Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Making the plot flow better...

I have no Welcome Wednesday guest today but there's still plenty for me to do!

This time of year, I look forward to being cheered up by my front garden beds of montbretia which are interspersed with what was a low lavender hedge when I moved in to the garden years ago. The variery I have is probably the most standard type. I don't believe I have ever bought any of the crocosmia corms, more like my garden invasion started from a small clump given to me by my brother-in-law who loved to have them in his garden.

Part of the genus of the iris family, my corms set new bulblets every year and they have spread more than I really want them to. At times, when the long blades of the leaves overlap the edges of the grass they make it harder to mow the lawn, but I rarely have the heart to howk them out since I love the riot of colour when they flower.the fact that they are winter-hardy means they do survive the wet autums and cold winters that I can have in my garden- often the temperature difference in one day in winter being quite spectacular.

In the US, they are commonly known as coppertops or, I believe, sometimes 'falling stars' . In the UK we generally call them montbretia. They remain in flower for a few weeks around August, but when the leaves die back, a bit, I will have to dig up the clumps and separate them since they are now too well established. It'll be hard effort but worth it to give my lavender plants some more room alongside the montbretia.

Meanwhile, my writerly task today are to centre my mind on the new additions I need to make to get my time-travel novel for ealy tens up to scratch. At the moment it's a bit like my lavender which is being outshone right now. By that, I mean that there are parts of my time-travel novel which are too vigorous and not needed. A bit of culling of words is necessary to make the plot flow a lot better.

I'll let you know how that works out soon.

this photo is from autumn 2013 when both lavender and montbretia had ceased to flower
Enjoy your Wednesday.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The House at Zaronza launches!

Today I'm absolutely delighted to welcome Vanessa Couchman, a fellow Crooked Cat author. 
It's an exceptionally happy day for her since her debut novel officially launches today. It's an incredibly exciting time and one I'm glad to share with her is this small way.
Vanessa's come today with information about her novel, which is set in Corsica, but she's also taken time out of her very busy launch schedule to share a guest post with us.
She sounds very much like me when I agonise over trying to place people in authentic settings in my historical novels, and try to work out what they might be thinking depending on what might have been the moral code of the times.
So over to Vanessa...
Setting in fiction
Novels are about people – or sentient beings in sci fi, anyway – and what happens to them. Just about everyone agrees on that. But characters are also the product of their environment. Their setting profoundly influences their actions, whether they love it or rebel against it.

It’s impossible to dissociate Dickens’ novels from the bustle, grime and undertones of Victorian London. Or to take the harsh but majestic landscapes of Afghanistan out of Khaled Hoseini’s books.

Those authors experienced these settings at first hand. It didn’t take a great leap of imagination for them to describe them. Doing it as effectively as they did is, of course, another matter.
But what about historical settings: Tudor London (Hilary Mantel); or a medieval village (Jim Crace); or occupied France (Alan Massie)? Bringing alive the spirit of a place as it was is no easy task. It’s not only about what it looked like but also about how people experienced living there.  

My own novel, The House at Zaronza, posed me some challenges. It’s set in early 20th-century Corsica and at the Western Front during World War I. I know Corsica quite well. Many of its villages are remarkably unspoilt and you can imagine how they would have looked in the past.

But what was it really like to live there? Corsica might be part of France, but it has always had its distinct culture and beliefs. Surprisingly little was written about it in English until the pioneering books of Dorothy Carrington, who “discovered” the island just after World War II. My novel owes a lot to her meticulous research and quest for the authentic Corsica.

My main character, Maria Orsini, is the daughter of a bourgeois family. She has had a strict and sheltered Corsican upbringing that is challenged when a new schoolmaster comes to the village. Maria’s later experiences as a nurse on the Western Front also test the strict Corsican codes of honour and conduct.

In the extract below, Maria and her friend Sophia discuss the place of women:

A little adventure in my life would have been nice but that seemed unlikely. I would live quietly with Maman and Papa, the well brought-up daughter of a respected family, until they found someone suitable for me to marry…

“I thought I’d find you up here, Maria. What are you doing?” Sophia asked. “Dreaming about princes and maidens again. It won’t do you any good. Life is simply not like that, above all not for women. We do as we are told, we marry the men our parents choose for us, we bear children, some of whom might live to become adults…Do you know, I heard a story about a woman in a village near Corte whose husband allowed her to leave their house only three times during their marriage. Can you imagine it? Being a prisoner in your own home with your husband as gaoler!”

What the book is about:
The past uncovered. Rachel Swift travels to Corsica to discover more about her forebears. She comes across a series of passionate love letters and delves into their history. The story unfolds of a secret romance at the start of the 20th century between a village schoolteacher and Maria, the daughter of a bourgeois family. Maria's parents have other plans for her future, though, and she sees her dreams crumble. Her life is played out against the backdrop of Corsica, the 'island of beauty', and the turmoil of World War I. This is a story about love, loss and reconciliation in a strict patriarchal society, whose values are challenged as the world changes. Love gained and lost.
Buy the book from Amazon:
About the Author
Vanessa Couchman is a freelance writer and author who has lived in France since 1997. She is passionate about French and Corsican history and culture, which inspire much of her fiction. Her short stories have won and been placed in creative writing competitions. The House at Zaronza is her debut novel and she is working on a sequel.

My best wishes to you for a great launch, Vanessa, and for a very happy day. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Paying It Forward

It's Monday Moments time again!

I hope your Monday has dawned as beautiful as mine has.

I've had a long break from promoting the novels of other authors, but I'm picking up the practice again.  Today on my FEATURES blog you'll find Zanna Mackenzie and information about her Contemporary Romance - If You Only Knew - published by Crooked Cat Publishing.

Someone close to me recently asked why I spend the short time I do setting up such a post, instead of using that 15 minutes for my own writing. It's a very good question and the answer is simply that I like the idea of 'Paying It Forward'.

When I first heard the phrase I hadn't a clue what it meant and had to learn. A little help here and there from a fellow author can go a long way. One way to provide that help is to spend those 15 minutes, or so, to set up a simple promotional blog post in the hope that you can increase visibility for the writing in as many places as possible. In reciprocal form, I hope to advertise my own writing by guesting at other blogs, as well.

Since Zanna's post is already up and 'live', the rest of my day is set out quite clearly. It's a lovely sunny day so I have to make both outside and inside progress. My outside progress will be tackling my side of the 12 feet high beech hedge which borders my back garden.

The good news is that my son-in-law is about to tackle it instead of me...though I need to set it up and show him the 'how to'. I have a number of other garden tasks to do since there's a bit of garden clearance going on at present and the need for that will hopefully be divulged in a bit. My lavender, top photo, needs to be collected before the bees and wasps have complete fill. I don't collect and dry it for 'pot pourri' every year but today is the day!

My inside writing jobs have to encompass making a better list of my twitter contacts since I've, admittedly, never learned how to tweet properly and need to do that asap. It's easy to post on twitter but not so easy to use it socially and reciprocate. I also need to learn to use Hootsuite, which I joined over the weekend. My promotional tasks only increase rather than decrease, but that's the name of this writing game.  

Since my re-writes of my contemprary romances are done I'm moving on to the editing of my novel for early teens ...and some NEW writing! I'm so looking forward to that since Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series has been neglected of late.

Itching...I'm itching... but first I'll be itching from the tiny insects on that beech hedge which I love and hate in equal measures. It's a fabulous screening between gardens but it's a b...bind  to cut.

See you later, but please pop over and visit my FEATURES and read about  Zanna's - If You Only Knew.

ps I'm just like Zanna in that I've got her novel on my  knidle but haven't managed to find the itme to read it yet.