Archive | December 2011

Post Christmas Blog

I hope everyone had a great Christmas (or holiday if you don’t celebrate it). I had a wonderful time seeing my and my boyfriend’s families and friends and of course loads of eating, drinking and presents. I had lots of fun, but am glad it’s over for another year (as is my waistline).

Luckily, my boyfriend and I booked these 3 days between Christmas and New Year off work, so we’re having a nice 10 day holiday. The problem is we are always visiting someone or travelling, which means I’ve not had time for much (any) blogging, writing or even reading.

Hmmm.

There’s another 3 days of the year, and in that time I need to finish a novel for the A to Z Challenge and review 3 books for the Mystery & Suspense Challenge. There’s part of me that thinks I should review all 26 books for the A to Z Challenge, but that’s just too much to even comprehend, so I’m going to ignore that thought.

I also need to do a round-up of the M&SC and the AtZC, and of course a round-up of the whole year – reading AND writing. Which of course is why I’m just doing a normal blog today.

Writing. Hmmmm. Well. 

Like I said, I’ve just not had a chance to do anything this holiday. We’re going home tomorrow, so I’m hoping to get loadsof writing done then and on the 31st. I have to – The Man of My Dreams is nowhere near finished, and my goal was to finish it this year. Damn. I don’t really know how much I have left to write, maybe 15-20k words. It is doable this year, but I doubt very much I can. I’ll give it a try.

My plan has been to finish it December, leave it in January, then pick it back up in February to start editing. If it’s not finished in December, I don’t know what to do.

I know it needs to get finished. I k now that. But, there’s part of me that thinks I should just stop and leave it for the month, then pick back up in February for the edit, but include the ending in the edit. Or read it first, then finish the ending, then edit.

I know that’s a bad idea, and I suspect I only think that because it’s the easy way out (right now). I just think there’s a few holes that need to be filled in so it would be easier if I’d read it through to know where to finish it. That’s silly though,  because I know how to finish it. I’m just making excuses I think. I’ll finish it then leave it for a month, so maybe it won’t be 1st February, but hopefully, not that much later.

Christmas Eve Blog

Wow, Christmas Eve… how did that happen? So far my break has been good, but really unproductive. We got up and travelled to my other half’s Mum’s, via my Dad’s, then my mum’s.

When we were packing this morning, we debated taking the laptop. Had it have been mine, it would have been fine to travel with… it’s tiny (slightly bigger than a net book), but mine’s broken (really need to get another cable to see if that’s the problem – this proves I need to!) so we had to decide whether to take his huge one. Obviously I wanted to, but it wouldn’t have been me carrying it. He didn’t want to. Hmm. He convinced me that his tablet would be fine. Hmm. I finally agreed (we are staying with his mum, then mine – both of who have computers I can borrow).

We’ve now reached test 1. It’s going slightly better than I thought, but not great. It’s kind of my fault though. I’m really comfy on the sofa at his mum’s. The chair where the computer is just doesn’t look as good! I’m trying typing on the tablet. I’d tried this before with not too much success, today it’s going better. I’m not sure why, maybe because I’ve not got long nails today, so they’re not competing with my fingers to reach the keyboard? Maybe it’s something else (more patience today than when trying before?).

I’ve got to be honest, I’m writing a blog so I know it will be a few hundred words only – I don’t think I could carry this on for a thousand or so of my novel I’d like to write daily, but blogging, yeah, I can handle that.

I’m finding it hard to make plans for the next week. In an ideal world I’d like to write about 2000 words a day and get The Man of My Dreams finished by 31st. In reality, with Christmas and visiting so many friends and family, I don’t think that’s going to be possible. I’m going to be upset if I don’t finish it this year because there are quite a few days this month when I should have, and could have written, but for whatever reason didn’t.

I know I can find a little time each day, even today, it’s gone 11pm, but there’s still time. If I try hard enough, I can find a little time. It may only be 10 minutes, but every little helps right? Of course it does.

If I try a little every day and don’t make it, at least I will have tried. If I don’t try to don’t make it, I’ll be annoyed. Guess I need to try then!

Happy Christmas to you all – hope you have a wonderful day x

#ROW80 Round Four Round Up

I can’t believe it’s the end of ROW80 Round Four. The end. It ended on Wednesday. I kind of feel a little lost without it now, but luckily I have my December challenge to keep me going for the next 8 days. Woop! Not sure What I’ll do after that.

