A very short post because it’s been a long week. In my other job I’ve had a lesson observation and am in the throes of rehearsals for the Christmas play (insert all the traditional cliches about 5 year olds in Nativities- they’re all true).
On my non-school days (I hesitate to call them days off) I’ve been working on my revisions for my second book. A couple of days ago my editor emailed to say she loved them and we’re there with it.
I wondered if the thrill of having a manuscript accepted would wear off but if anything this feels even better than the first time around because it shows me I wasn’t just a one hit wonder. It’s also important because I’ve proved to myself that I can write to a deadline rather than taking my time over a few years with no real timescale as I did with the first one. Now I’m looking forward to the next stages of the process, which I didn’t even realise existed before FFHC was bought. Hello art sheets and browsing the internet for pictures of my hero to send the cover design team – such a trial. We shall not mention Word document track changes at this point…
I always said I would never read reviews if, and when I got published. I also said I’d stop biting my nails, exercise every day and only ever eat chocolate at the weekends.
Yeah, right. That was always going to work.
A few kind friends offered to vet them for me first but I can’t help myself so every so often I head over to Amazon and Goodreads to have a nosy. As a first time author I wasn’t sure whether getting bad reviews would be worse than getting none but as Oscar Wilde said ‘There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’
I handed my revisions for book 2 in today so have got a bit of headspace to think about what book 3 is going to be, and reading reviews is a good way to focus my mind on why I write. There is something wonderful about knowing that something I’ve done has given people some enjoyment. If I had feedback like this in my other job then writing end of year reports would be much more fun!
I’m collating reviews from different places here so I can find them again easily and for anyone else who wants to have a look. Some of them were written by people I gave copies to but asked for their honest thoughts. What really pleased me about those was a couple of them admitted to not being the target audience but liked it anyway. One is from an author which makes it extra special. none of them (as far as I know) is from my mum.
I’m very excited by this one below because it is on a blog by someone who reads a huge number of books and who knows a lot about what she likes. She’s tough to please so I read it through my fingers but came out smiling at the other side.
I’m in the process of working through revisions for my second manuscript so thought I’d share the first meeting of my heroine and hero as I said I would share an excerpt when I had more Facebook likes.
‘The horseman cursed and wheeled his mount around. He galloped away from the water’s edge then turned. With a sudden bellow he cracked the reins sharply and sped back towards the river. As the horse reached the edge, the rider spurred it forward. The horse leapt through the air with ease to land on the deck alongside Eleanor. The ferry bucked, the far end almost rising from the water. Hooves clattered on the slippery wood and the animal gave a high-pitched whinny of alarm. It was not going to stop!
As a cumbersome looking saddlebag swung towards her Eleanor threw herself out of its way. The railing caught her behind the knees and she stumbled backwards, her ankle turning beneath her. Cursing, she flailed her arms helplessly, unable to regain her balance as the river came up to meet her.
The soaking never happened. Something stopped Eleanor with a jerk. Her feet slid on the deck and her head snapped back. Cold spray splashed over her face, her plait dipping below the surface of the water. Blinking rapidly, she raised her head to see what had stopped her fall.
The horseman, still mounted, had twisted across his saddle at what seamed an impossible angle. He leaned almost horizontally over the platform, the neck of Eleanor’s cloak bundled in one gloved hand. Eleanor found herself staring up into a pair of blue eyes half hidden in the depths of his hood.
With ease the man pulled Eleanor back to her feet. Still holding her he threw his leg back across the saddle and dismounted gracefully. As she stood upright a spear of pain shot through Eleanor’s ankle. She gave an involuntary gasp and her knees buckled. With the same speed as his initial rescue, the rider’s arms found their way round Eleanor’s waist, catching her tight and clasping her to him before she slipped to the ground.
“I’ve got you. Don’t wriggle!”
The man’s hood fell back and Eleanor saw him clearly for the first time. He was younger than his voice had suggested. A long scar ran from the outside corner of his eye and across his cheek, disappearing beneath a shaggy growth of beard at his jaw. A second ran parallel from below his eye to his top lip. His corn-coloured hair fell in loose tangles to his shoulder. Close up his eyes were startlingly blue.
Footsteps thundered on the deck as Eleanor’s coachman appeared. It struck Eleanor suddenly that the man was still holding her close, much closer than was necessary, in fact. She because conscious of the rise and fall of his chest, moving rhythmically against her own. Her heart was thumping so heavily she was sure he would be able to feel it through her clothing. As to why it was beating so rapidly she refused to think about.
“You can let go of me now,” she muttered.
The horseman’s eyes crinkled. “I could,” he said, “though I just saved your life. There must be some benefits to rescuing a beautiful maiden in distress, and holding her until she stops shaking is one of them. I suppose a kiss of gratitude is out of the question?”
