I updated my About Me page today to include a brief description of my novel:

I am a writer currently working on my first novel.  The working title is Diary of Bedlam and it is a mystery based on the real-life unsolved murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey.  Set in 1678 London, it faithfully describes one of the darkest periods of political turmoil to occur during the reign of Charles II:  the popish plot.

I didn't set out to write a novel about the popish plot.  When I first read about the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey I was enthralled by the mystery but I just wanted to write a novel–not a treatise on the politics of the time.  Unfortunately, the Popish Plot and Sir Edmund's murder are irrevocably intertwined.  Indeed, to a large extent, one would not have happened without the other.  The conspiracy was already brewing when Sir Edmund's corpse was found in a ditch at the bottom of Primrose Hill, but the kettle had already boiled and the coffee was cooling.  Sir Edmund's death gave new life to the popish plot and set off a frenzy of rumors, lies, and suspicion in London.  The city became crazy with fear–a sort of Bedlam.

As often happens to writers, I could not let go of this story.  It touches upon another theme that is important to me:  religious discrimination and its role in government and politics.  I had found the story I was born to write.

I decided that posting about my progress at the end of the week (Fridays) and weekend (Mondays) might be a good way to keep me honest.  So here you go, my first weekend writing report:

Words written:  765

Well below my goal of 1000 words per day, but we did go on an overnight trip this weekend so I absolve myself.

The good news is that these 735 words were written as part of a new scene and were not added to previously written scenes.  It always feels good to move the story forward.

As of last weekend, my word count was around 24k.  However, this doesn't count some of the subplot I put to the side while I work on the main plot.  Ultimately I know wordcount is important but for now I've got to get the main story worked out.  Honestly, I haven't even figured out who the killer is.  I'll worry about word count later.

Best line written this weekend:

“My dear,” Charles said, taking my chin in his fingers and lifting my face so that my eyes met his.  “Don’t tell me you’ve become just another meddling woman.”

Useful links:

Fiction Writers Review -  Tagline:  The site for writers who love to read and readers who aspire to write
Get Your Characters Out of My Way - Good advice for avoiding 'gawking' characters, via Nithska
Tommy's Top Tips – #1 Literary Agents – Detailed advice about literary agents and getting one, via Tommydonbavand

See you on Friday with my weekday wrap-up.  Think I can make the 5000 word goal?

Good time management, alas, is not part of my skill set.  I do okay when I have actual deadlines (if waiting until the very last possible minute counts as okay), but in the case of my novel or anything that doesn't have an imposed time limit, I am severely time-management-challenged.

Here are a few of the ways I am working to ensure Better Time Management:

1)  I make lists.

Almost every day, I make a list of what has to get done, what I hope to get done, and what I think needs to get done but probably won't.  A typical day will look like this:

    1.  Run
    2.  Write
    3.  Call insurance
    4.  Do laundry
    5.  Straighten room
    6.  Figure out what to wear for party
    7.  Pluck eyebrows

I try to put everything I can think of on a given list, knowing that some of the less important stuff will get moved to the next day.  The end result is that the laundry always needs doing and my room never gets straightened (and don't get me started on those eyebrows), but the stuff that has to get done usually does.

2)  I set timers.

I have a bad habit of letting the entire morning slip away whilst I browse the Internet.  Now I set a timer for one hour and let myself do all my browsing/reading/updating during that time.  When the hour is up, it's time to get to work.

I also set a timer for blocks of writing time.  I mentioned this in another post, but I stole this trick from Dr. Wicked.  The timer is set for 48 minutes, during which time I am not allowed to anything but work on my novel.  Sometimes the 48 minutes is used for research, outlining, or plotting, but I try to do at least one 48 minute of writing only per day.  By using this method, I am generally able to fit in 4 solid blocks of writing/work time per day.  It might not sound like a lot of time, but you'd be surprised at how much you can get done in 48 minutes when you refuse to let yourself get distracted.

3)  I multi-task.

I do a lot of things "on the way" to do something else.  For example, if my coffee cup needs re-filling I use the trip to the kitchen to take back my breakfast plate and any other kitchen items on my desk back to where they belong.  Whilst in the kitchen I take a moment to unload a few items from the dishwasher.  On the way back, I straighten something in the dining room or take something from the living room that belongs in the bedroom back to its rightful place.  I rarely take the time to do anything all at once (such as unload the entire dishwasher) but over the course of the day things end up getting done and I never feel like I took time out of my schedule to do them.

What do you do to ensure better time management?  I'm always open for tips in this department!

Lucian_wilde Lucian Wilde (1 April 1648 – 26 July 1685) was an English playwright.

Early Life
Lucian Wilde was born in Wye, near Canterbury, England.  He was the third child of Bartholomew Wilde, a barber, and his wife, Elizabeth.  He had an older brother, Adam (1644-1665) and sister, Isabel (1646-1689).

