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.

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Putting yourself in your books.

 Writing is a strange occupation. I've heard it described as telling lies for a living.  And all the stories/lies come out of you own head, which is even stranger. Disturbing when you are enjoying writing a villain. Perhaps even more disturbing when your characters take off and start doing things you never intended. 

There's a classic joke - 'Be careful or I'll put you in my novel.'  I would never do that - too afraid of possible consequences - but I have noticed lately that I'm putting myself in my novels. Not as a character, but using specific memories and experiences. 

I'm currently transferring the WIP from hand written to type written - a bit of a laborious process, although it is also the first rough edit, so it is useful. I've just transcribed a scene in and around Sloane Square in London, and I was struck by how much of my daily walk to work had influenced the scene in small ways. Re-reading it on Saturday took me back to the Square on a sunny day, the cafes and restaurants, the people, the shops, the entrance to the tube station. I know the geography of the square and the positioning of the zebra crossings is going to be significant for the plot in a future scene. It was nice to remember.

I've blogged previously about how  I used objects I've inherited in A Villa in Portofino - you can see a 'tour' of these in the special pages at the top of the blog. One object, or set of objects, in particular stands out - the postcards that my father must have brought home from his time serving in Italy during the Second World War. They are views of the major cities and some more obscure ones too. I know nothing about them as my parents were engaged before and after the war, but not during - long story - and Mum and I did not find them until we were sorting out things after he died. 

Why did he keep them? 

I'm guessing that it might have been accidental. You know how it is - you find a box, have a quick look through and then put it back where you found it, to be sorted out another day. And there is something about throwing away photos. 

One of the things I wanted to explore in A Villa in Portofino was the idea of family 'secrets' that are not really secrets but have simply come down the generations only partially explained.

Those postcards formed the stepping stone into Megan's  mystery of the Italian poetry books. A small 'mystery' that the depths of the writer's mind embroidered into a completely different direction. You can get 'inspiration' from all kinds of places. Then your characters take it and run with it and that's how you get a book. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Age is just a number?

 Readers of romance are said to have expectations - the biggest being that the  book will end with a Happy Ever After, or at least a Happy for Now. If it doesn't, it may be a love story, c.f. Romeo and Juliet, but it is not a romance. One of the lesser known but often debated issues amongst romance writers is the age of hero and heroine. 

Convention suggests that heroines are within the range early twenties to early thirties and late twenties to late thirties for heroes. Old enough to have a bit of experience of life and ready to settle down and start a family? Hero needs to be slightly older so more established in his career, etc. Received wisdom is that that is what  readers like and are reluctant to accept anything outside those limits, even if they are not themselves in those age brackets. I don't recall ever encountering any research into the topic - be interesting to know if there is any. It seems like one of those chicken and egg situations where readers rarely get offered alternatives because it's believed that that book won't sell.

The issue is in my mind at the moment because I am reading Nora Robert's Hideaway in which hero and heroine begin as children and then move on to late teens. I haven't finished it yet, but I gather from reviews that they don't go any further than that. I'm enjoying the book because well - Nora, but the fact that some reviewers picked up on the age thing suggests it is an issue.  There are plenty of ensemble cast of all ages in the book and and the majority of relationships are strong, which is a big attraction and which is a plus as far as I am concerned.  

I'm particularly interested in this one, as when I submitted my very first effort at romantic suspense to the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme, after many experiments in other genres, I was called out on exactly that point. In the first half of the book the hero and heroine are both teenagers, although they are ten years older in the second half. I was told that a reader would not be interested in such a young couple. I put the book away in the bottom drawer, but over the years it has tugged at me and still does. I have an idea to revive it but yes, the teenage romance will be a shorter flashback middle section  just in case. 

What about a mature couple? Again this is meant to be less popular and to be honest I can't think of anything I have read where an older couple has centre stage, although that might say more for my conventional reading habits than the books that are on offer! Hundred year old vampires don't count. 

For my own books I do like a slightly older heroine and in A Wedding on the Riviera Nadine is actually a couple of years older than Ryan, which felt very daring at the time, but no one seems to have noticed! 

I'm wondering a bit about the WIP as for reasons of plot the heroine is twenty seven and the hero thirty six, which is a wider age gap than I usually have. Masie is very mature, so again, I hope no one will notice!

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

March is my favourite month?

