Wednesday 28 December 2022

Selective memory?


Who else makes a habit of listening to Carols from Kings at 3 pm on Christmas eve? Many people say that is when Christmas officially  begins for them 

One of my favourite parts of Christmas is hearing carols sung. It used to be singing them too, I still like that, although my voice now has a disturbing 'old lady' quaver in it. I can hear my grandmother - which is disconcerting.  

I used to sing in the school choir - we gave public concerts in one of the local churches at Christmas. I also sang with the youth group of the church - we did a 'book' at Christmas and Easter - a selection of lessons and music for the occasion. I sang duets with a friend - two fragile blondes in our best coats/dresses looking as if butter would not melt on our song sheets. The old ladies loved it. We've both changed a bit since then. 

As a result of all this, I have a pretty comprehensive repertoire of hymn and especially carol lyrics. With some notable exceptions. Some I only have the chorus - that was when there was a soloist and the main choir only came in for that. Sometimes I can still remember the descant that the choir sang over general singing from the congregation. I've learned all the words to Good King Wenceslas now, but for a long time I only knew the king - which was the part I sang duetting with Denise. One very frustrating mystery is We Three Kings - I clearly sang the last king, Balthazar, with his gift of Myrrh, the creepy sinister one, with the gruesome lyrics. Was this where the dark side began or early typecasting? I think Denise was the first king with the gift of gold - but who sang the middle one? I have no memory of that. Lost now in the mists of time. 

The trigger that prompted this post was  Kings singing Adam Lay ybounden  which usually accompanies a reading from Genesis. It's is a favourite, but I can sing only half of it. What happened to the other half? I must have known it all once. Perhaps the first half stuck because the language is more unusual and had to be learned more carefully?

Overall the carol concert provokes memories. Happy times, and a few tears. 

Friday 23 December 2022

Let Christmas commence ...

 The first round of edits for Masquerade on the Riviera have finally left the building. Won't be seeing them again now until January. Hurrah!

Hope I'll soon have a cover to share. Really looking forward to that. 

Happy Christmas.

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Into the light

 Today is the winter solstice. You have probably seen a few posts and reports of celebrations at Stonehenge and other ancient places to greet the dawn. There is one in Ireland - and I can't remember the name - that is oriented towards the rising sun on the shortest day. The idea that thousands of years ago there were people who could built something monumental and calibrate it that finely is a source of fascination for me. 

Midwinter Day is a bittersweet occasion for those of us who hate the dark. The day that has the least light, but the point when the long slow journey back into the light begins. By January there will already be a marked difference. I'm looking forward to that, and to the new year. New year, new plans. I already have an idea for a new book nipping at my ankles, which is good, because I haven't done a lot of writing lately. Currently trying to work out a complicated family tree for two interlocking families - which is keeping me amused. We'll have to see where that goes. 

I know it's a bit strange that I like to write dark stuff, but don't actually respond well to winter. Mind you, the cold has something to do with that! Not really a winter person. The solstice is one celebration, and of course Christmas, which has become mixed in with the old celebration of Yule is on the way. By the time I post again it will be over! I don't know where the year has gone, it seems to have slid by very fast. Here's to whatever the next one will hold. And happy Christmas. 

Wednesday 14 December 2022

Very brief

 This is only a quick post. At the moment I am struggling to complete the edits, and to get an engineer to fix radiators that are not working. Very cold. Engineer was a no show today. Been promised a visit tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

I know I made promises too about Robespierre's nose. The lecture was good, but my notes are buried behind the furniture I moved in preparation for the engineer who didn't arrive. (Is this beginning to sound like the song 'There's a Hole in my Bucket?)

I did get a surprise package from my publisher. I've already eaten one chocolate reindeer - and very nice he was too. 

I'll get to the nose eventually. Maybe next week when the edits really do need to be finished!!!!

Wednesday 7 December 2022

With friends

 One of the truisms about being a writer is that work mostly happens when you are alone - give or take a four footed 'assistant' or two. People do write on trains, in cafes, in libraries, but even then you are kind of alone - in your own head, in a world you have created. Which makes meetings with fellow authors festive events - the chance to swop stories of horror and triumph with people who 'get it' which sometimes even close family members don't, however much they try/want to. 

Thanks to Sue for use of the photo -
and our long suffering waitress for taking it!

Christmas celebrations are doubly festive - so I had fun yesterday with members of the Romantic Novelists' Association Cariad Chapter at The Cosy Club in Cardiff having an extended lunch. We were a depleted group - several had succumbed to the various December bugs and others were constrained by the day job, but six of us enjoyed gossip and grub - good food and good company.  

Today I have two gentlemen fitting flooring in the bathroom, at long last, and I need to get back to the edits. They are progressing, but still slow. I have also begun a little research for the next book - but that is heavily under wraps at the moment until I get my plans clearer. I also have an on-line lecture tonight from Cardiff University on Robespierre's nose. I might tell you more about that, next week!

Wednesday 30 November 2022

A quick round up

 Not a long post today. I'm in the middle of the first round of edits for Riviera 4 - Masquerade on the Riviera  - and also have several medical appointments in the diary. Nothing serious (I hope)but necessary and a bit distracting.

The edits are mostly threads that my editor wants re-directed or given more emphasis, a matter of unwinding and rewinding to make a slightly different shape. I'd like to get the book done before Xmas, but we shall see.

In other news I had a great time at Rhiwbina Beans the Saturday before last - met some interesting people and had a lot of fun. If you were one of them, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Thanks to Phil for letting me loose on his customers!  

I have a fancy new fence, to one side of the garden, which I am very pleased with. Hope the other side will be done in the new year. Next week it's the bathroom floor - about time - and then I will have one element of the great house renovation completed. There may even be pictures!

I still have a long way to go though, and the little pot of rainy day money is fast disappearing. There is a lot of decorating to do, and that I'm afraid, is down to me.  

I foresee a large number of paint brushes in my life in the near future. 

Wednesday 23 November 2022

A touch of the supernatural

 It's a conversation I have with fellow authors from time to time - how far can you include supernatural/paranormal elements in your writing? How much woo-woo is too much? Publishers notoriously don't like it - it's not supposed to sell books. Yet writers enjoy writing it and readers don't seem too adverse to it. Hence those conversations. Ghost stories are popular at Christmas. Podcasts investigating strange phenomena proliferate. A few writers - Barbara Erskine comes to mind - are very successful with novels that include something 'other'.

It's a genre that attracts me as reader and writer. I've done a number of courses, mainly with a folklore bias, that I have plans for in the future. I'll have to decide how I'm going to handle that. With incidents that might have a mundane explanation as well as a more spooky one? Certainly there is plenty of material on the Internet, specialist magazines and whole bookshops dedicated to the occult to prove that there is an interest out there  Clairvoyance, tarot reading, reincarnation, spiritualism. Most people who have lost a loved one have probably wondered about the chance of one more connection, even if only fleetingly. 