Though not a noble family by birth, Lucian's father had a good reputation and knew many important men.  When he was 15, Bartholomew was appointed Lt. Governor of the colony of Surinam in South America.  Lucian, Isabel, and their mother accompanied him on this journey.  Lucian was not suited to the warm, tropical climate in Surinam and spent most of his time writing and plotting his escape from what he later called "that wretched place."  The family finally left in 1664 but his father died at sea on the voyage back.

Toast of London
During the family's stay in Surinam, Lucian's brother Adam, a goldsmith by trade, had become successful as a jeweler to the court of King Charles II.  Upon their return to London, Adam introduced both of his siblings to the court where they became popular visitors.

Lucian was a gifted playwright whose first play A Gentleman's Folly was received with great acclaim at the Theatre Royal and further ensured his status as a favorite at court.  He later wrote for the Duke's Company where he continued to see success.

A notorious gambler, Lucian was never to amass a fortune for himself despite his success.  He was deeply in debt, and generally relied on the generosity of his patrons or his sister Isabel to maintain his lavish lifestyle.  His love for gossip, schemes, and meddling, however, often put him at odds with the very people who supported him.

Though Lucian was linked with many of the most beautiful woman of the period, he was said to prefer the company of men.  Whether he was bisexual or homosexual is not known, but he never married or had any legitimate children.

Author's note:  The portrait above is of John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester.  Lucian Wilde is only loosely based on him–rather, he is a composite of many of the playwrights and characters of the time.

I can't tell you how much motivation/inspiration/information I'm getting from following different authors and agents and other writing professionals on Twitter.  What took me so long to figure it out?

Anyway, this weekend a group of writers on Twitter is having a Wordathon where the goal is to write as many words as possible by 6pm Sunday (for me, PST).

My wordcount start:  21,432

I don't have a goal, but I generally shoot for 1000 words a day, which would make 2000 in a given weekend.  Since this is a contest, however, perhaps I'll shoot for 4000 for the weekend.  I'll be tweeting updates throughout the weekend.

Editing Oneself
I have a huge problem with editing my writing as I go, which is a great way to stop me in my tracks.  I've found it's a particular problem for me now that I'm writing a mystery based on a true-life murder.  I always want to stop and check the facts.

The way I've combatted this is by using XXX when I can't recall a fact but want to get the basic story written.  It looks something like this:

It seemed I could not enter any public space without hearing something about it.  Depending upon who was telling the tale, Sir Edmund had last been seen passing by XXX's lodgings by the Cock-Pit.  Or perhaps it was by XXX in XXX, who had joked with him about buying property near Primrose Hill, to which Sir Edmund had asked for directions.  His household reported that he had left the house early that Saturday morning on judicial business after meeting with a man named XXX.  I kept my eyes and ears open, hoping to learn that Sir Edmund had turned up safe and sound in some whore’s bed in St. Giles or at his sick mother’s house in XXX.  With all the conflicting reports, one explanation seemed as likely as another.

There are two things that interest me about this video:

First, as a continental knitter myself, I am very interested to see how to do a Norwegian Purl stitch.  I'll probably never use it since I'm so used to purling the other way, but it's still nice to see a new technique.

Second, I have wanted to knit a Palindrome Scarf for a long time.  This video reminded me that I actually need to sit down and do it before winter is completely over.

Now for something completely different.  The other day, I read this:  The 48 Minute Rule.  I've been doing it for two days now (3 or 4 48 minute blocks a day) and it totally works.  Which is good because I was going through a serious motivational rough patch with Diary of Bedlam.

One of the few things I remember from university is a screenwriting teacher telling us that there were only seven stories in the world and that every story was modeled after or was a variation of these seven.

Of these seven stories, I could only ever remember one:  Romeo & Juliet, the tragic story of star-crossed lovers.

I guess Mick got tired of me repeating this little tidbit from my past because this morning I woke up to an email from him giving me this link:

The Seven Stories that Rule the World

What's funny is that "Romeo & Juliet" isn't even on the list–although we surmise that it counts as "tragedy."

Speaking of which:

Have I mentioned how much I love the Bee Gees?

Whitehall Palace – All that remains today is the Banqueting Hall   

I have to admit, this writing business is really tough for me.  It comes as no surprise though–otherwise, I would've written a novel a long time ago.  From what I gather, it's tough for everyone, or most people, who give it a go.  The animosity I have for it is only slightly less overwhelming than the compulsion to do it, so I slowly move forward, despite my doubts and fear of failure.

