Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Three women

 Last week, looking at the family surrounding Megan, I pointed out that the book had a strong female presence, although many of those characters only appeared in the background. I thought this week I'd look at three women who actually appear on the page. 

First off has to be my heroine. On the surface Megan is quite reserved, independent and self contained, although the reader sees below that surface and knows her uncertainties. Her cool demeanor is her protective armour. She has adapted to the knowledge that she has no close family, and the discovery that she had an aunt that she might have got to know is distressing and fuels her need to uncover the details of Olwen's life. Her academic qualifications are quite new, and she hasn't yet grown into them, or got used to having them. During the course of the book she develops as her own woman, and understands that this is what she is doing, which is important. She is very clear sighted and analytical, which I attribute to her academic training. Under Gideon's influence a warmer, more relaxed persona gradually appears as she reaches out to him and to make friends in her new home. It was lovely to watch her emerge as she falls in love - although she is careful about admitting that is what is happening. Gideon is the perfect man to bring out the best in her - able to let her unfold into her full potential.

Alcinda - friend to both Gideon and Megan.  Where she came from I have no idea. She just walked off the page at me and that was that. She behaved to me exactly like she did to everyone in the book! Exceptionally talented artist, moody drama queen, self confident, opinionated, bossy, volatile, with an unexpectedly perceptive and empathetic side to her nature. Or maybe it's not so unexpected, considering her artistic talent. She's a powerhouse, all surface emotion and a good foil to Megan. When she arrived on the scene I knew she was one of those supporting characters who might be in danger of taking over the book, but she never actually did that.  Maybe I'm better at keeping control of my personnel than I realise. 

Gabriella - my villainess. There was never any doubt that it would be a villainess, although when I started the book I was not going to identify her, making her one of several possible candidates surrounding Megan. That proved far too complicated and anyway she was not having any of it. She was much too entitled and conscious of her position and importance to let me hide her away. I had a very clear idea of a woman in her fifties, trapped in a time warp of what she considered to be good taste and correct behaviour.  She never considers anyone's wishes but her own, but she an isolated and rather lonely figure. Had she succeeded in taking the villa from Megan I'm not sure what would have happened to her, once she lost the driving force of her obsession. 

Three very different women. I enjoyed writing all of them.   

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Full supporting cast

 A Villa in Portofino was complicated book to write. Managing five generations of a family got very hectic and my editor and I went round in circles several times trying to figure out how many 'greats' were needed in the relationships. Not sure I'm going to be doing anything like that again in a hurry. 

Backstory was important in the book too, as part of the plot. Heroine Megan knows next to nothing about her Great - Great Aunt Olwen (her grandmother's aunt) who has left her the villa of the title, but she is keen to find out. I had a lot of complicated unravelling to do as she puts together the story - clues and red herrings and imperfect memories - the kind of thing that happens in a lot of families. Like doing a jigsaw puzzle, where a lot of the pieces are sky, and at least three come from a completely different box...

The other thing about those five generations was that there was no room for all the back stories - Megan's parents and her grandmother could only really have walk on parts where explanation was needed to move the story on. It wasn't until the book was finished and I was at the copy edits stage that I began to wonder again about all those people I had created in order to give Megan's life a framework. There was never any place for detail of that kind in the book, so I had a collection of somewhat ghostly figures, the supporting cast who were essential to the plot, or to making Megan who she was, or both. They all gave me very strong impressions of their chief character traits though - enough to clearly make their impact on Megan's story, despite appearing only briefly on the pages. 

The great great grandfather, whom I christened the patriarch - he never had a name - was very much of another era, a man of decided views who had been through two world wars and expected to rule his household and be obeyed in all things. Rosalind, Megan's grandmother, was born in 1949 - a teenager in the swinging sixties, the first of her family to go to university and have a career - I was very certain of that- although for reasons of plot she also has a baby - Megan's mum - at the age of twenty two, so the career would have probably been on hold for a while. A strong woman who had probably lived a full and interesting life, but to Megan was simply Gran - the person who represented love and home. I  like to think her strength has had a subtle influence on Megan and the subsequent decisions she makes about the villa and her new life, although she may not be fully aware of it. Megan's parents came over as rather feckless in respect of family matters - more interested in their careers as archeologists than in their daughter, although her choice of an academic career was surely influenced by them, and maybe some of her insecurities - striving for their notice and approval? Looking at it now the men in the family, great-great grandad aside, are pretty nebulous. The story comes down through the female line - which didn't really occur to me when I was writing it. It's a book with a strong female presence - including having a villainess rather than a villain. 

The weight of complex family history had a part to play for hero Gideon too, and for of my villainess, Gabriella. Unlike some authors I never set out to have a 'theme' as such, although books do sometimes acquire them behind my back. I did know that family history would be a vital part of A Villa in Portofino, but now it is completed that sense of family is much stronger than I anticipated, so it looks as if the theme that the book chose for itself is family. Maybe the friend who told me that I had written a romantic suspense family saga was onto something.   

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Welcoming a special guest - Ruby author Jan Baynham


Today I have a special guest on the blog. I’ve invited Jan Baynham, who is a friend and fellow member of the Cariad writing group, to talk about the way the events of the Second World War still have an influence on romance writing today. Jan's new book, Her Nanny’s Secret, is one of her trademark historical dual time line stories, beginning with dramatic events in the war that send the echo of secrets down to the 1960s.  In my new book, A Villa in Portofino, a clandestine war time romance is the inciting incident for an inheritance that changes my heroine’s life.

