In the spirit of my Grandmother...

Friday, 29 June 2012

... I am sewing again. I bought the material to make a beautiful little outfit for Scarlett to wear to my best friend’s wedding. Well, really I bought the material for two because I couldn’t decide between two gorgeous fabrics- a magenta satin with silvery-white embroidered flowers and green vines and leaves and a white cotton with tiny red flowers, vines, and leaves.

From Little Lizard on Etsy
I do have a dress for her to wear. But then surfing Etsy I found the cutest pattern and couldn’t resist. I also downloaded a pattern to make a tie for Hunter, which is awesome, since the only ties I can find in his ‘size’ are school ties. If I ever finish my to-do list today I’m going to get to sewing.

From Little Lizard on Etsy

I also found a dress pattern for myself which I am in love with and I downloaded that, too. I’m thinking of making it in the same print as the dress for Scarlett, but I’m wondering if that is too cheesy. My mom says it’s very Donna Reed of me to want to dress myself and my daughter alike. Well, I always did want to be Donna Reed...

Butterick 5748

Help me choose my entry... please.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Sorry this is a day late. But here is ‘Writing Wednesday’... on a Thursday.

I need a little help from my lovely readers (yes, both of you ;-] ). I got the okay to post my synopses for feedback!

So here’s the deal. I plan to enter the Harlequin American Romance editor pitch contest on July 20th. I need a one-page double-spaced synopsis to enter. Since that is all they are asking for, I am terrified! I really want to make sure that my entry is the best it can possibly be.

I also have two WIPs which are far enough along to enter, so I’m trying to decide which one to enter. This is where you come in. I am including both synopses here in this post and would really appreciate it if you would read them both and comment. I’m looking for feedback like, ‘this works, this doesn’t’ and ‘this is the better story’.  Of course, feel free to say as much or as little as you like. And sorry for the weird background to some of the paragraphs. I can't seem to get rid of it. 

So here goes....

The first is for Valentine Bride. This story started as an entry for the Valentine Secrets contest in 2011. It is the furthest along of the two and the one I am leaning more toward. I wrote this synopsis with loads of help from Winnie Griggs during her pitch workshop.

Valentine Bride
Convinced she’s his soul mate, a big-city police detective is quick to propose to his girlfriend of three months, but he’s even quicker to rescind that proposal when he finds out she’s pregnant... with his baby.

Orphaned flower shop owner, Caroline Bennett wants a storybook family to call her own. After a one night stand the smell of roses suddenly makes her physically ill and she discovers she is pregnant by a man who doesn’t know and wouldn’t marry her if he did. Police detective Matt Ryan, badly burned by an ex-fiancée, wants to hold on to his simple, bachelor life. Unfortunately he can’t forget the mystery woman who snuck out of his bed while he showered, especially when the death of his brother makes him question life alone.

            Caroline seems to be the only person Matt can open up to about his brother’s death and quickly becomes his confidant. The attraction between them grows, but the hurt from Matt’s past - his fiancée got pregnant by his best friend - has him insisting he isn’t a family man. His refusal to bend on this issue keeps Caroline from telling him about the baby - but that’s a secret she won’t be able to keep forever. When Matt asks Caroline to marry him, she tells him that he is going to be a father. He is stunned and hurt that she has kept this from him. He slips the ring back in his pocket and storms out, fleeing back to Durham.

Later, Matt confesses to his family why he ran and they encourage him to give Caroline another chance. He returns to the flower shop. Without saying a word, Matt approaches a heavily pregnant Caroline at the counter and slides a pre-written floral card across the counter. It reads ‘Will you be my Valentine Bride?’ They are married on Valentine’s Day surrounded by his family and their baby, Juliette Rose. The scent of roses surrounds them as they vow for better or worse and begin their life together as a family.

Here’s the second. This one is for After The Storm. It isn’t as far along, but I could catch it up if need be. This synopsis I wrote using some of my original 4 page synopsis and some of Winnie’s input.

After The Storm
A head-strong paramedic finds her hard-won peace disrupted when the ex-fiancée who jilted her wants back in her life, and she must learn to trust again to find her chance at love.

Skye O’Reilly is the kind of girl who can bake a black and blue pie from scratch, crochet socks, and won’t leave the house without mascara.  She’s also the kind of girl who can wield a chainsaw.  As a paramedic with the Outer Banks Search and Rescue Team, Skye has a reputation for being tough, opinionated, and not so easy to work with.  She’s run off more partners than she can count on one hand, so the next one had better watch his step.  Especially since he just so happens to be the only man she ever loved—the one who proposed then left her to marry someone else.

