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AWARD WINNING AUTHOR

Writing in the Sunshine. Writing in the Shadows.


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Summer in San Remo - Out in Paperback

I can't remember if I've told you - Summer in San Remo is going to be out in paperback on 3rd July. Just in time for the summer holidays, if you like to read on paper and you haven't caught up with it yet.



 Needless to say I'm pleased and excited about this, and am hoping to do at least one event to celebrate - more of that soon. And of course there will be a lot of squeeing and pictures of author copies of books - but sadly no champagne, as I am now on the waggon ... but I do have some pink lemonade stashed away.

San Remo is intended to be first of a series and I had hoped that the second book might be ready by now - I think my publisher probably did too. It's making progress, but a bit slower than I would like - blame the day job and life in general. It is actually finished but still in hand written draft and not ready to be set loose on Other People. I just hope the Choc-Lit Tasting Panel like it, once they finally get to see it! 

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Summoned by Bells?


Writers are told – often - to ensure that they use all the senses when writing. Hearing and sound is most obviously covered by speech, but what about other sounds?

The thought behind this post came from a trip to a concert at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, last Sunday afternoon. I don’t know a lot about classical music – but I do like going to concerts occasionally. This one was the violinist Maxim Vengerov playing with the Wurth Philharmonic Orchestra, and  they were brilliant. I really enjoyed it.

Music is obviously one thing to include in a book, but it was one small part of the concert that got me thinking. There was a tiny passage in the overture to Die Fledermaus where there was a bell tolling. I don’t know if it was supposed to, but it sent shivers up my spine – and I realised that I have a bit of a thing about bells. Sometimes, on a Sunday, if the wind is in the right direction I can hear the church bells from the mainland. And if I go for a walk in the evening the clock on the Dock Offices, which is on the other side of the water, chimes the hour. It’s a very evocative sound and one that I need to remember when I want some atmosphere.    

I have used church bells – there is a scene in Never Coming Home when Kaz is startled by a sudden peal of bells, with interesting results, as you will know if you have read the book.

The more mysterious side of a tolling or chiming bell is something to ponder though. I’ll have to make a note to come back to it when I’m writing romantic suspense. I have a book in the works that has some mildly supernatural elements along with the suspense. I have an idea that a bell might fit right in.

Something to think about.


Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Smile please! Getting some new pictures taken.

Romantic Novelists' Association parties aside, writers don't get that many chances for a bit of glamour, off the page, so a photo shoot for some new PR pictures was kind of exciting. Well  - you know authors don't get out much. The picture I'm currently using is seven years old. I haven't changed that much - more bags and sags and sadly a few more pounds - and maybe  some wear and tear after the effects of surgery and other life stuff. I don't look that different, but I'd been thinking for some while that it was about time I updated.

Internet research  - googling 'headshots, Cardiff area'  - brought up the name Sian Trenberth and when I looked at the website I really liked what I saw. Sian does a lot of work for people in the entertainment industry - and writing is entertainment - well, the kind I do is. I hope.

First I did some preparation - haircut, highlights renewed, had my eyebrows professionally shaped for only the second time in my life - come on, I had to have some help - see bags and sags, above - figured out what I was going to wear, organised my makeup bag ...

Once all that was done and I was as ready as I was ever going to be, I made a booking and trotted off  to Sian's studio in Cardiff, clutching a case with several changes of clothes (all carefully pressed the night before, all suitable creased once I arrived) in some excitement and a small amount of trepidation. It helped that it was a lovely sunny day, so I didn't arrive soaking wet with frizzy hair, although I did have to stand in the shade of a tree at one point to cool off!!

Once I got there and we talked about what I wanted - basically just me, but on a good day - and Sian started work, I knew I was in good hands, and I enjoyed myself. I know it's vain, but it is quite nice to focus on yourself for a little while.  I did some quick changes and sat on various stools and chairs and we even managed to take a few picture in the garden.

And a couple of days later the pictures arrived. I don't know what anyone else will think, but I was thrilled with them. They were exactly what I wanted -  me, on a good day. I'm not sure how I'm going to chose just one  - I think I might have to rotate them. These are my five favourites.

If you have a favourite ...

one
Two
Three
Four
Five










Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Unaccustomed as I am ...


Being a writer has its advantages - it's possibly the only job you can do in your pyjamas, in bed, surrounded by toast crumbs, if you want. I only confess to the pyjamas. Occasionally.  While you're producing the books, no one cares what you look like. But then there comes that moment when the book is done and out there and members of the public are meant to be parting with hard cash to read it - and you have to start promoting it.  And that often involves the exact opposite of the pyjamas and toast crumbs - you have to speak,  in public.

I'm lucky that I had an English teacher who believed that writing and giving speeches was one of the things she needed to teach us - agony at the time, but useful since - and I've always had jobs where I've had to get up and talk, and I think I'm also a bit of a frustrated actress too - but even so, making an appearance, talking to readers, is still an event.

This is on my mind as I'm appearing at the Cardiff Library Crime and Coffee Festival this weekend. I'm part of a panel with two other local crime writers, Derec Jones and Phil Rowlands, so we can share the load, and I think it will be fun, once we get going, but it still needs a deep steadying breath before anything starts.

I have to say that the thing I like best about doing public appearances is the questions from readers. It's interesting to know what interests them, and also to hear what other writers have to say about their writing process. Sometimes there is a question that really makes you think, and if the audience have read some of your work and ask about that, it's a real bonus.