Considering that the war ended nearly eighty years ago, it still has a huge place in the British psyche – the way that the newspapers headline the need for ‘Blitz Spirit’ in times of crisis is just one example. Maybe this will continue until all those who lived through it are finally gone? I don’t know about that, but it is still a very popular setting for romance and family stories like those Jan writes, much loved by readers.

Perhaps this continued fascination is not so surprising? The Second World War was the first in hundreds of years that had an impact not just in the numerous theatres of war, but also at home, because of the invention of the bomber aircraft. In this war the folks at home were just as likely to face death and danger as the soldier on the front. The nightly ritual of securing blackout curtains to avoid showing a light and becoming a target was a constant and universal reminder of war in town and country. It was also a time of dislocation. Thousands of young men, and some women, who would probably never have travelled further than fifty miles from home in normal circumstances found themselves in North Africa, in Italy, in France – where Her Nanny’s Secret is partially set. At home other young women too were on the move – into the services and to factories for armament manufacture or into the traditionally male jobs that were now vacant. This dislocation, and the sense of threat and urgency, must have coloured all kinds of relationships – but possibly particularly romantic ones  - and that gives us writers our inspiration. 

I’ll hand you over to Jan now to tell you about what she did with that inspiration in Her Nanny’s Secret.

Thank you, Evonne. My novel opens in 1941 when WW2 is raging in Europe. The main character, Annie Beynon, lives in a tied cottage with her father, Ted, who is an agricultural worker on the Cefn Court estate owned by the wealthy Pryce family. Although rural mid-Wales was unscathed from the horrors and devastation of bombing raids, the impact of the war was felt in many other ways. Ted Beynon had already lost two of his sons in active service in France so it was understandable when his youngest son, Reggie, enlists, he is scared he will lose his life, too.

The row between her father and Reggie still resounded in her ears. She could hear the panic in her father’s voice… The fear was there, fear that another of his sons was going off to war, never to return.

Husbands, sons, friends and lovers were leaving the village and loved ones didn’t know when or if they’d ever see them again. The war did not discriminate by social class. Lady Delia Pryce was just as fearful for her son, Edmund, as he undertook sorties over occupied France as a Squadron Leader flying Spitfires.

But this ... it’s the uncertainty. Not knowing if I’ll ever see him again. I couldn’t bear it. What if he doesn’t survive? Two children in the graveyard? No, I couldn’t bear it.

The uncertainty of whether servicemen would ever return home resulted in decisions that perhaps would not be made in peacetime. Couples in love grabbed precious moments together. This provided an ideal opportunity for me to write about a couple falling in love at a time when the future was uncertain.

 She realised that whatever the future held, she would never regret that moment…

‘Come back to me safe and sound,’ Annie said, but she knew, deep down, that was out of her hands. Too many young couples had had their dreams dashed in the cruellest of ways.

In the novel, I try to capture what living in a small Welsh village during wartime was like. There are numerous references to food rationing, the importance of adhering to blackout rules, how rural activities with Young Farmers’ clubs, horse shows, eventing and hunting all came to an end. Separation from loved ones was part of life. Listening to the wireless was how families kept up to date with world events and receiving news by letter was the only way of keeping in touch.

On the other side of the channel, people in Normandy were experiencing a very different war. The area was under German occupation and the French were suffering extreme hardship. We meet Odile who lives with her parents, eking out a living on their farm and who leads a double life as a member of the French RĂ©sistance movement.

 Odile was determined to do her bit. The movement was strong in her town, and the rural community she was a part of was a proud one. They would never give in or surrender. She told herself that every small gesture and undercover deed she could do for the cause was worth it.

One of Odile’s undercover deeds has a huge impact on Annie’s story and setting the novel in wartime makes it authentic, I think. At any other time, the situation would have been resolved more quickly. When the story moves to 1963, memorials to the war dead in both Wales and France are everywhere, testament to the futility of war with the names of so many young men who gave their lives for King and country. Odile’s role during the war is still remembered in the area of Normandy where she lived.

The secrets and forbidden love affair in Her Nanny’s Secret could have formed the plot of a novel set in any era, but by choosing WW2, I’ve tried to take the inspiration presented by the time to give added poignancy to Annie’s story. I hope that readers will enjoy the novel and not judge her too harshly.


Buying Links for Her Nanny’s Secret:




Author Links:

Twitter: @JanBaynham

Facebook: Jan Baynham Writer

Blog: Jan’s Journey into Writing




Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Living vicariously


One of the jibes thrown at romance readers by those who don’t approve of the habit – and sadly there are plenty of them around – is that books that promise a Happy Ever After are unrealistic – that readers are being encouraged to have impossible expectations, viewing the world though rose coloured glasses. Everything – including love – has to be serious and damned hard work.

My answer to that is why? Romance readers are just as aware that they are reading fiction as readers who enjoy horror or the hunt for a serial killer - but somehow those genres are considered more respectable. Murder trumps love any day. Just because a romance might be an idealised view of the world why can’t it be considered an aspirational example of hope and optimism – even if real life is often a triumph of hope over experience?

