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Writing in the Sunshine. Writing in the Shadows.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

A Red Letter Week

I had a lot of fun last week, beginning with the launch of a paperback book for the first time in  five years. Launch day - on Tuesday - was all about social media and in the course of the week I was also the Choc-lit Treat and featured on the publishers' blog, talking about my criminal tendencies. You can probably still catch that, if you're quick. There's a link at the bottom of the page. The Choc-lit Treat is a piece of flash fiction that arrives on a Friday, around coffee time. You have to be signed on to receive them - if you haven't done that already, why not? The treat was little introduction to the hero of the book I'm working on at the moment - the one that is going slower than a sloth - it's a Christmas story, although it is going to be Christmas 2019, not 2018! At the moment I'm blaming the weather - not conducive to thinking wintery thoughts. When the heatwave is finally over, I shall have to think of something else. Before Michael/Mickey gets his story though, we have Nadine and Ryan in what is currently going under the title of A Wedding on the Riviera. That's if the Choc-lit Panel like it of course. Fingers crossed on that.

With Laura and Mel at Griffin Books. 

If you happen to be a cat lover and read Your Cat Magazine then you'll find that there is a feline themed short story in there from me this month. Set on the Riviera - where else - it features a small black kitten with a very distinct personality. It was fun to write, so I hope it is also fun to read.

On Saturday I spent the morning at the fabulous Griffin Books, in Penarth, with fellow author Laura Kemp in a 'Meet the Author' morning, as part of the Penarth Literature festival. To say we both had a great time might be a bit of an understatement. The shop was buzzing and we got to chat about books to a lot of interesting people. The scent alone - new books - was like catnip. Two hours flew by. Many thanks to Mel, the owner, and her staff, for making the thing happen and for being so welcoming. It would be really lovely to do it again some time.

The Link for the Choc-lit Blog is HERE

If you want to sign on for the Choc-lit (and Ruby) Treats, you can do it HERE

Friday, 6 July 2018

Stop press

Today I'm the Choc-lit treat - a short story in your in box at coffee time on a Friday - if you're not signed on for them, you can do it HERE

My little story introduces Michael aka Mickey - who might just re-appear at some stage in the future.

I'm also going to be at Griffin Books tomorrow morning - Saturday - as part of the Penarth Literature festival - hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

You never expect the unexpected...

When Out of Sight Out of Mind came out as a paperback in 2013 I never imagined that it would be five year before I'd hold a paperback that I had written in my hand again.

Back then I was expecting there would in due course be another romantic suspense, and another, and another and Summer In San Remo was going to be a piece of frivolous nonsense - a distraction for the summer - what suspense writers do when they let their hair down.

Well, you all know how that turned out.

Yesterday Summer in San Remo came out as a paperback - and I really hope that it is NOT going to be another five year before that happens again!

It's not all bad though - in the interim the Riviera Rogues were born. I'd had such fun with Cassie and Jake that I didn't want to let them go. Their love story is done, but why couldn't there be other couples getting their happy ever after on the Riviera - and as Jake is the boss of a detective agency ...

So - there will be a series. At the moment it is moving at the pace of a sloth that is working to rule (Can you tell that I was a shop steward in a previous existence?)  but once the PhD is done - and it has to be written in the next few months - then all my creative time will be for my writing. More Riviera books and more romantic suspense.

Isn't that a scary thought?

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

When in Wales

On Saturday I did something that I haven't done for a long time - attended a multi author book signing. I've done them as both reader and author in the US, but never in the UK before, so that was a first. The event was When in Wales which was held at the Mercure Hotel, in Cardiff, and it brought together nearly forty independent authors from the UK and from the US, to meet readers and to display, sign and sell their books. It was one of a series of similar events that are now being held all around the country and I have to say I really enjoyed it.

The format was like that adopted at the big romance conventions in America - each author had a table - and the decorations, give-aways and the range of books were really impressive. A few authors had even brought their favourite cover model with them - and yes, I know I should have got pictures, but I was too busy looking at books and taking names.

