Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Behind the Scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire - Chp 7 part 2

Every good treasure hunt needs a map, doesn’t it? I think the clue involving the London Underground map was my favourite bit of the treasure hunt element of Saying Yes To The Millionaire. I had an idea early on that I would like to send them on a photo scavenger hunt on the London Underground system as it’s such a vital part of the city.

I remembered reading about the Henry Beck’s design for Tube map and how ground-breaking it had been. Before Beck’s map, the stations had always been depicted in their geographical locations. Take a look at this:

Confusing isn’t it! Henry Beck came up with the idea of showing the stations in relation to each other, ignoring the geographical distances and kept it simple by only using horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines. The ironic thing was that Mr Beck, an engineering draughtsman by trade, was unemployed at the time he came up with his idea, after having been made redundant by London Underground. He was paid five guineas for his work and was often not credited for his idea, even though it was the basis of many modern transport maps.

Here’s a copy of Henry Beck’s original drawing that I printed out while I was writing the book. It is little more than a doodle, with a few sketchy lines representing the different Underground lines and a few dots to represent the stations. It wasn’t easy working out a trail of ten stations that would tax the treasure hunt contestants because, if you look closely, you’ll see there aren’t that many dots and they are on just one or two lines.

I wanted to map out the ten stops on the trail, even if I didn’t use most of them in the book. The first challenge was to work out which stations the blobs were. I got out my trusty pocket tube map and almost instantly got stuck. Some of the stations were obvious, but I couldn’t work out the rest. It wasn’t until I took a good look at the 19030s version of the map, which resembles Beck’s sketch much more closely, that I could identify the stations.

Noticing the differences between the original map and today’s map – changes in names, stations that had appeared or disappeared - gave me an idea for Fern and Josh's final destination for this day of the race, but more about that in the post about chapter 8…

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Behind the Scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire - Chp 7

After the Covent Garden busking challenge, day 3 of the treasure hunt leads Fern and Josh all over the place. They find themselves in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs under the River Thames between Cutty Sark Gardens and Island Gardens, on the Isle of Dogs. It is 1,217 feet in length and approx 50 feet deep. Its original purpose was to allow south London residents to get to work in the docks on the Isle of Dogs without having to rely on the ferries and was opened in 1902.

Twin glazed domes sit on either side of the river. Inside is a circular lift, which used to have wooden benches all the way round. I’m not sure if they’re still there, as the lifts were updated in the 90s and I’ve never been there while the lifts have been open in recent years. No lifts means you have to use the stairs. If my daughters and I counted right on our last visit, there are more on one side than there are on the other, but there are more than 300 steps on both sides. The tunnel itself reminds me of some of the tunnels that join various sections of the London Underground, with its uniform white glazed tiles.

Once on the south side of the Thames, Fern and Josh visit the Cutty Sark, a fabulous old tea clipper that has been a popular tourist attraction there for many years. You can walk on the deck and go below to see how the sailors lived. This was a favourite place for my grandmother to take my sister and I when we were small and my favourite, favourite bit was the display of old figureheads that almost completely filled one of the lower decks. There are the traditional type carvings, beautiful women or spirits to guide the ship safely home, but there are also more unusual ones – Florence Nightingale, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and a fox hunter, complete in riding pinks.

While I was writing Saying Yes To The Millionaire, I was horrified to catch an article on the news which showed the beautiful old ship on fire! I was so saddened to think of all those wonderful artefacts – especially the figureheads – going up in flames. I later learned that, because the ship was undergoing renovation, most of the items of historical value had been removed and were elsewhere, but part of the hull and ship’s support system had been damaged. I decided to keep my scenes on the Cutty Sark in the book, because I think it’s a fantastic location, even though, in reality, Fern and Josh would probably not be able to visit the ship in it’s full glory until at least 2010. Although the police originally suspected arson, the cause of the fire has never been confirmed.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Behind the Scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire - Chp 6

The beginning of Chapter 6 sees Fern and Josh navigating their way out of Chislehurst caves (see Chp 5 post for info). All Fern’s confidence has evaporated by the time they reach the sunlight. She’s started to realise that she can’t plan for everything and that to move forward, in the race and in life, she is going to have to take risks.

The first challenge of the day is busking to raise money for the day’s race in Covent Garden and it starts in Chapter 6 and concludes in Chapter 7. It’s an area of London filled with open-air cafes, street performers and markets. In the centre is the Piazza, with its covered central market which houses little shops and boutiques. Prices are not for the faint-hearted! There are also arts and crafts stalls here an in the nearby Jubilee Hall.