The idea for a blog post came to me when reading one of those irresistible internet lists. This one was on ways of knowing whether a lost loved one is near. It was a long list - but three things stick in my mind. The appearance of feathers in unexpected places, water puddles and flickering lights. I can tick off both the latter, now that the radiator and the light fitting in the hall have been replaced. And feathers? Having teenage seagulls on the roof who are just coming into their adult plumage  can explain that. Am I being sceptical? Maybe? But it's still intriguing.

And then there are the magpies. I have one, sometimes two and occasionally eight or nine - a whole charm - that have taken to visiting the garden in the mornings. 

And magpies are supposed to signify the presence of magic. 

Wednesday 16 November 2022

With my Tribe

 Up to London last Friday to the Romantic Novelists Winter Party and Industry Awards Presentation. 

An 'excellence' of romantic novelists, collecting their badges.*

Having had to pass on the annual conference in July for boring medical reasons I was looking forward to seeing friends and generally having a good time. 

I wasn't disappointed. 

First of course was the decision what to wear. As most of my evening outfits shrunk in the pandemic I had a rummage in the wardrobe and found one that is quite venerable but still fitted! I don't wear black very often these days, but I was quite pleased about how it looked.  Then there was the train journey and a magical mystery tour to find my chosen hotel in the depths of the new skyscraper city behind Paddington station - which proved to be a good choice, although I didn't foresee at the time of booking that the tubes would be on strike. I just wish it had been easier to find!

I had a ramble down Oxford Street and the rarified atmosphere of Bond Street. Coveted shoes and jewels there. I saw Selfridges Christmas windows and the Christmas lights, including a spectacular angel flying over one of the streets just off Oxford Circus.  

I love London, having lived there for a couple of decades in the 70s and 80s. It's changed, but I still enjoy visiting. When you can combine that with a stellar night out - that's icing on the cake. I saw a lot of long term friends, had a good gossip, did a bit of networking, the results of which may become apparent next year, applauded the award winners - for a host of categories from librarians to editors. For more on the finalists and winners, take a look at the RNA Web pages and social media feeds. There was even a celebrity guest in the shape of the Duchess of York, now a best selling member of the Mills and Boon family with her historical debut Her Heart for a Compass. There was glamour, friendship and excitement. I'm looking forward to doing it again, but that probably won't be until the conference in 2023!

Thanks to author/photographer John Jackson for the pictures.  

*I looked up the collective noun for authors. Excellence was my favourite suggestion, but there was also quill, conjugation and a close runner up  - procrastination, which of course has nothing to do with the edits for Riviera 4 currently sitting in my in box. 

Tuesday 15 November 2022

Out and about

 Don't forget I'll be at Rhiwbina Beans on Saturday, chatting and signing books. 

Wednesday 9 November 2022


I'm  pleased to say I'm going to be a writer in residence at Rhiwbina Beans Coffee Shop on Saturday 19 November from 11 am onwards. 

If you've never met a writer in residence before, now is your chance. You can just drop in for a coffee and a chat - it would be lovely to meet you. As you know, I write romantic suspense and am always happy to talk about the writing process. There will also be the chance buy a book (or two) to take home if you would like to. 

If you are thinking about your Christmas list a signed book is great for stocking fillers, Secret Santa, a little 'extra' present for under the tree, 'Just in case'.  They can be signed with a personal message for the intended recipient if you want. 

Maybe chose one as a treat for yourself for Boxing Day  afternoon?  

Rhiwbina Beans is a cosy quirky welcoming place, with coffee, cakes and light snacks at 105  Heol Llanishen Fach Cardiff CF14 6RE

Hope to see you there. 

Rhiwbina Beans on Facebook

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Changing seasons

 Readers will have noticed that I write summer books - sunshiny holiday reading, albeit will some dark deeds under the surface, and maybe not always so far under. Publishing for romance stories seems to have polarised a bit lately - with authors producing a summer book for the holidays and then a Christmas book. Me? I'm a slow writer  and only manage to produce one book a year. I'm not big on Christmas books - although I have written one, and am tossing ideas around for another, but that is only at the ideas stage - so summer is my usual choice. 

With Halloween just passed though, it has made me think about the turn of the seasons. I've always had a bit of a thing for Halloween - as a teenager I always had a party. Although I don't celebrate that way or decorate the house these days, I would really like to write a Halloween book. It has been an ambition for years, although I'm not a big fan of autumn generally - the end of summer and the arrival of cold and darkness. I write with a strong element of darkness, but I find it rather depressing in real life.  Autumn seems to be rather a neglected season in romance terms and anchoring a book to Halloween might be thought to limit the readership to a few short weeks in October, but I would still like to do it. Maybe with a series like the Riviera books it would work? 

Spring is less neglected, as in the run up to summer the seasons slide into each other - warmth and light on the way -  although with the UK weather we can have snow in May, so who knows? I'm also tossing around an idea that would be anchored in spring - specifically the season for daffodils and tulips - but that s also something that has been incubating for a while and will probably continue to do so for  a while longer.

I like to attempt something slightly different when I write, although that can get me into trouble sometimes. It took a bit of manoeuvring to create a scenario of a runaway groom for A Wedding on the Riviera, but having read a couple of 'runaway bride' books, one after the other, I wanted to try it. It seems to have worked! 

Can I write two books set in seasons that are less well travelled? 

Still thinking about that one. It will likely be a while, but the idea is there. 

Wednesday 26 October 2022

Lady in waiting?

Today, Monday, I am waiting for the electrician to arrive to complete a job begun last week. (Pleased to report that I can now use the toaster without it putting all the lights out.) Doing essential work in the house involves a lot of waiting  for appointments. I am not good at this - I can't completely settle to anything while I am listening for the door bell. Writing the blog is fine, because I can save it for later and it won't spoil. 

This got me thinking about the everyday things that you rarely read in books. How many times do you see the hero wrestle with the recycling or put out the rubbish? (Actually one of Greg Hurwitz's Orphan X series has the hero doing just that,  for a young woman he's rescuing from a couple of thugs - if my memory serves. I know it amused me when I read it. Good for Greg.) 

How many heroines have sat waiting for the gas man to knock on the door, rather than the hero? (And yes, sometimes the gas man would be more welcome!) I have written a waiting for the gas man scene - it was Cassie, in A Wedding on the Riviera, whose job as a concierge meant that she waited in for tradesmen professionally for clients. And it moved the plot along, so it was necessary. 

I like cooking, although I don't often make bread. 

