Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Words with emotional freight

 I'm a writer - words are what I do. The building blocks to be manipulated into a story. I enjoy them and what they can achieve. When you're writing, and reading, some words carry more weight than others. As a reader I particularly notice this with the sad words - forlorn, dejected, heartbroken, desolate - all stir something inside that goes a bit further than just unhappy. On the other side, ecstatic give you a lot more than happy, although happy is good too.  

Power to convey an emotion with just one word is heady stuff. It's not just the "emotional" words though. We invest all sorts of words with their own emotional baggage - possibly in a way that is unique to each of us. It all comes down to our experience as humans. Think of something like the word midnight - what do you get? Dark for a start, probably mysterious and after that it might begin to get down to personal association. Maybe romantic - the time when trysts are made and magical things happen in fairy tales. It might be spooky, assignations in graveyards and things that go bump in the night. In folklore terms it might be classed as perilous - boundaries, crossroads and thresholds being dangerous places, and midnight is the crossing place from one day to the next. I go with the romance/mystery - it's secret meetings and the glitter of jewels and swish of silk on the turret stairs, masks and long cloaks and masquerades, although there's a suggestion of the dangerous stuff in there too. 

As a writer it can be a challenge to go against the grain of words. The word wedding usually conjures up a joyful event, so making it an occasion for the predations of a con man in A Wedding on the Riviera was interesting. 

Writers are told to look at strong substitutes for more ordinary phrases - instead of 'walk quickly' you can hurry, rush, sprint, bolt. Even those can have gradations though, or they do for me. Bolt suggests running away - possibly with an element of alarm attached. Or maybe that's just me?

This post may have been inspired by the fact that I am currently doing the penultimate pass though the work in progress. I tend to write long, and I am attempting to chop off anything up to five thousand words, so am looking to make shorter substitutions. The use of words that will convey everything I want in one place is exercising my mind - that and removing some of the descriptive bits. I'm gathering those together as outtakes - maybe they'll be the subject of another blog at some stage. 


Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Creating a villain

 Many authors will tell you that they love their villains - or love creating them. It sounds a bit sinister, but there is a lot of fun to be had making up something that is really nasty. I always tell myself that it's therapeutic, letting out all my inner evil. Some people claim to take out their real life frustrations - with a unpleasant boss or colleague perhaps, by writing them into the story. I don't do that. My villains come straight out of my imagination, which is possibly just a little bit disturbing? 

While  revising the current WIP and thinking about books to come, I've been pondering the nature of villains. They are not all presented in the same way. In the last book I unexpectedly had two - one evolved during the official editing process. Before that he was a shadowy bit player. Sometimes the identity of the villain is a secret - the essence of the whodunnit, with the final unmasking. In the WIP - The Villa in Portofino - the reader knows from the outset who the villainess is - which gives me the chance to develop her personality, and her motives and also let the reader know in advance what she next has in store for the heroine and hero. That is a variation of the pantomime 'He's behind you.' Possibly it's the easiest format to manage. I don't know how satisfying or not it is for the reader - maybe that's one for a Twitter poll sometime in the future. (Makes a note) You do get the chance to enjoy the villainy up close. 

At the moment I am contemplating the shape of the next book - Masquerade on the Riviera - I want to have two villains, one seen and one not. At least that's how it looks at the moment. I'm wrestling with the complexities of keeping the identity of the second player secret, while still showing the reader what they are up to. I will work it out, but at the moment it is taxing the brain. One of my favourite romantic suspense authors, Jayne Ann Krentz is very good at a final twist with a second villain, so I am trying to channel her expertise. 

Does a book have to have a villain? For romantic suspense, yes. In other genres there might be an antagonist - a mother in law from hell, a stroppy ex, a business rival. In one of the favourite romantic tropes - enemies to lovers - the hero and heroine do it all themselves - very economical that. It's not for me - I enjoy my villains too much.

Now, about this hidden villain ...

