Tuesday, 21 September 2010

You insufferable man!

The Mills and Boon New Voices competition has dominated my life since I heard about it last Wednesday – and, I have to admit, the last few days have been uniquely stressful for me. Thanks to everyone for their help and support.

I have read hundreds of entries and left encouraging and gushing comments on many (I’m not good at con. crit. or, at least, in framing it in words that I am confident will not upset the fragile equilibriums of my fellow writers, particularly in the heat of a competition. I think, in this context, it’s nice to be nice!)

Most usefully, however, I have poured again and again over the top tips and advice from the editors, and tried to trace where I, and my fellow writers, have got things right and wrong.

I'm now even more aware of aspects of my writing I need work on - like the use of cliché (see the title of this post!!) The best news is that, if I don’t get through, I think I will know why – and this is also partially down to recent advice given to me by the wonderful Liz Bailey on my overall synopsis.

The issue, both in the first chapter and, in a slightly different way, with the whole book, is Robert’s internal emotional conflict/emotional journey.

In chapter one, I am concerned that I do not really hammer home the internal conflict between Robert's attraction to Dora and his pride and ego as a writer/newspaper owner.  I hint at it in this section:


He looked back her way, green eyes flaring with a calculating intelligence.

‘Sorry, Miss Finch. The duelling ground is no place for a lady.'

‘No place for the daughter of your sworn rival, you mean? You’re scared I’ll tell Papa every little detail, and then his report will be so much better than yours.’

Robert’s expression darkened with impatient irritation - or was it defensiveness? ‘That isn’t it at all.’


But, after that, I let this conflict drop for the rest of the chapter. This is partially due to the matter that Robert does not yet know quite what a ‘threat’ Dora is.  He does not yet suspect she actually writes the paper, and thus she merely ‘amuses’ him at this stage.  However, I worry that this little hint will not be enough for editors to pick up on, even though the internal conflict between their attraction and their egos and pride (and, in Dora’s case, her fierce family loyalties) are flagged in the summary.

In fact, I now wish I had not entered in such a flustered rush and had instead re-edited chapter one for this single chapter submission.  The internal conflicts are better highlighted in the three chapter submission I had been preparing, where I didn’t have to worry so much about chapter one standing alone.

Hey ho! It’s all good – I now understand better one of the things I need to focus on as I polish the manuscript for proper submission. INTERNAL CONFLICT!!

Win or lose, next week I will shake my fist Scarlett O'Hara-style at the glowering sky, and vow 'they're not going to lick me!'

But, in the meantime, a girl needs her pleasures to take her mind off these things, so I was very pleased to see that more pictures of Take That in rowing gear have emerged...

Can't wait to see this video.  Here they are with their rowing doubles!

Jason managed to look yummy even with that regretful beard and...oh, Markie. Butter wouldn't melt...!!! (credit: markowendaily)

Friday, 17 September 2010

I do like to be beside the seaside...

Part two of my Aussie Adventure: 2/9/2010.

The staying awake for the whole journey ploy seems to have works.  I don’t have jetlag...well, unless you count the fact that we over slept until 10am this morning – whoops!

Not to be deterred by a 12.30 lunch appointment, I dashed into town to book tickets for a tour to see the parade of Little Penguins over the beach on Philip Island on Saturday evening. I asked for the ‘best penguin experience money can buy’, which the tour guides found very amusing. So, we have the ‘penguin plus’ viewing platform and a luxury mini-bus awaiting...

Anyway, I also discovered you can get from the hotel to the centre of Melbourne (Federation Square) in 22 minutes, if you walk at top-Kathryn-pace. So I got there and back and had time for coffee in the Victorian National Gallery, and was all present and correct for lunch at 12.30.  In passing (quickly), I admired the Oscar Wilde quote on the front of the Gallery: ‘Life is too important to be taken seriously.’  I think that’s a quote to be taken *very* seriously...

However, walking really fast is alright until you discover quite how knackered you are afterwards. I decided it was time to crack the Melbourne tram system....so I did.

I never did get a decent pic of a Melbourne tram...

