Tuesday, 31 January 2012

In January...

... I read:


... I turned 29 so less than a year before I hit 30 - eek!

... I finally caught up with the rest of Britain and finished watching Gavin & Stacey

... Read my first book on my Kindle

... I finished Book 1 and started submitting to agents

... And then started Book 2


The most popular posts at the end of the month are:









Monday, 30 January 2012

Youtube of the Month - Happy Feet

Boo, my three year old, loves the First Choice advert (or egbert, as she calls it) with the Happy Feet song sung by Kermit. So we found the video of Kermit on youtube, which she loves and wants to watch again and again. And again and again.



Thursday, 26 January 2012

I Heart Gavin & Stacey (and Richard Osman)



No, you haven't somehow slipped back in time. I'm just a bit daft and have only recently discovered how great it is. Of course I'd heard of the show and I meant to watch it but I missed the first couple of episodes. Everyone was saying how great it was by the time series two came along but I didn't want to watch it from there. I wanted to start at the beginning but never managed to catch any repeats.

Back in November, I admitted I had never watched an episode of Gavin and Stacey and decided it was about time I did. So the partner and I set about watching them but Christmas got in the way and we only finished the last series on Saturday.

The weirdest thing happened on Saturday. In the episode where Dawn and Pete renew their wedding vows, Pam organises a few films for them to watch the night before, one of which is Doubt, a film about a priest who is accused of abusing a pupil. But there's doubt, you see. It's mentioned quite a few times during the episode. Anyway, fast forward to the end of the series. We turn the dvd off and put 'normal' telly on. There is a priest sitting on a bench and I think to myself I wonder if it's Doubt ha ha just because of the priest. And it was Doubt! How weird is that? (Well, I think it is). I didn't watch the film so I don't know if there was any doubt.



I'd been waiting until I'd finished watching Gavin and Stacey to read James Corden's autobiography, May I Have Your Attention, Please? in case there were any spoilers in there. I've finished reading it now and it was great. Almost as good as Ant & Dec's autobiography.

While reading it, (tiny spoiler if you're planning on reading it) I discovered Richard Osman wrote and produced Boyz Unlimited, a show I absolutely adored when it was aired back in 1999. I already really liked Richard from Pointless but now I think I may actually love him.
If you've never watched Boyz Unlimited, you should. It's on Channel 4OD here.

The boyz with manager, Nigel

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Book 2 - Progress

It is my second week of Book 2 and all seems to be going well. I now have a progress bar on the blog and it is really encouraging to update it each day and see the bar moving, ever so slightly, in the right direction.



I have set the target at 80,000 words for the first draft as this is what I did with Book 1. I ended up falling just short of 80,000 but made up for it in the second draft.

At the moment, it no longer feels like I'm pulling teeth to get the words on the screen but I know there will be times when it reverts back to that feeling. I'm finding it a huge help that I have the scenes already plotted in front of me so even if I am a bit stuck, I at least know what is supposed to be happening (even if I can't find the words to make it sound right!)

I don't feel as connected to my characters yet as I did with Book 1 but that's to be expected. I spent months with Kate and co, getting to know them and their traits. I sort of knew them in the beginning but it wasn't until the end that they were fully formed in my head and I could flesh them out and iron out any inconsistencies in the second draft. I'm hoping it will be the same this time round.

As well as writing Book 2 I am also writing a short story, which I will post on here on Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton


A miracle happened, something that hasn't happened for a few years... I read a book - yes, a whole book - in two days. Not only that but I stayed up until the early hours of Saturday morning to finish it. This used to be a common occurence. Once upon a long time ago, before I had kids, I could race through books like the best of them but not anymore. Or perhaps I can.

I won Afterwards a few weeks before Christmas (so huge thank you to @filmvsbook who ran the competition) but have only just got round to reading it. But once I picked it up, it was glued to my hands. I could not put it down.