“You didn’t save my life. I can swim,” Eleanor cried indignantly. It was true she was trembling, but now it was from anger. “I am most certainly not kissing you!”
The man’s forehead crinkled in disbelief. “Even though I saved you from a cold bath?”
Eleanor’s cheeks flamed. “It was your fault in the first instance, you reckless fool. You could have capsized us all. Your horse might have missed completely.”
The horseman laughed. “Nonsense, it was perfectly safe. Tobias could have cleared twice that distance. If you had stood still none of this would have happened. You panicked.”
With an irritated snort Eleanor pushed herself from the man’s grip, contriving to elbow him sharply in the stomach as she did so. She heard a satisfying grunt as she turned her back. She headed to the carriage but her ankle gave a sharp stab of pain. She stopped, balling her fists in irritation. The horseman leaned round beside her. “Allow me,” he said. Before Eleanor could object he had lifted her into his arms and strode the three paces to the coach. With one hand on the door-handle he cocked his head. “Still no kiss? Ah well, it’s a cruel day!”
“There are no circumstances under which I would kiss you!” Eleanor said haughtily, sweeping her gaze up and down him.
His face darkened and Eleanor took the opportunity to wriggle from his arms. Biting her lip to distract herself from the throbbing in her ankle she swung the door open herself and climbed in, slamming it loudly behind her.’
Today on Twitter is the Historical Romance Network’s Fall Back in Time event
Now, I love a good historical read and have done ever since I was little. I remember spending a coach trip to the Lake District with my nose stuck in a Jean Plaidy (Murder Most Royal I think) and barely seeing the scenery.
I’m also a sucker for dressing up whenever I can. I date that back to being in Year 5 (aged around 9 or 10 for people thinking in old money) and being chosen to try on the crinoline on a school trip to the Castle museum. There’s something wonderful about putting on a costume and being transported to another time.
Here, for your amusement are a few of the times I’ve had fun dressing up. The one medieval outfit I’ve worn I don’t seem to have a photo of which is a shame. It was a lovely green dress (maybe that’s why Aline wears green) with huge sleeves and I like to think me hero wouldn’t have been able to resist me.
I encourage you to try costumes on whenever you can. Who knows where it might lead.
Or course some periods are more flattering than others..
Falling for Her Captor has been out for a month now and I’d like to say a huge than you to everyone who has taken the time to review or let me know what you think if the book.
It’s been a busy month with guest blog posts, interviews and trying to keep on top of reviews and suchlike. I finally feel like I’m coming up for air.
I told myself I wouldn’t read reviews but I couldn’t resist in the end and I’m ecstatic to say that almost all the ones I’ve found (Amazon and Goodreads) have been amazingly positive.
Comments such as ‘I thought i would just read the first chapter before bed at 10:30 last night… 3:00 in the morning i finished it!‘ and ‘kept me gripped right til the end and I really cared about the main characters…I’d love to know what happened after the last chapter for Aline and Hugh.‘ and ‘A feisty heroine, a drop-dead gorgeous hero, a nastier-than-real-life villain, and sweeping scenery make this a must-read for all historical romance readers‘ are a joy to read. If reviews are the author’s Performance Management then I think I’m doing ok.
It’s such a thrill to know people like the story and characters. If you’ve spotted a review somewhere else please link me to it.
So what’s up next?
Tomorrow I’ll be taking part in The historical Romance Network’s Fall Back in Time event on Twitter https://www.facebook.com/events/512905705479257/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming and posting a pic of me with the first Historical I read (and maybe a couple of other favourites for good measure). Why not join in the fun and tweet a selfie of yourself reading historical fiction using the hashtag #fallbackintime and maybe win one of the great prizes offered by authors taking part.
I’ll also be working hard on revisions to get my second manuscript back to my editor within the next couple of weeks.
NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow of course. Last year I wrote the first two chapters of manuscript 2 then got caught up in SYTYCW and revisions of FFHC so it took a lot longer before I picked the story up again. I’ve started on my third story and hopefully I’ll get time to get a little further with that.
Right now though the kids are in bed after a fun evening trick or treating, I’ve just finished a large glass of ginger beer (alcoholic of course) and there’s a bubble bath with my name on it.
This is my writing notebook, though it hasn’t always been that. It started life with a much more serious purpose.
Not long after starting on my second manuscript I realised I was on a much tighter time frame than first time around and had better try organise myself. There had to be a lot less making it up as I went along (yes, yes, but shhh, you know what I mean) than first time around. I chanced upon a great blog post about how to increase word limit http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/how-i-went-from-writing-2000-words-day.html (read it, it’s good. There’s a book too) and decided to follow the advice. Obviously the first thing I decided I needed was a notebook so I went upstairs, had a good rummage on my shelves and unearthed this one which I had forgotten all about.
