Thursday, 31 January 2013

University - then and now

I’m challenging myself to click ‘Random Article’ in Wikipedia, and write about whatever article comes up first – and these random articles seem to be becoming more and more obscure. The first one to come up today was a short article about the ‘Popular University of Chontalpa’ which is a public co-ed university in Cardenas, Mexico. I did take a look at the university website, but of course it was all in Spanish, and my knowledge of Spanish ends at ‘Dos cervezas por favor’.
So – universities? I could write about my own experience at university (a long time ago!) and tell you how I hated my first year, started to enjoy my second year, and loved my third year. I could talk about the old and draughty buildings (Victorian and Edwardian), and the equally old (or so it seemed) professors and lecturers, the dusty stacks and huge mahogany tables in the Arts Library, and the chipped formica-topped tables in the students’ union café (in the basement) where we queued for stale sandwiches at lunchtime. I prefer not to think of the small dingy room I rented in a terrace of Victorian houses which had been all joined together to provide cheap ‘student accommodation’ (with one bathroom for about a dozen students!). All a far cry from the modern academic and residential campuses that have been developed since my time there.
However, looking back, I had one great advantage over the students of today. My tuition fees were paid by my local education authority (which was the norm then), and I also received a living grant from them. A grant, not a loan, and more than adequate to pay all my living, travel and other expenses. I didn’t have to find a job during term-time on order to pay my way, although I did have summer vacation jobs. The main effect, though, was that when I finished University, I had no debts whatsoever and, at the time, jobs were plentiful.
I feel sorry for today’s students who will finish university with about £50K (minimum) of debt to pay back and, if the current recession continues, they’ll face a dearth of available jobs suited to their academic achievements. In the 1960s, one of our Prime Ministers told us we’d ‘never had it so good’ – and in the case of students, I think he was right! We didn’t realise then how lucky we were compared with today’s students.
It’s something we need to be aware of in our writing too. If our characters have been students, they’ll have debts to pay off (unless, of course, they have rich families). The heroine in my current ‘work in progress’ has financial problems, partly due to having to pay back her college loans, and has to make a decision when an expected source of money is presented to her.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


This week’s topic for The Writers’ Post is ‘Popularity’ and the host is Jennifer Wilck.
According to Wikipedia, “Popularity is a social phenomenon that dictates who or what is best liked.” We see it everywhere in society, in the ‘popular culture’ that surrounds us, whether it’s songs, movies, TV shows, singers, actors, celebrities, or even popular foods and drinks. When something gains the attention of a group, it becomes ‘popular’, the media catches onto the craze and the whole thing snowballs.
Think of the hype surrounding ‘50 Shades’ last year. It didn’t matter whether the books were good, bad, or indifferent. They became ‘popular’, firstly because of an aggressive marketing strategy, and then because of the snowball effect, helped by the media, and then because everyone was asking everyone else, ‘Have you read it (or them)?’
What about fashions in clothes? Who decides what colours will be ‘popular’ this spring, or what styles everyone will be wearing? Or which shoes and handbags?
The crucial word in the Wikipedia definition, to my mind, is ‘dictates’. The popularity of many things is ‘dictated’ to us. In addition, the marketing experts know that the easiest section of society to influence is young people. Many of them want to be seen to be following the popular trends, whether in fashion or music or the ‘best’ club or pub in town.
Some people never really grow out of this. They continue to be influenced by what is ‘popular’. Others go completely the other way, and go all out to be ‘different’. The majority of us, I would suggest, gradually learn our own preferences, regardless of what may or may not be popular. In other words, we become individuals, making our own decisions about what to wear, what music to listen to, what movies to see, what furniture or kitchen equipment or technology products to buy, regardless of whether these are ‘popular’ or not.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The final 'Six Sentence Sunday'

So we come to our final ‘Six Sentence Sunday’. I’ve enjoyed ‘meeting’ so many other writers through this blog hop, and want to thank you all for your friendship and also all your comments. Thank you, too, to Sara Brookes for hosting SSS since February 2010.
I understand there are 'alternatives’ being set up – the details of two of these are given below.
Meantime, here’s my six from ‘Dream of Paris’ for this final SSS:

Anna and Matt accompany a group of senior students (from the school where they both teach) to a weekend conference in Paris. On the last night, they’re not on duty at the college where the group is staying, and they stroll along the pathway by the River Seine, stopping when they reach the southern façade of Notre Dame Cathedral. And now they have their first kiss…
Matt’s hand tightened around hers, but when he didn’t reply, she turned to him. The soft heat that simmered in his eyes made the hairs on her skin stand on end. Everything inside her did a double somersault, but she stayed motionless, mesmerised as he leant towards her.
Slowly, almost hesitantly, his lips brushed hers, in a brief and tender connection that sent warm pulses of pleasure dancing through her. When he moved fractionally away, she brought her hand up to grasp his arm. He let out a quiet groan and his mouth returned to hers, now intense and hungry.
Blurb: Anna Richards has a dream of going to live and study in Paris, but when Matthew Carlton comes into her life, her dream changes direction. Attraction sparks between them, but Matt’s behaviour is strangely inconsistent. Anna is shocked when she discovers the reason and is sure there is no future for them. Can Paris work its magic and make her dream come true?
'Dream of Paris' will be released next month.
Here are the links to alternatives to SSS:
Weekend Writing Warriors – very similar but with eight sentences instead of six

Or, if you want to post longer extracts (i.e. 6 paragraphs) you can sign up for Sneak Peek Sunday

Thank you again to everyone!


Friday, 25 January 2013


This week’s prompt at GBE2:Blog On is ‘Music’.
Where do I start with music? After all, I remember the start of rock and roll with Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock’ in the mid-50’s, I lived through the Elvis era, the Beatles era – and everyone else since then. I remember the days of the gramophone and 78rpm records made of shellac that broke if you dropped them.
So I have a lot of musical memories. Many songs stir up memories of different events and times in my life. Probably my favourite of all time is ‘A Certain Smile’ by Johnny Mathis. I only have to hear the intro to that, and I’m transported back to my teens…
If you looked at my pile of CDs, you’d soon discover the breadth of my taste in music – the Three Tenors sit side by side with country music, Irish songs, music from the movies, Edith Piaf, Sinatra, Neil Diamond, Elvis and Alfie Boe.
However, one genre dominates – musicals, both stage and screen.
I only have to hear the start of ‘O-o-o-kla-homa – where the wind comes sweeping down the plain’ and I’m back in the theatre where I first saw the stage version of this, which began my lifelong love of musical theatre.
I can’t sing to save my life, but I spent many years working backstage with the local amateur Musical Theatre, and so many songs from the shows bring back memories, far too many to list here, but here’s one:
‘Take me back the Black Hills’ from ‘Calamity Jane’ – the chorus members are parading up the theatre aisle, harmonising beautifully. On stage, behind the curtains, I’m rushing around madly, trying to find the American flag to disguise the bar from the previous scene. It isn’t where it should be, but the curtains are due to open as the first members of the chorus reach the bottom of the steps leading to the stage. Two seconds to go, and I finally locate the flag and hang it in place, slinking off the stage just as the curtains sweep open—and then taking the rest of the scene to get my breath back, and my heart beat to return to normal.
Currently, the music of ‘Les Miserables’ is top of the pile. I’ve seen the stage show ten times, and the movie twice (so far!), and rushed out to buy the movie soundtrack earlier this week. As I write this, ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ is making all the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end…

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Did the earth move for you?

I’m challenging myself to click ‘Random Article’ in Wikipedia, and write about whatever article comes up first. Today’s article is Lick Prairie Precinct, Wabash County, Illinois, but all it tells me is that it is one of the eight precincts of Wabash County, and no town exists in the precinct.
Great! How am I supposed to write something about a place with nothing? The only clue came from the 3rd (and final) sentence in the very short article which says that the 2008 Illinois earthquake was epicentred towards the middle of the precinct.
So maybe I could write something about earthquakes - except that I live in England, and any tremors we get here are very minor, mostly 2 or 3 on the Richter scale. The last one I remember was about four years ago. I was sitting here at the computer, writing an email, when my office chair (which is on wheels) suddenly jerked forward. Then I saw my computer screen shaking for a few seconds. I continued with my email and told my friend, “I think we’ve just had an earthquake!” It was confirmed by a TV report about fifteen minutes later.
Coincidentally, this earthquake was similar in intensity to the one in Lick Prairie Precinct and happened the same year. Ours was 5.2 strength in February 2008, and the Illinois one was 5.4 in April 2008. Now I can ‘show off’ (because I did some research about earthquakes on behalf of my volcanologist hero in ‘Changing the Future’) and point out that a 5.4 magnitude has a shaking effect twice as large as a 5.2. However, earthquakes between 5.0 and 5.9 are only considered to be ‘moderate’. They may cause some damage to poorly constructed buildings, but none or only slight damage to other buildings.
Since I’ve challenged myself to link the topic somehow to writing, I started to wonder how I could write about a strong earthquake when I’ve never experienced one. Yes, there are movies about earthquakes – I think the first I ever saw was the 1930’s movie ‘San Francisco’ with Clark Gable, Jeannette MacDonald and Spencer Tracy. But, while these may seem realistic they are, of course, generated by the special effects department. YouTube or other videos of ‘real’ earthquakes may help but any film will only show the sights and sounds, and not how it actually feels when the ground shakes or rocks, or a building sways. Next on my ‘research’ list would therefore be friends who live in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or other places in California.
I must admit I’ve always had a secret longing to have a ‘bedroom’ scene in one of my novels, when, after an earthquake, the hero can utter the immortal words, “Did the earth move for you, honey?”