I know that reading about the ordinary stuff is not very exciting. Characters in books live in a special place and we probably prefer that, but maybe I'll think about putting some more real life in the next book? Cleaning windows? Changing the battery in the clock? Folding towels and putting them away? My characters often cook, so that's something, I suppose, but then that is something I enjoy. Cleaning anything? Not so much.  Of course there is a lot of gardening in A Villa in Portofino, so that's work - but restoring a neglected Italian garden isn't quite the same as turning over the compost heap on the allotment. 

Thinking more about it, maybe right now we don't need too much real life? There is plenty of that about at the moment. Too much, in fact. 

I'm an unashamedly escapist writer - for myself when I'm writing and for my readers when the book is finished. Sunshine, beautiful surroundings, suspense and romance - that is what it's about. A different lifestyle - and much better weather! That's the world I run away to, but maybe I will find a small space in the next book for cleaning the cooker or  watering the plants. Contrast might make it more interesting? 

Something to ponder. 

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Retreat report

It was a very good day. Lots of work done, encouragement and laughter. The Cariad group are/is awesome. 

Personally - yes, I was still in my fluffy purple dressing gown for the first session. Author note - the colour purple was not a real choice - all that was available in the M&S sale! I was dressed and respectable for the other sessions. Well - I was dressed. 

Work. I settled down with some blank sheets of paper and a slightly blank mind. Happy to report that some progress was made. My protagonists from what may be Riviera 4.5 (Novella) and Riviera 5 (Book) were prepared to talk to me and I understand them better now. Hero Mickey reminds me of Devlin in Never Coming Home. The strong silent type. I made some headway in sorting out the direction of travel for the plot(s).  

Still some way to go, and I have to get Riviera 4 on the road before anything serious happens. Then we shall see if I can make it all work.   

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Retreating again

 I'm writing this on Monday night. Tomorrow, Tuesday 11th, the Cariad Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association  has another on-line writing retreat, organised by the super efficient Jessie. 

This means 

a) I have to get up early

b) I have to find something writing related to do with the day. 

I have given notice that the first session at 9 am will probably - undoubtedly - feature me in my dressing gown. Hopefully I will not still be wearing it at the second meet up at 12 30! 

Issue (b) is a little more tricky. I haven't done any writing since handing in Riviera 4 to the publisher at the end of July. Just not felt motivated. Covid and various other health issues bear some responsibility, plus all the work going on in the house. 

What am  I going to do about it? 

Well apparently edits and a contract for Riviera 4 are on the horizon, so I guess it might be an idea to start thinking about Riviera 5. I do have some bits and bobs floating about, but none of the thinking is joined up at the moment. So tomorrow is going to be thinking time. This may look a lot like staring into space and drinking tea, but I hope it will actually produce something.  

I'll let you know. 

Wednesday 5 October 2022

It's the little things ...

 Lately I've been focusing blog  posts on small details - things that could add atmosphere to a book. It's a matter of observation and collection - a personal library of bits and bobs. Attention to surroundings and ideas on how small things might be used. 

With the accession of a new king there has been a lot of talk of the cypher that he will adopt, a monogram which will appear on post boxes, official buildings and documents. That's now been chosen and will gradually make it's way into the world. The attention drawn to post boxes made me look at a few while I was passing - I was very surprised to find one that had not the expected initials ER, but a cypher with a letter G. A box dating from the time of Queen Elizabeth's father, George VI. That box has been there for over 70 years! It was a particular surprise as the part of town has been extensively redeveloped. The redevelopment must have taken place around the box. I'm now curious as to what the road layout  was in the area before redevelopment. The historian in me surfacing. 

Will I ever use that in a book? Maybe. Perhaps my protagonists might be delving into a mystery that involves the history of a built up area? It's giving me ideas, but they will have to wait until some time in the future. I have other plans in the meantime, although currently my attention is on repairing and updating my home. 

It's going in my bank of odds and ends, something that might add texture to a future plot. 

The unexpected power of the little things ...

Wednesday 28 September 2022

Yes, I know I'm a bit weird ...

 I would argue that most writers are  ... shall we say ... just a little different?

After all we do have alternative worlds with imaginary people playing out in our heads.

We all have our little quirks. 

I realised the other day that, along with the imaginary worlds, I also have a bit of a thing for abandoned government buildings. Now that is weird. I was passing an old estate of unused government offices on the outskirts of Cardiff. You know the kind, a cluster of tall buildings, several stories of concrete and blank rows of windows, wonky blinds, high fences and gates, expanses of empty concrete car park, a security booth beside the entrance ... 

I found the place fascinating, thrilling even. Which is very weird. It conjured up spies and secrecy, danger, threat, desolation ...

Silent abandoned spaces ...

A relic of the 60s and 70s. A modern version of gothic? 

This is not a new thing. I used a derelict office building for a major scene between hero and villain in my very first published novel - Never Coming Home. I was writing grittier stuff then and the block I imagined was one of those overlooking the rail line out of Paddington station in London. They've mostly all gone now, replaced by new blocks of flats. 

Interesting to know that the fascination is still there though.  

Wednesday 21 September 2022

Done any good thinking lately?

 If a writer wants to build up their practical skills there are all kinds of course and resources available - plotting, character development, editing, the nitty gritty of grammar and punctuation, world building - you can get good help on everything you might need. When I was an aspiring writer I soaked up all the talks, courses and books I could find and afford, some of which did not suit my writing style - I know that now, but it took a while to find out and that is another story anyway. 

Some of those courses cover the idea of writing with all the senses - excellent advice. And that got me thinking. As well as building practical skills, what about thinking time? Do we overlook it in favour of learning something we can measure? 

Is there value in setting some time aside to build up your own library of sensations? I think there might be. Just sitting outside can start a list. The buzz of insects - I have some fat and friendly bumble bees that are very interested in my fuchsia bush at the moment. There's the scent of jasmine - one I'm particularly fond of as it grows like weeds in my garden. The noise made by a bird's wings - have you actually listened to how noisy a sparrow can be, simply flying from bush to bush? Sitting quietly can produce a soundscape - children playing, a barking dog, a noisy motorcycle, seagulls on the roof. All of that can give you atmosphere. There is also the power of silence - absence of sound can be just as useful. 

What about scents? The nice ones, of course, but just mentioning the smell of burnt toast can tell you that a character was under pressure at breakfast time - or maybe they are not very expert at cooking? Unusual ones - the distinctive smell of a library or bookshop, of an underground garage, of a garden shed. Scent is a powerful component of memory too and a good way of taking a character back into their past in quick flashback. What or who does it conjuror up, and what were the circumstances? And don't forget how things taste. And what about colour? I have a navy blue bowl full of small red tomatoes on my kitchen counter and every time I catch a glimpse of it it says "Mediterranean" to me - even here in Barry Island! Mind you, the South of France style sunshine probably helps. 

