Wednesday 30 November 2011

Big news from Choc-lit

Great things going on at Choc-lit.
Apart from a string of recent author awards, the company has just joined up with an American distributor, IPM, to make the Choc-lit library available in the US from 1 January 2012. A red letter day.

And something for all short story writers  - a contest with the theme of chocolate. Judged by Choc-lit authors Sue and Margaret, the winner and runners up are in line for some delicious prizes - a lot of them the edible kind. Get typing now.

Detail of all these news items, and the rules and entry fee for the contest, from the Choc-lit website.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Looking for a Hero (Or a Heroine)

Fairly early in my career as a would-be author, when I devoured as many how-to books as I could get my hands on, I remember one of those writers - it may have been Mary Wibberley in To Writers with Love - commenting that you could see potential heroines walking down any street, but heroes were a different matter. It's a remark that stayed with me, and one I test out from time to time. It came back to me yesterday when I was spending some time at the university. A lecture had just finished, and the place was full of gorgeous women, in their late teens and early twenties, who could have filled a heroine's shoes with no problem at all - whether they were Nikes, or Manolos.

Outside, in the court yard, I changed my focus to studying the young men.

I tell you, this writing business, and the people watching involved ... Well, it's a hard job, but someone has to do it.

And it was perfectly true - there were athletic young men, attractive young men, young men who looked as if they would be a terrific friend and a lot of fun, but there wasn't one with that dangerous alpha edge that would make him a hero. I suppose that's the key - it's not often that you encounter a certain kind of alpha man that makes the cut as a romantic lead. Which may be one of the reasons why women like to read romance. Sheer escapism. 

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Party Time

What makes the perfect party?
Good food - and drink? A lovely setting? The chance to see and be seen, to catch up on gossip, to mix with influential people, to admire beautiful dresses and amazing shoes? My own favourite thing is meeting up with old friends, and making new ones - people who share a particular passion, so that you know you are among friends, even if you've never met before.

Some of the Choc-lit team
at the summer party in May

The RNA parties are renowned for all those things, and I haven't missed one in years. Sadly, for a number of reasons, I won't be at this year's Winter Party, which takes place at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers tomorrow.

I'm totally envious of those who will be there, and can't wait for the pictures to start appearing on blogs and websites.

 I know everyone who attends will have a great time, and will raise a glass to absent friends. Enjoy.

Thursday 10 November 2011


The posts have been short and erratic for the last couple of weeks, but I hope to be back on track now. This week's post, on The Big Read in Newport is below. And only a day late ...

The Big Read In Newport

Which of these was most influential?
The ‘Big Read’, staged by Newport libraries at the Riverfront theatre, is an annual event - great fun and informative for anyone who loves reading. The theatre is a lovely venue – as the name suggests, situated on the river - it’s a modern space, with comfortable seating, a selection of breakout rooms and a pocket size cafĂ©.  I attended the event last year for the first time and really enjoyed it. When I got a letter inviting me to this year’s day of authors and their books, I didn’t waste any time getting my ticket. The event has a number of mix and match streams, for children and adults, poetry and prose, Welsh and English. My choice this year took me to talks by Lesley Pearse, Lynda Page, Paul Doherty and Gwilym Games. All entertaining speakers and recommended if you get the chance to hear them at another venue.
Lesley and Lynda were frank, funny and informative about the path to being a writer – plenty of information for the fan who loves their books, and there were many of those in the audience - but also of interest and inspiration to anyone also hoping to achieve a publishing contract. As so many other authors suggest, hard work, persistence, a bit of luck and a thumping good story seemed to be the right ingredients.   Paul Doherty, historian, headmaster and author of a range of historical crime novels, covered ground from various royal murders and other scandals to the planning of the perfect murder. Of course the perfect murder is the one that has never been found out …
My wild card for the day was a talk by Gwilym Games about the horror writer Arthur Machen, rated as one of the greats by no less than Stephen King. Two of Machen’s books have recently been re- issued as part of the Library of Wales’ collection. I knew a little about him as a writer of gothic horror but it was particularly interesting to hear about his use of landscape in his work - of Gwent, around Caerleon, where he was born, and later of early 20th Century London. As setting is important to me as a writer, I’m always interested in how others handle it. He also wrote on Arthurian legends, which I’m currently researching for a book project. When one of the librarians attending the talk mentioned that Newport library has a collection of original Machen source material, the information definitely went down in my notebook. Mentioning original sources to an historian is like offering catnip to a cat!
One member of the audience was making a study of which author each speaker considered to have been the most influence on them, and asked the question in each session – interestingly it wasn’t one of the classic names who was most mentioned, although Charles Dickens did score quite highly. The author most often given credit was Agatha Christie, for her plotting and the page turning nature of the stories. It looks like everyone loves a puzzle.
 All in all it was an extremely enjoyable day. Hats off to Newport libraries for organizing it – already looking forward to the next one!

Friday 4 November 2011

Maybe Next Week

No lengthy post again this week, due to events way beyond my control.

Hope everything will stabilise in time for next Wednesday.

I recently attended the Big Read, run by the Newport Library Service - it was a fun day and I'm really looking forward to sharing it.