Chris North is the kind of guy who saves children from icy lakes, volunteers at a soup kitchen, and dug through rubble at Ground Zero for three days without rest.  He’s also the kind of guy who breaks the heart of the girl he loves just to stay on his father’s payroll.  But Chris knows he’s messed up and he’s hoping to fix things no matter what it takes.  Ten years ago, he chose his daddy’s money over true love, but now he’s back and he’s looking for a second chance.

Stranded in an abandoned beach house as a hurricane ravishes the Outer Banks, they must pull together to stay alive, but the past is still a hurtful memory that Skye can’t shake. While the house is battered by winds and rain, Skye finds herself drawn to the protection of Chris’ embrace. When the storm drifts out to sea, Skye realises what is truly important in life—love.

Back the station house, Chris is finally able to do what he came to North Carolina to do.  He gets down on one knee and proposes to Skye with his grandmother’s ring.  And, of course, she accepts.  Because Skye is the kind of girl who believes in true love and Chris is the kind of guy who will love her for the rest of her life.

So, go on, let me hear it!

Hip Hip Hooray!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Scarlett slept through last night!! In fact, I woke her this morning when I got up, found her with a 
blanket over her head, and panicked, snatching it off of her. You know you would've done the same. 
That makes 2 nights in the past week. God, I hope she keeps this up. I feel so much better and 
she is obviously happier for it. 

I feel terribly accomplished today. I did one of my to-dos yesterday. I woke at 6am, did yoga, showered, 
packed Hunter's lunch, ate breakfast, fed Scarlett... I was unstoppable! After dropping Hunter 
off this morning, I went to ASDA and did my shopping. And now I am sat here checking 
off the next to-do.

I made it my intention today to get all of my to-dos done before I pick up Hunter. Honestly, 
that will be hard if not impossible because the next one involves a lot of research, copying, organizing, 
etc.. I could be at that quite a while, so I'm going to make this post short. I want to start dinner 
early tonight and get Hunter in the shower early so we have time for a bedtime story. I bought him 
two new books at ASDA, so he is going to be thrilled. 

It's kind of like a reward for having been so good last week. His teacher raved about the change 
in his behaviour. I don't know if its because he's only just gone back after two weeks off, or because 
I have started to give him vitamins. According to research I've read lately, he needs more zinc, iron, 
and omega-3 for his hyperactivity. I've also made a point of doing more with him, like crafty stuff 
after school. ASDA (who I should just sign my pay check over to) had a great set of 5 crafty 
activities for £5 and a 'build your own zoo animals' kit for £1.97. 

It would seem (or maybe I'm just delusional from the great sleep I got last night) that I am finally 
getting a schedule sorted for me and the kids. Of course, in four months I'll have to go back to 
work and that'll be toast. :(   I am really not looking forward to going back to work. 
If only I could win the lottery...

This new 'schedule' I've started has me doing something almost every moment of the day. That's 
okay, though. MY ADHD demands a routine, so it works. I have also scheduled in time to write. 
And guess what? I wrote two synopses last night in preparation for the HAR pitch! Now I just have
 to figure out which story to pitch. I have posted in the Harlequin forum to ask if  can post my synopses
 here for a little feedback, I doubt that is okay, but if it is I'll put them here and see what everyone 
(all two of you) thinks. 

In the meantime, I'm going to cross this post off of my to-do list and get started on the one that will 
take a while. I would really love to have it all done before school is out. 
We'll see...

Wet & Not-So-Wonderful

Friday, 22 June 2012

Finally its Friday, although I don't know why I look forward to the weekends. It's not as though I get them off. Mommy never gets a day off.

It's pouring down raining (of course, I mean this is summer in England, right?) and all I want to do is go back to sleep. I mean, really, who wants to go out in this? But I do have to get the monster to school. And I need a trip to ASDA for milk and a few other things. I'm struggling through my morning coffee right now, mourning the fact that there wasn't enough milk to make it taste good. As much as I'd like to drop Hunter at school--by the way I really miss big yellow school buses right about now (I may have said that before, I have deja vu)-- and come home for a nap, I think I'll go straight to the store and get that over with. Unless I could talk my hubby into going after work...

So here's a wrap up to my week. I have started calorie counting and working out (sparsely since my knees ache for days after) and I really thought I was doing good. The scale though otherwise. I have actually gained 2 pounds! My hubby (who has lost 15 pounds in the last 3 weeks, bastard) says its because I am not eating the right combination of foods. I think I'm eating too many carbs. Carbs always were my downfall. Hell, most days I skip at least one meal because I am too busy with the kids or I just forget to eat. These sleepless nights are really taking their toll.