Oh yes I do (in true Christmas pantomime style) – there’s always ROW80 2012 – Round One. You know I’ll be there!

So, Round Four… How did it go?

Well as the round spread over 3 months, I had 3 main goals. In October I planned to write 500 words of Holiday a day. In November it was NaNoWriMo so 1,667 words a day (obviously!), then at the beginning of December, I decided on 1,000 words a day (I think it had been 250 when I first started this round, but I wanted to get The Man of My Dreams finished by the end of the year, so had to ramp it up a bit).

I didn’t keep all that great records of how I did. In October, I can only find a record up to 20th. By then I should have written 9,000 words. I’d actually done 8,326. Hmm. Not too bad. I can’t for the life of me remember how many I did in the last 11 days. I’m pretty sure it went ok though. (here’s my chart for the first 20 days – pretty, pretty chart).

 

I won NaNo in November, so that goal of 1,667 words a day was met. To be honest, I didn’t write 1,667 words a day. Some days I wrote more, some less, some none at all, but the important thing is when it got to 30th November, I’d written 50,000 words of my 4th novel (only 1 of the other three is finished. It’s not edited though). Cue NaNo graph:

 

December’s been interesting. My plan was, like I said, to finish the novel, so I could have a break in January, then start editing in February (I’m pretty confident this one could go places!). I thought I was about 30k from finishing. By now I should have written 23,000 words. Oh dear. I’ve written Nearly 13. That’s really not great.

Writing wasn’t my only goal for the month though, I also had blogging, eating and exercising goals, so I guess it’s been harder to fit writing in. Also, we’re coming in the Christmas season – there’s been so much to take me away from writing.

I’m not happy how I’ve done with any of the (December) goals really, but mainly writing. The whole challenge for the month was started to give me something to aim for once NaNo was over, to stop me stopping writing, like I normally do in December.

I guess I should look positively on it, I usually stop writing in December, but this month I’ve written nearly 13,000. That’s a huge improvement. Plus, it’s way more than I’d written on 23rd October (I think, definitely way more than on the 20th anyway).

ROW80 has been great fun again this round. I’ve managed to get myself more involved with the awesome people that are out there doing it too, taking part in sprints and visiting & commenting on more blogs than I’ve done in the previous 2 rounds. Thanks Kait for hosting it again, and can’t wait to see all you ROW80-ers on 2nd Jan for the next round.

For me though, it doesn’t really feel like anything’s ending. I’ve still not written ‘The End’ on my novel, so need to keep going until I do. I’d like to think I’ll get a load of time over Christmas, but I’m not sure I will. I’m going to try though. There’s a tiny chance I could actually still finish it this year, or worst case, the beginning of next year.

Fingers crossed please!

If you don’t visit my blog or anything again in the next day or so, HAPPY CHRISTMAS (or HAPPY HOLIDAY if you don’t celebrate it!)! Eat, drink and be really, really merry J

Cookie/Gingerbread House Party

Being English with an Uncle that is American, an Aunt that lived over there when I was a kid, and a Grandfather from the country that I’ve never met, I’ve always loved Americans. I love their over-the-top-ness and enthusiasm about things (mainly holidays) that you just don’t get over here in theUK. Take Christmas, we put up a few decorations, occasionally wear a hat etc. I lived outside Philly in the year 2000/01 and loved everything that Christmas – the decorations on nearly every house and the hugeness of the celebration and excitement that it seems the whole population feels. My boyfriend and I were thinking about going toNew Yorkthis Christmas because he says he ‘never feels Christmasy.’ I thought if there is anywhere in the world he’d feel festive it would be in the states (andNew Yorkhappens to be my favourite city in the WORLD!). NY didn’t happen (gutted, but maybe next year), but I’ve still had a bit of an American feel to the beginning of my festive period.

Jenn (who is American), Claire (French) and Hannah (Canadian), who are my friends from NaNo (Jenn and Claire have been Municipal Liaison officers this year) always have a Cookie/Gingerbread House Party in December. Guess what happened on Sunday? You bet!

There were cookies to decorate, Mulled Wine, Winter Pimms and Hot Apple Cider to drink, great company, and (sorry to say) best of all – there were Gingerbread Houses to decorate! Yeah, I was so excited!

I decorated a load of cookies and I ate a load of cookies (to be honest I’m not entirely sure which I did more of, but I definitely didn’t count calories on Sunday!!). Then, I decorated my first ever Gingerbread House!

