Tuesday 31 December 2013

Just a little something for new year ...

Posting early this week, to wish everyone happiness and fun on New Year's Eve.

An unorthodox Santa, courtesy of Selfridges' Xmas window display
I make no secret of the fact that I'm not really into writing short fiction - too many words in my head, battling to get out. But whenever the call goes up for a little something, after the initial reluctance/panic, depending on who is asking, I do occasionally give in and have a go. And it inevitably ends up much longer than the word limit. When Leigh from Mystery People asked for three sentences of festive flash fiction the gruesome little offering below came into my head. More horror than crime, and much longer than three sentences, so no use at all for what was wanted. Even so, I thought I'd like to share it here.

A cautionary tale for everyone attending a fancy dress party tonight?

The zombie shuffled down the garden path. At this distance from the house the sounds of the party came in snatches. Music and laughter and someone singing off key. A chilly moon lit up trailing bloodstained rags and heavily shadowed eyes in a deathly pale face. And the tell-tale red glow of the illicit cigarette. 
He jumped when I stepped from behind the tree.
'Hey - didn't see you there. Wow, same costume. Yours looks great.'
Fancy dress. Don't you just love it? 
I pulled him towards me and began to eat. 

Wednesday 25 December 2013

All I want for Christmas ...


Thank you, Selfridges, those will do nicely.
 But I think I'll need a smaller size. 
I hope your day is going well, the turkey is in the oven and everyone's presents lived up to their hopes. 
I've been thinking about the sort of gifts my characters might have been wishing for. With the girls, that's easy, if I like it, they probably will. And you can't go wrong with shoes. My current objects of unreasonable desire are those produced by Charlotte Olympia. I particularly covet the pumps with the signs of the zodiac, but the cat faces are cute too, or the owls ... Judging from Selfridges Christmas window displays, I am not alone in this interest. Unfortunately, as well as being very desirable, they are also very expensive. I never do things by halves. I'm not expecting to be wearing a pair any time soon. But a couple of my new heroines might be able to treat themselves. That's the thing about being a writer, you do get to live through your characters.

As for the men - the secretive types I write about can barely admit to their own names, much let what they might want for Christmas. But actually I have the perfect present, for all of them. I'm creating the women of their dreams ...


Wednesday 18 December 2013


My publishers, Choc-lit, are helping along the Christmas spirit with twelve days of romantic Christmas flash fiction. (Chocolate is also involved, a special discount offer from the House of Dorchester.)

As I frequently complain, I have trouble with short fiction, but I've pulled out all the stops, and created a little tale with a slightly creepy opening, that takes place on Christmas Eve. Best draw a veil over the fact that at 1000 words it was originally twice the required size. I got it slimmed down in the end. The Choc-lit Facebook site promises plenty of fairy lights, tinsel and Christmas kisses. Well, actually no, my story doesn't have any of those things. As I said it's a bit creepy. But it is romantic. I'll have to leave you to judge whether it's romantic enough. It's called A Christmas Surprise, and it's a Choc lit exclusive. You have to sign up to get it. A Christmas present from us to you. Twelve Christmas presents, actually.
The instructions for signing on are below.

12 Christmas romances with discount codes for House of Dorchester Chocolates.
Simply email info@choc-lit.com with the subject heading XMAS TREAT! You can also add your Smartphone number and get a text each day telling you that your Xmas TREAT! has been sent - plus a link to read on line from your Smartphone. No ereader required.

So, drum roll, please, as my Christmas flash is up today.

A Christmas Surprise.

The nature of the crime?

