One year on

This time last year I was reeling from The Call. Feeling nostalgic I decided to look back through this blog to reminisce and discovered I never wrote about it.
So here it is:

Have you ever wondered how writers feel when they finally get The Call? I know I have. Whenever I fantasised about it I imagined whooping with delight and grabbing devastatingly attractive strangers in spontaneous hugs (because one should never pass up the chance to grab an attractive stranger if the opportunity arises).

I certainly didn’t imagine the main sensation would be all encompassing queasiness. Not because I wasn’t completely over the moon, but because my call came after a 5am start, on a cross-channel ferry in February -remember those storms last year?- with the White Cliffs of Dover coming into view.

As it happens I had three calls before the big one and I’ve written about finding out I was through to the final 50 of SYTYCW2013 here https://elisabethhobbes.co.uk/page/5/.

I had two further calls. One telling me I was through to the final 10 which came while I was cooking dinner and almost resulted in me burning it, then another telling me I had finished third in the competition (yippee) but that the manuscript wasn’t quite right for the Harlequin guidelines (sob). Fortunately the editors saw promise so sent me revision notes and I set to work revising and redrafting.

A week or so before going on my annual child free skiing holiday (bad mother) I sent my revised manuscript to Sarah at Harlequin and kept everything crossed that the changes I’d made were enough to make the grade.

And then I got The Big Call. The one that mattered, and the one I never really believed I would get.

A week skiing almost managed to take my mind off things and the drive back from the Alps to Calais finished me off so all I cared about at that point was getting home in one piece. There I was, settled on a lumpy chair with a cardboard cup of lukewarm lemon and ginger tea, trying to ignore the way the horizon kept lurching, when the phone rang showing a number I didn’t recognise.

“Hi, it’s Sarah from Harlequin…”

Yes, she liked the changes. Yes, the manuscript fitted much better with Harlequin Historical’s reader promise. Yes, the emotional conflict between Aline and Hugh worked much better (which I gather readers agree with from the feedback I’ve had).

I tried to sound intelligent and sophisticated, but who am I kidding? I know I apologised for sounding vague, burbled about crossing half of France before breakfast, almost spilled my drink and tried to resist saying ‘please tell me if you want it before the ferry sinks!*’

Which of course, she did.

Cue huge grins and self-conscious glances at the other passengers in case they wondered why I was acting so strangely. Then Sarah mentioned the words ‘two book deal’ and I wished I’d ordered something a little stronger than tea!

As fate had it we were heading back to pick up our children from my in-laws so it was lovely to be able to turn up with such exciting news and a few bottles of Breton cider to celebrate.

And now Falling for Her Captor is out how do I feel? Absolutely thrilled. It’s been so exciting to follow my characters on their journey from my laptop to the pages and learn about what happens once that first life-changing phonecall is over. Reviews have been almost universally positive http://www.amazon.co.uk/Falling-Captor-Mills-Boon-Historical-ebook/dp/B00M1OL2X2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424637155&sr=8-1&keywords=falling+for+her+captor. I have a fabulous new editor, Julia, after Sarah left the company to pursue other things and I’ve met so many lovely people through doing this. I’ve been in the paper and done an interview on BBC Radio Manchester without throwing up in the studio!

I still can’t quite believe that from the first call in Cornwall to seeing my words in print was less than a year and that a year after getting The Big Call I’ve finished a second book and been offered a further contract for another two.

It’s been an amazing year since I sent off that first chapter, and with my second book, A Wager for the Widow, coming out in July and the third in progress the fun is still going on.

*not dissing P&O. It really was horrible weather.

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Title reveal!

Yesterday I was gloomy owing to my day job. Today I’m not so I want to share the title for my next book.

It’s the story of Eleanor and Will and is called A Wager for the Widow which I think has a great alliterative ring to it. It comes out in July (just in time for my 40th birthday so that should take the sting out a bit) and it’s being released electronically and mass market paperback in North America and the UK and as a paperback duo in Australia.

Here’s the blurb:

“I suppose a kiss of gratitude is out of the question?”

Widowed Lady Eleanor Peyton has chosen a life of independence. Living alone on her rocky coastal outcrop, she’s cut herself off from the world of men — until William Rudhale saves her life and demands a kiss!

