Diary of a Writer – September Prompt

This is one of several restored benches in the grounds and gardens of Trumland House, Isle of Rousey, Orkney.

As those of you who have read Bella’s Betrothal will know, I’m interested in and inspired by the work of the great Scottish Victorian architects. Trumland was designed by David Bryce in 1875 for Sir Frederick Traill-Burroughs. Frederick was marrying a much younger and aristocratic lady, Eliza. He wanted to impress.

So, does this little bench inspire romantic thoughts?

My work in progress is gathering momentum now the Edinburgh Festivals are behind us. I also have a few ideas garnered from that trip to Orkney. I added Stronsay to my list of Orkney islands. Truly beautiful in the summer sunshine with Meadowsweet in bloom everywhere.

How were your holidays? Did you come home enthused?

Anne

Round Robin – Travel or Holidays in Fiction

This month Rhobin has asked us to post an extract from one of our novels dealing with either travel or holidays. I have chosen the second book I wrote for MuseItUp, Bella’s Betrothal. It opens in the midst of a journey Lady Isabella Wormsley has had to undertake with only her maid and some retainers to accompany her. A lady travelling alone is vulnerable, but some of them are no pushover…

Blurb for Bella’s Betrothal:

While she is travelling north to find sanctuary from the malicious gossip of the Ton, Lady Isabella Wormsley’s room in a Dalkeith inn is invaded by handsome Scottish Laird, Charles Lindsay. Charles has uncovered a plot to kidnap her, but Bella wonders if he isn’t a more dangerous threat, at least to her heart, than the villainous Graham Direlton he wrests her from. Bella settles into the household of her Aunt Hatty Menzies in Edinburgh’s nineteenth century George Square where Charles is a regular visitor. She has been exiled to the north by her unfeeling mama, but feels more betrayed by her papa to whom she has been close. Bella hopes the delivery of her young cousin’s baby will eventually demonstrate her own innocence in the scandal that drove her from home. Bella’s presence disrupts the lives of everyone connected to her. Direlton makes another attempt to kidnap her and in rescuing her a second time, Charles is compromised. Only a betrothal will save his business and Bella’s reputation. Mayhem, murder and long suppressed family secrets raise confusion and seemingly endless difficulties. Will the growing but unacknowledged love between Bella and her Scottish architect survive the evil Direlton engineers?

