Thursday, August 30, 2012



Some people like the fuzzy feeling of a myriad of futures. They like the idea that anything could happen and that the world is laid out before them with paths leading onward to the horizon.

In theory I am one of those people. I love the idea of possibilities. But in practice I become a stressed bunny rabbit and stare paralysed at the top of the hill. In my head there is a voice screaming:

“What if you make the wrong choice?”
“What if it doesn’t work out?”

At the moment I’m at the top of the hill but I need to be going in a reasonably specific direction. The way is covered in fog and I’m trying to screw up my courage to step out with only my wits and dream leading me on. I’m worried I’ll lose my way. Or fall into an abyss I can’t see for the low lying cloud. My stomach is in knots and my mind is running round in ever decreasing circles.

However… I am trying to do everything I can to build myself a road map, find a few friends along the way.

Wish me luck, I’m sure I’ll be on here worrying about it for awhile.

Come back on Sunday to hear from Susanna

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I had hoped it wouldn't happen as I knew this book, but I'm well into second book panic, disaster, despair...

August Rock isn't called August Rock any ghost Toby isn't any more and worse of all...I'm only half way through rewriting it and I have just a month to go until deadline. I was so foolish to think I knew this book. It is changing on me daily. The problem is that I hear every criticism that was made of The Cornish House and I'm trying to make sure I don't fall into those traps again. I am cursing myself that I missed them in the first place. All of this doesn't make for a happy writer. It makes for a slow self concious one who questions everything and doubts that I'm a storyteller at all.

I know from other writer friends that this is normal for book two and beyond...

But in the meantime I've messed up my family's summer hols and made myself a wreck. I must get a grip on myself and pray that I can pull this together in time.

Please come by on Thursday and visit with Biddy...while I wallow and write in the pit of despair!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Mother/Daughter Bond

At the recent RNA conference in Penrith, Heroine Addict Julie gave a talk about the story arc of Pixar films and I have to say this was right up my street.  I absolutely love Disney/Pixar films and as I’d never stopped to analyse one before, I found Julie’s talk both fascinating and inspiring.
(Picture from Wikipedia)
It will come as no surprise then that I rushed to the cinema last week to see the new Pixar film ‘Brave’ as soon as it came out.  I would have gone either way, but looking at it in light of what Julie had said made it even more exciting a prospect and I couldn’t wait.  In fact, I had fairly high expectations, to say the least.  I know their films are always of the highest standard and that I wouldn’t be disappointed.  And I wasn’t.  At least, not for the most part.

Visually, it was quite stunning.  The heroine – Merida – had hair that looked amazingly real (and very much like my own daughter’s!), as did the fur on her horse Angus.  The clothing was brilliantly depicted and all the back drops - from castle to Scottish Highlands to standing stones and witch’s cottage - beautifully done.  And I loved the characters, most of them larger than life of course.

Really, the only thing that slightly disappointed me was the fact that there was no love story.  Well, I am a romantic novelist after all, and somehow in a Disney film you expect the HEA!  A hero and heroine falling for each other, things working out for them in the end.  Not this time.  There was a HEA, only here it was slightly different.  Because this was a tale about a mother/daughter relationship, and although it wasn't what I'd expected, I certainly empathised with it and got caught up in the story one hundred percent!

Not only did I see myself with my mother when I was a teenager, but there was also my own daughter and me when she’d reached that stage.  The whole “why won’t you ever listen to me?” and “god, that’s so unfair!” and “I hate you, you’re ruining my life!” thing, was so familiar, so obviously universal.  And when I think about the way I’ve portrayed female relationships in my novels, there is a lot of that in them.  I guess it can’t be avoided!

There must be mothers and daughters who get on really well and never have a single argument, but I would think that’s the exception rather than the rule.  Teenagers being the way they are, with hormones running riot and thinking they’re adults when really they’re only ‘adults-in-training’, there is bound to be strife.

I’m not sure exactly in which era ‘Brave’ is set (11th century?), but it was reassuring in a way to think that teenage girls have always felt the same way.  They may not have had the freedom to express these feelings quite as much as we have (something I have to remember as I write historicals), but they must nonetheless have been simmering under the surface.  And this gives us great tension between our mother/daughter characters, a wonderful timeless source of conflict used in lots of novels.  In particular, it makes me think of poor Mrs Bennett in Pride & Prejudice, with five daughters in the house it’s no wonder she takes to her bed so frequently!