Then I had to put it back on the shelf and go sit down for a little while with a cup of tea because finding it again messed with my head a lot.
After the birth of my second child I developed full-on, mind-melting, 4a.m. floor-pacing postnatal depression. It was understandable I suppose. We sold and moved house not long after she was born, with all the stress that involves. My husband was working away, we have no family close by and I had a 19 month who was already exhibiting signs of what would turn out to be Asperger’s Syndrome. It was all overwhelming. I pushed myself through days and resisted taking medication, partly because I was breastfeeding and partly because as a society we have a very strange attitude towards mental health issues. I’ve thought long and hard about even writing this because it is feels like outing myself as some sort of freak or failure as a functioning human.
I would never have refused drugs for a heart problem or epilepsy but being a bit sad, well, we just don’t like to go there do we, even when describing depression as being ‘a bit sad’ is like describing a broken leg as ‘a bit annoying to walk on- don’t make a fuss, push it out of your mind and stop being silly, of course you can run a marathon!’
Eventually I saw my GP and asked for counselling. She was wonderfully understanding, not at all judgemental and put me straight down on the six month minimum waiting list.
Six months. Almost as long as the time my baby had been alive. Six more months of feeling defeated, useless, despairing and exhausted. I couldn’t wait that long. I admitted defeat and started taking medication and started to feel better in very small increments but I knew I needed something else too.
My husband went out and scoured Waterstones for some self help books and found me a book on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I made myself read it, even when I really, really didn’t want to. It had helpful -incredibly helpful though not easy- tasks to complete.
I did them in my cheerful stripy notebook. The brightest I could find that wasn’t too girly or covered in flowers because I wanted something bright to look at on the dark days.
I spent a lot more time crying, a load more nights lying on the sofa or curled up in a corner, many months still doubting myself and feeling like I’d never come through the other side but eventually I turned a corner. Once more, a nod and raised glass to the ladies to whom Falling for Her Captor is dedicated. With absolutely no exaggeration whatsoever they have stopped me from sinking on so many occasions.
I got the counselling too and that helped and eventually I stopped using the notebook, about halfway through. I put in on the shelf and after a couple of years I forgot about it.
Things brightened up and I put myself mainly back together. I started teaching again I became a person rather than simply a human shaped sack of Mum and misery- see previous posts for puree related ennui.
Now all those years later and I decided to try mapping out chapters, discovering the notebook was a bit of a punch to the chest. I had come such a long way and I had barely even realised it was happening. I had been panicking that I’d never be able to finish a second book. Did I have a complete story in me? Could I get it done to deadline? Would me editor tell me they’d made a mistake and ask for the money back??? Reading some of the things I had written were very bloody hard but to be able to look back and see where I had been and where I was now was very emotional. I don’t intend to read them again, but it was the little kick I needed to get my head down, plan and write and get on with what I had to do.
I made more tea, turned the book upside down and began to plan my chapter. The method worked. Hooray! I planned, wrote longhand, scribbled dialogue and drew lots of boxes and amazingly managed to get the manuscript to my editor over a month in advance. Double hooray!! Now I have the revisions back and they look doable.
There are 4 pages left in the middle of the book between what I have written now and what I wrote then. The gulf between my mindset then and now is too big to span.
There isn’t really a moral to this story (or a point, I hear you cry?) except this. Depression isn’t something that ever goes away. I still have it and I suspect I always will. The mental heart murmur or psychological diabetes is never cured, you just learn to manage it better. You may know someone who lives with depression. Chances are you do whether you know it or not because as I’ve said, the stigma means it takes a lot of guts to admit it and guts isn’t often what you have when you’re at the bottom of the pit. If you do know someone make sure you look out for them. If the colleague who usually jokes looks a bit absent one day make them a cup of tea. If the mum at toddler group is looking frazzled go chat to them. If the parent walking round the supermarket with a toddler clinging on looks like they’re going to burst into tears then give them a sympathetic smile when they knock oranges flying.
Support Mental Health charities, they do great work and don’t receive much funding.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going so shuffle off and start work on those revisions.
Back long before I ever thought I’d get published I made a Facebook page for the book and amused myself by deciding who I would like to play the parts. For a bit of a distraction on a wet, gloomy Sunday afternoon here is the album. Hugh alternates between being Richard Armitage and Tom Ellis depending on my mood. Henry Cavill was always the bad guy though, I think it’s that stare that does it.
If you’ve read the book I’d be interested to see what you think of the choices. Who else did you have in mind when you read it? I’d love to hear!
