Wednesday, 24 August 2016

You can have a starring role.

You'll have seen the tee shirts and the mugs and all the other stuff - you know the ones 'Be careful, or I'll put you in my novel' And I know some people do that. Base their characters on people from real life.


No way!

I'd be much too scared that someone would recognise themselves and take offence, Or worse. Besides which, my characters tend to arrive with their own personalities - not exactly fully formed, but knowing who they are, and not afraid to tell me about it.

An awful lot of authors also auction the chance to be named for a character in a book - again I'd be a bit nervous. What if the recipient didn't like who I'd chosen to make them? But then, I'm the nervous sort.

Which is not to say that I don't do a little cannibalising, here and there. Clothes - I might borrow them, although usually they are from my own wardrobe, or former wardrobe - or maybe my 'I wish' wardrobe.

But the thing I'm most guilty of 'borrowing.'?


I don't own one, so they are a bit of an unknown quantity. My usual ploy is to decide what my character would drive then go on a hunt to find one in the metal, as it were. Supermarket car parks are very good for this. Not sure what the CCTV makes of it, but the cops have not come knocking on the door yet. I got a bit stymied when I wanted a Bentley. For that I had to go to the posh show rooms and prowl, while looking as if I could really afford one. I got a very nice Porche out of that trip too, so it was time well spent.

So - I won't put you in my book. But I might steal your car.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Twisted plotting

Following on from last week - on holiday reading, I bet that there's at least one novel billed as a 'psychological thriller' in your holiday choice, as they seem to be the thing at the moment.

I like the twisty stuff too - to write and to read - although I like a shot of romance as well, to lighten the dark stuff. I can never decide whether I like to have some idea what is going on - to be able to follow the clues, or whether I'd rather to be completely in the dark. Both, I think, depending on the mood. It's very gratifying to have an inkling of what might be going on, and be proved right.

One thing I have noticed though, about the ones that come in the 'totally mystified' category, very often I can remember the plot later, but not the ending. Now this may be reading too fast - so intent on getting to the end that you're still reading at 3 am, Sometimes though, dare I say it, I think the ending doesn't live up to what has gone before - rather a damp squib - and that's why I don't remember. A case of the journey being more gratifying than the destination?

They say that the end of a book sells you the next one by the same author, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has jogged along with a book and found that the last 50 pages are more exciting than the rest.

Ideally it should be both, of course. I think that's where the advantages of having that shot of romance is useful - two chances at a satisfactory conclusion. But you do have to get all your strands running together. Twisty plot and twisty love story.

It's a hard life ....

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Reading it all.

It's that time of the year. You know - holidays - when people get the chance to READ. Hands up who hasn't had to re-pack the suitcase because the books in it were preventing it being lifted off the ground? Electronic devices go some way to helping out with that, but there's always the nagging doubt - what if something happens to the thingy?  It doesn't like the local electricity. There is no local electricity. It gets stolen. Or maybe, in the way of electrical devices it suddenly and mysteriously dies for no reason ...

I bet you pack the old fashioned books too.

I've been reading a lot lately - convalescence, not holidays, unfortunately, but still enjoyable. I've also been thinking, sometimes, about the construction of what I've been reading. Author stuff - like - 'How does that work?' Point of view, chapter length, that sort of stuff.

One thing I have heard said recently is that some people never read prologues. Now we're all different, but this to me seems like not watching the first five minutes of the film or TV series. The author put it there for a reason, so it must have some use. Is the theory that it is back story and the author is too lazy or maybe  too incompetent to be able to include it in the body of the book - or to make the decision  not to include it at all? I don't know, but I read them. and write  them too. Epilogues don't seem to get the cold shoulder quite so much. Everyone likes to know what happened after the official end of the story, it appears. By now, as a reader, you are invested in the outcome, so you want to carry on?

Some people don't read descriptions of scenery. One thing  I don't read are descriptions of dreams - they never seem to advance the story to me, but that's me.

We all have our likes and dislikes.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Stuff I like to put in books.

Write what you know. We've all heard that. But what about writing what you like? I mean things you like, not 'What you like.' Oh - you know what I mean!

I like to read and write romantic suspense, and lately some of the lighter holiday style stuff too - although it always has a crime in it.

But what about the other stuff? The small things?

I found myself making a list again.

  • Food - you know that already
  • Art - usually stealing it, but art is art, right?
  • Gardens. 
  • Old buildings - anything from castles to churches to standing stones - or maybe standing stones should be a category on their own?
  • Trains - you knew that too.
  • Sunny places.
  • Shopping
  • Galleries and museums
  • Hotels and restaurants
  • Books - and bookshops. And libraries.
  • Clothes - and shoes. 
  • Plays and theatrical stuff. And theatres.
  • Magic and illusions
  • The sea and the beach.
  • Spooky places - although I don't actually like them, except in my imagination, to write about. 

Some of those would make a plot of a book, some are incidentals - helping with the atmosphere. Could I make a book with all of them in? Maybe. 

I think it might turn out to be one of those exercises where you try to get a word like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious into a report for work. All right, yes, it can be done But why? 

I can guarantee that some of them will be in future books, Because that's what I like.

