNA Conference and to rejoin the organisation; support and encouragement from friends - but I was still somehow in a bit of a meh rut.

I was working on revising the McWife follow up, and on writing a fourth MS. I did hit good patches and liked what I was doing, but there seemed to be a great many other preoccupations leaching the creativity out of me. One was starting a Masters in Community Studies at Durham University (incidentally where I'm writing this - and it's lovely to be back here) on top of my full-time job, and the other was the pursuit of pregnancy.

I kept writing. Just.

And I pretty much forgot about those two submissions.

Then I received an offer in July 2006 from the e-publisher that had requested the MS from the Romance Junkies competition. It was a well-established e-pub, and a respected one, butI decided I didn't want to go that route with that book at that time, so I turned it down.

That felt very, very strange.

I shook my head over it, looked back over the history of that MS and pursed my lips and the missed opportunities and nearly-but-not-quites. I prepared to mentally put the MS under the bed, and that made me sadder than it should have done.

Then the unexpected, the unimaginable, the unbelievable happened. I got The Call.

Sitting down afterward to write a timeline of that MS for a writing e-group I belong to, I found that suddenly I was seeing things a whole lot differently. Those missed opportunities began to look like pitfalls avoided. The nearly-but-not-quites became not-now-but-soons.

So please, please remember, however bad it looks, sometimes things can turn right around. And what looked like a series of failures and flops can suddenly seem like an adventurous journey.

One that's only just beginning.

Timeline of an MS

Summer 2001 - I started writing a book I never thought I'd finish, called McAllister's Wife
Dec 2001 - I realised I actually WAS going to finish my first ever MS, and queried Silhouette with it
Jan 2002 - I had a request for a full
Jan 2002 - Submitted the full. And waited. And waited.
March 2003 - Got a phone call requesting revisions. Completed the revisions, sent them off.
May 2003 - Heard that the MS had been passed up
May 2003 - Received a rejection by letter (ouch)
April 2004 - Submitted the first chapter to the Romance Junkies contest
Sometime after - It scored well in the RJ contest, and got a requets from two publishers. Started revising madly!
Nov 2004 - Submitted to the GH (good scores, but didn't final.)
April 2005 - Submitted revised MS to two publishers.
Sept 2005 - Submitted partials to ten other pubs, US and UK. Got some
rejections, some never heard from.
June 2006 - Received an offer from e-publisher. Turned it down.
Sept 2006 - Received an offer from second publisher. Plan to accept it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Reinventing the wheel

Well, the rest of 2003 and most of 2004 passed in something of a blur, and without a whole lot of writing. The thyroid trouble made a mockery of writing in the evening, after the dayjob, and most of the weekends were spent napping. Bearing this in mind, I may have some of my dates, and maybe some of my sequencing wrong below - unintentionally, k?!

Eventually I got to have radio-iodine treatment to bring the thyroid under control and it worked. Almost miraculously. To date, my throid is behaving perfectly, and I don't have to take any meds, which is almost unheard of after radioactive treatment.

According to my files, though, I entered the Romance Junkies contest in April 2004. It was an impulse decision, and mostly for fun, which is ironic, because that decision was about to become very, very big deal.

Another impulse decision was to query ten mainstream pubs in the US. I got, I think, 8 rejections and two no responses. C'est la vie.

By the end of the RJ contest, without performing remarkably well votes wise, I had two requests for fulls from two RWA-recognised publishers.

And I had a really... well, a really crappy MS.

I started rewriting with my sights on mainstream. I studied what makes a 'big' book. I re-read all my editorial comments on the original version. I re-read the MS, occasionally wincing, and occasionally going, "wow". Then I started cutting.

After that, I turned a secondary's bit part into a sub-plot, echoing and contrasting the key points of the main plot. I upped the stakes, and built the action. I decided the ending was a flop and rewrote it completely. I realised that two of my key strengths were bringing settings and locations to life, and writing action that leaves your palms damp, and used those strengths to reinforce the most important parts of the story.

I promised myself I'd never, ever, ever write a) generic settings or b) marriage of convenience for no good reason ever again.

The ending rewrite went well. I liked it.

I entered the GH. I got some damn fine marks, but didn't final.

Shortly afterward, I realised that a strong start and a strong finish made the middle... meh. I think I may have cried at this stage, but by then I was feeling better and had momentum. I reworke the middle, and finally I had something I could feel comfortable sending out. About a year after the request.