So I've decided to go back on Atkins for a while. I know it's controversial, but I don't care. It works. Ages ago I did just the induction phase (would've carried on, but had my wisdom teeth out and was limited on what I could eat) and I lost tons, plus I felt amazing. Last night as I stepped off the scale and hobbled to my room (my knees are shot anyway, but the extra weight makes even walking a chore) I decided to hop on line and order some shakes and bars. There's also the added benefit that I can eat/drink even if I'm feeding the baby or driving to school. Maybe now I'll have three meals a day.

As if this week's weather wasn't enough to depress me, I have also taken a long hard look at my bills. I need to pull myself out of debt before my birthday in September if I am going to have any chance of staying home with Scarlett until the new year. Basically, I need to write about 100 articles between now and September 10th. It is doable-- before we went to the states I raised spending money by writing 6-10 per week-- but it won't be fun.

As well as article writing, I need to decide which story to pitch to HAR next month and make sure I have a pitch and a partial ready. Of course, the ADHD is acting up and I keep dreaming about my 'Red, White, and Blue' series, wishing I could enter one of those stories instead. But I don't think I am anywhere close to being able to submit one of them. Isn't always the way. I'm going to ask if I can post my synopses, or at least my blurbs, here to get a little feedback. I really want to choose the right one this time. I've waited so long for a HAR pitch.

It's nearly time to wake the baby and take her out into this miserable weather, so I'm going to wrap this up. I still need to print up the monster's school project and get it into a folder for him. Hopefully, I'll be back to post some writing next week. Enjoy your weekend!

Just a quickie...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Not much of a post today either, I'm afraid. I've got an assignment due tomorrow that I've barely started (will I ever learn?) and part of a school project to do with Hunter.

So, I will be writing tonight, but not what I'd like to be writing. I complained about this once on twitter and someone commented that any writing is good. I beg to differ. They had obviously never taken a linguistics course. I wish I had never taken a linguistics course! That's the problem. I don't enjoy it so I put off the assignments. It's my own damn fault I'm so stressed about it.

But once this is done I can get back to trying to decide which WIP to enter in the HAR pitch. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Better wrap this up. I have to pick up Hunter from school in 20 minutes. Oh how I wish there were yellow school buses here. And school sports. And so many other things. But that's a post for another time...

Mini Post

Monday, 18 June 2012

The monster went back to school today. And angels were heard on high singing hallelujah.

My morning didn't exactly follow the plan I've drawn up for myself but it was ok. Shopping done. Baby Bug's 6-9 week check and 8 week shots done. Built a snake for a school project-- a very cool one if I do say so myself. Even managed 15 minutes on the treadmill.

It would seem the only thing I truly haven't had time for is the one thing I actually have to do. My coursework. I have an assignment due Thursday and am way behind. Hence the mini post.

On a mommy-ish note, since its Monday and all, I started calorie counting yesterday.

Then blew it having two glasses of mead at the medieval fayre. ;-)

DH has lost 10 in 2 weeks calorie counting with this handy little app he found, so I've downloaded it and decided to give it a go. Not only do I want to lose the baby weight (which is nearly gone anyway), I want to improve on last summer. Our holiday pics shame me. I'll update here if I lose anything anytime soon.

Aside from my mind. That ship has sailed. :)

Late as usual...

Saturday, 16 June 2012

... but you will be pleased to know that it was for a good, 'writing' reason.

I am planning to enter HAR's editor pitch contest next month and right now they are running a pitch workshop online. So, I spent much of the night writing for that.

It's been great and depressing all at once. Winnie Griggs is hosting it-- and giving some truly priceless feedback-- and she has an outline to follow for crafting a log line and a blurb. Let me tell you that's been an eye opener.

I have been working it for two separate WIPs: Valentine Bride and After The Storm. I chose to do these two (out of the tons I have planned for HAR) because both manuscripts are underway. I have written nearly four chapters of VB and one of ATS. I plan to use one of these as my pitch entry, but I'm really not sure which one.

What I have found through doing Winnie's workshop is that I have a much better understanding of ATS than of VB. this surprises me because I have been working so hard on VB over the last few months. But there it was in black and white. I simply couldn't answer all of Winnie's questions about the story. I didn't know the answers.

So now it's back to the drawing board. I need to have a look at both stories and decide which one I can turn out a better synopsis for. Again, I am panicked by the very limited word count. I have a synopsis for ATS but it is a very long one. It also shows my voice really well. I'm trying to figure out how to do that with only a few hundred words.