I got a day pass outside the uni, having asked a friendly student how the machine worked and how far I could go in Zone One.  I then got a tram through town, down south of the Yarra and down past the Shrine of Remembrance.  I got off there, thinking I might have a look, but then a tram for St. Kilda Beach came along, which I remembered was the furthest I could go on my ticket.  So, always on the search for value for money, on I got, and off I went – and it was stunning.

Below: I meet the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  It was cold...but nothing compared to the ravishes of Bognor Regis, me thinks!

St Kilda is actually not so far from our English Edwardian seaside resorts, but with amazing views back to the Melbourne skyline beyond.  

They were very proud of their little pavilion on the end of the pier, which was built in 1903, but sadly burnt down in 2003.  However, they rebuilt it, and are now very happy again (I took a picture of this, but it didn't come out to well...it's better observed here.)  Apparently I might have spotted Little Penguins and native water rats by the breakwater, but none showed up.  However, I did see lots of kookaburras (NB – I’m not so sure they were kookaburras in retrospect, but they certainly seemed to laugh at me. Another silly pommie tourist fooled!) and some lovely shouty, green parrotty things, as well as plenty of gulls and sparrows. Then I thought I’d better go back to see what was happening back with Chris.

Many enormous thoughts at the University had made him all a bit dazed, so we went to Brunetti’s (world famous cake and chocolate shop) and ate chocolate croissants, which were nearly as chocolately as the chocolatiest ones ever that we had in Budapest last year, but not quite.  We approved, nevertheless.  We then popped to our local Woolworths (the supermarket) for wine, which we’re drinking a bit of now, and supplies for tomorrow for the trek out into the wilds with Jodie.

I better set the alarm if I’m going to catch the 8.39 train from Parliament station. I think I know the way, but we will see...!!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Aussie action...well, sort of.

Okay, back to the start: 30/8/2010 – 1/9/2010.

The 21-hour flight was fine.  Honest. Not a hint of travel sickness, even when we negotiated a typhoon near Manilla (this was fun – they had just served our dinner when the seatbelt sign went on and the casual Aussie pilot said there might be a few bumps.  I managed to keep hold of everything...just.  It wasn’t scary in the slightest, though, just funny. It got even choppier later when we hit another one - ‘tis the season.)  Then again, I was wearing my legendary ‘travel bands’...seriously, they work! If you'd seen me without them on a cross channel ferry in July, you'd understand quite how good they are...

The 21 hours didn't quite pass in a flash, but I found my audio book (I ticked off a whole Thomas Hardy novel) and watching the map of our progress much more interesting than anything the in-flight entertainment had to offer (NB – on the way back I surrendered and watched the French Open highlights and, erm, Top Gear!!)

Flying over Russia at night, I saw the tantalising lights of various towns, possibly Moscow. Talking of tantalising, stopping off in Hong Kong, we could see some amazing mountains beyond the airport, and some high rises, and even some boats on the harbour. But I didn't quite get a chance to immerse myself in Chinese culture...oh well, nevermind!

I don't quite look as knackered as I felt in this pic...

On the second leg, everyone else was boring enough to be asleep (including Chris, who slept through the most entertaining part of the typhoon).  I wasn’t, though, and I managed to look out of a window just as the northern coast of Australia stretched out in front of me in the afternoon sun, which was absolutely breathtaking. We flew straight over Darwin, the coastal plains and then into...endless arid desert.  I’ve never seen ‘nothing’ like it.   With impeccable timing, I also managed to look out just as we were going over Alice Springs but, squint as much as I could at the horizons, I couldn’t see Ayres Rock/Uluru. I think it’s a bit too far off.

Aaaaaaaaanyway, we landed in a choppy cross wind and were swaying all over the place...so that was a repeat of our Venice landing in a blizzard earlier in the year, but the pilot was awesome, and very Aussie and laid-back.  It was so smooth I didn’t realise we’d actually landed at first (Note to mum - I’m not doing any pro-flying propaganda here, really I’m not!!!)

The hotel is pleasant, although there’s lots of renovation work going on.  All of Melbourne feels very ‘off season’ in fact, which is good, in that it’s quiet.  We’re very near the one of the best eating roads, Lygon Street, and, seeing as we slept through breakfast this morning, we found a great Italian cafe with very friendly staff, where they did us a full English breakfast of a very high quality! 