Tuesday, 22 January 2013


This week’s topic for The Writers’ Post bloghop is ‘Masterpiece’. The host, Jenn Duffy-Pearson, is challenging us to share our creative endeavours.
Hmm, if we’re talking about anything visually ‘artistic’, this could be a very short post, because I am simply not artistic!
My grandfather, who started work in a weaving mill when he was 12, was soon transferred to the design department because of his artistic skill, and eventually became chief designer. When he retired, he moved to the country, and devoted his time to his two main interests, gardening and painting. He won prizes at local shows for his vegetables, and also for his dahlias. He loved to paint his flowers, too, and the walls of his house were full of flower paintings.
Sad to say, I did not inherit any of his skills. I can’t draw, and even the supposedly ‘easy to grow’ pot plants die on me! When I ran a Girl Guide unit, I had to rely on others to organise the ‘crafty’ activities for the girls.
The only artistic pursuit in which I’ve had reasonable success was making greetings cards, but sticking different shapes on a piece of card can’t really be called ‘artistic’.
I take lots of photos, especially when I’m on holiday, but although I have a vague idea about the ‘composition’ of a photo, I tend to simply point and shoot the scenes I like. Some turn out reasonably well, others less so!
So, as far as the visual arts are concerned, I don’t really have much chance of creating a masterpiece. And, although I’m a writer with eight published novels (and a ninth due out next month), I don’t kid myself that I’m ever likely to produce a literary masterpiece either. It’s enough for me that I enjoy what I do, and also that the people who read my novels enjoy them! After all, if I created a masterpiece, I might become famous – and, in last week’s bloghop, I told you how much I would dislike that!
My only 'claim to fame' is that my latest novel, 'Her Only Option' was recently voted Best Romance Novel 2012. I can't claim it's a masterpiece, but at least it was a winner!


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Six Sentence Sunday

For these final two weeks of Six Sentence Sunday, I’ll give you teasers from ‘Dream of Paris’ which will be released next month.
Anna is a teacher at a high school, and is trying to quell her attraction to the new Deputy Headteacher, Matt Carlton. This excerpt takes place at the school prom when, to Anna’s delight, she finds herself dancing with Matt – even though they are swaying to the music about a foot away from each other. But then fate steps in -
When a group of girls started to back into them, Matt caught her hand and moved her sideways out of their way. At the same time, he slipped his arm round her and drew her closer. Automatically she brought her hand up to his shoulder, and he swung them both into a pivot, which carried them away from the other dancers.
His leg pressed between hers as they turned, and the melting sensation in her stomach became a flood of arousal. Hot pulses of pleasure throbbed through her, and her mind shut down, allowing a million pinpricks of desire to run riot.
He smiled down at her and his dark eyes softened as his arm tightened around her.
Here’s the (provisional) blurb for 'Dream of Paris':
Anna Richards has a dream of going to live and study in Paris, but when Matthew Carlton comes into her life, her dream changes direction. Attraction sparks between them, but Matt’s behaviour is strangely inconsistent. Anna is shocked when she discovers the reason and is sure there is no future for them. Can Paris work its magic and make her dream come true?
A huge thank you to everyone who voted for me in the Preditors and Editors 2012 Poll. When voting ended last Monday, 'Her Only Option' was in 1st place in the Romance Novel Category! The ‘official’ announcement of the results hasn’t yet been made but hopefully, once everything has been checked and verified, I’ll retain that top place.