It was so much fun!

I really wanted to blog about it to show off my house, because I’m so proud of it. I also figure that this is a writing blog, which is creative. Decorating cookies and gingerbread houses is creative, so they all go under the same umbrella. Ish. Of course if I’m going down this route, I should also post a picture of the birthday cake I made last month for Mr NTWG, because that looked pretty cool too. I don’t think I’m going to go that far… yet (maybe when I bake one for my dad next week?)! Here though, are the pictures of my cookies and house. Aren’t they pretty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nearing The End – ROW80

As I wrote that title, I wished I was about to say I’m nearing ‘The End’ of the novel. Unfortunately, it’s not, I mean ROW80.

I can’t believe we’re in the last 3 days of the 80 days of this challenge. I guess I need to do a round-up when it finishes, so just a normal (late) check-in today then.

This week has not been too bad. Thursday I had my Christmas party at work, but still managed to get 3 or 4 stars. Woop! Friday I was hung over but still managed to get 8 points – plus a ‘bonus’ point each of those days. Not bad. Saturday I got 10, then yesterday 6.

All in all last week, I got 48 points. I’m actually a bit upset about that, because I got 48 the week before, and had 2 days where I got 4 points between them! I did have 3 days of 10 points though! Last week, I didn’t get 10 until Saturday, but consistently lost points each day. I’ve got the excuse that I had bad period pains on a couple of the days, so just couldn’t sustain it, then another day I had to re-write my CV, so had to prioritise that (glad I did, I’ve got an interview on Wedenesday – yay!) 

This week, I’m aiming for 60. If I get 60 points a week, I get a bonus 5 points.

This week is going to be hard though. I’m going out tomorrow night, so that takes time away from writing and Wii-ing, then on Saturday it’s Christmas Eve. I don’t think I can keep up with it over Christmas, but we’ll see!

Last week, my boyfriend came home with the week’s chart printed out for me. He’d changed the stars to spots where I added the sticker (seeing as we had spot stickers it kind of makes sense – I originally wanted stars, but once I’d been using spots for a while I wanted to keep it the same not change half way through). He thought it was a great idea, but I liked the stars. Adding the sticker to a star shape gave more of a boost than adding a sticker to a circle. I’ve asked him for a star chart again for this week, fingers crossed for me.

This isn’t an up to date chart (I took it for my midweek check in, then forgot last week), but see how it’s spots on the chart not stars…

Anyway.

This week is going to be good. I got given a chocolate Santa as part of my secret-santa present, and it’s sitting on my desk watching me. I’m resisting though – I want to start the week on a high (well, 2nd day – my weeks start on Sunday).

My daily goals are:

Writing – write a blog, write 500 words, write another 500 words.

Exercise – walk 2km (yes this used to be walk/run, but I’ve given in and admitted I’m not going to be running this year!), 20 minutes on the Wii, knee exercises.

Eating – eat 5 fruit/veg, eat less than 1400 cals, no chocolate.

We’re spending half of next week at my families, half at my boyfriends, so I’m not too sure how well that’s going to go, so got to put EVERYTHING into this week for a good final score 🙂

A Plan for 2012

I’m slowly starting to think about my goals for next year. The major one has to be to edit The Man of My Dreams and try to get it published. HUGE step I know. I was thinking I’ll finish it this year (not sure about that one now – I’ve been so bad in the last few days!), have January off, then edit February and March and submit it to editors at the end of March/April.

But last weekend I came up with a better idea.

Every year the Romantic Novelists Association open their doors to UNPUBLISHED authors in their New Writers’ Scheme. The NWS allows those members access to events, and to submit a manuscript to them to get a published author read it and comment! Uh, yes please!

I tried to join in 2010, but by mid January when I tried to apply, all the spaces had been filled (there are only 250 each year).

I think this is totally the right step for me, at the right time. I know lots of writers from NaNo, but none write romance – they’re mostly fantasy or Sci-fi or something. By joining this, I’ll get to know (hopefully) romance people too! Woop! Of course I’ll get to go and learn stuff at events. And I’ll get to submit a manuscript! For commenting on. Before I send it to an agent. How awesome!

