Saturday, March 29, 2008


I'm back from my holiday but minus my laptop.This means I'm typing on my old slow one with the letters missing. My laptop is looking terminally ill. The computer man is looking at it but he didn't sound hopeful, so if my posts become a bit sporadic thats why. It also means that I know there were people who emailed me before I left that I don't have addresses for. If you were one of those people and I haven't replied to you please resend - Juliet? I think you may be one.
It also meant I didn't get the writing done that I'd planned while I was away. Luckily I had up to date back ups on my flash stick so I'm hoping that I haven't lost anything.
So if anyone has recomendations for a new laptop please let me know - or if anyone is using PC Worlds business scheme and has any info that would be helpful too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

By Request 4

I'll try my best to answer the questions that Janet and some other writers have posed. If you have more questions about writing then please feel free to ask away in the comments and I'll try to answer.
So, we've established that the internal plot is the important one.

a)How do you deal with the backstory underpinning those internal conflicts? How much do you reveal at the start of the story? (early chapters)
I find I drip feed small snippets of information in gradually that gives the reader the impression of the heroines life and character and usually there is just a small paragraph or couple of lines here and there that gives the reader a gimpse into the heroines thoughts or feelings. Those in turn hint at the conflicts ahead. Here's an example from A Taste of Summer. This part is when we first meet Cassidy.

Cassidy made her way slowly back along the seafront, licking her ice cream as she strolled along. The summer sun warmed her skin as she stopped to lean on the sea wall. The beach looked busy with families and groups of small children paddled in the shallows. Surfers in black wetsuits rode their boards on the waves, while younger children tried out boogie boards.

All around her, people enjoyed the sunshine and the sand. Automatically, she glanced at her wrist to check the time. A pale band of skin showed up against the honey tan of her arms and she remembered she’d deliberately removed her watch for the day. She’d hoped that without the constant reminder of the time the day would pass less painfully.

So we learn from this that something was due to take place that day that she doesn't want to be reminded about. Then a little further on:

“Cassidy? Cassidy Jones?”
Her heart sank. It looked as if she had been wrong about not meeting anyone who knew her here in New Bay. Of all the people she hadn’t wanted to bump into,
“Hello, Josh, what a surprise to see you.” Josh Parker was definitely one of them.
He crossed the paved area between the tables to come and stand at her table, a bewildered expression on his face. “What brings you here? I thought you and Ethan were supposed to be headed for the Seychelles.” He looked around as if he expected Ethan to suddenly materialize beside her.
Cassidy bit her lip. It looked as if her famously work-obsessed boss hadn’t heard the news.
“I didn’t get married.” She tried not to sound terse. In her head she’d practised how she would tell people and explain to them what had happened. Now, confronted in the last place on earth she had expected to see someone she knew, all her carefully chosen phrases deserted her. “Ethan dumped me.”
Josh looked confused. “So, you’re not married?”
Cassidy clenched her teeth. “No.”
She did a mental eye-roll. For a supposedly intelligent man who’d built up a thriving dotcom marketing business, Josh could be mystifyingly dense.

There's no big internalising of the conflicts, no ong passages of her anguished feelings but in two short pieces the reader can already see where this story is heading. The reader can also empathise with Cassidy. This is a girl who likes to keep up appearances, not ony has she been jilted but it's been embarressing.

b)And what techniques do you use to reveal it? As you can see from the above snippets, I like to set the scene for the reader so they can picture that seafront, hear the gulls and the waves on the sand. Then I add in the smal details about the heroine or hero's past and how it affects them. Cassidy has removed her watch because she finds that watching the time is too painful. Again a litte further on we read:
In the distance, above the sound of the sea, she heard the faint chimes of the church clock striking four. Cassidy blinked back a tear. She should have been wearing her designer wedding dress and greeting her guests now. Instead all she had to look forward to was supper on a tray and her boss for company.

So Josh isn't just a random acquaintance, he's her boss and today should have been her wedding day. So athough she's removed her watch and tried to hide hersef away, she's ended up running into her boss and all around her are reminders of what the day should have held for her. Cassidy is an ostrich, she avoids problems and tries to create her own reality. Contrast this with Josh:

Cassidy plunked her hot chocolate down on to the coffee table with a thud, splashing a little of the contents over the brim. “Just how big a party have you planned?”

“A dozen or so of my old surfing friends and their girls. Before I started the business I used to spend every summer down here catching some waves and hanging out with my buds. It’s really good to catch up with everyone again.”

“And I suppose the other party you mentioned will be the same sort of thing?”

“Yeah, barbeque and beers. I even bought a gazebo to put up just in case we get a rain-shower.” Josh swivelled in his seat to dangle his leg casually over the arm of his chair.