 I think it might be - simply because with the passing of the equinox there are only longer days and shorter nights to look forward to. Other than that milestone, it's been a quiet week. I'm deeply enmeshed in getting Riviera 4 from handwritten to typed draft, so everything else has got a bit blurred. I did make some rather timid attempts at getting some order in the garden, as the sun was shining. It's high on my agenda for this year, along with some other things that need doing inside the house. Other than that, nothing much. I discovered a huge plot hole on Sunday and it took me most of the day to fill it - but that is much better than having your editor point it out to you much later in the proceedings. 

Returning to that equinox - which means that a quarter of the year is gone already! Those points in the year - equinox, solstice, the various old festivals like Beltane, Lammas and Samhain always stir up a long held idea of writing something that would encompass the atmosphere that they might create. I suspect Mary Stewart's Wildfire at Midnight may have something to do with that as the Beltane fires are an integral part of the story. 

For the moment I'm still on the Riviera and enjoying it. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

It's finished!

 A bitter sweet moment as I have just finished the hand written draft of Riviera Book 4. Feels like I am saying goodbye to my characters, but actually the work goes on as the typing and editing is next. That's not so much fun though. I love the discovery of the characters, the journey, the falling in love, the nearly getting killed ... 

I don't like it when I don't have a WIP in progress, even when I sometimes can't get near it for days when life intervenes. 

There is always the big question too - will the readers approve it? It's certainly not like the other three books - but they are not like each other. A lot of work goes into a book and as my reason for writing them is so that people will enjoy reading them, it matters.

The next big question is how soon can I get the nuts and bolts stuff done? Sometimes it seems to take forever. I'd really like to get this one out during the summer, rather than a September release like the last two, when they tend to run into the back of the new releases for Christmas. 

Typing, editing, fact checking - now the real work starts. 

I'll let you know how things go. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

What a night!

 Well, I didn't win the Jackie Collins Award for Romantic Thriller 2022. I didn't really expect to - and big congratulations to friend Sue Fortin who took the trophy home. 

What I did have was a fabulous night. It was so good to see friends that I have not met in real life in ages, and to be part of a big event  totally dedicated to celebrating romantic fiction. There was food, conversation, lots of that, celebration and laughter. I got my name and a pic of the book cover in the programme, a certificate which I think I shall frame, and my name badge had a sparkly red heart to show I was a nominee. I had my picture taken with the other finalists, which will probably surface in due course. I hope I don't have my eyes closed and my mouth open - although if I do it will not be for the first time. 

I had a lovely night, catching up with old friends and making new ones and it really was a night to remember. As a nominee I got a lot of congratulations and the warmth and excitement of the evening, with so many people meeting up after so long, was noticeable. I doubt I will ever have the experience again, and I made the most of it. On the wardrobe front - in the event I couldn't get into either of the dresses - not if I still wanted to be able to breathe as well - too much chocolate at Christmas, I'm afraid. I ended up with a green jumpsuit which is more forgiving, with blue shoes and bag, so I matched the cover of the book quite nicely. 

The rest of the weekend was lovely too, particularly  spending Sunday afternoon in the Egyptian rooms of the British Museum, researching for the WIP. I'm glad to say that the first draft of that is very nearly finished. Now I am back home and back to reality, I need to make progress with it.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

By This Time Next Week

 It's getting closer. 

The winners of the Romantic Novelists' Association awards will be announced at an event on 7th March, so by this time next week we will know. 

Am I expecting to win? Hoping - maybe. Expecting - really? No. The competition is fierce , with some incredibly talented and successful authors in the list, several of whom are also friends. I have loved being a finalist. It is amazing to know that readers enjoyed your work and to have recognition from your professional organisation. It is a dream come true and one that I really never expected to have, although you do always hope. 

Whatever happens it will be a fabulous night - not least because I will be seeing friends and fellow authors who I haven't seen for years - you all know why that is! 

The big question of the moment is - of course - what are you going to wear? My mum was a professional dressmaker and I would like to wear something she made me. I have a wonderful dress, floor length and covered in sequins, that was made for a romance convention ball in America. Everyone in my 'team'  is urging me to choose that one, but I really think it is a bit OTT for an early evening function, however swish. I have another dress which I wore when I won the Joan Hessayon Award - short and svelte - well, when I get the scaffolding underneath organised. Even after ten years it still fits, although it is a little more snug these days. It's easier to breath in than the sequins. I think that will be the one. 

Whatever the choice, and win or lose, it will be a memorable night. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

March 1st - St David's Day

 Happy St David's Day. 

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus

St David is the patron saint of Wales, celebrated with daffodils, leeks and maybe a Welsh cake or two. 

(I'll be celebrating with fellow members of the RNA Cariad Chapter. Won't be wearing my national costume, but there will be cake!) 

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

A WIP Playlist?

