Archive | March 2011

Book Winner & A New Challenge?

I had all these great plans for tonight, and so far have managed none of them, and it’s 22.30. How typical of me.

Main reason for a blog today is that I’ve received my prize from a competition on Novel Kicks. It’s ‘From Notting Hill with Love… Actually’ by Ali McNamara. Woop!

When I first heard the title of the book, I knew I had to read it, even though I kind of hated the film Notting Hill, but hey, what an awesome titled book. Plus the first thing I ever heard about it (again from Novel Kicks) was ”She was just a girl, standing in front of a boy …wishing he looked more like Hugh Grant.” Ha ha, I love it.

So now I have a big dilemma. I’m doing an A – Z reading challenge this year. Reading authors from A to Z (kinna self explainatry really!). I’m on D (I read 2 As and 2 Bs and only started it mid January, so that’s why I’m not too far along). After D I should read E. But… I’ve just won this M book. I was kind of thinking that I’m going to be reading more than 26 books this year, so occasionally can skip out of the challenge and read something else.

But, I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, and want to do it in order. Unfortunately I think the perfectionist side of me is going to win out. Damn.

The other problem is that now I’ve moved, I’m closer to work – the tube journey is either 5 mins or 10 mins depending on which stop I get out at and how much I can be bothered to walk that morning/evening – so I’m not reading as much as I used to then. So getting through each book is taking longer. Sigh. Oh well, I’m not even half way through D, so I’ve got a while to think about it.

So, the second part of this blog: A New Challenge. Right, I’m quite a strong believer in things happening for a reason. I’ve not really been on Twitter much since I started my new job in October. I dip in now and then, but don’t give it the attention it deserves – especially since my phone now for some reason won’t log onto it. When I do log on, I usually don’t read that many people’s tweets – maybe the top 20 or something. 

Tonight I logged on. Pretty much the first thing I saw was Kait Nolan saying she was hosting a new challenge. Back in the day when I used to spend a lot of time online, I used to be an avid reader of Kait’s blog. So much so that when she released a novella, Forsaken by Shadow, I bought it, even though it was paranormal which I’d never read before (and which I really enjoyed). Kait also inspired me to do my first ever writing challenge Novel Push initiative in 2009 (which she also ran, and which then led to me doing NaNo that year). 

Therefore hearing about Kait doing another challenge, I was instantly intrigued. I looked and found this – A Round of Words in 80 days. 80 days from 1st April. Any writing target you want. Check in on Wednesday and Sunday. Hmmmmm. Tempted? You bet I am.

Any writing target I want? Well, that could be hours spent on editing, or on my writing course, or good old word counts. Or how about a mixture of the three?

I’ve not decided if I will sign up, although I think I probably will. Maybe. No, probably.

My 1st idea was 250 words a day, but not in a day by day goal, more a week by week one: 1750 words a week split over whichever days I want, or can. A weekly goal seems so much more realistic for more than two months than a daily target – something is so likely to come up which would mean I’d fail one day, then another and another, but weekly, there’s always time to make it up!

Writing then, that’s what I thought would be a good goal, but then I thought that I’d also like to get some editing in, ditto the writing course. So maybe each week the equivalent of 250 words a day. Maybe half an hour editing/on the writing course, or a mixture of them.

Like I said, I’ve not decided yet, this is just a provisional idea. But it has legs….

An hour ago I decided there were 4 things I needed to do before I go to bed. In 65 mins I’ve done 2, so have 55 mins to edit this then do the other two (washing up and ironing, definitely not the fun things!). Night all.

Writing Group Member

I’ve finally done something I’ve been talking about doing for probably years and joined a writer’s group.

The Magnetic North meet in a pub in London every Monday (presuming enough people can attend that week). I decided after a sudden spur of enthusiasm (at work – maybe that’s why) that it was time. I googled groups in London and found one very close to my new flat. I emailed the co-ordinator and that’s it. I was added to the list, and tonight was my first attendance.