One of those things that are undoubtedly dealt with in those skills courses is the need to cut down on description. These days readers - and editors, particularly editors, dislike it. The languid scene setting of previous decades will earn you a red pencil comment in the margin.  But stories don't happen in a vacuum. As a reader I get irritated when a book might as well be taking place in a white box of the type that was beloved of theatre directors in the 60s and 70s. So - we have to be short and sneaky these days. a bright colour, a waft of scent, a background noise and you are there, in maybe a dozen words. But they do have to be the right dozen words. Words you have collected - hoarded - for just this occasion. 

Gaining skills is great, but spending some time staring into space simply absorbing might be another way of adding depth to your writing.

Just a thought. 


Wednesday 14 September 2022

Nothing lasts forever ...

 ... although we often wish that it would.

In this week there was only one possible blog topic - the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

She has been the monarch for the whole life of most of the population of the UK. We don't know anything else. 

A nation has lost a much loved monarch, a family has lost a beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother.  Many people have commented on social media that her death has stirred up unexpected grief for their own lost family members.  My mother died in September seven years ago, age 95. Now I mourn the Queen and think of the past, along with many others around the world. 

But we have a new king, Wales has a new prince and princess, and life will move on. 

The Queen will stay in our memories as an example of service and dependability, a constant in the changing world during 70 years on the throne.

Rest in Peace your Majesty. 

Wednesday 7 September 2022


 Authors are frequently asked "Where do you get your ideas?" The usual answer is "I haven't a clue - they just happen."

I subscribe to this opinion - I don't get "Inspiration" at least not that kind of inspiration, But I do recognise that there are certain ideas that interest me and those do get into the books. 

I've just finished reading the book on The Angel of Mons by David Clarke that I bought on the bookshop crawl a few weeks ago. It's a story that I have found fascinating for a long time - an incident early in the First World War when British soldiers claim to have been protected by some sort of supernatural intervention. Clarke dives deeply into the origins of the claims and the way the thing modifies and snowballs - troops are protected by angels, St George, the bowmen of Agincourt ... the idea of supernatural activity is taken up on the home front and is replayed in everything from letters to parish magazines. The tale is told over and over by witnesses who are claimed to be reliable sources. 

The "truth" will probably never be known. The story may have originated in a short story by author Arthur Machin. It is replayed by "a friend of a friend", not a direct witness. The public interest in spiritualism at the time provided a backdrop for the idea of otherworldly interaction. Like I said, the phenomenon is fascinating.

I don't write the kind of book where I would directly use that story, but the concept is one that does get into my plotting - the way gossip and rumour, hearsay and speculation can build a picture. It was one of the ideas that underpinned the family mystery in A Villa in Portofino - and the way that heroine Megan builds up a history of the aunt she never met that is based on logic but is not actually the real story. The new book, Riviera 4 (if it makes it into print) centres around a mysterious necklace with a chequered history. More rumour and speculation. 

It's obviously something that interests me. But  is it inspiration? 

Wednesday 31 August 2022

Delayed gratification

 Books in series are very popular at the moment. Publishers like them because they gather a ready made audience, readers like them because they give the opportunity for recurring characters, longer story lines, and a sense of the familiar. 

But then comes the big question - how do you read yours? 

Are you a reader who goes in for the kill, ploughing through the lot, one after another? Or are you one for delayed gratification? 

I'm a delayed gratification. You can tell that from the half eaten chocolate bar in the fridge.  

I love finding a series I enjoy and then I like to read them one at a time  with a suitable interval in between. When I finish one I buy the next one, but I resist the temptation to read it straight away. Anticipation is all. I like to know that I have a little gem stashed away for future enjoyment, although I can sort of understand the impulse to read the lot. 

I also read in a variety of genres. If I've just enjoyed a historical I might want a contemporary, a thriller, a cosy crime next. 

It can be a disadvantage if the series is complicated and there is a lot of plotting going on, as these days I don't always remember the finer points, but I usually get by. 

Then there is the additional pleasure, once the series is complete, of going back then and reading them all, one after the other.

There's no right or wrong way. Whatever give you the most pleasure. That's what it's all about. 

Wednesday 24 August 2022

A matter of timing

 It's late August. We haven't had the Bank Holiday yet. According to Google it is still summer. The summer months are June, July and August. 

So what's with all these Christmas books that the publishers are currently promoting????

As you might guess, I find it disconcerting. I'm a summer person. Long days and warmth. I only do Christmas under protest, when I can't avoid it.

It seems, however, that book sales are becoming increasingly polarised. Authors are expected to produce a summer book and a Christmas book. As I have said, it's not me, I can't manage two books a year, for a start. 

When I was working in London, many moons ago, the Tuesday after the Bank Holiday was always an extra workplace holiday. As I'd had a birthday a few weeks before  which usually involved a gift of money, it became a bit of a tradition that on that Tuesday I would go shopping for a new winter coat, when the new winter stock had just arrived.  The thing would then hang in the wardrobe until the weather changed, which was often quite a while. I still have fond memories of a magnificent oversize grey tweed affair. I had burgundy boots, scarf and gloves to go with it. The boots had needle thin heels. 

Can't do those any more. 

Seems like publishing is getting a bit like fashion - ahead of itself. 

I don't buy a new winter coat every year now - can't afford it - and I won't buy a Christmas book either. Not yet. 

I know some people adore Christmas, but as I said, that's not me. It also seem a little sad that we are in danger of losing the in between times. You do get books that take place in Spring and Autumn, but Summer - covers with  sea, sun, surf, beach huts, deck chairs, ice-creams and Christmas - snow, snow and more snow - are the prevailing images.

To each their own, but it will be a while before I give up my summer reading. 


Wednesday 17 August 2022

A Sense of Foreboding

 After days of heat and sunshine the weather is breaking. 

All afternoon it has been getting steadily darker. Now, at a few minutes to six, the sky is a wonderfully ominous combination of low lying, pale pearly light, topped off with gloomy grey. It looks deliciously creepy. I really need to remember it for future use There is a slight breeze, a sprinkling of rain and an eerie quiet. 

You can tell I write suspense, can't you? 

It's giving me ideas. Not very clear at the moment - but definitely something. 

I'm thinking of a story that begins with the weather. Although that is one of those things that you are not supposed to do, so maybe not. Apparently readers get restive if they do not have a character to latch onto. 

So - where does that take me? If a character is watching this the way I am, I think they would have to be alone. But who are they? Hero? Heroine? Villain? I can make a case for all of them. It would be a sinister beginning - maybe for that Gothic novel I'm always threatening to produce? 

A lot is written about setting being almost a character in a book. Can the weather do the same thing? Something to ponder. It would need to be identified at the outset and developed - a bit like a theme - but I don't really do themes.