The Crime Readers' Association, which is the readers' arm of the UK Crime Writers' Association, has a swish new website. A poem in monochrome and red. There's a link at the bottom of this post if you're looking for some last minute ideas for Xmas gifts. Or suggestions for something nefarious to curl up with yourself,  after the port and the turkey. The site has an A to Z of authors (including me ) which got me thinking of the many different types of crime novel there are. As many as there are authors? Whole theses could (and possibly have) been written about our interest in crime as a form of entertainment, but it's a fact the for large numbers of us, a good crime novel is the one of the best kinds. No one wants crime, especially violent crime, in their home, but we're all prepared to import it from the library and the bookshop. Clearly there's excitement in reading about it. And the CWA has member who write all sorts of genres - police procedural, historical, elegant puzzles, thrillers. Whatever you fancy, the Crime Readers' site will probably have some ideas.

Me - I'm a hybrid. (That's posh for mongrel.) For a start, my books have a romance in them, with all the attendant ups and downs.  And they are thrillers. I was thinking about what makes a thriller. I'm sure screeds have been written about that too, but for a rough and ready start point I'd say that the germ that kicks it off has to be something out of place, that has the potential to cause fear  and/or harm - that might be crime or possibly something paranormal. After that the author just has to keep you turning the pages. 'Just '- she says nonchalantly! I like the danger and excitement element - and it's also useful for keeping the romance on the boil. Staying alive and running away from the bad guys is an excellent way of keeping the hero and heroine together. But I also like the puzzle part - I'm a fan of Agatha Christie and Robert Goddard in that respect. I have to say that puzzle plotting the best way in the world to paint yourself into a corner and tear your hair out until you find a way out. But when it works ...

So that's my take - romantic suspense.

But there's a lot of other stuff out there ...


Wednesday 11 December 2013

Out of the Shadows

I talked last week about three heroines - this week it's three heroes. Ahhah, I hear you say. Now we're getting to it. This is the good stuff. Well, yes, to a point.

Problem is, I have trouble with heroes. As I've mentioned in previous posts, the kind of men I write about are a secretive bunch - comes with the sort of work they do. It takes a lot to get them out of the shadows and I have to say I've not succeeded yet with this lot. They all work for the same hush-hush intelligence organisation and are not that keen on talking about it. I just have to keep chipping away at it. I'm still not even fixed on names, but they'll have to own up to something when the books start to be written.  This is what I have so far.

They haven't arranged themselves so neatly over hair colour as the girls - I have one very dark and two kind of brown/chestnut type. They are all tall and rangy, with broad shoulder. I insist on that. It's one of my quirks.

Hero One - I'm getting a name with an 'L' so it could be Lucas or Logan - He's the one with dark hair and when the book opens it's in need of cutting. He's on the island recuperating from an assignment that went badly wrong, leaving him physically scarred and uncertain of what actually happened, although it hasn't shaken his confidence in his abilities. Self contained and aloof, he doesn't want to get dragged into whatever mystery Sarah has brought with her to the island - but of course, he can't help himself.

Alexander - Lex - his hair is long and curly. A kidnap survivor who is a bit of a mess emotionally but who is working through what happened to him.The jeans and sweater type, he does a lot of walking on the beach. And somehow finds himself drawn into Leonie's project of renovating a garden on the island. Well, he can't let her move all those rocks and barrows of soil alone, can he?

Kelvert - first name probably Tom, is the admin type. Short hair, favours suits. He's the one who keeps the back office running, nags about expenses, looks down his rather elegant nose at the others lame claims not to understand his office systems. (He's right, of course.) He loved a girl once, who broke his heart, so he's not going there again. He's not meant to be a field officer, but he has all the skills that the others have, and he's not about to let them get into trouble if he can help it. It generates too much paperwork.

So  - three very different men. Now I have to get them to play nice and work with me (and their ladies) on their stories.

Did someone mention herding cats?

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Who are you?

I've been wittering for some time about a new project - a set of three interlinked books, stand-alones which will also have an overarching story arc. They are the ones I'm 'building' my island for. At the moment it's all research - the fun bit - and planning, which is going on strictly inside my head. No danger of pen to paper. I like this bit, all supposedly work and none of the hassle of actually writing :) That day will come. It has to be fitted in around the 'day job' which is currently the half way point of production of a PhD thesis, but it will happen.

