Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this book up (not this actual cover shown... I have an American print dated 1971 - it's 2 years older than me!) for 85p at Minehead Train Station, on a steam train day out with my kids.

I had decided that I needed to read more classics, and there was Jane Eyre (I also picked up Gulliver's Travels).

I thought it would be hard to get into, the language heavy and stilted, however instead I found myself gripped.  I was so wrong.  It was so easy to read, the long passages of description, or dialogue engaging. 

The first ten chapters are of her life as a child, these were extremely powerful, but as soon as Mr Rochester hit the page I didn't want to put this book down.  Like Jane's, my emotions were up and down.

I do find it interesting that Mr Rochester is frequently regarded as ugly, something a modern day romance couldn't easily do, yet, you never see him as ugly, you see him through Jane's eyes, and know instantly that he loves her.  I loved his devilish tricks, his moodiness and Jane's strength to match him.

Truly wonderful story, taking us back into a time that we can only imagine.  Where people were truly poor or rich.

The characters were easily distinguished, from Mr Rochester to St John.  I never tired of reading this book.  Such a powerful romance.

I'm off to find more classics!

View all my reviews

This has taken my book read total to 39! Only one more to go and I've reached my 40.  I can do that in a month, right?

Monday, 29 November 2010

Writing Ways

I am currently reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and loving it.  Deciding that I needed to read more classic material, I picked it up in October, at Minehead Station, when out with the boys on our steam train trip.  It cost me 85p.  Being a 'classic,' I thought I would find the language and style heavy on the eye, but in fact I've found it gripping and easy to read - even her descriptions and long scripts.

Obviously it is of a different style to that you would find in a contemporary romance today, but the emotion and feelings are still within its pages.  I've been close to tears reading this book - it's been pulling at my emotions.

The book is an American print, and has an introduction by David Stryker.  In this introduction it quotes Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë's acquaintance and biographer:

"She would wait patiently searching for the right term, until it presented itself to her... She never wrote  down  a sentence until she clearly understood what she wanted to say, had deliberately chosen the words, and arranged them n their right order."

The original manuscript presented to the publisher had in places a sentence scored out but rarely a word or emotion.  You get the impression that Brontë would sit long and hard, thinking before she wrote her words.

I wonder if this was a writer's way, before the age of computers, and even typewriters.  They had to sit and deliberate which sentence would go next, how to structure that sentence, paragraph, dialogue in their heads, before writing/typing away (I'm considering the old typewriters here too!).  Nowadays it is easy to just sit at our PCs, laptops and just punch away at the keyboard - I know that's what I do!  Editing has now become key to a clever writer.

In fact writing advice I've read says, you can't edit a blank page!

I tend to just write what's in my head, and use the good old delete/backspace button if I don't like it.  Even cut and paste if I decide a paragraph needs moving.  I tend to write a sentence out and then play with it, to make sure it makes sense and says what I want it to say (although sometimes I still fail).

Before this time, writing could have been tedious to someone like me.  I know that others maybe more articulate in how they write.  I know that some have to perfect a chapter before they move on to the next - whereas I as I like to get to the end of my story, (Nano taught me that in 2006) and then think about the editing.  I am a poor planner in parts.  I have to know an ending, so that I know where I am heading with my story, but I do tend to just go with the flow.  Usually an idea will strike and that will be my next step forward when I come to writing, and I will note ideas as they come.  But I tend to do my scene moving around and planning on the screen as they come to me.

Did writers, back in the likes of Brontë's day have to be better planners?  Have we got it easier now with our modern technology?

Saturday, 27 November 2010

In The Mood For Christmas Now

Over a year ago, I was bursting at the seams.  I'd booked us a mid-week holiday in Center Parcs for a very nice price.  Just shows how time flies, because we've now been and gone on that holiday, and we had lots of fun.  It was Winter Wonderland theme, and therefore very Christmassy.  Every cabin had a wreath hanging outside its door, footpaths and areas were decorated with pretty, white fairy lights.  The Plaza was especially picturesque. 

