Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Holiday Blues?

January is traditionally the time for heavy advertising for holidays. I can remember when I was a kid the adverts on the TV on Boxing Day were always holidays, and there were pages of adverts in the Christmas TV papers too. In those days it was more likely to be Butlins and Blackpool rather than trips abroad. Yes, I am that old. With a new year, a few brave brochures trickling through the letterbox, intense fedupness with the same four walls and the prospect of vaccinations as a tiny speck of hope on the horizon, I've been thinking about my bucket list. It won't be for a while, but I am sort of making plans. Or maybe thinking about making plans? 2022 Maybe?

I have to say, I am a little worried about the big world, not having been much further than ASDA for nearly a year, not even into Cardiff! I expect I shall get used to it. So - what's on the list?

Cardiff first - baby steps!

Then in no particular order - 


Bristol - for my favourite fish and chip shop and the Egyptian galleries at the Museum - research for the book after this one. 

Bath - my second favourite fish and chip shop, the theatre and shopping

Oxford - I have my eye on the Pre-raphaelite exhibition at the Ashmolean and made a tentative date with a friend for viewing and afternoon tea, but really not sure if that will happen. Probably a bit too soon for jabs and relaxation of rules.


London - for theatre, bookshops, museums galleries, concerts - you name it - and events for the Romantic Novelists' and Crime Writers Associations. My London trips have been one of my greatest lockdown losses - I usually make at least half a dozen a year. The last time I was there
was 29th February 2020, at the National Archive in Kew, doing a last minute sweep for references for the PhD. I had a  lovely day - archives being one of my catnips. And then the world turned upside down. I miss it.

I also want to go to Scotland - I've never been and I have a family pilgrimage I want to make, I'll tell you about that another time. And Cornwall, ditto - but no pilgrimage. 

The trips abroad would fill a page - but the Riviera, of course, is top of the list and I do have a holiday paid for and 'banked' as it were, so I do hope I can make it. The other place I have a hankering for is Paris. When I lived in London I sometimes used to hop on the Eurostar and go for the day, but that was a long time ago now. I have a whole list of things to see from the Pere Lachaise Cemetery to the Cire Trudon shop selling specialist scented candles. I could get them here, but somehow the idea of buying them in Paris has taken hold. I also want to go to some of the places mentioned in Eloisa James's memoir of her year spent living in the city, Paris in Love. That would be following in the footsteps of my heroine Nadine, who did the same thing in A Wedding on the Riviera

Will I make it? Who knows? Maybe not this year. But soon? 

I'm also interested, if anyone would like to comment - what's on your bucket list? 


Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Peaking too soon?

 I'm on the home stretch with the first draft of the WIP - at least, I hope I am, but I have a dilemma - have I placed 'the dark moment' too early?

The dark moment, as you might guess, is when all seems to be lost - in romance it's usually a big emotional bust up  where the love affair is heading for the rocks, - before it all gets sorted out  for the Happy Ever After at the end. I have a few threads going on with this WIP - romance and suspense of course, but there is a secondary mystery as well to sort out about the villa that the heroine has inherited and some romantic poetry written by a contemporary of Byron and Shelly. That bit is totally invented, although it is plausible, as Liguria was a favourite place for the Romantic poets. It was there that Shelly drowned, a little further  down the coast at La Spezia.  But I digress.

I've put the dark moment for the romance first, followed by the mystery solution. I'm also happy to say that I've worked in excursion to Nice for Megan and Gideon, to be guests at Nadine and Ryan's wedding. How's that for cross referencing! I have another 'dark moment' right at the end, but that is the suspense one, with the final confrontation with the villainess. Really there is probably nothing darker than someone trying to kill you. (I'm not giving anything away mentioning the villainess, by the way, as in this book you know who she is from the start.)  It feels like the right order now, but I originally intended to solve the mystery bit first, so I am wondering if I have got it right. 

Actually - as I am writing this, I've thought of a slant that will give something extra for the suspense moment, if I can make it work. Blogging can loosen the brain cogs. 

I dare say that if she doesn't like the order my editor will say so, if and when it gets that far, and I can shuffle it around again. If I don't decide to do it myself in the next draft. 

