Wednesday 27 July 2016

Trains and boats and planes.

I don't drive. Which means I rely on public transport. A lot. Which has it's good side, as I can write on trains and eavesdrop/people watch on buses. And shiver and clutch at the seats on airplanes. Not keen on flying. But it is a crash course in fear, which can be useful when you write romantic suspense.

I found a book in the library on rail journeys in Britain yesterday, and am having great fun planning trips and the books to go with them.  Which got me thinking about transport in general, and how it can be romantic and scary. Chases across moving roofs,mysterious strangers, murders in first class compartments,dining cars, sleeping cars, steam locomotives.

So here is my short list of 'transport' books I'd one day like to write.

I wish.

  • Something involving the London underground. Dis-used tunnels and all that. 
  • Sleeper train. The Orient Express for preference, but the Riviera Express (Cornwall) or the Caledonian (Scotland) would be perfectly fine too.
  • Anything set on a cruise ship.
  • Something set on the former transatlantic liner Queen Elizabeth, as I've been on that one.  
  • The Welsh train lines, And Scotland too, please. And the line that runs along the Marches. And the Isle of Man. 
  • Steam trains - either nostalgia or time slip, Or both?
  • I don't do long bus journeys as I get bus sick, but I can manage to get up to the Brecon Beacons, so that's going in a book one day.
I'm sure I could think of more, but that's enough to keep me busy for about 10 years. 

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Nostalgia in Lancaster

The Romantic Novelists' Association held their annual conference in Lancaster the weekend before last. You may have noticed the photos and reports sloshing around the internet - serious talks and not so serious pics of people holding wine glasses. I went, and yes, thank you, I had a wonderful time. Not without it's sad moments, as last year I only made it to 4 am on Sunday morning. That was when the call came to tell me that mum was in intensive care again. I know she would be pleased that I stayed the course this time.

Anyway, this is my conference post, but not talks and wine glasses. The trip to Lancaster was one I wanted to make, not just for the conference, but because it was where I was at university - as an undergraduate and later as a post graduate. And no - I am not going to tell you when, as we all know that I am not a day over 35 and you might get strange ideas about the way I do maths. 

A lot has changed in the time between then and now. A LOT. Like - er -  most of the campus was not in the same place. And the bits that were still there were different. Which is making me think about the passage of time, and about memory, which is a concept that has interested me ever since reading Pinter for school exams. My walks around the campus were a useful aide memoir of things to look for if you are writing in two (or maybe more) time periods.

  • Lifestyle changes - residence blocks demolished and rebuilt as students now expect en-suite rather than communal showers and toilets.
  • Nature - shrubs and bushes don't stand still as years pass.
  • Some things are less likely to change - nature again - hills and rivers. And large infrastructure - motorways and bridges. A view might be different, but the bones probably remain the same. 

I'm sure it will come out in a book someday. Or more than one. Or maybe it already has?
In the meantime, here is my picture gallery. 

View out of my bedroom window.
The new version of Cartmel College.
Um - it used to be on the other end of the campus. 
Those with exceptional eyesight will just be able to make out the rabbit in the top left corner of the grass. This was nostalgia - they would be having breakfast every morning when I opened my curtains.  
Furness College. Where I used to live.
The residence blocks have been replaced and my  department - history -  is not there any more either.
The bar is in the same place!
I seem to remember this bit of the campus was grass with a few saplings.
I think the trees have grown just a bit. 
The view. Still green, with a small stretch of motorway visible. I used to like to see the lights from the traffic when going home in the dusk by way of the back road around the campus. The perimeter is a lot longer now!


Wednesday 13 July 2016

Considering fairy tales

Genre fiction writers love tropes - or their readers love tropes. I just looked up the definition - 'significant or recurring theme'. In crime that's probably the serial killer, the hard bitten detective with the broken life, the chalk and cheese crime fighting duo. In romance, readers apparently love friends-to-lovers, hidden babies, marriages of convenience. And then there are the fairy tales.

The setting for that fairy tale romance?
There seems to be a whole sub genre re-working those themes. And why not? All the stuff of romance is there. How often have you encountered the Beauty and the Beast theme as the reclusive, maimed and sometimes disfigured hero, and the woman who saves him from himself? These days he's likely to be an army veteran and the heroine can be anything, as long as she is nosey and determined. And then there's Cinderella. It may not have anything corresponding to the glass slipper, but rags to riches is a favourite theme. Red Riding Hood - all those 'nasty stuff in the woods' books - vampires, werewolves and things that go bump, or growl, in the night?

I haven't thought of  one to correspond to Jack and the Beanstalk yet, but there's probably something. And a modern Aladdin, with something supernatural in the mix?

It doesn't have to be the full story either The bad fairy or wicked step mother can be translated into 'the other woman' - the predatory ex girlfriend, the demanding ex wife, maybe even the overbearing (bad fairy) boss. And villains? Writers love creating villains, so they might not need role models, but every good fairy story has to have one.

As you can guess, I've have a so-far unfulfilled urge to write a modern fairy story. I've got a romantic suspense with a reclusive hero who has survived a car crash, but it's not quite fairy tale stuff.

One day.

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Always eating?

The novella I've been banging on about - you know, the one I'm messing about with, when I should probably be doing something else - the one with the con trick and the weddings? Well, I noticed, when I picked it up and was about to write another scene and someone had a coffee cup in their hand - these people are always eating and drinking. 

A number of scenes have a group of friends meeting on a project outside their regular work, and my instinct, when I get them together, is to feed them. Makes sense to me, as it is probably what would happen in real life, and gives me a lot of fun deciding what they are going to eat. And will it have garlic in it? I like books that have descriptions of food in them, but I am wondering if I am getting a bit over the top with this one so no more food, at least for the next few chapters.

But it made me think about things people like to read, and standing in the books aisle of the supermarket I realised that I am not alone. Have you seen how many books have food in the titles - or revolve around the hospitality industry? Admittedly the most popular food groups seem to be cupcakes or baking of some sort, not garlic bread and pasta, but still food.  And a lot seem to have 'cafe' or 'hotel', or sometimes 'guest house', in the title. Closely followed by 'cottage'. Which tends to conjure up images of cream teas in the garden and hot chocolate by the log fire, but that might just be
me. The hospitality industry is missing a trick, not giving all us authors unlimited access to their
wares, strictly for research purposes. But that might just be me, too.

The image of those words - cafe, hotel, guest house - are they actually aspirational? Do they all evoke ideas of community, holiday, escape, time out, chance to reflect, to change, to sample another lifestyle, to meet new people? I don't know. Maybe. But I do like to read about what people are eating.

And don't get me started on the decor of that seaside cottage, or we'll be here all day.