As steward to Lady Eleanor’s father, Will knows the desire he burns with is futile — but he’ll still wager he can claim Eleanor’s kiss by midwinter. Yet when the tide turns Will realizes vulnerable Eleanor is far too precious to gamble with. Can he win his lady before it’s too late?

I don’t have a cover yet as I’ve got all the fun of describing characters and settings still to come, but I’ll be sharing that as soon as I do. In the meantime, if anyone wants to be super organised and order it the link is here.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wager-Widow-Mills-Boon-Historical/dp/0263247937/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422877956&sr=8-1&keywords=a+wager+for+the+widow

A grumble about teaching English

‘The big ginger cat of London likes eating fish and climbing the curtains.’

‘the enormous marmalade coloured cat of london likes munching his way through mounds of salmon and whizzing up and down the curtains like a yoyo’

Which sentence is correct? Which sentence is better?

According to the new National Curriculum for Year 1, the first is better because the child has achieved the objective of using capital letters for names of places. Never mind the use of descriptive language, we’re not interested in that today. Vocabulary choice isn’t even on the curriculum for Year 1 (5-6 year olds for anyone not from England) and our objectives should be based on the new curriculum and the key skills.

Let me make it clear, I have absolutely no problem with children developing these skills. I think they’re hugely important. As a teacher I work hard to raise attainment in my pupils. I want them to write legibly and grammatically. Children should be able to

write sentences by:
saying out loud what they are going to write about
composing a sentence orally before writing it
sequencing sentences to form short narratives
re-reading what they have written to check that it makes sense
discuss what they have written with the teacher or other pupils
read their writing aloud, clearly enough to be heard by their peers and the teacher

and

leaving spaces between words
joining words and joining clauses using ‘and’
beginning to punctuate sentences using a capital letter and a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark
using a capital letter for names of people, places, the days of the week, and the personal pronoun ‘I’

But surely there is more to writing than that? There is but I decided against cut and pasting the Transcription part of the document. The above was the Composition element. If we all work really hard we might produce a generation of children with accurate grammar and perfect spellings but will we produce children who want to write?

The new curriculum that was taken from came in this academic year. Last year I taught the same topics so had a look through my planning to see what had changed and if I could reuse any ideas. Last year when we wrote poems about the sea, we looked at imagery, we played around with adjectives, wrote sentences on strips of paper, tore them up to change the word order and looked at what happened to the sentence. We watched short films and music videos. Enya’s Orinoco Flow was a favourite as was this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1mX8ptsmBM We created characters and sent them on journeys. One day, when I figure out where he ends up, I’m going to write the pilot’s story myself.

The child who wrote amazing sentences on a wanted poster for their invented pirate got recognition for that even if they had forgotten to capitalise ‘seasick jane, the terror of the west indies’. This year, even with all my best endeavours to make the lessons fun it feels like some of the joy has gone out of it.

As someone who also loves creating stories and images and making a reader feel for a character it all makes me rather sad. Of course I want my writing to be accurate (though I know my lovely editor will pick up on my mistakes and won’t even keep me in at playtime) and wading through an otherwise engrossing book full of typos can be a labour of love, but checking the accuracy is something that comes afterwards. Once my hero has admitted he was too proud and cold to admit his feelings and the heroine has fallen sobbing into his arms after an emotional fight then I’ll go back and check for stray capitals. If all my reviews on Amazon concentrated on the accuracy of my commas I’d probably give up*.

Today Nicky Morgan, the Minister for Education, has announced a war on illiteracy and innumeracy, which is great, because we like funding wars. I just hope she’s planning to fund this war as well as the one on Terror or against places that might affect our oil supply because schools could sure as hell do with the funding! If schools fail to get every child through the tests they risk being turned into academies (taking them out of LA control and giving them to private companies to run) and Headteachers risk being sacked. This is not going to encourage teachers to allow children the freedom to explore language and creativity, or Heads to let them.

Last year I used to get little stories or poems brought in from pupils after the weekend. Not all of them were brilliantly spelled or had the right capitals and full stops but they were fun and showed a genuine pleasure in producing ideas. This year they proudly show me their alphabets written in cursive writing. To me that speaks volumes and none of them have happy endings.

*I won’t- writing is the only plan I have to get out of teaching that doesn’t involve leaving in a box (thank you to you all if you’ve bought my book, if you haven’t please do, I can’t take much more waiting for OFSTED to descend).