I’m not here

When you’re reading this I will have arrived in Spain for my much needed holiday. I won’t really be around for the next week, but should be back to posting again after 19 June.

Let’s hope for sunshine, both for me and everyone else, wherever you are! (Unless of course you hate sunshine, then I hope for whatever weather you want for your location…)

The Longest Week

I’ve just finished one of my longest work weeks ever. Due to staff shortage, I’ve just worked 72 hours in the past week. Needless to say, I’m exhausted. Which is very unhelpful considering that I have a lot that need to get done.

Ignoring all the writing/revising I should be doing, I need to tidy up and clean our flat, print out our boarding passes and vouchers, write a note to the house/pet sitter and pack our bags. Oh yes, I didn’t tell you – I’m going to Spain on Monday!

The work week from hell is a lot easier to get through when you know that you’re off on a holiday once it’s over.

My sister and her family are coming to visit for the last week of June as well, which I’m really looking forward to. The one problem I’m having is finding the time to clean, since when we get back from Spain I go straight into three nights of work, and then they arrive. I might have to only sleep a couple of hours after the last night and do lots of panic cleaning (is there any other kind?) in the hours before they show up.

Now I need to get back to cleaning… I say that, but in reality I’m off to watch the new Wonder Woman movie.

Instagram Roundup (May)

It’s the first of June, and in all honesty I don’t know where this year has gone. Wasn’t it Christmas just a few weeks ago?! Below are my Instagram photos from the month of May.

Suddenly things were green…

He had a very interesting eating style for a while. (We rotated the table and it helped.)

Our cute minion of chaos.

Try revising when you can’t reach the keyboard…

The boyfriend’s reaction when I try to take a photo of our dessert.

Kitten’s new chill-out spot.

I attempted to make a cake for the boyfriend’s birthday with mixed success.

Monthly Update (May)

It’s that time of the month again, so let’s have a look at what I’ve accomplished (or not) in May.

Writing

I will be honest, May has been a terrible month for me in regards to writing. Which is a shame, because I had such great plans. I’ve not revised more than a chapter or two, instead I’ve been plotting and planning for a couple of other books. There’s also some prep work that I’ve been doing in preparation for a more long term thing, but there’s nothing to show for it yet – so it doesn’t necessarily count. It took a lot longer than I had thought, and so May has been a bad month for writing.

Blog

The blog has had a face-lift, in that I have a new design with a new colour scheme and new icons etc. Tags is something that a lot of people use, but I haven’t – so I’ve also added a Tag cloud and I’m slowly (very slowly) going to go through all of the old posts and add tags to them. At least anything new will have tags on them.

Personal

We got a kitten! I’ve been missing having a cat since I left my precious girl back in Sweden when I moved. As much as I would have loved to bring her with me, it just wouldn’t have been fair to do that to her. She’s an outdoor cat used to the countryside, and I now live in a city with busy roads.

We adopted a little British Shorthair silver blue tabby a couple of weeks ago, and his name is Macallan. He’s very cuddly and has a lovely temperament. We’re very happy with him, and Bailey (the dog) loves him too!

Little Mac.

In fairness, the dog may love him a little too much at times. Macallan is no longer wary of the dog, as he was the first few days, but Bailey can still be a little too overzealous with his wanting to love him. This gif pretty much sums up their relationship…

This. So much this.

Oh, and something I did get done during May was step one in Project Flat Overhaul. When I moved to England we bought a flat, and while it was in a good enough condition to just move in and start living, I’m now at the point where I want to start making it ours. For now, all I can do due to money and time restraints is paint all the rooms (and even that will take a bit of time). So this month, I painted our second bedroom.

Like the dummy I am, of course I forgot to take a proper “before” photo, so here’s an old, crappy one when we still had moving boxes everywhere. The walls were a beige-ish colour.

Taking a photo of a wall for colour is not something I’m good at (as apparent above). The new colour is called Mint Macaroon and turned out really well, albeit not as we first thought. The paint sample was quite green, but the end result is actually a lot more blue than it might appear. Still, we really love the colour, so it’s still a win! And the room feels so much brighter!

This is Mint Macaroon. I swear the sample was green!

WIP Wednesday

Once a month, I will share a piece of my current Work in Progress, and I arbitrarily decided that it will be the third Wednesday of every month. Because logic is over rated.

This is a scene from the Regency Romance I’m currently writing, tentatively titled As He Likes It. The scene takes place at a ball between our hero Nathaniel, the Marquess of Pensington and our heroine Angelique (Angel) Grafton.

It’s unedited as I’m in the middle of revisions.