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Progress report

 Update on The Villa in Portofino  - Book Three in the Riviera Series

It's made progress from something that looks like this 


to a typescript. Theoretically this is the second draft stage. Mostly it's just that I have got the words into type. 

Now the tricky stuff starts. This is the bit where all the proof reading, fact checking, and re-organising occurs. As I write long, it has to come down by a few thousand words. All the bits and bobs have to be put together, so that names and descriptions match. Yesterday I spent the afternoon sorting out a family tree - I have a Welsh family over four generations so I had to check when everyone was born and died and where they overlapped, and also fit them into a time scale for another family in Italy who also overlap at crucial points. It's done, and I am pleased with it , but even so there is still the nagging fear that I've got it wrong somewhere and someone is 120 years old!! I've trawled for Italian names and slotted those in where the draft helpfully said 'X'.  I've just checked on Italian Prisoners of War in Wales, to make sure those dates are right and I still have to check my thesis notes to confirm when there were POW's working in the cemetery in Cardiff. All the POW stuff is the story before the story, but I still need to make sure that it is right. As I go through cutting and editing I'll be making a list of all the other things that need fact checking, and a final time line to make sure that holds up to scrutiny. (Editors have eyes like eagles over stuff like that!)  I've shifted the timescale of the book significantly from what it was when I started writing, to make it fit with the growing season in the garden that is a major factor in the action. I'll be looking at that too - I have lots of magazine cuttings about growing roses to sort thorough. 

Bet you never think about all that backroom work when you're reading. Necessary scaffolding for the story. Writing the book is the easy part!

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Meeting Claire Sheldon - to talk about her second book - A Silent Child

 

An expression you will frequently hear in writing circles is “The Difficult Second Book”. The next book after a debut is supposed to be notoriously difficult to write.  There are some supporting factors for this idea. The first book might have been written and revised over a long period of time, years even. If the writer attends courses or belongs to a professional organization it may also have had the benefit of all sorts of advice and critique services. Then, after the euphoria of actually being published, reality strikes. You have to do it all again.  Your timetable is now in months, not years, and you have an editor to please!  And the biggest factor of all – you have readers – people who hopefully enjoyed the first book and are looking for more of the same, expecting it to be as good or even better.

 


With this in mind, when I invited Claire Sheldon on to the blog today I suggested this was something we could discuss. Clare’s first published book – a twisty thriller called Perfect Lie came out in June last year. Now her second in the “Lisa Carter Files” - A Silent Child, arrived as an e-book and paperback from Ruby fiction on 23 March 2021, and is already picking up great reviews.

 

Claire was happy to talk about the work that went into both books – but was the second book a problem?

 

For the first book, Clare’s protagonist, Jen, didn’t start out as a detective

 

When Perfect Lie was originally written Jen was going to be a former MI5 agent - same storyline and with the same characters but Max and the team were MI5 agents and not detectives. I had some interest from another publisher and when working with them we decided that it was best if she was just a former detective which is how Perfect Lie made it into the format it is in today.

 

As often happens in the world of books, that deal didn’t actually materialise, but Claire had already taken all the best advice for would-be published authors and was well into writing the next book - A Silent Child.

 


When I was signed by Choc-Lit/Ruby  I had one and a half books, but had to go back through A Silent Child and remove or change all the references to MI5 and then complete it to submit, which I did around the time Perfect Lie was released.

 

So far, so good. Difficult second book, what difficult second book? It was all systems go for book three. (And book four)  But then you throw in a pandemic.

 

I was all yeah I’m going to write book three and get it submitted when A Silent Child gets released! HA! I’ve been struggling! I have an idea for book four, contract permitting, but the events in book three have to happen first and any sort of creative writing has gone out the window. I don’t know if that is due to Lockdown and home schooling while spending most of my day sat at my computer working from home or the fact I brought a new computer game with my first Choc-lit pay cheque! The third book isn’t happening and won’t be being submitted by the 23rd March. Some say it’s the second book that is the killer, but in my case it is most definitely the third!