A work of art and a good start to the afternoon.
And it tasted as good as it looked.
One of the author tables.
I took a picture of the whole room,
but for some reason it came out too blurred to use.
Camera shake, but it wasn't the mocktail!
These were indie authors - the majority of whom were self published, or with small presses, so you are unlikely to see their wares in bookshops - only on the Internet. There were writers who had come all the way from America especially to attend, and also authors from around the UK - even a few who were locals. The range of books was phenomenal -  from horror to fantasy to romantic suspense - all with a
common feature -

they were romance books. There were mega hot strictly-adults-only offerings at one end of the scale, with young adult at the other and everything else in between. It was great to see fresh titles from authors I'd not encountered before, and my e-reader is now busy downloading samples and clicking away. Those I've had a peek at so far all seem to have two things in common - strong heroines and gorgeous heroes - sometimes two gorgeous heroes in the M/M categories.

As I'd only just got back from a trip to London - research for the day job - I opted for an afternoon ticket - some super keen fans spent the day, lunching with the authors. I started my afternoon with a fabulous mocktail in the bar and then spent a couple of hours chatting and laughing. Romance authors are great people and know how to have fun, as well as write great books.

I'm hoping to go to other similar events in the future. Maybe even as a signing author, on the other side of the table?

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 ...


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

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Filling the Research Bank

This week I have been playing truant - both from the 'day job' and the re-drafts for Riviera book 2. I spent two days at a conference celebrating the Collingwood Archive, and I had a very good time. One of the pluses of  the 'day job' is the occasional arrival of information on interesting events - this was one of  them. It had nothing to do with either the PhD or even a back burner book - please stop whispering 'procrastination' at the back - but it caught my attention and it was about archives, and you know how I am about archives.

This particular archive is lodged with Cardiff University and the conference was to celebrate the work that has been done to open it up for use. The collection comprises private papers, diaries, correspondence, books and art work of WG Collingwood and his family and there is clearly some fascinating stuff there that will keep PhD students in clover for some time. W G Collingwood was a writer, an artist, an academic and a lot of other things besides.The word polymath got bandied about quite a bit, and the rest of the family were also extremely talented. I had never come across the name before, but my attention was attracted by the connection to John Ruskin,  the art critic associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, and with Arthur Ransome, the author of Swallows and Amazons, who were both friends of the family. Now I know a little and look forward to finding out more in the future.

So - why was it not procrastination? Well first I enjoyed it, and enjoyment is not to be sneezed at. Also I think that doing something outside your area of knowledge refreshes the brain - and mine can always do with that, but the main reason I wanted to go was the idea of pre-emptive research - of looking at something interesting that might one day be useful for a future book.

Writers' curiosity. Taking the opportunity to explore something new and unknown. In my case it is always likely to be something academic, or possibly associated with travel, but every writer will be different. Curiosity and taking opportunities when they offer is one of the tools in the box that don't get talked about too often, but it's something to keep in mind. You never know where the next book might come from.

And I have to tell you, it worked. It has given me ideas. None of them will be a book in the near future, or possibly in the far future either, but I know they will sit quietly percolating and one day something is likely to emerge.

Getting my research in first as it were. Before I know what it might be used for.

When I find out, I'll let you know. 

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Weather? Or Not ...

I've blogged before about weather in books, but I'm coming back to it again, probably because of the weird changes of weather we've been having in the UK lately. I mean - snow on 1st April and summer on 19th?

When I created a freak snow storm  for the Christmas novella I did it with tongue in cheek, and then nature follows art ... I'm currently editing and re-writing Riviera 2 with sun and fine weather, so here's hoping. I'm also playing with a short story that features a thunder storm. I don't think I've ever written thunder and lightening before.

As I say, frequently, I don't usually do bad weather in books, I like even my murder to be sunny, but a Christmas book rather calls for snow. And. of course, all kinds of weather can be useful to a writer. Like everything, it just depends how you use it. The 'good' side of snow is the cosy element, children playing, hot chocolate, being indoors and watching it through the window - then there's being out in it - cold, miserable and dangerous, and there's plenty of that in What Happens at Christmas. Just ask Drew!  

The Riviera books are, and will be, if I keep writing them, solid sunshine, although there may be some dark deeds going on as well as the fun and the romance. For the romantic suspense - well I like good weather in those too. And the contrast between sunshine and nasty goings on can be very atmospheric. I mean, have you ever had one of those times in your life when your world is falling apart and the sun is shining and everyone else is going around living their normal life and enjoying it? Yes, that.