Outside The Plaza
On the Monday when we arrived, we hired bikes, and Ben had his own, while Kieran had a seat behind Daddy.  Bikes are a good way to get around in Center Parcs but in places it is hilly.  It's geared up for the bikes, with bike parks dotted all over the place.  Ben, on a bigger bike than he is used to, cycled really well (Grandad Ron would have approved!).  He was nervous about going down hill, but Ben being Ben was very cautious (I can see Kieran in years to come crashing at every turn as he whizzes down the hills - our not so cautious son) and I think he was afraid he might not be able to stop himself. 

We managed to go swimming practically every day - well, Daddy took Ben late on Thursday, while I put Kieran to bed (and told him Daddy and Ben had just gone for a walk, not daring to mention the S word).  We'd done the Spa that afternoon, while the boys had enjoyed the Merry Berry Ball - Kieran winning 'Pass The Parcel'.  He refused to have his picture taken afterwards - he was so tired.  But we caught him on film anyway - albeit a bit grumpy.  He just can't resist having his face painted!

Our very own Rudolf.
Our woodland lodge was wonderfully equipped - it had a dishwasher! I know it's a bit home from home, but a dishwasher means I'm not the one standing there doing the washing up.  It meant I could sit and relax in the morning after breakfast, with a cup of coffee, and watch our neighbours, Mr Robin and Mr Squirrel.  In fact, we saw three squirrels at one time trying to get on to the brick BBQ that was outside our patio doors.  I'd put some peanuts out there (obviously not salted!) and they were beavering away (or squirrelling away I suppose) the nuts, and we'd see them bury them and come back for more.  Sometimes he'd bury locally, or he'd run off down a route and be back after five or ten minutes.  I could have sat there all day watching the little fellow.  (Next time, I'm taking my bird and squirrel food with me - not paying Center Parc prices - and my little garden bird book).

We were extremely lucky with the weather - although cold (it was the middle of November) we had great frosty, dry weather.  Clear skies - we needed our sunglasses more here, than in the Isle of Wight in August.  The rain kept away, so it enabled us to be out and about during the day and the early evening. With a couple of layers on we were lovely and comfortable, and the promise of a log fire in the evening, to make us extra toasty.

How many nuts can I carry?
All I can say is, Center Parcs is a great place for the family.  There is plenty to do; some you have to pay for, some for free.  Ben wanted to do things like the paint balling, but we had to tell him there were a lot of things he couldn't do because he wasn't old enough.  If your sports or adventure minded, this is a place for you.  It is a bit pricey but if you take plenty of food and drink with you, you can afford to treat yourself to the odd coffee (as there are Starbucks!) or a visit to The Pancake House - that was a naughty lunch we had!  It's just a good idea to go armed with snacks for the kids.  Some of the activities are reasonable, some again, expensive. It all depends on how expensive you want to make the holiday.  I was extremely conscious that it was our third holiday this year, and it was meant to be done on the cheap!
Santa's Woodland Workshop by night

What I particularly like is that the car gets left behind in the car park, so with a (nearly) six year old on a bike, you had little fear of him getting hurt - unless he falls into a ditch just outside our lodge, trying to race Daddy! Ah-hem!

You can hire the bikes or bring your own, but afterwards when we returned ours, we were allowed to keep our bike locks - which pleased Ben as he wanted to buy one (for his new bike that he's getting for his birthday).

The kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Initially they were wondering where the beach was - they associate holiday with the sea!  They loved all the swimming and cycling, and gradually we wore them out.  They kept getting up at the crack of dawn - not helped by sharing a room, they are real chatterboxes - but Friday morning, it was Sod's Law we had to wake them up!

Anyway, we've come back refreshed and revitalised... and ready for Christmas.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Book Review: Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance

12-Point Guide to Writing Romance (Studymates Writers Guides)12-Point Guide to Writing Romance by Kate Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This will live on my bookshelf.  There are exercises that I really would like to attempt and is definitely good to have as a reference.  I did do one of the exercises, but should have done more.  Definitely good to treat this as an workbook, too.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to write for Mills and Boon Harlequin because it really is aimed at them.  It gives a lot of detail about the specific lines and what they require.  I'm not really sure if I'm Mills and Boon material (or voice), however, I still found it useful for writing romance in general.  Definitely worth a read.