 A lot of authors write to music - and issue a playlist for the books. I'm not one of them, but the other day, standing looking at the baked beans in ASDA, Tina Turner's What's love got to do with it? came up on the tannoy and it occurred to me that it was quite apt for the scenes I am currently writing. That got me thinking that it would be fun to find a few more titles that fitted. 

So - here it is the WIP playlist. Please note it is the titles of the songs rather than the lyrics that are the significant things - clues to what I hope will become Riviera Book Four!

 Watching the Detectives - Elvis Costello

Walk like an Egyptian - The Bangles

What's Love Got To Do With It? - Tina Turner

Masquerade from the Phantom of the Opera

Shot in the Dark - AC/DC

Monte Carlo - The Verve 

Teddy Bears' Picnic - Henry Hall

We Are Family - Sister Sledge

Cleopatra - The Lumineers

Those are the clues - hope I've made you curious. 

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

A lot to learn?

 Regular readers will probably have realised by now that I am a bit off a junkie for academic stuff.  I'm not doing any more degrees - that really is too heavy - but that doesn't stop me sneaking off for the occasional quick fix. One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic is the availability of all sort of lectures and courses on line. Museums and universities in particular have transferred their offerings to the internet which means that the audience can join in for events which would be impossible in person. Large audiences with participants from all over the world are quite a regular thing. 

And, of course, I'm right there. In the last few weeks I've done lectures on swords, unicorns, and the influence of alchemy and of the occult on modern art. Tonight there is a talk on duels and on Friday I'm doing something on Egypt with the Ashmolian. That last is research for the WIP. And all without leaving the house.  

A lot of this stuff finds its way into books. Not quite sure if that will happen to the dueling and the unicorns, but the art often gets absorbed.  A couple of study sessions I did with the Wallace Collection on Watteau  have found their way into an unexpected part of the WIP. I hope that will add to the readers enjoyment, if and when it makes it to the outside world. 

Book news. WIP is moving, slowly. I had a good day on Sunday, when words flowed like a dream - which probably means there is a dirty great plot hole in there somewhere. Not found it yet - but give it time. A Villa in Portofino bounced into a best seller flag and out again, twice. Doesn't last long but it is fun. A Wedding on the Riviera was featured in Vale Life magazine. It's all good. 

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Writers in their Ivory Towers?

Writing is essentially a solitary occupation. Possibly because of this writing retreats, where a group of writers, sometimes friends, sometimes strangers gathered together by particular tutors or venues, are popular  - or at least they were before the pandemic. I'm sure they will bloom again when we achieve normality. The object of the exercise is to have a block of time away from routine to get work done, the support of other writers and often freedom from domestic chores. I've often thought I'd like to do a retreat - either on my own, which is also useful for getting work done, or in a group. I never got round to it pre-pandemic - blame the doctorate - but it is on my bucket list. Of course another constraint to doing a retreat is paying for it - getaways don't come cheap, especially the very enticing ones that take  place abroad. 

So can it be done without leaving home? The answer is - yes. The Cariad Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association did a virtual retreat last week. Heroically organised by Jessie we assembled on Zoom at 9am, noon and 5pm to set goals and report progress. Admittedly some were still in their pyjamas for the first session - well, alright, I admit that was me. But they were a very posh holiday pair especially worn for the occasion. Some people were only able to come to part of the day due to other commitments and if you wanted feeding and watering  it was down to you - I got myself a fancy ready meal so I didn't have to do too much. 

The big thing was - it worked. It was lovely checking in with everyone to find out how they were doing. My morning was hijacked by some unavoidable admin stuff, but in the afternoon I got back into the WIP which had been languishing due to house repairs and other excitements and worked my way over a sticky bit that has opened up the way to the next section. I wasn't the only one - everyone seemed to get something out of it, even members  of the chapter who were not able to be there have said since that they did something useful on the day. Quite a number who had been a bit stuck, or circling around a project found that the time and support helped them break through. 

So - it was fun, it was a success - hopefully it will result in the appearance of a number of books in due course. And of course now we all want to do it again! 

(And of course the picture isn't an ivory tower - it's Castell Coch.) 

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

How many dreams can you have come true?

 It took me a very long time to make it as a published author. When I finally did, my debut novel won the RNA Joan Hessayon Award for newly published authors graduating from the New Writers' Scheme. It was a dream come true and one I'd almost given up on ever achieving. 

More books - and life - happened. I'm six books in now, although it could be more, except that those life events, and a little thing called a PhD intervened. The PhD was another dream, one that I signed on for when I thought I was never going to make it as a writer - well, you can guess what happened ...