In amongst all this thinking stuff, my characters are emerging. Three books, so I have three heroines. Co-incidentally they have organised themselves into a blonde, a brunette and a red head. I'm getting insights into what makes them tick and more will emerge when I start to write, but they already have distinct personalities.

Sarah, heroine of the first book is the brunette. She has shoulder length straight black hair, cut in a heavy fringe, which sounds severe, but which suits her, and dark blue eyes. She's an orphan, so some of her issues are related to finding a place to belong. She has no information about her past, so who she is is what she has made for herself. When the book opens her life is about to change drastically - for good and bad.

Leonie is heroine number two - she's Sarah's best friend and she is the red head. Very long Titian curls, like a Pre-Raphaelite painting. She's an artist who had a rather Bohemian up-bringing - her Mum was a 60's flower child - so Leonie is close to nature but very practical and down to earth, despite looking like someone out of an Arthurian myth.  She's not above dressing the part though, if the mood takes her.

Romilly is the blonde - an actress, very self confident and talented, with an over-protective father who drives her mad on occasions. She's the nosey, curious type, never afraid to open a door to see what is behind it. She is planning to win at least two Oscars as well as a shelf full of theatre awards, so while she is a practised flirt, she has absolutely no plans to fall in love. Although there was a boy, once ...

So - those are my heroines. Of course, a heroine needs a hero, but none of my three had any plans to get involved with a guy who works for some sort of secret intelligence organisation.

But when you meet Mr Right ...

Next week - three candidates for Mr Right.

Well, maybe ...

Wednesday 27 November 2013

But is it research?

The weekend before last I spent the whole of Saturday in the theatre - the Ustinov, which is the Studio attached to the Bath Theatre Royal. Three plays from the Spanish Golden Age - morning, afternoon and evening, with meal breaks and time to wander round a rather dank city. I even squeezed in a little Xmas shopping.

I do this sort of thing because I love the theatre, but I also like to think of it as research. Many of the themes were similar to those used by Shakespeare - girls dressed as boys, unsuitable suitors, fortune hunters, tragic lovers. Okay, not the sort of stuff you necessarily get in modern romantic suspense, but the emotions and the tensions are still the same.

The programme notes (Great extravagance - I actually bought a programme!) listed a number of Varieties of Comedia  - categories of play - and one of them particularly appealed to me:

Plays of Intrigue - complicated plots, disguises, and mistaken identities, often cape and sword plays.

Cape and sword plays - I loved that image. My heroes don't wield a sword or possess a cape - although I'm working on that one - but they are that kind of man. And I certainly go for complicated plots. Disguise and mistaken identity? Why not?

See  - it was research after all.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

And the Award goes to ...

Excitement - the moment the envelope is opened. My publishers, Choc-Lit, had one of those moments at the recent Festival of Romance when they were honoured with the Publisher of the Year Award. I wasn't there to share the fun, but I gather a good time was had by all who were.

Go Choc-lit.

My debut novel, Never Coming Home, has won an award or two, and been nominated for a few more -  but I was only able to be there for the opening of one of the envelopes - for the others, a rather large expanse of water separated me from the proceedings.  Which is a pity, as it would have been a wonderful experience. Getting the e-mail to tell you about the win is good, but not as good as the real thing. What does it mean to get an award? Honour, validation, the knowledge that readers have liked your book enough to vote it into first place. It's a fabulous feeling, and a big thank you has to go to all the organisers of all the contests who put so much work into making that happen.

I wasn't able to be there for the presentation ceremonies in the United States, but the arrival of the trophies was a great day. And to celebrate that, the Cardiff mini chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association - all three of us - had lunch. I wasn't there when the envelope was opened, but the event was still commemorated. And yes, we did drink something sparkly ...

Vanessa, Lorraine and me, a bottle of bubbly and a trophy or two 

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Welcome to my world?

