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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas is coming!

Tomorrow and the coming weekend I'll be getting the decorations and the tree up. Christmas officially begins in our house once the tree's up, and officially ends on New Year's day when all the decorations come down.

It's not just the tree that'll mark Christmas. At the weekend, I'll be getting out the Christmas CDs. The kids will groan but they won't mind too much because there'll also be dishes around the house filled with chocolate and other naughties.

Hmm... just as well I'm planning to become more active. Perhaps I should start with the exercise bike...

MERRY CHRISTMAS to those who celebrate it.

My Life with MS

You may have noticed that (once again) I've not been around the blogosphere much lately. There has been loads going on here. I'm not going to blog about all of it because it involves others.

One thing I will blog about is *warning: rant alert* I AM SICK OF BEING SO DAMNED ILL ALL OF THE TIME!!!!!!!!! The problem is that Multiple Sclerosis is different for every person, no two people suffer the same things in the same way. One person may only be unwell during relapses and 'normal' when in remission.

In many ways I count my blessings because things could be a lot worse. But, on the other hand things could also be a LOT better.

I'm fortunate that thus far this unpredictable disease hasn't permanently affected a specific part of my brain. Instead, it's my brain stem that's been attacked and permanently scarred. Even when I'm not in an official 'relapse', and I'm supposedly in 'remission', I get weird symptoms EVERY day, and more often than not they make me feel yucky (every signal our brains send to our bodies has to travel through our brain stems).

I have random numbness that can affect any and every part of my body (ever tried walking with both feet/legs numb? Or, had a numbness/woolly feeling in your brain?). My most debilitating symptoms by far are the chronic fatigue and the dizziness/vertigo. I never know when they're going to hit me. These are only a few of the things my daily life is affected by, and the symptoms move around my body at random, meaning I never know how I'm going to feel at any given moment.

So, why am I talking about this? Because I've made a decision: somebody, somewhere has GOT to do something so that I can 'live' my life as fully as possible in between relapses. Nobody can know what the future holds for them, and God forbid that one day I permanently lose the use of my legs/eyes/... then, I'll look back on these days where I've been too 'yucky' to do anything, as wasted.

When I lose my legs/eye sight etc. for several months at a time in an 'official' relapse, it's amazing how accepting I feel about having MS. It's in between relapses that I struggle with it. And I've had enough. The medical profession have to realise how my everyday life is affected and do something about it. Or at least, admit to me that this is the way life is going to be from now on. Only then will I learn to accept my situation.

Today, I'm hoping I've had my first breakthrough. Usually I avoid doctors. Many (as in society in general) don't understand 'invisible' illnesses. Doctors like to go by text book symptoms, or at least symptoms they can see with their own eyes. MS is far from text book. Even neurologists (and I've seen some of the best) admit that the brain is the one area they still know little about.

I've now found a rare treasure of a doctor (new to general practice) who actually listens to me, and even appears to understand me. She seems determined to help me get my life back. For the past three weeks my eyes have been juddery, causing major nausea and dizziness. The doctor has thankfully reassured me that I'm not in a relapse, it's just another MS 'blip' affecting my everyday life.

She's prescribed me medication for the nausea and it works! There's nothing that can help my eyes from being juddery, but by controlling the nausea I'm hoping I'll be able to get out and about (although, I obviously still can't drive). I may even be able to do 'normal' things around the house.

For the next weeks I'm going to do whatever I have to do to get my health on an even keel and the MS under control as much as possible. Instead of refusing medication I'm going to try things that will help overcome the worst of the 'yucky' symptoms. Trouble is, all this takes what little energy I have.

If I'm hit with a relapse I know there's nothing I can do and I'll accept it. If I'm in between relapses I'm going to make damn sure that the medical profession are going to help me enjoy my everyday life.

Once I've got the MS under control I'm going to prioritise my writing and get this book finished. So, just to warn you, I might not be able to keep up with your blogs right now as much as I'd like. Internet has to be the least of my priorities for a while. I hope you understand. I'll still post on here (and hopefully Gray will too) when I've got something to say.

