Wednesday 25 March 2020

Strange times and virtual garden parties.

Yesterday I should have been at a workshop in Hereford with members of the Marcher Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association. On Friday I was down to give a library talk with fellow writer Jill Barry, and attend a celebration for Sue McDonagh's second Art Cafe paperback. Next Tuesday it was a research trip, with a friend, to Bristol, to the magic exhibition at the city museum.  All those were scrubbed off the calendar well before the world shrank to (mostly) four walls.

This is not actually an unusual experience for a writer/academic. Novels and theses only get written as a result of periods of social isolation, which may or may not involve some staring at walls. Although admittedly not overlaid by a pervading feeling of anxiety, except perhaps when a deadline is approaching. A lot of fellow writers are finding it difficult to concentrate at the moment. I'm currently typing/editing the second Riviera book, and am finding it therapeutic to lose myself in Bath, Bristol and the South of France and the intricacies of fooling a con man, while managing a love affair that has my protagonists apart for a chunk of the book. I had a vicarious clothes shopping expedition with my heroine this afternoon for a trip to Nice. Sadly my own research trip there will probably not be happening now, but it was still fun to shop with Nadine. As she's a lot younger than I am, we got away with buying some things I certainly couldn't wear any more.

Other than editing, a lot of reading is going on - biographies of Shakespeare (research) British Library classic crime and old favourites from off the bookshelf - comfort reading. I'm trying to make nice meals from what is in the cupboards and freezer. Heavy on the garlic, as I will not be breathing over anyone. I've brought a pot of narcissi in from the garden, delicate yellow stars and a lovely scent, and I'm sitting in the sun outside the back door, wrapped in a coat and a blanket. It could be a lot worse.

People are trying to keep in touch using social media in inventive ways. On Thursday there will be a virtual garden party for the paperback release of Kirsty Ferry's The Secret Rose. It would be lovely if you could join the Choc-lit authors for a celebration.  Keep an eye on the Choc-lit facebook and twitter feeds to stay in touch.

Wednesday 18 March 2020

What ARE you reading?

Apparently Albert Camus' novel The Plague has become a current best seller, along with several others dealing with pandemic disease.  This I do not understand, as I am going all out for distracting frivolity in my reading matter right now. And incidentally my writing matter as well! I doubt I'll be visiting the South of France this summer, as planned, but I can still write about it. 

Some people are obviously of a very different mind. It's not actually unusual, as apparently Georgette Heyer's The Spanish Bride was a top selling title during World War Two. That book is not one of her more light-hearted Regency offerings, but is based on a true story of Harry Smith and his child bride Juana, set against the backdrop of the Peninsula War, that culminated in the battle of Waterloo. The re-telling of events the war is apparently very accurate and some of the book's popularity was said to arise from its appeal to male as well as female readership because of it. Obviously there is a heavy readership that wants its reading matter to reflect its life.

That is not me. I'm reading at the other end of the spectrum - romance, cosy crime, hi-tech thrillers. Anything that will take me away from reality.

It takes all sorts.

Wednesday 11 March 2020

Reading around the lines

A lot of writers will not read in their own genre when they are writing, in case they absorb too much and it gets into what they are doing. I don't avoid my own genre, then worry about it, which is fairly typical for me.  At the moment I'm doing OK, as writing in two styles has given me some leeway. Reading masters in your own genre can, of course, make you green with envy and totally despairing of ever being that good. It can also be an inspiration.

I've been thinking of a few of my romantic suspense/thriller favourites, and what I get from them - apart from an exceptional reading experience, that is. Something to learn. With all of them the suspense is a given, cracking fast moving plot, plenty of action, romance - not always front and centre, but always there.

To take four of them:

Greg Hurwitz - I am totally hooked on the Orphan X series. A little heavy on the boys' toys, but hey - if I ever have to equip my own personal SWAT team, I shall know exactly what to ask for. From his writing? Wheels within wheels. The story looks as if it's about to wrap up, but you know it can't because you are only a quarter in, and he just keeps doing that. 

Harlen Coben - secondary characters. His protagonists are  often surrounded by real or found family,

Jayne Ann Krentz - how to handle the spooky stuff, as her books often have a paranormal or supernatural edge, but it's all knitted into real life - contemporary, historical or futuristic. 

Karen Rose - incredible - and very hot -  love stories,  as an integral part of the fabric.

There are more, but those will do for now. You can read for pleasure, but you can always read also to learn from masters at their art.

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Words of Love

When did you last write a love letter?

Have you ever written one?

I have - but it was nearly half a century ago. These days you are more likely to be wooed (and dumped) via social media, or a text. It's a lost art.

This post was inspired by a visit to the love letters exhibit at the National Archive at Kew. It's a small but well presented display of some of the letters from the Archives. They cover all sorts of situations, people and time  periods, but the thing that is striking is that they are all quite sad. Which makes sense, because if you're writing a letter, then you're most probably apart from the one you love. The sub title of the exhibition is love, loss and longing, which sums it up very well.

We may not write letters much now, but they are a staple of a lot of books - usually historical, of course. These days it would be an e-mail, which isn't quite the same.

Finding a letter kicks off so many stories ...

Maybe it's time to write one to someone you love?