Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Why I'll never write literary fiction.

Let's face it - I don't have deep thoughts, or a message, or anything like that. I don't even manage to have a theme. I like telling stories. Beginning, middle, end, so I'm stuck with genre fiction. And quite happy, actually. It's what I like to read. I've never got on with highbrow stuff.

I might one day venture into non fiction - the day job, when it is done, has possibilities to be a piece of popular history, if I have the energy to do it, once the thesis is finally finished, and some publisher thinks they want it, but that's a long way away.

I like distinctive locations, and a plot, and a love story and a happy ending. Literary fiction doesn't have to have any of those, so I really wouldn't have a clue what I was doing.

It's the love story that drives the thing, for me. I might murder a few people along the way - all right, maybe a lot of people - and the course of true love never does run smooth (thank you, Mr Shakespeare, or whoever wrote the plays. I'm researching that at the moment as a side issue to the day job, for a very much in the future plot for a romantic suspense. But I digress...) And there is usually a dark moment, before the end, when Hero and Heroine don't look as if they will get together, but then they do. And it all ends happily. That's my contract with the reader. Uplift. And probably a wedding ring.

I have to confess though that I have had a few thoughts lately about killing off a hero or heroine before the end of a book. I don't know where that evil impulse is coming from, or whether I'll ever act on it.

If I did, would that make it literary fiction, d'you think?

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Publication day X 2

A book release is a red letter day and this week I am having two, as the paperback of What Happens at Christmas was out on Saturday and the audio version is out today from Isis Publishing.

I've featured in the Choc-lit Advent calendar - if you haven't caught up with that yet - check out the Choc-lit twitter feed. A clue every day and a chance to win a daily prize and something big (lots of books) for the overall winner.

There is an interview on the Female First website, all about the inspirations for What Happens at Christmas. The ones I can identify, that is.

It all started with a lunch with some fellow authors, and there was no alcohol involved ...

The link for the interview is HERE

What Happens at Christmas is on special offer on the Choc-lit Amazon page, if you have not got your copy yet LINK

It has been quite a week.

And what's next?

Well, the next book in the pipeline should be another in the Riviera Rogues series, set in the South of France, once the day job is finally put to bed.

According to Jamie Dornan and Matthew Rhys, Barry Island is the Welsh equivalent of St Tropez, so for the location for the one after that, all I have to do is open the front door. Not sure about the weather though ....

Jamie and Matthew

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Celebration of release day - the What Happens at Christmas Location Tour.

The official release day for the paperback and audio versions of What Happens At Christmas is on Saturday 1st December!! (Although there have been some early sightings around the country.) To celebrate I've put together a short location tour of places that feature in the book. Unfortunately none of them involve snow- you'll have to imagine that for yourselves.

The armchair tour is on the Pages spot at the top of the blog. All you have to do is click for a glimpse of  the Brecon Beacons and Chelsea.

I hope you enjoy it. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Reviving a manuscript

Should you ever try to revive an old manuscript?

When you have been in the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers' Scheme as long as I was, it is inevitable that you have a lot of  old manuscripts in the drawer - and I mean a lot. Most of them will stay there. One or two might have possibilities if I have time on my hands and plenty of patience. Hah! But there are two I definitely want to go back to. Funnily enough, neither of them are finished. Maybe not so funny - is that the appeal? Unfinished business?

The first is an historical - a Georgian romantic suspense submitted as a partial MS that was my very last NWS submission before I was published - with  a contemporary in the same genre. It got a good report and I would have gone on with it, but then publication happened and it went off to that bottom drawer with the others. I wrote it for fun, but since then it has stayed with me, and ideas for making it a series that will connect to something contemporary have been growing, so I definitely think it is worth another look.

The other one was my first attempt at a contemporary romantic suspense. It got quite a good report. I was usually told I could write, which was encouraging, but there was an awful lot that was wrong. I think, looking back, it suffers from a common fault of inexperienced writers - there are two stories in there fighting with each other, or maybe a story and a half. Too many good ideas and not enough space to put them. It started with a Romeo and Juliet story of young love and tragedy and then resumed with the lovers 15 years later. My reader wasn't happy about that - I remember the comment that the heroine in particular was too young and that her mother was more interesting and the way it was written a reader could easily assume she was the heroine  ... And so on.

I decided to start a new novel rather than try to unpick that one, and I know the next attempt went a lot better - I think it may have eventually turned into Out of Sight Out of Mind, but I'm not sure.

The unfinished manuscript still came back into my mind now and then - there were a lot of things I liked about it and the hero, Luke, was one of my favourites. I can't remember the name of the heroine, but her mother was called Nadine - which might give some credence to the comments of my NWS reader ...I half promised myself I'd  have a look at it again, to try and get out the book that was lurking in the undergrowth. Simplify the story - turn it round so the R&J bit was a flashback interlude - possibly give it a new villain. Or a new motive. And probably get rid of the heroine's mother! She might get her own story in quite a different book.
One day ...

I've been using scrap paper to write on lately and a couple of the pages, when I read them, turned out to be old drafts of that book. I was surprised how good the dialogue still sounded. And I still fancied Luke ... And then I heard a scientific programme on the radio that gave me a lead on a plot point that had been a stumbling block that I hadn't entirely resolved, which I am now researching, and the book is now back on the table.