It's a complicated  business, this writing lark 

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

What day is it again?

 Oops - with all the days running into each other over the holiday, I kind of lost track that it was Wednesday. 

Better late than never. 

My Christmas was quiet. Not how I have spent it for the last five years, and not how I hope to spend it next year, but I expect that is true of many people in 2020. I did get some writing done - I don't think I'm going to have the first draft of Riviera book 3 done by the end of the year, but it is coming along. 

It's traditional to round up your achievements and resolutions at this time of the year. Well - I finally finished the PhD and got a new book out, and was very briefly an international best seller, so the year was not all bad. I'm not big on resolutions. I won't be doing dry January, because I don't drink these days. My liver has not forgiven me for the surgery four years ago. I have gained a few pounds so I will have to do battle with them at some stage. I'm hoping that more walking, when the weather is better and the days are longer, will help. I've signed on for a few courses, so you might hear a bit more about them in the next few weeks. The big thing on my agenda is that I would really like to have two new Riviera books out next year. As you know one is on the way, and I very much want to write the one set around Halloween that has been buzzing in my brain for a while. I'm not at all sure that I will be able to do it in a timescale to please my publisher though, so we shall have to see. 

We can but try. 

Friday, 25 December 2020

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Summer on the way!

 We've just passed the solstice, which always cheers me up as now the days will begin to get longer again. About 2 minutes a day. I gather. At the moment Wales is wet, grey and locked in. My morning walks are pretty much grey sky, grey sea, grey sand. Some sunshine would be nice. Just saying.

I'm having to manufacture it. Book 6 set on the Italian Riviera, is progressing slowly. I had a bit of a whirlpool at what would be the middle, with a couple of scenes going round in circles and the heroine's motivation getting a bit scrambled, but it is sorted now, I think. I've got about 65,000 words, rough estimate, as I write first draft longhand, so we have about 30,000 to go and I have to sort out a mystery and a love affair, in that space. We've just had a little scene that arrived this morning which will fill up a plot hole that I didn't realise was looming. There would have been a very long and trailing loose end otherwise. 


Life is quiet, as it is for most of the country at the moment, but I have some Christmas food and usually spend the day writing, so that will not be anything new. 

Do you think I can complete that 30,000 word by the end of the year? I'm not sure, but it is a goal, and it would be nice. Then the typing and editing begin!!!!!

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

A Christmas Surprise - Cosy Christmas Treats

 



My publishers, Choc-lit, are known for their Christmas books and several have been published in the last few weeks, but there was one last surprise on the way - a volume of short stories and flash fiction from twenty of the Choc-lit and Ruby authors that was released on Monday. Many of the stories are Christmas themed, but there are other types as well. Some are new, some have appeared previously  in the publisher's newsletter. The e-book is available from Amazon, priced 77p, and the proceeds are going to Shelter. Buy HERE  

I've got a little something in there - it's a treat the was published a few years ago when What Happens at Christmas was released. It's the very last one in the book. Set on Christmas day, based very loosely on a real life event and with a rather naughty ending! 

Ruby author Jan Baynham has two completely new stories in the anthology and the second one gives us a glimpse of the kind of Christmas her characters from Her Mother's Secret might be spending. I've invited her on to the blog to tell us about the research she  did. Over to you, Jan: 

When I was asked to write a short story for the Ruby and Choc Lit anthology, Cosy Christmas Treats, I began to wonder what Christmas would be like for my character Alexandra in Her Mother's Secret when she spent her first Christmas in Greece. The story entitled, Christmas Surprises on Péfka, is a stand-alone but those who have read my debut novel will know that most of the story is set on the fictional island off the Peloponnese.