I tell you, I have an incomplete article on writing for publication called, "How Not To Do It, the unpubs' guide to staying that way". Of course, now I'm very nearly published, but still, if there was something I could do wrong, I'd do it wrong...

It was a new book, but not a new book. It was the same wheel... reinvented.

And I was going to have to hang around while it kept on turnin' for a good few months yet. *g*

Excerpt from that ending that pleased me, and completely unbalanced the middle...

A shot sounded behind her, inside the house. She sobbed. For a moment it was like running in treacle, like a nightmare, but she fought through it, every second expecting a bullet in the back, every breath believing Kier had already taken one.

Don’t split my attention. I have a plan.

She cried. But there was no breath for sobbing, no time for blurred sight. So the crying was only in the way her face twisted, in the way she ached, because she wouldn’t let it be any other way.

The haggard blackthorn that edged the lane danced and creaked in the rising wind, looming over her, and blocking out the fading sun. She stumbled, her foot twisting on a smooth, loose stone, and a hand grabbed her arm.

She spun, a harsh cry tearing up her throat. But it was Kier, it was Kier apparently whole, and urging her on, forcing her to run.

God. “Where—“ she gasped

“Incapacitated. Temporarily,” he said, and didn’t slow.

What? Why? She had time to think, why not dead? and time to be wholeheartedly, passionately glad Kier hadn’t killed him.

The lane spilled onto the shore, a jumble of stone and mud, mixing with the sand, stirred by the wind. Which hit them, full force, coming straight off the sea, and carrying half a mile’s worth of grit and sand. It stung her skin, burned it, blinding her. It filled her mouth and she skidded to a halt, choking.

Kier caught her, his hands on her shoulders, turning her to face him. Swiftly he unzipped his jacket and pulled his shirt out of his trousers. Two sharp moves ripped the shirt tail off, and then he was wrapping it around her mouth and nose, tying it behind her head, catching curls painfully in his haste.

“I’m sorry,” he raised his voice over the hissing of the sand-laden wind. “I can’t give you my jacket, it’s too much of a target.”

Confusion cleared, then – fast - washed out in a rush of terror, dread and anger.
Rage won out, though. She shook with it, it pumped in her blood till hear ears roared with it. How dare they... how dare they hunt her like this? How dare they threaten Kier? But there was rage at Kier, too, mired in that heart-thumping mix.

It’s too much of a target.

Don’t you die, Kier. Don’t you dare.

He tugged on her hand, urging her on, and they broke into a run again. She stumbled on the smooth, black rocks that dotted the white sand, searching through narrowed, sand-blinded eyes for the smooth, darker patches of sand that were harder, and easier to run on.

Setting a hard pace, Kier dropped her hand, leading them round the high-water mark. To their right, the dunes loomed higher, shimmering grey-green in the wind. Risking a glance back, she saw a figure emerge from the shelter of the lane. Armed.

“Kier!” she shrieked, but he’d already seen him.

“Don’t be afraid,” he yelled. “He can’t hit us at this distance, in this wind.”

I know she thought, but she saved her breath.

They hit a patch of seashell shingle, shifting and treacherous underfoot. She struggled to keep lifting her legs, to keep the pace up. Her thighs burned.

“He’s got a choice – aim or run.”

Run, she prayed. Keep running.

She did the same. They passed through the shingle back onto sand again. Wet sand, pockmarked with worm holes and casts, smooth and agony on the calves.

She kept running.

Then he veered, leading them out to their left, towards the centre of the bay.

“Where are you going?”

“There.” He raised an arm, pointed to the far shore, lines of brown and green and pale sand.

“You’re crazy,” she gasped, and looked over her shoulder. She could see Kendrick now, far behind, and yet way too close.

“Don’t look, move,” Kier roared and she ducked her head and pumped her legs. They’d hit smoother, wetter sand now and the going was easier and sloping slightly downhill. Hard on the ankles, though, and Jenny grimaced behind her makeshift mask.
Feet pounding on wet ground, heart thumping in her ears. Breathing hard, fighting the wind that buffeted her right side, and the sand it flung in her eyes. Kier was ahead of her, not far, but far enough to keep her legs pumping, her arms moving, wrestling every stride from a tired body.

Then she looked up, and couldn’t see Kier.

She opened her mouth to shout, but the next two strides brought him into sight. They’d come to the big tidal channel in the middle of the bay, invisible from the shore. At her level, it was almost ten metres wide, but down where Kier stood below her, up to the knees in water, it narrowed to barely a handful of feet.