Afterwards is not a chick lit book, a genre I rarely stray from but I loved it and was gripped.

The blurb:

There is a fire and they are in There. They are in there. Black smoke stains a summer blue sky. A school is on fire. And one mother, Grace, sees the smoke and runs. She knows her teenage daughter Jenny is inside. She runs into the burning building to rescue her. Afterwards, Grace must find the identity of the arsonist and protect her family from the person who's still intent on destroying them. Afterwards, she must fight the limits of her physical strength and discover the limitlessness of love.


I didn't guess who the arsonist was. There are so many red herrings along the way but all of them are believable so you don't feel you were cheated and lead the wrong way.

I thought the book was brilliant and would urge anyone will listen to read it. I have a copy of Rosamund's Lupton's first novel, Sister, ready to read on my Kindle and have been told it's even better than Afterwards. If so, I can't wait to read it!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Birthday & Chinese New Year

It was my birthday on Saturday so we went out for a birthday tea and when we got home we had some of the cakes I'd made that afternoon (with candles and a wish of course). I made chocolate orange and strawberries and cream cupcakes, which everyone enjoyed.



To make them I used the basic recipe (below), replacing one tablespoon of flour with one tablespoon of cocoa powder for the chocolate orange cupcakes and adding a few drops of strawberry flavouring for the strawberries and cream.



Once they had cooled, I made the frosting (below), adding orange flavouring and red and yellow colouring for the chocolate orange cupcakes and vanilla essence for the stawberries and cream cupcakes.



I applied the frosting with a spoon (I'm not very good with a piping bag) and added bashed up chocolate orange segments (great fun - put them in a plastic food bag and whack with a rolling pin) to the chocolate orange cupcakes and slices of fresh strawberries to the strawberries and cream cupcakes.




*  *  *  *

It is the Chinese New Year today so yesterday afternoon we made Chinese lanterns, which were really easy to make but the kids had fun decorating them (ok, ok, so did I).




Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Book 2 - Starting Book 2



Book one is finished and in the land of agents so on Monday I started Book 2. I've had the story in my head for a long time and actually wrote it a few years ago. I got to the end and decided it was crap. So I chucked it. This happens to me a lot, which is why one of my New Year's Writing Goals was to not give up like I usually do.

I still think the first attempt was crap but I am sure I can do a better job this time. I've changed the main character so hopefully she will be more likable this time (I really didn't get on with the last one) but I think the main difference is I'm more confident this time round. I know the plot and the characters better this time as I started planning it after I finished the first draft of Book 1, back in August. I'm more prepared this time, which is something I learned from writing Book 1.

I had an idea of what the story was for Book 1 and part way through started to jot down the gist of it, more to help with the synopsis later on than anything. And it went well until it came to the second draft and I ended up rewriting most of the book. So this time I have planned it better.

But that doesn't mean writing it is easier. I sat down on Monday and looked at my notes. I looked at my screen and the keyboard and then the notes again. How the hell did I start? I'd forgotten how hard it is to start a new book but I somehow managed it, forcing my way to around 250 words. The next thing I know, it's an hour later and I have 1900 words.

Cool, I thought. Starting a new book isn't so hard after all. And then I sat down yesterday and it was like pulling teeth. I know where the story is going. I know what needs to happen in each scene but the words just don't want to appear on my screen. Still, I managed another 800 words, which isn't bad. It felt like I'd done 50!

Thinking about it, writing Book 1 was difficult to begin with. So difficult I wanted to scrap the whole thing as I wasn't 'feeling' it. I gave myself until 10,000 words to see how I felt and then I would either continue or scrap. By 10,000 words I was really enjoying writing it and so I continued and finished it.

I must remember that Book 1 was nothing but a blank computer screen once upon a time. So don't give up like you usually do!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Kindle - First Impressions



Back in November, I was debating whether to buy a Kindle or not. I was given some money to buy myself a Christmas present while we were on holiday and in the end I decided to go for it and bought the Kindle Touch (and a lovely pink and orange cover).