Finally, he gave up and walked across the room to where Angel seemed to be trying to hide behind a potted tree while sipping some punch. Apparently Chettisham had seen fit to give her something to drink, but didn’t bother to stick around. She looked up as he came to stand beside her.

“Are you enjoying your evening so far, Miss Grafton?” he asked politely.

“Very much, thank you,” she answered just as polite.

“Is that why you’re hiding behind a tree?”

Angel choked on the punch she’d just been about to swallow and started to cough. “I beg your pardon?” she sputtered.

Her eyes were watery from the coughing, making them appear greener than before. Framed with thick, dark eyelashes they were one of her most attractive features. Her pink lips were slightly parted, as if she could not quite believe what he’d just said. Nathaniel was shocked by the sudden urge he had to kiss those lips.

“Lord Pensington?” Angel queried softly.

“It seemed to me as if you were hiding,” Nathaniel said, pulling himself together. “Lurking behind plants usually isn’t an activity of those who enjoy a ball.”

A faint blush crept up Angel’s cheeks, making her look even more adorable. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she mumbled, facing the ball room and refusing to look at him.

“It was not my meaning to embarrass you. Please accept my most sincere apologies.”

Angel gave him a quick look. “Are you making sport of me, Lord Pensington?”

“I would never dream of it,” Nathaniel said with a look of mock horror, causing Angel to laugh and finally relax.

“I fear I really am hiding,” she admitted with a sigh. “I’m terribly shy and all these people make me nervous.”

“Where is your Chettisham?” Nathaniel asked, looking out over the crowd trying to locate him.

“He’s not my Chettisham,” Angel muttered, only to add, “At least not yet.”

“Well, he should be by your side if he hopes to win your hand in marriage.”

That caused Angel to laugh again, though it had a hollow quality to it. “There is no winning involved. It is simply how it is meant to be. I’m to be his wife, and that’s the end of it.”

Nathaniel knew he shouldn’t ask, it was none of his business, but he couldn’t help himself. “Do you wish to be his wife?”

She fell silent, looking out over the people on the dance floor until she found Chettisham, dancing with a beautiful, buxom lady.

“That is an awfully personal question, Lord Pensington,” she said quietly. “Do you really think that we are acquainted enough to speak of such private matters?”

“I did sleep in your bed,” Nathaniel said with a straight face.

Angel gasped and turned abruptly towards him, her cheeks turning beet red. “That is an awful thing to say to a young lady, my lord!”

“It was merely an observation.” Nathaniel tried to look innocent, but failed miserably.

“You, my lord, are a rogue,” Angel said, but she was smiling now.

“I believe that considering that you have seen me in a state of undress that few can claim to, you can call me Nathaniel.”

She blushed prettily. “Then you may call me Angel. But I thought you told me we should never mention that incident again.”

“So I did,” Nathaniel agreed. “But that was before I realized I could not stop thinking about it.”

They fell silent, Nathaniel felt as surprised by his admission as Angel looked. His dark eyes locked on to Angel’s light green ones, and neither of them were able to break the contact. Unable to stop himself Nathaniel leaned a little closer.

Character Names

One of the more enjoyable parts in writing is finding the perfect character names. Or if not perfect, at least names that you feel fit and you like. There are lots of ways to do this. Sometimes a name might just come to you, or you’ve read it in another book, seen it on TV, maybe you even know someone with that name.

Other times, you’re struggling and you can’t come up with a name no matter how hard you try. These are the times when you might need some help, and I will share some of the places where I go to look with you.

Contemporary Names

These are probably the easiest, because pretty much any name goes. You’ve seen some of the names celebrities name their babies, right? I usually go to any baby name website to look for names that I like for a contemporary story.

Babynames.com

NameBerry

Babynames.co.uk

BabyCentre

Historical Names

When it comes to writing historical fiction, it helps if the names are at least plausibly from that era. If your Regency hero is called Maddox for example, people might call you out on it. For my historical fiction I tend to look at the above databases for names, and then double check their etymology to see if there was any chance they existed back in the early 19th century.

For me, in reality, Regency names were quite limited in which names were actually popular at the time – so to avoid writing books where a lot of people have the same name – I’m allowing myself some leniency on the names. As long as it’s not too far from the realm of possibility.

You can also find some places online where you can look at registers of people who actually lived at the time. Or steal a name from an author that you know lived back then. We all know Jane, Emily and Charlotte were names used in that time period!

For my four book series, I named the four siblings after characters in Shakespeare’s plays (their mother loved all things Shakespeare). So something like that is also possible. Choosing names that appeared in works published in, or before, the time period that you’re writing about.

