Wednesday 30 May 2012

Book 2 - Cutting Down and Laughing Out Loud

I'm back into the swing of things with my writing after being a bit ill last week. I thought the chapters I worked through after my little break were crap but, reading back through them again, they're much better than I thought.

I'm almost half way through the second draft - woo! - but the word count doesn't seem to be dwindling. I have been cutting, honestly, but it seems I'm adding the same amount back in. I'll see how the word count ends up when I've finished and if it ends up mammoth, I'll have to go through it again and do a bit more cutting.

Last night, while reading through a scene I wrote a few months ago, I actually laughed out loud. That has to be a good sign, right? And if not, at least I have the ability to make myself giggle if nobody else.

Monday 28 May 2012

Blog Award

I had a nice surprise yesterday when I found out I'd been nominated for The Versatile Blogger by Rebecca Leith. Her blog has author interviews and lovely, thoughtful posts on writing and things of interest.

The rules of the award are:

Thank the person who gave you this award, and include a link to their blog.

Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you've recently discovered or follow regularly (I'd pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!) If it's a bit of a task to list 15, and I don't want you to feel being nominated is a burden, but mention as many as you can - 8 or 10 is fine. List them, and you might like to include a link to the sites, and let them know that you've nominated them.

And tell the person who nominated you seven things about yourself.

Okie dokie, seven things about little old me:

  1. I am one of five; I'm the baby and my sister is the oldest with three brothers in the middle.
  2. My Great Uncle was the mayor of the town I'm from and the local swimming pool is named after him.
  3. I was once a vegatarian. I lasted almost four years until the lure of chippy gravy and Hollands meat and potato pies grew too much. I reverted back four days after Christmas - so I missed out on my turkey!
  4. After leaving school, I went to college to train to become a beauty therapist, despite hating feet. I (somehow) managed pedicures but soon scarpered when it came to the waxing module.
  5. I have no middle name. As a kid, I always felt I was missing out. My girls have middle names.
  6. The first film I saw at the cinema was The Little Mermaid. I watched it with my mum, grandma and one of my brothers.
  7. During the summer holidays when I was seven, I broke my ankle. This didn't stop me playing out with my friends once I discovered I could walk on my cast. I used to leave my crutches at the front door and hobble out into the street to play marbles. My mum had to then take me back to the hospital to get my cast reinforced as it cracked and crumble underneath my foot.

I would like to nominate:

Kyra Lennon  Me, My Books and I  DizzyC'sLittleBookBlog  One More Page  Books, Biscuit and Tea  Sarah's Book Reviews  ReaBookReview  Chloe's Chick Lit Reviews

Friday 25 May 2012

Saved By Cake Challenge - May

I have decided to challenge myself to bake a different cake/biscuit from Marian Keyes' book, Saved By Cake, each month, between March and December. I am a beginner at baking and use the same recipes over and over again so it'll be nice to try something new. I will take photos and post them on here each month - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Black Hole Chocolate Cheesecake

I've had it easy over the past couple of months, easing myself in, if you like. I've made rock cakes and an apple crumble so far so this month's cake would be an actual challenge.
I love cheesecake. It's my favourite desert. The best cheesecake I've ever had was on Christmas Day 2011 in the Novotel Times Square hotel's restaurant. It was a New York cheesecake and while it was small, it was perfect (and it became clear why it was small - that portion was more than enough).
But I've never attempted to make one myself. I didn't think it would be possible but I gave it a go.
There is a whole section of cheesecakes in the Saved by Cake book but I chose the Black Hole Chocolate Cheesecake. With the previous recipes, I'd changed an ingredient for personal preference but with this one I followed the recipe exactly, even using black pepper despite being sceptical (black pepper in a cheesecake?).
It takes quite a while to make the cheesecake as you are supposed to leave it in the oven overnight (though not switched on all that time) and then in the fridge overnight. I started mine on a Friday evening and almost messed it up straight away.
The recipe uses digestive biscuits. Cool, I thought. I've already got a packet of those in the cupboard so I don't need to buy any.
No. I had chocolate digestives and so I had to make a dash to the shop before it closed. Note to self: double check the bloody ingredients before you start.
With the right biscuits, I made the cheesecake. The recipe was surprisingly easy to follow. I thought making a cheesecake would be difficult but, while it took a while due to overnight stays in the oven and fridge, it was straightforward.
Look at that bad boy
And it turned out beautifully. I did notice The Partner tasted the cheesecake before injecting his insulin (how's that for faith, eh?) but his test was unnecessary as it was gorgeous and very dense and chocolatey. Like the cheesecake I had at Christmas, a small portion was more than enough.
It was quite pricey once you'd added all the ingredients up but it was worth it. And there are plenty more cheesecakes to try (and taste) in the book.
For more Saved by Cake Challenges click here