I've been re-reading Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle's Harmony series - comfort reading while not feeling well - and on the planet Harmony there are a lot of references to the strange green light that suffuses everything, emanating from the ancient and mysterious ruins left behind by alien inhabitants many thousands of years before. It certainly adds to the atmosphere of the books.

Something to think about.

Wednesday 10 August 2022

The Welsh Book Crawl

 I've been wanting to take part in the Big London Book Crawl for some time, but never managed to get a trip to the city co-ordinated on the right weekend. And then came Covid. But then last weekend the Book Crawl came to  me. Bookshops all over Wales took part from Friday to Sunday offering all sorts of treats and discounts and on Saturday afternoon I joined a small group for an organised walk around Cardiff. Ably led by Rhys we toured six locations, including several I would not have discovered on my own. Of course I bought books, but forgot the camera to take photos! 

First stop was Troutmark Books in the Castle Arcade. I have been there before, but many years ago. It's an amazing rabbit warren. Next, in complete contrast, the very sleek and modern Oxfam Shop in St Mary's Street. Then the book stall  in the Cardiff Market, where several of the party succumbed to the lure of an adjacent stall selling Welsh cakes.  

Then it was out to Canton on the bus - my first bus trip since pre -Covid. Glad to find my bus pass still works.  We visited Shelf Life - a non profit radical bookshop specialising in marginalised and underrepresented voices, Caban - a Welsh language bookshop and lastly, a real treat "And Penguins" a special pop up shop in the home of a Penguin book collector, where we we were able to browse some fascinating gems over tea and biscuits. 

It was a lovely afternoon, full of fun and surprises in good company. What did I buy? 

Coffee with  Shakespeare - a fictional dialogue by Shakespearean expert Stanley Wells.

A small volume on smugglers in Wales.

Those two are possibly for research.

The Angel of Mons  by David Clarke - an exploration of the strange legend that grew up in the First World War that has fascinated me for years.

A classic Nora Roberts that I haven't read - Blue Smoke 

And my pop up Penguins were all related to my studies for the PhD - a bit of nostalgia. Why War? by philosopher C E M  Joad who was one of the experts who was part of the panel for the radio Brains  Trust, Hitler's War  by Hugh Dalton M P, who served in the war time Cabinet and was Chancellor of the Exchequer after the war. And as light relief, Margery Allingham's Death of a Ghost - an Albert Campion that I hadn't read and am enjoying. These three were war time publications so are quite special. 

I also bought some oat milk chocolate -  which is very good and some cards to add to my stock of not quite birthday cards. 

All in all it was a very good day. 

Wednesday 3 August 2022

Out and about

 I had a great time with Helga, Laura and Jo at Griffin Books last Friday. Thanks to Mel and her team for putting on a fun event and to everyone who came along. I think they all enjoyed it as much as we did. 

Thanks too to Kath Eastman from the Nut Press for the photo of me in the shop clutching the perfect yellow rose we all got as a leaving gift - sometimes being an author can make you feel really special. And Kath even managed to snap me with my eyes open! 

|It was lovely too to meet fellow Crime Cymru member Chris Lloyd in real rather than virtual life.  Chris is another local author who won the Historical Writers' Association Gold Crown Award and was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Historical  Dagger Award for his Paris set World War II historical crime The Unwanted Dead. 

Having got a taste for gadding about, I'm now going to do it again!!!

 I'm planning a visit to Rhiwbina Beans Coffee Shop as Writer in Residence for the day. You will be welcome to drop in to chat, find out about my books, talk generally about writing and of course you'll have the chance to buy a signed copy for yourself or for a present. 

Rhiwbina Beans is in Heol Llanishen Fach, Cardiff. It's a quirky coffee shop with a 4.5 score on Trip Advisor and a fine line in cake. I'll confirm the date ASAP. It would be great to see you.  

Wednesday 27 July 2022

In a mood

 Looking for a new small casserole dish last week - an apparent impossibility, they all seemed designed for feeding families of at least ten - I noticed a line of cookware from Le Creuset that was called Riviera. Bright, colourful and illustrated in use with pictures of some very nice food. Now as you know, my current series is also known as Riviera. It made me think about the power of a word to conjure an image, a feeling, maybe an emotion. My first stop on words is always the dictionary and the definition of Riviera from the Cambridge on-line edition is an area of coast especially with beaches where people go on holiday.  It's a popular term as Wikipedia, while pointing out that the conventional use is for the French and Italian Riviera, lists a large number of other places in the world that also use the designation - including the Torbay area in the UK.

Looks like we are all plugging into a mood here. 

The two aspects that I'm going for are coast and holiday. If they sum up my current series of books I'm happy. The word also says glamour to me - sea and sand yes, but also sunshine, beautiful buildings, fast cars, flowers, gorgeous food and drink ... That's a lot of freight for a single word.  

It's not the only word that does this. Think of beach hut - two very popular words in books titles and illustrations for summer reading. What does that conjure  - sand dunes, picnics, sea swimming, maybe surfing and watersports, family gatherings ...

At the other end of the spectrum gothic gives me shadows, candle light, menace, cold, that classic picture of the woman in the nightdress descending a staircase ...

Words are wonderful things. They are my trade. So many of them come with so much baggage. Endlessly fascinating. 

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Holiday reading event at Griffin Books

 If you are looking for some holiday reading - or advice on travel destinations - they will be available at a fab event at Griffin Books in Penarth on 29th July. I will be there, along with two other Welsh romance authors to talk about the books you might be packing in your suitcase - or taking into the garden if this year the choice is a staycation. I'll be there with Laura and Helga and Jo and I'm looking forward to a fun evening. It all kicks off at 6.30, there is a small fee and a glass of something bubbly. Hope you can join us.  

Dust off your favourite holiday outfit and head to Griffin Books for a very special party in the shop. We'll be joined by authors Helga Jensen, Laura Kemp and Evonne Wareham who will introduce their latest books - all perfect for packing in your suitcase this summer. Plus, we'll be picking the brains of local Travel Counsellor Jo Baldwin, and sharing some of our own staff recommendations for the ultimate summer read.
We might not be sipping margaritas on a sun-kissed Mediterranean beach, but we do have more books than you can shake a cocktail umbrella at - and that's much better, right!
Friday 29 July | 6.30 pm
Griffin Books, 9A Windsor Road, Penarth
Tickets: £5.00 - includes a glass of prosecco
or soft drink on arrival



Wednesday 13 July 2022

Best laid plans

 Well - this week was meant to be a social week - a reward for getting the manuscript for Riviera 4 to the publishers at last. Afternoon tea at The Ivy in Cardiff with fellow members of the lovely Cariad Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association and then off to Telford for the RNA conference. 