Right now, I need to go back to sleep. It's 0503 and I just finished feeding Scarlett. I really shouldn't be posting, but I hate that so much is over due on my to-do list. Plus I have a full day tomorrow. There is no telling when, or even if, I'd get to blog. I'll be back Monday, after the monster goes back to school, to talk about mommy things, but I'll let you know where I got to with this workshop and which WIP I'm leaning toward entering. Until then good morning, I'm going back to bed. :-)

Writing Another Synopsis

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Finally. The moment I have been waiting for (for nearly two years now) has arrived. Harlequin has announced a pitch contest for the Harlequin American Romance line! I am so excited. I woke up yesterday morning and for some reason all I wanted to do was check the forum just in case. And there it was. Must be my sixth sense, huh? J

Anyway. You may wonder why I have waited all this time instead of submitting the old fashioned way. The answer is simple. First, I need some sort of deadline to drive me to submit and a self-imposed deadline just isn’t enough. And second, I love fast results and the wait for feedback on a normal submission is excruciating for me. Basically, I’m hard work. Just ask my husband.

The pitch has been announced and the requirement is possibly the scariest one I’ve come across yet. All you send in to enter is a one-page, double-spaced synopsis. So, I have about 250 words to tell a 55,000 word story in. Yeah. Right.

I’m not going to lie. I am terrified. It just seems so short, so small. Such a small sample with absolutely no second chance. No second piece of work to fall back on. This 250 or so words has to be perfect.

I have read (somewhere, I can’t remember where so forgive me for not crediting the source) that a single-page synopsis is more of a ‘big blurb’. I’d like to think I’m good at writing blurbs. I could be wrong. Later, after I post this, I am going to head over to the pitch workshop with Winnie Griggs on the Harlequin forum and see if we are allowed to post our entries there to be looked at by Winnie. Probably not, but it never hurts to ask. In the meantime, I have found a couple of good sources for writing a short synopsis online. I’ve read through a thousand blogs and articles, mind you, but only two stand out as particularly helpful since they list what should go into a short synopsis.

The first, by Deborah Hale (, is geared directly at romance.  Deborah lists the following as essential for a short synopsis (I’m only going to give you the name of the element, for examples, you’ll have to check out her web site):

1.      Hook Sentence
2.      Heroine Goal/Motivation
3.      Hero Goal/Motivation
4.      Situation
5.      Budding Attraction
6.      Non-Physical Attributes that Attract
7.      Complicating Events
8.      Emotional Complication/Internal Conflict
9.      Black Moment
10.  Life Lesson/Character Growth
11.  Happy Ending

The second is part of a lecture series by Lisa Gardener called Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis: A Series of Ten Lectures ( Lisa discusses two types of synopsis, one for a character-driven story and one for a plot-driven story. Romances tend to be character-driven, so that is the outline I plan to use when writing my synopsis. According to Lisa, a short synopsis must include (again, see the link for more detail):

1.      Hook
2.      Internal Conflict
3.      External Conflict
4.      Hero and Heroine Work Together
5.      Intimacy
6.      Morning After
7.      Hero and heroine Work Together Again
8.      Showdown/Black Moment
9.      Resolution

So which one is the best one to write my synopsis? I honestly couldn’t say. I’m still reeling at the thought of condensing my entire story into so few words. They seem to have a few common elements, so I think I’ll use a combination of both.

Do you have a system or checklist or a particular article or blog post which helps you write one-page synopses? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Mommy Needs A Nap

Monday, 11 June 2012

Here we are back at the beginning of another week. I swear it seems like we just finished a Monday. Anyway, here's my Monday Momminess.

I am exhausted today. I took my teams (I run an all star cheer program) to a competition yesterday. I left the house a little after 9am and was home a little after 9pm. Such a long day.

I took Scarlett. It was her first cheer comp and she's only 7 weeks old! That makes me so happy! Which is probably a bit sad, but I don't care. I bought her a team onesie and made her her first hair bow. It was awesome! She was just as popular as the competition mascot. You would not believe how many total strangers came looking for 'the baby with the cheer bow'. It was too cute.

Today, I am running on empty. I am still struggling to find a way to nurse with the Gaviscon. Expressing isn't going so well. We are on the second week of the half term and I can't seem to get 5 minutes alone to go to the bathroom and my 4 year old apparently has a tapeworm. He's begging for peanut butter sandwiches about every hour or so. So I haven't found much time to express. I've been relying on formula which is something I swore I wouldn't do.

I've been doing some research and I'm trying a new way of administering the Gaviscon. Previously, I have been mixing it with the cooled boiled water for formula or with the expressed breast milk. I find that in the breast milk, it becomes little gummy particles which clog the nipple in the bottle. Let me tell you that is a nightmare. A starving, screaming baby unable to get milk from the bottle no matter how hard she sucks. Yeah. Great fun.