Covent Garden is a great place to hang out on a sunny summer’s day and people watch. If you like street entertainers, this is the place to come. The portico of St Paul’s church (see above) on the west side of the Piazza. Originally, this was to be the grand entrance to the church, but this meant placing the altar at the east end of the building, which caused a furore, and it the altar was moved the conventional position at the east end of the church, meaning the portico on the Piazza is now a fake door as the church is entered from the other side of the building. It provides a great backdrop for street entertainers, though, and this is where Fern and Josh, with the help from another team of twin brothers, wow the crowds with some hot salsa dancing. Josh starts to see a side to Fern she wasn’t even aware of herself, especially as they end the dance with her hand on his rear end and she really, really doesn’t want to let go!

Thursday, 24 July 2008


She shoots, she scores!

A million billion thanks to all of you who cheered me on while I almost totally rewrote my last book in 10 days. Just had an email from my editor to say 'fabuous job...no more revisions needed.'

So relieved and overjoyed I have gone slightly hyper and the kids are giving me funny looks. I don't care. Rosemary's Blind-Date Baby has sold!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Behind the Scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire - Chp 5

Now I've sent the current book in (again!), I'll get get back to the buisness of locations and inspirations for Saying Yes To The Millionaire. Here's a quick re-cap of the locations with a little bit about what I was trying to do with the story at the same time:

Chapters 1 & 2 found Fern and Josh on the banks of the Thames - either high on a crane about to bungee jump, or walking along the Thames Embankment.

Chapter 3 was where the race started in Trafalgar Square.

At this point I wanted Fern to be terrified out of her wits. She doesn't like spur of the moment, high adrenaline things, so she's struggling, and happy to follow Josh around and do what he says.

Her lesson for the first day of the race (Thursday) was to be open to the world of glorious possibilities. Even though she might not enjoy all her experiences during this day of the race, at least she is experiencing something! I wanted her to see that even having a negative reaction to something was better than no reaction at all - it let her know she was alive rather than just hibernating!

Chapter 4 took them to Berwick Street Market, Speakers' Corner and the National Gallery.

In the market, Fern totally relies on Josh, even when he doesn't have the best ideas. But at Speakers' Corner she has to think for herself and finds that she can do something she's really scared of. By the time they get to the gallery clues, she's starting to feel more comfortable, starting to find her feet. She's actually starting to enjoy herself. By the time they head off into chapter 5 she's feeling pretty confident. Maybe over-confident? Time will tell.

The first part of this chapter covers the finding of the painting clue that has all the other teams flumoxed (see chapter 4 post).

Fern and Josh travel to Chislehurst Caves in South East London. Under a leafy, affluent suburb lies a network of caves that stretches for 22 miles. They are not actually caves, but mines. Although some people theorised they were made in the time of the druids (and there are plenty of spooky stories the tour guides tell) historical records first date mining for flint, chalk and lime in the 1200s.

This place used to seriously freak me out as a child. It was cold and damp and local legend mentioned a ghost of a woman who haunted a pool in the middle of the caves, and of people who had tried to stay the night there alone, but had died trying to find their way out of the maze of tunnels, screaming in fear after seeing the ghost.

Actually, getting lost in there would not be fun, as the tunnels all look the same and it's very difficult to work out where you are sometimes. However, this didn't stop the place being used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War, where it became like an underground city with 15000 inhabitants. In fact, the caves' history attracted artists like Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix, who all performed down there in the 1960s.

Fern, at this point, has become too comfortable. She's dug herself another little rut and she's going to stick in it, no matter what. And Fern's refusal to follow her instincts causes her team to miss and opportunity to maintain their lead. Her first lesson of this day of the race is to grab chances as they happen.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Coming back to earth

Well, after my marathon writing session, it's been kind of strange to be back in the real world. For a start, my brain won't stop. I kept being woken up last night in the middle of a dream where I had to write a section in my book where the characters had to go to Yorkshire. And, as much as I told myself it was all finished - I didn't need to write any more -every time I went back to sleep I had the same dream.

I have emerged into the world of people, blinking in the sunlight. It's freaky out here. There are beings who exist outside my head, and I can't make them do anything I want - especially the small ones who live in my house. Mind you, if I'd been able to make the people inside my head do what I wanted, I wouldn't have been in this state in the first place.

Today has lasted forever. It's almost five o'clock and I feel it should be bed time. Just goes to show that I got used to 'losing' time when I was locked away in my imaginary world.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

By George, she did it!