If you're writing a full length book you can be with your characters for a long time, which is why I can't write unsympathetic leads. Or, rather, I don't want to, although they are popular at the moment. If I'm spending all that time with these people, then I really need to like them. The villain is different - don't ask me why villains are fun to write because I don't know, and when you think about it, it's a disturbing idea, but that's just how it is.

And the same with the weather. If I'm in this book for a long time, I'm going to have some sunshine while I do it, even if it's tipping down outside.

Now, about this thunder storm ...

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Among the flowers.

It's time for what appears to have become my annual blog canter around the things that took my eye at the Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show, in Cardiff. I had a great day, even though the weather was not particularly kind. It didn't rain on the day, but it had been raining all week before, and the ground was very soggy. I got an e-mail the day before reminding me to wear stout shoes - these days all my every-day shoes could be classed as 'stout' so that was not a problem. I must admit that if you stood still long enough there was an ominous feeling that you might just slowly sink into the ground. But that might have been author's imagination. As I said, I had a good day, came home with some loot, but managed not to spend too much on what would only become  gourmet dining for my slug and snail population. I replaced the scented geranium that had died as the result of the snow and a bought it a friend with pretty pink and white flowers and also some seeds that I will start off in doors. By the time I put them out I hope they will be too big for the snails to find tasty. My complete indulgence was a metal leaf with a quote from Shakespeare on it, which is now on my desk, to inspire me.

But the day was undoubtedly all about the flowers - not just because there were some beautiful ones on display, but because the show gardens were - well let us just say they were not to my taste. Concrete and rusty corrugated iron does not do it for me, but to each his/her own. I could have happily brought home a few of the summer houses though. I have the space, but sadly, not the dosh - still, they were lovely, and everyone can dream.

So now - the pictures...... I have to say, things seems to be a bit pink ...

This is what's known as lasagna planting - in layers, so the bulbs come up
one after another in the same pot. I keep meaning to have a go.

Not flowers, but aren't they lovely? Wish I could still grow tomatoes.
(See slugs and snails, above)

Gorgeous - and the scent

Dianthus - aka Pinks. And as you can see - lots of pink.  

I always mean to attempt a planting like this. One day. 

Peonies - said to the the favourite flower of a certain royal bride-to-be
and likely to appear in her wedding bouquet. We'll have to wait and see. 

Not flowers, but I had to take a picture - large chess sets have slightly creepy overtones for me, which I suspect comes from watching 'The Prisoner' at an impressionable age!

A lastly - a hot tub - what every author needs, along with the summer house?
This one is definitely going a book sometime.
 Including the floating tray, to hold the champagne! 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

What did you read today?

I have to have a book in the process of being read. If I don't I get decidedly twitchy. But reading isn't just books. Think of all the other things you might read in a day:

The blurb on the side of the cereal box
The destination on the front of the bus
The instructions on the flat pack furniture
The ingredients in the recipe
The address on the letter
The sign on the door
The warning poster
The text that says 'I love you'
This blog
The church clock
The railway sign
The holiday brochure
The commemorative plaque
The file on the desk
The cast list for the play
The inscription on the gravestone

There's a story in there somewhere. The story of a day?

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The fine art of hoarding

Are all writers hoarders?

This one is. Ideas, useful (or useless) information. Scraps that might lead to a book. Usually in paper form. Which means the house is full of notes, post-its, cuttings from magazines - or the whole magazine - maps, pictures, leaflets, catalogues, postcards, programmes ... And don't get me started on the recipes torn out of magazines. They have nothing to do with the writing, or not usually, just that I like to cook - not that I often try them out. They're just there - hoarded.

A writer's hoard 
I think hoarding may also be hereditary, because both my parents were hoarders, in their respective fields - which means, unfortunately, that I have inherited both their habits and their hoards.

Mum was a dressmaker, so she stashed fabric - usually bought in sales. During the war she had enough stored away to clothe my grandmother and my aunt, as well as herself, for the duration. I have picked up the habit and now have my store and hers. Including two potential winter coats. The store also extends to zips and buttons  - no outworn garment was ever allowed to get away with those in place - recycling, before it was fashionable. I also have knitting wool - going to have to learn to knit at some stage, and dress patterns. Not always with all the pieces. 