Today I mixed the Gaviscon with 15ml water and I've given her about 10ml after putting her to the breast. So far she just seems to want to sleep. I'm ok with that. I want to sleep, too. I just can't convince the 4 year old to nap. Or to behave. Every time I get the baby to sleep he comes in and wakes her. I suspect on purpose.

I wonder what would happen if I put on a movie for him and just shut myself and the baby in my room for half an hour...

Still here...

Monday, 4 June 2012

God, I feel like I haven't posted in ages.  I also feel like I haven't slept in ages. Baby Scarlett has reflux, so my days and nights are running together in one long parade of laundry and Gaviscon. Figures, doesn't it? I suffered so bad with reflux that in addition to Gaviscon, I was put on Zantac. It was bad. So bad that at one point I lost my voice because my throat was blistered-- even though I was drinking a 600ml (that's the big one) bottle of Gaviscon a week!

And so, Scarlett, too, is suffering with it. Of course, this means expressing milk to mix with the Gaviscon and that is easier said than done when you also have a four-year-old in school. I have no choice but supplement with formula. She's still throwing up a good bit of her feeds, so in the end I may give soy formula a try. Hunter had reflux-- even worse than Scarlett-- and yes, I drank Gavison while I carried him, too. It turned out that he couldn't tolerate anything but soy formula. I hope this isn't the case for Scarlett. We started Hunter on solids at four months at the urging of the GP and instantly, the vomiting stopped. I hate to say it, but I am already looking forward to four months when we can get Scarlett on solids. She looks so miserable when she's sick.

So there's my 'Mommy update' as promised on a Monday. Now, I'm going to touch a bit on writing and give you something fun to watch since I missed posting on last Wednesday and Friday.

Here's my 'writing update'. I entered Harlequin's Intrigue pitch contest last month and I did not win one of the coveted pitching spots. Today, I'm not sure how I feel about this. There are a million reasons why I knew I wouldn't win.

A while back I posted that I was going to take a break from working on the Intrigue WIP to focus on the HAR WIP to which I believe my voice is better suited. I only entered because with a nearly completed WIP it seemed a shame to pass up the opportunity. I wasn't really happy with my entry; I hastily wrote the 300 word excerpt at the same time as completing my 3000 word essay for my end of module assessment in Children's Literature, so my mind wasn't really on task. I had also posted about the poor pay Harlequin gives authors and I was a bit disenchanted with Harlequin on the whole.

Of course, getting the email saying I hadn't made it through still devastated me. I couldn't really say why considering I never though I would. I don't know if it is the lack of sleep or what, but I was actually quite sad. I even shed a few tears of frustration. Only a few. And that probably was down to exhaustion. I had figured if I didn't get through I would have a go at the Medical Fast Track instead and I even started working on that entry while awaiting the announcement email. After the email, I decided to skip the Medical Fast Track. I was too disheartened.

The worst of it was that it made me doubt my ability. Suddenly, I was certain that not only could I not write romance, I couldn't write fiction at all.I pushed all of my romance WIPs to the back of my work station and decided to take some time to study writing (from a couple of books I always wanted to read but never got the chance) and maybe work on the concept and plot for my magical realism WIP. I figured it was best that I concentrate on my non-fiction for a while.

Tonight, I'm not sure how I feel about that. I keep seeing status updates from Harlequin authors on my Facebook, some of whom I know on a more personal basis, and tweets from Harlequin authors who I actually do #1h1k's with. I'm sat here wondering if I do belong in that crowd still. I always thought I did. Even if I never get published by Harlequin and I release all of my romances myself through KDP, I'd like to believe I still have what it takes to be a romance author.

So, maybe it is just the lack of sleep which sent me into a tailspin and convinced me I had no talent for writing. God knows, I've never struggled with rejection or criticism before this and my faith in my ability has never wavered. I'm not saying I'm an awesome writer, just that I know I can write. You know how people complain about not knowing who they are? About needing to find themselves? The only thing I have ever truly known, the only thing I have been certain of, is that I am a writer.

I think I may have to pull those romance WIPs back out and give them another go. I have two that I would like to finish and submit to Harlequin and then we'll just see. If they don't sell,maybe I'll polish them until they shine even brighter and publish them myself.

Well, it is time to feed the baby and she is starting to stir, so I'm going to have to go, but I promised to leave you with something fun to watch. Now, I'm a bit of a geek and I have a photographic memory (which made tests in school much easier), so this is right up my alley. You may not agree, but give it a go. I love the outlandish story he comes up with at the beginning of the video and the way her ties it all together in the end. I think it is just plain awesome. Watch it and tell me what you think...

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