At the back, the last chapter is really writing advice from old and new Mills and Boon authors.  Liz Fielding is there! From these authors, the general consensus is you can't edit a blank page... so write, write, write!  The other piece of advice they raised was read, read, read.  Research is also key, so read the lines, genre you want to write for. 

So you'll be seeing a lot of chick-lit in my reading pile next year.

View all my reviews

It's Copyrighting Day

Apparently it is Copyrighting Day and as a new writer, these things are important (and confusing at the best of times).  My writing buddy from Mills and Boon competition, Sally Quilford has blogged much better than I could about plagiarism and how to avoid it, etc. so I thought it was best to spread the word by sharing her blog post: Copyrighting - Copy Writing.

She offers some great advice.  Some is common sense, but to some new writers (like me) who maybe a little naive we need reminders, and some of the advice you might be thinking... gosh, didn't think of that.

Please read!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

A Day Out On A Steam Train

With my new haircut, my friends on Facebook wanted to see my new image.  It wasn't all that new, just a bit blonder really as I had a full head of highlights done this time around.  Can't afford it, but it has to be done, right?

In my vanity, with a bit of make-up on, I've stretched my arm out and taken these photos (which I hate) and downloaded them onto my PC.  I decided to download all of the pictures from the camera (usually this is hubby's job; he stores them on his laptop and backs them up etc.) as it's just easier sometimes. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see photos from half term and I really liked these photos of my dad (Grandad Ron) with the boys.  We'd done our trip from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead on the steam train.  And on the way back we stopped at Watchet.  It breaks up the journey and we get to go on two trains.  The boys really wanted to go on 'Daisy' the diesel.  They name them from Thomas The Tank Engine - it's cute.

The boys are quite happy to have their lunch (we pack a picnic) on Minehead station.  Gosh! Don't even think about suggesting moving away from the steam trains!

Not sure if my dad was really that fussed about having his photo taken, but I took it anyway.

As to the photos of me!  Well, you'll have to check out my Facebook profile!  Although I am thinking of doing something funky with it in Photoshop and making a profile picture - it's on my list to do.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Slow Cooker Writing

Today I got to try out my crock pot!  This morning, I put it on the hob, and did the recipe as I would do, only not bothering to cook the meat through... just browning it a little and breaking up the mince.  Once all the ingredients were nicely mixed I put it onto the slow cooker part and cooked on low. 

This afternoon, once I'd picked my son up from school I had an hour to just relax, get bits and pieces done, but not stress about the dinner.  It was lovely.

All day I had to resist the urge to lift up the lid - though I did later on to give it all a bit of a stir.  And because there is no light, I wasn't sure if it was on at first.  But being new, I got that new burning kind of smell but later the lamb curry was wafting through my house.  Yum!

Came in from 'Stars In Training', switched the slow cooker to warm, cooked the rice - and dinner was ready.  Actually handy, as I could serve mine and the kids tea up and leave hubby's until he got in.

In other news:  Been trying to finish Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide (so that it's another book down for the year!) and catch up on my reading (after being ill over the weekend I've been slacking).  The back bit is advice from other writers.  Funny how their ideas can stem from all sorts.  As I read I'm thinking, yes, that's me too!  They all say keep writing and persevere.

Tonight I am hoping I've finished my 6th Assignment.  I hope so (it's been quite painful!).  Will let it rest tonight and look again tomorrow, but then I will send it off and not tackle Assignment 7 until January 2011.  That way I'll be allowed the rest of the year (basically December) to work on my novel that I started for Mills and Boon.  It's working title is The Wedding Favour, though I'm not overly sure whether to keep it or not.  I like it... but not sure about the 'wedding' part.  But writing advice I was reading tonight says to write the draft to the end and that's what I want to do.  Then I'll print it off and go through it and see where it needs fattening up, fleshing out and where to get some emotion into it.  I'm still worried my conflict is a bit weak.   Does the hero have enough of a reason not to pursue?  Is it realistic his reasons?

But I've decided I'd like to see this story finished by the summer and at a level I'm happy with, I might be able think about submitting it to publishers or something... all seems too scary to really think about it.  But it's the only way I'm going to get on this bandwagon.

