Friday 28 June 2013

Remembering a Birthday

Today my Dad would have been 94. 

Out of Sight Out of Mind is dedicated to him. 

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Reflections on Crimefest

Crimefest is the Bristol crime writing convention for authors and readers that now draws visitors from all over the globe. I've been attending, on and off, ever since it first began, as an overseas outing for the American crime conference, West Coast Crime. In that time I've moved from being a fan and an aspiring author to a published writer. But still a fan. This year I got to participate in a panel on Crime and Crossover, with other authors who add a bit of something else to the crime mix. In my case, of course, that's romance.

A look around the on-site book store which, like the convention, has grown year by year, points up the sheer variety of crime writing on offer. Why are we so fascinated by something that is inherently nasty, and not an experience you would ever court in real life? That's a big topic, and I'm certainly not qualified to get into deep water on that one. But evil actions do fascinate a great number of people. While I was still an aspiring author - and I was aspiring for years   - I noticed that all the manuscripts I produced had some sort of crime in them - which eventually set me on the trail to writing romantic suspense. Now I consider the crime element of the book to be a counterpoint to the love story. Throwing the protagonists together in a life threatening situation makes them more aware of each other and the attraction between them. It raises the stakes on the relationship and enhances the emotions. And yes, all right, it's exciting to write.

I had a great time in Bristol, meeting old friends and making new. The high point for me was listening to master plotter Robert Goddard, one of my great inspirations, but everyone I spoke to was in agreement that all the panels seemed to be better than ever this year. 2013 is going to be a hard act for the organisers to follow - but they'll manage it, I'm sure.

Authors are  always on the look out for unusual things. Strolling back through Bristol to the station I was diverted by the house in the photograph, marooned on a fragment of land between lines of traffic and obviously boarded up against vandals. I was attracted to approach by the plaque on the wall. On closer inspection it revealed that the poet Thomas Chatterton was born there. The somewhat bedraggled rope sculpture added a layer of strangeness. Chatterton, who died from poisoning at the age of seventeen, gets credit these days for being a precursor of the Romantic poets. I know the name best from the painting by Henry Wallis, who was an associate of the PreRaphaelite Brotherhood, in which the artist imagines the poet's tragic death scene. I've walked that route many times on visits to Bristol. I wonder why I never noticed the house and the plaque before. Something to ponder, and to further investigate. Is there something for a book there?

To end, a bit of personal Crimefest trivia. Which two authors attending the event have lived in Uxbridge and set books there? Me, in Out of Sight Out of Mind and Nev Fountain, creator of the Mervyn Stone comedy crime mysteries. And which two authors have both been nominated for an RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice award? Me, for Never Coming Home  and Anthony Hays, writer of Arthurian mysteries.

Six degrees of separation or what?

Wednesday 19 June 2013

A Bag of Souvenirs


I couldn't finally leave the topic of American romance conventions without mentioning it. 
Swag. The many and varied publicity items given away by authors and publishers to remind you of their books, long after you have left the convention. Wonderful items that you didn't even know you needed. It's such a feature of the RT Book lovers convention that there is a section totally dedicated to it - Promo Alley - where you can pick up any number of gadgets and gifts. 
Turn left for Promo Alley

Stuff - of every kind. Cute, clever, provocative, decorative, useful - or 
A display from blogger 'The Book Tart'.
all the above. Forget the humble bookmark - although there are plenty of those too, and very eye catching and useful they are. I have a much loved collection and mourn deeply when a favourite finally passes beyond repair. 

But this is so much more. 

Gadgets to clean eye glasses and open letters, lip salve, nail files, hair ornaments, magic wands, postcards, potions to put in the bath, fans, pens, notebooks, pencils, key rings, fridge magnets, chocolate, hand mirrors, cuddly toys ...

If I'd had a bigger suitcase ...

I love it all - it's part of the magic of the convention.   

Wednesday 12 June 2013

The end of the American trip

I spent the last week of my US stay visiting the American branch of the family. My aunt was a GI bride  - a group of amazing women who fell in love in war time, then followed their man to the other side of the world.
Maybe the romance gene runs in the family?

One of the advantages of visiting New Jersey is its proximity to New York, and a few days were spent exploring, including a trip on the ferry, an experience stashed away for possible future use. Writers are magpies, they recycle all sorts of shiny trifles. The semi subterranean pier building, the uneasy way the dock undulated under your feet, the loneliness of the terminal on the New York side, waiting for the last boat. I've stashed it all away. Who knows where and when it will surface again?

The canine members of the American family are also working their way into a couple of future books - a case of watch this space. I've promised them a credit in the dedications. I had to, they are bigger than I am!

And on the Saturday before I returned home I did my first American book signing. Many thanks to the staff
of Barnes and Noble in Bridgewater, New Jersey for making me welcome. I met some lovely people and had interesting conversations - about books, what else?

Then, as soon as I got home it was the RNA Summer Party - where, sadly, I had to part with the Joan Hessayon trophy. It was honour to have it gracing my book shelf for a year - an absolutely fabulous year.

Monday 10 June 2013

Winner - Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence

Never Coming Home has just been announced as the winner of the  Romantic Suspense category of the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence Contest.

I'm honoured and thrilled by the news.

The best thing an author can ever hear is that a reader enjoyed their book. To win an award for it is an amazing experience.

Many thanks to the judges and the organisers of the contest for their hard work.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

RT Booklovers Convention - the Convention high spots.

I attended my first RT convention as an unpublished writer. It was in Pittsburgh, I was a finalist in the American Title Contest and I had a wonderful time. I made up my mind right then that if/when I was published, I would be back. With two books to my credit, Kansas City seemed like the right time, right place. The fact that it was the 30th anniversary convention was a bonus. I can only highlight a few of the special moments, or we'd be here for the rest of the week, but actually the entire convention was one long high spot - enthralling and exhausting in equal measure. I have to admit I did not make it to all the parties, but those I did were all completely fabulous. Having been there for the pre-convention it was fascinating to watch the hotel transformed for an invasion of romantics. I think my favourites were the decals that went up on the elevator doors.
Elevator doors!

The 'day job' part of the convention consisted of panels and workshops. I was involved in four with fellow Choc-Lit authors and also a panel on archetypal heroes and heroines in romantic suspense with four very big names - Cherry Adair,  Robin Perini,Caridad Pineiro and Gennita Low. I don't know about the audience, but I learned a lot. There are scores of events going on the whole day, for five days, and it is immensely difficult to make choices - there was so much I wanted to do, and a lot of it happening at the same time. The sooner someone comes up with a foolproof way of cloning an author, the better.
The hotel foyer
That, and a suitcase which will walk to heel. The only good thing about flying is checking in your heavy bag and not seeing it again until you get to your destination. And the bag was a lot heavier leaving than it was arriving, because of the swag and the books - and I was very restrained in what I collected - given a free hand and an extra suitcase ...

At the ball
Mostly I did panels on useful things, from the craft and genre strands - until Friday morning. I was supposed to be going to a session on locations, but on the way there I was diverted by an author in a tiara and a glimpse, through an open door, of leopard skin patterned goodie bags. Well, what would you have done? Abandoning the locations workshop and my
British inhibitions I spent a hilarious 'Goddess' hour, learning a lot about the love lives of some of my fellow convention attenders. But, of course, what happens at convention stays at convention.
Saturday was the huge book
Getting my pitch ready for the signing.
signing. I had a pitch between Christine Warren and Shiloh Walker - two lovely ladies - and I'm now one of the privileged people who know what Shiloh actually looks like, as she prefers to preserve an element of mystery when it comes to photographs. On Sunday we had fun with a Brit quiz, when I wore my Welsh costume, complete with steeple hat. A few pictures of that are circulating, but I forgot to hand my camera to anyone so I don't have any.
Then, next day it was back to the aeroplanes, bound for New Jersey, to spend a week with my cousin, Bernice  ...