Monday, August 29, 2011


Seen on the Helford River on 27/8/11
Two events over the weekend caused me to think about the importance of music. I was looking at a cartoon in one of the weekend papers. It showed the new twist - music to be a part of ebooks...which is interesting and complicated (thinking here of licensing etc...)

I don't listen to music when I write rough drafts because it distracts me and pulls me out of the story. On occasion I will have classical music playing but rarely. However when I'm editing or even thinking of editing music moves me and helps me to carve out the story from the raw draft. Sometimes, not always, I have my own little sound track for the books...which brings me back to ebooks with could be wonderful or it could ruin a book for me. If I love the music chosen perfect but what if it clashes with my feelings or interpretation of the story????

I know of three writers who always have soundtracks for their books Elizabeth Chadwick, Julia Williams and our own Julia Cohen (who blogged about it here )- very different writers - one historical and the other two contemporary. Elizabeth has a separate blog listing her sound tracks so that if readers wishes to know what inspired her they can seek it and Julia references key songs in her blog. Julie uses her blog to talk about the music too. That works for me. It's my choice if I want to know... How do you feel about it? I know for me a brilliant soundtrack can make a film...but a book? Two films and their soundtracks jump to mind - Twilight's soundtrack (first film only) I thought was brilliant and the other one was the soundtrack for Easy Virtue....then of course their are films where the music is better than the film - The Boat That Rocked (I enjoyed it but...)

So this leads me the second event where music took over. This weekend it was the village regatta. It is the major event of the years pulling all the local villages together around the river. In the evening there are fireworks and this for us as a family has always marked the 'end of summer' moment. This year as we walked down to the river, we stopped at the river cafe. It was festooned with coloured lights, a makeshift bar was fully loaded and a hog roast was being devoured. Kids dashed up and down the grassy banks. Wonderful but what stopped me in my steps was the sound of music and music that was so right.

Three men were playing a sea shanty - Haul Away Joe.  Here at at the side of the river beside the old chapel with the bell from a ship wreck off a nearby was right. Their voices were perfect and clear...heard over the shouts of the smalls and the chattered of conversation...It could have been a hundred years before except for the strings of lights above our heads. I know for certain that I wasn't the only one who thought the setting and music were a perfect match.... Has you had this happen? Have you used it in writing to evoke a setting or a mood?

Come back on Thursday to hear from Biddy

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Crowning Glories?

Hair is usually referred to as “a woman’s crowning glory” and I would agree with that. I have to admit I’ve been fascinated by long hair ever since I read the fairy tale of Rapunzel, when I was struck with serious hair envy. But what about for men?

When I tried looking up that saying on Google, I found the following quote from the Bible instead – “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is dishonour to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is glory to her?” (1 Corinthians 11: 14-15). Well, I would totally disagree with that!

Long hair on men seems to be one of those things that you either love or hate – like Marmite or anchovies. I hate both of those, but I LOVE long hair on men. I’m not sure why, but I always have and it has nothing to do with my age or fashion – to me it just adds to the overall impression. It seems right somehow.

The other week I was dragged along to a rock concert, the kind where hairy biker types predominate and you can’t move an inch without seeing leather and tattoos. I hardly noticed, however, because all around me were men with glorious long hair – I was in seventh heaven! For instance, walking past me, two guys with dark, wavy hair halfway down their backs. Seated in the row in front of me a Viking lookalike with strawberry blond, straight hair all the way to his waist. And everywhere else shoulder-length tresses or longer, some beautifully kept, some not so much.

So why don’t more men have long hair? If you look at the animal kingdoms, the males of the species are meant to be more flamboyant, with manes like lions. It would make sense for this to be the case with humans too, but although occasionally this becomes the fashion, the majority of men stick to having it shorn. A case of laziness perhaps? (Long hair is hard work if you want to keep it looking good). Or a general sense of feeling more groomed that way? I don’t know, but I often wish myself back to the mid 1600s when the Cavaliers (and others) flaunted their locks unashamedly. I mean, just look at the picture of Prince Rupert of the Rhine – gorgeous or what?

Or what about the Vikings, who seem to have plaited theirs to keep it out of their eyes, but otherwise let it grow long? Yes, those were the days ...

So do you love it or hate it? And do you like Marmite and anchovies? I wonder if these things go together ...

Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz

Monday, August 22, 2011

Angel with the flaming sword.

I'm going to have a bit of a fan-girl moment.

I love Mary Balogh's historicals with a passion.  I love her complex conflicts, her unusual and yet so recognisable characters, her intense, real-world emotional stakes and her earthy, almost matter-of-fact sex scenes.

The other day, I borrowed 'Seducing an Angel' from the Library.  I have to admit, it nearly got put back on the shelf.  The title didn't appeal to me that much, and then, when I realised the Angel of the title was actually the hero, I very definitely dithered.

Later, although I was immediately intrigued by the heroine's bitter courage, her painful past and her pragmatic immorality, I was struggling to understand how the hero was going to keep me hooked.  He was described as 'good humoured' and 'gregarious' and 'always smiling'.  He was surrounded by - and honoured - healthy, loving relationships, had supportive family and good, loyal friends.  He had no inner conflict to speak of, and was, even when pushed to extremes of endurance, invariably even tempered.  He was good.  He was kind.  He was clever and discerning.