The look in Cassidy’s eyes was distinctly murderous. He wondered if she’d been this uptight before Ethan had dumped her. It was two lousy parties, that was all! It wasn’t as if he expected her to fetch drinks or help clear up or anything. He’d even invited her along, thinking that being in fresh company might cheer her up and save her from brooding.

Josh is Mr Sociability, relaxed and chilled out. Cassidy tries to keep up a front where Josh doesn't look for anything complicated. Their internal conflicts are shown in their attitudes towards the party plans.

c) Do you decide on your theme before you write the book or does it develop out of the story that unfolds? The conficts stem from the characters personalities but I do decide on the main problem right from the planning stage. Josh and Cassidy are forced to share a holiday cottage. At work Josh is efficient and distant, but his heart is with his surfer friends. Cassidy feels she has to keep up her image for her former fiance. So both of them haven't been revealing their true personaities. Forced into closer proximity the layers begin to come off, emotionally speaking,so by the end of the story they finally see and accept each other for who they really are.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


finished rereading the proofs for Blue Remembered Heels. I spent today at my new job getting to know my jobshare partner and attempting to put faces to names. I'm so looking forward to starting as we've lots of plans that we want to work on. I've lots to learn but lots of things that I can offer too.
I've more running around to do tomorrow and then I can pack for our holiday. I plan to finally finish the first draft of Animal Instincts while we're away. I've been doing lots of thinking about what I need to add so it's looking good. I've a new Jessica Hart, Olivia Gates new medical and Katie Ffordes Going Dutch sitting in my tbr pile to take with me - Bliss!
I'm hoping to fit in another by request craft post before I go as I have some outstanding questions to answer.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

One more

One more performance of Alice in Never Never land to go for the belles. Then I have the joy of washing and sorting al the ostumes and finding somewhere to store them. This weekend I've sorted out a victorian maids outfit for La for school on Tuesday. I've got two smartie tubes to fill with coins for the PTA, and I'm about to boil eggs so they can decorate them for the easter contest.
We go away Thursday night - all being well - down to Devon (Or it could be up to Devon, I have no idea which way round you're supposed to say these things.) I've done my first read through of the proofs for Blue Remembered Heels, now to tackle the second read and mark up the blips I found.
It was really eerie reading it again after being so immersed in Animal Instincts. I'd been worried that Abbey and Clodagh might be too similar and realised they are nothing alike at all - phew! I also read it thinking wow - did I really write this? - I know I'm biased but I really love this book, I'm hoping everyone else will love it too.

Friday, March 14, 2008

2008 Friday fun 8

Here are a few more Aynuk and Ayi jokes - thanks to Yampy for these.

Aynuk and Ayli stop to look at the stars swaying, on their way home after a night out.

"It meks yer yed reel when yow think about infinity" says Aynuk. "Fer instance, what's the highest number in the universe?"

Ayli's brows furrow with the magnitude of the question.

"Er, that'd be a trillion or summat, wouldn't it?" he replies at last.

"Ah-ha!" says Aynuk triumphantly "but worrabaht a trillion and one?"

"Ar, fair play ter yer" concedes Ayli "but I wor far off, was I?"

Aynuk decides its about time he got himself fit and decided to take up jogging. One day while he was out jogging, he noticed two tennis balls lying by the side of the road.

He picked the balls up, put them in his pocket and continued on his way.

When he gets to the end of his jog, he happens to see Ayli sitting outside the pub, doing his training, downing a pint.

Ayli looks at old Aynuk standing there huffing and puffing, red faced and doubled up.

"What am then big bulges yove got in your shorts?" he asked.

"Tennis balls," pants Aynuk

"Yow poor sod " said Ayli,. "Our kid they must be really hurting, no wonder yome in agony,

I once had tennis elbow and I know the pain was unbearable."

Aynuk and Ayli are in the chemists:

"Ar'd steer clear of that bum deodorant if ah wuz yow Ayli, it day 'arf cum sharp".

"Tharray bum deodorant Aynuk, it's normal stick deodorant fer under yer arms".

