Sunday, November 27, 2011

Letting Go

Malick Bowens and Meryl Streep in Out of Africa, 1985 © Universal Pictures Ltd.

I have this scene I'm writing in the current work-in-progress, and it's taking me a long time to complete. I'm not avoiding it, exactly, but I know I'm taking more time than I should, and only yesterday I realized it's because this is the last scene for a character I've come to really like.

No, I'm not killing him off, but it's still a goodbye.

I'm not good with goodbyes, whether real life or fictional, and in a film a farewell breaks my heart even more than a death, sometimes. (All I have to do is look at that picture above and I hear Malick Bowens's voice saying: "Then you must make this fire very big..." and I go all to pieces...)

The rational side of my brain knows this character needs to leave, needs to move on, so the story can move on as well. And I will get to see him again in revisions and rewrites, and when the book's finished and published I know I can visit him there in the pages whenever I want.

But the rational side of my brain isn't writing the book; that's the problem. And so I've been slowing down...finding small jobs that need a line here, a paragraph there...catching up on my research.

It won't work, of course. Either later today or tomorrow I'll write his last scene, and I'll probably cry (which is good for the book, in a way), and then that will be that.

But I never like saying goodbye to a character.

What about you? Do you have the same problem, as writers or readers? How well do you cope with goodbyes?

(Don't forget to come back Thursday, for Julie's post.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pride And Prejudice: In Search of an Agent (with apologies to Jane Austen)

When an agent and writer meet...

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an unpublished writer in possession of a good manuscript, must be in want of an agent.

I have to say that for me this is true. I know that others have been successful without having an agent and I admire them greatly. However knowing how I am, I feel more comfortable having some one else do any negotiation on my behalf. In work I can wheel and deal with the best but when it comes to my writing I know I am not the best person to be out touting it about.

So in the past year or so I have been quietly collecting agent’s names and recommendations. In some cases I have agents who have requested to see my work. I am now putting together a list and hope that none of them say:

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

Rather I would like to hear this:

“I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a fine manuscript in the arms of a writer can bestow."

Of course this is jumping the gun somewhat. I still have to finish the revisions and polish it all before sending it off… but we must remember:

“A writer's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from polite interest to representation, from representation to book deal, in a moment.”

Come back on Sunday to hear from Susanna

Monday, November 21, 2011


I'm a day late and my mind is blank. It could be because i am trying to write the annual Christmas letter. It could be because i have my marketing, pr, being a mother, trying to organize Christmas hat on. Or it could be I'm just tired.

What ever it is I haven't got anything insightful or interesting to say. However the one thing that this huge in my life - writing and other is that the bound uncorrected proofs of my first book have arrived. They are beautiful and i still can't stop stroking i thought in the absence of words I'd just post a picture of my beautiful cover and tell you what the blurb says...hope this is okay and I promise to be interesting and inspiring or something next time....

When artist Maddie inherits a house in Cornwall shortly after the death of her husband, she hopes it will be the fresh start she and her teenage step-daughter Hannah desperately need.

Trevenen is beautiful but neglected, a rambling house steeped in history. Maddie is enchanted by it and determined to learn as much as she can about its past. As she discovers the stories of generations of women who've lived there before, Maddie begins to feel her life is somehow intertwined within its walls.

But Maddie's dream of a calm life in the countryside is far from the reality she faces. Still struggling with her grief and battling with Hannah, Maddie is unable to find inspiration for her painting and realizes she may face the prospect of having to sell Trevenen, just as she is coming to love it.

As Maddie and Hannah pull at the seams of Trevenen's past, the house reveals secrets that have lain hidden for generations...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

And now - relax ...

Who knew that partying in cyberspace could be so much fun?! Ogling all those men in kilts or buckskin breeches, drinking loads of whisky and champagne, eating all the canapés, ice cream and other goodies on offer. The only problem is I’m exhausted now and I’m sure you are too! What we need is a proper, relaxing break, but as authors – do we ever really get one?

The thing is, writing is a compulsion and it never completely lets go of you, even when you’re doing other things. You continue to live your normal life, whatever that is, but inside your head you’re only paying attention with half your brain because the other half is working on characters and plots, checking out settings and listening to dialogue. It’s something you need to do to stay sane (well, author kind of sane), and you do it because you want to, because if you don’t, you feel lost. But although it’s enjoyable, it does make it difficult to ever have time to yourself and a complete break.