World building. Something I associate mainly with sci-fi or fantasy. Except that at the moment, I'm having a go at it for some new romantic suspense. I'm creating an island off the Welsh coast, where three new books will hopefully be set. On it I'm also creating a house, which was built in 1793, so it's not just the architecture and the furnishings but how the place has evolved since it was first constructed, and the people who have lived in it ...

The house - Ty Newydd* -  began as a setting for an historical series (smugglers, revenge, gorgeous men, wearing lace and velvet - you know the sort of thing) which is currently trapped in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet, but which I'm sure will escape one day and refuse to go away until I write it/them. When I was thinking of a discreetly out-of the-way site for my new  branch of the security services - more world building - the house popped into my mind. It's been through love, marriages, children, Victorian modernising, two world wars, the hint of a ghost or two - and I get to work all that out. It may not all make it into the final books, but it's enjoyable, if time consuming. And I have to say my ability with drawing plans and maps leaves a bit to be desired, so my attempts at explanatory doodling leave a bit to be desired too. :)

My security service also needs a London HQ. Which is why I was wandering around the side streets near St Paul's on a recent away-day, looking for suitable locations. It was tipping down with rain, so I have no photos and my explorations had to be curtailed as I was in danger of being soaked to the skin, but I now have a sense of the atmosphere of the part of London I want to use. I think I'm going to have to invent the tiny Georgian Square I have in mind, so that's another to add to the list.

At the risk of drowning by torrential rain, I took refuge at the Wallace Collection, one of my favourite London galleries/museums. And one with a large number of exhibits from in and around the time that my Ty Newydd would have been built. I may well be pinching some of their fireplaces, and I'm pretty sure that the original owner of my house is going to have a small collection of paintings by Canaletto, mementos of a youthful Grant Tour ...

World building is complex but so much fun. And all that lovely research - such a wonderful way to procrastinate ...

* New House, in Welsh.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

The Weather in the BooK

You're not supposed to begin a book with a statement about the weather. I don't know where I read that, but it's stuck in my mind. I've not been tempted to do it, which is probably A Good Thing, but the state of the seasons, the weather and the ratio of dark to light in the day has been on my mind lately.

I'm always saying that I prefer to write about beautiful places, bathed in sunshine, which makes it  slightly disturbing to find that I am currently brewing two books that are set around this time of year - Autumn. Halloween, Bonfire night and the cold dark days of November/December. One of them even has snow in it. What happened? I haven't a clue, but that's where my mind is going and as there are complex plots and some rather interesting men involved, I'm going with the flow. 

It does mean that I am watching the weather with an especially keen interest. I'm even clipping weather maps out of the newspaper for my filing system, as well as making a note of what time it gets dark and what time it gets light in the morning. I can still do more or less what I like with the climate - if I decide on sun and mild winds in October, no one can stop me - but I can't ignore sunrise and sunset. The long hours of darkness are one of the things I hate about winter, but it certainly adds to the power of the creepy stuff.

I suppose it comes down to atmosphere - and Autumn fits the mood of these particular stories. Having said that, the one that involves Halloween is the first of my projected trilogy so will be followed by Spring and Summer - something to look forward to - and to keep me watching the state of the sky and the time it gets dark for a while to come. 

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Into the Dark ...

When you write thrillers your books have to be ...well, thrilling. Which means tapping into the dark side. We're not talking a walk in the park here, at least, not unless it's midnight and there's a serial killer lurking behind that tree.

There, you see what I mean - if you write stuff that is intended to be thrilling then you tend to see the world - well, let's say your perspective is a bit skewed. Nothing is innocent, everything is potentially dangerous. There is usually some form of crime involved and your protagonists should be under some sort of threat.

To write that stuff, you have to go somewhere ...

I don't actually know where that is. I suppose it must somehow feed off  bad experiences that have happened in life, although I'm rarely aware of drawing on anything specific. I like to think I am a reasonably nice person, but give me a pen and paper ...

