Sunday 23 December 2018

Good wishes for the holidays

Just a post to wish everyone 

A Very Happy Christmas

And if you do happen to get a new electronic device in your stocking, or you're looking round for something to read by Boxing Day, then just a reminder that What Happens at Christmas is a romantic suspense - a different kind of Christmas read, and if you fancy some sunshine, Summer in San Remo is in the Choclit bonanza sale at the moment. Just a hint, if you haven't read them yet!

See you in the New Year!

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Romantic Suspense for Christmas

Reggie with one of my posh postcards.
He was very impressed,
and it's not easy to impress a unicorn. 
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

What Happens at Christmas ... well ... that's a bit complicated ...

I wrote the Christmas romantic suspense by accident. It wasn't in the plan. When it went to the publisher it was called To Have Your Heart - a variation of which eventually became the strap line for the cover.

The title What Happens at Christmas was my publishers' suggestion, because a Christmas book has to have Christmas in the title, doesn't it?

Actually it was quite apt, as what happens in What Happens at Christmas does have to stay secret. But the only problem for hero Drew is that it got a bit too secret, and now he's looking for the girl of his dreams, and she seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth ...

I had fun writing the book, and I loved giving Devlin, from Never Coming Home, a cameo role, and I have to admit I fell for Drew in a big way - my unexpected and accidental hero. I also enjoyed setting the book in a beautiful part of my native Wales - the Brecon Beacons. I had to arrange a freak snow storm, because you have to have snow in a Christmas book too, but that's the thing about being a author - you even get to arrange the weather.

The book is out now in e-book, paperback and audio, with a male narrator, which is a first for me, but as a lot of the book, including the opener on the roof of a train, is written from Drew's point of view, it makes sense.

If you're looking for something a little different in Christmas reading, you've just time to get your hands on a copy. If you do, I hope you enjoy it.

You can see all the options HERE

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Why I'll never write literary fiction.

Let's face it - I don't have deep thoughts, or a message, or anything like that. I don't even manage to have a theme. I like telling stories. Beginning, middle, end, so I'm stuck with genre fiction. And quite happy, actually. It's what I like to read. I've never got on with highbrow stuff.

I might one day venture into non fiction - the day job, when it is done, has possibilities to be a piece of popular history, if I have the energy to do it, once the thesis is finally finished, and some publisher thinks they want it, but that's a long way away.

I like distinctive locations, and a plot, and a love story and a happy ending. Literary fiction doesn't have to have any of those, so I really wouldn't have a clue what I was doing.

It's the love story that drives the thing, for me. I might murder a few people along the way - all right, maybe a lot of people - and the course of true love never does run smooth (thank you, Mr Shakespeare, or whoever wrote the plays. I'm researching that at the moment as a side issue to the day job, for a very much in the future plot for a romantic suspense. But I digress...) And there is usually a dark moment, before the end, when Hero and Heroine don't look as if they will get together, but then they do. And it all ends happily. That's my contract with the reader. Uplift. And probably a wedding ring.

I have to confess though that I have had a few thoughts lately about killing off a hero or heroine before the end of a book. I don't know where that evil impulse is coming from, or whether I'll ever act on it.

If I did, would that make it literary fiction, d'you think?

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Publication day X 2

A book release is a red letter day and this week I am having two, as the paperback of What Happens at Christmas was out on Saturday and the audio version is out today from Isis Publishing.

I've featured in the Choc-lit Advent calendar - if you haven't caught up with that yet - check out the Choc-lit twitter feed. A clue every day and a chance to win a daily prize and something big (lots of books) for the overall winner.

There is an interview on the Female First website, all about the inspirations for What Happens at Christmas. The ones I can identify, that is.

It all started with a lunch with some fellow authors, and there was no alcohol involved ...

The link for the interview is HERE

What Happens at Christmas is on special offer on the Choc-lit Amazon page, if you have not got your copy yet LINK

It has been quite a week.

And what's next?

Well, the next book in the pipeline should be another in the Riviera Rogues series, set in the South of France, once the day job is finally put to bed.

According to Jamie Dornan and Matthew Rhys, Barry Island is the Welsh equivalent of St Tropez, so for the location for the one after that, all I have to do is open the front door. Not sure about the weather though ....

Jamie and Matthew

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Celebration of release day - the What Happens at Christmas Location Tour.

The official release day for the paperback and audio versions of What Happens At Christmas is on Saturday 1st December!! (Although there have been some early sightings around the country.) To celebrate I've put together a short location tour of places that feature in the book. Unfortunately none of them involve snow- you'll have to imagine that for yourselves.

The armchair tour is on the Pages spot at the top of the blog. All you have to do is click for a glimpse of  the Brecon Beacons and Chelsea.

I hope you enjoy it. 

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Reviving a manuscript

Should you ever try to revive an old manuscript?

When you have been in the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers' Scheme as long as I was, it is inevitable that you have a lot of  old manuscripts in the drawer - and I mean a lot. Most of them will stay there. One or two might have possibilities if I have time on my hands and plenty of patience. Hah! But there are two I definitely want to go back to. Funnily enough, neither of them are finished. Maybe not so funny - is that the appeal? Unfinished business?

The first is an historical - a Georgian romantic suspense submitted as a partial MS that was my very last NWS submission before I was published - with  a contemporary in the same genre. It got a good report and I would have gone on with it, but then publication happened and it went off to that bottom drawer with the others. I wrote it for fun, but since then it has stayed with me, and ideas for making it a series that will connect to something contemporary have been growing, so I definitely think it is worth another look.