 

 I have every sympathy for that “life intervenes” scenario. My first two books were already written when Choc-lit took me on – they’d been completed for a reality writing contest in America – then life threw me a couple of curve balls and  there was a long gap before the next one came out. Claire clearly has her plans for books three and four mapped out. While she may not have met her own strict time table – and writers can be notorious perfectionists - there is still plenty of time for another installment to be ready for 2022.  We will be cheering her on, and in the meantime there are Perfect Lie and A Silent Child to enjoy.

 

 

The brand new book – A Silent Child

 

The streets are no place for a child ...



After a traumatic event that almost ripped Jen Garner’s family apart, life is finally starting to get back to normal.
Then a woman’s body is found in the river. Shortly afterwards, a young boy is discovered wandering the streets. He refuses to speak to anyone, just repeats one name over and over, to the confusion of most of the local authorities –but Jen knows exactly who he’s asking for, and it’s enough to make her blood run cold ...


To buy your copy click here

 


 

The first in Series - Perfect Lie

 


What is ‘perfect’ trying to hide?
Jen Garner tries her best to be ‘wife and mother of the year’. She helps organise school plays and accompanies her husband to company dinners, all with a big smile on her face.
But Jen has started to receive strange gifts in the post ... first flowers, then a sympathy card.
It could just be a joke; that’s what she tells herself. But then the final ‘gift’ arrives, and Jen has to question why somebody is so intent on shattering her life into pieces ...


To buy Perfect Lie click here.



Claire’s biography



Claire lives in Nottingham with her family, a cat called Whiskers and a dog called Podrick. She suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and as a result of the disease had to reduce her hours working in insurance for an Insolvency Insurer. This spare time enabled her to study a creative writing course which inspired her to write her debut, Perfect Lie. When Claire isn't working she enjoys reading crime novels and listening to music - the band Jimmy Eat World is her biggest muse! Claire is also an avid reader and book blogger. The inspiration for her novels comes from the hours spent watching The Bill with her grandparents and auntie; then later, Spooks and other detective programmes like Morse, A Touch of Frost and Midsummer Murders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

A new Welsh Crime Festival

Fancy spending a Saturday evening with Lee and Andrew Child of Jack Reacher fame? 

Well you can, as part of the Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival.

It's a brand new Welsh festival when readers get the chance to hear crime authors talking about their work. There are some other familiar names like Elly Griffiths, Clare Mackintosh, Peter James and Martin Edwards, but there are loads more writers too, who may not have crossed your radar yet - members of Crime Cymru - authors who have connections to Wales, and who write all sorts of books from historical  crime to thrillers. It's a chance to discover something new and have some fun. You might pick up a new favourite author or two. There are also events related to Welsh crime on screen - The Pembrokeshire Murders and Keeping Faith - and a Welsh language event. 

The festival starts on 26th April and runs until 3rd May and this year, as it is on-line, it's free!

Next year it will all be live in Aberystwyth. You'll have to pay then. If you've attended or read about events like Bloody Scotland, Crimefest in Bristol or the Theakstons' Crime Festival in Harrogate, you'll have an idea what to expect. This is the Welsh version. If you've not experienced this kind of festival before, I'm pretty sure you will enjoy it. This year is an opportunity to find out from the comfort of your arm chair. 

As I said, this year is free, although you do need to get tickets. There won't be a chance to get books signed, have a drink in the bar and maybe a chat to an author, but we'll have all that to look forward to next year. The festival is linking with a selection of Welsh indie bookshops, so you can order books through them, if something takes your fancy having heard a talk. 

You can find more details, and sign up for the festival newsletter on the website here. FESTIVAL WEBSITE

I've got my tickets, so I'll 'meet' you there. 



Wednesday, 10 March 2021

All in the name?

 If we ever get back to having live events for authors, you know, with people together  in a room, like a library or a bookshop - remember them - it's likely that the audience will at some stage be given the chance to ask the captive author questions. If you'd like to ask something slightly more inventive than usual - 'Where do you get your ideas' I'm looking at you - you could ask about choosing names. 