Sometimes circumstances compel you to turn off the author part of your brain because you need to concentrate on important things like sick children or work. However, there are also times, when you have to force yourself not to write and do something else for a change. If not, there’s a chance you’ll completely run out of steam.

So maybe we should have a pampering weekend here on the blog to recover from our partying? What would be your dream way of being pampered? If you had the chance to be looked after and relax, how and where would you do that?

I’ll start the ball rolling by hiring a housekeeper to take over all our normal everyday tasks and I’ve got a library full of books and lots of chocolate. And I’ll get someone in to do some aromatherapy – how does that sound?

Please come and join me and tell me what you’d like. Anything is possible here!

Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Summer of Living Dangerously Party

Julie carefully steps through the crowds of people celebrating Christina's new book, picking up scraps of smoked salmon, whiskey bottles and at least one discarded kilt...

Hey everyone! It's Thursday and that means that we're officially still partying! Because we Heroine Addicts are frenzied party animals and also because my latest hardback, The Summer of Living Dangerously, comes out today.

If you're new to this here super party, here are the rules: everyone brings something special (including a date, if they fancy some company), and in return the Guest of Honour tells us Five Fast Facts about her book.

In this case, I'm both the Hostess and the Guest of Honour (I've always been quite good at multi-tasking, especially when it comes to having fun), so here's the cover blurb for The Summer of Living Dangerously:

Alice Woodstock has been running away.

Well, not literally. She spends most of her time glued to her desk, writing about grommets and model aeroplanes. No, Alice is avoiding the real world because there's something—someone—in her past that she's desperate to forget. So when she's commissioned to write about life in stately home Eversley Hall, she jumps at the chance to escape into Regency England, even if it does mean swapping her comfy T-shirt for an itchy corset. Perhaps she'll meet her own Mr Darcy...

But then her past resurfaces in the shape of Leo Allingham and Alice is brought down to earth with a bump. Reckless, unpredictable Leo reminds Alice of the painful price of following her heart. And the new Alice doesn't live dangerously.

Or does she?

I am so excited to party with this book because, with the Regency costume connection, it's the perfect excuse for us all to have hot dates in tight breeches. Here comes Brigid with a tall gentleman...

Brigid: I'm bringing Ciaran Hinds as he is in Persuasion. He is the perfect Captain Wentworth...pity I couldn't find a picture of him in tight breeches, but you can well imagine.

Julie: Yup. We can well imagine. Look at that smile on his face. That is the smile of a man saying, "Dude, I look gooooooood in these buckskins."

Next is Susanna, along with Christina:

Susanna: I'm bringing a beautiful regency gown for the heroine, Alice, to wear (modelled here by its maker, our own lovely Christina Courtenay, at the Romantic Novelists' Association's recent Regency Day). And my guest will be the dashing Richard Sharpe, because I love a man of action (and his uniform fits rather nicely...)

Julie: Since my heroine is a big reader, there are some Sharpe references in the novel...and also a dashing young gentleman who dresses in the uniform of Sharpe's regiment, the 95th Rifles. Good choice. And Christina looks so gorgeous in her gown! Here's what she's bringing:

Christina: I'm going to bring a fan because it always gets so hot at these parties and if there's Regency dancing - well, we know how strenuous that is! But then I get very hungry afterwards, and I absolutely refuse to eat macaroons, so I've made you a special strawberry cream cake to celebrate the launch of your novel - enjoy! I would like an escort this time (the dog I brought to my party was kind of exhausted so didn't want to come) - how about Chris Hemsworth? I love his old-fashioned manners in the movie Thor and I bet he'd look great in a Regency outfit :D

Anna: I’m feeling very lucky – I’m bringing Leslie Howard in his Scarlet Pimpernel guise as my date! A little out of our period, but I’m willing to stretch a point for that amount of intensity and charm... mmmmmm. And since we’re going to need some cooling off, I’m also bringing some ices like the ones they served at Gunters. What a treat!

Liz: As I am deeply fond of dry sherry...(a taste I acquired a summer I spent doing something akin to studying at Oxford) I would like to bring some, along with a beautiful Regency convex mirror that I have longed for. And of course never one to miss the opportunity of bringing a date and date in breeches...and as soon as I say that it has to be Colin Firth as Darcy.