"Well ah guh ter the foot of our stairs. I onny follered the instructions day I? It sez on the side 'PUSH UP BOTTOM' "

Thursday, March 13, 2008


No rehearsal tonight! Yay! I've given the belles the night off as they're all tired. I sent notes to the two youngest's teachers saying they wouldn't be doing homework this week either. This is no big deal as the homework they get is pretty dreadful, (usually some badly photocopied sheet minus proper instructions). My cold is worse so I sound like Darth Vader - not attractive. I'm hoping a nice early night might help.
Tomorrow is my last day at work. My new job starts in two weeks and I'm going to be working for a charity, which is a market garden project set up and run by and for people with disabilities, it's about helping people to eat well, grow food, and improve their physical and mental wellbeing through the medium of horticulture. Very exciting!
Writing has taken a back seat for the last few days as I feel lousy but the proofs are on their way for Blue Remembered Heels so I'm hoping my head will have cleared by the weekend and the shows are out of the way.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Snatching a minute

between running back and forth to rehearsals for the belles. The house looks as if a bomb has hit with discarded tapshoes, metallic streamers from the twirly batons and reminders about school stuff. Somehow in the midst of the chaos I'm supposed to help boil eggs and decorate them, fill smartie tubes with money for the PTA and finish off all the stuff I need to do before I leave my job.
Oh, and write a book.
I'm sure I'd do it all much better without a bunged up nose and that underwater feeling in my ears.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Busy with a capital B

This week is going to be frenetic. I have a head cold which is driving me nuts as my ears feel all congested. The belles have dance rehearsas every night this week with the shows on Friday night and matinees on Saturday and Sunday. I've spent an hour already today labelling costumes and preparing things. I also have a full week at the day job culminating in a leaving party on Friday.
Yes, I'm leaving the NHS after twenty six years, almost eighteen of which have been in my present role. It's a bit scary to be stepping out into the unknown as my new job is very different. It's a job that will use all my skills gained from all my jobs, my health skills, my management experience, my pr and marketing skills and my IT know how. It also combines my love of gardens and passion for preventative health. It's a job share, so I'll be working three days a week giving me more time for my writing and my family. In short - the best of all worlds I hope.
So by next Sunday I'll be looking rather dazed.

Friday, March 07, 2008

2008 Friday fun 7

The Ghost of Gibbet Lane, Stourbridge

Gibbet Lane is a short cut between Stourbridge and Kinver and has been used for many centuries. Strange, creepy sounds are said to haunt the underbrush that lies on both sides of the lane. Trees creak and groan in the wind and the scurrying of night creatures also break the stillness. People have reported uneasy feelings. They feel like they are being followed by something sinister and strange that haunts the night.

In times gone by, the bones of cutpurses and murderers hung in chains along the road. Their mortal remains left hanging for months; a fatal warning to others contemplating a criminal career.

The gibbet post was driven into the ground at the exact spot where William Howe shot and robbed a wealthy local farmer, Benjamin Robins, on a winter’s night in 1812. It was market day in nearby Stourbridge. Mr Robbins was wearing a well-filled money-belt, having sold some sheep. He had celebrated the sale in the near by Nag’s Head hostelry, before setting off on foot to his farm in Dunsley.

The victim was a tough individual. After being robbed and left for dead, he managed to stagger home leaving a trail of blood in the snow. He lived for ten days before dying on 28th December. On his deathbed he gave a description of his attacker.

His brother was quick to react. He rode to Stourbridge and ordered one hundred “Wanted” posters. The crime caused such a sensation that the famous Bow Street Runners, Harry Adkins and Sam Taunton (ace detectives of their time), were brought in by the local magistrate in a determined effort to bring the robber to justice.

They interviewed many locals which paid the dividends. Thomas Bates reported that he had noticed a suspicious character lurking in bushes. He described a man wearing a tricorn hat, a dark riding coat and carrying a pair of pistols stuck into his belt. Others reported similar sightings.

The investigators followed the trail and discovered their quarry was a servant of the Marchioness of Downshire, by the name of William Howe. He had some instinct that the Bow Street Runners were on his trail as he packed his bags and left without giving notice.

But Mr Howe was finally apprehended at the Castle and Falcon pub in London. He was sent in irons to Stafford Gaol to await trail. When on trial, after a mere seven minutes the verdict of “guilty” was reached and the sentence of hanging by the neck until dead (and then being cut down and dissected and anatomised) was carried out within 48 hours.

However, when the verdict was announced, the attending Stourbridge magistrate immediately applied for the body to be released to them and hung in chains near the sport where the crime took place. Recent murders in Kidderminster, Bridgenorth and on Whittington Common resulted in the request being granted as a warning to others.

Vast crowds gathered to witness the arrival of the body and follow the procession. The body was suspended in chains “for the moral benefit of the local population.”

The corpse swayed in the breeze for many months and was little more than a skeleton when it was stolen at night by a local surgeon, who felt his profession had been cheated from using the body for medical advancement.

The legend of William Howe became widely circulated and sightings of the phantom started to occur regularly during the last century. Howe’s spirit has been reported to appear as a malicious figure which glides rather than walks. One witness, who claimed to have lashed out at the spectre in fright, says he stumbled back after his stick passed straight through the ghostly apparition.