Until next time, take care, and HAPPY writing!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

ROLLERCOASTER

Just when I think I'm used to my life being a rollercoaster because of my health, it knocks me down again. The good news is I'm rarely kept down for long, and true to form I'm slowly climbing back up again.

My laptop has broken (again), and guess who forgot to email herself the last draft of her w-i-p?! Good comes out of everything though, right? Time away from my writing has helped me face up to a dilemma that I've been trying to ignore for some time: Should I really be writing a Medical right now?

These doubts have become stronger since I've finished my competition entry. While I didn't find it 'easy', I thoroughly enjoyed writing from an emotional perspective. An emotional scene without the backdrop of a medical setting.

We're getting close to the end of the year, and in a chat with Gray, it suddenly hit me that I've been quite ill in one way or another for most of it. Is it any wonder that I'm hitting problems whenever I try to write the medical bits?

Something has begun to dawn on me, maybe I'm a little too close in my 'real-life' right now to be able to face writing Medical? While I want to create the fab doctors that are sadly more often than not missing in real-life, maybe now isn't the right time for me to do so? I need some escapism from hospitals, doctors, and health issues.

I then began thinking about what I've been reading. Medicals? No. Tender/Romance and Modern Extras? Yes. Why am I reading these? For the sheer pleasure and enjoyment, and ESCAPISM.

But, I've come so far with telling Matt & Kate's story, what should I do? In desperation, having gone round and round in my head with it, I posted on an eHarlequin message board. With thanks to all the wonderful people who gave me their thoughts and insight, I'm now clearer about what I should do. Here's my revised plan:

1. I am NOT ditching Matt & Kate. I AM going to finish their story. However, I'm not going to write any more medical scenes. I'm going to focus on their relationship/romance without worrying about the word count.

2. I'm going to put this story to one side and brew and plan my next w-i-p with a major difference: It's going to be a Romance and not a Medical.

3. When I've finished this next first draft, I'll go back to Matt & Kate's story. Can I move them into a Romance setting? Or are they still too much like medical professionals? If they are happy to change their setting I'm going to rewrite it. If, as I suspect, they can't move their careers, I'm going to leave them again.

4. I'm going to remain focused on writing for the Romance line. Then, if and when I carve my dream career with HMB, I may at some 'healthier' time in the future revisit Kate & Matt in their medical setting...

5. Lastly, I'm going to stop creating dilemmas! I'm going to get on with the joy of reading and writing. I'm going to go wherever my heart takes me, because this is where my strength will lie.

Thanks, as always, for listening.

Monday, November 20, 2006



here's a link - my hat's in the header of the post and not in the post itself

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Part 2 of Carolyn Davidson's Interview

Last time, Carolyn told us about her research (or lack of it!), her inspirations and the nitty-gritty of the actual writing process. This time around, I asked whether she took any research trips to help her writing.

Carolyn:

"My husband and I travel a lot, usually a research trip twice a year. We've gone to Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, where my May, 2007 story takes place, and to Arizona, where I found my characters for my first Harlequin Historical. One of my books is set in Michigan, where we originally lived for a lot of years. Many of my stories are set in Texas, where we have visited several times. Also the middle of the country is a favorite spot of mine, Kansas and Missouri are good spots for historicals."


It definitely seems that visiting your locations - budgetary limitations notwithstanding! - is a safe step towards success. And what of attending conferences and workshops on the craft of writing?

Carolyn answers:

"As my agent told me once, writing by the seat of your pants is not the accepted method, but it works for me. I tried going to workshops at the RWA National conferences, but it only confused me, and my agent told me to quit trying to learn how to write and just do what I'm doing. Sure took a load off my mind, since I felt that I surely wasn't doing something right, according to all the workshops I sat in on. Now, I just write and tell my stories."