Julie: So now that we're all here, I guess it's time for me to answer Five Fast Facts about my book.

Favourite scene in the book: My favourite fun scene is one of my heroine Alice's first days at Eversley Hall dressed as a Regency gentlewoman. She goes for a turn in the garden with another costumed interpreter, Miss Selina Fitzwilliam—the younger sister of the gorgeous Mr James Fitzwilliam—and to their alarm they see Mr Fitzwilliam's spaniel darting into a fountain, where his collar gets stuck in the decorative plants. Alice immediately throws herself into the fountain, rescuing the dog but also soaking her very expensive and historically accurate gown. Mr Fitzwilliam proceeds to rescue Alice, much to the chagrin of the beautiful but bitchy Miss Isabella Grantham. It's sort of my turnabout answer to Colin Firth in that lake.

Character who surprised you the most: I was constantly surprised and delighted by Leo Allingham, who is Alice's ex-husband in real life. He's a bit of a shady character at first but he has such depths to him, and such pain. And he rides a motorcycle.

A scene that made you smile: There's a big portrait of the original Mr James Fitzwilliam in Eversley Hall, and Alice discovers that every day at 2 pm, a rainbow is reflected from the crystal chandelier directly onto Mr Fitzwilliam's crotch. (This is something that we Addicts actually witnessed in the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich. I stole it and put it in the book.)

A scene you hated writing: There is a lot of pain in Alice and Leo's shared past, and that was hard to write about. There is a very short chapter in which they both lose what they love most in the world, and they're unable to share their emotions with each other. It was very difficult to write and I still cry when I read it.

A book your hero probably has on his bookshelf: Well, I sort of have two heroes. Leo Allingham, the real-life hero, would have The Motorcycle Diaries and Mr James Fitzwilliam, the Regency hero, would have Pride and Prejudice.

Like Christina, I'll give away a copy of The Summer of Living Dangerously to a person who joins the party and leaves a comment below! Just tell us what you'll be bringing to the this point, Alka-Seltzer is probably welcome, but personally, I shall be swigging champagne.

I'll leave you with a photo of the beautiful, summery flowers my publisher have sent me today. And thanks for coming to celebrate with us!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Highland Storms Party and Giveaway!

We're doing something different on the blog today... Since Christina's new book is just out this month, and since geography makes it a challenge for all six of us to find somewhere to gather to celebrate, we thought we'd celebrate here, and begin a new Heroine Addicts tradition: The Launch Party!

Simple rules: Everyone brings something special (including a date, if they fancy some company), and in return the Guest of Honour tells us Five Fast Facts about her book.

Here's the cover blurb of Highland Storms, to help us set the mood:

Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate. But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome. The estate’s in ruin and money is disappearing. He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her? Marsaili is determined to build a good life. She works hard at being housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her. But she's irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he's made it plain he doesn't want to be shackled to anyone. And the young laird has more than romance on his mind. His investigations are stirring up an enemy. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – including Marsaili – even if that means destroying Brice's life forever...

And now, are you ready to party? Here we go...

And look, Brigid is, look what she's bringing!

Brigid: Why a Scotsman in a kilt? I have always had a soft spot for a Scotsman. I don't know whether it is my Scottish ancestry or that in my younger years there were so many Scotsmen among my parents' friends that they imprinted on me. But add a kilt to a Scotsman and I become a little weak at the knees. There are a few men in kilts in my past...a man called Dugald in a kilt, rugby shirt and builders' boots *drools*. So if we are having a party for a book set in Scotland, then I'm bringing the man in a kilt. And hands off, ladies...he's coming home with me!

Susanna: That photo above comes courtesy of, wherein you'll find a plethora of handsome men in kilts.

And since I share the general love of kilted men, I'll bring a piper to the party, because...well, it's not a party, really, till you have a piper. For full effect, you might want to detour to this YouTube link and let the pipes play in the background while you read on...

I had some trouble deciding whom to ask to be my date, but in the end I settled on the man who, in my eyes at least, is still the hottest thing in kilts: Sir Sean Connery, shown here in this photo.

Julie: I will bring some salmon, which I believe features large in the cuisine of both Swedes and Scots.