Equally disturbing encounters with the spectral shade of William Howe continued to emerge regularly in the local press. The old tale was enlivened once more in 1908, when a skeleton with a rusty dagger protruding from its rib cage was discovered near the ‘old gibber tree.’ It is now speculated that William Howe is not the only lonely shadow haunting the old lane.

The most recent investigation into the Gibbet Lane phenomena took place in December 1975, when three paranormal researchers hailing from Dudley kept a four-night vigil in the vicinity of William Howe’s haunting. Bill Oddy, Kevin Stokes and Roy Banks took scientific equipment and spent the December nights searching for paranormal activity. In a summary of their findings, they explained how they heard eerie tapping sounds, shared the feeling of being followed or being invited to follow a presence, and witnessed a black, human form crossing the lane.

But the researchers concluded that, due to their lack of convincing evidence, the surrounding countryside around Gibbet Lane is at peace. Perhaps the spirits are finally at rest...

(Story courtesy of Charlotte Duckworth)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

By Request 3

Janet's asked some very interesting questions and I'll do my best to answer them.

Question 1)I'm amazed by the number of good story ideas you come up with. Do they arrive fully formed or do you spend a lot of time developing them before you start writing?
Sometimes I get a plot on it's own but this is very, very rare. Usually my plot ideas arrive with the character of the heroine. In Blue Remembered Heels I'd read a few articles about people who had been struck by lightening and the strange effects this could have. One man found he could speak a different language that he had no recollection of ever learning. The character of Abbey and her inability to lie came into my mind and I wondered in what aspect of someone's life would that be a really big problem and Abbey the con woman leapt onto the page. Then the subplot developed.

Question 2)Do you get lots and lots of ideas but discard a lot too, and keep only the best? I get a lot of ideas but some are suitable for short stories and others for books. Most of my books have a theme that underpins their structure. In Be My Hero, the theme was infertility and society's expectations and how they impact on individuals. In Things To Do, the theme was perceptions.

Question 3)Any tips for getting the ideas to flow? I can always come up with initial story ideas that I really like, then I struggle to develop them past chapter 4. (I like to have the external plot outline worked out before I begin.)
The external plot is not the key, it's the jam on the cake. If you rely on an external plot your story will run out of steam by chapter three. It's the internal conflict where you need to spend the time.
eg In Things To Do the external plot was Emma's secret marriage. The internal plot, the one underpining all the other subplots, is Emma's need to see people for what they really are, not as she would like them to be. Her internal neediness, wanting to be loved for who she is has led her into a disastrous marriage. She clings onto the marriage trying to believe that her husband loves her, explaining his bad behaviour while the reader can see she's fooing herself. As the story unfolds you see her realising the truth about herself and then, in turn, about Marco. She is then free to see the man who has really loved her all along, Rob.
It's the internal conflicts that help the reader to empathise with the heroine, her motivations and those of the hero are what give the reader the emotional investment in the story.
In Blue Remembered Heels, Abbey could be seen as an unlikely heroine. She's a conwoman, dishonest and not on the surface, a very nice person, but then you meet the other people in her life and see her particular moral code and the rational behind it and you see how vulnerable she is.
The characters are the key, they will give you the plot. In Dangerous to Know, Gemma has been dumped by the man she thought she was going to marry and finds that she has lost her identity and her confidence. Jerome has avoided relationships as his work takes him into dangerous places and he felt it would be unfair on a partner. Gemma sees him as someone who it would be safe to flirt with, to prove to the world, herself and her ex that she isn't boring. She steps outside her comfort zone physically and emotionally with Jerome. He, in turn, realises that emotions and love don't come to order. The external plot, the corrupt land deal and the suspense element, only serve to highlight the internal conflict in the emotions of the two characters.
Several of my reviews have picked up on the psychological interplay of my characters and commented very favourably on those aspects. They are what make the characters come alive.

I hope that's all made sense and feel free to agree, disagree, ask questions.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mothers Day

Happy Mothers day to all my UK readers. I've had a very nice day, I received flowers, a homemade fridge magnet and tiny keepsake box, a necklace, some chocolates and, rather bizarrely, a Crunchie bar.
I'm looking forward to a delicious roast pork dinner cooked by Mr Nell aided by the belles, to round off my day.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

I don't believe it

I had a Victor Meldrew moment on Thursday when I discovered some unlovely soul had managed to scrape the back corner of Rosie, my little auto car, while it was parked outside the clinic. Naturally they didn't bother to tell me about it so you can imagine how thrilled I was.
Mr Nell has managed to put the panel back on and take most of the scrape out with T Cut. Sigh.

BTW I haven't forgotten the by request segments on craft and I know Janet has asked some more questions. I promise I'll get to thse this week and if anyone else wants to ask something then ask away.