We’ve been exploring today, and booked a wine tour up the Yarra Valley for Sunday at the tourist information centre.  The woman there looked at me like I was mad when I asked if I could get a train to Yerring Station.  Apparently, it's not a station...hmmmm.

Seizing the opportunity to finally immerse ourselves in culture, we went to Melbourne Old Jail, which was very creepy and atmospheric. Turns out they’re very fond of Ned Kelly in Melbourne, despite the fact they hung him!!  I didn’t read all the grisly bits, but Chris did, and came out a bit traumatised.  So he claims.

He doesn't look too traumatised here, mind...

I bought a wombat - because I believe everyone in Australia owns one, and it's good to make an effort to fit in.  He’s called Russell, and he’s very grumpy, but I had to have him the moment I laid eyes on him.  He moaned all the way around the jail, and then even more when he got wet – although, we all did. To be blunt, it pelted it down all day.

Wombat action:

He looks like a Russell, doesn't he? The wombat was possibly slightly drunk in that pic.  Or maybe the photographer was...but more on the wine tour later!

Happy happy, pretty pretty....

As promised, a blow by blow account of my trip to Aus will follow soon (now there's a threat!) but I just need to say:


I'm so happy he has completed the career slam, not least because, before this tournament began, everyone was going on about how he'd never do it (and by everyone, I particularly mean an irritating article by Pat Cash I read in the Herald Sun in Melbourne. I can't find a link to it...maybe because it now looks so daft and mean spirited.)  I did have my sneaky suspicions that all he had to do was to be injury free and to pace his year a little better, something he'd appeared to be getting right so far in 2010...but I dared not hope too hard.

And he did it with just the loss of one set!!!  Yay!!! (although I do feel a little sorry for Novak Djokovic, who seems a rather nice chap.)

Oh, and I highly recommend following Rafa's facebook page  His entries are uniformly adorable and unduly humble...and, yes, there are lots of nice pictures of him looking very tasty indeed!!!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Back from Down Under...

Life seems rather exciting at the moment, so I thought it might be a good time to get this blog going properly.

That said, my mind is hardly in tip-top form right now...prior to the 15 hours sleep I just awoke from, I hadn't slept the whole journey from Melbourne to Heathrow (via Hong Kong) - and the flight didn't leave until 11pm at night, so I'd already been awake some time. Now I feel rather spaced out, to say the least...what's new!?! I will make lots more posts about the trip, plagiarised from the emails I send to Mum when we were there. But for now, here's a list of things to expect much more about in this blog, very soon.

Good things:

My awesome time in Australia, especially seeing Darren, Angela and Jodie.

My book, Duel for Love (nearly finished, and going very well so far!)

Lots of Take That excitement over the next few months...squeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

My pixie collection - I just bought a very rare Double Daisy Pixie on ebay, and I can't wait for him to arrive.

But, for now, I'd better return to my mountain of washing and editing...but here's just a few pics from Melbourne. More to come!!

(top) Drinks in the hotel - we were sober, honest!!

(second) Chris and Darren take demolishing cakes in St Kilda *very* seriously...

(third) Chris, Darren and Angela on a Yarra River Cruise...

Me in a Rainforest (thanks to Jodie's peerless knowledge of the great places to go :)) And Jodie taking a photo (in last pic)

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Hornby Flower Pixies

There aren't enough fan sites on the web for Hornby Flower Fairies! These little dolls were a staple of my childhood, and I have recently dusted them off and become dangerously obsessed. I adore the pixies! Was a doll ever cuter? Am I the only person who thinks their little outfits are the most adorable thing ever?

The little poser on the left is actually my Healing Pixie (you can tell from the blue eyes) but he's dressed here in my Elm Pixie outfit. They tend to fight over who gets to wear the most pink...

Susan Brewer has produced an excellent booklet on the history of these beautiful toys, catologuing as much of the collection as possible (available here), and has blogged about them here.

I am lucky enough to own one of the rare ones, the Holly Pixie, who seems to be worth a few bob. I would love to get my hands on a few of the others, but might have to be patient, and then pay a high price. A Strawberry Pixie recently went on Ebay for over £180!!!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Hello Blog...

Just posting to state my intent to use this thing. Time is not on my side at the moment. I have much writing to plan, much reading to do, and little time to worry about the extras!