I was really scared going. I was going to have to read something I’d written out in front of people I didn’t know. Actually the fact I didn’t know them probably didn’t matter, it was the fact I was going to have to read some of my work. Out load. And get criticism. Ok, so it was just the reading out loud I was worried about. Oh, and commenting on other people’s work.

I’m not a good public speaker. In fact, I’m a terrible public speaker. To such an extent that if there are 5 people around listening to me, I go all red and nervous. Even if they’re people I know. But, despite this, I knew I had to join a group. My mum used to go to one (or many over the years) and found it really helpful. And you know what, just from one week, I think I will.

I read the end of the first chapter of Italian Infatuation – my Mills & Boon novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2009. The one that has sat on my computer since then, only resurrected last September for the polishing of the opening chapter for a competition.

Reading it out wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was 5th out of 6, so by the time I got to read I’d already said a few comments about other people’s work, so it wasn’t that bad. I stuttered a little over what I’d written, but I think that means that sentence didn’t flow well, rather than I was messing it up.

So the feedback. I was slightly worried about that as the other 5 members tonight were men. Ah. But I’d been told that there used to be a M&B author among them, so they knew about the style etc (although her series is Historical and mine is Romance – or whatever it’s called now – fluffy and comfy or something!). They had some really good comments. Negative comments which I found really useful.

But also some good positive comments. For instance they pretty much all said that they could sense the attraction between Diane and Giovanni – even though they’d not been together in that scene. Awesome. I always worry that I’m not all that good at building the attraction between them (one of my biggest things I feel I need to edit in the story is the amount of time they spend together – there’s just not enough) but apparently I did.

I said earlier I was also worried about giving advice before I went. But I managed quite well and the other writers seemed happy with what I said.

Fiction Friday definitely helped with today – having to showcase my work to an audience, then read and comment on other people’s stories. It’s almost like a writing group – but hiding behind a computer and a fake name (I’m sorry to say, but Newtowritinggirl isn’t my actual name!).

I do sometimes wish that the people who read my Fiction Friday pieces would give more negative comments as well as positive. I know when I’m commenting I tent to pick out the things I like and leave the negative bits out, because, well quite frankly, not many people give negative criticism. When I say negative, I don’t mean ‘I don’t like it’ (although I wouldn’t mind hearing that a bit – not everyone has the same taste – although saying that I prob would go and cry if someone said that – ha) I mean more, ‘X didn’t really work’ or ‘Y sounded a little unrealistic. But, I guess it is only the first draft of anything, and if the stories get taken anywhere, they’re going to get edited massively.

The other great thing about the group, is that it’s really given me the want to write again. As I was leaving someone asked if I’d be bringing the next chapter next time. I said it’s not ready for public viewing – but having this group might kick my ass a little to get it ready!

All in all, I had a really good night. I heard a poem, part of a game review, the beginning of one short story, and the end of another, and a clip from a novel; I got some great crit of my novel; and hopefully gave some too. I’m looking forward to next Monday already. Now there’s something I never thought I’d say.

A Kiss Gone Bad by Jeff Abbott Review

Judge Whit Mosley is called out in the middle of the night to certify a body – but when he discovers that the dead man on the yacht is none other than the son of the powerful Senator Lucinda Hubble, Whit knows all hell is going to break loose. Ignoring pressure from all sides to rule the death as suicide, Whit and Detective Claudia Salazar peel away the layers of corruption and cover-up behind Pete Hubble’s death, despite the danger to their careers – and their lives. But more dangerous than the shocking truth they discover is the obsessed killer who has already chosen his next victim…

*This is the first novel I’ve read for the Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge 2011*

I’d never heard of Jeff Abbott before seeing this book shouting at me in a supermarket. In fact it was sitting next to Cut and Run – they both shouted at me. So I did the only thing a sane girl could do – I bought them both. I’d never heard of the author, but the pull from the back covers was tremendous.

A Kiss Gone Bad didn’t disappoint. If anything it exceeded my expectations. I was hooked from the off. Very rarely when reading a thriller do I question who the murder is. In this one I couldn’t stop questioning – one minute I thought it was one person, the next another, then another. I was gripped.

