Wednesday, 25 January 2023

The Welsh St Valentine

 

St Dwynwen is the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine. The patron saint of lovers, and today is her day. 

Happy St Dwynwen's Day 

Dydd Santes Dwynwen Happus. 


(Excuse the short post - knee deep in edits for Masquerade on the Riviera  - cover reveal tomorrow! )





Wednesday, 18 January 2023

A Week in the Life ...

11th to 17th January. 

I had three books on my mind in the week that's just gone - Masquerade on the Riviera, the new release scheduled for March, Summer in San Remo, the first of the Riviera Series, which was on a daily deal on Friday and the one I am planning to write next. I decided it might be interesting to make a diary:-

Wednesday 11th

Spent a couple of hours writing the obituary of someone who does not exist. Writers are weird. I keep telling you that. 

Popped down a few rabbit holes AKA research. Bought a book on Arts and Crafts house gardens and ordered a few on architecture of said houses from library. Went hunting for information on the WW2 war artists, particularly artists who drew the official pictures of the Nuremburg trials and found myself looking at various portraits and busts of the artists themselves in the archives of the National Portrait Gallery, then had a pleasant ramble around the website of the Imperial War Museum. Found a lot of useful stuff. Downloaded a banner from my publisher for the deal on Friday. The edits will be back next week. Now looking for a corner to hide in. Tomorrow I have a long delayed trip with a friend to look at the Egyptian exhibits in the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. Maybe I won't come back. (See edits, above.) 

Thursday 12th

Very good day with Mary in Bristol, even if we did get drenched! The museum/gallery has an attractive, intimate Egyptian exhibit which was the object of the visit - atmosphere for the forthcoming launch of Masquerade on the Riviera.  We also got a very nice lunch in the cafe - toasted sandwich and decadent hot chocolate - and a scamper around the display of PreRaphaelite paintings, which you know is my catnip. 





Inside and outside of sarcophagi from the museum. These were quite small - I have three huge ones in a very creepy scene in the book - at least, I hope it is creepy! 


Friday 13th!

Tired after my day out, still not used to being out/out. Mostly just vegetating and doing promo for the Kindle daily deal for Summer in San Remo. Thrilled that by lunchtime it had a best seller banner. 



Saturday 14th. 
 Not much going on - I'm sorting my books for a trip to the charity shop. Hung on to the best seller flag though. 

Sunday 15th
Today I got the art work for three proposed covers for Masquerade - all gorgeous. Masks, but no sarcophagi. Happy with any of them. Next week is going to be exciting - except that by then I'll have the edits back!

Monday 16th
Blue Monday. Still clearing books and cupboards.  Wrote some more pages for the new one. I don't usually write out of sequence, but the scene was growling at me to be written down. Another possible cover arrived - also a good one. 

Tuesday 17th 
Cover reveal will be next week - I'll keep you posted. The final choice will be down to the publishers' 'Stars' panel. Really looking forward to seeing which one they pick 





Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Robespierre's Nose

 I remembered that I was going to do a short post on a lecture from Cardiff University on Physionotrace portraits. 

It's a technique developed in France in the 1780s for drawing a silhouette created by a machine in a frame, which could then be used to produce multiple copies. Robespierre comes into it as there is a portrait of him using this method, which reveals his characteristic tip tilted nose. Apart from enabling greater availability of likenesses before photography, portraits done this way were closer to a true portrayal of the subject and can be used to test the accuracy of subsequent art work, some produced well after the death of the original subject.  Famous people could circulate copies for publicity purposes and they were also used for medical records. 

Apparently Robespierre was considered very good looking and had fan girls - just like a contemporary pop star - who packed the public gallery when he was speaking. Certainly many of the portraits were very dashing. The lecturer  - unfortunately I can't find a note of her name, but I think it was Dr MM Gilchrist - showed how an original could be manipulated to produce other portraits - reversed, given different style clothes and/or tinted with pastels for numerous variations. The further they got from the original  the less distinct the likeness became. 

It was an interesting evening. I always like to learn things about art. You never know what might be fuel for a new idea. Will I ever use this in a book? At the moment I don't think so, but who knows what the subconscious might throw up in the future. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2023

The power of a name

 This week I have taken the first steps on a new book. This is scary, exciting, satisfying. At present there are some words on paper and a lot of assembling ducks in rows. Bit like jigsaw puzzles. I'm not particularly good at those, but I do like to puzzle out a new plot. Besides that, and a cast list and a genealogy - it's going to be one of those books again that have family history going back to the war, so I need to get births and deaths and age at key dates sorted out - there is the business of names. 