Also need to send off another short story to another competition somewhere, so that is likely to be December's job too. No rest for a writer... even an unpublished one.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

All I Need - Another Recipe Book!

Crock Pot!
This is either really sad, or a sure sign that I've run out of things to write about, or as most of you may know, I'm a bit nuts. 

Yes, I'm going to ramble on about my slow cooker that now has a place in my kitchen.  Tiny bit of reorganising and we got it in there.  It's near an electrical point, easy to just pull out, add my ingredients and leave it sat there.

For those of you who may have set foot in my kitchen, yes, it is a lovely large size.  However, when hubby and I were looking at the house to buy, we were so enamoured with its size, we forgot to really look at it more deeply.  It desperately needs refurbishing.  It's the original kitchen to the house, so probably over 20 years old now and well, cupboards are falling off hinges.  But a kitchen this size, which needs completely ripping out, will cost us so much money - and will be a big job.  I keep think I'll get these things when I get my new kitchen, but I might not get a 'new' kitchen for another ten years yet (gosh, I hope it's not that long!). 

The reason for the slow cooker is that I realised I needed to make more use of my time.  And sometimes, like on Wednesdays, I have more time in the morning, than I do in the afternoon with all the running around.  Might even enable me to write more if I put my time to better use.  (I'm hoping for some time management miracle!)  I intend to try and use my crock pot at least once a week.

So now I need a recipe book, and I'd said after last Christmas I don't want any more!  Can you have too many recipe books?  I always say that if you get at least one recipe out of a book, then it's worth keeping.

I use my Tana Ramsay Real Family Food, and my Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food all the time - they're my kitchen bibles.  Jamie has given me a good basic stew recipe which I play around with - so that can go in the crock pot.  And the good thing is, this can sauté on the hob first.  That's why I bought it!  It can even go in the oven, if I really need it to.

I do a lamb curry in Tana's book which is GORGEOUS and can probably do that in the slow cooker.  Plus I've heard spag bol, chilli...  But I welcome all hints and tips in using my little slow cooker!  Any recipes! 

Oh and I could even do my Delia's beef in cider (another GREAT dish).

Can't wait till next week when I get to use it - Wednesday - Lamb curry on the meal plan.

So now I've managed to make room for my slow cooker, I need to find some space for a bread maker....  Why wait for this new kitchen - huh?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Bit Of A Grumble, Mr Tumble

I was curled up on the sofa this morning, reading my book, while my youngest watched Cbeebies, and Mr Tumble came on.  Well, 'Something Special'.

Usually I like this programme.  Kieran sat there miming with Justin.  It was all rather cute.  Until... A baby was having a bath.  And Justin had to go and get the baby's nappy and bed clothes. And yes, you've guessed it, he picked up a despicable disposable.

On one side, local councils are trying to discourage the use of these things - they cause so much waste in landfill, and I imagine now with all the recycling, they are a bigger part of waste now, than they ever used to be.  On the other, young children are being taught that a disposable nappy is the only option.   I noticed this at the preschool that my son goes to and provided them with a Terry's nappy and a wrap!

If you wanted to encourage less use of these sorts of things, shouldn't television programmes be 'advertising' the item that they want promoted, not the ones they want to discourage? 

Oh, but of course, disposable nappies manufacturers are the big wigs, more money than you care to mention.  They probably have more money than the Government, and fought for that right to have that nappy in that programme.

Am I the only one who sees something wrong in this?

And I'm not just talking about nappies here.  Aren't we told that the country is at its worst state of obesity ever, and in August you can find Christmas puddings, Christmas cake, mince pies and huge tins of chocolate already on the shop shelves in time for Christmas.  (This is a real bugbear of my dad's!).

Don't get me wrong, we all like to indulge at Christmas, but are we really giving out the right message?  How many people buy this food in August and actually save it for Christmas?  The mince pies will be out of day by October - unless you freeze them.

It's like do you ever find the healthy options on special... or is it just the junk food?  For example, I buy reduced salt and sugar baked beans for my kids now (not that they have them that often)... the others are always on special (BOGOF's etc) but never the 'healthier' ones.