The stableyard was a cold and unattractive place at seven on a September morning. There was a light drizzle and the clouds kept the smoke from the town’s fires low over the surrounding streets. Lindsay’s retainer watched in silence as Bella’s coachman and groom strapped the overnight luggage into place. She was surprised to see her men defer to him. They had found fault and irritation with ostlers and grooms and inn landlords all the way north, but Macdonald calmed them. “Where is Mr. Lindsay, Lachie?” Bella asked when he handed her onto the step of the carriage. “I thought he regarded it as imperative I did not stir a foot without his supervision.” “And nor do I, ma’am,” Lindsay said before his steward could speak. He walked two riding horses across the yard. They were serviceable enough, but not the kind of prime bloodstock Bella was used to. “I wanted to keep the horses moving and Lachie is more at ease with the tack of a travelling coach than I.” She looked over her shoulder and the sight of Charles Lindsay in fresh linen and a magnificent heather-coloured riding coat lifted her spirits. He was clean shaven and despite his night-time wanderings, radiated energy and authority. This was how her morning departures should have been, Bella thought. One of her brothers or her cousin, Humphrey Plumpton, should have been in the yards of the wretched inns having dealt with payment and new horses and all the myriad irritations a traveller faced. “Are you unwell, my lady?” Lindsay asked. “No sir. Let us get off.” Bella spoke crossly and regretted it when Lindsay’s expression showed his displeasure at her rudeness, but there was nothing she could
do to retrieve the moment. Pride would not let her admit her family had cast her off without an escort. The pain of that betrayal was like an open wound. She settled into the carriage beside Sophie and let the girl tuck a thick blanket around her. Lindsay had mounted and leaned down from his saddle to speak through the open window. “We checked on Direlton’s men earlier, gave them water. They should be discovered when the grave-diggers reach that corner of the kirkyard later this morning,” he said, and Bella’s eyes widened. “You are surprised, ma’am, but I do not want any bodies laid to my door.” “Nor I, on my behalf,” she said, although truthfully if Aubrey Daunton had died after her cousins horse-whipped him, she would not have been moved to pray for his soul. “Was this all necessary, Mr. Lindsay? Could you not simply have offered me your escort?” “We will not agree, Lady Isabella, so let us not spoil the final stage of your journey by revisiting my actions and decisions. I see you have dressed in robust clothing. Thank you for taking that care.” He leaned away and the carriage lurched forward towards the pend. Bella lifted the window glass and sat back with her eyes closed. The wheels beneath her began to roll rhythmically and she allowed a long breath to escape. It was foolish to cherish his words of praise for her behaviour in dressing as he had instructed, but the closeness of his person as he spoke made her pulse run faster. Smethwick, her coachman, yelled his displeasure at some unfortunate, and Bella felt a smile tease the corners of her mouth. Her parents may have sent her into the world with scant care, but Smethwick and Grimes had been her rocks. And Sophie. She sensed the girl was falling into sleep. They had had little enough last night. * * * *
Bella roused from a troubled doze when Grimes’s harsh accents rent the air. “It’s Mr. Menzies hisself, Smethwick. He must ’ave took care to get hisself ’ere before us, think you?” The other man grunted in assent and began to slow the horses to a walk. Uncle Mack, Bella thought, instantly awake and horrified by the tears welling and spilling. How good it was to reach Edinburgh’s environs at last and have someone waiting for her. Someone sweet and familiar who would not crossquestion her or criticise. “Quickly, Sophie, unwrap me from this rug so that I may greet my uncle.” She pulled the thick folds away from her skirts and sat impatiently while her maid tucked stray hair into place beneath her bonnet. The once elegant head gear was much battered by its journey north and the last hour or two of chance sleep had left it unsalvageable. The girl splashed lavender water onto a handkerchief and dabbed it behind Bella’s ears and onto her wrists. “Thank you, Sophie,” Bella said as the carriage lurched to a halt and Smethwick called to his team. Within a minute the door opened and her uncle stood there. Bella burst into sobs. Great sobs wracked her slight frame and she couldn’t speak. “Calmly now, my dear, calmly,” Uncle Mack said. He hauled the step down and clambered into the vehicle. His weight caused it to rock, but Bella didn’t care. Warmth and love enveloped her every bit as surely as her uncle’s ample personage. Why had she had to travel hundreds of miles to find comfort? “Uncle, I’m sorry. I am so very sorry to be such a watering pot,” she managed between the sobs that shook her shoulders. Her uncle nodded to Sophie and took the girl’s place beside her. His arms came around her, and he gathered her to him like the lost child she was. “Now, my dear, here is James, who you can see has grown beyond anything
since you met him two years ago,” Uncle Mack said, and his words brought a gangly youth forward. The reins of two horses trailed from his left hand. “Why, James,” Bella said as she recognised her uncle and aunt’s eldest son.”You are so tall.” She scrabbled to find a handkerchief and mopped up the tears on her pale skin. “But I would have known you.” “Cousin Bella,” the boy said. A fiery blush swept over his youthful features. “It is so good to have you with us again. Faither, will I ride back and lead your horse? My mither is anxious to have our cousin safely at home.” “Truth to tell, Bella, I prefer to share your carriage, if you think the team will manage up the slope off the toll road?” Uncle Mack asked, but clearly had no doubt because he waved James on as he spoke. Smethwick soon started up the team and the little procession moved off. She lay against her uncle, content to feel the rise and fall of his chest and the tapping of his fingers on her shoulder as he prattled.

Buy Bella’s Betrothal Here

The authors below are also contributing this month and you might go on over to their sites to see how their characters travel or holiday, too.

 


Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Marie Laval http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1GK
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

 

Round Robin – How do you self-edit your work?

How do you self-edit your books before submitting or publishing? This is the question Rhobin asked us to consider in March.

 

 

 

 

 

Self-editing is a complex process and I’ve taken a few days of thought to work out what I might say here.

I have a degree in English Literature and Language and very good language and editing skills – BUT, I’m not perfect and I HAVE NO ILLUSIONS that I might be.