He flung a hand up towards her. “Cross. Now!”

Catching his urgency, she flung herself down the sculpted slope, mud and sand crumbling under her and sending her sliding down into the cold water. She gasped at the impact, but she was barely in before Kier was hauling her bodily across the channel, almost throwing her at the other side. She dug in with fingers and toes, and threw herself forward and up, scrabbling for purchase, not allowing herself to stop for second.

Breathing was for later. Thinking could wait.

Now was only movement.

Next Post:- Expecting the Unexpected

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Writing is about waiting.

Maybe I hadn't had to wait that much for a request for a full, but my training in patience was about to begin.

Typically, I received the request for a full MS before I'd actually finished the book in question. This is a bit of a trend for me. Every time I swear it's the last, but I hit that 70 - 80% complete stage and start to yen for producing and sending a query... As an aside, I think it helps me to frame the editing phase of a book to put together a blurb, synopsis, and polish the first three chapters. When I need to learn, apparently, is not to send said work until I'm done.

But never mind.

I'd planned to finish McAllister's Wife over Christmas 2002. But Christmas held too many good things offering distration, so I pulled out all the stops, shamefully abused the good nature of my CPs, and the full MS went to Silhouette on 12th January.

And I started waiting.

I knew from the eHarlequin.com boards that most form Rs from the Silhouette office at the time were coming out at about four months. If you made it to six, you were doing good.

But if you made it to six months, you were probably going to wait a lot longer.

I waited some more. I was good. I seem to remember I queried progress at about 7 months, and heard it had been passed on to another editor.

A year passed. I reached that stage where I got to laugh hollowly at newbies who complained about a four month wait. "Psshaw!" I would say. "You think THAT's a long wait???!"

Now, I should probably say here that I have never really resented long waits in publishing. I resent form Rs much more. At this time (we're in 2003 now) there was a lot of anger on writing discussion boards about waiting on responses and how 'ridiculous' it was. Some effort was made to resolve the problem. People started hearing back a lot sooner.

In Form Rejection letters. There was a lot of anger about those, too.

You see, to me, the equation's obvious. You want a detailed response, you wait. You want a Form, you don't wait so long.

Because we have to remember that finding new talent is a small - a small - part of an editor's job. And it's rarely, if ever, a top priority. Enough has been said on this one that I don't need to go on, but I think it's important to note I'm not complaining about the wait, k?

That's not to say it didn't bother me... *g*. There were times I was pulling my hair out, and halfway through the wait I convinced myself I was kidding myself that I might sell a book to a US publisher, and started writing (and eventually submitted and received a rejection for) something else entirely.

Then, fourteen months after the submission of that full MS, I received a call.

They loved it. I mean, they really loved it. They wanted me to revise some things and resubmit asap.

Can we say ecstatic? Can we say, incandescent, overjoyed, euphoric?

I rattled off the revisions and posted out the new MS. I was so excited! People were e-mailing me to tell me that I was Nearly There, how great it was, how happy they were. I had booked to go to the RWA Conference in NYC that year, and in my secret, most private moments, I dreamed of wearing my pink ribbon to that shindig.

My birthday came. And then, about a month later, so did my MS. In fact, both of them, the original and the revised, were handed to me by our postman one May morning in 2003. I had to sign for it, because the package was damaged, but I couldn't really see where I was signing.

It was, of course, a rejection. Michelle very wisely tells people that any MS has to please several editors. Mine had pleased two, but the third and final one quite rightly pointed out a few solid flaws the others hadn't seen.

*Engage Understatement Mode* It was kind of painful.

But I thanked the editor for her advice, and offered to revise immediately. No, they said, try something new. So I did, and by June I had another request for a full under my belt.

About this time, I developed a thyroid problem, which made my memory of much of the next two years rather hazy. I remember I cancelled a doctor's appointment in June because I didn't want to be told to take thryoid medications that would possibly make me too ill to go to NYC.

Reluctantly, I packed McWife away in a box on a bottom shelf, and started packing for Nationals.

It was funny, because under the circumstances, I might have had a horrible time.

I had one of the best times of my life.

Some of that was meeting friends I'd only ever spoken to over the net, like Rae and Dee. Some of it was arriving in style with Kate Walker, and rooming with the celebrated Bat Dame, Ann. Some of it was the city I immediatley loved, when I'd expected to loathe it.