Dad was a builder - same applies. Nuts and bolts, screws and nails, locks and keys, wall and floor tiles, pieces of wood ... I could go on. If anything fell apart, he usually had something that would fix it. I don't have quite so much in that line, but some. I do have a garden drawer though - gloves, secateurs, string, lots of string, partly used seed packets, labels ... 

It might come in useful one day - the story of a hoarder's life.

And one day that scrap of paper might turn into a book ...

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

You are what you tweet? Or retweet?

I don't do a lot of original tweeting - maybe a bit of promo here and there, especially if there is a new book about, or a special sale going on somewhere - but I do re-tweet quite a bit. And that got me thinking about how much your re-tweets say about you.

So - my top list of things you are likely to find I have re tweeted - not in any particular order. With pictures - not in any particular order, either.

Books Well yes - what  did you expect?  Especially on a Tuesday,  because Tuesday is the day when members of the Romantic Novelist's Association  re tweet each others news and most of it is about books.

London by night, from the South Bank
Barry Island Beach

Historical stuff - an overlap from the day job and  tends to be from my favourite archives.

Museums and historic houses and gardens - especially if they have events on.

Local news from around my area, especially pictures, often featuring Barry Island

Posts from Visit Wales - particularly those about the Brecon Beacons as that is where the last book was set and there have been some lovely ones of the Beacons in snow, which is also in the book.

Food - particularly cake.

Italy - also because it is a favourite setting for books


Lectures and talks and events

The occasional spooky/ghostly stuff, if I happen to be researching that kind of thing at the time.

Florence - possibly my favourite
Italian city 
London - one of my favourite places and again a book setting.

Looking at the list, it's pretty predictable really, and it does say a lot about the things that interest me. You are what you re-tweet?

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Slightly spooky?

Please let Spring be on the way!
Yesterday was the Spring Equinox. My favourite of the four compass points of the year - equinoxes and solstices - as the days are going to continue to lengthen for a while and there is the prospect of warmer weather. Having said which, there is some talk of MORE snow for the Easter weekend!

The Equinox has made me think of our continuing fascination with thing that are associated with old traditions and celebrations, with a touch of the supernatural. Not paranormal, but old customs, myths and the slightly spooky elements that make it into so much romantic fiction - horoscopes, tarot cards, standing stones, time slip, fortune telling, ghosts - we may be an urban society, but old ideas still have power. I have to admit that I have a fascination and an ever growing library (Thanks, largely, to The Works!) of books on symbols, magic and other witchy goings on. This time it is all research, as I am far too much of a wimp to try any of it out.

Although I could have done with a few spells when my big computer, the one I do my writing on, died this week. I've had to get a new - well, re-conditioned - one and a new version of Dragon - the voice recognition software that I use to get the words onto the page. Both Simon the computer guru and the man on the other end of the phone who sold me the new Dragon were somewhere between astonishment and hysteria when they found that I'd had both for ten years. Well, if it's not broken ... So I have lost my dear old XP Professional and my disc based Dragon and now have to train a new one. I have a feeling it is not going to be easy. But I digress - probably because my mind is still very much on the disaster of losing kit that has become an old friend. We knew each others quirks. And I still have to transfer my backed up files to the new machine - shudder. Now that is really something horrible to contemplate.

But back to the equinox. I've been working on a romantic suspense that has supernatural elements in it - hence the research, although it will be a while before it gets finished as I'm now enmeshed in the day job and sorting out what I hope will be the next Riviera Rouges. Nothing supernatural in that.

I am wondering why we are drawn to darker things on the page, even if we don't really believe in them in real life. Why do we like being slightly scared? I don't read horror, or watch it, but I still have that fascination with an older system of belief and way of doing things.

Maybe lots of us are looking for a connection to something from the past - and that's why time slip in particular is a popular genre?

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Adventures in the Archives

We all have quirks. I like archives. A hobby I have taken to ridiculous lengths by embarking on a PhD in History.

Last week I spent a fascinating few days at the UK National Archive, at Kew, in London. Well, I found it fascinating, although I can see that not everyone would find that tattered and dusty files make their heart beat faster. But they do mine. I get a kick out of poring through documents that were typed/written in World War Two, when the world was a very different place. Typewriters and carbon copies for starters.