I'm reading my first book on the Kindle at the moment (Fairytale of New York by Miranda Dickinson) and I'm just over half way through so what are my first impressions?

Pros:

  • It's much lighter than I expected it to be
  • But the screen is bigger than I expected (which is a good thing as my eyes are crap)
  • I can prop the Kindle while I read hands-free (leaving me free to drink tea and eat cake while reading - yay!)
  • Your page is automatically saved
  • I do like the fact I can store hundreds of books without running out of room. My poor bookcase can't take anymore
  • I thought it wouldn't feel like I was reading a 'real' book but I haven't noticed the difference
  • It's so easy to buy new books. If you use Amazon 1-Click, you can buy and download your new book within seconds

Cons:

  • It's so easy to buy new books. If you use Amazon 1-Click, you can buy and download your new book within seconds
  • The covers are grey and darker grey so no gorgeous shiny, glittery covers
  • I must keep nudging it or something because on a few ocassions, I end up pages ahead. With a normal book you would simply flick through until you find your page but with a Kindle you have to tap, wait until it loads, tap wait until it loads... until you reach where you were up to
  • I love standing in a book shop, picking up the books, looking at their covers and reading the blurb
All things considered, I do like the Kindle and once you are actually reading the book, there is no difference, apart from being a bit easier on your hands. But I love paper books and their covers too much to ever use the Kindle exclusively.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Top Ten Game/Quiz Shows

As the new series of a couple of fab quiz/game shows started last week, I thought I would compile a list of my favourites over the years...


Are You Smarter Than 
A Ten Year Old


Big Break


Blockbusters


Fifteen to One


Jeopardy


Pointless


Pokerface


Supermarket Sweep


The Chase


Who Dares Wins



They really need to bring back some of these shows.

What are you favourite quiz/game shows?

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Thursday, 12 January 2012

Book 1 - Reached The End



After months of hard work and three drafts, my book is finally finished. I reached The End last night and without wasting any time (and before I chickened out), I printed out my sample chapters, tweaked the synopsis and sent it off into the land of agents.

Here it is, being printed


And now I am going to celebrate with a cup of tea. Because I am that rock and roll.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Book 1 - Almost Reached The End


The third draft is going well and if I reach out, I can almost reach the end. I'm quite confidant that it will be completed in the next few days or by the end of the week at the latest. Famous last words, eh? Cue disaster that leaves me unable to continue.

The third draft has taken me by surprise because I am actually enjoying it. There were times during the previous draft when I couldn't have despised my book more. It was hard work but it seems to have paid off and I'm finding my book a pleasure again. I will be sad when it's finished. And happy of course. Very happy.

The next step is start submitting to agents. And that's both scary and exciting.

Monday, 9 January 2012

New TV

Yay for new tv programs that started last week. Just in time too as I've finally worked my through all the Christmas tv I recorded.



Dancing on Ice started last night, with half the contestants perfoming their first routine.



Mrs Brown's Boys started its second series. I gave the first series a go, not thinking I would actually like it but I loved it from the first episode. There was a Christmas special and we didn't have to wait long for the next series.


Childbirth. Ouch. But I still love watching One Born Every Minute even if some of the dads irritate me. Come to think of it, so do some of the mums. But then they get a little teeny baby at the end. Awww. I am not broody. I am not.


Two new series of great game/quiz shows started again last week. The first of which was Pointless...


... and the second was Who Dares Wins. I love them both but i do wish Who Dares Wins had a longer run. Eight episodes isn't enough.


I have to wait a little bit longer for Hustle (bah) as it doesn't start until Friday. I always look forward to a new series of Hustle, even without Marc Warren (yum) I would let him be the stepfather to my kids. Just don't let The Partner know that :-P

Friday, 6 January 2012

Writing for Charity

I've nicked this from Cally Taylor's blog (sorry, but is for a good cause).