The other one was my first attempt at a contemporary romantic suspense. It got quite a good report. I was usually told I could write, which was encouraging, but there was an awful lot that was wrong. I think, looking back, it suffers from a common fault of inexperienced writers - there are two stories in there fighting with each other, or maybe a story and a half. Too many good ideas and not enough space to put them. It started with a Romeo and Juliet story of young love and tragedy and then resumed with the lovers 15 years later. My reader wasn't happy about that - I remember the comment that the heroine in particular was too young and that her mother was more interesting and the way it was written a reader could easily assume she was the heroine  ... And so on.

I decided to start a new novel rather than try to unpick that one, and I know the next attempt went a lot better - I think it may have eventually turned into Out of Sight Out of Mind, but I'm not sure.

The unfinished manuscript still came back into my mind now and then - there were a lot of things I liked about it and the hero, Luke, was one of my favourites. I can't remember the name of the heroine, but her mother was called Nadine - which might give some credence to the comments of my NWS reader ...I half promised myself I'd  have a look at it again, to try and get out the book that was lurking in the undergrowth. Simplify the story - turn it round so the R&J bit was a flashback interlude - possibly give it a new villain. Or a new motive. And probably get rid of the heroine's mother! She might get her own story in quite a different book.
One day ...

I've been using scrap paper to write on lately and a couple of the pages, when I read them, turned out to be old drafts of that book. I was surprised how good the dialogue still sounded. And I still fancied Luke ... And then I heard a scientific programme on the radio that gave me a lead on a plot point that had been a stumbling block that I hadn't entirely resolved, which I am now researching, and the book is now back on the table.

It will take some work and it's not going to happen soon, but I am certainly promising myself I will have a go. 

And the motto of the story? Never throw anything away.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

The use of silence

Writing this in the week when the Armistice that ended World War One was commemorated, when the two minute silence is one of the most universal and poignant parts of any ceremony, has prompted thoughts on the power of silence to a writer. Aspiring - and not so aspiring - writers are told, or reminded, about using all the senses, and hearing can encompass all types of noise, from rain on the roof to opera to the sound of waves on the shore - which can be remarkably noisy, as you learn when you live by the sea. Some writers like to have music while they work, and will make a play list for a particular book. Sounds are very emotive for creating atmosphere - a distant bell, footsteps in an empty corridor, the sound of a door closing, very softly. All creepy, all very simple.

But what about silence? Not easy to convey in a book. Yet we have probably all experienced that feeling when silence has been so strong it almost seems like something you can touch. It can come in an empty, desolate place. It can be significant when there is an absence where there should be a presence - no sound were there should be one, like a heart beat. Silence in a conversation can speak volumes that words don't.

Silence might be a little difficult to convey. It needs some thought. It's not an easy option, but it can be powerful and worth thinking about.

I have two books in the half completed pile, which I am waiting to get back to, that open with a silent house, one an historical, one contemporary. I probably have both of them as neither manuscript is finished - I might have avoided repeating a similar scene if either was published - but I hope as they are different genres it will be OK. It's clearly a scenario that appeals to me. In both cases my protagonist -one male, one female,  is alone in an empty house where they have long memories and associations, and it is the prelude to leaving and beginning a new life, in neither case one that is sought or looked forward to. It is a scene of goodbye, and a certain amount of heartbreak. I hope it is a powerful beginning to the book. In both manuscripts I had to think about the effect of silence - in this case on memory. That absence where there should be presence - a kind of metaphor for all they have lost.

Fingers crossed that they work.

Now I'm keen to get back to them. Soon.

Wednesday 7 November 2018

I've never done NaNoWriMo ... yet.

A book. In a month???

For those not into the jargon - NaNoWriMo is a collective madness that seizes large numbers of writers during the dark month of November and provokes them to try and write a book - or the first draft of a book, in a month. And one of the first cautionary tales of the attempt is that it is a first draft, not an oven ready book. Basically you commit ( I use the word advisedly) to about 1,700 words a day to reach a total of 50,000 by the end of the month. And, of course 50,000 is more like  a very healthy novella, given that most books are in the region of 80,000 - 90,000, but you get the idea. If you sign on you get various encouragements and the chance to buddy and other stuff. There's a link at the bottom of the post if you want to know more from the official source.

My knowledge is not complete, because I've never done it. In fact the idea has always rather struck terror in my heart, but that, I realise now, was for reasons of time. When I was working and caring and then just caring, it was an impossibility - I was just too damn tired to try. And for the last six years (ahh, panic - six years!!!)  there's been the PhD. I have produced books as well in that time, but never against the clock. And this November is no different, although I have been taking an interest in the friends who are trying it and beginning to think .... maybe?

The PhD is still with me. Yesterday, I had a Very Low Day and if I had had access to a wheelbarrow, the whole lot would have found it's way into the sea, but I feel a lot better today. Ups and downs and 'Why did I ever start this?' happens. Not unlike writing a book. I'm also thinking about the time after PhD - with or without the assistance of the wheelbarrow. For better or worse the PhD will be gone by next November, and the idea of taking part in NaNoWriMo is starting to look ... well, interesting. I might actually have the chance to write and get somewhere with the word count and the deadlines. So, it's a maybe.

I'll let you know.

NaNoWriMo - HERE  

Wednesday 31 October 2018

When the leaves are turning ...

Autumn is my least favourite season, especially after the clocks have changed. I don't do well when it is cold, but it's a lot to do with daylight as well. I don't like winter either, but at least after the solstice the nights begin to get lighter and you know that something better is on the way, whereas in autumn it's just a lot of cold and dark to look forward to.

