Wednesday 22 May 2024

The RNA Awards

 Well, the awards event was on Monday so we know by now if I won, but as I will still be in London today and away from the nuts and bolts of creating the blog, I won't be talking about it until next week, as this post was written before I left. Are you with me so far? 

Whatever the outcome it is always a privilege to be chosen to compete for an award and the RNA awards, with the short lists selected by panels of ordinary readers, are particularly special - at least I think so. I admit I am a bit of a pot hunter - been that way since age 13 when I made up my mind to win what my dad called the Victor Ludorum at the school Eisteddfod. And I did - next time around. But the big prize for me, as a writer, is that people should enjoy my books. 

If you don't win you don't get to make a thank you speech - so I am doing mine here and if you've heard it before - I will be delighted! 

Thanks have to go to Lu, my long suffering editor, who deals with all sorts of holes and hiccups with patience and humour. To Berni for the lovely covers and for Choc-lit who took a chance on me over a decade ago and were willing to try the American style genre, romantic suspense, on a UK audience. Happily they seemed to like it!  Thanks to friends, inside and outside the RNA, for their help and support, listening to half soaked plot plans, patchy word counts and general moaning. To the RNA and the award organisers for the work they put in, all on a voluntary basis

But the  biggest thanks have to go to the readers who buy and enjoy the books, That is what makes it all worthwhile. 

Wednesday 15 May 2024

So - what are you going to wear?

 My mother was a dressmaker by trade. Fashion and sewing were her passion the way words and writing are mine. It's not surprising that I was a clothes-horse before I could walk. It was natural that if I had an event coming up, she would make something for me. In fact, we would sometimes sit down and review the next few months to make a programme. She was a fabric addict, collecting supplies in sales in advance of requirements which were stored in 'The Trunk'. It's big tin affair which now has the paperwork for my PhD in it, as I wanted somewhere to store all my precious hand written notes that I thought might be a protected in the event of fire. The fabric has migrated to other locations and I've donated some. When we were doing one of those reviews the trunk was always raided to see what goodies it might contain that could be used, without having to spend much more than the cost of cotton and a zip and maybe a pattern, if she didn't cut her own, or adapt one. During the war she had enough fabric stored to clothe herself, my grandmother and my aunt for the duration, when dress material, like many things, was scarce. You can imagine the size of the stash - I think it must have overflowed the trunk then. 

Now she's gone I am on my own. If I want a new outfit I have to buy it! One of the last things she made me was a floor length sequined dress for a convention ball in America. I still have it and planned to wear it for the Awards when A Villa in Portofino was nominated. Unfortunately when I tried it on, it had got a bit snug around the middle, so I wore the green jumpsuit I'd bought for a gala dinner at the RNA Conference. Not sparkly.

Now I am a nominee again for Masquerade on the Riviera and this time I am going sparkly - a jump suit I bought in the Phase 8 sale after Xmas. That was a speculative purchase, a bit like the fabric in the trunk. I knew I would have the chance to wear it somewhere, but I really didn't think it would be another trip to the awards.  It was a bargain, but like all Phase 8 garments much too long, so I have had to shorten it. Took a while, with much trying on and a brief panic over whether I had done the same leg twice, but it is now done and gives me a buzz every time I pass it hanging up in the spare room. 

It's black - or at least dark grey - and I don't wear much black these days as I think it doesn't suit me as much as it did when I was a teenager and wore it all the time - as you do. But well, it was a bargain, and I shall just have to go heavy on the blusher. I'm looking forward to wearing it, with some sparkly shoes and jewelry - may as well go all out. 

There is one big question though - if I can find them, do I wear my elbow length evening gloves?

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Where did Masquerade come from?

 Masquerade on the Riviera is currently a nominee for the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller of the Year, and I did threaten a couple of posts ago to talk some more about it. I'm over the moon to be in the contest for the second time! 

How did I come to write it? Well -  it's the fourth in the Rivera Series, which are my sunshine escapist romantic suspense books, so it already has siblings, but this one is a bit different. For a start it's partially set on the English Riviera. My editor did get a bit worried that we were not going to end up in France or Italy, but the book concluded in Monaco, so she didn't need to fret. 

I have said before - often - that writers can get a bit sniffy when asked about their inspiration, because often we don't actually know.  In this case, with my contrary nature, I knew I wanted the English Riviera setting, just to mix things up a bit, and once I was in Torquay then the town's most celebrated literary inhabitant was a no-brainer. In a bit of homage I went truffling though some of the most famous Agatha Christie  motifs - so - there is a body in a library, a lot of Egyptian artifacts, a slightly creepy gothic style house, with a secret passage.  I think Enid Blyton might have got a look in with that last one.

Visiting Torquay for that year's Crime Writers' Association conference added some local colour.  The heroine, Masie, was already in place as she had had a minor role in the previous book and was due for her time centre stage. Quite how Elliott got to be an Egyptologist I'm not certain, but as the book revolved around a cursed Egyptian necklace I suppose that was fairly obvious too, when you think about it. I am NOT an Egyptologist, so I had to research that one, which  I enjoyed. The academic
background is me, I suppose, the convoluted plot - I have no idea. The Masked Ball might owe a bit to Georgette Heyer - doesn't everyone know what a domino is - no not the game with the spots. The Monaco setting and the private yacht is pure wish fulfilment - one of the up sides of past me choosing to make the head of the detective agency which roughly cements the series together, into a billionaire. It was fun to write, and it is brilliant to know that the reader judges for the RNA Awards enjoyed it enough to put it into the final. 

That, after all, is why we write them - to give enjoyment to readers - although a few have said they learned a few things too - hopefully about Egyptology and artistic provenance and not stealing valuable jewels - which I hope was an added bonus.  