I never make any secret of the fact that I read for escapism and I write to offer that to others too. I can get plenty of real life off the ten o’clock news, I expect a book I read for pleasure to offer me something else.  Part of that escapism is the chance to live vicariously. The Riviera series – of which A Villa in Portofino is the latest - is about glamour and luxury as well as love and the scary suspense stuff.  I’m never going to be a millionaire, or married to one, never going to own a yacht or a villa in the South of France, my hotel stays are unlikely to be as luxurious as the ones I bestow on my characters, I don’t have designer clothes or jewellery or expensive art on my walls, but it’s great fun to imagine and indulge and doesn’t cost anything. It’s not just material goods; I can have sunshine, marvellous food, flowers and scent. It’s all part of the package. Writing the series gives me the chance to explore a lifestyle I’m never going to have in real life. I hope it give the reader the same opportunity. 

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Publication day flowers


Publication day!!!

 At it's finally arrived. Publication day for the third in the Riviera series.

And there's a blog tour - catch up with me on these dates to find out more about the book.

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

A Villa in Portofino - what's the connection to the war?


The plot of A Villa in Portofino begins in the Second World War – with a love story between a young Welsh girl and an Italian POW. It’s not a time slip or a saga, the war is just where it begins, an explanation for how my heroine Megan comes to inherit a fabulous if neglected villa and a massively overgrown garden in Italy. And if you could see my garden at the moment you’d have an idea where the ‘inspiration’ for that came from.

I wanted to explore the idea of family secrets and this was helped along by the numerous stories of ordinary men, and some women, who were only revealed to have done extraordinary things in the war after their death. The book does not have that kind of revelation in it, but I was able to use the dislocation of war to kick the whole thing off.

The other inciting inspiration was something I came across in my PhD studies. A tiny fact that I knew I had to use somehow. As the war progressed and more and more men were either called to the services, or to war work making armaments, labour for other things became scarce, not least in the Cardiff city graveyards. They even allowed women to become grave diggers – for the duration – which gives you an idea of the scale of the problem. The tiny thing I found was a report from the Cemetery Superintendent in October 1944 that he had secured the services of some Prisoners of War to work in the cemeteries for a week and was hoping to renew this arrangement. Like so many fragments, that was it – no further record of what the men were doing and whether the Superintendent got his wish, but the idea stayed with me. And of course it bloomed into a way for a good looking Italian boy to meet and fall in love with a young Welsh girl while she tended her aunt’s grave.

This is where the author’s imagination steps in. I don’t know if the POWs would have had the chance to fraternise like this, although relations between Italian prisoners and the local people seem on the whole to have been fairly good – this area of Wales had a previous history of migration, as witnessed by numerous ice-cream parlours. Eduardo would probably have been grave digging, not gardening as I have envisaged – although there were frequent complaints about the state of the grounds, so the gardening could have been true. I’m claiming artistic licence though – it might have been possible – and that was enough to give me the starting point of my story.

Megan does not find out the details of her great-great aunt’s elopement until quite late in the book, so you are getting a sneak preview.  And the love story between an Italian boy and a Welsh girl sets the scene for a brand new love story when Megan inherits and sets about restoring the villa and its garden.


Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Why Portofino?


Choosing a location for a new book is a strange and serious business. As my current series of escapist romantic suspense is the ‘Riviera’ series I do have some parameters to work on – although they can be stretched, as you will find when the current WIP hits the bookshelves.  But that is another story – literally. I have plenty of scope to choose from when sticking to the more orthodox interpretation, given that ‘Riviera’ can be French or Italian and that there are a number of spectacular locations to explore. I will admit Portofino was not high on the radar when I began playing with an idea for an abandoned villa, an overgrown garden and an unexpected inheritance. 

The place is gorgeous, no question. I say that on the basis of a brief visit off a cruise ship many years ago. The memory stayed with me – and yes, there is a reference in the book to a similar visit. This book has quite a lot of me in it. It would still not have occurred to me as a location, except that as part of an on-line festival that my publisher organised I did a fun twitter poll to let readers chose a possible location for the new book. I threw in Portofino on the basis of that memory and because I wanted a location on the Italian side of the border. I was confidently expecting Cannes or Monte Carlo to be the winner, but guess what?

At this point author sits down and thinks. The result – yes, why not? And I have to say I have greatly enjoyed it. Research visits were out of the question, but very strong memories and some really helpful video on YouTube made it come alive. I hope readers will enjoy it as much as I did.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021


 OK - the edits are done, unless the proofer comes back with something drastic. I hope not. I have a reasonably happy editor and a blank diary. Well - that's not quite true. I have a new manuscript that I want to get my teeth into, but I also have CHORES. Like dealing with whatever is making the floor in the kitchen stick to my feet, or my feet stick to the floor, whatever is your preference, and a mountain of ironing, not to mention cleaning and cooking. I have a new freezer on order and I have to eat the contents of the old one before they can deliver it, and there are bills to pay and I have blogs to write and other pre-publication stuff to deal with. 

So, it's going to be a while before I can re-acquaint myself with the WIP.

It's also September which for very personal reasons is my least favourite month of the twelve, and not just because it is the start of autumn and then all down hill to winter - cold and dark. 

But there is one bright spot - the chance to hold on to summer for a while longer. Publication day for A Villa in Portofino on 21st September. 