Which makes it surprising that I have a few ideas for books bothering me at the moment that want to set themselves at this time of the year. I think it is because they have a spooky, supernatural element, and this time of the year lends itself. Halloween and all that. I'm thinking - or they are - books in waiting can get quite stroppy on occasion - more in the way of folklore and old stories and some hedge witchery,  rather than ghouls and ghosts and people flitting about on broomsticks. It's all been helped along by a lecture at the university last week about the time around Halloween - Martinmass and St Martin's day, which is on the 11th November. Apparently it was a time of celebration of the harvest with feasts and fairs stretching over up to eight days - St Martin's Fairs and Mop Fairs and Goose Fairs and Hiring Fairs are all connected, and there's Guy Fawkes in the mix too. The idea of a time of potential misrule has possibilities.

Guy Fawkes night has rather been overtaken by Halloween in the last few years, with the emphasis now on 5th November on large, organised, and safer public displays of fireworks. Communal bonfires, with wood collecting going on for weeks before the event, fireworks in the back garden and making a guy and collecting pennies on the street corner all seem to be fading away - quaint and old fashioned. And 11th November is, of course, marked with poppies as Remembrance or Armistice Day, rather than a saint's feast day.

But the idea of a fair or celebration over a few days in autumn, with an other worldly element to it? Well, as I've said, there are ideas brewing. Will they win, over my preference for sunshine?

We'll all just have to wait and see.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Full supporting cast

The most popular question to ask an author seems to be - where do you get your ideas? Answer to that one - they just seem to happen. The next popular question is where do you get your characters? Are they based on real people? The answer to that is NO. I will never put YOU in a book, so you can stop hoping/worrying.

In general, characters arrive out of nowhere too. There is quite a big and varied cast in the forthcoming Christmas paperback - What Happens at Christmas - including a very precocious four year old, a handful of movie stars, some people from the publishing industry and a ginger and white cat, who was inspired by Ming, a family legend who died before I was born.

I have indulged myself a little with the hero and heroine, I have to admit, as they are both writers and I have given them all the things a writer dreams of ... Drew is mega successful, the type that causes queues around the block when he does signings and his books are made into films and he gets asked to do TV programmes and stuff - although that actually gets him into a lot of trouble ... He does a lot of extreme research too - he writes fantasy adventure, and that is not me at all. Lori is a would-be author when the book starts and then ... but that would be a spoiler, so I won't say any more.

And the other notable thing about the book is that Devlin, the hero of Never Coming Home, makes a guest appearance. That wasn't planned at all, but when the point came when Drew had really got himself in a mess and needed help - well, who else was I going to call?

It's not your usual Christmas book - not with the hero managing to get himself kidnapped and then not knowing who, or why ...  There are villains, and they get their come-uppance, so that is probably un- Christmassy too, although, to be fair, that does not happen at Christmas. But is does have snow, in the Brecon Beacons, because every Christmas book has to have snow, right? I had to do something traditional and the snow was very handy, as it kept Lori and Drew together over the holiday itself, chaperoned, of course, by the four year old and the cat. 

I better stop, before I give too much away. If you decide to buy the paperback (It's on pre-order now, for 1st December) I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Glad to be back with romantic suspense

The new paperback

It was a big day last week - the paperback copies of What Happens at Christmas arrived - my second paperback release this year and in the shops in a few weeks time.

Nothing beats holding a book in your hand. It's still a bit unreal, to think 'I wrote this.' It's good to be back with romantic suspense too, as it's a genre I love to write, but that book got written sort of by accident. It arose out of a conversation with friends over how we would go about kidnapping someone - yes, writers do have that sort of conversation - and another discussion about how you would combine romantic suspense, which is not exactly warm and fuzzy, with the feel good things that are expected in a Christmas story.

Of course, once the ideas had been planted ...

What Happens at Christmas was the result. NOT your usual Christmas book. Kidnapping, secrets, attempted murder - all the usual stuff, with a freak snow storm in the Brecon Beacons thrown in, for good measure. Well it's Christmas - I had to have snow. And it was very useful to keep the hero and heroine cosy together on the big day itself. They have a chaperone, though, in the form of a very precocious four year old. And there's a cat.

Unlike some writers, I don't write with a theme in mind, but sometimes the book turns out to have one anyway, after it's been written. In this case, I think it might be being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Things happen and lives connect because people are not where they were expecting to be.  And it's not entirely a Christmas book - the first scene takes place in spring, and hero Drew is not exactly having a good time, (I've always wanted to write one of those fights on a train roof scenes). That's nothing to what I throw at him later though, and the action of the book then covers just over  twelve months, starting in November - so it actually has two Christmases. It was fun, and a challenge to write, and it has got some good reviews, so it looks as if at least some people think I managed to pull it off! 

I have a lot of ideas lined up for future romantic suspense novels. At the moment none of them are set at Christmas, but you never know, I might decide I want to do it again.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Time lines

All writers have their quirks - an attachment to nice stationery seems to be fairly universal, and an awful lot plot by post it note.  With me, it's time lines. No, time lines, not time lords. Yes I know there is a new Dr Who on the block, but please try not to let your attention wander. 

Time lines - in case you are not keeping up - are exactly what it says on the tin - lines with times - or rather dates, on them. I love them, which is surprising, as I have a terrible memory for dates. I do one for most books, sometimes for lots of events, if the plot is getting complicated, but always for sorting out when characters were born - I like to know where everyone fits age-wise in relation to each other. It's useful too for back story - appropriate names, favourite bands and stuff like that. The prompt for this post was a book I just read - great plot, characters, etc, but something was just a bit off. In the end I realised that the ages of the different generations of the family didn't quite mesh together - not off by much, but just enough to make me unsettled.

Which just shows how useful a time line can be. I like to draw mine diagonally across the page, which is another one of those writer's quirks.

It works for me, better than post it notes - but to each their own.

Wednesday 3 October 2018

Lost communications

These days, with phones, texts, skype, etc, etc ... it's difficult to avoid your nearest and dearest, and the not so nearest ...