The index can be a bit of a mystery tour sometimes You order a file and take a gamble on what will be in it and whether it will be useful. I stumbled on something that is going to have a major impact on the thesis quite by accident, in a file I was looking at for a totally different topic. It was about air raid shelters in a file that was entitled Parades, Celebrations and Visits. Of course, it was the last item in the file, with no indication of what happened next. And the next number in the file series was for another part of the country. So - what did happen next? Will I ever find out? The hunt is on. I may need Sherlock, or Poirot.

I had my first visit to the second floor - I didn't know there was a second floor - that's where they keep the big/heavy stuff. I got a large and very heavy box, presented on a trolley, that contained wads of very well thumbed and dusty accounts. I finally found the piece I was looking for, and, of course, it was no use to me at all!

I also had a file with a mysterious envelope fixed to the back. With assistance from the staff I got it open safely and found that it contained photographs - supplied by the Chief Constable of Cardiff to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security, showing bomb damage to air raid shelters. Another first - I got issued with a pair of rubber gloves to handle them. It is probably many years since anyone looked at those photo. Until me.

One of my files appeared to be quietly morphing into a werewolf - it was distinctly furry - on the outside. After a discussion with the staff we speculated that it was some sort of preservation that had been put on and was breaking down. The file was about 70 years old. Apparently there are a few more in the vaults that are doing the same.Of course it was nothing sinister. But if members of staff start to disappear down amongst the stacks ...

I did a bit of sleuthing too, into my father's war. The war diaries of the RAMC unit he was attached to, and their progress up Italy. Scary and illuminating. That's for a book that I hope to write someday. I didn't find his name in any of the documents, but I still have fingers crossed on that one.

So - that's the fun week I had last week, playing in the dusty archives.

It takes all sorts.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Where are my pictures?




Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Mirror, mirror

On my last lightening trip to London, I was able to squeeze in a trip to see the Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites Exhibition at the National Gallery. I was attracted initially because of the Pre -Raphaelites, who are among my favourite painters, but I'm also a fan of the Van Eyck picture that was the starting point of the show - the Arnolfini Portrait. That's the one with the young couple holding hands in a bedroom that might be a wedding or a betrothal and where the woman may be pregnant. Or is it the style of the dresses of the time? Lots of mysteries about the picture’s subject matter, which is always a fascination. Funnily enough there is no mystery about the history of the picture as it has quite a comprehensive provenance right from the time that it was painted. That too is interesting as it survived war and moves through several countries before ending up in London.

The theme of the exhibition was the influence that portrait had on the Pre-Raphaelites and one of the major links, surprisingly, was mirrors - particularly convex ones. It had never occurred to me how many of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings feature mirrors. As The Lady of Shallot was one of their favourite subjects, perhaps it should have. The various depictions were fascinating and the chance to look into one of the mirrors which was owned by Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a high spot for me – one of those spine tingling moments.

Of course writers like mirrors too – illusions and images which may or may not be real. Smoke and mirrors. As I have been outlining a piece of work that involves a music hall magician, I think I may be introducing something involving a mirror into that. It is a long term project though so will not be seeing the light of day for a while.

It’s also given me a yen to own a convex mirror of my own. Although it won’t be as spine tingling as Rossetti’s. 

Although I suppose that might depend on whether it finds it's way into a book.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

On tour this week.

This week I am on a blog tour with the lovely Brook Cottage Books to highlight Summer in San Remo as 'the perfect summer read', in time for those of us lucky enough to be having an early holiday over Easter. And if you are looking for a sunshine read and prefer to read in paper rather than by electronics, then the book will be out in paperback in July.

The tour dates are -

Date: 26th February

I hope you will join me on some (or all) of them. There will be reviews and I've done a couple of very interesting Q&As with some fascinating questions. Not so sure the answers are fascinating, but I've done my best 😃

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The next book - maybe

I've spent the last few days disentangling part of the first draft of what I hope will be the next Riviera Rogues book - I say hope, because I'm also at the cold feet stage wondering if the Choc-lit tasting panel will like it (All right, what I'm actually saying is 'Do you really think you are going to get away with this one?' Really?)