Conjuring up the scary and the gory isn't easy, but when the thing is working, in a perverse way, it can be a lot of fun. Now call me weird. You won't be the first.

Writing books is an exercise in fantasy, although that term tends to be applied these days only to stories with elves in them. Writers live in two worlds simultaneously. Here - and somewhere else entirely. It's solely inside your head, and that can be dark as well as light. Maybe there is an element of adrenaline junkie too. If you write it, you feel it. And now we're back to the 'fun' again.

I like writing the dark stuff, although I run a mile from it in real life. But, and it's a very significant but, my black stuff has to be tempered by a fully realised romance. Not just an add-on love affair. That's why I write Romantic Suspense. If I'm walking on the scary side I have to have the payoff of a hopeful ending and a new beginning to look forward to.

If I'm going into the dark, I have to know that something good is going to be waiting on the other side.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Where do you get your ideas?

The classic question, asked multiple times of authors during their careers.

Answer - I rarely know - it just happens.

Inspiration is a slippery thing. I find ideas are like buses - nothing for ages, then a whole glut at once. I have four and a bit ideas that I'm working on at the moment. Working  on - as in staring into space, thinking, and going on research trips. No danger of anything being written down yet.

This post is getting a transport theme. Room for one more on top?

Then I went to London for the day, and another idea came rolling round the corner. I've wanted for ages to do something involving the London Tube. I'm not big on tunnels, so I'm not sure where that came from. It was another of those random thoughts, floating around in the ether. Until last week, when an idea suddenly jumped out at me, climbing the steps at Charing Cross. And that has fitted with something  else that's been bobbing about in the soup in my brain. Just like Lego.

Well, it's going to have to take it's place in the queue. I've got far too much sloshing around in there at the moment. There are four and a half older and bigger siblings all clamouring for attention. And that's not to mention the rom/com novella that I am also working on. That one is written down, but I'm doing a major edit on it and it's slow going. This may be explained by the fact that all these other inspirations are dragging me away, trying to impress me. And research them.

Well, for the moment they are going to have to form an orderly line.

But maybe I ought to be penciling in a few trips on the Tube, just to get the atmosphere ...

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Please leave your disbelief at the door ... Or not.

Since the last cinema in town closed I don't get to see many films on the big screen. So on my trip to London a few weeks ago I grabbed my chances. And one of the films I chose was Now You See Me. Robbery with magic - how could I resist? Especially as I'm currently planning my own heist story. No magic in mine, at least not at the moment.  Now You See Me has four magicians carrying out a series of exceptionally high profile robberies, chased by the cops.

I found the film great fun, but even as I was watching I was conscious of holes in the plot and unanswered questions. Thinking about it afterwards, the holes got bigger and the explanations which were offered more flimsy - but none of that interfered with my enjoyment. The story moved fast and the characters were engaging. That was all that mattered. I wanted to know 'What happens next?' I was quite prepared to suspend my disbelief in order to find out.

Books are a bit different from films in the cinema. You can't ask for the film to be wound back for you to check on something - you need to wait for the DVD to do that. During the editing process I get into trouble for avoiding explanations, and have to (reluctantly) fill in the blanks. But I'm still not convinced that we need to know everything. Maybe I'm wrong?

I suppose your willingness to let a few loose ends escape depends how much fun you're having in the process.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Research is Dangerous

To a writer research is like catnip, or crack cocaine - dangerously addictive. Procrastination and having fun, and calling it work? What's not to love? I have several books in the planning stage at the moment, which means I have multiple excuses to go exploring. In the last few weeks I have been to Brecon, to scout locations for some scenes for the heist book I keep talking about - a good place to hide out, in the Brecon Beacons, if the bad guys are after you. Even better if it's winter, and snow bound. Closer to home I've been taking pix of local landmarks that may end up in the trilogy that I also have in the works - that one features three heroines in jeopardy and an island. I'm currently designing the island. Did I mention that writers also have delusions of grandeur?