Of course, this is not to say that conferences and workshops AREN'T useful - but if you don't get on with them, then don't feel bad! Carolyn's two decades of success - with over thirty books to her name as a romance writer - show that everyone is unique - and if something doesn't work for you, then don't fret about it. If you want to be unconventional, then by all means go ahead.

Carolyn:

"I noted on the Internet that the UK is going to be bringing out a printing of my first HQN book, Redemption, that came out here last January. I wrote that sucker in three weeks, spending long hours in front of my computer, sleeping very little and literally living what I wrote."


Three weeks? Isn't that a record? And what of the finished product?

Carolyn's reply:

"It is by far my favorite novel of all I have written. I found the hero, Jake McPherson, in an earlier book I wrote, called The Wedding Promise, and when it was published, I received a ton of mail from readers who wanted to know if Jake would have his own book. It didn't seem likely, but I managed it by killing off his wife. Now, I don't recommend that twist, but it worked for this book."


Thanks very much Carolyn - for both your interview and your excellent stories!

Note: Redemption is due for publication in the UK in December 2006 as a Mills & Boon SuperHistorical and is available direct from the Mills & Boon online-store now.

Friday, November 17, 2006

An Interview with Harlequin M&B Historical Author Carolyn Davidson

I recently had the pleasure of reading The Texan, a Mills & Boon Historical Romance by Carolyn Davidson, originally published in the UK in 2005.

The Texan is set in the American West of the late 19th century and I enjoyed it so much, I went over to Carolyn's website and took the opportunity to fire off a few questions. She was kind enough to respond, and has allowed me to share her comments and advice on this blog.

I initially asked her about the period she chose to write about.

Carolyn's reply:

"As to what I write, most of my work takes place in the late 1800s, a favorite period of time with me. I have done a couple wagon train stories that took place fifty years earlier, but almost everything I write is in the 1880s or 1890s. I love the period."


Next to a love for the society in which her books are set, I discovered that Carolyn found an unlikely source to help her with the physical process of writing: learning Latin!

Carolyn explains:

"I took Latin, and we both know that it's dead as a doornail. But I learned a lot about words and their formation from Latin. It has really been a big help to me in my writing."


I next asked her about the one area of writing that's either loved or hated by authors: the dreaded research.

Carolyn:

"As to my research, I fear I must disappoint you, for I don't do any. Except for a book on horses and the services of my sister-in-law who raises them, my dictionary and a general history book of the USA, I just write what I know."


A Historical author who doesn't do research? Wow!

Carolyn explains further:

"I visited my grandparent's farm when I was a child and learned how to do all the normal farm stuff, gathering eggs, feeding chickens and cows, pitching hay onto a wagon and into the loft, slopping the hogs, churning butter and shucking corn. When I write, I just go back in time to the life I led in those days, a life I dearly loved."


Now it all makes sense. Carolyn is lucky enough to have actually lived the type of life that she writes about in her Historicals. No wonder her books feel so authentic!

Let's get to the crux of the matter: what process does her writing take - is she a pantser or a plotter?

Carolyn:

"My writing is rather loose, for I sit in front of my computer and see a video in my mind and I type frantically, getting down all the dialogue and actions of my characters as they act them out. "

"Now, I know this is not the recommended style of writing that RWA preaches, for I don't outline or plot or even write a decent synopsis, but for some reason, they keep buying the books and I just keep writing them."


Caroyln's atypical approach to the craft is one that pays off. In the UK alone, she's had the following books published in recent years:



A Marriage By Chance, The Texan, Tempting A Texan, Texas Gold and Texas Lawman. And she shows no signs of stopping.



Part 2 of the interview to follow. Come back when Carolyn talks to me about research trips, agent advice, conferences and how one very special book came about...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

*'Feline Catty' for Children in Need



This is my daughter in a practice run for College on Friday when she's hoping to raise money for BBC's Children in Need appeal.


With a little help from her Nan's knitting skills, and some artistic talent of her own, Charlotte's *'feline' more than a little catty!