Wednesday 23 May 2012

Book 2 - Illness Gets In The Way

I haven't written anything or even switched on my computer since Friday as I wasn't feeling well. I only had a cold but it was a strange one. While the actual cold was only mild, I was constantly tired. On Monday I was in bed before the kids and yesterday I was fighting sleep all day. I'm still not feeling 100% but I'm not fuzzy and sleepy anymore.

So tonight I'm going to continue draft two and hope I can glide back into it easily.

Monday 21 May 2012

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Nothing can break the bond between sisters ... When Beatrice gets a frantic call in the middle of Sunday lunch to say that her younger sister, Tess, is missing, she boards the first flight home to London. But as she learns about the circumstances surrounding her sister's disappearance, she is stunned to discover how little she actually knows of her sister's life - and unprepared for the terrifying truths she must now face. The police, Beatrice's fiance and even their mother accept they have lost Tess but Beatrice refuses to give up on her. So she embarks on a dangerous journey to discover the truth, no matter the cost.

Back in January, I read Rosamund Lupton's Afterwards, which I absolutely loved and couldn't put down so I was keen to read her previous novel, Sister. It's taken me a while to get round to it but it was worth the wait. I started the book on a Thursday and stayed up until 1.30 Friday night/Saturday morning to finish it.

Beatrice is living in New York with her fiance, Todd, when she receives the phone call from her mother, telling her that her younger sister is missing. Beatrice rushes back to London where her sister's disappearance soon turns into a murder enquiry.

Who would want to kill Tess and why?

There are many suspects as Beatrice tries to unravel the mystery of her sister's murder and the reader is kept guessing as more information comes to light.

I didn't guess 'who did it'. My approach was to suspect everybody! The intrigue and twists kept coming right until the very end. I didn't see the ending coming at all but everything slotted into place and made sense.

My final word on Sister is very simple: wow.

Friday 18 May 2012

Re-Reading Books

Do you re-read books? Or does the magic disappear once you know the plot and the ending?

I like to re-read certain books. There is something comforting about reading a book I know well, about knowing where it is all going to end up but enjoying the journey anyway. I'm the same with films and I love reading spoilers for soaps. I don't mind knowing what is going to happen and in some cases, prefer it.

Also I devour books from my favourite authors so sometimes it is nice to read it again (a good while later) and take it at a more leisurely pace and absorb everything.

Some books I just love and want to read over and over again. I've read Lisa Jewell's and Jane Green's early books time and again - I never seem to tire of One Hit Wonder, Thirty Nothing, Babyville and Bookends.

I've still got a massive reading pile but I've decided to re-read a few books from my shelf. I'm going to read:

Kiss Him Goodbye by Victoria Routledge

I bought this to take on holiday when I was 17 and have lost count of the number of times I've read it. It's one of my most re-read books on my shelf.

What's New Pussycat? by Alexandra Potter

Another book I bought for the holiday when I was 17 but I've only ever read it once. There has to be a reason why I've kept hold of it all these years - it's survived many bookshelf culls.

Vince & Joy by Lisa Jewell

I've only read this once because it always felt too 'new' to read again but a few years have passed (without me realising) so I'm going to read it again. Mainly because I love Lisa Jewell's books.

Rachel's Holiday

It's one of my favourite books.

Do you ever re-read books? And what are you reading at the moment?

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Book 2 - Over 25%

I've reached over 25% of my second draft (almost 1/3). It was a bit slow to begin with because I cut a lot from the start of the book and had to write some new scenes and I've introduced a new character, Rick. He had a very brief mention in the first draft but I've beefed up his part to complicate Karen's love life (I'm evil like that). I'm sort of back on track now, though Rick does need putting in some of the existing scenes.