And there's no point in writing if you don't enjoy it. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Trains and boats and planes.

I don't drive. Which means I rely on public transport. A lot. Which has it's good side, as I can write on trains and eavesdrop/people watch on buses. And shiver and clutch at the seats on airplanes. Not keen on flying. But it is a crash course in fear, which can be useful when you write romantic suspense.

I found a book in the library on rail journeys in Britain yesterday, and am having great fun planning trips and the books to go with them.  Which got me thinking about transport in general, and how it can be romantic and scary. Chases across moving roofs,mysterious strangers, murders in first class compartments,dining cars, sleeping cars, steam locomotives.

So here is my short list of 'transport' books I'd one day like to write.

I wish.

  • Something involving the London underground. Dis-used tunnels and all that. 
  • Sleeper train. The Orient Express for preference, but the Riviera Express (Cornwall) or the Caledonian (Scotland) would be perfectly fine too.
  • Anything set on a cruise ship.
  • Something set on the former transatlantic liner Queen Elizabeth, as I've been on that one.  
  • The Welsh train lines, And Scotland too, please. And the line that runs along the Marches. And the Isle of Man. 
  • Steam trains - either nostalgia or time slip, Or both?
  • I don't do long bus journeys as I get bus sick, but I can manage to get up to the Brecon Beacons, so that's going in a book one day.
I'm sure I could think of more, but that's enough to keep me busy for about 10 years. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Nostalgia in Lancaster

The Romantic Novelists' Association held their annual conference in Lancaster the weekend before last. You may have noticed the photos and reports sloshing around the internet - serious talks and not so serious pics of people holding wine glasses. I went, and yes, thank you, I had a wonderful time. Not without it's sad moments, as last year I only made it to 4 am on Sunday morning. That was when the call came to tell me that mum was in intensive care again. I know she would be pleased that I stayed the course this time.

Anyway, this is my conference post, but not talks and wine glasses. The trip to Lancaster was one I wanted to make, not just for the conference, but because it was where I was at university - as an undergraduate and later as a post graduate. And no - I am not going to tell you when, as we all know that I am not a day over 35 and you might get strange ideas about the way I do maths. 

A lot has changed in the time between then and now. A LOT. Like - er -  most of the campus was not in the same place. And the bits that were still there were different. Which is making me think about the passage of time, and about memory, which is a concept that has interested me ever since reading Pinter for school exams. My walks around the campus were a useful aide memoir of things to look for if you are writing in two (or maybe more) time periods.

  • Lifestyle changes - residence blocks demolished and rebuilt as students now expect en-suite rather than communal showers and toilets.
  • Nature - shrubs and bushes don't stand still as years pass.
  • Some things are less likely to change - nature again - hills and rivers. And large infrastructure - motorways and bridges. A view might be different, but the bones probably remain the same. 

I'm sure it will come out in a book someday. Or more than one. Or maybe it already has?
In the meantime, here is my picture gallery. 

View out of my bedroom window.
The new version of Cartmel College.
Um - it used to be on the other end of the campus. 
Those with exceptional eyesight will just be able to make out the rabbit in the top left corner of the grass. This was nostalgia - they would be having breakfast every morning when I opened my curtains.  
Furness College. Where I used to live.
The residence blocks have been replaced and my  department - history -  is not there any more either.
The bar is in the same place!
I seem to remember this bit of the campus was grass with a few saplings.
I think the trees have grown just a bit. 
The view. Still green, with a small stretch of motorway visible. I used to like to see the lights from the traffic when going home in the dusk by way of the back road around the campus. The perimeter is a lot longer now!


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Considering fairy tales

Genre fiction writers love tropes - or their readers love tropes. I just looked up the definition - 'significant or recurring theme'. In crime that's probably the serial killer, the hard bitten detective with the broken life, the chalk and cheese crime fighting duo. In romance, readers apparently love friends-to-lovers, hidden babies, marriages of convenience. And then there are the fairy tales.

The setting for that fairy tale romance?
There seems to be a whole sub genre re-working those themes. And why not? All the stuff of romance is there. How often have you encountered the Beauty and the Beast theme as the reclusive, maimed and sometimes disfigured hero, and the woman who saves him from himself? These days he's likely to be an army veteran and the heroine can be anything, as long as she is nosey and determined. And then there's Cinderella. It may not have anything corresponding to the glass slipper, but rags to riches is a favourite theme. Red Riding Hood - all those 'nasty stuff in the woods' books - vampires, werewolves and things that go bump, or growl, in the night?

I haven't thought of  one to correspond to Jack and the Beanstalk yet, but there's probably something. And a modern Aladdin, with something supernatural in the mix?

It doesn't have to be the full story either The bad fairy or wicked step mother can be translated into 'the other woman' - the predatory ex girlfriend, the demanding ex wife, maybe even the overbearing (bad fairy) boss. And villains? Writers love creating villains, so they might not need role models, but every good fairy story has to have one.

As you can guess, I've have a so-far unfulfilled urge to write a modern fairy story. I've got a romantic suspense with a reclusive hero who has survived a car crash, but it's not quite fairy tale stuff.

One day.