Wednesday 1 May 2024

First of May

 May Day - the date, not the distress call. Apparently that comes from the French m'aider - 'help me' and is a fairly recent invention, as is the designation of 1st May as International Workers' Day. It's been a Bank Holiday sine the 1970s but now rationalised to the nearest Monday. 

I'm thinking of something much older than all of these - Beltane - the Celtic festival between the spring solstice and midsummer. The start of summer, the coming of light, traditionally celebrated as a fire festival with beacons and bonfires. The light side of the celebrations are maypoles, Morris dancing and the crowning of a May Queen. Of course it is the darker side of the festival that interests me. I do write romantic suspense, after all, It has fascinated me since reading Mary Stewart's Wildfire at Midnight, many decades ago. The book is set on the Isle of Skye  with a series of murders and unexpected fires, with pagan overtones - very creepy. with lots of suspense.  

I always credit Mary Stewart with setting my taste in reading and I have nurtured the idea of a book featuring the pagan festivals for a long time. 

 I might actually be writing it at the moment. I'm indulging myself with the current WIP and a hint - maybe more than a hint - of the supernatural seems to be part of it. Not sure yet how it is going to work out - but all those folklore courses at the Lifelong Leaning Department of the University have to go somewhere. Beltane is a big draw, of course, but Midsummer might be a candidate as I think it may better fit my time line.

I'm inventing a village on the South Wales coast to go in the book so I can invent my own local celebrations to go with them.  I hope I can do it as well as Mary Stewart. 

Wednesday 24 April 2024

In Brighton, talking crime

 I've been in Brighton for a long weekend for the Crime Writers' Association Annual Conference.

 It was a bit disconcerting to be greeted at the station by a very large contingent of police along with three very enthusiastic sniffer dogs. What they were looking for I don't know, but they didn't find it in my bag, I am glad to say. 

I had a really good time. Lots of technical style talks - research techniques, police procedure, courtroom dramas, criminal psychology - I now know more about what makes a serial killer than I did before.

Be afraid ... 

The hotel was big and modern, right on the sea front. 

I had a very nice room but declined to pay for the upgrade for a sea view. Breakfast was spectacular. I adore hotel breakfasts and this was top ten class. Saturday afternoon featured a crime walk - the dark side of Brighton, including historic murders, bodies in trunks and a man who was on the run for seventeen years. I was a bit dubious as my back is still playing me up but I managed most of it before limping back to the hotel for a cup of tea. The gala dinner included the announcement of the long lists for the CWA Awards - the Daggers. It was a pleasant surprise to recognise the names of two Crime Cymru friends who had made the list  - Alis Hawkins in two categories and Matt Johnson in the true crime award, along with my new publishers, Joffe in the crime publisher of the year category. Bets were being taken on what would be served at the dinner - predictably it was chicken. The food was good and the company excellent and afterwards Elly Griffiths - a Brighton local - gave us a whistle stop tour of her local area. I learned things, saw old friends and made a few new ones. The proceeding finished at lunch time on Sunday. As I refuse to travel by train on a Sunday if it can possibly be avoided I stayed on until the following day, doing day-at-the -seaside things - fish and chips, ice-cream, a wander in the Lanes when I heroically avoided the vintage jewelers. 

I took some pictures - the pier, the pavilion. It's a very long time since I was in Brighton. It was very busy and very much a seaside town with lots going on. Last time I was at a CWA Conference - in Torquay - I used the town as one of the locations for the book I was just finishing - Masquerade on the Riviera - which is currently a nominee for the Romantic Thriller of the Year. There are no current plans for a book set in Brighton, but you never know.

Wednesday 17 April 2024

A J R Hartley moment

 Those readers of mature years will probably remember a Yellow Pages advert from the early 1980s in which an elderly gentleman tours bookshops in search of a book on fly fishing. He returns sadly home after a fruitless search and his daughter hands him a copy of Yellow Pages. When he finds a copy of the book  - well you know the story, or can imagine. 

Original Advert link Here

I had my own J R Hartley moment on Saturday when I finally got a copy of the Chinese version of Never Coming Home. 

Authors are supposed to get at least one copy of a book put out in their name, but somehow it never happened. I knew the book was out because I'd seen in on Amazon, but I never remembered to ask my then publisher and now water has flowed under that bridge...

I made up my mind finally to see if I could get a copy. Two orders were cancelled by Amazon, but I tried a third time - although the price had increased considerably!

This time it worked. Third time lucky and now I have it. No idea what it says, but I am thrilled with it. 

I don't expect the Amazon automated systems twigged that I was the author asking for my own book though. My very own J R Hartley moment. 

Wednesday 10 April 2024

The Cat is out of the Bag.


Well, now you know. I've been nursing this piece of news since February! 

The fourth book in the Riviera series, Masquerade on the Riviera has followed its sibling A Villa in Portofino into the finals of the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller of the Year Award. 

The Jackie Collins is one of a bundle of awards made annually by the Romantic Novelists' Association for books chosen by a panel of reader judges as best in their genre. This category is sponsored by the publishers Simon and Schuster in commemoration of their mega successful, much missed author. 

As you can imagine I am thrilled to be nominated for the second time. 

Will I win? 

Who knows?

The competition is strong and there are some fabulous books in the list. I'm just happy to be in their company. The knowledge that the nominees are chosen by ordinary romance readers is the icing on the cake. 

The awards will be made at a very posh ceremony in London on 20th May. I have a sparkly outfit, courtesy of the January sales, that I haven't worn yet. Only fly in the ointment is I have to shorten the legs. Sequins. That will be fun.  

In the next couple of weeks I'm going to be talking a bit about the book and the process of writing it. I'm looking forward to that. It was fun to write and it will be fun to talk about it again.