As the ending of the film showed (and I don’t think I’m spoiling it for anyone here as you can probably guess the outcome for yourselves - it is a Disney production after all), the love between a mother and her child will triumph in the end.  The teenager grows into a mature person who can see both sides, while as mothers we also have to adapt and give our children the freedom they crave.  And although, being an incurable romantic, I would still have liked for Merida to fall in love with one of her suitors, it was enough for now that she and her mother were happy together.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Best Bits

You know when your favourite show basically does a compilation show?  An episode showing the best bits, compiled of clips from previous episodes?

I think I'm going to do a post a bit like that. 

You see, I made the mistake of catching up on recent posts by my fellow addicts, and now my brain and heart is fizzing with warm and curious feelings.  There's so many things I want to say!

I couldn't agree more with Christina.  Every post on this blog makes me want to go, "oooh, yes, and what about....?" so I'm going to indulge myself with just that.

Liz's post on the family fishermen reading Morte D'Arthur gave me shivers, because it's a book I read quite early on in my English schooling.  I did, I think, a comparison essay on Arthurian legends, reading the Mallory, Tennyson, and The Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliffe.    It was an early example of my English teacher, Mr Bennett, leading me into challenging and unusual waters.  He's one of those influencial people who are the totems of my writing past, and the reason for my writing future.

View from the top, looking North across Derwent Water
Like Brigid, I loved the Olympics, as much for the stories - or imagined versions - of the competitors as for the sport itself.  I was so PROUD of them for everything they've achieved, and so in awe of the sacrifices that I know must lie behind the gold medals and the smiles and the flags.  I can't watch a single BBC Olympics clip without welling up.  I think what inspired me the most is that sacrifice and dedication - and the way everyone thanked the crowd, the volunteers, the military.... it felt like OUR victory.

I can identify so much with Susanna's post on recharging.  It's easy to say where my special place like that is - Castle Crag, a tiny but dramatic little knoll in Borrowdale, a perfect combination of crag and forest, history and landscape, memory and happiness.  It was the first fell I climbed by myself (although knowing Dad, he probably followed me, ducking behind rocks and into mines whenever I looked round).  Old myths talk about sorcerers putting their heart, or their soul, somewhere else to keep them safe from enemies.  Castle Crag is my heart's place.

I am ashamed to say I think it's been several years since I last went up there.  This must change.

And I'll leave you with a Best Bit from our weekend.  Our Giant Cat (Frankenpippi?  Miss Pippi's Monster?) for our village's Scarecrow Festival, together with her inspiration.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


So I'm late (yet again) with my post here, but at least this time I have a passable excuse: I was up at the cottage we rent every year, on the shore of the lake where I grew up, a few hours north of the place we now live.

That's an actual photo of "my" lake, above, taken on one of my early morning walks along the beach. I don't get up there as often as I'd like to, but when I do, the effect is always the same. Forget expensive spas and treatments--all I have to do is take my shoes off and walk barefoot on the sand, and stand five minutes in the water looking out to the horizon, and I'm instantly recharged.

A lot of this has to do with memory. The wind in the trees at the lake has the right sound, the sound I recall from my childhood, when four tall pines shaded my window and whispered all day and all night, and the birches and maples and mulberry trees made a light-dappled wonderland out of the woods where I played. The stars there at night are in all the right places. I learned how to swim in that lake, and the feel of its water around me still wraps me in comfort.

Each year I come up to the lake feeling tired, like a battery drained all the way down to 'empty', and leave again feeling I'm ready to take on the world and its challenges, and to launch into my writing again with new energy.

Where do you go, when you need to recharge?

(Come back Thursday, for Julie's next post).

Friday, August 10, 2012

Inspiring A Generation!

I have been bitten by the Olympic bug… and I LOVE IT!

Thinking back a few weeks I was being a typical Londoner, moaning about how hard it would be to get to work. Why did we have to put up with all the nonsense mutter mutter grumble grumble.

Then I was persuaded to watch the opening ceremony and I will admit I was hugging a pillow happy to hide behind it if it could cringeworthy and embarrassing. Within minutes the pillow was forgotten as I watched mesmerised, moving from laughter to tears back to laughter.  By the time Her Maj had thrown herself out of the plane I was converting.

The next day I hobbled up to Hyde Park Corner to watch the end of the Men’s Road Race (hobbling due to broken toe – another story). And by the following Wednesday I had happily taken possession of a friend’s spare ticket to the hockey.