The power of names is very strange. Many authors will tell you that a book is not working, and then they change the name of the protagonist and it falls into place. When you have a few books out there in the world you have to keep tabs on supporting cast - keeping on repeating the same name can cause confusion. My 'go to' all purpose name appears to be Bobby. Why? I've had to change it at least once to avoid confusion. I currently have two partially written manuscripts in my stash, separated by about twenty years,  that I want to go back to, and both the heroes are called Luke. This will be a problem, because the name fits both of them. I think one is going to have to become a Luc/Lucian - I'll have to give him a French mother. He might even become Jean-Luc. Not a problem. 

Are there fashions in names? This post was prompted by reading my third novel in a month with a hero named Kit, short for Christopher. I love the name - fell in love with it reading Georgette Heyer's False Colours. I must remember it for a future hero. 

Names do have to have qualities attached to them. Very sorry to all those who bear that name, but I could never call an alpha hero Nigel. It just wouldn't feel right.  Names can denote age and social position. I frequently trawl those internet sites that give the most popular baby names in a particular year in order to make sure that I get a good fit. At one time there were choices you wouldn't make for a contemporary novel, but with old style names like Ava, Archie and Wilf coming back into fashion, everything has changed again.  Bible names are usually a safe choice, whatever the era, although better for males than females. Shakespeare is quite good for pretty names for girls. As I'm slanting work towards settings in Wales, Welsh names are coming up my agenda. I know that authors who write historicals swear by a trawl around a cemetery. Those who write vampire stories do too, but for somewhat different reasons. You can denote eras quickly with the right choice of names. A Regency hero, or a contemporary one, might be Justin, but the name is not such a good fit for a WW2 flying ace - he'd be more likely to be a John or a Peter. 

It's a very simple thing, or it seems that way, but naming of characters can be a fine art. 

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

It's a secret

Authors love secrets. If you pick up any fiction book off your bookshelf, it's pretty likely that someone in it will have one, or that the whole plotline is based on a secret. Secrets, of course, have to be kept, which gives you the plot driver straight away. 

I must admit that as a reader, I'm picky about my secrets. I get can quite annoyed when protagonists keep things from each other when if they just talked the whole thing could be resolved. Of course that would also be an early end to the book.

I suppose one of the criteria for a secret is that it had to have weight. Disclosure has to have significant consequences - life or death ones being the best. Also those that have consequences for people other than the protagonist. Protecting the innocent is another powerful plot driver. 

Why, as readers, do we have such a fascination with secrets? Is it innate nosiness? Is it the chance to play detective and try to figure it out? Is it identification -  shared experience or the chance to try on an experience that you've never had and can't imagine having. I must admit those books where a group of friends get involved in something terrible  as teenagers and then go off to live their lives with that secret behind them sometimes gets me speculating. How would you cope? I'm not sure that I would be able to. There's a common story that if you phoned any group of people and muttered the equivalent of 'Fly - all is discovered' a large proportion would be packed and at the railway station by nightfall. 

At the moment I'm unwinding secrets in the WIP, which is why they are on my mind. The majority are not being deliberately hidden, which is why I say unwinding - they are family mysteries, things that my heroine simply didn't know about. I think those are quite common 'secrets'. How often have you read about families discovering a father or grandfather had a distinguished war record that was never mentioned? The advent of popular DNA testing is taking that in a whole different direction too.    

In the future I've got an idea for a book that will involve a very big secret, that has been kept for centuries. It's an idea that I've been carrying around for a long time. I hope the time will soon come to write it.  

Writers love secrets. 

Monday, 1 March 2021

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

This time last year...

 


I have an anniversary of sorts on 28th February, which is Sunday. On that date last year  (a Friday) I spent the day in London, at the National Archive, doing a final reference check for the PhD. It was a good day, I enjoyed myself, found all the files I needed, looked around the With Love exhibition - love letters from the archives. (It's now on line and highly recommended, poignant and beautifully presented.) I travelled home on a packed train. It seems like a lifetime ago. Reports of a new virus were beginning to sound disturbing. Roll on a couple of weeks and my planned next trip to London to see a friend, once I was free of academia, had to be cancelled. And that was that. 