Read more 6 sentence excerpts from the other Six Sentence Sunday authors here.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


My ‘random article’ from Wikipedia this week was a short article about HMS Eastbourne. At first I wondered what on earth I was going to write about a Type 12 anti-submarine frigate of the UK’s Royal Navy!
When I discovered that this ship was used to train apprentices in the operation of her engines and machinery, and then to train officers from the RN Engineering College, I immediately thought of my grandson. He started university in Bristol last September and also applied to and was accepted by the University Royal Naval Unit, which is a training unit providing an insight into naval life for undergraduates.
When he came home at Christmas, my ‘midshipman’ grandson was full of all the activities he had done with the unit. He also amazed us by being able to name all kinds of Royal Navy ships – frigates, destroyers, PT boats (etc!). He was full of enthusiasm for what is currently his ‘hobby’. Although he hasn’t yet made any commitment to sign up for the Royal Navy, his interest has encouraged him to find out as much as he can about it.
So what has this to do with writing? It occurs to me that we should be just as enthusiastic when researching for our own novels. If it becomes a chore, then we are doing are readers a disservice because our lack of interest in the subject will show, and if we skimp on the research, we’ll probably make countless errors.
I write contemporary novels, but still have to do a lot of research. Maybe not as much as those authors who write historical novels, but there’s still a need for research.
‘His Leading Lady’ had a musical theatre setting. I was involved in the amateur musical theatre for many years, and had been backstage at a couple of professional theatres, but there was still a lot I needed to find out about the professional theatre. After I’d finished the first draft, I watched a programme on TV in which a TV presenter challenged himself to appear in a West End Musical. You can imagine my relief when I discovered most of my details about rehearsals were fairly accurate!
My next novel, ‘Fragrance of Violets’ was set in the English Lake District. Not too difficult for me, as it’s an area I know well. However, one of the characters was a journalist who was interested in renewable energy resources, so that needed a lot of research.
An even bigger challenge was my next hero, who was a volcano expert, in ‘Changing the Future’. What did I know about volcanoes? Very little, apart from the fact that they occasionally erupt. I probably didn’t use 99% of the research I did, but it was necessary in order for the hero to refer accurately to volcanic activity. I became so interested in the subject that was excited when I found there was to be a series on TV about volcanoes, and I watched avidly, making notes all the time. When one of the scientists made a statement that was remarkably similar to something I had my hero saying, I experienced one of those ‘Yessss’ moments. Who knew I could get so excited about volcanoes?
‘Her Only Option’, set in Egypt, was slightly different, as I did a lot of my research while on the Nile Cruise which actually inspired the story. On my return home, I still had to find out more about the tombs of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings (and learnt more about them than I’d ever known before, even though I’m an historian by professions).
The point I’m trying to make, in a roundabout way, is that we need to be enthusiastic about the background research we do for our novels, in the same way that my grandson is bubbling over with enthusiasm for the Royal Navy.



Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Do you want to be famous?

This week's topic at The Writers' Post blog hop is 'Fame', hosted by Michelle Liew.

I confess I do not understand why people want to be famous. I don’t mean the writers, actors, singers etc. who find fame because of their achievements. I'm referring to those individuals who want fame for the sake of fame. Many of them are not receiving recognition for anything they have accomplished, but simply because, for whatever reason, they have put themselves in the public eye. It’s a relatively new phenomenon, nurtured by the entertainment media people who highlight these so-called celebrities. The internet, too, has given birth to a different kind of fame. It seems anyone with a video camera can propel themselves into the spotlight.
But why? Vanity? Celebrity status? Money? Appearing in the press and on television? Being recognised everywhere they go?
Actually, I can’t imagine anything worse than being recognised. Particularly if I’m popping into the local shop for a carton of milk.
A few weeks ago, I was in my local supermarket, and at the checkout next to mine was someone I recognised. I had to think for a moment until I realised he was an actor in a popular soap here in England. As he made his way out of the supermarket, he was stopped by at least four different people, and others stared or pointed at him. Maybe he liked that sort of attention. I would have hated it!
I prefer to remain unknown. It allows me to live my life in the way I want to live it, and not to have everything I do  noticed, or even worse, reported in the media.
As a writer, am I jealous of the J.K.Rowlings of this world? Do I wish I was E.L.James? No way. Although I would like to sell more copies of my books (wouldn’t most writers?), I’ve no real desire to become a ‘famous’ writer.
Fame comes with a price. One cost can be the lack of anonymity. Would you like to be surrounded by fans everywhere you go? I don’t mean the occasions when you choose to be on public show, but all the other times when the last thing you feel like is being charming and polite to strangers!
Another downside is no longer knowing who your real friends are. Are they genuine, or are they hangers-on, maybe looking for some kind of reflected glory through being associated with you?
And last but not least, the celebrity aspect of fame is ephemeral, and can easily turn to mockery or even outright cruelty. It seems celebrities need to have very thick skins at times.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Six Sentence Sunday