Caroline Smailes is holding a writing challenge for charity.

All you have to do is submit a piece of flash fiction (no more than 100 words) based on a youtube clip.

The stories selected will be made into an ebook, with the money made going to charity.

All the details are here.

Warning - the closing date is Wednesday 11th January so get cracking!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Book 1 - 3rd Draft A Charm


My holiday, Christmas and New Year have passed so yesterday I got back to work on my current project. I've already completed two drafts but don't feel it's quite 'there' yet. The last draft involved a lot of rewriting so I wanted to go through the whole thing again to make sure it all fit and flowed properly. I also wanted to polish it as I was concentrating on rewriting most of the scenes last time.

As I suspected, I wasn't in the mood for turning on the laptop last night. Breaks are great but I find getting back into the habit of writing difficult. I wanted one more day of slouching in front of the tv but I knew I'd feel exactly the same the next day. And the next day and the next day... So i forced myself off my arse and got on with it.

And do you know what? I enjoyed it and was surprised to find that I thought the writing was pretty good. I usually think my writing is crap but I was pleased with what was on the screen. I'm not saying it's the best writing since sliced bread (the Warburtons in my cupboard is a best-selling novelist) but I thought it was good and is the kind of book I'd pick up in the shops.

I'm hoping to have this draft finish within a few weeks and then I can start sending it off to agents.

Monday, 2 January 2012

My Books of 2011



I started this blog in July and since then have kept a record of the books I have read. I remember the days when I could read a book in a day or two, staying up until the early hours to finish it but those days are long gone. Some days it difficult enough to read a chapter and I can barely make it past 10pm now.

Some of the books were older books, a couple of which were on my shelf and I decided to read again. Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger was the first Mills & Boon book I've read.

I was surprised to really enjoy The Radleys. It isn't my usual kind of book but I thought it was great and I didn't want to put it down (I can't say 'couldn't put it down' as the kids don't allow such frivolous acts on my part).

I also really enjoyed Miracle on Regent Street and it had my favourite cover of the year. It is gorgeous; not overly sparkly but fitting for the book.

My favourite book of the year was The Woman He Loved Before by Dorothy Koomson. Again, I was surprised to enjoy it so much as it doesn't look like the kind of book I usually choose to read (no cartoon or sparkly cover - I do like to judge even though I shouldn't). I won the book on Deb Carr's blog and I loved it. It was beuatifully written and kept me intrigued throughout.



I've read some great books in 2011 and am looking forward to reading even more in 2012. At the moment I am reading Home for Christmas by Cally Taylor and it's a great read so far. I was laughing out loud while reading it in bed last night - the sign of a great book in my opinion.

I'm also looking forward to reading Miranda Dickinson's books this year as well as Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton, which I also won at the end of 2011. I am also going to finally read my first Jill Mansell book.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year & Writing Goals



I hope you all had a fab New Year's Eve, whatever you did. We stayed in (as we usually do, having two kids) and had a Chinese take away which was yummy. At midnight, me, The Partner and the 8 year old gathered on the doorstep to watch the fireworks. There were loads and pretty big ones too but thankfully they only lasted ten minutes or so and not into the early hours. It's a shame the same couldn't be said for all the drunken idiots (not that I was jealous that they'd been out and had a great time...) that passed by the house bewteen the hours of one and three. The best had to be the bloke singing 'Penetration is the name of the game and I want to play the game with you'. And the young lady he was with seemed to find this charming.

As it is the start of a new year, I thought I would set myself some writing goals. I would obviously love to be represented by an agent and land a publishing deal but I can't really control that so I am going to keep them realistic (boring, aren't I?):

  • Finish the final draft of the Current Project
  • Send Current Project off to agents
  • When it's rejected, send it to the next agents on the list
  • Start Book 2
  • Don't give up like I usually do

I hope you all had a great 2011 and that 2012 will be even better xxx