Something to look forward to. How am I going to celebrate? Not sure yet, but publication of my sixth book will still be an event, culmination of a lot of work - mine and the team at my publisher. Book seven might be on hold for the moment, but A Villa in Portofino is going to be a lot of fun in the meantime. 

And if you're holding on to summer don't forget this short story collection from Choc-Lit and Ruby authors, with proceeds to MIND.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

In Haste

 Very short post today as I am in the midst of second edits and as we know, everything stops for edits.  So - it's just a quick reminder that the book itself is out on 21 September and a trailer for forthcoming attractions. 

I've got a list of posts I want to share in the next few weeks with some glimpses backstage - outtakes that didn't make it to the final cut, a profile of the three important female characters, and a post on the book that I meant to write and the book I ended up writing - not quite the same! This book was a personal journey in many respects, using experiences from my own family history, my academic research and objects that I have inherited so I'll be talking about that too. 


Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Writing Archaeology

 Not the kind that digs trenches, although I do have an archaeologist in the next book. I'm currently awaiting the next round of edits, and do not want to get too deep in the WIP so am doing a job I've been ducking for ages - excavating the house. At the moment that is all my cabinets with writing related contents. 

There are all sorts, old manuscripts that never saw a publisher and probably never will, the first drafts of published books, snippets on interesting stuff - from concierge services (Does that sound familiar) to white hat hacking, by way of forensics, old NWS reports, useful ephemera from trips abroad (mostly Italy!), notes from courses, conference papers. Some I'm keeping some I'm shredding. 

There are various awards and commendations. that I have never displayed. As part of this revamp I hope to have a proper 'study'   - which will not mean that writing will not take place all over the house, as now, but that my paperwork will be corralled in one place so maybe I shall have a chance to rectify that. 

I've not yet found the drawer full of rejection letters, but I know it is there. What to do with them? Mundane shredding, or a ritual bonfire? I'll try and remember to let you know. 

The edits will be back, probably today and then it is all systems go for release day on 21 September. E book first, then there will be audio and paperback in due course. I have a lot of things about the writing of the that book I want to share with readers, but I'm hanging on to those until it is actually out. Maybe I'll tell you a little about them next week though. In the meantime, A Villa in Portofino is on pre-order. 



Thursday, 12 August 2021

Here it is!

 The cover is revealed and the book is live for pre-order if you want to be sure of your copy on release day 21st September - which is almost exactly one year since A Wedding on the Riviera came out. 

You can preorder HERE

I have a brief breathing space before the final edits come back - so today I'm might be catching up with Masie and Elliot from book four in the series! 

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Unveiling tomorrow

 I'm still working on the finishing touches for A Villa in Portofino, but in the meantime tomorrow Thursday 12th the cover will be revealed. 

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

In Haste

 The edits for A Villa in Portofino have arrived, and I am elbow deep, so this is a quick post. The book is meant to be out in September, so you can see the problem! 

Once it is all done I'm really looking forward to posting about aspects of the book and it's back story. I'm planning to talk about some of the out takes - cuts I made to reduce the word count, about the family treasures and history of my own family that I used to form the story, and about the book idea that I started with and the book that I ended up with - that was a journey.

And of course there will be the all important cover revel. 

For the moment, I'll see you on the other side. 

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

How the ideas get in

 Writers are like sponges - well this one is. While I would never conform to that old joke about "Be careful or I'll put you in my book" - I don't do the vampire thing on people - I do tend to absorb and use other things.

It's strange too how things co-incidentally turn up. Take the WIP. It features a wealthy family whose members are collectors. For one of the collections I chose the idea of clowns. I had in mind the Stephen King kind and the possibility of something a bit creepy. When I googled clown art though, a lot of what came up were figures from the Commedia della'arte  - especially Harlequin and Pierrot. I was looking for examples of expensive art and was quite surprised to find that Picasso and Jean Cocteau were among the artists who painted and sketched these subjects repeatedly. Immediately things began to shift. Then I did one of the Wallace Collection's weekend lecture series ( I find them very good and very enjoyable) The subject was  the painter Watteau. And his subjects? - often characters from the Commedia delle'arte. He also had the advantage that many of his paintings have been 'lost'. Which may mean  that some have been in private hands for a long time and have dropped out of sight. Perfect. My clown collection, although keeping the name, has moved over to something much more romantic and picturesque, with a couple of unknown Watteau canvasses of my own devising. I've had a lot of fun creating my expensive clown collection which soaked up something that was totally unexpected. 

I'm also attempting to clear out old paperwork - I've bought a new shredder and everything. Author's  homes tend to accumulate papers and books in quantity. One drawer I've just sorted was 'ideas' - all kinds of bit and pieces - leaflets, clippings from newspapers, scribbled notes. Although I hadn't looked in the drawer for ages, I found that a lot of the topics had found their way into books anyway. There was an article on jewel thefts in the South of France which is an overarching background theme in the Riviera books, and another on parkour - which involves a lot of athletic and  scary running about on roofs and buildings and which made an appearance in What Happens at Christmas.  

I've got some interesting stuff still to explore - white-hat hacking, survival skills, lots about art, folklore and magic. Plenty to keep me busy - and I hope a lot of fun. 

Wednesday, 21 July 2021


 Authors often have quite a thing about names - a character with the wrong name, especially if it is hero or heroine, can throw the whole thing off. Weird, but there you are. 