But even in the relatively recent past, things were not so easy. Then it was just the post  - letters, or maybe newspapers ...

I had the idea for this post from a post on Elizabeth Hawksley's fabulous blog which is often a mine of historical quirkiness. This one is about entries in the personal column in The Times for 1870.

I can remember a time when the personal columns were a fascinating, if mysterious read (Come on, I'm not that old - alright, yes, I am ...) Spies were said to use them to communicate and as Elizabeth points out apparently lovers did too.

From my own use of contemporary newspapers from WW2 for the day job, it came as a shock when I first encountered the hospital lists - coded lists on the condition of patients in the isolation hospital for relatives who would be unable to visit because of the nature of the illness and the distance - and some of those patients might have been children with Scarlett Fever ... We take easy communication so much for granted now.

Of course it's not all progress - everyone who has ever read a Sherlock Holmes novel knows that it was possible to send an invitation to dine or make an evening appointment by post on the same day, at least in London. With three or four deliveries, why not? Now you'd send a text or an e-mail, but the idea of a letter is a lot more romantic somehow.

Lack of communication can be a blessing for a novelist - I can't count the times I have had to interfere with a piece of modern kit so hero/heroine doesn't get a vital piece of information. On one level writing before technology is very alluring. But then, if you have to summon help in an emergency and you're left looking for a working pay phone ...

It's all swings and round-abouts. I'm looking forword to writing contemporary and putting a foot in the past, when the day job is over. 

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Books passed their read-by date?

I made a day trip to London recently for a talk and a book launch - which involved a trip by train from Cardiff to Paddington. A train line and a journey that feature in both my first two romantic suspense novels - Never Coming Home and Out of Sight Out of Mind. Looking out of the window it occurred to me that things have changed a bit since I wrote the books. The derelict buildings line side in Never Coming Home, just outside Hayes station, where Devlin has his encounter with Luce, have finally be demolished and replace with new flats and offices. And with new trains on the GWR line there are prominent notices informing passengers that they are on CCTV - so Madison's hope to avoid any cameras in Out of Sight Out of Mind is now a vain one. Life moves on.

I always find it interesting to check the publication date in the front of a book - that's an academic quirk as you have to cite it in references - but it can be quite illuminating, particularly if the book is a re-issue from an author's back list. Habits - in life and in writing - change. In many books that are twenty years old and more it is commonplace for all the characters to smoke - and they can light up in public places too. And, of course, the most glaring detail is technology - books without mobile phones and computers rapidly give the game away. It is not just the habits though. I find that heroes in older books can appear overbearing and domineering, which was the convention at the time to illustrate the protective alpha male. The world turns and things change.  Now the hero has to be strong and sensitive.

I find it interesting to read older stories and reflect on changes. Often a plot that is perfectly plausible would collapse with a single call from a mobile phone. Age doesn't change the calibre of the story, but it can change how you react to it. The overbearing hero or delicate stay-at-home heroine would not have raised any eyebrows at the time, but can now make you feel a little uncomfortable. And it can be quite a shock if you do not realise that what you are reading is not a recent release.

It pays to look at the date.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Research - planned and unplanned.

I made a trip to York last week - to have some fun, at the RNA Afternoon Tea, which was worth the six hour trip in itself, but I also wanted to complete a little piece of research. When I was last in York - probably about twenty years ago, we stumbled on a gatehouse in the city walls that had a small museum to Richard III. In one of the books that is half written and will be leaping back to life - I hope - once the day job is put to bed, the heroine reads a copy if JosephineTey's Daughter of Time (If you haven't read it you must)  and takes herself on a Richard III tour of the country. (I'm keeping her away from the hero at that point, so it has a purpose.) I did Bosworth and the new tomb and the car park and everything some time ago, but I wanted to complete it with the museum from York - which I was able to do, so now that is all taken care of and I only have to write the thing. It will probably only have a few lines in the book, but I wanted to visit all the places, for fun, as much as anything. You know about writers and research.

Interior of the gatehouse
The gatehouse from the city walls

I had a fabulous time in York - it is a lovely city. I stayed in a quirky boutique hotel, which has fed some ideas into a similar hotel which will be in another book, in a new romantic suspense series. I found an original copy of a book by author Elizabeth Gouge in a shop in the Shambles and treated myself as a memento of the weekend. (One of the Romantic Novelists' Association competitions has a trophy in her honour.) The hotel had a large library/lounge with a wild and wonderful selection of books - including a copy of the Dictionary of National Biography for the period of World War Two, which I have been trying track down for details on the man who was the Regional Commissioner for Wales - so I was able to take notes on that.  On Saturday morning I watched a troupe of Border Morris
The beautiful minster - I gatecrashed evensong.
dancers, and chatted to one of them about the costume. Forget bells and hankies - the Border Morris involves tattered black coats, hats and feathers, cudgels and black faced make up - a traditional method of disguising identity - quite spine stirring. There is a Border Morrris in another book of that romantic suspense series - one of the heroes plays the fiddle for them. It was good to see a troupe in action. I was so busy watching I didn't take pics!

Then on Sunday I discovered Fairfax House, which is a glorious Georgian building fitted out with correct period furniture. It was amazing - and gave me two more bits of research - a spinet and a bureau with multiple secret drawers. That is for a Georgian romantic suspense series which I have partly started and want to return to. It is where the private security service that features in the contemporary series begins - a secret society of dangerous rakes and dandies. I really want to write that one too.

All in all York was tremendously inspiring. Now I just have to get to those books in waiting - the characters have started to line up, demanding to be written and I don't know how long I can hold them off.

Once I get WW2 fixed ...

Wednesday 12 September 2018

There's always a story ...