Who could have imagined?

One year later and the idea of travelling on a train or a bus gives me shivers. I'm out of practice. Going to the supermarket is scary enough. Like everyone, I'm waiting for the escape route of a vaccination, but even then I think it's going to be quite a while before I'm comfortable in crowded places or transport. I miss libraries, archives, exhibitions, cinema, theatres but I'll need to be very sure of myself before I venture into normality again. The social skills have gone up in smoke. 

Lockdown does have a few compensations, Zoom being one of them. Regular on-line meetings with writer friends means that get togethers can encompass attendees from all over the country or even the globe. I'm also enjoying a lot of on-line lectures and courses that either would not have been offered that way, or I would not have thought about joining. I have one on painting coming up in March, but at the moment I'm working through sessions from the International Thriller Writers, based in the USA. It gave me a small buzz, when passing the book display in Asda, to see books from Karin Slaughter and David Baldacci, with whom I had a masterclass on Monday.  Okay - it was a recorded panel session and they didn't know I existed, let alone that I was there, but it was very good and I got that little buzz. Reflected glory. I have been to that conference in New York and hope one day to go again, when I will get the chance to be in the room with those big names. You take what you can get when you're confined to the house. Sadly you can't currently buy the books in the supermarket, as they are classed as non-essential items.

Other than the scary supermarket and the occasional  delivery, the big excitement of the week is sorting the re-cycling! 

I'm really hoping that the next anniversary on 28 February 2022 will be very different, for all of us. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

What make a series?

 I'm currently contemplating a possible new series. Yes, I know I have more to do on the Riviera first. I did say contemplating. It's legal, doesn't cost anything and it's fun. The messy part starts when you begin writing the stuff. 

It's made me think about what constitutes a series. Obviously the books need to have something in common. On TV a series/serial can be installments of one story line, or possibly several, over a period of time. Or a group of characters appearing in each episode with a different story for each installment. The first would cover any of the soaps, the second detective dramas - same sleuth, different mystery. I think the first one might be a little more difficult to sustain in books in it's pure form, as the story would never complete, but lots of authors develop a plot line over a trilogy to good effect. The second option of course applies to numerous successful crime series in books or on the tele.

I've been thinking about other possibilities too. There might be a shared location - a village perhaps, with stories for different inhabitants. Lots of rom-coms are based on that sort of set up and the location becomes part of the attraction, and feels very real, like coming home to a familiar place. 

The model I've been using for my Riviera Rogues is using broadly the same location - various places on the Italian and French Riviera - with a loose connection thorough the detective agency and a new couple each time. The idea that I'm mulling over, like many romantic suspense novels, would be based around an organisation. Crime fighting - good guys but not official. I'm not planning on researching police or any of the alphabet soup agencies. If I invent it, I can do as I like with it. My game, my rules - or probably theirs, once the characters start getting up off the page and giving me grief. I'm thinking interlocking partnerships and again a new couple for each book, and the chance of a glimpse at characters who have had, or will have their own stories. 

I've done that a bit with the Rivera books - it's fun when you get an idea for including characters from other books in the current story. That's tended to be spontaneous; when I needed a Hollywood star it was natural that it would be Dan Howe from What Happens at Christmas.

This would be more organised and planned in the new idea. (Until the characters start doing their thing - see above) . So nice to have a plan - or think you have. 

So- as I said, I'm contemplating. At the moment that's taking the form of wondering how all the different ideas I have, some of which are partially written, can be brought together. That's the fun bit. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Sentimental journey?

 When I was in school He Who Would Valiant Be - with it's refrain of 'to be a pilgrim' was a favourite hymn. I guess that it may not be sung quite so much now in school assemblies, if they still have those. John Buchan's Pilgrim's Progress might not be a set text these days either. I'm sure I read it, but I don't remember it. My school days were a long time ago. 