It appears I'm still in the honeymoon period with this draft as I actually look forward to opening my word document in the evenings. With the second draft of Book 1 I used to dread working on it a lot of the time (it was a slog of a second draft though). I wonder how long the honeymoon will last...

Monday 14 May 2012

The Summer of Secrets by Alison Lucy

Set in glamorous Mexico, three young women set off on personal adventures. Each hoping to unlock the missing clues that will help them find out who they really are ...
One heady summer. Three big secrets.
Newlyweds Danny and Harriet arrive at their honeymoon paradise in the Caribbean. Days later Harriet returns home. Danny is left distraught but finds comfort in the arms of two women. Nine months later, three baby girls are born...
Megan leaves her childhood sweetheart behind in the UK to go in search of her long-lost father. Miles from home and temptation is at every corner - not least in the arms of the gorgeous Ray...
Esmé, a Mexican beauty, married Miguel at fifteen. In unlocking the secrets of her past, can she shed the shackles of her enforced marriage? Claudia has led a life of privilege but she's never really known what it feels like to be loved. Could David be the answer? Or will he disappoint her, just like her mother always did?
Three women set off on an adventure to uncover the secrets surrounding their missing father. It may be the only way to lay their demons to rest but seeking out the truth could tear their lives apart.
The Summer Secrets is full of intrigue as Megan, Esme and Claudia search for their father, Danny Featherbow. Danny hasn't been seen since 1989 and is presumed dead so what happened on the night he was last seen alive?
All three women have been brought up in very different circumstances; Megan was raised believing another man was her father and rebelled from the day she discovered the truth, Esme married a man she didn't love at 16 while Claudia was born into a rich family but lacked any real love.
I loved the journey each woman took to decide she must go in search of Danny. All three have their own issues but I cared about each of them and willed them on in their quest.
The Summer of Secrets isn't just about the mystery surrounding Danny Featherbow; it is about love - or the lack of love - and its complications and consequences. I found it to be a great read and when I had to put it down, I was itching to pick it back up again. This is Alison Lucy's first novel and I will definitely be on the look out for her books in the future.
The Summer of Secrets will be released on 17th May 2012
Thank you to Constable & Robinson for sending me a copy to review.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Roll Up! Roll Up!

On Friday we surprised the kids with a trip to the circus as it had been set up a 15-20 minute walk away from us. We had really good ringside seats so we got to see everything (and got wet, twice, by the clowns).

There was something for everyone, from Mickey Mouse and friends taking part in their own version of Britain's Got Talent, to clowns, acrobats, illusionists, strongmen, motorbike tricks and plenty of scantily clad ladies. I think the partner and I enjoyed it just as much as the kids did!

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Book 2 - Cutting, Pasting and New Names

One day I will write a first draft and when I start the second draft it will be straight forward, with the scenes all there and in the right order. They'll be no cutting and pasting involved, only a bit of tidying up.

But unfortunately not with this book.

Actually, I'm enjoying this draft. Granted, it's only been just over a week so we're still very much in the honeymoon period. There's already been quite a bit of work going on. I've had to shift quite a few scenes, delete some pap and write new scenes from scratch as Karen's love life is a bit more complicated in this draft.

That's my main character's shiny new name by the way. She used to be Joanna but it didn't feel right and didn't go with her love interest's name as they had the same initial and it sounded a bit cheesy and clunky. I didn't realise this until I'd almost reached the end of the first draft. I thought it would be weird changing her name  after so long but it hasn't been. It feels like she's always been Karen so I'm taking that as a good sign.

Monday 7 May 2012

Women & Children First by Gill Paul

Women & Children First is set on the Titanic and tells the story of Reg, Juliette and Annie.

Reg Parsons is a 21 year old first class steward. He has worked on many ships but he is hoping one day he will save enough money to set up a business of his own and afford some of the luxuries he sees around him on a daily basis in first class.

Juliette Mason-Parker is a first class passenger who is travelling with her mother, Lady Mason-Parker. Her mother is desperate to find Juliette a rich husband on board but Juliette isn't so keen. 

Annie is a third class passenger travelling with her children to America where her husband is waiting. She hasn't seen Seamus for 18 months and she can't wait to start their new life together.

The first part of the book centres around the ill-fated voyage and the passengers on board. Reg is intrigued when he sees a beautiful young woman aboard the ship who nobody else seems to have seen. Where is she and why is she hiding? We also discover the reason Lady Mason-Parker is so desperate to find a husband for her daughter.