It was at that conference that I heard Jenny Cruisie say that there's no such thing as Nearly There... you're either there or you're not. Published, or not.

She was so, so right.

Next Post:- The Many Faces of McWife

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Chocolate Rush...

This month's issue of Sainsbury's Magazine includes a free sample of Green & Blacks Chocolate.

It's only a small piece, but it's Butterscotch, so it counts.

Don't all rush, now.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Long Time Ago, In An Office Far, Far Away...

Actually, our old house is only a few hundred yards away, but it certainly seems like a long time ago that I sat down to write McWife in that draughty, upstairs, back room.

I’m going to take a few days and a few posts to take you through the story of McWife (which is by no means over!). It’s a convoluted tale, but I think it's interesting enough to make a good read, and instructional enough – although possibly in the ‘terrible warning’ rather than the ‘good example’ category – to be of use to people. With each new post, I’m going to try and find an excerpt you’ll enjoy, and that I’ll love to post.

But let’s get back to that small, creaky old office.

I remember I had an old chair that I’d rescued from a skip – it was bright, lime green – and every time I moved it there was a distinct danger of one of the wheels falling through the loose floorboard. The room wasn’t that bad, though, as long as you didn’t put your hand on that section of the damp wall... unless you wanted to spend the next hour picking horsehair plaster out of the keyboard. One Christmas, my in-laws gave me an all-in-one fleece jumpsuit. I used to type wearing gloves.

But it was summer 2001, and blessedly warm, when I first sat down to get that story out of my head and onto paper. Unusually for me, I started with the beginning. But that was the last scene I wrote in order. It was a scene that had been playing like a piece of silent movie in my head for months, and since I’d been dabbling with member online reads at eHarlequin.com’s community boards, I thought, “there could be a book here...”

I had a day job (I still do!) and would write whatever snippets or scenes occurred to me, as and when I could. That summer I was working at a satellite office nearby, in the converted granary of an old country estate – the house was long gone, but the stable block was there, and the barn, and the piggeries falling into ruin behind a discreet veil of nettles and brambles – and I used to take my laptop outside at lunchtime and sit on the grass, typing madly. There were bats roosting in the toilets, and down in the hidden ice-house by the car park, and on summer evenings the bright, brittle dragonflies danced round the yellow flag irises at the edges of the lake.

I would write in notebooks by the river, and on the back of receipts on the train, and in evenings in that draughty office, with the cats vying for pride of place on my lap.

I still write in lots of different places, and still find I’m most productive outside, but that first book was unique in one special way. I’ll never write another like it.

How was it unique? Because I was convinced I wouldn’t finish it.

Up to that point, I had a terrible track record for finishing things, for following through on things I wanted to do for me. I’d never stuck to a diet or exercise regime, my spinning wheel, though beloved, was gathering dust in a corner. There were abandoned embroidery projects, and half-finished home-improvement schemes all around me.

So I said to myself, “I’m having fun.” I thought, “I don’t have to finish this, it’s just for me,” and I simply enjoyed myself.

Oh, and how I enjoyed myself! I've put one of my absolute favourite snippets below to show how much...

I enjoyed myself so much it came as something of a surprise to find I almost had a finished novel on my hands. I started editing the front end, pulled together a query, and submitted it to the Fabulous Leslie Wainger at Silhouette on the 12th December 2001.

Now, I love Christmas, so what with the all the preparations for the festive season, and trying to finish the MS, I almost forgot about the query. After all, everyone knew you had to wait ages to hear back from a publisher, right?

On December 31st, just as the old year was in its last gasp, and the New Year was drawing its first breath, I received a request for the full MS.

I may have screamed. I know Husband complained I'd damaged his hearing.

Next Post - Revisions, Rejection and the 'Nearly There' conspiracy.


Jenny slowly lifted the clutch, releasing the hand brake. At first the wheels gripped, and she felt the car sway on its springs as it began to bite into the turf and climb back up the bank. Kier started to heave at the pole, trying to rock the Rover back and up. Tentatively, she stroked the gas pedal, just feeding a little more through to those slowly turning wheels.

Without warning, they started to slip, not spinning wildly, because the four wheel drive and diff lock wouldn’t let them, but sliding inexorably forward towards McAllister. At the same moment, he shifted his position, trying to get more leverage. Then suddenly his feet went out from under him, and he disappeared from view under the front of the vehicle.

