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COMPETITION

WIN THE AWARD-WINNING SERIES!  

Want a chance to win the complete Chance Sisters Romance series? To promote my new book (MARRY IN HASTE, out on May 2nd) Penguin USA is running a competition.
But it’s only for US residents, sorry.

The competition closes on 20 April, so be quick.

Click on this link to enter.

If you can’t enter because you don’t live in the USA, don’t worry — I’ll be running a Goodreads Giveaway in the near future and it will be open to everyone, regardless of where they live. Stay tuned.

Writing Retreat

I’ve recently returned from my annual writing retreat — that’s a time away (in our case almost a week) with a group of writer friends, working. We’re all multi-published writers, but even so there’s an emphasis on professional development as well as producing words on the page.

This is our tenth anniversary as a writing retreat (I reported on the first one here  and over the years we’ve refined the process into one that works for us. Here’s the post I wrote while I was away on our 10th retreat.

I’ve had enquiries from time to time asking for more detail about how we run ours, so here’s my view of things.

Location
The first retreat, and all but one of our retreats have been beside the sea. There’s something about the sea and the salt air, the interface of land and water and sky, the constantly changing view and the endless rhythmic pounding of the waves, hypnotic and soothing and inspiring — it feeds our muse.

Another requirement for us is a range of affordable and varied places to eat nearby. We can cook our own meals, but a lot of people prefer to grab take-aways — Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Greek etc — or eat out in a group.

A room of our own
From the very first retreat, we decided this was important, as each of us needed a private space to write in. That’s not actually true for all of us, we’ve discovered — some write in bed, some in cafes, but for some a table and a private space is vital, so that was a priority.

Planning
In the weeks leading up to the retreat we start to toss around ideas for professional development. From craft-of-writing exercises (because we can all do with refreshing and honing our craft) to “the state-of-publishing” discussions, to discussions of books or movies, and the sharing of good writing books — we brainstorm ideas, come up with a schedule, and assign people to lead each session.  The leader doesn’t have to be an expert — just do a little preparation and lead the discussion.

Schedule
On the first night together we grab fish and chips and champagne (it’s now a tradition), and we plan the week.

Mornings are the most creative time for most of us, so the majority of us stay in our rooms, writing until lunchtime. Some go out for breakfast, some make it in their room (we have cooking facilities), some go for an early morning swim or a dawn walk, but we don’t meet as a group until lunchtime. And if anyone wants to keep working, they skip the lunchtime meeting.

We bring our own lunch to the meeting room and the first professional development session takes place.

Then it’s back to our rooms for more writing — or in some cases, shopping, swimming, walks, naps, whatever. 

In the evening we meet again for dinner — sometimes we go out as a group, but mostly we bring take-away or home-cooked and there’s another professional development session. And after that there’s wine and chocolate and lots of fun.

Some sessions/discussions we’ve had — in no particular order:
*  The changing face of publishing — always something new to discuss there.
*  Contracts and business matters
*  Theme
*  Subtext 
*  E-publishing
*  Movie watching and discussion
*  Plotting — sharing and discussing individual methods
*  Book discussions — of fiction, and of non-fiction writing books
*  Story collage
*  Our processes — how we each approach writing, and deal with problems that arise
*  Brainstorming – we brainstorm plots, story problems, and titles
*  Dealing with revisions —the approaches vary considerably.
*  Keeping the magic alive
*  Paramedic, medical and midwifery advice for use in books
*  How to keep the muse fresh and bubbling
*  Writing the back cover blurb
*  Tips for writing faster/better
*  Dealing with perfectionism
*  Dealing with editors
*  Visibility
*  Learning Styles
*  Meditation and exercises for writing health
*  Promotion and publicity — what works what doesn’t, what we like/hate
*  Planning a series
*  To blog or not?
And much more . . . .

We came together as an experiment — at the first retreat half of us had never met — but now we’re all good friends. We’ve gone down different pathways in publishing and it’s a constant journey of discovery and rediscovery.
We’ve already booked for next year’s retreat. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

PS — I would have included more photos, but for some reason WordPress won’t let me upload them, even though they’re all under 30kbs. sigh.

In shreds

A friend recently gave me a small posy of artificial violets from a village near where she lives in the south of France. Tourettes-de-loup is famous for growing violets. They have a violet festival around this time every year. 

I walked into the living room this morning and found my dog lying under the table.  Now, she often lies under the table—it’s her favorite place, a kind of den—but this morning she was lurking with a classic guilty look on her face.

“Milly, what have you done?”

She slunk out from under the table with that tentative tail-wagging appeasement look that dogs do so well, leaving a bunch of strange little shreds behind her under the table .

 

It wasn’t until I’d gathered them up that I recognized them. . .

So much for leaving a posy on the coffee table.  She doesn’t usually steal and chew things, apart from balls, and the odd, smuggled-in bone, but she’s eaten off all the violet flower parts and left the rest, so clearly they smelled and tasted good. To dogs, anyway.

As it turned out, when I told my other friends this story, they investigated their posies more closely, and found the “flowers” were really — in one friend’s words: “the loveliest sweets! A sort of crispy white outer shell and this lovely chocolaty filling. Thanks Milly :-) ”  

All I can say is hmph! Chocolate is bad for dogs. If I’d known they were edible I’ve never have put them on the coffee table.

By the way, the photo of the posy at the top of this post isn’t the posy my friend gave me. It’s one I found on the web. I didn’t take a photo of my friend’s posy — I didn’t realize I needed to preserve it for posterity.

To learn more about Tourettes-de-loup, the violet-growing village in the south of France, where my friend bought them go here. And also here.