You'll have to imagine the snow.
Islands have lots of  beaches.

Being an academic/geek/nerd, when I want to know about something I like to go on courses, which is how I came to spend a day at the National Gallery in London, learning about the paintings of Caravaggio. If you're planing to steal something, you might as well go for something painted by someone famous and therefore extremely valuable. That's not me doing the stealing by the way, but my hero. Although I suspect I will be called on to help him plan the thing. And I don't have designs on a real painting. I intend to invent one for the purpose. And if you want to invent something, you need to know a bit about it first. And it won't be from an existing museum or gallery, so I have to invent that too.

Only looking at the pictures - not pinching them.

See what I mean - exhausting stuff, this research. And completely addictive.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Back from the Tenby Arts Festival

I had a good time at the Festival, met some nice people, gave a talk, which I hope the audience enjoyed - the chocolates probably helped - and had a excellent prowl around Tenby, with camera. I browsed in some quaint shops, admired the golden sands and ate fish and chips. And ice-cream. The weather was kind on one day and not on the next, but I now have some raw material for a location tour for Out of Sight Out of Mind, similar to the one I did for Never Coming Home. All I need to do now is find time to put it together.

I promise you'll be the first to know when it's done.

In the meantime, a few samples from the pictures.

The Tudor Merchant's House - it's not mentioned on OSOM,  but worth a visit if you're in Tenby. And the picture gives an idea of the narrow streets and tall buildings. 

A view of the beach in hazy sun.

And of the harbour in wild weather the next day.

It wasn't all hard work :)

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Difficult men

In the kind of books I write the hero is usually the strong, silent type - with a job that tends to fly somewhere under the radar, or even on the wrong side of the track. Not revealing too much is a given - it's taken as a virtue. Which is not a problem, except when they are not even willing to talk to me.

I'm currently kicking around ideas for a trio of connected novellas that centre around a house and a government department that isn't black ops, but might be classed as the darker end of grey. (No, not that kind of grey.)

And three books gives me three heroes - a nice place to be, you might think - and it is, once I can get them to talk to me. And they could start with a name ...

Many authors will tell you that getting the right name for a character is important. The wrong choice can make the whole book feel uncomfortable. I don't know why, it just does. Trust me on this. And which is why I have a problem - as my three guys are being particularly difficult about names - as in not being willing to tell me what they are. Mr X, from Book One - naturally, it has to be Book One - is being especially evasive. He's begun to make conversation - not with me, but with the dog - but there's no hint of a name. I've tried explaining that at the very least he could part with name, rank and serial number - even the enemy gets that - but he's not buying it. And really, I'm not the enemy. Although if he has any idea of some of the stuff I'm planning to put him through, he might not be convinced on that. But he's not going through the mill as much as the hero in Book Two who has given me a first name - Lex - but nothing else. Number Three? For him I have a last name - Kelvert. He's the buttoned-up, back-room type, so it might take a while for anyone to use his first name, so I'm OK with that at the moment. Romilly, his heroine, knows what it is, as they go way back to school days together, so she might tell me at some stage.

All this is going on in my head at present. It's a bit busy in there at the moment with three sets of characters tramping around. Actually, make that four, as there is also a full length book in the mental works too. And I'm fighting the hero on that one, as he's emphatic that his name is Charlie and I'm not sure I can work with that.


None of this is on paper yet and it's not likely to be until someone starts talking

I'm not going anywhere until I get a name ...

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Medieval Seals

Writers collect all sorts of information, on the basis that it might be useful one day - at least, this one does. Which is how I came to be at the Glamorgan Archive a few weeks ago for a talk on Medieval seals - that's seals as in wax, not sea water. It was a fascinating afternoon. At the moment I'm not working on anything remotely historical but expert information is always worth collecting.

Dr Elizabeth New took us on a beginners' tour, and I think everyone was surprised how much information can be read from a tiny piece of indented wax - and they are often tiny, about the size of a shilling. The chance, after the talk, to see some of the examples held by the Archive, was a bonus. The matrix - the implement for making the impression, and usually made of metal -  is also small and carried in a pack, pocket, or on a belt loop, is therefore easy to lose. Which is why metal detection enthusiasts have rich pickings on what would have been Medieval grass verges. Dr New pointed out that these were very personal, even intimate items, reflecting the owner's identity and representing them on legal documents.

I tend to think of seals as connected with secrecy. Documents fastened with a seal, in order to preserve the contents intact and private.  (This is what writing romantic suspense does for you.)  Victorian love letters and that sort of thing. In fact the most common historical use was for validation  - documents were not considered official unless they were sealed. The fixings for the seals were also often complex and small works of art in their own right - tags and bindings that were cut out or braided. Sometimes a thumb print is still visible on the back of the wax, even after 700 or 800 years!  The impressions could be quite sophisticated - figures, religious images, plants and animals, even puns and word play on names - part of a visual culture before reading was common. Apparently experts can discover a considerable amount of information on things like shipping from the images depicted. Fascinating from something not much bigger than a thumb nail, although corporate seals for towns and cities or royalty might be bigger.

Thanks to Dr New's enthusiasm it was an absorbing afternoon. Will what I learned surface in a book one day? It's gone into the melting pot in my subconscious, so who knows? All sorts of things work their way to the surface, over the passage of time.

You can find out more about the project Dr New is currently engaged on here:


Wednesday 11 September 2013

A fabulous year (and a bit!)

It's been a fabulous eighteen months for my debut novel - Never Coming Home. In that time it has picked up four awards - two with trophies that I get to keep - as well as a number of places in finals and other award nominations.
Success beyond my wildest dreams.
The latest and last trophy, a beautiful piece of marble, with my name on it, arrived this weekend.
Thank you to the Oklahoma chapter of the Romance Writers' of America for making it their romantic suspense winner in the National Readers' Choice Awards.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

A trip to Oxford

I made a flying visit to Oxford last week - and the AIEP conference of international crime writers. A fascinating two days, with delegates from all over the world and a packed programme that included a few treats - like a guided trip around the city with author Martin Edwards, who knows pretty much everything you would ever want to know about who wrote what, and where. Oxford, between the covers of a book, appears to be a hotbed of crime. I wouldn't know about any other kind! Excellent hospitality at St Hilda's College, perfect weather, good company and a great deal of enjoyment. I also snatched a morning for a short ramble round the city, before travelling home. And took pictures.

Wherever you are in Oxford, you're being watched - no, not by CCTV, but by faces and statues on doors, walls and roofs - old stone and carving everywhere. Quirky alleyways, glimpses of gardens through doorways and gateways, the doors themselves - all things that I find fascinating, with the suggestion of thing hidden, secret, maybe even forbidden.  I also chanced on a fabulous exhibition in the Bodleian Library  - small but full of treasures - medieval manuscripts and a first folio of Macbeth amongst them, illustrating aspects of fantasy and magic used by authors such as Tolkien. There were several exhibits that fitted into a long term project that is currently in research. I now know what a volvelle is, and there will definitely be one of those in the book. I briefly checked out the Ashmolean - I shall need to look at some pictures there in due course - and I took a quick look at the Randolph hotel. I was staying there for the weekend when I picked up an entry form for a writing contest - which I won! My first validation that I could write and that maybe one day I would publish a book.

I had a really good time, and the picture gallery is below.

Watchers - I think this is Pan, holding up the porch, with the Green man on the door itself?

I liked the combination of old looking door and shiny new keyhole. 

Watchers on the roof this time. 

I loved the name of this little alleyway. 

The famous literary pub.

Poster for the Magical Books exhibition.

This caught my eye in the Ashmolean Museum. Lovely drapes - wonder what it would have looked like with the missing head and arms?

I had lunch in what is reputed to be the first central university building - 1320.

I'm watching you!

So am I!

Flower border at Balliol

Fond memories of the Randolph- and afternoon tea!

Sunday 1 September 2013

Never Coming Home Trailer

The link below is to my first ever book trailer!

Celebrating that Never Coming Home is in the Kindle sale for another few days.

I've wanted to do one of these for ages - even did a course on Movie Maker, and took a lot of pictures to use, but never got my nerve up to do it. Now, thanks to recommendations from other writer friends, I've managed 30 (free) seconds from Animoto.

So, starring Rosie and shot on location in Florence and the back garden - the big budget trailer for Never Coming Home I've crashed the text a bit in the last shot (wince) but I'll do better next time.

Never Coming Home

Wednesday 21 August 2013

A few days in London - it's research. Absolutely.

I just got back from a few days in London, with an assortment of pictures on the camera, many snapped in the name of research.

Writers can poke their noses into just about anything and call it research. I had fun in London, and visited a number of locations that may or may not turn up in books, sooner or later.

Probably only a writer would take pictures of the neighbours' roofs. I found the back view of the buildings around Trafalgar Square fascinating - and maybe one day there will be a chase over those rooftops?

The ghost bus, which starts it's nightly prowls in Northumberland Avenue, where I was staying. I've not been on it but I couldn't resist the pic. And I have to say that the sight of it rumbling towards you on The Strand, as night begins to fall, is quite creepy.

The Blue Cockerel on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. The square is featuring in a future book - definitely. But I'm going to have to move the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery - delusions of grandeur? 

A matinee of Private Lives - this was just for fun, but it's still good for thinking about how dialogue should flow.  

This is for Margaret James. A blue butterfly, as on the cover of The Wedding Diary. I was on the tube when I first caught a glimpse of it and promised her a picture if I got the chance. Here it is.  

And after snapping the Museum poster - my breakfast crockery also had blue butterflies!

The William Morris Gallery - the PreRaphaelites are a passion of mine and are supposed to be contributing to a number of forthcoming books. The Gallery is more about Morris's furniture and furnishings - but I've got ideas about some books set around a particular house - and houses have to have furniture, right? 
The Millennium Bridge. It's going to be the location of a meeting between another hero and a former boss - not a Black Ops operation, but certainly on the dark grey side. If I want authenticity I'm going to have to walk the bridge early in the morning in November. The things authors do for their art! 

The Crypt Restaurant under St Martin in the Fields. Another breakfast venue. The concerts in the Church are fabulous. I got the idea for burying a hero alive while listening to a Requiem here - I think it was Mozart.

Breakfast  - with added gravestones.

So many books in my mind, so little time :)

Wednesday 14 August 2013

All the way from Colorado ...

Look what arrived at the weekend. The trophy for Never Coming Home, as winner of the CRW Award of Excellence 2013 for romantic suspense. It's lovely and I'm thrilled. Wow. Just wow.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

A Gallery of Gromits

It's August. It's the silly season, so something today to raise a smile. Bristol has an invasion of Gromits for the summer. There are 80 dotted about the city and its environs. Lots of people, including me, were taking photos in the sunshine. All gorgeously decorated and it's all being done for charity. I think my favourite of the ones I managed to collect is the Gromitasaurus. Or maybe Blazing Saddles. They're there until early September.
Gromit unleashed!

Isambark Kingdog Gromit
Outside  Temple Meads station

May Contain Nuts - and Bolts - at the barrier at Temple Meads.

This one is called Bark at Ee and he's in Queen's Square


Butterflies - at the Bristol Old Vic.

Salty Sea Dog

The King


Carosello was damaged but is back in place now

Gromitasaurus - in the shopping centre

Launcelot -  in Quakers Friars

Collarful - in Castle Park

Bunty - with the Bristol skyline, outside St Mary's Radcliffe

Blazing Saddles