The Olympic Park was amazing (and rather too large for someone with a broken toe). Happy volunteers, smiling troops and this amazing buzz made all the more amazing as halfway through the morning GB won their first gold.

Since then I have been unable to tear myself away from the sport. TV on, refreshing websites trying to get my next fix, as fascinated by the stories of how these athletes got there as much as the actual performance. What dedication, what strength… it takes your breath away.

As I write YA I am looking at many of the female athletes some of whom are the same age as my heroines and thinking ‘what great role models they are’ but also, because I’m a writer, what is their life like? How difficult is it to be a teenager and that talented? I want to take the strength of those rowers, swimmers, the first female athletes from certain countries, boxers, taekwondo and weave it through my stories. These are the heroines and role models to inspire a generation!

Me? Well I’m trying to work out what sport I can take up to get me to Rio 2016. The damn broken toe is an issue though, so am thinking archery. Now if someone could just teach me how to do it then I’ll be on the road to gold.

What has inspired you the most about the Olympics?

Come back on Sunday to find out what sport Susanna will be doing in Rio 2016

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Power of Stories

Yesterday morning before eight the menfolk set off on a fishing trip armed with tea, Irish bread, and Mallory's Morte d'Arthur and two other books. It was a morning of sun and other words perfect fishing weather.

Once off Nare Head DS1 chucked a line overboard. DH poured the tea and DS2 commenced reading Mallory aloud (as one does early on a Sunday morning- who knows what the other boat fishing near by  made of the antics on Fenwick boat).

The fishermen returned triumphant with one large mackerel that caught itself...the men say that the fish was so either enchanted with the endless smoting and leapt it onto the hook and once in the boat hoped off the hook. Or said fish offered it's self as a sacrifice so that the Fenwick boat would depart and leave the sea untroubled taking the wrath and smoting with it.

DS2 is reading Mallory and Tennyson for his A level English. The third version of the Arthurian tale they are using is Monty Python's The Holy Grail. I wished this had been an option when I studied these texts in university....

The above illustrates the the power of stories...either in catching fish or recounting a tale many times told. Arthur's story draws us still and each generator is called to tell it's own version....or as we hear again and again as writers - every story has already been told...except maybe the fish smote by DS2 reading Mallory....that is certainly a new twist on the tale....

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two exciting years!

'You know when you click with people?  Well two years ago at the RNA Conference in Greenwich that magic happened.  We were like kids, having breakfast at McDonalds every morning and drinking wine late into the evenings.  One night Susanna mentioned doing a blog together as a way of keeping the magic going and it has.  Being a part of the Heroine Addicts holds onto the camaraderie built on friendship and books and writing ... bliss.'

The above is what Liz Fenwick said when we were talking about the Heroine Addicts and our second anniversary, and I think she speaks for us all.  I can’t believe it’s been two years today since we started this blog – time has just rushed by, as it always does when you’re having fun!

‘Friendship, books and writing’ – bliss indeed!  In fact, I can’t think of anything better and through the Heroine Addicts, we really have kept the magic going.  It’s been especially great in that it’s kept us in touch with Susanna, who we don’t get to see as often, but being together here makes it seem like she’s really close.  Triumphs and tribulations are shared and enjoyed or suffered vicariously.  In the case of triumphs, it’s lovely to know that others are pleased on your behalf, and in the case of tribulations, there’s always a shoulder to lean on.  We all write, we all know how it feels and it’s easy to empathise when the going gets tough.  And a lot has happened in these two years, we’ve all moved forward in different ways and I think the triumphs definitely outweigh the negatives!

Whenever we meet up, there’s a wonderful feeling of belonging, and even when the group photos don’t quite work out (yep, that’s me with my eyes closed!), it doesn’t matter – being together was the important part!

When we first began, I was a bit doubtful about my ability to produce blog posts that anyone would actually want to read.  I was new to the whole blogging thing and other people’s posts always seemed a lot more interesting somehow.  Also, how would I come up with enough topics?  Could I think of something to say each time it was my turn?  The answer (so far) has been yes, because we seem to ‘spark’ off each other and one topic brings to mind another, keeping the momentum going.  It’s great fun and I look forward to reading what the others have to say every week, wondering what they’ll come up with next.

Writing is of course the main theme, but we seem to have covered a whole host of related subjects too, with a few recurring ones such as Professor Snape and other heroes, plotting, inspiration and panicking about various things - all very important!

I’m very grateful to be a part of this lovely group, so HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US and here’s to many more years of the Heroine Addicts – I can’t wait to read on!