Monday, 28 May 2012

A day on my own just to write... What could possibly go wrong?

I was so looking forward to today.

The sky was a pure blue, flowers were everywhere, spots of colours in the sunshine, birds were singing and a light breeze was coming through the open window of my makeshift study.

And more importantly, it was going to be one of those rare days when I would be alone in the house, with nobody to distract me and nothing else to do than get on with my story. I had a plan, I was bursting with ideas, I had images and bits of dialogues in my head. It was going to be a wonderful and productive day. I couldn't wait to write.

Things started to go wrong when child number one came back early from college - lessons cancelled - and embarked on playing his guitar, watching TV, playing noisy computer games and demanding lunch ... I gritted my teeth, closed the door and stayed focussed as long as I could. However feelings of motherly guilt for ignoring my first-born for the sake of imaginary characters and romantic plots pushed me out of the study and I got side-tracked.

When I came back to the computer I made the mistake of checking my emails, which in turn led to going onto the internet and reading a few blogs I follow.... Before I knew it, it was time to walk up to school to pick up child number three. Never mind, I still had an hour before child number two came back from high school and started demanding food and attention. I was just getting back into my story when the phone rang. One think I can't do is let the phone ring, and then I'm not very good at telling people I'll call them back because now isn't a good time to chat. So by the time I put the phone down, well... not only children one, two and three were reminding me it was time to make their tea but the writing mood was completely lost.

It's now a beautiful evening, the birds are still singing, and there isn't a single cloud in the sky...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Moustaches and Umbrellas...

It’s amazing the bits of information you pick up when you research historical facts for a novel. Moustaches and umbrellas, what can they have in common? The answer is: Napoleon’s great army and Waterloo.

‘Angel Heart’, my soon-to-be-published historical romance with Muse it Up Publishing, takes place in 1815. The hero, Hugo Saintclair, is a French cuirassier officer. I was rather put out to learn that Cuirassiers had to wear a moustache for nine months of the year, between March and December. For the remaining three months, they had to be clean shaven.  I tried, and tried, but I just couldn’t picture my hero with a moustache… So how did I get around it? I decided that my novel would start in January!

Here are a few other facts about France and moustaches.

Did you know that French waiters had to wait until 4th May 1907 to win the right to wear a moustache? It wasn’t easy. They had to go on strike for it. At the time wearing a moustache was the prerogative of the middle and upper classes and military personnel (the gendarmes were obliged by ministerial decree to wear a moustache until 1933). House staff, coach drivers, delivery boys at the Banque de France, waiters and other men employed in subordinate positions, were all banned from wearing one, which they felt was grossly unfair.

Indeed, ever since Napoleon’s great army, the moustache was a symbol of absolute virility, the mark of the dominant male. At a time of social struggles in France, at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, ‘garçons de café’ considered therefore that to deny them the right to wear a moustache was both an attack on their masculinity and an attempt at marking them as belonging to the inferior classes. They went on strike, and they won…

So what about umbrellas?
During my research on Napoleonic wars, I learnt that English officers were so often seen sheltering under umbrellas on the battlefield that Wellington, who found the habit 'not only ridiculous but unmilitary', had to give specific orders before Waterloo stating categorically that ‘Umbrellas will not be opened in the presence of the enemy.’

I must say that I would never have thought officers would carry an umbrella to battle, and even less open it and hide under it!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

New Beginnings...

How many times can you re-start a novel? I don't mean editing, adding or changing a few things to make the opening scenes more grabbing, a character more life-like or a location more atmospheric. I mean a complete overhaul of the plot. I have been working on my current historical novel for a few weeks now, and it's the fourth time I start over from scratch, with a new time frame, new opening scenes and locations and elements to the plot. So far only the hero and heroin have escaped my rewriting frenzy. Every time I feel I'm doing better, and every time it seems that I'm not. A few chapters into the new 'improved' version, I stall... and wonder where I've gone wrong again.

Being an optimist, I have today started the fourth - and I hope the final - version of 'Dancing for the Devil'. I still believe in the characters and the storyline, but it feels by far the hardest story I've written and I wonder why.

So there... This time it starts on a very stormy day in Cape Wrath in the North of Scotland...