In the past, the Greek people didn’t use Christmas trees to adorn their houses. An old and very traditional decoration is a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire dangling along the rim. On this wire hangs a small wooden cross with a sprig of basil wrapped around it. Once a day someone, usually the mother, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle in each room of the house. This ritual is believed to keep the Kallikantzaroi, the Greek Christmas goblins, away from the house. While this is still the case throughout many regions, Christmas trees have been rising in popularity over the past few centuries. Over the years, the Christmas tree was integrated into the local culture and now the Greeks decorate fir trees in their homes and in squares

The Christmas season in Greece begins on December 6th, which is Saint Nikolaos day, and ends on January 6th with the Feast of the Epiphany. As this is a maritime country, the Greeks traditionally decorate boats for Christmas. This custom survives today in seaside towns and islands, where people decorate Christmas boats in the central squares. Saint Nikolaos is the patron saint of sailors and fishermen. It is said he worked hard to save sailors from the angry seas. Especially on the islands, you will see boats decorated with blue and white lights.

‘To the left of the quayside, she noticed a large sailing ship where the full sails were festooned with tiny lights sparkling like diamonds against the indigo sky as well as the hull of the ship and its tall mast at the top of which was an illuminated cross.’

On Christmas Eve, children often go out singing kalanda (carols) in the streets, travelling from house to house. They play drums and triangles as they sing. Sometimes, following a very old custom on the Greek islands, they carry model boats which are filled with nuts painted gold. If they sing well, they will be rewarded with nuts, sweets, dried figs and sometimes money

On Christmas Eve, too, it is traditional to bake Christ’s Bread, Christopsomo, ready to eat on Christmas day. It is a round, slightly sweet, light, buttery bread, infused with cinnamon, orange, and cloves. The top is decorated with a cross. A knife is never used to cut the bread as it is considered to be harmful to the good spirit that Christopsomo symbolises. Other traditional Christmas sweets are melomakarona, honey-dipped and often stuffed with nuts, and kourabiedes, dusted with powdered sugar and very white.

‘Plates of baklava and oblong shaped melomakarono covered in chopped walnuts were laid out on the work units, along with the customary Christopsomo, the special Christmas bread... The smell of cinnamon, oranges and cloves hung in the warm air.’

These are just a few of the many Christmas traditions I read about. The Greek people have so many interesting customs and traditions; it was fascinating for me to find out how some of those ancient traditions are celebrated alongside the new in modern Greece.

Kala Christouvenna. Merry Christmas to you all.

A big thank you, Evonne, for inviting me onto your blog.

*****


You can buy a copy of Her Mother's Secret in e-book or audio HERE


Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. In October 2019, her first collection of short stories was published.  As well as writing shorts and flash fiction, she writes full length novels where she can explore her characters in further depth and delve more into their stories. Her books deal with family secrets and explore the bond between mothers and daughters. Set in the last year of the 60s, her debut novel, ‘Her Mother’s Secret’, takes you to sun-drenched Greece, her favourite holiday destination, and was published by Ruby Fiction in April 2020. This was followed by ‘Her Sister’s Secret’ in September 2020.

Having joined the Romantic Novelists Association in 2016, she values the friendship and support from other members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of  Cariad, her local RNA Chapter. 


You may find out more about Jan here:

Twitter: @JanBaynham   Twitter    

Facebook: Jan Baynham Writer     Facebook    

Blog: Jan’s Journey into Writing Blog        

 





Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Something's Coming ...

 It has been a week of domestic drama - breakdown of heating and hot water and a very cold weekend, and a toilet that refused to stop flushing at 6 am in the morning. The heat is fixed and the loo hopefully today. In the meantime the WIP is progressing, and I have committed my first murder, so it's all good. I've been to a couple of zoom Christmas parties - and wore my Christmas jumper. Bought as a result of peer pressure, I have to say, but it is warm and cheerful so I've put the Bah Humbug! on the back burner. I've also written my essay for my folklore class - spooky stuff that will be appearing in future manuscripts and ordered a pile of books from the local indie bookshop which should keep me amused over Christmas. Some of them are for research for the next WIP! 

On the subject of Christmas and books, you might have seen the teasers from my publisher about a little surprise that is on the way from the Choc-lit and Ruby authors. 




It's arriving soon, and next week on the blog I'll be talking about it with Ruby author Jan Baynham. 

And don't forget, if you fancy a Christmas book that is a little different What Happens At Christmas is my festive romantic suspense from 2018. Not so many romantic Christmas books feature a kidnapping and attempted murder along with the carols and the mince pies.  If you've not read it yet, you can get it in e-book, paperback and audio. Buy HERE