Another excerpt from ‘Her Only Option’. After Neve and Ross return from the tunnel to the burial chamber, he kisses her and tells her he wants to make love to her. When she turns towards the passage out of the burial chamber, he pulls her back.
“We both felt it. Why are you denying it?”
“I didn’t feel anything,” she lied.
Quickly she moved towards the passage, knowing she had to get away. Away from his hands, his mouth, his hard male body, and the transparent desire in his eyes. Away, too, from the sensations his kiss had aroused in her and from the churning tension in her stomach.
‘Her Only Option’ is still leading the Romance Novel poll in the Preditors and Editors 2012 poll. If you haven’t yet voted, I’d be very grateful for your vote at
It’s about half way down the page, and you add your name and email at the bottom (and don’t forget the spam control!) You’ll get just one email with a link to click to validate your vote.

Voting ends tomorrow, and I’d be devastated if someone did a last minute sprint and pipped me at the post!

Many thanks!
'Her Only Option’ is available from Whiskey Creek Press and from Amazon, as e-book or paperback.
Read more 6 sentence excerpts from the other Six Sentence Sunday authors here.


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Inventing Place Names

My Thursday Challenge to myself is to click the ‘Random Article’ on Wikipedia, and write something about the first post that appears.
This week’s article was about Eagle County, which evidently is the 14th most populous of the 64 counties in Colorado. I’m sure someday I’ll be able to use that fascinating(?) piece of trivia! My first reaction was to find another ‘Random Article’, but remembering my challenge to myself to use the first article that came up, I read more about Eagle County, and stopped when I reached this sentence:
Fryingpan River and the Roaring Fork River intersect the southwest corner of the county.
What wonderful names for rivers!
I couldn’t discover the origin of ‘Fryingpan’ as the name for a river but did find out it is famous for trout fishing. This conjured up an image of fishermen catching trout, and then cooking it in a frying pan on a campfire at the side of the river.
‘Roaring Fork’, as its name suggests, is famous for being a deep, fast river, flowing through canyons for most of its route, and popular for whitewater rafting.
Put these two images together, and maybe you have the opening scene of a novel!
How else can I relate this to writing?
If we’re ‘inventing’ a town, village etc for our stories, how much thought do we give to its name? Of course, we have to ensure the name is appropriate for its location. One of the ways I’ve done this is to look at names of towns in the area and combine two different names to create a new name. Thus my town of ‘Waterside’ in the English Lake District is a combination of Waterhead and Ambleside, and the village of ‘Skeldale’ is a combination of Skelwith and Langdale.
In my current ‘work in progress’, I’m using the town of Clifden (in Ireland) while I’m writing the first draft, but eventually I’ll change its name, so as not to link it too specifically to the real place. That means I can take some liberties with its layout and surroundings. In Ireland, you can’t go far wrong with place names beginning with ‘Bally’ which derives from the Gaelic phrase, ‘Baile na’ meaning ‘place of’. So for example, Dublin’s Gaelic name is actually ‘Baile Atha Cliath’ which means ‘place of the hurdled ford’. Another common Irish prefix in names is ‘Kil’ meaning church – there are many examples, Killarney, Kildare, Kilkenny, Killiney to name just a few. So I shall have plenty of options to choose from when I rename my town!
I’ll be interested to know how you choose the names of places in your stories.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Past Lives

This week’s topic for The Writers’ Post is ‘Past Lives’, chosen by Joyce Lansky. You can read her ‘past life’ experience at
Joyce’s post made me think of my own experience, which is actually in two parts.