Danger - manuscript in progress
It's got quite a complex plot (By complex, do I really mean complicated? Really?) It's an Ocean's Eleven type scenario with a group of friends getting together to take down a con artist. When you see those plots in films, the bit where they are organising the sting is usually a montage of members of the gang doing mysterious stuff, all of which becomes clear at the end. In a book people have to sit down and talk about it. (Is this bit boring? Really?) I do think I've ironed out the parts where disbelief wasn't so much suspended as dangled head first over a bottomless chasm, so that's a plus. I also seem to have a mystery involving my hero's parents which I don't remember writing (the joys of anaesthesia) and am pretty sure I have not resolved. It will be interesting to see if I did.  I'm not sure that the villain isn't too nasty for a light romantic comedy - but everyone likes to hiss a villain, don't they. (Do they? Really?)

On the plus side I got to spend more time with Cassie and Jake from Summer in San Remo. Considering that they both come out of my head, the chemistry between them is very confusing - I love writing them, and once they are talking, I have  a problem shutting them up. The new hero and heroine, Nadine and Ryan are different - more reserved. Ryan is more insecure that my usual male leads, but he has a very strong protective streak - a knight in shining armour, and quite cute with it. Nadine is a few years older than he is, a very successful business woman and a widow, so she has to convince him that she doesn't always need him to protect her and can stand on her own feet, although a shoulder to lean on is also very welcome on occasion. I think he's getting the message. Slowly.

It's set in Bath and then on the Riviera, naturally - the area around Nice. There's a old farm house in the hills where Nadine and Ryan get to spend some time and a gorgeous villa where the wedding is arranged to take place. Did I mention that the whole thing revolves around a wedding? At the moment it's called A Wedding on the Riviera, but that will probably change.

That's if it make it past the selection panel.  Writing about it here has made me a bit more hopeful. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The thank-yous at the front of the book

Acknowledgements. Those lists, usually at the front of the book - the equivalent of an award winning actor thanking everyone from their mother to the man on the 48 bus.

Do you read them - or just skip over them to get to the good stuff?

I read them. I'm nosey. I look in other people's baskets in the supermarket to see what they've bought. And at books other people are reading, to see the title. On the Tube last week (Got let out for good behaviour and ran off the the wicked city overnight, to do romantic novelist stuff) I went as far as asking the man sitting next to me what his book was. He got out at the next stop. I hope he wasn't too far from his actual destination.

Aspiring authors are told to read acknowledgements because the published author might have thanked their editor and agent and this might give Aspiring Author hints about who to follow on Facebook and Twitter, to advance their own career.

Acknowledgements can be intriguing, when the author thanks people for the information on llama farming, or shark fishing, or hot air ballooning. They can be sinister, like the thanks for information on famous poisoners. There is usually a list of people who have helped write the book, which sometimes reads like the cast of a Hollywood block buster, except books don't seem to have best boys and key grips. Sometimes the author has held a contest to name a character and you get to find out about who and what.

There are some author's acknowledgements that I particular enjoy. Harlen Coben is one, as his are often funny, which is a contrast to the thrillers that he writes. And Jane Lovering's are also likely to make you laugh.

That's why I read Acknowledgements - because they can be informative and are often amusing. And, speaking as someone who has written them for her own books, they are a genuine expression of appreciation to all those people who have helped with the book. It's nice to get the chance to say thank you.

I've written acknowledgements and I read them, but I never expected to be in one. But if you read Georgia Hill's Millie Vanilla's Cupcake Cafe books, which have just been amalgamated and released in one volume, you'll find my name, along with fellow author Wendy Lou Jones, credited for helping with the inspiration for the books. The three romantic stories are all together now, full of fun, but also with a share of heart break and, of course, with lots of delicious cakes.

Finding my name in the acknowledgements was a lovely surprise.

If you want to find out more about Georgia's books click  HERE

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Author talk - Vale of Glamorgan Library

Don't for get I will be 'in conversation' with Jill Barry at the Barry Library on 13th February. An early celebration of Valentine's day. 2 pm and it's free.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

In Translation

I've blogged before about the strange experience of seeing your book in translation. Your name is on the front, but you have no idea what the contents is really like.

This time it's Norwegian and the book is Never Coming Home. This is what they look like.  Isn't the cover lovely. It's released by the publishers Cappelen Damm. Here's the link  LINK

I hope my Norwegian readers enjoy it!

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Forthcoming attractions - on tour

February is going to be a busy month, with public appearances at local libraries in Wales on 6th and 13th. Love is in the air and Valentine's day is definitely in mind!