Without or before outside editorial help, what can one do?

RULE No ONE:

Always, always, leave the work to read again. Short articles or blogs, irritated letters to your publisher – you might get away with an overnight gap. Anything longer, a minimum of a week. The reason for setting a MS aside is that you come back to it with the eye of a reader.

RULE No TWO:

Put into Find and Replace a hair colour or the words green/blue/grey eyes in the hope your inability to remember the hero/heroine’s hair or eye colouring will have remained consistent throughout. In my case, it won’t. While you’re doing Find and Replace check out your word tics. My major one is redundant ‘thats’. Great way to reduce a tight word count.

RULE No THREE:

Write out a timeline for all the major characters and find out whether two of them have slammed a door, fallen off a horse, whatever. Good plot ideas have a tendency to hang about.

In General, I start each day with a read-through. Of a novel, this will be from the top for a while, but eventually the words have piled on and time doesn’t permit. I do benefit from the red spelling warnings, but find the purpley ones hinting at grammar issues less useful.

As regular visitors know I’m in a group called Capital Writers. One of our members, Jane Riddell, has produced this helpful guide – Words’worth 

I wrote the bulk of Bella’s Betrothal during my one stint in Nano-Wri-Mo. The advice was to avoid self-editing in order to get the word count up and the words on the page. It was quite a departure to normal practice for me, but that book is full of energy. It has also been edited by me and by the wonderful Judy Roth.

Fellow Robiners are listed below and perhaps you’d like to pop across and read their thoughts. Tweets and FB shares really appreciated, folks.

I’ve left the household to themsleves on the domestic front and will be at the Scottish Association of Writers weekend school when this post goes up. Apologies if it takes me a while to get back to your wonderful comments – How do you cope with self-editing?

Anne


Skye Taylor

Diane Bator

Beverley Bateman


Connie Vines

A.J. Maguire 


Dr. Bob Rich

Victoria Chatham


Helena Fairfax


Judith Copek


Rhobin L Courtright

 

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR – Diary of a Writer

Charles Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having just returned from a delightful walk in the grounds of Dalkeith Palace, I was thinking about my Bella. Her story opens in an inn situated on Dalkeith’s High Street. Within hours, she’s travelling along Charles Street to her aunt’s house in the then fashionable George Square.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Edinburgh remains the city of my heart, I do have some news I’m holding tight about another one. You’ll have to check back to find out what it is, but then that’s what writers do, isn’t it? Tease a little.

Other things coming up in January include the adjudication of the Scottish Association of Writers’ Women’s Short Story competition. I’ll be delivering my decision at their annual conference, the 50th, in March, but the hard work starts this month.

Together with Kate Blackadder, Jane Riddell and Jennifer Young, I produced Capital Writers’ Christmas Stories. Four short stories on the themes we might associate with Christmas.

To complete a trio of great books for your kindle, Capital Writer, Jennifer Young is offering Blank Space at 99p for a limited time.

CAPITAL CHRISTMAS STORIES

BELLA’S BETROTHAL

BLANK SPACE

i look forward to bringing you up-to-date on my exciting, if embargoed news, really soon. Happy New Year, lovely readers, ANNE

Round Robin – Beware – Danger – Violence

This month Rhobin asks – How do you handle or use violence or any type of danger in your stories?

While the Regency is attractive in so very many ways, it was a time of huge inequality, injustice, hunger and, yes, violence. The absence of an established and regulated system of investigation, apprehension and conviction had a massive impact on how people led their lives. Duelling was almost on the way out as a re-dress for ‘insults’, but not quite gone and many families were bereft as today’s are by the rising tide of youth with knives. In addition, the head of the family, almost always a man, held sway. This had the effect you could predict. There were good ones and bad ones. There were some who cared passionately, but gave rise to the origins of the patriarchal society that feminism needed to kick against. There were some, Mr Bennet we’re looking at you, who didn’t care at all.

Justice was hit or miss and to our modern sensibilities brutal and cruel. What civilised society hangs children for stealing food? What civilised society hangs anyone for stealing food? Why are its citizens starving in the first place?

