Thursday 31 May 2012

Magical Musings

Visiting with American Title friend Edie today on Magical Musings - and you get a chance to win a copy of Never Coming Home :)

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Crimefest - Fairy wings, Seagulls and George Clooney

It's always a sign of a good conference when I come home and sleep for ten hours. This year's Crimefest, in Bristol, was no exception. What began as an overseas excursion for the American crime convention, West Coast Crime, has matured into an event with it's own international personality, thanks to the organising of Adrian, Myles and Donna and the hard work of their team of helpers.

This year was special for me - my first as a published author. I got quite emotional, seeing copies of Never Coming Home on the book stall, alongside novels from the likes of Leigh Russell and Andrew Taylor.
And there I was too, in the programme, with my own speaking slot - twenty minutes as one of the 'Author Spotlights'  That particular strand is one of my favourites - authors giving their party pieces - which this year included Caro Ramsay on forensics, Meg Gardiner on getting into trouble while researching thrillers and Matt Hilton demonstrating unarmed combat.
And me. Talking about mixing crime and romance. I'm unusual in being a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and  the Crime Writers Association, writing romantic suspense. I had a lively audience, and we enjoyed trying to decide why it is not as prevalent a genre in the UK as it is in the US. No definitive conclusions, but some interesting discussion. And yes, the story of my trip to a romance convention in Pittsburgh was part of it, which involved me transporting a set of fairy wings across the Atlantic, and the fun I had wearing them.

The 'weekend' (Thursday to Sunday) was packed with panels, receptions, quizzes, the gala dinner - the only meal in sight. Most days you don't even get an official lunch break. Awards were given out and prizes won. I met and talked to a lot of interesting people, which is part of what makes the conference so enjoyable. In the sunshine, the bar terrace was packed. Several of the delegates had a close and messy encounter with a seagull, including Lee Child, who was very funny when talking about it afterwards, and about his brushes with Hollywood - taking telephone calls with George Clooney while on his local commuter train. Will there ever be a chance of me talking to Johnny Depp on the train from Barry Island to Caerphilly? P D James spoke about her excursion into Jane Austen territory with Death Comes to Pemberly. An all female panel, meant to be exploring psychological thrillers, descended into laughter and a discussion on bed linen, and still managed to delve into a lot of creepy stuff.
I had a really good time.

Friday 25 May 2012

Crimefest in Bristol

Today (Friday) I'm speaking at Crimefest, talking about mixing romance and crime. Looking forward to mingling with all those lovely men and women who murder people for a living, and get away with it.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

An (Almost) Royal Progress

My mother does not often travel very far from home these days, but with some trepidation we decided we'd make the trip to London for the RNA Party and the Joan Hessayon Award. Travelling with her by train is rather like a royal progress, as we have assistance at the stations. She jibbed a bit over the wheelchair at Cardiff, but was very happy with the golf buggy which buzzed us around Paddington in fine style. My role in all this? Lady in Waiting and Keeper of the Luggage. A big thank you to all the taxi drivers we met on our travels, who were unfailingly helpful. (They even overlooked the balloons that accompanied several journeys.)

On the day of the party we had tea with two thirds of my cheer leading team at Fortnum and Masons - in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, re-named after the Queen visited on St David's Day with the two duchesses. Crust less sandwiches, scones and four kinds of jam, small cakes (the eclairs flavoured with rose water!!!!!) the run of the large cake trolley and a pianist. Heaven.
Then to the party at the Royal Over-seas League. Can you see the royal theme emerging here? A lot of people have blogged about that, and I've put some more pictures in a gallery in the previous post. High spot for mum, apart from me winning the Award, which was a total shock, was meeting Anna Jacobs, who is her favourite author. Thanks Anna for appearing in the photo.

The next day it was a noisy lunch with almost all the Choc-Lit authors (Henri, you were missed) and various of their family members and the Choc-lit team. The Pizza Express in the Strand has got used to us now. Not sure if they offer the staff danger money. That evening I left Mum with the hotel TV and sloped off to The Duchess of Malfi at the Old Vic. It was excellent. Watching the protracted strangling scene confirmed where a lot of my darker writing impulses come from. The character of Bosola, the assassin, is an enigma. I've always felt that he is in love with the Duchess and the long look they exchanged as she died seemed to confirm this. But then, I'm a romantic novelist. I would think that, wouldn't I?

Award Pictures

A photo gallery of the Joan Hessayon Award, 17th May 2012.

Thanks Mary, for the photos.

The Award certificate - and a chair at the Royal Over-seas League 

Charlotte Betts, speaking before handing on the trophy. All the finalists in a row - except me. I think we'd shuffled so we could all see Charlotte.   

Bursting into tears - Anne Bennett one of my (many)  NWS readers, was the first in line to hug me. Hope I did not get mascara on her dress. 

With Christina Courtney. I seem to have cheered up a bit now. 

With Mum, and the trophy

Sunday 20 May 2012

Wildest Dreams

Last week I travelled to London for the Romantic Novelists' Association Summer Party. It's always a special occasion, but this year was extra special, as I was in the line up for the Joan Hessayon Award, which is presented to one of the authors who have come through the RNA's famous New Writers' Scheme, and achieved publication. There were eight finalists, writing across all genres. Lovely ladies, fabulous books.
It was the realisation of almost a lifetime's dream, to stand with them, as it meant that a book I had written had made it into print. I never thought any further than that. Simply to be there.
And then the winner was announced.
And it was Never Coming Home.
Wildest dreams.
I'm still not sure I believe it.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

And in the diary for today ...

Things are getting hectic around here.

For a crowded couple of weeks my diary is overflowing:

On Tuesday 15 May Never Coming Home is released in bookshops in Australia and New Zealand. To celebrate, I will be blogging with the Australian Romance Readers Association.

