Wednesday 25 January 2017

St Dwynwen's day

Today is St Dwynwen's Day. The Welsh saint's day that corresponds to St Valentine. Her love story is not very happy and she ended up as a nun, but now her day is celebrated as a chance for romance, so all sort of things can happen in the course of time.

As you know, I have a bit of trouble with romance - writing wise, I mean. As I write romantic suspense, there is a bit of a question mark in some people's minds about the 'romance' bit. I'm hoping that branching out into what is closer to rom/com will be a help, but otherwise, that's me, I'm afraid.

I've just finished writing a Christmas romantic suspense novella which, if my publisher likes it, I hope will be out for next Christmas. And I happen to think it's very romantic. Well, I've stranded them in the Brecon Beacons in a snow storm. (and the Brecon Beacons is where St Dwynwen was born, so maybe that counts for something - don't ask me what!)  Unfortunately there is a kidnapping and a couple of dead bodies in the mix as well, so only romantic in parts. I really enjoyed writing it, so fingers crossed it will see the (published) light of day.

In the meantime - have a happy St Dwynwen's Day.

Visit Wales has a few suggestions of how to celebrate - some of them require a bit of pre-organisation, so maybe something for next year's forward plan? Have a look HERE


Wednesday 18 January 2017

Back in Time

The Golden Age of Crime Writing is currently having a moment, as you may have noticed. Which has led to the reissue of a number of classics and lost treasures. And also means I have to exercise extreme restraint around the bookshop of the British Library, who are responsible for a number of the latter, if I don't want to end up spending a fortune.The covers alone are to die for.

Always looking for a good read, I was delighted to find a row of new issues of Josephine Tey's crime novels in my local library, and picked up The Man in The Queue which I first read years ago. I enjoyed it just as much, but there was one thing I noticed, which I think I have mentioned before in a post.

The classic novels often have an elastic sense of time.

In this one, the hero, Inspector Grant, spends a day sleuthing. He travels to Nottingham and is on the train at 10 am, (mentioned in the text) traces some witnesses, interrogates them, finds and has lunch with a local solicitor, does some more investigation, has coffee at the station while killing time before his train, making conversation with a waitress who is also serving other customers, arrives in London for what is described as a leisurely early dinner and is back on the street, in daylight (in March)  while late afternoon crowds and early evening revellers are mingling on the pavement, in time to spot a suspect in the crowd and give chase. All this bracketed by the two train journeys, which must have been by steam in 1929, and which take nearly two hours on today's trains. Somehow, I have my doubts about all that.

It's probably a writer's thing to notice stuff like that and the calculations amused me, and in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the book. In fact, I have a sneaky idea that this occasionally elastic timescale may be part of the charm of the Golden Age - contributing to the sense of things moving at a slower and perhaps more dignified pace.

I was also feeling slightly jealous, as I was wrestling with timings in a novella set in late December and realising that, no -  that scene cannot take place like that at that point. Because in December at that time, it will be dark.

If you haven't encountered the British Library Crime Classics and their glorious covers (I'm particularly fond of the ones featuring trains) take a look HERE  

Wednesday 11 January 2017

It's a numbers game.

You don't have time to stop for tea!
Have you noticed? For people who are meant to deal in words, writers are awfully hung up about numbers. Sales figures, chart positions, numbers of books sold, number of books published. So far, so business driven. Except maybe the last which is perhaps more of a personal milestone event. The Romance Writers of America will give you a name check in their monthly magazine for  5, 10, 25 35, 50 and 75! which I think is a lovely gesture.

But the biggest obsessive number for writers?  Seems to me to be word count. Come on, how often have you seen a Twitter or Facebook or some other post in triumph or despair for a daily, weekly or whatever, count achieved or missed? There's even a month when it becomes a public obsession in the writing community - November, the famous, or infamous Nanowrimo when authors commit to totals and share war stories. I've never done it myself - far too scary - but I know those who have and lived to tell the tale.

But how many words are enough? And how long is your piece of string, Mrs Jones? You can bet, however good your total is for today, there will be someone who can better it. Do these people eat, sleep, go to the bathroom? When you start out you are told by the finger-waggers, and there are some, even in the writing community, who are, in general pretty nice people, that you must do a certain total, every day, even if it means getting up at even stupider o'clock than you do now. It scared me then and it depresses me now.

Because, you know what -  (To use a phrase of the moment, which I've heard continuously on the radio and keep meaning to put into conversations in a book and keep failing to do so, because it is not my speech pattern, except I just did, Result! Yes, I know this is not a book - shall we get back to the point!) I've finally come round to the idea that word count is a very personal and changeable thing. The answer is it's whatever you can comfortably manage while being satisfied with the quality. I'm writing at the moment.(Don't hold your breath, the day job restarts this week.) My daily comfortable word count, derived from years of experience, is somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 words. That's a 'whole' day with those life pauses - eating, taking in the washing, putting out the bins and so on. Other days - it's whatever I can scramble. Last week I looked up at 11 pm and found out I was still writing. I manage about 3,500 that day, but that was an exception.

A very wise fellow author, who I worked with but never met, (the joys of cyber working) who was an award nominee for non fiction, to whom I was moaning that the only time I had to write was on the train into work and was therefore only managing 200 words a day, pointed out that by the end of the week I had 1,000 words. It cheered me up, and I've never forgotten it. Problem comes when the regular word count is zero, but that is another story.

So the point of all this rambling seems to be that you write what you can, when you can. But it probably won't stop you counting the words. It hasn't stopped me.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

New Year, New dreams?

Hoping for a few rainbows this year.

I've never been very big on New Year resolutions, although I have in the past sat down with paper and pen and taken stock, and maybe made a few plans and goals. Not lately though. And I'm not sure yet about this year.

Truth time. I may be too scared to. In the last couple of years life has taken one of those turns - you know the ones, where you can't be sure where, and when, you will next get the chance to sit down and drink a cup of tea, never mind do the big stuff.  So many things have been cancelled, abandoned or set aside with an indefinite re-start date, that now I'm kind of afraid to set a timetable on anything.

I am trying. I go back to the 'day- job' - the PhD, which still has two years to run - on 9th January. And I have two sunshine books in the pipeline, so I hope at least one of those will see the light of some actual sunshine in the real world. And there's that Christmas novella, and I have plans and some partially written manuscripts for romantic suspense novels, one of which, with a fair wind, should  be underway before the end of the year. And there it is - with a fair wind. Because life, in the nature of things, gets in the way.

I suppose that list of things is a plan, of a sort. But at the moment I'm not prepared to give them status higher than dreams. Can they come true?

If you have made New Year resolutions, then I wish you all the will power, hard work and a sprinkle of luck to make them happen. If, like me, you're hovering, not quite sure where to put your feet, then I hope we get all the luck and confidence to move on, but the resolve to hold on to the dreams, if it turns out that 2017 is not the year.

But let's hope, and dream, that it is!