An unforeseen  medical  issue has scuppered all that. Plenty of doctors, not too much social mixing. None at all actually. But I am doing OK, so no worries. Getting a lot of odd jobs done - shortened two pairs of trousers and let out a third, half constructed a cupboard for the bathroom, kept my workmen in tea. The back wall is slowly being renovated. Going to look good when it is finished and no more threat of an avalanche.

Some reading, some sleeping, no writing. I will get back to it, but not yet. 

I have some public appearances on the horizon, which will be fun. More details of that next week. 

Wednesday 6 July 2022

The answer is a lemon...


Well, Riviera 4 has finally gone to the publisher. Now we have to hope they like it. It's not like anything else I've written, but they never are. 

Now that's over I have a whole mountain of jobs to be done, from the kitchen floor to the dismemberment of large cardboard boxes so that they fit into pieces about a foot square so they go in the recycling  bag. Always  a fun job.  

As I have said before, work is happening in the house - well, actually outside it. New roof is fine, but now it's the retaining wall on the lowest  tier of the garden. Messy and expensive and potentially detrimental to the things I wanted done inside the house. 

I am having fun day dreaming interior looks and researching things like paint colours. Not sure now that I'm going to get that new bedroom carpet though. Apparently the look of the moment is "coastal grandmother" I can manage 50% of that, so hope that's enough. It seems to be beach house sort of style, which suits me. Also apparently the look features ginger jars and bowls of lemons. Despite the picture and I don't know what I was doing with 3 lemons, I don't DO lemons. The only ginger jar I have is about three inches tall.  I can do while walls, lots of books and fancy cushions. I have that already! Not sure about the laid back lifestyle that supposedly goes with it. See kitchen floor and cardboard boxes, above. And if there are going to be deadlines in the near future certainly not laid back. 

I just need some more time to day dream paint charts. Did you know how many shades of white there are? 

Wednesday 29 June 2022

Grrrr ....

 Well, I didn't make it - the book is still here.

Been working hard, but got a bit sandbagged. Found another plot hole that needed fixing and now a wall in the back garden is on the move and that too wants fixing. There's a crack in it I can get my fingers in. Money and mess, I'm afraid. It's the lowest tier of three terraces  has a lot of soil behind it. The builder reckons we have at least three skips worth. And skips are apparently very expensive these days! Also concrete blocks. 

It will all get done, but sadly it might be at the expense of some of the nice things I wanted, like a new bedroom carpet. 

Oh well, that's life. I certainly don't want to wake up in the middle of a dark and stormy night to the sound of ominous cracking and rumbling and a very large pile of moving soil. 

I'm still working frantically on the book and I do hope that it will be done, as done as it can be at this stage, by next week.

Once it is out of the house I can get rid of the tunnel vision and start blogging about more interesting things. 

One good thing - A Villa in Portofino has a best seller flag again today. Blink and you miss it, but cheering when it happens. 

If you have any positive writing/editing/finishing the damn thing and getting it out the door vibes around, please feel free to send them my way. 

Wednesday 22 June 2022


 The new roof on the house is almost finished - the new book is in the same state. I'm at the very last stages of proof checking and polishing so this post will be short and just a collection of bits and pieces, as I really need to concentrate on that. 

I'm really hoping that the book will have gone to the publisher before the next post. Then we will have to wait to see if they want it. 

Next on the programme for the house are repairs to the retaining wall in the back garden, a job and expense I could do without, but which has to be done as there is a crack I can get my finger into and it is only going to get worse. 

I had to take time out last week for a trip to London. Rivera 4 wasn't in a state that I could take with me, and I needed something sensational to read on the train, so I dug out the partial manuscript for what I hope might be  Riviera 5. It's a Christmas book and I shelved it at about 20,000 words as I wasn't connecting with it. 

I won't say it is sensational, but it kept me amused and it read quite well, so I'm definitely going back to it when #4 is off my hands. 

I have a chauffeur, a pet sitter, three Siamese cats and a portfolio of stolen art. No plot and no romance, but you can't expect everything! Will I get it into shape for Christmas 2023? I think it will be fun trying. 

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Plot holes and rabbit holes

 Book 4 in the Riviera series progresses - slowly. I can't remember if I said, but I'm at the stage when I am working off a hard copy - that's when the nitty gritty stuff happens. Did I really mean to say that? Is that really correct? Have I got the same character in two places at once? 

Thankfully I have not found any instances of that last one. I've checked the time line - using a tip from author Kitty Wilson who actually uses a calendar and plots everything in. I made my own and did the same - and was delighted to find that the time line I'd been working to in my head was spot on. It's nice to have proof though.

It's always disconcerting to find you have plot holes at this stage. And yes, there were a few. Better to find them now than wait for my editor to ask innocent questions. My particular niggle is the logic hole - where my characters are having a conversation and what they are talking about doesn't add up. In real life that probably goes un-noticed most of the time, but on the printed page ...

Then there are the rabbit holes. I'm a compulsive fact checker = I do my best to make sure I have things right - the worst problem being that old chestnut, not knowing that you don't know. In the course of that you find out all sorts of interesting facts - Today I've investigated training courses for private detectives, a Phillip Glass opera about a mysterious Pharaoh and the origins of several slang expressions - and then of course you end up following links to places you never intended to go ...

It's slow, and a bit convoluted, but the book has to be the best I can make it before it leaves the building. Time taken fixing the holes is time well spend in the end. 

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Let them eat cake?

Yesterday I had a really nice day - the belated celebration for making the final of the RNA RONAs with A Villa in Portofino for the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller award. As I also have a "significant" birthday looming on the horizon and might finally make it to a graduation ceremony for the PhD (jury is still out on that one) I rolled them all together and had a celebration with fellow members of the RNA Cariad Chapter at our regular meeting place upstairs in Waterloo Tea in the Wyndham Arcade in Cardiff. Of course there was cake - pistachio and strawberry - and it was delicious. 

I always enjoy our meetings but it was very special to share this one with friends - support and companionship from fellow writers is important, and the Cariad Chapter always delivers 

Wednesday 1 June 2022

In the background. Or in the office.

 It's strange to think that three years ago talking about seeing friends on Zoom would have earned you blank stares. Now it's part of life, and looks like it will continue to be so. Meetings, get togethers, classes can all be national and international. I've attended a lot more meetings virtually than I would have been able to in real life and participated in courses that would have been impossible to attend in person.

 Attending the AGM of the Crime Writers' Association last week, in my dressing gown - well it was Saturday morning and for me, being a night owl, quite early at 10 am - I started to look at the backgrounds that everyone had in their zoom shots. (I don't think anyone noticed the dressing gown - with a lot of people present the pictures were quite small.) While a number of people had those backgrounds of gardens or fields or Sydney Harbour or whatever and I had a very nice view of the contents of my china cabinet because my home office is in a corner of the dining room, I notice most people had background views of their office. I've discovered, via a little googling, that you can get backgrounds of very posh looking libraries  and studies - who knew - but that was not what these were. These were the places where people worked, almost invariably with shelves of books in the background. I suppose that was a no-brainer really.

