Wednesday 29 May 2019

Crime and Coffee

The Second Crime and Coffee Festival will be taking place in Cardiff next week - from 3rd to 8th June, with a day full of events at the main library on Saturday 8th. Before that there are lots of talks, including some in Welsh, and a book launch and a workshop, some of which are taking place in the branch libraries. I shall be talking to a long time friend, Vanessa Savage, at Cathays library on Tuesday 4th at 7pm. Tickets £5, if you want to be there. The link is below. It will probably be worth getting a omnibus ticket if you are a crime fan. That will get you into all the events. If it's as good as last year, and the programme looks as if it is, it will be a lot of fun.

Vanessa and I met as members of the Romantic Novelists' Association. She's moved on to write crime/horror now, but we're still friends! We'll be talking, among other things, about the importance of relationships in genre fiction. I mix my crime with a love story and the dynamics of couples and family are what makes Vanessa's work tick. That and a lot of creepy stuff.

If you can come along, you'll be most welcome.


Wednesday 22 May 2019

The power of scent

At the moment the garden is full of jasmine, just coming into bloom. The stuff grows like weeds for me. We won't mention the real weeds, which are romping away as I am engrossed in the day job. It will be a flame thrower and a hacksaw when I finally emerge. Or maybe I'll just move.

Authors are encouraged to use all five senses in descriptions.  Perhaps because it grows so well in the garden, jasmine is a flower, and a fragrance, that I use a lot in books. On the whole I like to describe nice smells, just as I like to write about sunshine.

There is a tendency, particularly in historical novels, to dwell on the nasty ones, and I have to say, I get a bit bored by it. Unpleasant smells are all just that, unpleasant, and you can encounter plenty in real life, and I am an escapist reader at heart. Why dwell on the nasty stuff, when you don't have to. Of course I also like to write dark and scary along with the romance, which is a bit contradictory, but at least everything smells good while I'm doing it.

And there are so many nuances and layers to the attractive scents.

The second Riviera Rogues, which is written, and not too scary, but still needs a lot of work, has a garden in it. It's surrounding a sort of villa/farmhouse in the hills near Nice, on the French Riviera, where my hero and heroine spend a kind of lost weekend. I've been thinking quite a bit about it, as I remember planting quite a lot of jasmine in it when I was creating it. It's set around now, time wise, and all the scent in my own garden is reminding me. Or maybe it's just that I really do want to get back to some writing again that's not academic. It will be a while yet, but it's good to know it's there, waiting for me. 

Wednesday 15 May 2019

A walk in the dusk

With the lighter evenings - which I love - and the fact that I have my head stuck deeply in the PhD, my daily walk beside the beach has moved to the end of the day. It's a liminal time, quiet enough to hear the surf, twilight enough to be mysterious, And I love the way that lights are visible on both sides of the water. I haven't yet remembered to take my camera, so these are a few pictures from the gallery. 

Wednesday 8 May 2019

Salvaging something

This week's post was nearly all about pig swill. In the Day Job I'm deeply enmeshed in the struggles of Cardiff Council in WW2 to satisfy the demands of the Ministry of Supply that they collect more food waste. In those days it didn't go for composting, it was fed to the pigs. While I find the struggles fascinating I'm not sure you will, so I'm putting up something from the archive instead. It's a post from 2 May 2012, when we seem to have been having some dire weather. Not unlike it is now, in fact. Although we didn't have downpours in April this year. And 'summer' was at Easter. But basically does anything ever change?

The nine men's morris is filled up with mud ...

Crosser than a wet hen. That was me, last Wednesday, caught in a downpour on Sloper Road, on my way to the Archives. Too far along to go back to my favourite bus stop – the one I always shelter in when I get caught in a downpour on the way to the Archives (Can you see a pattern here?) I waded on, and arrived Very Wet Indeed.  

Then on Saturday/Sunday night, with the wind howling round the house and things falling over on the back yard, my writer’s imagination began to work overtime about what exactly was making that ominous crashing sound. In the daylight? Nothing I could see. Obviously not in my back yard. 

Then yesterday, on a quick train trip to London, seeing new ponds in the middle of fields – despite the drought.  

Weather is looming large in my mind – and I’m sure I’m not the only one. 

The waterlogged fields brought up that quotation from Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s part of a complex speech from Titania, claiming that the problems with the weather arise from a falling out between herself and Oberon, the fairy king. After the wettest UK April on record, and with the predictions for May not much better, I’m beginning to wonder if they are still arguing. What exactly is a Nine Man’s Morris? My ancient Signet version of the play confidently asserts that it is squares cut in turf for a game, played with nine counters, but I’ve heard that folklore experts cannot identify any such game ever being played. I don’t know what is right, but it is one of those quotations that always sums up horribly wet weather in my mind. I can just see the squares in the turf, slowly filling up, and oozing …
I seem to be a bit obsessed with Midsummer Night’s Dream at the moment, possibly because I am already beginning to be afraid that this is going to be yet another year when we don’t get a summer – although actually that is not true – we had that week. In March.
I know my dislike of cold and wet influences my writing – and reading – habits. I’ve just abandoned a book because the setting was unrelenting snow – the descriptions were excellent and it was making me too cold to read it. One of the pieces of advice sometimes given to writers is to make your characters uncomfortable. It’s supposed to make a book edgy, to have your protagonists physically miserable. I can’t do that. I’d much rather make them emotionally miserable, while the sun shines on them. I get more fun out of that, and keep my feet dry. Although I did give my hero, Devlin, his own personal rain cloud after he walked out on Kaz. (Bad decision, good reasons – at least he thought so.) It followed him around for quite a few chapters. I think of my books as holiday reading – which is why I like to set them in beautiful places, where the sun shines.
So – if you want something dark and sinister, to read on the beach …

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Summer in San Remo - in Norwegian

One of the exciting things about being an author is getting copies of books with your name on, It's just as exciting even when you can't read a word! This is the Norwegian version of Summer in San Remo. Love the cover they have given it.