Wednesday 29 July 2015

It's my party ...

Gorgeous cover, gorgeous flowers. The cup cake didn't last long.
Last weekend I did something I haven't done for a while - went to a launch party. I don't know whether the absence of parties is to do with the increasing tendency for e-book or e-book first, or whether it is a comment on my sad social life - but whatever it is, it was a pleasant change and I enjoyed it. It was a celebration for Ella Griffin's third book, The Flower Arrangement.

Penarth's indie bookstore, Griffin Books, had arranged a lovely afternoon of cupcakes and tea, beauty products and Welsh gifts for sale, a talk and a reading from Ella and, of course, flowers - from Sweet Peony, also from Penarth. I liked them so much I came away with one of the table decorations. And a book, of course. The cupcake is gone, as you might have guessed, but I did briefly save the sugar plaque with the picture of part of the cover on it. (How do they do that?)

Anyway I had fun, everyone else also seemed to enjoy themselves and many books were bought and signed. I'm looking forward to reading my copy.

But ...  There is always a but. I have enough rejection letters from publishers to know this. It started me thinking about launch parties in general and those for romantic suspense in particular. How do you do a theme party for that? The next book I have out of the starting gate - it will get there, I keep promising myself that - is not a problem. The first of a series (I hope) that at the  moment are known helpfully as 'the Riviera books' it's much lighter than my usual stuff. Flowers and cake would be quite appropriate. I have toyed with the idea of reproducing the party that is held in the book - but hero Jake is filthy rich and I'm not going to be able to provide Kir Royale, smoked salmon canapes and a string quartet, much as I would like to. Always nice to dream though.

But what about romantic suspense? How do you chose something appropriate? What is appropriate? Serving red wine only? Raiding the Halloween recipes for suitable looking nibbles? Venus flytraps as table decorations?

Actually, I think I'd rather have the tea/wine and cake. A big one, with the cover reproduced as one of those sugar paste plaques. I'll save the scary stuff for the inside of the book.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

What you don't know won't hurt you.

Write what you know. The famous advice. And the older you get the more you know, or at least remember. Or maybe not?

I was rather  indignant to discover that some of the undergraduate courses offered by my university's history department were about events I'd lived through. Huh! I was more amused to see a recent magazine article referring to a collection of vintage cookery books - some of which appeared to be ones printed by M&S in the late 1970s. I think they sold for £1. I have a large collection and yes, I still use them.

Thing like those cookery books can be a useful if unconventional research tool. I also find articles and magazines celebrating anniversaries can be be useful for an overview. The current ASDA magazine (no, they haven't paid me for the promo) is celebrating 50 years of the store and there are all sorts of reminders of food and fashion. I think that one will be going in the odds and ends of research drawer when I've read it. And yes, I remembered quite a lot of those too.

This post is making me feel very old.

But - there's a danger in all this. If you need to know something you research it.  Easy. But what about the things you think you already know? 

I've talked about this with other writers. There doesn't seem to be a solution, except more research. Of everything.  Where do you draw the line? And of course there's also the matter of reliability of memory. That way madness lies and I'm scaring myself just thinking about it.

I don't have an answer. The best an author can do is their best.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Into Italian

The Italian version of Out of Sight Out of Mind has just appeared on Amazon.
Here it is if you want to take a look.

Interesting to see the different covers for the English and Italian editions of Out of Sight Out of Mind and Never Coming Home.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

The power of silence

I'm a long time fan of the late Harold Pinter - whose plays famously make significant use of pauses. A masterly use of silence. I try to remember that when I'm writing, but find it a bit more difficult to convey in a book, without benefit of stage directions. The best I can come up with is the three dot ellipsis ...

I've been blogging about the senses recently, hearing being one. But absence can be powerful. Secrets, and I'm a great one for secrets, thrive on silence. The things left unsaid. And of course there's the strong, silent hero. A cliche, but an almost irresistible one. The heroine who can get the taciturn hero to open up is on to a winner in novelist terms. I'm not so sure how it would work out in real life. I suspect that the reticence would be habitual and might be difficult to live with, but hey, romantic fiction is about escapism, not real life.

What about the potentially creepy silence when you are alone in the house? And don't you just hate it when the cat or dog suddenly goes on the alert to something you can't hear?  Ominous silence, oppressive silence, companionable silence - how do you convey those? The challenge of describing a void? Although the first two could feel strong enough to be almost tangible. And very atmospheric.

Or there's silence in crowd - the lull in conversation when a chance remark can be clearly audible or the moment when a whole room falls silent - often because of the entrance of Someone Significant. Silence can, of course be uncomfortable. We want to fill it, especially if we are nervous in any way. I know I've used that one - let the hero keep quiet and wait for the other party to rush into speech and reveal something.

There doesn't have to be noise to have impact. There's a lot of fun in silence.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Walk, look, listen ... smell?

I've been walking the same route every morning and sometimes in the evening for a while now. The scene changes and the view is stunning, but I've also been thinking about the sounds and scents in particular.

Of the five senses, touch gets a look in when the wind is blowing or it's raining, And, on one memorable occasion, when I fell over while navigating some road works in the dark. There is now a new road on the Waterfront that has my blood in it, and I have an interesting and, I fear, permanent scar on my knee. Beware the current fashion for jeans with rips in them. But I'm wandering off the subject of the senses. Taste is sadly absent from my walk but sound and smells are interesting. There is a permanent background noise of traffic and seagulls. The latter is much more prevalent if it happens to be refuse collection day on any part of the route. (See also smells - below) There is non-seagull birdsong - surprisingly while crossing the dock as well as the paths that have vegetation on both sides. Occasionally there is a siren - police, ambulance, fire. One morning, when it was misty, there was a quite creepy sound of murmuring voices coming from a new but unoccupied building. Sometimes there are children playing, dogs barking, lorries announcing they are reversing and people yelling down mobile phones. There is the sound of the sea, caged in the dock, but still noisy when the waves are up. There is the sound of heavy plant on the construction site and what might be a generator that runs continuously. Sometimes there are trains - particularly spectacular if you happen to be in the tunnel under the track at the time. Footsteps and voices echo in there also. Very occasionally there are church bells - and noises carried from the fairground.

On the smell front, if smell can have a front, the two most memorable are food - from the local deli cooking pasties and sausage rolls and the huge new supermarket baking bread and cake. If it is refuse collection day and the gulls have been at the bin bags there are less happy scents. Sometimes there is aftershave or perfume from a passer by. Traffic fumes.The smell of the sea, wet vegetation, mown grass, drains, turned earth from the diggers.

I've made up my mind to try and remember some of these for future books. It could make all the difference in setting the scene. Or even inspiring one. I'm hoping something might come of those creepy voices.