The word came to my mind when I was writing the post about travelling last month, and I mentioned a pilgrimage I want to make to Scotland. A pilgrimage is defined in the dictionary as journey to a sacred place, and even in our secular society, there are many that still happen for that purpose, across many religions. A looser definition  that I have also seen used would be be a journey with a purpose, and my proposed trip to Scotland would encompass that. 

It is a very sentimental journey. One I promised I would make several years ago, although personal circumstances and pandemics have intervened. The place I want to go is to to the Isle of Orkney, most specifically to Scapa Flow, where the World War Two wreck of the warship HMS Royal Oak still lies. The ship was sunk by a U Boat in the second month of the war. I want to visit, as my mother's cousin, my cousin, once removed, was one of the sailors who went down with the ship. Ruben was just 20 years old, an only child, just out of training, who had a long standing ambition to join the navy. apparently it was all he ever wanted to do. His parents were naturally devastated, as were so many others who lost sons, fathers, brothers in a global conflict. 

With a writers imagination, which can sometimes be a burden as well as a blessing, I've often thought that his parents probably only had a sketchy notion of where their son died, and as far as I know they were never able to visit what would be his grave. I decided then that I wanted to go, for them. Very sentimental. It's my little pilgrimage, and I hope that I eventually get to do it. Maybe next year? 

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Retail therapy?

 
As regular readers will know, I'm incorrigibly nosey. I always say it comes of being a writer, but I suspect it's just a character flaw. I'm also a collector of unconsidered trifles - the magpie complex. You never know what that snippet heard on the radio or read in the paper might be useful. This time I heard a piece on the radio about changes in shopping habits since we've been  getting most of our retail fix on-line. Predictably fewer party dresses and more stuff for lounging in. I also read that one popular shoe designer is not doing shoes with heels for next season as we are all wearing flats and trainers. This is good for me, as I can't seem to manage heels these days. 

I don't think that any of this is going to be of any use for a book, although I must admit that I do like to send my heroines shopping on occasions. They also sometimes wear my clothes. Someone has to, if I'm not going anywhere to get some use from them! 

This got me thinking about my own shopping since lockdown, aside from food and other necessities. At first I was buying clothes for the much anticipated holiday on the Riviera that was supposed to be happening in May, and then in October - and then - well maybe this year, but not until I get my jabs, so that's not for a while. I now have a capsule wardrobe of two trouser suits, a dress, two jackets and a linen shirt all ready to go. Please don't ask if they still fit. I don't dare check. My other big expenditure is chocolate. 


Once I'd figured out that no, I was not going anywhere significant any time soon, and that Zoom only required a reasonably tidy top half, I stopped with the clothes  - except for the Christmas jumper, which was the result of bullying on the part of some of those Zoom attendees, who like to call themselves my friends. You can call it peer pressure if you like, but the result was that I caved and now have a red sweater  with glitter and reindeer. 

So - what took the place of additions to my wardrobe? Fairly predictably, books - the e-kind and and those supplied by post by my nearest lovely indie bookshop Griffin Books in Penarth.  A number of those were travel books - research for novels to come, I hope. I've also signed up for a number of online courses including some modules from the International  Thriller Writers' MBA programme all the way from New York and featuring some big names in crime writing, so I'm really looking forward to those. New adventures. My last indulgence, surprisingly, was jewelry. I have a decided weakness that way, and Facebook seems to have noticed and keeps showing me adverts for lovely stuff. I've been good and not bought anything in the last two months - had to pay the tax accountant and the gas people for the boiler insurance, and all those subscriptions to writing organisations that come due in January. Will I hold out for long now that the bills are done for the moment? I shall try.

Now comes the nosey part. I'd really love to hear about other people's indulgences while in lockdown. Is anyone brave enough to confess their shopping secrets in the comments? I promise I won't tell. 

Monday, 25 January 2021

The Romance of Wales

 Happy St Dwynwen's Day!