Names are one thing, but I have been thinking about what comes before the name. I began to ponder it when my new energy provider addressed me in an e-mail by my first name. Chummy and all that, but I wasn't sure that I approved. I can be old fashioned like that, and I am employing them! It started me thinking. The optician always calls me Ms. Wareham. The doctor varies - Ms. in correspondence, first name in person. The university it's always Dr. Wareham. 

It can be a small but important detail when you are writing. My heroine in A Villa in Portofino has a PhD and as much of the book is set in Italy - who would have guessed - where I understand there is more formality over this sort of thing, I have scattered Dotoressa around liberally. Maybe too liberally. My editor will not doubt tell me. I was reading a crime novel recently - can't remember title unfortunately - where a particularly unpleasant and supercilious type kept putting the female police officer in her place by referring to her as Miss, instead of by her rank. 

I remember while I was growing up all the neighbours were referred to as Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Smith even when they were friends and spent long times on the doorstep gossiping. Tradespeople and shop keepers then would certainly not use first names. Worth recalling if you are writing "Historical". Although I do not see how something that I remember can be historical!!!!!

It's a small thing, but worth thinking about for subtlety and for the reader to appreciate that the writer knows how things were done in the past. 

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Just an update.

 The new Choc-lit/Ruby anthology Sunny Summer Treats came out yesterday. A collection of short stories and flash fiction with a summery theme and a holiday feel, with the proceeds being donated to the mental health charity MIND. Do you have your copy yet? If not, there's a link HERE

My short-short story is set in Paris and is the last one in the book - there are plenty of goodies before that to be enjoyed. I hope you do enjoy them and that they tempt you to sample some of the full length works by some of the Choc-lit and Ruby authors featured. 

In other news - my contract for The Villa In Portofino has arrived. Not yet read and signed, one of the fun bits of being an author, but necessary. Edits are on their way, so I will have my head down dealing with them for the next few weeks, with the aim of having the e-book out in September. Posts might be a bit brief until then. 

I'm looking forward to sharing some of the "backstage" elements of writing the story in the run up to publication, and a few of the outtakes that didn't make it into the final cut. My final cut that is. I have a feeling there might be a few more before the thing finally makes it into print. Always a wrench to murder your darlings.

Wish me luck, and I'll see you on the other side. 

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Where are we now?


Well - I'm still waiting for a verdict from the publisher on The Villa in Portofino, but I have begun book four of the Riviera series. 

I have twenty thousand words of Masquerade on the Riviera done and I have just hit a junction where the story turns, so am having a moment to re-group. This is the point where I am always convinced that I do not have enough story and it will only end up as a novella. Three months later I am usually scratching my head wondering how I can knock off at least five thousand words to bring it in on the respectable side of one hundred thousand. We shall see how this one shapes up. 

I'm having a ball so far- although I do need to get my head round some productive plotting soon. I spent the Sunday afternoon before last arranging a robbery, and it was great fun. Somehow I have managed to get a secret passage into the action. You can blame that on a childhood addiction to Enid Blyton. I have to figure out how to get my characters to Monaco/Monte Carlo, how to get something squishy involving lychees into the plot, how get that scene in the car park to work and how to stage a very grand ball. I suspect the book might end in Las Vegas, which is not the Riviera, but that one is still in the melting pot. 

Of course all this goes on the back burner if I get edits back. I hope I do get edits! 

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Summer Treats


Something special from Choc-lit and Ruby for the summer - an anthology of short fiction that will take you to holiday destinations and sunny locations even if you're on a staycation - or even just in the back garden. With stories that travel from the Greek Islands to Portugal to Paris - that one is mine  - you can enjoy some short reads from sixteen Choc-lit and Ruby authors with the proceeds from sales going to the mental health charity MIND. 

It's out as a e-book on 16th July but you can pre-order it now to be sure of getting your copy.


Wednesday, 23 June 2021

DIY Tropes?

 It has recently occurred to me that I am starting to manufacture my own tropes  - recurring themes. I seem to have developed a bit of a thing about towers - the romantic gothic kind - there's one in the book that has just gone to the publisher and one has sprouted in the new WIP. Also vintage clothes - both Nadine in A Wedding on the Riviera and Megan in The Villa in Portofino have vintage outfits. This is a bit strange, because IRL I don't have any vintage gems in the wardrobe - well only ones that have got that way all by themselves with the passage of time. I do love the old styles though - vintage Hollywood in particular. I've also been used to having my own in-house couturier service which may have had something to do with it. Sadly this is no more, but there are still plenty of "designer" things in the wardrobe and I can still get into most of them.

The most disturbing repetitive trait, which I noticed some time ago and have tried to curb, is a startlingly high incidence of people falling from great heights, usually with unhappy results. Despite  murdering people in a variety of other ways, pushing people off buildings seems to be my method of choice for sudden death. I was congratulating myself on a murder that I haven't used before for The Villa in Portofino when it occurred to me that there were also three other instances of falls - two are off cliffs and only two are fatal, but even so ...

I'm pondering this, without much success. A therapist might be able to help? Why is falling my default setting? I must admit I do have a bit of a thing about my balance on staircases and I did manage to break my wrist pitching off the front steps while putting out the recycling, so maybe that has something to do with it. 