The second part deals with the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic, following some of the survivors and seeing how they coped and dealt with life afterwards. Secrets are discovered and nobody's life will be the same.

I really enjoyed Women and Children First. I find stories of the Titanic tragic yet fascinating and what I liked most about the book is it continued their stories beyond the sinking and being rescued. It dealt with the problems and traumas of trying to get back to normal when you have been through something so horrific and lost the people you loved the most. The book has clearly been researched thoroughly, which came across in the details of the ship and the events that unfolded.

At the end of the book there are facts about the Titanic and Gill Paul also explained the inspiration of the characters she wrote about, which, as an aspiring writer I absolutely loved.

Friday 4 May 2012

The Love Letter by Fiona Walker

When Allegra North parted from first love Francis after a decade together, she poured all her regret into a letter. He didn't reply. A year later, her job brings her back to the beautiful Devon coast where romance first blossomed and she hopes that they can start a new chapter.

As summer storms circle, the exes juggle rebellious parents, vengeful family members and a very reluctant celebrity author who holds the key to everybody's future . . .

I have to admit it took me quite a while to get into the book and I found myself struggling. There were a lot of characters and their histories to absorb all at once and, if I'm honest, I didn't think I would make it to the end.

But I perservered and then, quite suddenly, I became hooked. It was at approximately 150 pages in, but as the book is quite a hefty one at over 600 pages, I still had plenty of book left to enjoy. I was drawn into Farcombe and the many twists, turns and mysteries surrounding the Protheroe family.

I found Allegra (aka Legs) to be a fun, flirty character and I loved both the budding friendship with author Gordon Lapis and the tension between her and Byrne.

I'd already read Sealed With a Kiss, the short story prequel to The Love Letter but both are stand alone stories in their own right so it isn't essential to read both, although it did add further insight into both the letter and Legs' relationships with Francis and her boss, Conrad.

Thursday 3 May 2012

Book 2 - Editing With Rose-Tinted Glasses

After a month away from Book 2, I have started the 2nd draft. The month away did the book the world of good (I hope) as taking a step back allowed me to see where I had gone wrong or how I could improve what was already there.

It dawned on me suddenly that it was all too easy with the love element of the book. She meets the dude and they start dating, they fall in love. Then there is a slight hiccup at the end but that is quickly resolved. While this may be fantastic for the character involved, it isn't as interesting for the reader. We need a few spanners thrown into the works, a twist here, a turn there. No smooth A-B for me, please.

So I'm sorry, dear Main Character, but your life is about to get a bit more complicated. I hope you'll forgive me (psst, don't tell anyone but it all works out in the end).

This means the 2nd draft isn't going to be quite as simple as I'd envisaged. I'm feeling a bit of deja vu. I thought the 2nd draft of Book 1 was going to be plain sailing. It was far from it. I rewrote almost the whole book in the end, which was worth it when I finally finished but bloody hard work.

Ah, yes. Now I remember the hard work. I'd been quite looking forward to getting my hands back on Book 2 for the 2nd draft, playing around with it. A bit of cutting and pasting, adding in the odd scene. It was going to be wonderfully creative. And now I have just burst my own bubble. I've been looking forward to the 2nd draft with rose-tinted glasses.

The 2nd draft is going to be hell.

But I'm ready for it (I think). At least this time I know what I'm letting myself in for. Eek!

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group

The idea of the Insecure Writers Support Group is for writers to blog on the first Wednesday of the month about their fears, struggles and triumphs they have experienced with their writing.

Last week I received my first 'ever so slightly positive' rejection for Book 1. I've only ever received the standard 'thanks but no thanks' type and thought this was no different.

I won't lie. I was gutted. I really REALLY wanted to be taken on by this agent. I read the email quickly, getting the jist. Another big fat no.

But I read it again and that's when I saw the teeniest glimmer of hope. The book wasn't right for them. However, they would be interested in seeing any other submissions I wished to send to them.

Now, this could be standard for this agency. They might just be super duper nice in their rejections but I have decided to take this as a positive (cling to it, actually). Maybe, just maybe, my writing isn't such tripe that they never want me to darken their inbox with it again.

Hey, there's a chance. I hope.