Two men in casual clothes are standing in the street, in front of a house that is currently undergoing renovation. They are clearly there by appointment, have knocked, and got no answer. After knocking again, one of them gets out his phone and walks a little way down the street, with it pressed to his ear. His companion stays, looking thoughtfully at the house  ...

Okay, confession time, this was not the start of a story, it was me, looking out of the bedroom window the other morning. You know writers are horribly nosey. I was a good girl and didn't stay, partly because I had not yet had my first cup of tea. While drinking that tea I started to think about the scenarios that might come off that little scene. For a crime writer there would probably be a body in the house - or maybe it would be a missing person story. Actually, I like that one - I could run with that. For a romance writer the men would probably be handsome hero and best friend (who will probably get his own story in due course) who are there to look at the renovations. Gorgeous heroine - who has bought/inherited the money pit -  has got held up and will arrive delightfully flustered, and/or steaming mad at the driver who backed into her car. Or she is inside in some predicament involving a ladder, from which hero will, of course, rescue her ...  It can't really be an historical, because the clothes are wrong, but you might be able to do something with time slip. Or fantasy, if the house has a portal in it. And don't get me started on horror .... 

All that, from two gentlemen in the street. Writers can make something of anything. If you gave ten of them the same scenario, all the stories would be different. Making up stories is one of the innocent pleasure of my life - I assume other writers do it, but I'm not sure about the general public - you know, real people. I know my grandmother did it. She told my mother wonderful tales about neighbours she had never met, so it might be something in the genes. 

I don't put real people in my books, but I do use ideas. So - what can I do with an empty house ...

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Books on display

When I am struggling to summon the enthusiasm to roll out of bed in the morning - I don't do mornings, if I can help it - I usually make a blind stab at the radio, then doze thorough whatever is on, until the time checks tell me I really should be getting up and there is, after all, a potential cup of tea waiting downstairs in the kettle. Which is how I half heard an item about a politician who had apparently been pictured with some very heavy reading matter, which had prompted a slightly tongue in cheek discussion on what the choices on your bookshelf say about you.

I have to say that the proverbial visitor from Mars (who, I have just realised has replaced the wartime 'little man' - you can tell I am knee deep in the day job) would have a very confused idea about me from the books on my shelves. A certain retailer must have a lot of fun too when the little robots attempt to offer me some selections. The front room is mostly research - World War Two is all over the floor, as I am currently working. The shelves have my own books, some from other writers, mostly friends, as yet unread, and a glorious selection of writing research books - travel guides, history other than WW2, gardens and art, the witchy/magical end of folklore, exhibition catalogues ... The man who came to read the meter last week must have been a bit confused, but we had a nice chat about being a writer when he saw my books.

The dining room has my small collection of vintage crime, my old university text books - poetry and plays - and my cookery books. In the hall there are books on the way to or from the library. Upstairs are my keepers - Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, C S Lewis, Jane Aikin Hodge, Jayne Anne Krentz, Nora Roberts, Stephen Donaldson, Jilly Cooper, Tolkein ...

At the moment the bedside table has my Kindle and that has a similarly disorienting collection from all my interests.

That's my reading selection - and I have no idea what it says about me.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Brand New Website

First I'd like to introduce Reggie, my new writing companion.

Everyone needs a pink unicorn in their lives.

And the BIG news is that I have a brand new website. You can see it HERE  I'd love it if you'd take a look.

Many thanks to Dave for all the hard work putting it together. I'm really pleased with it. I hope you like it too.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

The Owls of Bath

Bath is one of my favourite cities, which is why I decided that Cassie's concierge service would be located there in Summer in San Remo. I made a trip over last week - very nice lunch and a visit to the theatre - and the streets, and the occasional shop, were full of these handsome chaps. 

He was in the new shopping precinct

And he was outside the theatre

This rather startled gentleman was in Jolly's department store

This handsome fella was outside a restaurant

Not sure where this one was, but the building behind looks impressive

If you look to the right, you can see me, taking the picture

Isambard Kingdom Owl
was in the railway station

Wednesday 15 August 2018

A book of words

High on my list of things a writer cannot do without - like an endless supply of pens and a bottomless teapot, is my thesaurus. Good old Roget -lots of vocabulary, not a lot of plot - boom boom. Oh well, please yourself.

My little darling is 50 years old and cost me 12 shillings and six pence and worth every penny. I'm making a lot of use of it at the moment, writing up the PhD and trying to make what I want to say sound more academic. Said PhD is currently a messy pile of knitted fog, but at least it is a pile - and growing - slowly -  and the sooner it is done, the sooner there will be more books - hurrah!

But back to the thesaurus - I have been know to get lost between the covers, just reading it. Words - the tools of the trade. It seems almost impossible to work out how all those wonderful connections are put together - it must have been another job like a pile of fog. And my copy has a very distinctive scent - essence of bookshop - probably the paper. I could pick it off the shelf in the dark just by the smell. Is it weird, to get a buzz before you open a book, just from the aroma? Don't answer that!

Of course, having an actual paper version is the old fashioned way - when I'm typing I use the one that comes with Word, but it's not quite as much fun. You don't go from romance to ingratiate by way of sugar daddy and the goddess of love very often - 885 page 355 in the Penguin edition - oh heck, now I'm footnoting the blog.

I do use the thesaurus a lot, as I have a thing about repetitions - if I catch myself using the same word more than once on a page, I have to change one - and I've learnt that it's not always the second one that needs to be altered. I get stuck in a rut with words sometimes too. I suspect the word of the moment for the PhD is 'significant'. I'll need to keep an eye open when I type it up. Figuring out how to make changes is one of the technical challenges that for me make writing interesting - small but important.

But when it comes down to it, I just love words.

Wednesday 8 August 2018

Thought for the day - or the month?