Name Etymology

Fantasy Names

For fantasy names you can go either way, all depending on what kind of book you’re writing. You can make names up from scratch, you can use a name generator, you can use common names with slight variations.

In the few fantasy stories I’ve written I tend to do a mixture. Some names are made up, some are old gaelic or roman names, sometimes with a slight variation. Some are more common names with some variation. The advantage in fantasy is that it’s your fantasy, and the world you build will adhere to your imagination and your rules. If you want common names like John to be what people are called in your story, then that’s what you do.

An example of someone who used common names with a slight deviation, combined with some made up names: George RR Martin.
Jon Snow (John)
Eddard Stark (Edward)
Joffrey Barathian (Geoffrey)
All obviously based on real names. But then you have names like Sansa, which didn’t seem to exist before Game of Thrones.

Fantasy Name Generator

Surnames

I use a surname website for the last name of my characters, combined with just making things up. Sometimes I will look at maps of the UK when I need surnames and/or titles to get ideas. There are a lot of great names in street names and areas!

Surname Database

How do you name your characters, and do you have any tips on where to find names?

Movie Review: Beauty & the Beast

I had meant to post this ages ago, when I actually saw the movie, but I never got around to it, because I’m a terrible person. Or a forgetful person. One of those things.

It’s a tale as old as time… and you know what, let’s not do this. I think we all know how the story goes. If you’re anything like me, you saw the original Disney movie about a trillion times anyway and probably know it by heart.

There’s definitely a level of nostalgia that goes into watching this movie, and Disney counts on it, giving us a nearly frame by frame remake. There are changes though, and some (most?) are for the better. Some new songs have been added, and Belle is a little less victim and a little more feisty. She’s the inventor rather than her father, which is one of the reasons the villagers find her odd. That and the fact that she can read, which is apparently a terrible, terrible thing. Even worse when she tries to teach one of the children (a girl! oh noes! how dare she?!) to read.

Some of the things that might have made us go ‘huh?’ in the original movie have been addressed, some of which makes sense now and some of which still kind of don’t. As well as a few new bits that may or may not make sense.

I could go into detail about all these things, but I won’t bore you. (An example is how the villagers could have forgotten that there’s a huge castle with a prince right next door, and some timing in regards to the Beast’s age. If you pay attention in the original and do the maths he was basically 11 when the curse happened. How bad can an 11 year old be for you to curse him like that? I’m kidding, 11 year olds can be terrible, but I mean – ground them or something, don’t turn them into a beast!)

Let’s talk about the things that I really care about when it comes to this movie; the characters and romance!

The Beast/Prince

They did an amazing job creating the Beast in CGI! Dan Stevens truly shine and is allowed enough of his features through the CGI to properly convey all of the feelings he needs to. Not only that, but he can sing. I will be honest, I had no idea that Dan Stevens could sing.

In fact, they did such a good job on the Beast (those pecs… I mean, the scene where his shirt is open created some very confusing feelings for me) that I was disappointed when he turned into the Prince. Which was very badly done, because Dan Stevens is a handsome man. What’s up with the temple curls?! And did he have to be given the ugliest suit of everyone in the whole movie?

Belle

I liked Hermione Granger Emma Watson as Belle, though I’m not sure that someone else couldn’t have done a better job. I feel terrible for saying it, but while she was good, and I’m sure she put a lot of effort into learning to sing, she’s not actually a singer – and it’s noticeable. In fairness, I didn’t notice it as much when I was watching the movie – but I listened to the soundtrack afterwards, and when you don’t have the movie to dazzle you, you notice that her voice doesn’t quite measure up to some of the others.

Also, I know she’s like 27 years old now or something, but I struggle to see her as older than she was in early Harry Potter movies. This is my problem though and may not be someone else. It did however make me think that her first reaction to the Beast turning into Dan Stevens the Prince would be “oh wow… eh… you’re older than I thought”.

Gaston

After the Beast, Gaston was definitely my second favourite character in this version of the movie. Luke Evans does such an amazing job and is so charismatic that it’s difficult to hate Gaston as much as you did in the original. I wonder if they made him extra villainous to make up for the fact that Luke Evans is so amazing that people might end up rooting for him instead of the Beast if he doesn’t show how properly evil he really is?

If for no other reason, watch the movie for Luke Evans.

LeFou

Josh Gad does a great job of making LeFou more than just the funny sidekick that he was in the original. He gets his own character arc and Gad portrays this perfectly, while still being funny and endearing.

Everyone else

I don’t have many thoughts about the others. They were all fine. I’m not sure about Ewan McGregor with a French accent… Also, Emma Thompson’s accent as Mrs. Potts threw me a bit. I love Kevin Cline in pretty much everything he does. Didn’t realise Stanley Tucci was in the movie until the very end!