All that is in store on Friday. I'm looking forward to it, I think.


Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Why you should never look at a writer's browsing history ...

... especially a crime writer.

You never know what you might find. This post originated with a reminder I'd left in the middle of some harmless notes on something to do with World War 2 for the day job. What else I was reading at the time I have no idea - evidence suggests it was a thriller of some kind - but right there in the middle of the page, carefully printed, so I could actually decipher it, was 'tactical pen' and 'survival bracelet.'

So of course, once I'd found it, I really had to Google. The results kept me innocently occupied for at least half an hour. I had no idea that this sort of stuff existed. The tactical pen is, well, a pen, but made of metal and designed so it can be used as a weapon. Now I have to admit that I was tempted by the Smith and Wesson version (other tactical pens are available) simply to be able to say that I owned a Smith and Wesson - and you can apparently get it in pink - but weaponry is really not my thing.

The survival bracelets - and there seem to be multiple versions available - are bracelets constructed of parachute cord with added extras - fishing hooks, a compass, lights, whistle, kit for water purification, medical supplies - my mind began to boggle at the possible weight of the thing - hey I'm female, I have a handbag - I know how much 'stuff 'weighs - but it was when it got to the ones that had duct tape and handcuff keys that my mind really began to boggle. Some of the pens had handcuff keys too.  Now Drew, the hero of What Happens at Christmas has friends who carry handcuff keys as a matter of course, but I was confused as to why you might want them in the 'real' world. And the duct tape seemed to be getting a little dark. I have used it for emergency repairs on the shower hose, but I've never felt the need to carry it about with me.

Who knew about all this kit? It's certainly made my browser history look somewhat threatening, but it already has things in it like 'How long does it take to die of dehydration?' (that was What Happens at Christmas, too) so perhaps not so much.

Of course my writer's lizard brain is storing all this away for future use, but in the everyday world, I don't see it as a part of my life. But it's there on my browser history, should anyone be looking.

But I told you that you shouldn't. It's research, not real life. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Locations for atmosphere

I was reading an article in History Today recently about castles - and how they have moved from being terrifying places of battle and repression to romantic tourist attractions driven by the stories - from the likes of Sir Walter Scott - that have been woven around them.

Castles used to be scary places -
though not this one. Castell Coch is a
Victorian folly. But a much earlier building on
the site could have been very different. 

It made me think about the use to which landscapes and buildings can be put in the devious mind of the writer, Churches are places of peace and sanctuary, but they are also large spaces with shadowy corners that can be described in a way that makes them feel scary and sinister.  Woodland can be idyllic - full of birds and bluebells, but after dark ...

What about modern spaces like multi story car parks? Even children's playgrounds, when they are deserted. How often has the image of the deserted roundabout or swing been used to  denote something frightening? Places that are usually full of people, like fairgrounds or shopping centres, can be particularly threatening when empty, simply because of that contrast.

Darkness and absence of people are two particular tools that will manipulate the most innocent building into something threatening.

Light and people do the opposite - think busy cafes, villages with shops and tourist attractions. My favourite location for the romantic comedies that I set on the Riviera is a beautiful villa, bathed in sunshine, with a pool and a garden. And gardens give you scent. Can the smell of jasmine ever be threatening? I suppose it could, if it had unpleasant associations?

Even light itself - candle light can be the epitome of romance or a very chancy means of illumination in a different setting. The weather is also a factor - a landscape that can be benign on a sunny day can be terrifying in snow or storm.

Locations can be used too as shorthand for atmosphere. Say 'graveyard' and you immediately think creepy - Gothic shadows and fog.  'Alley' conjures up a narrow space with grime and litter.

Sound is powerful. Silence can be oppressive and think of the effect of some small sound - footsteps say, in the knave of a church that is mean to be empty.

Using settings against the grain can also work - an Italian city where you are expecting beauty and culture, a beautiful beach turned into something threatening.

I've used a number of these locations and ideas for scary stuff. I need to think up a few more. The idea of a deserted beach appeals - maybe with sand dunes?

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Crime and Coffee - Cardiff Library

Crime and Coffee is a new two day festival being staged by Cardiff library on 1st and 2nd June, which will feature writers living and/or setting their crime fiction in Wales. There will be a host of authors involved, including me. There are some well known names, including Belinda Bauer and Christopher Fowler, with a full supporting cast of authors who write all sorts of crime - the cosy, the historical, the downright scary. Workshops, panels, talks - a great chance to hear about crime novels you might not have discovered yet, and maybe even buy a few!

I'm sharing a platform at 1pm on Friday 1st with local authors Derec Jones and Phil Rowlands.

Derec is an artist as well as a writer of both novels and poetry. You may have come across his Boys from the Back Fields, which involves the then and now of a 50 year old murder on a Welsh council estate. Phil Rowlands is another writer with extra talents on his CV, including acting and screen writing. His debut novel Siena is out now - featuring a Welsh heroine and some fabulous locations in Italy. And, of course, I'm writing romantic suspense and very light romantic crime. We are all quite different, but we all have Welsh roots in common and I'm sure we'll have a lot to talk about. I'm looking forward to it.

You can buy tickets for the day or for individual events and I'm told they are selling fast. I hope I might see you there.

Ticket link Here