I've finished the second draft of my new book! I just counted and realised I salvaged 13061 words. The final count is 51726, which means I wrote over 32K in eight days. I think I need to lie down now...

Thank you so much for all the cheers and pom-poms (Nell!)

I'll see you in 2073 when I recover.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Thursday Stats

Word count goal: 43,600
Words written: 4,965
Actual word count: 43,642

I've had my Black Moment! I'm rolling down the hill towards the end. And, a complete shocker for me, this one may actually come in at closer to 50K than 60K!

Again, many thanks to all those who have cheered me on. You're all fabulous!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Wednesday Stats

Word count goal: 38,000
Words written: 5,697
Actual word count: 38,667


I can't believe that, between Sunday morning and Wednesday night I have written almost 20K! And now I'm heading towards the Black Moment, it's all starting to make sense to me. of course, this means I've got to go back at the end and make sure I've weaved in enough of the hero and heroine's conflicts in to foreshadow the coming disaster.

And I've got to change the setting (again) because, in my can't-see-the-wood-for-the-trees state, I'd forgotten that we've got a tag line with a link between three cities (London, Sydney and San Francisco) and it kind of misses the point if I have my story set in a little cathedral town in Kent. Whoops.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Tuesday Stats

Word count goal: 33,200
Words written: 4,706
Actual word count: 32,022
Chicken curries left to bubble on the hob, totally forgotten about: 1

The extra three hundred words didn't make it onto the page because I went to see my eldest daughter's school play. I don't regret those 300 words, because it was fabulous. She was fabulous. She played the part of Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream, a version for eleven-year-olds, where she also had to sing.

Other mums kept saying to me, "I didn't know she could sing like that!" And I had to mutter back, "Neither did I!", because she really doesn't like performing in front of us and hid herself away in her bedroom to practice, so I was totally blown away. I know I'm totally being the proud mum, but I think I'm entitled!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Monday Stats

Word count goal: 28,200
Words written: 5,066
Actual word count: 28,286

Thanks for all your cheers, girls! I really appreciate it.

Ooh, and I discovered that an interview I did for Classic Fm's daily arts podcast has finally been broadcast. It was my first radio interview and I think I did okay. Only, I have interviewee's remorse - thinking of a better answer on the train home. So, when you hear the question about Jessica Fletcher at the end, and whether writing romance has a similar impact on my life, imagine I said something along the lines of wouldn't it be lovely if tall, dark handsome men appeared round every corner, wanting to whisk me away - although I can't imagine Mr Harper would be very pleased.

If you want to have a listen, it's available here.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Sunday Stats

Thank you so much to everyone who has popped by to cheer me on! Here's how I did yesterday.

Total word count at end of Saturday: 19205
Goal for Sunday: 23200 (5000 words)

Word count at end of Sunday: 23217 (4062 words)

Brain too frazzled to do maths (see above): 1

Wonderful friends who prised me out of my hermitage by inviting me and the kids round for Sunday dinner because they knew I was writing and might not have time to cook: 2

Therefore, chickens not burned because I'd forgotten I was supposed to be cooking dinner instead of writing: 1

I'm sure the chicken is very grateful.

Word count goal for Mdnday: 28200 (5000 words)
Authors who can't type properly anymore: 1

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Naughty Blogger

I'm such a bad blogger. After promising all those juicy details about Fern and Josh's treasure hunt, I've gone AWOL. I have a good excuse, though. The dog ate my homework.

Okay, that wasn't a good excuse. And I don't even have a dog...

So far, the whole being-an-author thing has been relatively painless for me. In six books, I've had 'tweaks' of revisions and two books went through without any at all. But I knew, one day, that my luck would run out. Unfortunately, my day of reckoning has come.

The current book, the one that is part of a trilogy with Jennie Adams and Melissa McClone, needs a new hero - which kind of means a new plot to go with him. My part of the trilogy is provisionally titled "Blind-Date Baby". I'm tempted to add "Rosemary's" in there somehwere. I've managed to salvage about 10k from the original book (but that amount keeps going down every time I go through it as I pull more and more stuff out).

I'm going to post my word count and hope that some of you kind souls will cheer me on!

Total word count at end of previous day: 19205
Goal for today: 23200 (5000 words)
Total written today: still working on it (5 hours down...)

That's my 10 min coffee break over. Back to the saltmines...

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Going away for the weekend

I'm off to the RNA conference in Chichester for the weekend. I'll be back on Monday and will post my pics and memories. You have been warned...