So I now need to get accepted into the program. They’ve changed the way they’ve done it this year, you need to submit an email, then if you’re successful, send a payment. Then you have a few weeks to send the payment. That’s really good because it means if I get in, I will be able to make the payment from my January pay (on 20th) – woop! It also means their website won’t freeze with people applying, or them having to temporarily close applications while they wait to see if all the spaces are filled (I think that’s what happened the year I tried!).

When I had this idea, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s just perfect. PERFECT. Imagine, being a member (if only via the New Writers’ Scheme) of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I’ve read tweets and comments on Facebook from people going to events – imagine if next year, I’ll be one of them? Seriously!!?

And, the novel submission thing. How awesome is that. They may comment on characters, plotting structure, as well as giving advice! How awesome is that! Seriously! I’m getting all excited AGAIN about it! I was so excited last weekend, I spent half of Sunday on their website!

Fingers crossed for me please everyone that I get a place – that would be a dream come true! Eek!

The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine

It’s late spring of 1990 and a love affair is flourishing: between Ivor Tesham, a thirty-three year old rising star of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, and Hebe Furnal, a stunning North London housewife stuck in a dull marriage. What excitement Hebe lacks at home, however, is amply compensated for by the well-bred and intensely attractive Tesham – an ardent womanizer and ambitious politican.

On the eve of her twenty-eighth birthday, Tesham decides to give Hebe a present to remember: something far more memorable than, say, the costly string of pearls he’s already lavished upon her. Involving a fashionable new practice known as ‘adventure sex’, a man arranges for his unsuspecting but otherwise willing girlfriend to be snatched from the street, bound and gagged, and delivered to him at a mutually agreed venue …

Set amidst an age of IRA bombings, the first Gulf War, and sleazy politics, The Birthday Present is the gripping story of a fall from grace, and of a man who carries within him all the hypocrisy, greed and self-obsession of a troubled era.

I was attracted to this ‘V’ novel (for my A to Z Challenge) for several reasons: it was a thriller, therefore also good for the Mystery & Suspense Challenge; Barbara Vine is a pen name for Ruth Rendell, I’ve never read anything of hers, but used to love the dramas on TV; and I loved the cover – I love sexy red shoes!

Unfortunately I was disappointed. I found the pace quite slow which meant it wasn’t holding my attention very well. I also didn’t really like either of the main characters – Ivor to be honest is a bit of a dick, and Jane is a little mental – which I found a problem, even though I liked all the other characters.

I’ve just looked on Amazon for other reviews of this book to see if I was missing something, and there were a few that said they loved Vine’s previous work and were disappointed in this. That kind of makes me feel better – it also makes me want to read more of her work – both as Vine, and as herself. Unfortunately though, I can’t recommend this one (some people do on Amazon though, so it just shows different people have different tastes!).

Mitigating Circumstances by Nancy Taylor Rosenburg – Review

Corruption, violence, rape and a mother’s vengeance are the explosive ingredients of this exceptional thriller. Promotion to chief of the Sex Crimes Division, and a budding romance with colleague Richard Fowler, give DA Lily Forrester the courage to end a bad marriage. Once she gets teenage Shana through the divorce, she can really start to live her own life. But the dream is shattered when a brutal intruder invades her home and attacks Lily and her daughter. And – distraught, terrified, frantic to protect Shana – Lily takes the law into her own hands . . .

This is another book that my Aunt picked up from a charity shop and offered to me before she took it to her holiday rental flat in Bournemouth. I am so glad she did.

I found the first chapter quite hard going as there were lots and lots of different characters thrown at the reader, but once I made it through there and realised who the important ones were and weren’t, I really got into it.

I couldn’t put it down, I was totally gripped. In the mornings I get a tube, then can either walk to work, or change to another tube for a 4 minute journey. Everyday when I was reading this I took the 2nd tube, just so I could read for those extra 4 minutes. I loved it that much.

I read it a few months ago (I know, I should have reviewed it then – naughty me!), so don’t remember too many details to review thoroughly, but I remember enough to have googled Nancy Taylor Rosenburg and been very happy to find she’s got LOADS more novels that I can read. The Mystery & Suspense Challenge 2012 is going to be a fun one!

*As well as counting this in the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge I’m using it as R in the A to Z Challenge. I know this is cheating a little as it should be a T (last name), but I genuinely thought she was Nancy Taylor-Rosenburg when I picked it up (Nancy Taylor – Rosenburg didn’t even cross my mind), so I’m going with it! Out of the rules I’ve broken for it (my own specified rules even if not the real ones) this is a minor one. Cheat? Maybe, but I don’t care. I’m just glad I thought it or I would have missed out on this awesome book!