The Romance

As in the original, the timeline is somewhat compressed (and that’s with the live action movie being longer than the original already), so the romance is still happening quite quickly. I always wish we’d have a little bit more time with Beauty and the Beast to see their relationship develop. It definitely feels a little bit rushed, but it is given a little bit more time than in the original, which at least helps.

It might be because I’m a romance writer and reader, but I could probably have spent another half hour getting into their budding relationship. But that’s what all the books inspired by the Beauty & the Beast story are for I guess.

All in all, I really loved the movie and would recommend anyone who liked the original to see it. There are a few things that doesn’t necessarily make sense (but you’d find that in nearly any movie if you look hard enough), but I’ll forgive it because I’ve always had a soft spot for Beauty & the Beast.

Ps. This Beauty & the Beast clip from James Corden is absolutely amazing. And it has Dan Stevens, Luke Evans and Josh Gad in it!

Instagram Roundup (April)

I’m not particularly prolific when it comes to taking photos and putting them on Instagram, but on the first of every month I’ll share whatever I have been putting up (if anything).

The Easter cheesecake. It was as delicious as it looks.

The one photo I took during a week spent in Exeter for work training. (Technically not in April, but it’s my first post, so I’m cheating.)

A wild sprite appears in the Swedish woods.

The one photo I took of the landscape when I was in Sweden.

When you buy your dog a new bed and he uses it as a pillow instead.

The Easter cakes that were meant to look like eggs.

Monthly Update (April)

It’s the last day of the month, so let’s have a look at what’s been going on in April.

Writing

Currently revised chapters: 14

I didn’t get as much done this month as I had hoped, but I have great excuses reasons. I spent just over a week on holiday, during which I didn’t do a single thing related to writing. Also, while it might look like a measly number, I stopped after chapter 14 when I realised that after ten years this novel needed a lot more work than just editing. Meaning that I’ve gone back to chapter one and started heavily revising.

Since then I’ve been revising, spending sometimes upwards of four hours per chapter, rewriting and trying to make it better. I’m nearly back up to where I finished (14), so if I can keep up a steady pace, I should be done revising before June rolls around. Then commences editing and proofreads.

My biggest problem, which I’m sure I’m not alone in, is lack of time. Every other week I have a few days off, but the other week I have several days in a row where my spare time is all of two hours between waking up after a night shift and then having to be back at work. During those two hours I generally have to shower, walk the dog and eat some dinner. Some of those days I’ve managed to revise half a chapter, but that’s rare.

I sometimes worry that I’m spending all my time revising rather than starting to write something new, but I think it’s best to focus on getting this novel ready first. I’ll worry about the next one later. The positive thing with all this revising is that I’m suddenly finding myself with lots of story inspiration again, something I’ve been lacking for a long time. So hooray!

Other stuff

I spent just over a week in Sweden over Easter, and it was beautiful – so obviously I have to share some photos. Because I never remember to take any myself, these are all taken by my aunt. The holiday was great though, even if I got no writing or revising done.

I’m not afraid of flying

As I’ve just been traveling by plane I started to think about flying, and how I feel about it. A lot of people in my family are afraid to fly, while I’m not. I mean, not really. At least not enough to keep me from traveling by plane to whichever destination I need to go. That said, it doesn’t mean that I enjoy flying.

The evening before my return flight I was listening to the radio while they were talking about the fear of flying. Statistically it’s safer to fly than to drive a car or go by train, yet a lot of people are afraid of flying – but not those other things. They gave a few possible reasons for this on the show, but not the one that I personally find the most obvious – the odds of survival.

I feel like if I’m in a car accident or train accident, I have some chance to survive. If my plane goes down… The odds are kind of stacked against you on that one.

Exactly what I don’t want to see when going in for a landing.

I like to think that I handle flying fairly well, I’m just aware of my own mortality. I dislike the take-off and landing the most, possibly because that’s when the most accidents occur. Turbulence is very uncomfortable as well. I don’t even like roller-coasters, so going into a quick dip at 30,000 ft isn’t my cup of tea. It worries me when I hear about research that show that the turbulence is going to get worse and worse because of our carbon dioxide emissions. Turbulence might possibly bother me more than anything during a flight.

The better way of flying?

Then there are the maths. On average I probably do three round-trips a year. It’s nothing compared to people who travel for work, but it’s possibly more than the average person? Statistically, I imagine that the more flights you take, the greater the odds of something happening. I’m no maths genius though, so it probably doesn’t work like that at all.

How do you feel about flying?