Wednesday 31 January 2018

Forthcoming attractions - on tour

February is going to be a busy month, with public appearances at local libraries in Wales on 6th and 13th. Love is in the air and Valentine's day is definitely in mind!

On 6th I will be part of a group of romance authors who are Romancing Rhiwbina - you need a ticket for those dates. On 13th Jill Barry and I will be talking to readers on the main library in Barry. It's an exciting time for Jill as she is about to have a new book out - and will, of course, be telling us all about it.

The details are on the posters. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Please leave your disbelief at the door.

This post is entirely motivated by jealously. 

When you write books, you don't get away with much. If there are holes in your plot, or something doesn't quite add up, or the whole thing is just pretty much preposterous, then if your editor doesn't get you then the readers will. But films? Hah! now that is a totally different kettle of kippers. 

What has provoked this? A trip to the cinema in which I accidentally managed to see The Commuter. I was planning to see Darkest Hour and claim it was part of the day job, but messed up on the start time. After a consultation with the box office lady we both agreed that The Commuter would be fine - because well, basically, Liam Neeson. And it was. I don't want to give you the wrong impression here. I thoroughly enjoyed it - because well - Liam Neeson. (Did you know a theatre critic once called him a towering sequoia of sex? I don't know which theatre critic, but they certainly have an interesting turn of phrase) And even in mature years, he still has it. And I'm a mature lady, so there you go. The film romped along -  lots of action, a train (and you know I love trains) and and the action was almost in real time, running against the clock. But the plot didn't so much suspend disbelief as annihilate it. I'm not going into detail, because that would involve spoilers, but - 

You.Would. Never. Get. Away. With. That. In. A. Book.

Hence my jealousy. 

I'm not alone in thinking this - other reviewers said it was highly entertaining nonsense. Also a bonkers pleasure.

And actually, I'm not so sure about getting away with it in a book. I've just finished reading a much hyped best seller that had holes, continuity issues, typos ...

Maybe it's just me ... 

Wednesday 17 January 2018

2018 - what do you think of it so far?

Well, we've just had Blue Monday - alleged to be the most depressing day of the year, and did you know that January is apparently the loneliest month? And how are all those New Year resolutions going?  Or shouldn't I ask?

Actually, I quite like January, mainly because the days are slowly and subtly getting lighter and longer. And the bulbs in the garden have begun to come through, and now it's all down hill towards warmer weather and summer.

Looking forward to spring!

For me 2018 is going to be all about the PhD - lots of visits to archives and writing up, but I hope there will be some other kinds of writing going on too. 

My publishers have agreed that they would like to see the second installment of the Riviera Rogues series, so I have to find time for that, and get it into a fit state to put before the selection panel. Fingers crossed they will like it. The story revolves around a wedding - and weddings are going to be very fashionable this year. 😊 I'll share more, including the possible choices for a title, over the next few weeks.

I'm hoping for other interesting and exciting things to happen during the year too, as well as a lot of work, but we'll have to wait and see ...

Wednesday 10 January 2018

The gentle art of letter writing

When did you last write a letter?

 Possibly a note to put in with a Christmas card, to send to someone you don't see very often?

But before that?  We don't write letters like we used to - e-mails. texts - but not letters. We're not like the heroines of classic novels who could always retire to their rooms to write letters when they wanted to avoid the hero, their mother, the verbose curate ...

I started to think about letters when I saw an item on the TV about pen pals. I thought about it some more when I was at the National Archive, for the day job, prowling thought the Home Office files for World War II. They were correspondence files, with quantities of letter exchanged between civil servants. I got some good stuff for the PhD, but I found the format of the letters themselves just as interesting. Apart from references to the occasional phone call, everything was by letter - and with two postal deliveries a day, using the post was probably almost as good as sending an e-mail.

It was the construction that was a glimpse of a lost era. Carefully set out by the typists - no DIY typing here - with addresses of sender and recipient in specific places, salutations that used only surnames - it was Dear Smith - not Dear Mr Smith - (it was all misters - no females in sight) and the first lines of many were almost like reading code, with use of terms like Inst and Ultimo for dates. The letters themselves were very formal - on paper that was now tattered and yellowing - signed either with an old fashioned fountain pen, or for run of the mill stuff with a rubber stamp. I remember having custody of one of those for the Town Clerk when I first started work - used for allotment agreements and grave grants. As the war progressed the paper got smaller and thinner and letters were typed on the back of other documents - one of the ones I found relating to Cardiff was on the back of a draft intended for Jarrow - but they were all still laid out in the formal manner.

We don't correspond like that any more. 

Wednesday 3 January 2018

A visit to the Mithraeum

I didn't get photos inside the temple, so this is
the police box near Bank Station, which is close by! 

Do you remember, back last summer, when I had a prowl around the City of London, looking for the Temple of Mithras? I didn't find it, but suspected that it was under a massive building site. Well, it was, although I wasn't looking in quite the right place - and now it's open to the public again. It's been reconstructed under the Bloomberg building - along with displays of contemporary art created in response to the temple, a small collecting of Roman artifacts found on the site and an interactive interpretation area, with sound and lights and information screens. Kudos to the Bloomberg organisation putting all this together and making it available to visitors for free - although you do have to book in advance.

Mithras was a Roman god, said to be the soldier's god as he was a favourite of the army, although there were other followers too. He's usually depicted ritually sacrificing a bull. My first encounter with the cult of Mithras was in Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave, when her young hero, Merlin, has a vision of the ceremony. It's a powerful scene, and the interest has stayed with me ever since. As a writer I'm drawn too to theatrical spaces - not just theatres themselves, but churches and temples too. And standing stones. Places where mankind has conducted special rituals, often for thousands of years. Places that have an atmosphere all their own.

I was interested in this temple as I have a serial killer who wanted to dump a body there. In it's original location, which was an outdoor site, which I dimly remember, this would have been possible. Not going to happen now that the whole thing has been reconstructed so beautifully - indoors. I've left him thinking about another Mithric temple at Hadrian's Wall ...

I enjoyed the visit to the site. The temple is on the lowest level, where it would have been when it was first built. The remains of the walls are in place, with viewing platforms over and a sound and light show that recreates what a visit to the temple would have been like  - a dark entrance way, torchlight, an image of the god, astride the bull - a babble of male voices. The cult was strictly men only, apparently, and the temple would not have been used to actually sacrifice a bull - good to know - as it was too small. It was probably used for ceremonies and feasting - lots of chicken bones were found when the site was excavated.

While I was pleased to have visited, I have to say that I didn't find the site as atmospheric as I'd hoped. There were no 'shivers up the spine moments' like the one I had looking into the grave space of Richard III, when the King's skeleton gradually emerged in the ground in lighted silhouette. There was just a few seconds, when I stepped onto the platform at the centre of the temple ...

Although numbers are controlled, there were quite a lot of visitors, and I think that broke up the atmosphere. I'd like to go again, hopefully with fewer people. It was a spectacular space and I'd like to have another chance to appreciate it. And maybe I'll re-read The Crystal Cave, in the meantime.