It will take some work and it's not going to happen soon, but I am certainly promising myself I will have a go. 

And the motto of the story? Never throw anything away.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The use of silence

Writing this in the week when the Armistice that ended World War One was commemorated, when the two minute silence is one of the most universal and poignant parts of any ceremony, has prompted thoughts on the power of silence to a writer. Aspiring - and not so aspiring - writers are told, or reminded, about using all the senses, and hearing can encompass all types of noise, from rain on the roof to opera to the sound of waves on the shore - which can be remarkably noisy, as you learn when you live by the sea. Some writers like to have music while they work, and will make a play list for a particular book. Sounds are very emotive for creating atmosphere - a distant bell, footsteps in an empty corridor, the sound of a door closing, very softly. All creepy, all very simple.

But what about silence? Not easy to convey in a book. Yet we have probably all experienced that feeling when silence has been so strong it almost seems like something you can touch. It can come in an empty, desolate place. It can be significant when there is an absence where there should be a presence - no sound were there should be one, like a heart beat. Silence in a conversation can speak volumes that words don't.

Silence might be a little difficult to convey. It needs some thought. It's not an easy option, but it can be powerful and worth thinking about.

I have two books in the half completed pile, which I am waiting to get back to, that open with a silent house, one an historical, one contemporary. I probably have both of them as neither manuscript is finished - I might have avoided repeating a similar scene if either was published - but I hope as they are different genres it will be OK. It's clearly a scenario that appeals to me. In both cases my protagonist -one male, one female,  is alone in an empty house where they have long memories and associations, and it is the prelude to leaving and beginning a new life, in neither case one that is sought or looked forward to. It is a scene of goodbye, and a certain amount of heartbreak. I hope it is a powerful beginning to the book. In both manuscripts I had to think about the effect of silence - in this case on memory. That absence where there should be presence - a kind of metaphor for all they have lost.

Fingers crossed that they work.

Now I'm keen to get back to them. Soon.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

I've never done NaNoWriMo ... yet.

A book. In a month???

For those not into the jargon - NaNoWriMo is a collective madness that seizes large numbers of writers during the dark month of November and provokes them to try and write a book - or the first draft of a book, in a month. And one of the first cautionary tales of the attempt is that it is a first draft, not an oven ready book. Basically you commit ( I use the word advisedly) to about 1,700 words a day to reach a total of 50,000 by the end of the month. And, of course 50,000 is more like  a very healthy novella, given that most books are in the region of 80,000 - 90,000, but you get the idea. If you sign on you get various encouragements and the chance to buddy and other stuff. There's a link at the bottom of the post if you want to know more from the official source.

My knowledge is not complete, because I've never done it. In fact the idea has always rather struck terror in my heart, but that, I realise now, was for reasons of time. When I was working and caring and then just caring, it was an impossibility - I was just too damn tired to try. And for the last six years (ahh, panic - six years!!!)  there's been the PhD. I have produced books as well in that time, but never against the clock. And this November is no different, although I have been taking an interest in the friends who are trying it and beginning to think .... maybe?

The PhD is still with me. Yesterday, I had a Very Low Day and if I had had access to a wheelbarrow, the whole lot would have found it's way into the sea, but I feel a lot better today. Ups and downs and 'Why did I ever start this?' happens. Not unlike writing a book. I'm also thinking about the time after PhD - with or without the assistance of the wheelbarrow. For better or worse the PhD will be gone by next November, and the idea of taking part in NaNoWriMo is starting to look ... well, interesting. I might actually have the chance to write and get somewhere with the word count and the deadlines. So, it's a maybe.

I'll let you know.

NaNoWriMo - HERE  

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

When the leaves are turning ...

Autumn is my least favourite season, especially after the clocks have changed. I don't do well when it is cold, but it's a lot to do with daylight as well. I don't like winter either, but at least after the solstice the nights begin to get lighter and you know that something better is on the way, whereas in autumn it's just a lot of cold and dark to look forward to.

Which makes it surprising that I have a few ideas for books bothering me at the moment that want to set themselves at this time of the year. I think it is because they have a spooky, supernatural element, and this time of the year lends itself. Halloween and all that. I'm thinking - or they are - books in waiting can get quite stroppy on occasion - more in the way of folklore and old stories and some hedge witchery,  rather than ghouls and ghosts and people flitting about on broomsticks. It's all been helped along by a lecture at the university last week about the time around Halloween - Martinmass and St Martin's day, which is on the 11th November. Apparently it was a time of celebration of the harvest with feasts and fairs stretching over up to eight days - St Martin's Fairs and Mop Fairs and Goose Fairs and Hiring Fairs are all connected, and there's Guy Fawkes in the mix too. The idea of a time of potential misrule has possibilities.

Guy Fawkes night has rather been overtaken by Halloween in the last few years, with the emphasis now on 5th November on large, organised, and safer public displays of fireworks. Communal bonfires, with wood collecting going on for weeks before the event, fireworks in the back garden and making a guy and collecting pennies on the street corner all seem to be fading away - quaint and old fashioned. And 11th November is, of course, marked with poppies as Remembrance or Armistice Day, rather than a saint's feast day.

But the idea of a fair or celebration over a few days in autumn, with an other worldly element to it? Well, as I've said, there are ideas brewing. Will they win, over my preference for sunshine?

We'll all just have to wait and see.