Wednesday 16 May I will be the spotlight debut author on the RT Book Reviews website. Morgan, my interviewer, came up with some great questions, delving into some of the most emotional parts of the book.

Thursday 17 May is the night of the RNA Summer Party and the Awards Ceremony for both the Joan Hessayon Award for new writer of 2011/12 and also the announcement of the Romantic Novel of the Year. It will be a great night, if a nail biting one, for Choc-Lit. Linda and I will be lining up for the Joan Hessayon, and Christina and Jane for the Romance of the Year. We are made of strong stuff, and will party on, regardless.

The full list of nominees for the Joan Hessayon includes some fabulous and varied debut books.

Scarlet Wilson    It Started With A Pregnancy                 
Tanith Davenport  The Hand He Dealt                            
Liz Fenwick  The Cornish House                               
Evonne Wareham   Never Coming Home                            
Lynda Dunwell   Marrying The Admiral’s Daughter         
Rhoda Baxter  Patently In Love                                  
Linda Mitchelmore  To Turn Full Circle                               
Gina Rossi  The Wild Heart             

And the week after? That's the week of Crimefest in Bristol, where I have a twenty minute spotlight to talk about mixing crime with romance. And guess what? I'm on stage immediately after Meg Gardiner.  Scary, or what? Will I hear a word she says?                     

Wednesday 9 May 2012

How I Got That Quote

"A dark mystery with a fiery romance at its heart." 

Last summer, when Choc-Lit asked if I had any ideas on who might be approached to provide that all important quote for the cover of Never Coming Home, I knew exactly who I wanted. An author whose work I love, a winner of both an Edgar and RT Book Review Reviewers' Choice Award and numbered amongst Stephen King's favourite thriller writers, it could only be Meg Gardiner.  A judge in a competition once compared my work to hers. I was over the moon. That kind of comparison is one of the greatest confidence boosters a wanna-be can ever receive.
Meg at a previous Crimefest

So - I knew who I wanted, but how to approach her? I was all set to e-mail a request, when I came across publicity for an event at Goldsboro Books in London, called Crime in the Court. It looked interesting, and I was wondering about treating myself to a trip to the wicked city, when I noticed that Meg would be amongst the authors attending. That was it. I had to go.

It was a lovely evening. The gods were kind. On a rare, warm summer night, a very large number of crime writers and their fans spilled out of the shop into Cecil Court; wine was drunk, books were bought and signed, there was a lot of conversation and a good time was had by all. In amongst all this, I managed to track down Meg. She coped admirably with a complete and possibly slightly incoherent stranger (I'd only had one glass of wine, honest!) accosting her and asking, not for her autograph, but for her endorsement of a book. She agreed that my publishers could send the manuscript to her and the quote came back a few weeks later. It's now on the back of the book. And it looks so good there. Thanks Meg.

In conversation with Zoe Sharp
Her most recent book -The Nightmare Thief - is out in paperback in the US this month. She's appearing at Crimefest in Bristol this year, and I will be there, so I'm looking forward to saying thanks again, in person. Crime in the Court will be taking place again this year, on 3rd July. I'd recommend it. I had a great time last year. And I got my quote.

Running a little late ...

It's Wednesday, and I'm currently working on today's post - the inside story on how I got the quote that appears on the back of Never Coming Home. In the meantime a brief stop press - the release day for Never Coming Home in Australia and New Zealand will be next Tuesday 15th May. I have some exciting news on that too.


See you soon.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

The nine men's morris is filled up with mud ...

Crosser than a wet hen. That was me, last Wednesday, caught in a downpour on Sloper Road, on my way to the Archives. Too far along to go back to my favourite bus stop – the one I always shelter in when I get caught in a downpour on the way to the Archives (Can you see a pattern here?) I waded on, and arrived Very Wet Indeed.  

Then on Saturday/Sunday night, with the wind howling round the house and things falling over on the back yard, my writer’s imagination began to work overtime about what exactly was making that ominous crashing sound. In the daylight? Nothing I could see. Obviously not in my back yard. 

Then yesterday, on a quick train trip to London, seeing new ponds in the middle of fields – despite the drought.  

Weather is looming large in my mind – and I’m sure I’m not the only one. 

The waterlogged fields brought up that quotation from Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s part of a complex speech from Titania, claiming that the problems with the weather arise from a falling out between herself and Oberon, the fairy king. After the wettest UK April on record, and with the predictions for May not much better, I’m beginning to wonder if they are still arguing. What exactly is a Nine Man’s Morris? My ancient Signet version of the play confidently asserts that it is squares cut in turf for a game, played with nine counters, but I’ve heard that folklore experts cannot identify any such game ever being played. I don’t know what is right, but it is one of those quotations that always sums up horribly wet weather in my mind. I can just see the squares in the turf, slowly filling up, and oozing …
I seem to be a bit obsessed with Midsummer Night’s Dream at the moment, possibly because I am already beginning to be afraid that this is going to be yet another year when we don’t get a summer – although actually that is not true – we had that week. In March.
I know my dislike of cold and wet influences my writing – and reading – habits. I’ve just abandoned a book because the setting was unrelenting snow – the descriptions were excellent and it was making me too cold to read it. One of the pieces of advice sometimes given to writers is to make your characters uncomfortable. It’s supposed to make a book edgy, to have your protagonists physically miserable. I can’t do that. I’d much rather make them emotionally miserable, while the sun shines on them. I get more fun out of that, and keep my feet dry. Although I did give my hero, Devlin, his own personal rain cloud after he walked out on Kaz. (Bad decision, good reasons – at least he thought so.) It followed him around for quite a few chapters. I think of my books as holiday reading – which is why I like to set them in beautiful places, where the sun shines.
So – if you want something dark and sinister, to read on the beach …