One of the underlying themes of my first novel, Mariah’s Marriage, was domestic violence. The villain, short of ready cash and feeling ‘entitled’, is frustrated in his attempt to win a rich bride and takes his rage out on his sister. She covers up for him in classic fashion, but our clever and courageous heroine works him out. She then faces another battle – How do you make a decent man who would never perpetrate such violence, understand it happens?

In Bella’s Betrothal, the heroine finds herself in enormous danger but she isn’t immediately able to work out who the greater villain is. Is it the man who has invaded her room at the inn? Is it, as he claims, another who wants to trade on her damaged reputation to justify trapping her into unwanted sex? Although written, I hope, with humour and warmth, the threat is real.

 

So how do I ‘use’ danger and violence in my fiction? Well, I hope responsibly, without either the need or the wish to glamourize either. They are a part of the fabric of our human experience and as such they have a place.

 

The Castle Rock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To read what my fellow round robiners think about this hugely important topic go here:

Judith Kopek

Dr. Bob Rich

Victoria Chatham

Connie Vines

A.J. Maguire 

Marci Baun  

Skye Taylor

Fiona McGier

Anne de Gruchy

Rhobin L Courtright 

 

Diary of a Writer – July Prompt

 

A Tinted Lens

Writing Scottish Regency romance – or any kind of Regency romance – means that there’s going to be an alpha male – that’s how it was, folks. So, what does this chap inspire in you? He’s alone. He’s clearly magnificent and although his feathers are down at the moment the photograph was taken, you can visualise them in full glory when he struts his stuff for the harem.

Then we have the fellow below. He’s not so lean, but he’s clearly a fine specimen. He’s also alone. Do the fine feathers inspire?

 

 

 

 

 

Courting the Countess

Bella’s Betrothal

 

Round Robin – In What time period do set your stories?

Topic: In what time period do you prefer to set your stories – past, present, or future? What are the problems and advantages of that choice? Would you like to change? 

 

Unequivocally, I like to set my stories in the past. I do write short stories in the present, but I don’t remember ever having a go at the future.

THE PROBLEMS of writing in the past are two sides of the same coin, On the face of it is the problem created by not having been there. On the reverse is the problem created by having been there.

Dancing shoes with medals

Scottish Regency I wasn’t around in the latter years of George the Third’s reign and his son’s extended regency, but there is ample research material. Books, papers, art, furniture, the laws made, the laws enforced and, the real glory, the Georgian buildings still standing in many British cities. Edinburgh has its magnificent New Town and outriders like George Square where Bella’s Betrothal is set. I can look up the street directories and find out who lived in which house and what their occupation was. You can’t do that today!

One problem that creates difficulties for me in trying to woo some readers is the sheer cliff-face of the shift in attitudes since 1819. Some readers might be turned away by the strictures of life for a woman in that period. They may not wish or aren’t able to get into the mind-set. As a writer I love the challenge of working out how a woman would have made the best of it and, in the case of one’s heroine, bested the hero, her papa, the local lothario…

Midlothian 1950s

I was there and many, many of the thousands of folk who read my debut serial in The People’s Friend last year, A Traveller’s Life, were also there. Memory is a tricksy business. The facts may well be indisputable, but their interpretation most certainly is not. I have two friends from my early schooling who grew up in the village I did and the neighbouring one. Consulting them helped enormously because the sister of one not only remembered the nature of the District Nurse’s uniform and the blue lamp at her gate, but also her name. Another friend had worked as a District Nurse and provided me with the wonderful insight: “And you kept your hat on – no matter the procedure being undertaken.” A little thing, but annoying to the many wonderful ladies (I think that’s right, only women) who undertook such essential work, if you get it wrong.

ADVANTAGES

For me, the principle advantage of writing in the past is perspective. As a writer of fiction I do have a ViewPoint character and the story will be skewed to show that person’s perspective. Writing years after the type of event in the story allows me to have read and thought about what might have happened in those circumstances and what might have provoked it or even resolved it. I may have to give a particular VP, but I can at least allow the others to break the surface of memory’s pool.

WOULD I LIKE TO CHANGE

Maybe. I do have one or two stories I want to tell in the present rather than through the lens of the past. It is, however, very difficult when living amidst the glories of Edinburgh’s New Town and visiting on a fairly frequent basis the wonderful sweeps of London’s great Georgian streets and their magnificent parks, to drag myself into our world of ‘normal’.