Whit is an awesome main character. I liked him straight away. When I got to the end, all I could think, was that I was glad it was the first in a trilogy.

Fiction Friday – 18th March

The one thing your character regrets learning the most is……

This was my first idea. I didn’t want to use it, but once I had it, it stopped any other ideas coming to me. So I went with it. Remember this is unedited!

Tom sat on his bed visibly shaking. It didn’t matter how many time his lawyer told him, or his mum, dad, sister or Jen for that matter, he was petrified of going to jail. If he didn’t know if he was guilty how would a judge know?

It had been like that for the last three months. His mind swung from thinking it was totally his fault to knowing 100% that he was innocent. He’d be convinced one way, and be accepting it, then something would happen – probably something completely unrelated – and he’s change his thought completely. How could a judge know?

For about the millionth time, he tried to recall that evening. He remembered dropping Jen off. After their half hour in the car saying goodbye, he’d driven off, turned the corner at the end of her street, and then nothing until he was out the car looking down at the kid.

Jason Sidney.

He looked younger than he was, tiny, smaller than an average 15 year olds, but that was due to the downs syndrome. Tom’s first thought was that he was dressed like Humpty Dumpty: red trousers and a blue and white t-shirt covering his round belly. His arms were stretched out to his sides, one bent the wrong way. And blood. Everywhere. Tom looked up and saw another boy by the side of the road. Frozen. Then there were lots of people around. Chatting. Asking HIM if he was ok, Calling an ambulance, Tending to the kid. To Jason Sidney.

Tom knew. He angle of Jason’s head wasn’t right. He  knew there was no way he was ok, or ever going to be ok again. He looked back at his windscreen. Smashed and covered in blood. Tom tried to move away from the crowd, but didn’t make it more than a step or two before he was sick. He was sick until there was nothing left and then he crumpled on the floor next to the contents of his stomach.

‘He’s only a boy himself, he’s probably only just passed his test’ he heard someone say from behind him, before that person – Mrs Jennings as he later learnt – came and put a coat around him. It was a warm July evening, so he hadn’t noticed how much he was shivering.

Of course he heard them talking that evening, and the snippets of conversation haunted him ‘No chance to stop,’ Just walked in front,’ ‘not going fast,’ without looking.’ All from witnesses that were going to say it wasn’t his fault. it didn’t stop the what ifs though. What if he’d taken another route? What if he had have given Jen just one more kiss? What if he’d been going even slower than the 30 limit he was driving at? What if he’d been going faster, and drove past before Jason Sidney stepped off the pavement. What if…? What if…? What if?

Now, sat on his bed, waiting for the knock on his door – one of his parents telling him it was time to go – all he could think was how he wished he’d never learnt to drive.

 

As always, I’d love to hear what you think, go on, please let me know…

A Huge Step

I imagine if you read my post earlier in the week (here), in which I had a huge revelation about why I’ve not been writing recently, you’ll be expecting this ‘Huge step’ to be me having made a decision about what I’m going to concentrate my writing efforts on now. Unfortunately, it’s not. Although  I have been thinking about it, there’s no 100% firm decision.

Although, having said that, I’m on my way to making a choice. I have decided I’m going to get through my writing course. I feel like that’s going to help with any other writing I do, so that needs to be something I’m doing now. I want to have another project on the go as well, but I don’t know if that’s going to be editing Italian Infatuation, or finishing writing Holiday or The Dating Project. I’m thinking…

So then, what is this huge step? It’s something I’ve been talking about doing for well over two years. I’m joining a writer’s group. I know I’ve been talking about it for so long, saying I’ll do it, but this time, I’ve actually made the first step and emailed someone about it, and, got myself on the mailing list for an invite on Monday. WOOP! So, on Tuesday, hopefully I’ll have something to say about my writing group. How cool is that.

My problem now though, is deciding what writing to take with me…

Revelation

I’ve just made a shocking discovery thanks to Chris today’s blogger at WriteAnything. It’s not really a discovery, but a realisation, I think I knew it before, but I’ve just re-realised, so I guess it’s not all that shocking either.