I just don't think we're encouraged, or encouraging a change in lifestyle...

I'm feeling under the weather, maybe that's why I'm grumpy and rambling on about this.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Book Review: Saving Cinderella by Myrna Mackenzie

Saving Cinderella! (Harlequin Romance)Saving Cinderella! by Myrna Mackenzie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not sure how I feel about this book.  It's a good story idea, but I wasn't sure if sometimes I was having the 'conflict' rammed down my throat.   It just felt in places a little repetitive.

And the ending, of course 'happy', I was a tiny bit disappointed with.  It was actually a teeny tiny bit cheesy.  I mean their behaviour in front of all those people (you'll see) just, well, I'm surprised someone didn't shout "Get a room!"

Alex gets hired by Wyatt to cover maternity leave at his hotel in Vegas, so they both know it's 'temporary'.  He's got his past, she's got hers... I'm also shocked that someone would return from maternity leave after two months... (yes it's that temporary) but then this is America and I don't think they have the same holidays/benefits that we do in the UK.  But just a tiny nit there.

There's some good stuff in this book, too.  So I gave it three stars, but I wouldn't say it's one of my favourites.

View all my reviews

What shall I read now?  Only three to go (this was book 37) and I've ready 40 books this year! 

Thursday, 4 November 2010

I Need To Write About Something

I've been staring at my document named 'Assignment 6' and nothing is coming to me.  I've been reading some old newspapers, because well, they're old (July!) and I should have read them ages ago.  Was supposed to actually get to the 'travel' bit but never did.

Tomorrow is Friday, and that means the weekend, so I can get back to the stuff I enjoy - fiction.  (Although I do enjoy writing non-fiction - it just comes harder to me and I'm not so confident it's really that interesting, or worse, I'm too opinionated).  I've tended to work on The Wedding Favour though I do have a fan fiction story I really want finished.  I've been thinking about the story a lot lately, especially as I'm reading Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance.  Though this book is a little bit more relating to Mills and Boon type romance, and I'm thinking of turning my story more into a chick-lit.  However, romance rules still apply, and I am wondering whether the conflict is strong enough, and if I've got a 'black' moment in there.

I think I'm just going to write it, and then go back and sharpen it up.  Get the gist down on paper (or on screen) and go from there.  I've thought of some stuff to tag onto the end, which wouldn't have been there if this story had remained intended for Mills and Boon.  Oh and I'm not sure if it will remained named The Wedding Favour, but it will stay as a working title for the time being.

And talking of romance, lots of my 'Mills and Boon' competition writing pals are doing NaNoWriMo and a part of me wishes I'd just done it so that I could have put off assignment 6 for another month!  And joined in with all the fun!  It's not like I don't have some story ideas floating around my head trying to muscle in on Sophie and Adam.  I have a vampire that maybe called Maggie and in another story I have a hero who is begging to be called Steve (inspired by All About Steve), though he may have to pretend to be called Sean in his search for normality.

My problem with trying to write articles and hence do my assignments, is that I'm crap at reading magazines - the research bit!  Except Writing Magazine - I'll read that cover to cover!  Sainsbury's Magazine is good too, and reasonable at £1.40 if you compare that to Good Housekeeping at a whopping £3.50.  But I'm a poor housewife, I can't fork out this sort of money on magazines - especially when I'm lame about making time to read them.  Because if I've got time to read... I want to pick up my book(s) - there's three on the go at the moment.  One non-fictional, another is the one I mentioned above and then I'm currently reading a Mills and Boon (because I thought I'd get through it quickly and keep me on target - only 5 to go!).

Thanks to Writing Magazine I have created some think pieces but they do need editing.  I bashed them out.  But I need to think of one more then I can choose which one will actually be my written article for assignment 6.  I wish that would be just it... I'd probably have it done by now.  But I've got to then write a travel piece, too.  I think this is what always daunts me about the assignments.  They sometimes don't feel like little 'chunks'.

And I'm waiting on December issue to come through my door to see if I made it on the 'Letters Page' of Writing Magazine, talking about NaNoWriMo of all things!  I will let you know.

Well, I've done something constructive this evening... I've updated my blog.