And of course I immediately wanted to be able to read the titles of the books on the shelves. Now that is something that you can't do on Zoom.  Unfortunately. I always think you can tell a lot by the kind of thing people read. And of course, being terribly nosy, I want to know. You probably can't tell much about me from a quick background glimpse of the decorated plates brought back from Spain and Portugal and the Clarice Cliff  style tea service that my grandfather won at the fair - or maybe you can. Books on the other hand... My taste in reading matter is weirdly varied, if you wander around the house. Mostly it's escapist fiction -  I don't do serious stuff, with a scattering of classics, inherited books and left overs from childhood. But then, in complete contrast, there are the research books from the PhD, heavy academic tomes about the war - no escapist stuff there. 

I suppose if I was choosing to display books on my Zoom background those would be the ones I would pick. The ones that make me look intellectual and grown up. Perhaps it's better that you get the china cabinet instead? 

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Nearly there?

 The WIP - provisionally titled Masquerade on the Riviera - is in the third and I hope the last phase. I have 310 pages of typescript and just over 86,000 words. 

Now I do the toothcomb bit. 

Proof checking - of course. I use dictation software to get the words from hand written to typed, so there are always a few words missing or incorrect phrases along the way, although I usually scoop up the real howlers when it gets its first check on the machine. I know that in this manuscript one of the the supporting characters has two different spellings of his name, depending what sort of mood I and the machine were in at the time, and as I also changed his name when I was editing, as it sounded too like another character, there may well be three to pick up. There are a few XXs in there too where I couldn't remember what I'd called minor players.

I will be editing, naturally, to make sure everything adds up and ties together and most important, the time line stands up, and to polish the words so that it is fit to be let out.

The last thing, which I am borderline obsessive about, is fact checking. You can't know everything, and it is  often pointed out among writers that the worst hazards are the things that you don't know you don't know, but I might add the ones that you do think you know can be a problem too. I do my best to check everything,  which takes time, but worth it. 

The manuscript that leaves the building has to be the best I can make it, on this stage of the journey. Fingers crossed this time it won't be tooooo long! 

Wednesday 18 May 2022

Its a bit hectic around here.

 Life has been little chaotic for the last few weeks, but it is settling down now. I hope so, as I do have a book I want to finish and get to my publisher! 

After the excitement of the CWA conference I came home and went straight into having my bathroom re-modelled. Long story, but the short version is that my shower sprang a leak and attempts at having 

a bath after many decades were traumatic in the extreme. You've heard the one about the three old ladies. This was one old lady who having got in, couldn't get out. The work took twice as long as it was supposed to, and I decamped to the nearest hotel for a couple of nights in order to be able to enjoy - gasp- a working shower. The picture is work in progress, which gives you an idea. The shower is done now, and it is beautiful. Still stuff to do in the room, notably the floor, but we will get there. 

In amongst all this, lovely and longstanding book buddy Margaret James had invited me in January to be a guinea pig for a new column she was trying out in Writing magazine, and the feature, Five Quick Questions was published in the latest addition. Many thanks to Margaret. It was fun to do and I hope it will give readers an insight into how I got where I am today. It was a long journey. Never give up should be the writers' motto. 

 Having got the bit between my teeth I am now attempting to organise other work that needs doing around the house and of course get that book done. The end is nearly in sight, I hope. It got a boost yesterday when the RNA Cariad Chapter had another on-line retreat day, again beautifully organised by the tireless Jessie. It gave the work a boost, as I had no excuse to be diverted to house type stuff.  And it was fun. So good to have support and hear about what other writers are achieving during their day. 

The book is top of the agenda for next week. Wish me luck. 

Wednesday 11 May 2022

Greenway - Agatha Christie's Holiday Home

 This is the last post from my recent trip to the English Riviera. As part of the Crime Writers' conference a number of extra curricular activities were organised, I jumped at the chance to spend Saturday afternoon at Greenways. It was a perfect day to visit, as I think the photos below will show - bluebells, primroses  and ramsons (wild garlic) were in bloom in swathes under the trees, along with magnolia and rhododendrons. The grounds were glorious, on a glorious day, and the house, which is now in the charge of the National Trust, was fascinating. It also revealed a slightly spooky, writerly "thing", which I am trying to get my head around.  

For the work in progress I have created a wealthy family of collectors - some of them rather eccentric - who have been amassing their own particular treasures over generations.  With some it was first editions, Pre-Raphaelite paintings, alchemical tracts. One very significant collection from the 1920s is of Egyptian artifacts, which is central to the story. I decided that at least one of the collections would be slightly unusual, so I decided on the theme of clowns  - art works, sculpture, theatre costumes and posters - anything that would attract a collector, with the idea that some of the things might have creepy overtones - thank you Stephen King.  When I began to research art work that would have been modern and cutting edge at the time it was collected, I found that pieces by artists like Picasso and Jean Cocteau that were labeled as clowns, proved to be Pierrots and other characters from the Commedia dell'arte rather than the red-nosed circus clowns we are more used to now. This fitted in with older collectable art from French painter Jean Antoine Watteau, whom I had just studied in an excellent on-line course from the Wallace Collection in London. Watteau had a fondness for the Commedia characters, including Pierrot and Harlequin.  This was fine - I shifted my focus and we were good to go. The "Clowns" have their own important part in the story.  

It was very disconcerting, on visiting Greenways to discover that not only were the generations of Christie family great collectors, but that Dame Agatha had a lovely collection of Commedia figures that she had inherited which were on display  at the house. I really didn't know any of this. Or did I? Had I heard about it and forgotten until something surfaced from the past? Was it coincidence? Was it some sort of ESP? I know didn't change my plan from the circus/Stephen King type clown until I saw those pictures from Picasso.  

Strange and disconcerting. But that's life as a writer.

Greenways, in Devon

Beside the River Dart

Bluebells and ramsons

The upper garden, with lawns. There is a walled garden and tennis court too. 

Wednesday 4 May 2022

A Trip to the English Riviera

 Ever since I began the "Riviera" series I've had it in mind to set a book on the English Riviera. Now I've finally done it. The WIP opens in Torquay, which is not only on the Riviera but also has numerous connections with the "Queen of Crime" Agatha Christie. The book has Christie type overtones as it begins with a house party during which a valuable necklace goes missing. Add in that the necklace is alleged to have belonged to Cleopatra, among others, and you can tell how much fun I have had with this. And don't worry - the grand finale takes place in Monte Carlo/Monaco - so there is some Mediterranean sunshine in the mix too. 