I'm going to have to watch what I am doing in the WIP - that tower has to stay romantic, not deadly. 

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Grit in the Oyster

 If you ask a writer where they get their ideas  from you're apt to get a hollow laugh. One reason is that it is a much too frequent question and the other is that we often have absolutely no idea. Things get scooped up and jumbled together in the subconscious and sometime later a book results. Or a bit of a book. Or a few lines. Or something. 

Take the very new and hardly fledged WIP. I have no clue why I decided that it would feature Egyptology. I mean, why Egyptology? Like I know anything about that? Fun finding out though - and it is getting modified a bit to make it more manageable - I'm not totally daft.  I just have this creepy scene in my head - in the dark with a lot of sarcophagi looming out of the murk and this ominous creaking noise ...

It has occurred to me though that, Egyptology aside, things can get absorbed - like grit in the oyster - and end up re-appearing in a modified form.  I've got two of those so far in said WIP.  When I was a guest on crime  writer Lorraine Mace's blog a while ago she asked about sites for dead bodies - crime writers have those sorts of conversations all the time - it tends to make for nervous spouses on occasion. I mentioned that I've always felt that the carrels in an academic library had distinct possibilities. In the evening with low lights on the quieter top floors. It hovered for a while and now, what do you know, there in the first chapter of the WIP ...

The other idea came out of an off the cuff exchange over Facebook with my favourite Cardiff jewellers about a hand over of some family opals in a cinema car park. (They have now been turned into a gorgeous brooch) The idea appealed to me and we joked about putting it in a book. Then the grit began to work. The WIP features a spectacular necklace. I am now pretty sure it will also be featuring some sort of exchange in a car park - although it will be on the Riviera, not a local cinema. I'm looking forward to explaining to a tour guide, when I finally get back to research trips, that deserted car parks are high on my list of "must visits" 

So - that's how two bits of grit might have got into the oyster. It remains to be seen if they emerge as pearls ...


Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Cover story

 Now that the latest manuscript has gone to the publisher I have a new set of milestones - what the readers' panel thinks of the book - I hope it's positive because the next two depend on it - the edits - not so much fun - and seeing the cover which is always exciting. You often hear horror stories of authors who hate their covers so maybe I am lucky as I have loved all mine. If we get that far, it will be interesting to see how the designer interprets the villa and it's garden. There will definitely have to be roses. 

There are fashions in covers. I am just a little bit addicted to standing in front of the book display in ASDA admiring them. There are good old tropes - back version of a woman usually dressed in a red coat - although lately I have seen bright yellow creeping in. She is walking or running depending whether it is a romance or thriller. Or there's the back view of a man - these are thrillers - with some sort of desolate urban scene in the background. Lately romances seem to be either rural or beach scenes with either a house or a figure or simply a plain pastel background with a variety of odd items scattered over it. Pink and turquoise seem to be popular colours. Crime/thrillers have been featuring hard blues and yellows for a while, with an indistinct background for a bold font for authors name and title and often with a sub title interleaved thorough it. 

I have to admit that when you are looking at a row of books - at least when I am - they tend to blur into each other. A bit of variety might be nice. On the other hand these covers clearly give out a signal for readers about the contents - that solitary guy walking down sepia mean streets probably isn't going to find romance at the end of them - or if he does she will probably meet a nasty end at the hands of the villain so he can go back to walking those mean streets alone, just that little bit more damaged and jaded. Cynical? Me? 

I know it is good for readers to understand what they are getting - to be able to pick up a book with confidence that they have a head start on the possibility of enjoying it, but it's that blurring again. But then fashion is fashion.

And I still can't wait to see what sort of cover the new book might get. Will it have roses?

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

So many tropes, so little time

 Well book three of the Riviera series has gone to the publisher. Now we have to see what the readers' panel will make of it. In the meantime, I have begun book four - but it will probably be slow going as I do have housekeeping tasks that have been on hold for too long to be ignored much longer. 

What's the new one about? At the moment it seems to be somewhere between a county house mystery crossed with something creepy involving Egyptian mummies, but I'm going to have to sort that out shortly!!! Books sometimes change quite a bit in the process of being written, the latest one did. 

My trouble? I'm easily led. If I read something that I enjoy, then I want to have a go. Sometimes that involves turning the idea on it's head, which is how A Wedding on the Riviera came out of reading a couple of runaway bride books in quick succession.  I've always wanted to play with an amnesia book and I definitely have plans for a treasure hunt book, with clues and cyphers and everything, and then there's stolen art ...

I've just been reading the Josephine Tey classic Brat Farrer and now I want to write an imposter book - one where a long lost heir comes back to claim an inheritance. Mary Stewart's The Ivy Tree also has a hand in that. It's interesting - two different treatments of the same idea. You know from the start that Brat is an imposter. In The Ivy Tree the identity of the heroine is much more ambiguous. It's many decades since I read that one for the first time, but I recall changing my mind several times over whether this really was Annabel the lost heiress. 

Thinking about it, it would probably be much more of a challenge to write a contemporary version - DNA being what it is - but maybe that would be an added attraction - how to get around it. I think you'd need more than one conspirator - not just a coach to ensure the imposter had all the knowledge and background but someone in the house, to run interference. See - the possibilities are fizzing around already. There's a whole lot of tension just walking in the imposter's shoes, wondering if they are going to make a slip ... 