WORK IN PROGRESS

It’s a mixture. I’ve got a Scottish Regency on the go having been primed by writing a short story for Capital Writers (more on another occasion). I have a scatty heroine and a set of loveable rogues poised on the threshold of adult responsibility. I’m also, the Fiction Editor mentioned it in her blog two weeks ago, writing a contemporary serial for People’s Friend.

If you want to read others’ views on this month’s topic, here’s the list of great participants:

 

Marie Laval http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/
Anne de Gruchy
https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-14G
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire 
http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Heidi M. Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright
http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Diary of a Writer – October Writing Prompt

A modest selection

Notebooks, notebooks, notebooks…

A staple of any writer’s toolkit and the one we love most, is our notebook. The picture shows but a modest selection from my immodest collection (no, numbers will not be revealed, but suffice it to say the completed ones can be considered as a useful addition to the attic insulation).

The big, plain A4 was in my goody bag at the recent, and excellent, Scotswrite conference of the Society of Authors in Scotland. I love these for jobs like editing and critiquing. I also still find it easy and therapeutic to write long-hand when the pc isn’t available or there’s a wee glitch to be sorted. Something about seeing the words appear and then the crossings-out makes it all very real. The two wee ones are from another goody bag – Romantic Novelists’ Association – and as meet-up swag. Thank you ladies, Annie Burrows and Christine London. The next size up were brought to the launch of Bella’s Betrothal by fellow Capital Writer, Jane Riddell – the elegant black and silver, and bought by me in the V&A – who doesn’t like shoes?

The medium sized ones comprise one for note-taking and, the dark one, for recording everything I send out and how the work fares. Some of the pages have lovely red £ signs indicating a sale or licence fee (I have plays, folks).

So, how many do you have? Did you start out sewing together pages to make a book, aged 6? Doesn’t the simple sight of a notebook prompt you to get started?

Round Robin – Does getting the First Chapter Right Mess Up the Rest of the Book?

This month’s topic is the first post of the fifth year of Round Robins and has been suggested by Skye Taylor:

Has so much emphasis been placed by other writers’ advice, publishers, reviewers, etc. on authors to have a spectacular opening page/1st chapter that the rest of the story sometimes gets left behind? What are your thoughts and experiences with this?

As many of you know I am a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The RNA runs a scheme, possibly unique, whereby people may join as ‘New Writers’ and for a modest fee submit a MS once in the year for critique by an experienced writer in their genre.

I was in this scheme for 5 years and submitted 5 books. The critique of one stated baldly that I wrote a very good first chapter, but the reader needed the rest of the book, too. So, you might say, I’ve had contrary advice and indeed paid for it.

Dancing shoes with medals

I see exactly where Both Skye and the anonymous NWS reader are coming from. I came to the understanding many years ago that it’s the puzzle I’m interested in. My house used to be full of drawers containing the first chapter of a novel or the opening scene of a play or, and this is what eventually made me understand why I never finished anything, the back of a hand-knitted jumper. Once I knew where the story was going or how the knitting pattern worked, there was little need to complete.

I was enchanted by Elizabeth Hawksley’s lovely post about her vintage, antique even, sewing machine. You can read it here. While I knew many people in the late 60s and early 70s who did make and wear their own clothes, my efforts were in general not fit to be seen. Being an ‘A’ student, I learned Latin after 2nd year and so never developed the discipline of making a garment. That’s where the NWS scheme triumphs, I think. You have a go in year one and learn a bit. In year two you do carry that learning forward…and so on. The discipline of completing an annual MS was invaluable.

Other advice will suggest the ending needs to be strong and, in romance, that the ‘black moment’ has to be apparently unsolvable. Carried to extremes all of this turns good writing practice into pastiche, in my humble opinion. Yes, readers remember particular bits, but it can be surprising when people tell you in conversation which bits. They aren’t necessarily anything to do with the landmark moments.

The Menzieses’ House No 20

My friend awaits my Edinburgh based regencies so she can walk the pavements she walked while growing up in Buccleuch Place and indulge in a little sentimental reminiscing.

Other lovely people have been mulling over this topic and they can be found on their blogs below:
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-YV
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com