Jenny yanked the hand brake on again. Sickeningly, the SUV lurched and slid forward for a moment, splashing back into the beck, but then it held.

For a split second she sat there, heart hammering in her ears, imagining Kier crushed under the wheels, under the bumper. Seeing in her mind’s eye his blood swirling away downstream, turning the beck red, then pink. Her vision blurred, and she saw last night’s dream again, smelled for a moment hot blood and hot metal.

Not again, please.

She bit hard on her lip, until the she tasted blood and the pain spiked through her head, galvanizing her to action.

Jenny snatched at the door handle, threw herself out the car. She slipped and stumbled on the wet ground, falling to her knees, trying to scramble to her feet again just as Kier reared up out of the beck, water pouring off him.

She stopped where she was, on her hands and knees, absorbing how wonderfully alive he looked, sweeping the water out of his eyes and gasping for air. His clothes were plastered to him, marking the play of lean muscles over his ribs as his chest heaved.

The sun briefly slid out from behind the scudding clouds as he ran his hands over his head, shaking the water from his hair. The golden light of early day caught and shimmered in the droplets as they flew and she was transfixed by it, achingly grateful she didn’t have to watch another man die today.


Jenny felt that little shivery change of balance in the vehicle around her. That was the only warning. Then, ponderously, without a hint of effort, the mechanical beast pulled herself up the bank and on to level ground.

Jenny braked gently, and stopped.

She looked out through the windscreen, across a distance of ten yards or more, at Kier in the beck, bowed over, not even looking at her.

Her breath caught.

Time slowed, eddying and swirling around her like the water around McAllister’s legs. Driven into two streams for a fraction of a second.

Jenny was aware of the feel of the steering wheel under her palm, the rumble of the engine happily ticking over, of the track stretching away in the rear view mirror. Of Kier, out of breath and momentarily out of action, there in the stream in front of her.

Her captor in front of her. Her freedom ticking over under her hands.

She hung suspended, not breathing, hardly aware of her heart beating, and watched as McAllister straightened, and lifted his head to meet her gaze.

Her mind was screaming at her. Move! Get out of here! But she stayed just where she was.

If she had been able to read the expression in those eyes, if there had been a hint of threat there, of command, she might have fled. But there wasn’t. He just looked tired. Almost defeated.

Jenny reached out her hand and turned the key in the ignition.

And Kier surged out of the beck in a rush of water, closing the distance between them. He wrenched open the door.

In the silence as the engine died, she could hear the rush and gurgle of the water passing. Hear the ragged tear of Kier’s breathing.

Staring straight ahead, she wondered why she hadn’t run.

He stepped in to her, lifting his hand toward hers. “Get out of the car, Jenny.”

She swivelled on the seat, ignoring his hand, and pushed herself off it, expecting him to back up as she did. Mistake. Too late she realised he wasn’t moving, and she was already sliding off the seat, her legs tangling with his, her body sliding down his. He didn’t move a muscle, except to brace his hands on the door frame and cage her in.

Afraid to tip her head up, she stared ahead of her. At rivulets of water trickling over the skin of his neck. Running together, pausing in little beads, gathering in the hollow at the base of his throat, then disappearing into the few hairs that showed at the opening of his shirt.

He was soaked, and where they touched; thigh, chest, her shoulder to his arm, the water was soaking into her clothes. It should have chilled her, but the heat was rising off him and enveloping her, liquefying her bones. Making her want to lean into him and take more of it.

The moment lengthened, drew on, until it was stretched thin and tight.

She saw his the muscles of his throat contort as he swallowed, following the smooth movement of his adam’s apple with a fascinated eye.

“Nice driving,” he said, stepping away.

Monday, October 02, 2006


I'm going to post the Long and Convoluted story of McWife (which is basically the story of my writing-for-publication) through this week, but before I started that I wanted to ask a couple of webby questions:-

Which author's website and/or blog do you like best for its Design and why?


Which author's website and/or blog do you like best for its content and why?

The whole web thing is going to be interesting...

Thank you!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Many a true word...

I've been cruising websites and blogs(this one's from Lori's blog), and tripped over this quiz, which actually hits the nail on the head for me.

You Are Impressionism

You think the world is quite beautiful, especially if you look at it in new and interesting ways.
You tend to focus on color and movement in art.
For you, seeing the big picture is much more important than recording every little detail.
You can find inspiration anywhere... especially from nature.

You could apply that description to my writing, too.