Another trope to put on the list. 

Wednesday, 26 May 2021


The third book in the "Riviera" series  - The  Villa in Portofino - is finally finished - at least for the moment. Now is the scary part - asking the publisher if they want it. Fingers crossed.

It's a complicated book - which may be why it turned into a bit of a marathon. It has an overall time scale of one hundred years, give or take a few, with three families, set over two continents/three countries. The oldest player has a birth date of 1890, but the story really starts in the Second World War. A friend said that it sounds as if I've written a romantic suspense saga - she may not be wrong! The book that  it turned out to be is not the book that I started with and it has quite a bit of me and some of my family history in it, but I'll talk more about that at a later date - when I know it is going to be published! 

It runs over four generations and sometimes it was tough to keep them all straight. Much resorting to time lines and family trees. I had a panic as late as last night over when a pivotal event took place and who was there. When I checked the time lines - there are more than one, I found I had time lined it and it was fine. Present me thanks past me very much for that! 

What is it about? The core is the villa of the title, unexpectedly inherited by the heroine, and her efforts to restore it, especially the garden, to it's former glory. Put like that it sounds quite simple! The bulk of the story is set in the present - well 2018/19 if you want to be picky - so I suppose even that is historic. I write escapism, so no pandemics, except Spanish Flu, which does get a very brief mention.  

As it is about families there is a lot about secrets - not necessarily ones that are deliberately kept, although there are a few of those, but the kind of secrets that come from different generations of a family only have part of a story, or family memory that is not actually what really happened. I derived a lot of enjoyment from constructing that spider web - I just hope that the reader doesn't get too confused. (and that my editor doesn't want me to iron out the anomalies too soon!) I have ironed most of them by the end, although there are a few tails that are not quite tucked in, or where the solution is only conjecture. Theirs and mine. Working with a few very elderly protagonists I was able to blame faulty memory on occasion, which was an excellent get out of jail free card. That was what nearly got me into trouble last night, until I realised that Edith  had not recalled events in chronological order. 

So - that book is moving on to its next phase of life, ushered to completion by tonight's full moon.

And now I have a big choice - clean the kitchen, or start the next one? 

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

I'll just check that.

 Caution -  anxious author alert! 

Pink roses - because they feature rather a lot in the book and the list.
Pink roses - because they feature
quite a lot in the book and the list. 

I'm on the very last steps of getting The Villa in Portofino ready to send to the publisher. In theory this should just be proof checking, but with me, it also involves a lot of fact checking - not the big research stuff, but the little details. I know this is the result of an element of OCD in my nature. It would not take ten minutes every night to convince myself that I really have turned the cooker off before I can go to bed, if I wasn't a bit in that direction. I also know that it is not possible to get everything right - that old thing about not knowing what you don't know - but I have to try. So - as it is on my mind at the moment - the blog today is about ten random things I've checked for this manuscript - because everyone likes a list, don't they?

  1. The sort of reinforced work boots a gardener would wear. 
  2. The name of the Roman goddess of Justice
  3. Roses that grow on the Riviera
  4. DIY wills
  5. Transatlantic voyages in the late 1960s
  6. Famous American authors in 1950s and 1960s
  7. How to construct a labyrinth
  8. What a symposium is
  9. The date that American President Richard Nixon was inaugurated
  10. The history of Royal Albert "American Beauty" china

That is a real mixture and only a fraction of the things I looked up. The Internet is a wonderful place - and full of the most glorious rabbit holes. 

I wondering about what a reader can get from that list. If anyone wants to hazard a guess over what the book is about - I'd love to hear. 

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Diary Day

 Today is Mass Observation Diary Day when members of the public are invited to send in a one-day diary for 12 May. 

You may have heard of Mass Obs through the Nella Last Diaries - Housewife 49 - the war time record of one of it's most diligent observers. It was made into a TV film starring Victoria Wood. 

Mass Observation was started in 1937 by Charles Madge, Tom Harrisson and Humphrey Jennings as a social research project. It's best known for its detailed recording of the thoughts and opinions of ordinary people during World War Two, when it was commissioned by the government to report on morale. The fear of a massive breakdown in civilian morale was a big worry for the powers-that-were in WW2. There was a deeply held conviction that the effects of bombing might paralyze the war effort at home. One of the ways that government and civil service could check on opinion in the street was though MO's work. That massive failure never happened, but it's given historians, me included, plenty of material to play with since. 

The Mass Observation records - diaries and reports and questionnaires are a valuable resource for historians of the war and that is my experience of them. I've used the old records, but hadn't realised that Mass Obs had reincarnated as the Mass Observation Project under the auspices of the University of Sussex. It's now collecting information on the everyday lives of people all over the UK and inviting people to anonymously share a dairy entry for inclusion in the archive. Last year they had 5000. 

If you have been journaling during the pandemic - or even if you haven't and want to take part, you can find all the details HERE

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Classic Romantic Suspense

 As a celebration of the pagan spring festival of Beltane, which takes place on 1st or 13th May, depending what calendar you are using, I decided to re-read Mary Stewart's classic romantic suspense, Wildfire at Midnight. 