My trip to Torquay for the Crime Writers' Conference gave me the opportunity to prowl the town and  get some pictures for atmosphere. I thought I would share a few of them below. 

The Pavilion that marks the entrance to the pier.

The harbour/marina - lots of fabulous boats

Dame Agatha herself comemorated in a metal likeness

Wednesday 27 April 2022

A Criminally Good Weekend

 I'm just back from the Crime Writers' Annual Conference - an "annual" conference that has been in abeyance since 2020! It was good to finally see friends and visit the English Riviera - Torquay - which I really wanted to do for research for the work in progress. What can I say - the welcome was warm, the weather was perfect, the company was excellent and the speakers ditto. I prowled around the town, getting the pictures I wanted, visited Greenways, Agatha Christie's old home - the town and surroundings are inescapably linked to the Queen of Crime - I ate super meals that I didn't have to cook, including posh hotel breakfasts and locally caught fish, and generally had a perfect weekend. I now have builders demolishing my bathroom, so I'm glad I enjoyed it!

What did I do? 

The conference location was the Imperial Hotel, a grand old fashioned place, of the kind I adore. A little faded now, but still impressive. Agatha Christie was a native of Torquay and attended many social functions at the hotel, and also used it in a number of books, under the guise of "The Majestic" Poirot and Miss Marple have sat on its terraces

The "Majestic" Imperial

Dame Agatha is celebrated with a plaque
 in the foyer

The impressive interior -
my idea of the perfect hotel 

The dining room - a view of the sea - and just look
at the linen and silverware!

I arrived on Friday afternoon to find I had a lovely room, with its own balcony and sea view, and treated myself to afternoon tea sitting in the glassed-in lounge with another sea view. 

The hotel grounds 

The view from my balcony

Amazing afternoon tea

The tea was amazing, arriving in it's own set of shelves -  sandwiches, sausage roll and crab tart, scones and  cake. 

Friday evening was taken up with a reception at the local museum. As I had decanted my essentials into a tiny handbag I didn't take the camera, so was not able to photograph the Egyptian exhibits which I had not expected and which would have been very appropriate for the WIP. You will just have to imagine statues of gods and a sarcophagus. 

On Saturday morning we had a selection of speakers covering law enforcement from a number of angles. Saturday afternoon was a trip to Greenway Agatha Christies' old home, now run by the National Trust The house was fascinating and the grounds were beautiful - full of spring flowers. I'm going to post next week on that - I think it deserves special attention. Ditto the pictures I took on my ramble around Torquay - I can tell you about the WIP too. 

Saturday night was the gala dinner during which the long lists for the CWA Dagger Awards were announced. There were several friends in the line up and I got a special buzz being in the room to hear Alis Hawkin's name as a contender for the Historical Dagger. Alis is a guiding light for Crime Cymru - the collective a Welsh Crime Writers of which I am a member 

The Torquay marina

All too soon it was Sunday - speakers from the Society of Authors and an interesting presentation on self publishing from CWA members who are doing it for themselves. All too soon the official weekend was over, but I was able to go on the town to prowl  for location shots and then sat for a while in the sunshine on my balcony, reading. 

All in all it was a wonderful weekend. 

Wednesday 20 April 2022

It's the atmosphere.

 Last week I was talking about popular buildings that feature in romance novels. That got me thinking a little wider - popular occupations and popular locations. 

It's a given that any book with Cornwall or Scotland in the title will probably do quite well. What are we buying - holiday memories, wish fulfilment? The idea of escaping to some wild place, particularly if it is a coastal location seems to be a big draw. Not sure if Cornwall in high season would qualify as a wild place these days, but you get the idea. Escape, getting back to nature, living a simpler life? It doesn't really matter if the reality is a little different - in fact maybe it's better that way. It's a dream, and romance authors are big on wish fulfilment. 

The other things that seems to get idealised  quite a bit are occupations. This loops back a bit to the buildings - baker, guest house owner, bookseller, maybe librarian. All these seem to be things we want to be. No one seems to dream of being a tax inspector, although I have threatened for a long time to include one in a book.  Pet sitter, dog walkers, gallery owners, artists, they are all in the list. I suspect that self employment may have a bearing on some of this - the lure of being your own boss. Of course that means that you are where to buck stops, but we are talking wish fulfilment here. 

And of course an awful lot of books feature writers. 

I have to tell you writing for a living it is not as glamourous or as lucrative as it is made out in books. That has to be wish fulfilment on the part of the author. Writers in books go out to lunch in expensive places, drink champagne, get six figure deals, are interviewed by magazines, get offered film deals, go on perfectly organised international book tours, do their writing in immaculate offices or maybe in their own purpose built shepherd's hut. 

Some of that does happen. All of it happens to a few authors, some of it happens occasionally to the rest of us, but not that often. And the average income of an author for the majority is actually below the living wage, so it's not even really a living. But we still do it. Like all those bakers and dog walkers and booksellers, we're doing our own thing. The thing we love.

And who knows, maybe that six figure deal is just around the corner. 

Wednesday 13 April 2022

Special kinds of building for romance readers?

 Many romance readers will be familiar with the idea of a trope - there are quite a lot of popular ones. Fairy tales - Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast are top ones there - then there's friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, only one bed, runaway bride, marriage of convenience, secret baby ...

It occurred to me, browsing in the library last week, that there are certain types of buildings that seem to be developing trope-like status. There presence on a cover can give a book added shelf appeal. I started on a list:

Beach Huts - The epitome of the English summer? Sea, sand dunes, picnics ...

Old Houses - How many books can you think of that have the word 'House' in the title?  Often there is a mystery - an old family home, an inheritance - and of course a garden, in various states of wildness. (Yes - I'm guilty on that one.) 

Castles - mostly but not exclusively historical romance - probably located in Scotland. Wales has an abundance of them, but they don't seem to feature quite so much. 

Libraries  - comforting, or spooky depending on the nature of the books. And an object of envy for the dedicated reader as well.

Bookshops - a variation on the library? Often offering a new career for the protagonist. 

Bakery/Cafe another career location - a place where people meet, and if there is cake ...

Bed and Breakfast/Guest House - another variation on the career location - the potential for a cast of characters - and you get all the meals. 

Trains - not really a building, but a journey has so many possibilities. Planes and road transport don't seem to have the same allure as a rail journey.  

Water - again, not a building but bodies of water seem to have drawing power - lots of titles involving water - lake, cove, bay, beach. 

What are we looking for when we take these books from the shelf? I'd say it's escapism, potential for an alternative lifestyle that seems attractive - even though we know that in real life the Bookshop/Bakery/B&B would involve hard work. Also you will no doubt have noticed that several of these locations would be as happy hosting cosy crime as romance.  You can take you choice on that  - a corpse or a clinch.