I'm blogging a little early this week in order to be part of the St Dwynwen Day celebrations with fellow members of the Cariad Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association. St Dwynwen is the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine. If you want to know more, see last week's post.  As with St Valentine, it's a day to do romantic things - give cards, flowers, gifts, cook a special  meal, tell someone you love them. 


When I was thinking about something that was distinctively Welsh, beautiful and romantic, one of my first thought was the landscape. Something that makes Wales unique in the world is having a waymarked Coastal Path that runs for the whole coast of the country and that passes close to St Dwynwen's church on Anglesey. In January and in lockdown making a visit is probably one for the bucket list at the moment, but we can still daydream.  I'm lucky - I was born and brought up by the sea and the local stretch of the path runs very close to my home. 

On the way around Wales the path traverses wild areas, cityscapes, traditional seaside resorts. It has wonderful unspoiled beaches, castles, poetic connections, wildlife, churches, Neolithic tombs, seabirds and islands. It's not just the sea either, there are vast expanses of open sky. Walking on the beach at sunset, or sunrise, has to be one of the best romantic scenarios - those photo shots of two sets of footprints in the sand - how romantic is that! The only thing Wales doesn't have is the perfect weather - although the sea has it's own charms in fog or storms, as long as you remember  to stay well away from dangerous locations in high tides. Like the tiger at the zoo, beautiful to observe from a safe distance, but don't get too close. The ideal place might be a cosy pub, if you can find one, or a hotel. I'm planning to create one of those for a future book.  A boutique hotel, with a Martha's Vinyard feel, gourmet food and a resident ghost. That's the big thing about being an author, if it doesn't already exist, or it's not in the right place, you're free to invent it. If you want to know more about the real thing, this is a link to the Visit Wales Site HERE

I've raided my photo archives for some pictures of bits of the path, which I  think show that Wales can be just as as lovely as any other parts of the British Isles, and a fine setting for romance. Most of them were taken when it was misty though - so you will have to add your own sunshine. It's a good setting for thrillers too - but that is another story. 

Enjoy St Dwynwen's Day. 

Jackson's Bay



Barry Island from Nell's Point 


Nell's Point from the Promenade 



The Dock breakwater and Jackson's Bay


Tenby Harbour - in the rain

One of Tenby's beaches at dusk

View over  the sea from Barry town 


The funfair at Barry Island



Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Romantic Wales


Everyone knows that St Valentine is the patron saint of lovers, but you don't have to wait until 14th February to make a romantic gesture. If you have connections to Wales, or even if you don't, there's a chance for romance on 25th January, which is St Dwynwen's Day.

St Dwynwen is the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine. Her shrine is on the Isle of Anglesey. You can find out more about the saint and the legend on the Visit Wales site, which is HERE

How do you celebrate St Dwywen's Day? Exactly the same way as the more famous St Valentine's Day - cards, flowers, a romantic meal, gifts, maybe even a proposal? 

The Cariad Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association is marking the day as a celebration of Wales and romance and highlighting romance writers who live in Wales, or have Welsh connections, and/or set their books in Wales. There will be greetings and blog posts. There is romance in the hills and in the valleys and on the coast and these writers are out to prove it. 

The Cariad Chapter - the name means love, but is also used as an endearment, like darling - covers South and West Wales and has members who are still working towards publication as well as those who are multi published in a variety of genres. Published novelists in the chapter cover everything from war time sagas to romantic thrillers, contemporary romantic comedy, sweet romance, M/M romance, historical romance - it's all romance. Some are set in Wales, some in other locations, even imaginary ones. There's something for everyone, whatever their taste in  romantic reading matter, all with a love story and most with a happy ending. 

Watch out on Monday 25th January on social media to see members of the Chapter wishing you  Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus - Happy Saint Dwynwen's Day. 

And how about surprising the one you love with a greeting on this special Welsh day?  






Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Holiday Blues?