Mary Stewart is cited by many romance authors as one of their early influence and she was certainly one of mine. I can trace a lot of my traits as a writer back to her books - my enjoyment of glamourous settings, an independent heroine, a mystery running alongside the romance. Whenever I read a Mary Stewart I'm struck by how exotic they must have seemed in a grey post war world. Her heroines smoke, drink, drive fast cars and have careers, although there is always a man in the offing and marriage is the ultimate destination. Her locations - the Greek Islands, Vienna, France, the Pyrenees, Damascus must have been total escapism at a time when foreign travel was limited. Several of her books have a supernatural element to them, which adds to the mystery.

Wildfire at Midnight is not quite so exotic, as it is set on the Isle of Skye in the run up to the Coronation in 1953. It has a serial killer and some of the deaths are rather gruesome ritual murders. The thing that struck me most when re-reading it was the detailed description of scenery and wildlife, particularly birds, which are a Stewart characteristic. It's one of the things that a current author would be advised to cut out - we don't have time or attention for lyrical description these days - but in this book the landscape and the weather are an integral part of the plot and it works beautifully. I'm going to stow that thought away for future examination when my love affair with the Riviera wanes and I return to setting books in my native Wales. 

Two other characteristics of Mary Stewart are the wonderful titles of her books and her habit of having a hero and anti hero, with the heroine and the reader having difficulty deciding which is which.  The titles - often from Shakespeare or other Jacobean drama - are an element I love. Would you get away with those choices these days? Not so sure on that one. Often the publisher decrees the title and fancy dramatic ones are not in vogue. We're more pragmatic these days. 

I don't think I would ever use the hero/anti hero device myself, as one of the things I enjoy writing is the developing relationship between hero and heroine, and you don't get that if the heroine doesn't know who he is - does wonders for the suspense element though. Never say never though. If I can find a way to make it work for me, it would be fun to try. 

One thing I can say was that re-reading this classic was a very enjoyable experience. It's always good to be in the company of an expert - it reminds you of what excellence is, and what you need to aim for.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

How may cups of coffee are too many?

Or - are my characters in danger of being over caffeinated? 

It's a topic that writers occasionally discuss - not just coffee, but food in general. In real life many social interactions involve food and beverages - adult or otherwise. It's a part of life to be sociable and hospitable - meeting for drinks or a meal, offering guests refreshments - even business meetings usually involve a refreshment break. If you do all these and more in a week, it doesn't seem strange. Exhausting maybe, and bad for the waistline, but not strange. But in a novel? What would be normal in real life can slide into over use. I'm having this problem at the moment, because my characters always seem to be drinking coffee - which is in itself ironic as I rarely drink the stuff - I'm strictly a tea drinker. I do have five varieties currently in use, including a fruit tea and one that tastes of toffee. Somehow I can't envisage a hero who drinks tea. Hey, actually I can - I think the hero of the next book might be a tea drinker. The heroine thinks he's stuffy and snooty with a poker in an uncomfortable place, so drinking tea might suit him. He isn't, of course, but she and I are going to have fun finding that out. But I digress, as usual. 

My characters like to eat. What a surprise! I always describe what they are eating as my mother gave orders that I should, because as a reader she liked to know. Always try and please the readers. For meals in the current book I am trying to serve things that would be local to the Riviera and Liguria. What people eat can also be a clue to character - back to that tea drinking. Actually I think Elliot would probably like that toffee tea - which means he has a sweet tooth. I can see that he's going to be one of those disgustingly lanky types who can eat chocolate and cream cakes and never put on weight. Many of my books feature ice cream, because I like ice cream, although the current one doesn't.

And you can be pretty sure in my books that any food around will get eaten. One of my pet hates as a reader is the scene where the characters are having a meal which is abandoned because of some big emotional drama. My dramas don't mean lost food. If you are going to emote, please step away from the table. Scenes where a meal is prepared and the intended recipients don't turn up are a no-no as well.  Waste not, want not?

None of this solves my coffee problem. I'm going to have to count them up and see what I can do. Substitute gin? 

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

It's not what you know ...

 At last night's zoom meeting of the Romantic Novelists' Association Cariad chapter the conversation got round to research, as it often does when writers get together. A couple of us, including me, were in the late stage of a Work in Progress - the messy time-consuming stage of fact checking and generally tidying up, while others were contemplating new books and what they would need to do by way of research, to make them happen. 

Putting a book together, at whatever stage, involves a lot of second guessing - do I have that right? Is there a different way of looking at that? How much detail should I include? The last two are author choices - the first is a scary minefield with the twin UXBs of "Things I think I know" and "Things I don't know I don't know". 

One of the things I am attempting to check out
 and get right at the moment are roses
 that would grow on the Italian Riviera! 
At the stage I am at, there is a lot of second guessing - and third and fourth. You would not believe how many things a neurotic author can find to question, once the book is written. As an academic I know that one of the biggest things about studying anything is the appreciation of the amount you - the "expert" - are aware you don't know.  The more you study, the more there is out there to find. As a writer, the principle the same. Yet another thing to wake up and worry about at 3 am. One thing you do know - there is always someone out there who does know.

Even the simplest contemporary story can pull in questions that only make themselves apparent when you are doing that final check. The "Hey, I wonder if that is actually legal/possible/advisable?" moment.

There is only one answer, Think hard, check everything you can and do your best. And try not to stress about it. Hah! 

But this does explain whey the WIP has not yet winged it's merry way to the publisher. I will get there, but it's slow going. 

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