I had the most gorgeous salmon of my life in Stockholm on holiday, gravadlax with dill potatoes and lingonberries. Mmmmmmm. And I will not hear of Christmas without some Scottish smoked salmon as a starter.

I will also bring Scot David Tennant
as my date. Cuz I can. And he seems to be bringing a Dalek. I hope nobody minds.

Liz: I'll be bringing whiskey to warm our hearts and free our imaginations and it goes really well with smoked salmon...and with that if I may can I bring a roaring fire and a big tartan covered sofa for all to collapse onto and to keep the male companionship up may I suggest James McAvoy....

Anna: I’m going to bring.... the wild, sweet, peaty water of Scotland, without which the salmon has no freedom, and the whisky no flavour. Whenever we return to our favourite place in Scotland, the first thing we do, whatever the weather, light, or time, is take a walk along the rushing river to the almost forgotten Old Bridge of Minnoch, which has arched in graceful elegance across the torrent for more than 300 years. The air is sweet, the bridge is waiting, and the water is singing to us, forever and always.

I'm also bringing Gerard Butler. After all, he is the physical model for my hero Gareth, in Danger: Deep Water.

Christina: You thought I’d bring a man as my guest
a handsome hero in a kilt no doubt, but sadly Jared Leto wasn’t available so I brought the next best thing – my favourite character from the book, the deerhound Liath. I knew from the moment I “met” him that he’d be having a starring role and I totally fell in love with him. I think everyone else will too and he’ll be only too pleased at any praise/pats/dog treats that come his way during the party. He loves being the centre of attention!

Right then, now that we’re all here, it’s time to have Christina tell us Five Fast Facts about her newest novel, Highland Storms

Favourite moment in the book
– when the hero Brice comes out of the loch after a swim wearing only wet breeches (no shirt à la Mr Darcy, sorry!) and the heroine realizes that there’s no way she’s going to be able to ignore this guy however much she wants to.

Character who surprised you the most
– the villain’s son when he started thinking for himself instead of following his father blindly. I hadn’t planned on including him much, but he ended up in quite a few scenes.

A scene that made you smile
- when Liath the dog, the heroine’s faithful hound, refuses to obey her for the first time ever and chooses to stay with the hero because he’s wise enough to know a good guy when he sees him.

A scene you hated writing
– when the hero gets beaten up by a bunch of English soldiers (on the orders of their sadistic captain). I had a hard time writing this because although I sympathized with the Highlanders who were persecuted after the Jacobite uprising, I didn’t want the English to always be shown in a bad light as there were good and bad people on both sides.

A book your hero probably has on his bookshelf
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (as the hero himself has travelled to China twice, I think an adventure story like this would appeal to him).

(That portrait of Liath, by the way, was drawn by Christina's very talented daughter, J. Fenton)

And the party continues...

Christina has offered up one signed copy of Highland Storms as a giveaway prize for the best thing anyone else brings to the party, and she'll send it anywhere in the world, so...what are you going to bring to our party?

You have till next Sunday to comment, and we'll let Christina pick the winner.

(Don't forget to come back Thursday, when we do this all again for Julie's latest book!)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Second Chances

Second chances are on my mind at the moment. Admittedly not because of writing but it does make you think. Sometimes you just aren't ready the first time an opportunity comes your way. It is all in the timing. You might meet the right person but if it isn't the right time then it isn't going to work. Different goals, different dreams and ambitions and when you are younger you don't necessarily know how to compromise. OK I don't know how to compromise... (control freak that I am)

But time moves on and you grow up. You have your edges knocked off and somehow you learn that you can compromise (with grumbling). You fall in love and get hurt by other people but you dust yourself down and get up bloodied but not beaten.

And sometimes when you think of Paris or when you ski, you think back fondly and wonder 'what if'. You hope they're happy. You might even google them or look them up on Facebook (this isn't actually stalking if you only do it once in awhile). You look at the smiling photos and the feet deep snow and sighing wish them well and tuck your memories back out of sight.

But occassionally you get a second chance. Grasp it with both hands and live in the moment. This might be the last chance you need but even if it fades you'll know that you gave it your all.

Here endeth the lesson! (normal service with Brigid will resume soon)

Come back on Sunday to here from Susanna