It starts when I was about sixteen and had a very vivid dream where I was walking along a street in Paris. I had never been to Paris so I wasn’t drawing on any memories, but somehow I knew I was in Paris. There were buildings on one side of the street, with 5 or 6 stories and high, steep roofs. On the other side were lower stone buildings, at right angles to the street, and linked by stone walls. I don’t recall any traffic, but when the buildings on the left ended, I discovered I was in the square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. And that was it, or at least all I remembered later. Nothing dramatic happened, nothing to make this particular dream stick in my memory. But, for some reason, it did.
Jump forward about 4 years. I’m 19, and visiting Paris for the first time, with a college friend who has lived in Paris for a year, and knows it well. We were due to meet a friend of hers at a café near Notre Dame, and so we took the Metro to Ile de la Cite, the island in the middle of the River Seine.
When we came up out of the metro, my friend said, “Notre Dame is this way.”
I replied, “No, it isn’t, it’s that way.”
“How do you know?”
“I just know.”
So, you know that déjà vu feeling? Well, I had exactly that as we walked along the street, but I knew where the feeling came from. My dream, of course, because it was the same street, and I knew at the end of it, Notre Dame would be on our left, which it was.
I’ve been to Paris many times since then, and the Ile de la Cite, and particularly Notre Dame Cathedral, continue to hold a special kind of attraction for me, and they feature in my next novel ‘Dream of Paris’ (due for release next month – I hope!).
So, in a past life, was I a stonemason who built the cathedral? Or maybe I was guillotined during the Revolution, or I was a student in the 1832 uprising (as in Les Miserables!)
Jump forward another 25 years or so, and a group of us were discussing past lives, and I told them about my ‘Paris experience’. One of the group was a doctor, with a qualification in hypnosis, so I agreed to be hypnotised to see if Paris featured in my hypnotic regression.
Instead, I had a totally different experience. I was in a crowd of people, most wearing woollen tunics, and the kind of long hoods you see in pictures of medieval peasants. I could only see their backs as they were facing ahead of me, and some of them were shouting. I was trying to push my way through the crowd, because my young brother had been put in the stocks, and the villagers were pelting him with rotten vegetables. He was only twelve and he was crying, and I wanted to rescue him.
So – are these some snippets from a past life or lives, or what are they? And have you any experience of seeing or feeling anything from a past life?

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Six Sentence Sunday

Another excerpt from my latest release, “Her Only Option” set in Egypt. After Neve and Ross return from the tunnel to the burial chamber, he kisses her, and tells her he wants to make love to her.
Ross caught both her hands in his and laughed. “I don’t mean now or here, especially not with all those ancient figures on the wall watching us. I’d prefer somewhere more comfortable, when we have all the time in the world.”
The word ‘time’ reached into her confused mind and, wrenching her hands from Ross’s grasp, she looked at her watch. “It’s quarter to five—I have to get back to the ship—I can’t miss the sailing.” She swung round to the exit from the burial chamber.
I’d be very grateful if you would spare a couple of minutes to vote for ‘Her Only Option’ in the Preditors and Editors Reader at (and don’t forget the spam control at the bottom of the page!)  Many thanks!
‘Her Only Option’ received another 5* review this week: "Yet another wonderful story from Paula Martin. Loved the characters and the twists and turns of the story which included a bit of mystery this time. As part of the backdrop, enjoyed the look at the Egyptian tourist and archaeological scenes."

'Her Only Option’ is available from Whiskey Creek Press and from Amazon, as e-book or paperback.

Read more 6 sentence excerpts from the other Six Sentence Sunday authors here.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A New Challenge