I have one of those calenders that have inspirational messages for each month, along with a picture of a fireside, or a bluebell wood, or something else with a feel good factor. This month it is a sunset and the message is - 'Do something today that your future self will thank you for.' 

Okay - so where do I start on this - is it something new every day, which means thirty one somethings? Or something that you do every day that will have long term effects - or with the pay off in the future?

Hum. Big decisions here. I started on the thirty one somethings by buying a tin of oranges. Every morning, for breakfast I have an orange. That's been happening since I was in school. Sometimes if I am away from home, at an hotel, it's orange juice, but the principle is the same. Only on Friday the last orange in the bowl had gone bad on me, so no orange - I had strawberries instead, which was nice, but not the same. I'm clearly a creature of habit. So- when I went to the supermarket I bought a tin of mandarins, so that if that should happen again, I get my oranges - which my future orange-less self, will thank me for.

I've bought some books - which my future self will enjoy reading - well some of them, some of them are research - day job and writing - which are sort of enjoyable, but not so much as a Jayne Ann Krentz that I haven't been able to track down in the library. I've booked some theatre tickets, which will be enjoyable later in the month. I intend to order some bulbs, which will cheer me up no end next spring, provided that they flower before the slugs start moving. I'm intending to defrost the freezer too - about time - and will be re-filling it, so my future self will be very pleased when she has something in there to eat. (Food seems to be looming large in this post.) I've sent off a cheque for a workshop that will be happening later in the year and told a friend I'll come to her book launch and put some other friends on notice about trips and celebrations that have yet to be organised. And at some stage I will probably get around to doing some ironing. Hmmm. Doing better than I though on the every day things.

In the long term - the day job is something for the future. When I finally graduate. Which will probably be summer of 2020. At the moment it's pushing treacle up hill with a salt spoon. Have you ever seen the size of a salt spoon? Not much used these days, but  they are tiny. I have a silver one inherited from somewhere - probably my grandmother, which is how I know. I'm also learning to meditate, which is supposed to help with all that catastophising and other stuff that writers are prone to - comes with the 'What if ...' mentality that goes with writing the books. On the days when I'm not doing something that would be part of thirty one, then those are filling in the gaps as the long term future self things.

Looks like my future self will have a lot more things to look forward to, and be thankful for, than I expected. Actually that little message is deeper than it first seems - all about looking forward, planning for the future, remembering the importance of gratitude and above all - hope. 

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Does your age really matter?

The clock is ticking ...

There has been a bit of discussion in the Society of Authors' magazine and elsewhere lately on the implications of age for authors. The latest edition highlighted a new prize for a debut novel by an author over the age of sixty - the  Paul Torday Memorial Prize. Paul Torday was sixty when he published Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and now his sons have endowed the prize in his memory. I think this is a fabulous thing, and deserves a round of applause. There are are awards for young debuts - so why not this too? Writers are writers, wherever they are on the age spectrum. 

Elsewhere, however, it is rumoured that agents and editors will not take on an older author, as they are not expected to have a long enough career to make it worth while. So, if you have plans for your retirement - maybe it's time to re-think them? 

Or should we be re-thinking the definition of 'old'?

With pension age ever rising and life expectancy increasing, is the idea of 'an encore career' as a writer really beyond reach? 

I have to say authors can be just as guilty of portraying age in a way that might no longer be realistic. I have read several books lately - and I'm not naming any names - where people in their sixties are portrayed as frail, decrepit old dears who need their afternoon nap, presumably while wearing their cosy slippers. It was reading these that got me thinking about this post in the first place. 

I mean sixty is old, right? Well, maybe once it was, but this year Madonna, Simon Le Bon, Viggo Mortensen and Michelle Pfieffer  all turn sixty. Not sure that any of them are ready for their slippers yet. The Rolling Stones are still filling stadiums, Liam Neeson is still filling cinemas as an action man, Jeremy Irons is still filling theatres and Cher is playing what might be the most glamerous grandmother on the planet in Mama Mia - and none of them are going to see sixty again.  

They're all still doing what they love - and shouldn't writers be able to do the same - whether this is a longstanding or a new career? 

Maybe it's up to authors themselves to start readjusting the clock? One of the books I have floating in my head, for when the day job is done,  has a character who is one hundred years old. He's not so much of an action man now as he was, but he's not ready for the cosy slipper either. I'm really looking forward to writing him. 

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Conversations you never had

Everyone who has ever lost someone they love will probably know what I mean when I talk about those conversations you wished you could have had. Sometimes these are really big things - like saying you're sorry, when your last words were spoken in anger - or 'I love you.' when it wasn't put into words. Those are the ones that can haunt people and, I have to say, the ones that books are often built around.

Some conversations are not so momentous, but still bring an ache to the heart. At the moment a Hydrangea is flowering - magnificently - in my garden, and every time I look at it I think of my mother. And wish I could show her how well it is doing. 

I bought it as a small plant about five years ago. I don't remember where, but from the colour, I'm guessing it was from an RHS Flower Show. I kept it in the garden for two years and both years it struggled- the new fresh leaves being eaten by slugs and snails before they could develop. It hung on, as a set of stalks, and broke my heart every time I looked at it. In desperation I asked Mum if she would give it a temporary home for the summer on the window cill outside her flat, in the hope that it might grow enough there to defeat the predators. She did, and it thrived. She died that September, but the plant had done what I hoped and beaten the slimy, hungry bullies. It's beautiful now, and I wish so much that she knew that our plan worked. Every time I look at it, I think of her.

The conversation I never had with my Dad is more complicated. Like many of his generation he never spoke much about his war experiences, but I knew he had been in Dunkirk, then North Africa and finally Italy. He died before I ever traveled to Italy, so I never got to ask him about the places that he might have seen that I had now visited. All I have is a handful of old photos. I'm trying to piece together his war record, as I want to use it in a book - and give a second life to those old photos. It's coming together, but it's a slow process. It would have been so much easier to ask him. 