On 6th I will be part of a group of romance authors who are Romancing Rhiwbina - you need a ticket for those dates. On 13th Jill Barry and I will be talking to readers on the main library in Barry. It's an exciting time for Jill as she is about to have a new book out - and will, of course, be telling us all about it.

The details are on the posters. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Please leave your disbelief at the door.

This post is entirely motivated by jealously. 

When you write books, you don't get away with much. If there are holes in your plot, or something doesn't quite add up, or the whole thing is just pretty much preposterous, then if your editor doesn't get you then the readers will. But films? Hah! now that is a totally different kettle of kippers. 

What has provoked this? A trip to the cinema in which I accidentally managed to see The Commuter. I was planning to see Darkest Hour and claim it was part of the day job, but messed up on the start time. After a consultation with the box office lady we both agreed that The Commuter would be fine - because well, basically, Liam Neeson. And it was. I don't want to give you the wrong impression here. I thoroughly enjoyed it - because well - Liam Neeson. (Did you know a theatre critic once called him a towering sequoia of sex? I don't know which theatre critic, but they certainly have an interesting turn of phrase) And even in mature years, he still has it. And I'm a mature lady, so there you go. The film romped along -  lots of action, a train (and you know I love trains) and and the action was almost in real time, running against the clock. But the plot didn't so much suspend disbelief as annihilate it. I'm not going into detail, because that would involve spoilers, but - 

You.Would. Never. Get. Away. With. That. In. A. Book.

Hence my jealousy. 

I'm not alone in thinking this - other reviewers said it was highly entertaining nonsense. Also a bonkers pleasure.

And actually, I'm not so sure about getting away with it in a book. I've just finished reading a much hyped best seller that had holes, continuity issues, typos ...

Maybe it's just me ... 

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

2018 - what do you think of it so far?

Well, we've just had Blue Monday - alleged to be the most depressing day of the year, and did you know that January is apparently the loneliest month? And how are all those New Year resolutions going?  Or shouldn't I ask?

Actually, I quite like January, mainly because the days are slowly and subtly getting lighter and longer. And the bulbs in the garden have begun to come through, and now it's all down hill towards warmer weather and summer.

Looking forward to spring!

For me 2018 is going to be all about the PhD - lots of visits to archives and writing up, but I hope there will be some other kinds of writing going on too. 

My publishers have agreed that they would like to see the second installment of the Riviera Rogues series, so I have to find time for that, and get it into a fit state to put before the selection panel. Fingers crossed they will like it. The story revolves around a wedding - and weddings are going to be very fashionable this year. 😊 I'll share more, including the possible choices for a title, over the next few weeks.

I'm hoping for other interesting and exciting things to happen during the year too, as well as a lot of work, but we'll have to wait and see ...

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The gentle art of letter writing

When did you last write a letter?

 Possibly a note to put in with a Christmas card, to send to someone you don't see very often?

But before that?  We don't write letters like we used to - e-mails. texts - but not letters. We're not like the heroines of classic novels who could always retire to their rooms to write letters when they wanted to avoid the hero, their mother, the verbose curate ...

I started to think about letters when I saw an item on the TV about pen pals. I thought about it some more when I was at the National Archive, for the day job, prowling thought the Home Office files for World War II. They were correspondence files, with quantities of letter exchanged between civil servants. I got some good stuff for the PhD, but I found the format of the letters themselves just as interesting. Apart from references to the occasional phone call, everything was by letter - and with two postal deliveries a day, using the post was probably almost as good as sending an e-mail.

It was the construction that was a glimpse of a lost era. Carefully set out by the typists - no DIY typing here - with addresses of sender and recipient in specific places, salutations that used only surnames - it was Dear Smith - not Dear Mr Smith - (it was all misters - no females in sight) and the first lines of many were almost like reading code, with use of terms like Inst and Ultimo for dates. The letters themselves were very formal - on paper that was now tattered and yellowing - signed either with an old fashioned fountain pen, or for run of the mill stuff with a rubber stamp. I remember having custody of one of those for the Town Clerk when I first started work - used for allotment agreements and grave grants. As the war progressed the paper got smaller and thinner and letters were typed on the back of other documents - one of the ones I found relating to Cardiff was on the back of a draft intended for Jarrow - but they were all still laid out in the formal manner.

We don't correspond like that any more.