Another #ROW80 Check-In

Time is flying. I cannot believe it’s Wednesday already, time for another check-in. It literally feels like yesterday that I did my last one, but apparently that was 4 days ago. How?

This week is going… ok. Better than the end of last week, but not as good as the beginning of last week. Yesterday I got 7/9 goals, Monday 8/9 and Sunday I think 8/9. It’s not great, it’s not 9/9, but it’s consistently pretty good.

On Monday I came to the library and rented Just Dance 3. I got to enough points on Sunday to ‘win’ my first level prize – 2 Wii games. The problem was that I didn’t have a clue which ones I wanted. I decided to rent one this week, and 1 next week, to get an idea of which ones to pick. If I had have thought of it before, I would have rented them a couple of weeks ago, so we could have gone out on Monday and bought them, but hey, lets not think about that one!

Just Dance 3 is so much fun. When I first started playing it I felt like an idiot (didn’t help that a certain someone was watching me!), but now I’m getting more into it and learning the routines a little more, I’m finding it great fun – and, it must be burning a ton of calories – I sweat like hell when I’m doing it!

I guess I should really talk more about the actual goals, not just the prizes (no fun!).

The one I’m not doing too well on at the moment is the writing one – you know, the most important one. On Monday I had the day off. I wrote 600 words in the morning, then kept thinking I’d write the other 400 later… then it got later so I thought I’d do them even later… and so on until I didn’t do any more. I’m really annoyed with myself because I could have easily done them first thing, but instead I did some reading, and surfed Twitter and Facebook. Rar!

Yesterday, I didn’t write anything (other than a blog – no novel-writing). When I was at work I heard about a job that I’m interested in applying for. I spoke to the person recruiting for it who said she’d be happy for me to apply. That meant last night I had to concentrate on rewriting my CV. OR starting to anyway, I didn’t get any further than editing it a little (a lot acutally). Tonight’s job is to add my current job and action on the electronic version the changes I made on the paper one yesterday.

Because I spent so long on the CV last night, after dinner, and the book club (which was straight after work), and I’d played on the Wii (important goal) there just wasn’t time to write too. Hopefully tonight. No, definitely tonight!

Tomorrow’s the Christmas party – the day I’m dreading because I may lose so many points. Hopefully I’ll be able to rack up a lot earlier in the day, so do too bacly. And hopefully I won’t get too drunk, so won’t lose too many on Friday with the hangover like I did last week! Fingers crossed!

The Sculptress by Minnette Walters – Review

It was a slaughterhouse, the most horrific scene I have ever witnessed… Olive Martin is a dangerous woman. I advise you to be extremely wary in your dealings with her.’ The facts of the case were simple: Olive Martin had pleaded guilty to killing and dismembering her sister and mother, earning herself the chilling nickname ‘The Sculptress’. This much journalist Rosalind Leigh knew before her first meeting with Olive, currently serving a life sentence. How could Roz have foreseen that the encounter was destined to change her life – for ever?

I didn’t chose this book, my Aunt bought it (I think from a charity shop or something, I can’t remember) and offered it to me along with a huge pile of books that she was going to take to her holiday let flat. I took this one and another because they were thrillers and so would fit in with my Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge for this year.

This sounded a little creepy, but I do love that kind of thing – as long as it was mainly thriller, not horror. This was.

And love it I did. You know when you start a book and don’t want to put it down? I totally had that with this. I got into it really quickly and stayed into it the whole way through. I kind of loved to hate (or I think maybe hated to love) Olive who Walters makes you feel sorry for and yet be totally repulsed at, on the same page. Roz is an awesome main character, she’s mad – doing things that had me shouting at her to go back home not be so stupid – but fun and so loveable.

The ending is a little ambiguous, which at the time annoyed me a bit, but it kept me thinking about it for the next few days, which I think is brilliant – it has to be a good book to keep me thinking about it a few days later!

When I just googled the book to get the description, I found out it was a TV series over here in 1996 (it’s quite an old book) starting Pauline Quirke. As soon as I saw it, it slid into place – Pauline Quirke is a perfect Olive. Perfect. I’m going to somehow try to get hold of it,  I think it will be really good.

As you can see, I loved it. I’d never heard of Minette Walters, but will definitely be looking out for more from her!