Neither of those conversations is momentous, but they are still a source of a small ache of regret.  You can never say everything you want to and I have no regrets over the big things. But if it's in your mind then say it, or ask it, if you can - you might not get another chance.

Monday 23 July 2018

Stop press

Kobo has a 'Read on the Beach' sale on now - Summer in San Remo for your e-reader at 99p.

Check it out here

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Writing outside the comfort zone.

Writing short stories is not my medium of choice - I tend to write long and have trouble sticking to a word count - but I do have a go from time to time, because it's good to have a little stretch now and again. I'm telling myself that about the PhD too - I think I may  be deluding myself - that one is a Very Big Stretch. Anyway, back to the short stories - I'm OK if I have an idea that I think will work in a smaller space, so when I had an invitation to write a story for Your Cat magazine and an idea came to me - well, I won't say it was easy, but I wanted to have a try. I'm happy to say that the story worked out fine and was almost bang on the word count, once I had finished it, so I was very pleased with myself. Set on the Riviera, it features a black kitten and a heroine recovering from a failed love affair. It was fun to write and I hope it's fun to read. It's in this month's edition of the magazine and I was thrilled with the quirky illustration they have used, which exactly fits the tone of the story. You'll have to judge whether the thing works for you - I'm biased.  

The other thing outside my 'comfort zone' that I've been thinking about lately, is the tear-jerk moment. There's an old saying that is something on the lines of  - if you can make your reader laugh, that's good, but if you can make them cry, that's better. Now this I am not too good at. I might do it unintentionally, but when I'm actually thinking about it, I would rather scare my reader with the creepy stuff than make them weep buckets. But I do like to please my readers, so I am going to give it some thought. I don't imagine it is going to happen overnight - it took a while to get the hang of the short story thing, but it will be on the agenda. Of course at the moment I'm not writing a lot - see PhD, above, so this will give me more time for the idea to marinate. 

That's what I'm telling myself, anyway,       

Wednesday 11 July 2018

A Red Letter Week

I had a lot of fun last week, beginning with the launch of a paperback book for the first time in  five years. Launch day - on Tuesday - was all about social media and in the course of the week I was also the Choc-lit Treat and featured on the publishers' blog, talking about my criminal tendencies. You can probably still catch that, if you're quick. There's a link at the bottom of the page. The Choc-lit Treat is a piece of flash fiction that arrives on a Friday, around coffee time. You have to be signed on to receive them - if you haven't done that already, why not? The treat was little introduction to the hero of the book I'm working on at the moment - the one that is going slower than a sloth - it's a Christmas story, although it is going to be Christmas 2019, not 2018! At the moment I'm blaming the weather - not conducive to thinking wintery thoughts. When the heatwave is finally over, I shall have to think of something else. Before Michael/Mickey gets his story though, we have Nadine and Ryan in what is currently going under the title of A Wedding on the Riviera. That's if the Choc-lit Panel like it of course. Fingers crossed on that.

With Laura and Mel at Griffin Books. 

If you happen to be a cat lover and read Your Cat Magazine then you'll find that there is a feline themed short story in there from me this month. Set on the Riviera - where else - it features a small black kitten with a very distinct personality. It was fun to write, so I hope it is also fun to read.

On Saturday I spent the morning at the fabulous Griffin Books, in Penarth, with fellow author Laura Kemp in a 'Meet the Author' morning, as part of the Penarth Literature festival. To say we both had a great time might be a bit of an understatement. The shop was buzzing and we got to chat about books to a lot of interesting people. The scent alone - new books - was like catnip. Two hours flew by. Many thanks to Mel, the owner, and her staff, for making the thing happen and for being so welcoming. It would be really lovely to do it again some time.

The Link for the Choc-lit Blog is HERE

If you want to sign on for the Choc-lit (and Ruby) Treats, you can do it HERE

Friday 6 July 2018

Stop press

Today I'm the Choc-lit treat - a short story in your in box at coffee time on a Friday - if you're not signed on for them, you can do it HERE

My little story introduces Michael aka Mickey - who might just re-appear at some stage in the future.

I'm also going to be at Griffin Books tomorrow morning - Saturday - as part of the Penarth Literature festival - hope to see you there.

Wednesday 4 July 2018

You never expect the unexpected...

When Out of Sight Out of Mind came out as a paperback in 2013 I never imagined that it would be five year before I'd hold a paperback that I had written in my hand again.

Back then I was expecting there would in due course be another romantic suspense, and another, and another and Summer In San Remo was going to be a piece of frivolous nonsense - a distraction for the summer - what suspense writers do when they let their hair down.

Well, you all know how that turned out.

Yesterday Summer in San Remo came out as a paperback - and I really hope that it is NOT going to be another five year before that happens again!

It's not all bad though - in the interim the Riviera Rogues were born. I'd had such fun with Cassie and Jake that I didn't want to let them go. Their love story is done, but why couldn't there be other couples getting their happy ever after on the Riviera - and as Jake is the boss of a detective agency ...

So - there will be a series. At the moment it is moving at the pace of a sloth that is working to rule (Can you tell that I was a shop steward in a previous existence?)  but once the PhD is done - and it has to be written in the next few months - then all my creative time will be for my writing. More Riviera books and more romantic suspense.

Isn't that a scary thought?

Wednesday 27 June 2018

When in Wales

On Saturday I did something that I haven't done for a long time - attended a multi author book signing. I've done them as both reader and author in the US, but never in the UK before, so that was a first. The event was When in Wales which was held at the Mercure Hotel, in Cardiff, and it brought together nearly forty independent authors from the UK and from the US, to meet readers and to display, sign and sell their books. It was one of a series of similar events that are now being held all around the country and I have to say I really enjoyed it.