He was lovely.

He was... potentially very boring indeed.

And then, a few chapters further on, I was his slave.

I don't know when it was.  I can't pinpoint the moment.  Was it when he took responsibility for the welfare of a chance-met and chance-slept-with woman of dubious reputation and sordid past, simply because he could see through her mask of cynicism?  Was it when he was unfazed by her unconventional household of social outcasts, when he refused to believe the worst of any of them?  Was it when he recognised he had no right to chastise the heroine's brother when he refused to acknowledge her, but did it anyway and gave no quarter?

Perhaps it was when he steadfastly resisted succumbing to the romance-novel chliche of the Great Misunderstanding.  Or when he was clearly furious with her for trying to manipulate him, and yet still even-toned and gentle-handed.  I think, if I am honest, it was certainly when he refused to be manipulated at all.

Mary Balogh's happy, smiling, conflict-less hero revealed his core of steel and I was instantly devoted.  The Angel drew his flaming sword, and I worshipped.

When was the last time a hero truly surprised you?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Taking Care of Business

Elvis Presley had a personal motto, Taking Care of Business, it was all what he named his band. I'm not starting a band (although who knows...) but after a tumultuous few months I have a few weeks breathing space so I am going to start taking care of my business. What is my business, I hear you ask? Well, good question, in my mind my business is me. My health, my house, my future and of course my writing.

I have started small; I am getting back into the fitness groove. I’ve been running and resistance training and also walking places. I should be cutting back on the wine but that is part of my mental health so lets not go mad! My house and my future, I have plans. One of the first is to actually clear out all the paper I’ve accumulated in my flat… maybe. I’m shuddering at the thought.

To escape from those swaying towers of papers scattered round my flat I have decamped to Cornwall. I am currently sitting in Liz’s kitchen eating breakfast. I have run round the lanes this morning and once this post goes up I will be writing. I can feel the stress draining away. I can feel the writing itching in me to get out. Sometimes you need to spend some time taking care of business. 

Come back on Sunday to see what Susanna's up to

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brain Dead...well almost

I pressed the send button on Friday went the edits on the book (I know they'll be back too but that's another story). Now I'm finding it hard to think, string a sentence together and yet something is stirring. It's the call of another story. It's tugging away but I still can't think straight. I burnt my brain on the edits. I worked in a way I hadn't before - up at five and working straight through until noon...only breaking to eat breakfast and drink coffee. This wasn't normal but it was necessary. However it was hard and it hurt.

So now I need to hold off a little bit. My brain needs to mend and I need to fill the well. I will allow myself to sketch out a few ideas, do a bit of research and maybe by the end of this week I'll allow myself to begin...I can feel the excitement building already!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Muse Gone AWOL

I have a problem – my Muse seems to have decided to go on vacation without asking my permission. This might seem reasonable, seeing as it’s summer and everything, but I’m afraid that’s not how it works. If I’m not on holiday, my Muse can’t be either. Guess I forgot to tell him that though and now he’s probably in the park, eating ice cream ...

I’ve been trying to work on a rewrite. A big job, kind of like the one Liz mentioned the other week. We’re talking major surgery, at least on the latter half of the novel, and it just isn’t happening. Perhaps the Muse thought that because he’d helped me write the story once, his job was finished? Well, he’s wrong. I need him now, more than ever, because he messed up first time round. The hero was boring, he did some really stupid things and quite frankly, I wouldn’t have wanted to marry him myself, so why would my heroine?

So, what to do? How do you tempt a Muse to come back from wherever it is they go when they’re not around? I didn’t know, because I’ve never had to do it before. He’s misbehaved occasionally, but he’s never left the house completely, just sort of skulked in a corner for a while. I tried the usual things – going to the cinema, people-watching, doing boring housework, DIY, going for long walks ... nothing happened. I decided this called for drastic measures, ie. the dreaded outline.

I might have mentioned before that I’m a “pantser” – I don’t plot much, I just sit down and write. Usually the Muse is happy with that and chips in with ideas from time to time. I only ever do an outline when I get stuck, and then it’s mostly very vague. This time I’ve had to get tough and try to do a really detailed one. Gosh, that’s hard!

I can see that it would work really well for an organised person, the type of author who thinks deeply about character motivation/conflict in the right place/major crises/highs and lows in their plot. I don’t. It sort of just happens by itself. Having to write a detailed outline for me is like when I was asked by an English teacher back at school to explain why I’d used certain grammatical structures – I had no idea, I just knew it sounded right. What’s more, I wasn’t interested in explaining it and reading a book on grammar was akin to torture.

But needs must, and right now I’m forcing myself to write down what’s going to happen, section by section. And as I write, I think I detect movement somewhere near my right shoulder when I get to some new and possibly interesting parts of the (hopefully) reinvigorated novel. Could it be the Muse has been tempted to come back by the thought of a really juicy scene? I sure hope so or it’s going to be a very long summer ...

Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz!