Wednesday 31 December 2014

Night in the City?

New Year's Eve and a lot of people will be celebrating with a night on the town. I thought I'd share some of my photos of the London skyline at night. What is it about lights in the dark that appear romantic and glamorous?

Moon over skyscrapers

St Paul's
From the South Bank
Not quite the same in the daylight!

Wednesday 24 December 2014


Christmas Eve, and many, many people will be making plans to spend time with their family. But sometimes, sadly, there are painful gaps in the family circle. Loved ones who have passed away and will only be recalled in memory and reminiscence. We will miss them.

But 'missing' can have more than one meaning. People who go missing are a great fascination for writers - crime writers in particular - a mystery with so many possibilities. In real life the pain of not knowing must be unimaginable.

The commemorations this year for the outbreak of the First World War brought home just how many young men were missing in action - soldiers who have no known grave, commemorated by name only on war memorials.

For those who will be missed - this Christmas.

Monday 22 December 2014

Writers'Forum -The Ideas Store - Talking about Inspiration.

If you want a good chance of seeing an author cringe, ask them where they get their ideas. Very many of us don't really know. They just happen along. Often like buses. Nothing for ages, then too many to count. If you're lucky some of them will ease the congestion by combining and making themselves into plot and sub plots. Like a big bendy bus?

I think this bus thing is getting out of hand - you can tell I'm waffling, can't you? All this began when I got a request from Paula Williams to say something about inspiration for her column The Idea Store in Writers' Forum magazine. Luckily she asked me particularly about heroes and heroines, so I was able to talk about that, which was much easier than ideas in general.

But of course it got me thinking. You can never stop a writer doing that. 'Where can I hide the body?' 'Is she really going to do that!' 'Where did I leave my glasses?' (The last happens a lot, even when I have them on a string round my neck.)

I didn't really get anywhere, except to the conclusion that a lot of my 'inspiration' is as much about atmosphere as it is about ideas. A theatre set, the interior of a church, a painting, a dark street in the rain, sometimes a piece of music - they all feed into a feeling that might come out in a book. But none of them are actually ideas. Except perhaps the painting - I might be thinking about stealing that. And the dark street might have a serial killer waiting ...

It's not so much about ideas as a kicking off point - something that gets you thinking. But if you're a working writer, you don't sit and wait for it or you'd be forever looking at a blank page/computer screen.

So it's a good thing that those buses are there, queueing up.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Out of the dark

Christmas is on the way, but before that there is another date that makes me very happy - the Winter Solstice - otherwise known as the shortest day. This year it is 21st December and, like a kid for Christmas, I can hardly wait!

More sun, please.
Considering that I like to write romance with a dark edge, I hate the dark in real life - dark mornings, especially, when it's particularly difficult to get out of bed.

For the solstice itself - like a lot of authors, the phases of the year interest me. Summer and Winter Solstices and the Vernal and Autumn Equinoxes when light and dark are equal. I have a couple of ideas fermenting that involve these times of the year, all of which seem to have a degree of mystery about them.

It will be a while before those books see the light of day - I'm having too much fun researching festivals and myths and creating my own to go in them. At present I'm in the middle of the editing curve for a novella - which is something different from me, as it is not at all dark. I can't tell you the name yet, because it doesn't have one. I certainly haven't abandoned romantic suspense and have started work on something suitably scary which will be next year's WIP. It's an idea that has been following me around for a while, but it doesn't have any myths or significant dates in it. If real life will stop getting in the way, I might make some progress with it.

And it will be better when the days are longer and I don't have the temptation to hide under the covers in the morning!

Wednesday 10 December 2014

A Fairy Tale Castle

Everyone probably has an idea what a fairytale castle is supposed to look like - turrets, high conical towers, a drawbridge, spiral staircases, a romantic hilltop  setting in the woods.

Wales has one - it's Castell Coch (which means red castle) It's a Victorian folly, build on the location and partial ruin of a very much older structure, just outside Cardiff.

I visited it for the first time recently. And of course, took pictures.

The way through the woods

The first view

Close up of the tower
Fairytale towers from inside the keep

Wednesday 3 December 2014

I wouldn't do that, if I were you.

Recently reading a synopsis of an upcoming book, I recognised a familiar thriller theme. It didn't deter me from looking forward to the story when I could get my hands on it. But it did get me
No time to go walking in the woods!
thinking about the things that characters in books, particularly thrillers, should NEVER do - like

Opening that tin trunk in the attic.

Taking a short cut through the woods at twilight. And  certainly not in high heels. (This tends to be largely, but possibly not exclusively, a female characteristic.)

Reading that old bundle of letters you found in the tin trunk in the attic.

Going back to the small home town and digging into that 20 year old unsolved murder.

Re-opening any cold case involving an unsolved murder, a disappearance, an unexplained/suspicious death, crime in general. Come on, you know someone out there is not going to take it kindly!

Entering any room in a house where the lights have inexplicably failed - especially the cellar.

Entering the cellar at all - particularly at night, when alone in the house.

Believing that just because the serial killer has been caught that the mayhem is over.

Not checking the petrol level in the car (that's gas, for my US readers) before setting off on that journey to that creepy remote cabin in the woods. You can add checking the weather forecast to that.

Going to the remote creepy cabin in the woods at all. Ever.

Drinking/eating anything in the company of a chief suspect.

And for the villain - telling the hero/heroine all about how clever you are and how the crime was done - don't you know that's the end of the book and your downfall is nigh?

Of course, if the characters listened to any of that, stories would be a lot thinner on the ground.
So, it's a good job they never do.