Good Luck sweetie, and remember, every penny helps!


*play on words pinched from Gray's joke...!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Enid Blyton - and my other inspirations.

I was five or six years old when Enid Blyton came into my life. My Nan gave me my very first 'reading' book Come to the Circus, and from that moment I was hooked on both reading and Enid Blyton.

Nobody becomes a writer without first being a reader. By the time I was seven years old I knew I was going to be a writer "when I grew up." My first attempt was entitled The Secret Two, bearing more than a passing resemblence to Blyton's Secret Seven and The Famous Five!

At the age of 11, two major things happened to shape my life. The first was that my dear Nan died. For the first time I started keeping a diary, mostly influenced by The Diary of Anne Frank. Alas, I didn't keep it up for long. Some time afterwards I was also introduced to my first romance book, a Mills & Boon written by Anne Mather. For the first time, I began reading for escapism.

Within two years I'd hand-written my first 'real' story entitled The Hawaiian Dream. I still have a copy of my notes and the Holiday brochure I'd picked up from a local travel agents, to use as research and inspiration. No surprises either that my Heroine (interestingly named Charlotte - many years before I knew I would choose this name for my daughter) was recovering from the death of her beloved Nan.

By the time I was around sixteen I'd also become an avid reader of Catherine Cookson. I was awed by the fact that one of my school teachers had attended the same writers' group as Catherine Cookson (down in Hastings).

My other aspiration was to get married and have a family. I married at 17 years (yes, far too young - I know this now), and had my daughter when I was 20. My writing was put on hold.


In 1991 I went to see my first West End musical Joseph & the Technicolour Dreamcoat. Little did I know how much Joseph would become my motivation to try to achieve my dream of becoming a writer. Even now, when I listen to the soundtrack (Any Dream Will Do) it makes me feel quite emotional because it was the first time in many years since I'd regained my belief that I was 'meant' to be a writer.

Following a short holiday to Wales, my first Mills & Boon partial manuscript was born, entitled A Bid From The Heart. This was closely followed by my second, Word of Honour. Both submissions were rejected with what I now realise were encouraging rejections. The editors on both occasions asked to see more of my work, even though what I'd written so far hadn't been up to publishable standard, due to lack of emotional conflict etc.

I felt disheartened by my life in general by then and put my writing aside to focus on my two young children, and a necessary full-time job. Through a colleague I made contact with a former Mills & Boon Medical author Sarah Franklin, who very kindly invited me round her house one afternoon. She no longer wrote for M&B, preferring instead to write sagas under her own name of Jeanne Whitmee, but she provided me some much needed encouragement to NEVER GIVE UP.
It was Jeanne who sowed the first seeds in my head about writing for the Medical series, as opposed to Modern/Presents, who I'd targeted thus far.

Another few years passed and I sporadically returned to my writing - usually to submit short stories with a 'twist in the tale' to women's magazines. Rejection after rejection followed these submissions too.

Wow, this post has become rather long! For those who are still reading (!) I'll jump a few years and bring you to 2006. January 2006 I read a book by Rick Warren, entitled The Purpose Driven Life.
It was then all the missing jigsaw pieces fell into place. I am (and always have been) meant to be a writer. Writing is my purpose in life (as is being a Mother).

So here I am. Real-life still tries to stop me, but I know that I'm meant to write. I may not be published with my next book, or even the one after that, but I know one day I will be. Until that day arrives, I'll NEVER GIVE UP!

In case you're wondering why I've randomly written this long post, Sharon tagged me to blog about what inspired me to write. I therefore tag anybody and everybody who's read this far to write on their blog (or in my comments), what inspired them to write...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Remembrance Sunday



I was going to write a post, but instead, I'm going to send you over to Natasha Oakley because she's posted a beautiful tribute...

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Temporary Blip!

I never learn do I? No sooner do I find my 'zone' than I'm taken out again by whatever 'lurgy' Gray had. I can't even begin to tell you how frustrated I am.