Names operate in mysterious ways. Sometimes the characters arrive with them already in place. Sometimes they have a name, but it doesn't feel right and the book doesn't jell until they get a new one. Sometimes naming a character means resorting to baby name books and lists on the internet. 

The characters in this book seem to have been rather shy over divulging names. A few have to be Welsh, so that involved the list option, but I have them now. Naming the hero seemed to be especially difficult this time. As I said, I have done a bit of writing and it was time for him to make his entrance - except he couldn't do that until he had a name! I've been mentally throwing options around - he almost seemed as if he was going to be Rafe, but that didn't quite fit. Yesterday morning though, he settled - his name is Nathan. I think now that is right.

So - Eleri and Nathan are ready for their journey. It's a complicated one - when are they not, when I get my hands on them - three interlocking mysteries. Hope I can cope with that. I also have an ancient solicitor for whom I have unexpectedly fallen rather hard who seems to have set himself up as a kind of narrator, plus a story line that goes back to the War and the 1950s. The quotation that opens Romeo and Juliet keeps running through my mind,  

Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;

The book isn't set in Verona - although I think Lake Como may be making a guest appearance, but it does have two families and star crossed lovers. 

At the moment I'm figuring out the connection between my hero and a local serial killer - as you do. It will putter along for a bit, as the edits for Masquerade on the Riviera will be back soon, but at the moment I am having fun.

Wednesday, 28 December 2022

Selective memory?

 

Who else makes a habit of listening to Carols from Kings at 3 pm on Christmas eve? Many people say that is when Christmas officially  begins for them 

One of my favourite parts of Christmas is hearing carols sung. It used to be singing them too, I still like that, although my voice now has a disturbing 'old lady' quaver in it. I can hear my grandmother - which is disconcerting.  

I used to sing in the school choir - we gave public concerts in one of the local churches at Christmas. I also sang with the youth group of the church - we did a 'book' at Christmas and Easter - a selection of lessons and music for the occasion. I sang duets with a friend - two fragile blondes in our best coats/dresses looking as if butter would not melt on our song sheets. The old ladies loved it. We've both changed a bit since then. 

As a result of all this, I have a pretty comprehensive repertoire of hymn and especially carol lyrics. With some notable exceptions. Some I only have the chorus - that was when there was a soloist and the main choir only came in for that. Sometimes I can still remember the descant that the choir sang over general singing from the congregation. I've learned all the words to Good King Wenceslas now, but for a long time I only knew the king - which was the part I sang duetting with Denise. One very frustrating mystery is We Three Kings - I clearly sang the last king, Balthazar, with his gift of Myrrh, the creepy sinister one, with the gruesome lyrics. Was this where the dark side began or early typecasting? I think Denise was the first king with the gift of gold - but who sang the middle one? I have no memory of that. Lost now in the mists of time. 

The trigger that prompted this post was  Kings singing Adam Lay ybounden  which usually accompanies a reading from Genesis. It's is a favourite, but I can sing only half of it. What happened to the other half? I must have known it all once. Perhaps the first half stuck because the language is more unusual and had to be learned more carefully?

Overall the carol concert provokes memories. Happy times, and a few tears. 

Friday, 23 December 2022

Let Christmas commence ...

 The first round of edits for Masquerade on the Riviera have finally left the building. Won't be seeing them again now until January. Hurrah!

Hope I'll soon have a cover to share. Really looking forward to that. 



Happy Christmas.




Wednesday, 21 December 2022

Into the light

 Today is the winter solstice. You have probably seen a few posts and reports of celebrations at Stonehenge and other ancient places to greet the dawn. There is one in Ireland - and I can't remember the name - that is oriented towards the rising sun on the shortest day. The idea that thousands of years ago there were people who could built something monumental and calibrate it that finely is a source of fascination for me. 

Midwinter Day is a bittersweet occasion for those of us who hate the dark. The day that has the least light, but the point when the long slow journey back into the light begins. By January there will already be a marked difference. I'm looking forward to that, and to the new year. New year, new plans. I already have an idea for a new book nipping at my ankles, which is good, because I haven't done a lot of writing lately. Currently trying to work out a complicated family tree for two interlocking families - which is keeping me amused. We'll have to see where that goes. 

I know it's a bit strange that I like to write dark stuff, but don't actually respond well to winter. Mind you, the cold has something to do with that! Not really a winter person. The solstice is one celebration, and of course Christmas, which has become mixed in with the old celebration of Yule is on the way. By the time I post again it will be over! I don't know where the year has gone, it seems to have slid by very fast. Here's to whatever the next one will hold. And happy Christmas.