A New Year – and time to kick this blog into life again. For the last couple of months, the majority of my blogs have been for Six Sentence Sunday. However, the SSS blog hop is sadly ending this month, so I’ve been giving some thought to my future blog posts.
I’ve signed up for the 100K words in 100 days challenge (on Facebook) – not sure I’ll manage it, but hey, it’s worth a try! Sally Quillford, the instigator of the challenge, recently listed some possible ‘prompts’ for writing.
One of these was:
Go to and click on Random Article. Write something inspired by the post that appears. Feel free to keep clicking till you find something that inspires you.
Okay, that sounded interesting – so I decided to have a go, and set myself the extra challenge of writing about the first article that came up, rather than searching for one that immediately inspired me. I also decided I would try to link it in some way to romance writing in general.
So the first ‘Random Article’ was about a book entitled ‘Biotechnology and Applied Biochemistry’. Gulp! I haven’t done any biology or chemistry since I was about 14, but I read the article anyway
The book deals with the “translation of discoveries in life sciences to therapeutic and diagnostic products for the benefit of mankind” which includes things like stem cells and tissue engineering (and a lot of other things about which I didn’t have a clue!)
As I’d set myself this challenge, and didn’t want to admit defeat on the very first attempt, I started to think of all the discoveries that have happened during my lifetime. Without knowing a lot about medical advances, I could still list quite a few basic ones: antibiotics, the eradication of smallpox, the development of vaccines, the amazing advances in heart surgery (I remember the first heart transplant in 1967 – it seemed nothing short of miraculous then!), the many advances in cancer treatment, and IVF treatment.
Linking a topic like this to writing in general would probably be fairly easy for someone with a medical background – doctors and surgeons are always popular heroes or heroines, and someone involved in medical research could also provide an interesting story. The nearest I’ve got is a veterinary surgeon in one of my current ‘works-in-progress’ but there are other possibilities that might provide the basis for a story, even for a non-medical person like me.
Here are a few that have jumped into my mind:
- Hero and heroine meet at a clinical trial for a new medication.
- One character donates bone marrow or a kidney to another, or to the child of another.
- Character , after discovering a possible new treatment of a disease, has to decide whether to allow his (or her) spouse/partner/lover or parent or child to be the first recipient of this treatment.
- Parents disagree about treatment for their sick child.
- Heroine gives permission for her husband’s heart to be donated after his tragic death, and then meets the recipient of the heart.
Have you other ideas you could add to this list?
Next week I’ll do another ‘Random Article’ search and see what comes up! Watch this space…

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

I'm Grateful For ...

Daphne Steinberg’s chosen topic for the Writers’ Post hop this week asks us to list the things we are grateful for. So here’s my list, using the letters of the word ‘Grateful’:
G = Grandsons
I’ve loved watching my grandsons grow up and am so proud of the fine young men they have become. They’re now 24 and 18, so maybe it won’t be too long before I have some Great Grandchildren!
R = Romance
Real-life romance has eluded me for many years, but now I find my ‘romance’ in writing my novels. I can fall in love with my heroes without having to wash and iron their shirts!
A = Answers
I love finding answers, whether they’re the answers to quizzes (I admit it, I’m a trivia addict) or the answers I discover when I’m researching something for one of my novels, or the answer to a tricky plot point in a story – the ‘a-ha’ moment when the light-bulb flashes in my mind is one of the best parts of writing!
T = Travel
I love travelling – well, maybe not the actual 'getting there' part, but the opportunity to see new places. During the last few years, I’ve visited places I never thought I would ever see, and the highlight of them all was Egypt, two years ago (which inspired my latest release, 'Her Only Option' and my gorgeous hero, archaeologist Ross McAllister). One of my trips this year is already booked, to Croatia, which will be a new experience as I’ve never been to the Balkan area of Europe before.
E = Education
I’m grateful I was educated at a time when basic English grammar was drummed into us because it’s now so ingrained in me and I don’t have any problems with it. More than that, however, I’m grateful for an education which taught me to be curious about everything and anything. It’s over 50 years since I left school, but I am still learning – and I still love learning about something new. Well, maybe except how this computer actually works!
F = Facebook
Yes, really! I have made so many Friends via Facebook. They may be online friends, but I know if I met them in ‘real life’ we would greet each other like old friends, because that’s what we’ve become over the last few years.
U – Unbelievable
So many ‘un’ words are negative – unkind, unhelpful, unfriendly etc – but in this case, it’s a positive. It means ‘beyond one’s wildest dreams, or incredible’ – and sometimes we forget about all the unbelievably wonderful things we see around us, or fail to appreciate the unbelievable things that have happened in our lives. So yes, I’m grateful for the unbelievables!
L = Les Miserables
I have to include this, because it is my favourite musical of all time. I’ve seen the stage show about 10 times, mainly in London, and I’m waiting (impatiently!) for the movie to be released here on Jan 11th, not least to see one of my favourite men, Hugh Jackman. I’ve already booked for the first showing at the cinema, and I’m sure I will be going to see it many times (and buying the DVD as soon as it’s available)