You might ask why I would even try to do something that is so obviously difficult for me?  For that, I have no answer.  I have always lived very much in my head (which is a curse), and I have always constructed stories and scenes in my mind.  I have also always loved reading and am happiest when I am consumed by a good book.  I have considered myself a writer since I was young–it didn't matter that I was a writer who didn't write.  Turning 40 was important for me in that I was finally able to see the future as remaining fertile with possibilities, but that it wouldn't be forever.  That's not quite right–the future will be full of possibilities as long as I am alive–I firmly believe that.  But as I grow older, opportunities might lessen, illness might intervene, one never knows.  I do have today, however, and probably tomorrow, and so the time has come to write.

This time around, I'm doing a lot better at it.  I'm not sure of my word count but it's getting close to 20,000 if it's not there already.  I've got several scenes written, some of which are complete enough to call chapters.  All of this is great progress for me, since previous attempts at writing anything have not amounted to even a chapter and I generally got stuck in the world of outlines and character bios.

My writing process is very simple.  Originally I would sit at my computer with an open document struggling to find words–any words–and I would find myself constantly deleting and backspacing, editing myself as I went along.  I also constantly struggled against the desire to check my email or CNN.com or one of a dozen or more other websites that I commonly use to waste time.  Even as I write this post it is difficult for me not to check my email even though I checked it not five minutes ago.  It's a problem.

It wasn't until I got a legal pad and pen and went into the living room with a scene in mind that the writing really started to flow.  I sit and I let the words flow as quickly as they want to.  I'll admit to crossing things out and re-wording them now and then, but it is far easier for me to write without censoring myself on this yellow pad than it is in front of the computer.  Four or five written pages later and I have close to my daily goal of 1000 words, and I go to my computer, open a document, label the scene and type what I have first written by hand.  This process allows for some editing as I go, but I am much less concerned about it since the words are WRITTEN.  The only way I am going to have a first draft is to write, and so that is what I do.

What I notice mostly at this point is that I am deficient in my descriptions.  It's as if I want to dispense with the necessity of describing a person or place and get right to the action.  This might be due to my "background" in screenwriting.  I'm not worried about it though.  There will be time enough for describing a room or an outfit when I get around to writing my second draft.  All I want, all I dream of, at this point, is a finished first draft.  I will have it before I am 41.


Isabel Wilde (10 July 1646 – 16 April 1689) was an English spy against the Dutch between the second and third Anglo-Dutch wars who became a famous soothsayer, fortune teller, and voodoo practitioner who had many prominent clients within the court of King Charles II.

Early Life
Isabel Wilde was born in Wye, near Canturbury, England.  She was the middle child of Bartholomew Wilde, a barber, and his wife, Elizabeth.  She had an older brother, Adam (1644-1665) and younger brother, Lucien (1648-1685).

Though the Wildes were not of noble birth, Bartholomew had a good reputation in the village and his wife was employed as a wet nurse for the prominant Colepeper family.   Isabel spent much of her childhood with Thomas Colepeper and his siblings and it was a relationship that carried on into adulthood.

When she was 17, Isabel's father Bartholomew was appointed Lt. Governor of the colony of Surinam in South America.  Whilst in Surinam, her family lived on a large plantation called St. John's Hill, where Isabel befriended an African slave named Kwasi who worked on the plantation.  Kwasi was a voodoo priest and he and the other slaves taught Isabel the rituals of African religion, knowledge that she took with her when she returned to England in 1664.  Her father died at sea on the voyage back.

Shortly after she returned from Surinam, she married.  Very little is known about this marriage, but her husband died 1665, possibly from the plague.

Spying for the Crown
Some time after the death of her husband, Isabel was introduced to the court (possibly through her brother Lucien, who was becoming a popular playwright).  She became the mistress of King Charles II but it was a short lived affair because Barbara Palmer strenuously objected.  Knowing her loyalty to the crown, advisors to the King (principally Baron Arlington) enlisted her to spy on a known English double agent working for the Dutch who was living in Antwerp.

Upon arriving back in London in 1667, Isabel was heavy in debt and despite a year of petitioning the King for payment, she was never paid for her work as a spy.  She went to debtor's prison at Newgate but was released shortly after when an unknown benefactor paid her debt.

Wise Woman
Determined to avoid going to prison again, Isabel called upon her experiences with African religion in Surinam and set herself up as a wise woman in London under the alias of "Madame Culebra."  During this time, she led a double life as Isabel Wilde, a wealthy widow and sister of the famous playwright Lucien Wilde, and Madam Culebra, a popular fortune teller who worked magic at the behest of some of the most prominent citizens in London.  She operated in extreme secrecy and her dual identity was only discovered after her death in 1689.

Her work as Madame Culebra led her to become involved in some of the most dangerous events of the time, most notably the mysterious death of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey in 1678.

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Author's Note:  The painting in this post is actually of Aphra Behn, upon whom the character of Isabel Wilde is loosely based.