The format was like that adopted at the big romance conventions in America - each author had a table - and the decorations, give-aways and the range of books were really impressive. A few authors had even brought their favourite cover model with them - and yes, I know I should have got pictures, but I was too busy looking at books and taking names.

A work of art and a good start to the afternoon.
And it tasted as good as it looked.
One of the author tables.
I took a picture of the whole room,
but for some reason it came out too blurred to use.
Camera shake, but it wasn't the mocktail!
These were indie authors - the majority of whom were self published, or with small presses, so you are unlikely to see their wares in bookshops - only on the Internet. There were writers who had come all the way from America especially to attend, and also authors from around the UK - even a few who were locals. The range of books was phenomenal -  from horror to fantasy to romantic suspense - all with a
common feature -

they were romance books. There were mega hot strictly-adults-only offerings at one end of the scale, with young adult at the other and everything else in between. It was great to see fresh titles from authors I'd not encountered before, and my e-reader is now busy downloading samples and clicking away. Those I've had a peek at so far all seem to have two things in common - strong heroines and gorgeous heroes - sometimes two gorgeous heroes in the M/M categories.

As I'd only just got back from a trip to London - research for the day job - I opted for an afternoon ticket - some super keen fans spent the day, lunching with the authors. I started my afternoon with a fabulous mocktail in the bar and then spent a couple of hours chatting and laughing. Romance authors are great people and know how to have fun, as well as write great books.

I'm hoping to go to other similar events in the future. Maybe even as a signing author, on the other side of the table?

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Summer in San Remo - Out in Paperback

I can't remember if I've told you - Summer in San Remo is going to be out in paperback on 3rd July. Just in time for the summer holidays, if you like to read on paper and you haven't caught up with it yet.

 Needless to say I'm pleased and excited about this, and am hoping to do at least one event to celebrate - more of that soon. And of course there will be a lot of squeeing and pictures of author copies of books - but sadly no champagne, as I am now on the waggon ... but I do have some pink lemonade stashed away.

San Remo is intended to be first of a series and I had hoped that the second book might be ready by now - I think my publisher probably did too. It's making progress, but a bit slower than I would like - blame the day job and life in general. It is actually finished but still in hand written draft and not ready to be set loose on Other People. I just hope the Choc-Lit Tasting Panel like it, once they finally get to see it! 

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Summoned by Bells?

Writers are told – often - to ensure that they use all the senses when writing. Hearing and sound is most obviously covered by speech, but what about other sounds?

The thought behind this post came from a trip to a concert at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, last Sunday afternoon. I don’t know a lot about classical music – but I do like going to concerts occasionally. This one was the violinist Maxim Vengerov playing with the Wurth Philharmonic Orchestra, and  they were brilliant. I really enjoyed it.

Music is obviously one thing to include in a book, but it was one small part of the concert that got me thinking. There was a tiny passage in the overture to Die Fledermaus where there was a bell tolling. I don’t know if it was supposed to, but it sent shivers up my spine – and I realised that I have a bit of a thing about bells. Sometimes, on a Sunday, if the wind is in the right direction I can hear the church bells from the mainland. And if I go for a walk in the evening the clock on the Dock Offices, which is on the other side of the water, chimes the hour. It’s a very evocative sound and one that I need to remember when I want some atmosphere.    

I have used church bells – there is a scene in Never Coming Home when Kaz is startled by a sudden peal of bells, with interesting results, as you will know if you have read the book.

The more mysterious side of a tolling or chiming bell is something to ponder though. I’ll have to make a note to come back to it when I’m writing romantic suspense. I have a book in the works that has some mildly supernatural elements along with the suspense. I have an idea that a bell might fit right in.

Something to think about.

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Smile please! Getting some new pictures taken.

Romantic Novelists' Association parties aside, writers don't get that many chances for a bit of glamour, off the page, so a photo shoot for some new PR pictures was kind of exciting. Well  - you know authors don't get out much. The picture I'm currently using is seven years old. I haven't changed that much - more bags and sags and sadly a few more pounds - and maybe  some wear and tear after the effects of surgery and other life stuff. I don't look that different, but I'd been thinking for some while that it was about time I updated.

Internet research  - googling 'headshots, Cardiff area'  - brought up the name Sian Trenberth and when I looked at the website I really liked what I saw. Sian does a lot of work for people in the entertainment industry - and writing is entertainment - well, the kind I do is. I hope.

First I did some preparation - haircut, highlights renewed, had my eyebrows professionally shaped for only the second time in my life - come on, I had to have some help - see bags and sags, above - figured out what I was going to wear, organised my makeup bag ...

Once all that was done and I was as ready as I was ever going to be, I made a booking and trotted off  to Sian's studio in Cardiff, clutching a case with several changes of clothes (all carefully pressed the night before, all suitable creased once I arrived) in some excitement and a small amount of trepidation. It helped that it was a lovely sunny day, so I didn't arrive soaking wet with frizzy hair, although I did have to stand in the shade of a tree at one point to cool off!!

Once I got there and we talked about what I wanted - basically just me, but on a good day - and Sian started work, I knew I was in good hands, and I enjoyed myself. I know it's vain, but it is quite nice to focus on yourself for a little while.  I did some quick changes and sat on various stools and chairs and we even managed to take a few picture in the garden.

And a couple of days later the pictures arrived. I don't know what anyone else will think, but I was thrilled with them. They were exactly what I wanted -  me, on a good day. I'm not sure how I'm going to chose just one  - I think I might have to rotate them. These are my five favourites.

If you have a favourite ...