Chris was talking/blogging about not getting round to writing because he fills his life with other things. WOW – me too. I’ve been so busy recently house hunting, then moving and now unpacking that I haven’t had time to write. And my plan for lunchtime writing? Well, there’s always some reason to pop out, or some friend to meet – so that’s pretty much a non starter (except once).

It kind of made me thing… I procrastinate because I don’t know which project to work on. I’ve got a novel to edit, another two to finish AND a writing course to do. Maybe, if I could decide which one to concentrate on, I’d be able to make more time to write. Maybe not, but maybe.

So to try to combat this, I need to make a decision on what to do. HOW? Seriously, how do I decide?

I guess the simple answer is to work on the writing course because hopefully that will teach me about writing and editing, but wait… haven’t I completed the modules on novel writing? When I say completed, I’ve read them, just not done the assignment(s).

I think this is why I find NaNo so… I was going to say easy, but that’s not entirely true… manageable. I spend those 30 days 100% focused on one topic – no reading, no worrying I should be doing anything else, no nothing. And I guess that’s why I find Fiction Friday easy to do – I know I have to write from a prompt and post on Friday. Easy in terms of making myself do it that is. Again, when I sit down to do my piece, I’m not worried about editing, my course or any other writing, because this is what I need to be writing NOW!

So. I’ve discovered the problem. I need to find a solution. Should I say I’ll spend the next X weeks/months on one project then move to another? Or should I make a kind of timetable thingy and decide I should work on 2 projects simultaneously? E.g. 3 hours a week on one, and 3 on another? I know my writing course would have to be one of them, but which else?

Just writing this, I think I’ve decided, but I’m going to go and grab some lunch while I think about it a little more. This may be a day where I blog twice.

Fiction Friday – 11th March

 Set your story in the 1880s, in a mid west, tumbleweed town. The doors of the bar open, the piano stops playing and all eyes are drawn to the figure in the doorway…… Now keep going..

Elizabeth closed her eyes and took a deep breath as Ernest pushed the swing doors to Ye Ole Ale House. She prayed when she opened them she’d wake up, that this was just a dream.

One eye opened, then the other as her heart sank. It was real. Ernest was stood there grinning in front of her in his ‘best’ (to Elizabeth just ugly) , the gap where her brother knocked his two teeth out last year gaping at her. She wanted to blame BillyBob, but knew it wasn’t really his fault. The O’Briens had always had it in for her family. Now with Mr O’Brien the town sheriff they could do something about it.

Like blackmailing Elizabeth for a date. She didn’t truly believe Mr O’Brien would shut down her father’s blacksmith business – but with her mother off work with her broken leg and BillyBob still looking for another job after being fired from the farm, it wasn’t a risk she wanted to take. Her family were already in debt because they were sending her to school, she wasn’t going to make it worse, just for the sake of her dignity in not being seen with Ernest.

Ernest grabbed her hand as the door opened and he walked through it. It was hot and wet, and made her feel sick instantly. She had less than a second to think about it though, because as soon as they walked through the door, the piano stopped playing and every single head turned to the door. Even blind Benjamin Doors sensed something was up and lifted his frail head in their direction.

Elizabeth swallowed down the sick she was feeling in her throat and hung her head as they made their way to the bar. She knew without looking that Ernest, in direct comparison to her, had his head held high and looked proud.

She just hoped Willie and Daniel weren’t in the bar.

‘Nice filly you have there Ernest,’ Nora said. The vomit threatened to come back up again. Elizabeth swore she’d never come in this place again. ‘What’ll it be m’lovies?’

Unfortunately  that’s as far as I had a chance to get. I’m quite interested where it will go, so I might actually carry on with it. Might.

My favourite thing about this challenge, was finding out names for characters. I found an awesome website that gives the top 200 baby names for that decade. Luckily the decade it started with was 1880s. Doubly luckily it’s an American site, so the names fit in with the setting I imagined of the mid west. If you’re interested this is the website – it’s the American Social Security website. I have an idea I’ll be using it a lot!

Anyway, back to my story, please let me know what you think – positive and negative comments totally welcome!