However, I am still writing. Sort of. Well, 100ish words yesterday and again today. Problem is I'm in the middle of a romantic scene, and have you ever tried to write a hot kissing scene when you're bunged up with whatever virus this is?!

I am however still in control. I know that as soon as I can I'll go back to the groove/zone or whatever you want to call the writing routine I discovered pre-lurgy. And, although I'm not consciously writing too much at present I have been plotting subconsciously, and I almost know exactly what's going to happen when I get back to it (and believe me my characters will be grateful they've had a break!).

Thanks to everybody who's stopped by and left supportive and encouraging comments. And to stop you getting too bored waiting for my word counter to zoom, I thought I'd leave you with a slide show of a few books taken off my current To Be Read (a.k.a. TBR) pile:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Update

As Sharon noticed yesterday I've finally reached the 50% marker of my book!!! I was too tired then to celebrate, but please join me today with a glass of whatever you fancy, or as is more likely in my case, a cup of tea and choccy biscuit!



I've not found the past two days very easy, but I think I've finally found my 'groove' with my writing. It's taken me long enough - I've been working on and off this book (more off than on!) since March 2006!!

I now have a realistic timetable. The first draft will be finished by the 30th November, or soon after. I'm then putting it aside and allowing myself to enjoy the run up to Christmas. Of course, I'll also subconsciously be working on plotting and getting to know my next characters.

In the New Year I'll either, write the draft of my next book (or if I don't 'know' it enough), I'll return to polish and rewrite the one I've finished. Whatever happens, by April next year I'll have one book polished and FINISHED (hopefully submitted either to the RNA or HMB) or (as I'm hoping) my first book will be submitted, my second finished in draft mode and brewing on my third... (can you see a pattern developing here?)

It's an exciting and scary plan all at the same time. But, what's dawned on me this past week or so is, with enough self-discipline and willpower, it IS achievable!

How are your writing plans shaping up?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Mystery Solved - Thanks Sharon!!

Thanks to Sharon over at the Waterbutt, I now know that it's the actual Zokutou website that's been suspended and not any of us. PHEW!!!

Sharon's
also pointed me in the right direction for getting another word counter.

Many thanks for getting me out of my flap, Sharon!!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Who's Pinched Our Word Counters???

At first I thought the theft was personal. When I tried updating my wordcounter this morning I was told:
"This Account Has Been Suspended
Please contact the billing/support department as soon as possible."

What have I done? I thought. Maybe this wordcounter isn't free after all? Maybe I owe some money? Maybe I've taken advantage and used too many...?

Then, I checked other blogs and discovered that everybody appears to be suffering from the same theft.

While relieved it's nothing personal, I'm not happy. Where on earth are we supposed to get another word counter from? I NEED to see that wormy thing growing. It makes the pain of adding to it worthwhile.

Hopefully it's a temporary blip, and not as Gray says, the website going bust.

Please let me know if you find an alternative.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Honourary NaNoWriMo Participant



I've done it!

I'm determined to complete my first draft by the end of November so I've joined eHarlequin's NaNoWriMo as an Honourary Participant.

I know I'm tempting fate, but I'm not going to let ANYTHING stop me writing 1,000 words a day. If I can write 1,000 plus per day I will reach the finishing line for my first draft!

The hardest part is switching off my internal editor. There's going to be a good chance that many words I write won't even make it into the final draft, but at least I'll have a full manuscript to rewrite.

The new self-disciplined me has already noticed a major difference with the writing I've been doing. Yesterday I finished the final draft of my short story entry for the Mills & Boon/Woman's Weekly competition.

It's the first short romance story I've ever written and if I'm to believe Gray and my CP I may have pulled it off. I'm not counting my chickens of being placed in the competition, but it will be great if later on I can submit it to one of our national magazines for consideration.

Happy writing to everyone and here's hoping real-life won't get in the way for all the other NaNoWriMo participants.