Falling for Her Captor has been out for two weeks now and has already received some lovely reviews so I decided I’d celebrate with an excerpt.
It was late before the Duke allowed Aline to return to her chamber. In a daze she barely registered the fact that the door was unguarded and unlocked. Walking into the room, she stopped in shock. Seated in her chair, silhouetted in the light of the dying fire, was a figure. Her hands flew to her mouth to stifle her cry of alarm and at the sound the intruder looked up.
‘I’m sorry,’ Hugh said gently. ‘I did not mean to startle you.’
‘What are you doing here?’ Aline demanded.
Her heart thumped in her chest. Her eyes slipped to the curtained bed and she felt heat rising to her cheeks and throat as images crossed her mind that she knew were utterly inappropriate.
Hugh rose from the chair. At some point he had removed his coat. The flickering light of the fire caused interesting shadows to move across his chest, where his shirt lay open.
He smiled. ‘Waiting for you of course.’
‘But why are you here?’ Aline asked.
Hugh’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. ‘After this afternoon, where else could I be? I needed to see how you fared.’ He brushed back a stray lock of hair that had fallen across his eyes and fixed Aline with a look that sent shivers through her. ‘I had come to bid you goodbye,’ he whispered gruffly.
‘Had come?’ Aline asked, her heart missing a beat at his words.
‘I was going to leave Roxholm,’ Hugh admitted. ‘For ever. The thought of seeing you every day, knowing you belonged to Stephen, was too much to bear. But that would be the coward’s way. I will not let you face him alone and friendless.’
He took her hands, pulling her closer, and Aline felt the enticing warmth of his body.
‘Say the word, Aline, and I will be your champion, your defender. Whatever you wish of me I will do.’
Aline’s mind flashed back to Stephen’s parting words: ‘Your conduct will be impeccable. If I hear the mere hint of you casting your eyes at another man I will have him executed and brand you as an adulteress. As much as it would pain me to see your beautiful face disfigured, I will do it.’
‘No!’ she shook her head. ‘I don’t want a champion.’ She pulled her hands free and stepped back. ‘I wish I had never met you—never laid eyes on you!’
At the bitterness in her voice Hugh recoiled as though he had been stabbed. He balled his fists and lifted his chin sharply. ‘Then, if it is your wish, I shall leave Roxholm immediately.’
He stalked past her to the door. She caught him within three paces, the sound of her light step causing him to pause in his exit. ‘Don’t leave!’
‘What do you want of me, Aline?’ he asked, flinging his arms wide in exasperation.
She recoiled at the anger in his voice and shook her head, momentarily lost for words.
‘How else do you want to wound me?’ Hugh asked, his voice gentler now but full of pain.
‘I…I’m sorry… I didn’t mean… I only meant…’ Aline stopped, her eyes brimming with tears.
Hugh reached his hand to her face but stopped short of touching her.
Aline raised her face and closed her eyes. ‘Because marriage to him might have been bearable if I had never known you,’ Aline whispered, her voice trembling.
At her words a hot burst of passion raced through Hugh and he could restrain himself no longer. With a fervour that took him by surprise he pulled Aline close, his strong arms imprisoning her, one hand encircling her slender waist, the other across her back as he buried his face deep in her hair.
Aline leaned her head against Hugh’s chest with a soft sigh. Her arms found their way around his waist, pulling him closer as her breaths came deep and fast. He pulled her tighter until he could feel every contour of her body. She melted against him as if she was wax, her fingers sliding up to his jaw, brushing against his beard, and he gave an involuntary moan of desire, his lips parting in anticipation.
At the sound Aline froze, her arms dropping to her sides. Hugh opened his eyes in surprise. Aline’s eyes were closed and tears glinted on her long lashes, coursed down her pale cheeks.
‘Aline—’ Hugh began, but Aline cut his words off with a strangled sob. He wrapped his arms about her again but she broke away from him, her shoulders shaking. ‘I just want to protect you,’ he said gruffly. ‘Let me look after you.’
‘I don’t need your help—it’s too late for that now. I asked you to release me before, but you refused. I can’t blame you for all my ills, but you brought me here on his orders.’
Aline looked deep into Hugh’s eyes and he saw the anguish mirroring her own.
‘I cannot do this, Hugh. I cannot let myself get close to you. If you feel anything for me at all, go now. Please don’t make me ask again.’
Hugh nodded. He turned on his heel and left, closing the door softly. Through the heavy wood he could hear Aline’s sobs as they grew thicker and faster. He stood there, for how long he could not say, his forehead and hands pressed against the door, sharing in her grief until no further sounds came from the room. Then, with strength of will he had not known he possessed, he walked away.