January is traditionally the time for heavy advertising for holidays. I can remember when I was a kid the adverts on the TV on Boxing Day were always holidays, and there were pages of adverts in the Christmas TV papers too. In those days it was more likely to be Butlins and Blackpool rather than trips abroad. Yes, I am that old. With a new year, a few brave brochures trickling through the letterbox, intense fedupness with the same four walls and the prospect of vaccinations as a tiny speck of hope on the horizon, I've been thinking about my bucket list. It won't be for a while, but I am sort of making plans. Or maybe thinking about making plans? 2022 Maybe?

I have to say, I am a little worried about the big world, not having been much further than ASDA for nearly a year, not even into Cardiff! I expect I shall get used to it. So - what's on the list?

Cardiff first - baby steps!

Then in no particular order - 


Bristol - for my favourite fish and chip shop and the Egyptian galleries at the Museum - research for the book after this one. 

Bath - my second favourite fish and chip shop, the theatre and shopping

Oxford - I have my eye on the Pre-raphaelite exhibition at the Ashmolean and made a tentative date with a friend for viewing and afternoon tea, but really not sure if that will happen. Probably a bit too soon for jabs and relaxation of rules.


London - for theatre, bookshops, museums galleries, concerts - you name it - and events for the Romantic Novelists' and Crime Writers Associations. My London trips have been one of my greatest lockdown losses - I usually make at least half a dozen a year. The last time I was there
was 29th February 2020, at the National Archive in Kew, doing a last minute sweep for references for the PhD. I had a  lovely day - archives being one of my catnips. And then the world turned upside down. I miss it.

I also want to go to Scotland - I've never been and I have a family pilgrimage I want to make, I'll tell you about that another time. And Cornwall, ditto - but no pilgrimage. 

The trips abroad would fill a page - but the Riviera, of course, is top of the list and I do have a holiday paid for and 'banked' as it were, so I do hope I can make it. The other place I have a hankering for is Paris. When I lived in London I sometimes used to hop on the Eurostar and go for the day, but that was a long time ago now. I have a whole list of things to see from the Pere Lachaise Cemetery to the Cire Trudon shop selling specialist scented candles. I could get them here, but somehow the idea of buying them in Paris has taken hold. I also want to go to some of the places mentioned in Eloisa James's memoir of her year spent living in the city, Paris in Love. That would be following in the footsteps of my heroine Nadine, who did the same thing in A Wedding on the Riviera

Will I make it? Who knows? Maybe not this year. But soon? 

I'm also interested, if anyone would like to comment - what's on your bucket list? 


Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Peaking too soon?

 I'm on the home stretch with the first draft of the WIP - at least, I hope I am, but I have a dilemma - have I placed 'the dark moment' too early?

The dark moment, as you might guess, is when all seems to be lost - in romance it's usually a big emotional bust up  where the love affair is heading for the rocks, - before it all gets sorted out  for the Happy Ever After at the end. I have a few threads going on with this WIP - romance and suspense of course, but there is a secondary mystery as well to sort out about the villa that the heroine has inherited and some romantic poetry written by a contemporary of Byron and Shelly. That bit is totally invented, although it is plausible, as Liguria was a favourite place for the Romantic poets. It was there that Shelly drowned, a little further  down the coast at La Spezia.  But I digress.

I've put the dark moment for the romance first, followed by the mystery solution. I'm also happy to say that I've worked in excursion to Nice for Megan and Gideon, to be guests at Nadine and Ryan's wedding. How's that for cross referencing! I have another 'dark moment' right at the end, but that is the suspense one, with the final confrontation with the villainess. Really there is probably nothing darker than someone trying to kill you. (I'm not giving anything away mentioning the villainess, by the way, as in this book you know who she is from the start.)  It feels like the right order now, but I originally intended to solve the mystery bit first, so I am wondering if I have got it right. 

Actually - as I am writing this, I've thought of a slant that will give something extra for the suspense moment, if I can make it work. Blogging can loosen the brain cogs. 

I dare say that if she doesn't like the order my editor will say so, if and when it gets that far, and I can shuffle it around again. If I don't decide to do it myself in the next draft. 

It's a complicated  business, this writing lark