The doctorate was something that I could control, with hard work and application - although it took a lot longer than it was supposed to - life again.  But once I was published, I moved on to another dream. I dreamed about becoming a finalist in the Romantic Novelists' Association RONA Awards. Another one that seemed almost unobtainable. But if you don't have dreams then life is very blank - and you have to have something to aim for ...

Then this happened.

I've had this secret since the middle of January, but yesterday it was announced - I am a finalist for the RNA Joan Collins Romantic Thriller Award. 

Will I win? Who knows? I'm in competition with some fabulous authors.

I do know this - even if I don't win, it is a thrill and an honour just to be nominated.

Dreams do come true more than once. 

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

the good stuff and the bad stuff.

 On the whole it's good stuff, but every silver lining has a cloud. 

Good stuff - the builders were finally able to start my new roof and the weather has been miraculously calm and dry, for which I have uttered a large amount of thanks. The bad stuff was when Les arrived at the door with a joist that looked like something that had been washed up on the beach after a shipwreck. Evidence of the slow leak that I suspected, having  seen the inside of the bedroom cupboard. All repaired now, but expensive.

Good stuff - A Villa in Portofino sneaked a best seller flag twice on Amazon. Bad stuff - it didn't last long - but still thrilled. 

Mixed stuff - the WIP has got a bit sticky, I'm sorting it out - Mozart  and walks by the sea, but it is uncomfortable when it happens. 

Hope it will have shaken loose by next week. 

I hope you had a good day yesterday for St Dwynwen's day. 

Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Happy St Dwynwen's Day


Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus

Today is St Dwynwen's day - the Welsh patron saint of lovers. 

Very appropriate for a Welsh romantic novelist - even one who sets her books on the Riviera - love is love, after all. 

Have a great day. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

A Wedding on the Riviera - out now in paperback


It's been a long time coming, but A Wedding on the Riviera , the second in the Riviera series, is out now as a paperback - available from all good bookshops. If you are thinking of ordering it might I suggest getting it from your local independent bookstore? Local businesses need our support in these troubled times.

The picture is the rather battered box of author copies that arrived in the last days of 2021. There is a story to that too. They were meant to have been delivered on 17th December, but something went wrong and I didn't get them. The courier eventually sorted it out and the box  arrived, looking a little travel-worn. It reminded me of the parcels we used to get from my aunt in America when I was a kid. They were always exciting. I remember one memorable year the parcel contained a 'Midge' doll. She was Barbie's best friend, and my aunt, who absolutely loved prowling around the 'doll' section of the stores, chose her because with freckles and flicked up blonde hair she thought she was "cuter" than Barbie. I was really a little bit too old for dolls, but the attraction was the clothes - I particularly loved the ball gowns and cocktail dresses but she had everything from rainwear with umbrella and wellingtons to fancy lurex jumpsuits. Outfits usually had hats and gloves. That was correct dress in those days - think Jackie Kennedy. Being older I was very careful with tiny shoes, and jewelry and was able to dress her and stand her on my dressing table - she came with a stand. It paid off much later too, when she was the star of a toy auction at Christies.

How did I digress? The books arrived and I was rather worried over the state of the box, but the contents was fine - very classy copies with the name of the book and my name embossed. There is nothing to beat holding a copy of your book in your hand. It doesn't matter if it is the first book, or the fifth. Or probably the fiftieth - not sure I will make that milestone, but all I can do is work towards it. 

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

We're watching you ...

Last week I researched tennis bracelets - a single strand of diamonds for those not it the know. I learned that on a Caribbean cruise many years ago. They were the complete height of fashion at the time but even now they still look good. You know I like diamonds (Hah!)  All the cruising ladies were intent on buying one from the fabulous jewelry stores they have out there. I had emerald earrings on my mind, but that is entirely a different story. These days I can no longer afford either cruise or jewelry, but those were fun times. 

I wanted the bracelet for WIP heroine Masie to wear to a rather posh do at a Learned Society in London, hence the research. (She couldn't afford it either - she borrowed it from Cassie, who is, of course, married to a billionaire.)  As a result of this piece of research, I got a lot of adverts in various feeds for upmarket bling. I very much enjoyed that, although there was no way I could afford what I was being offered. I don't mind being offered 'stuff'' although it is disconcerting to know how closely your browsing is being monitored on occasion. Sometime though, advertisers get it wrong. I'm still puzzling why a certain well known retailer would think I was interested in art supplies and sewing boxes. 

I've just checked the social media - it's currently offering me upmarket house paint and more jewelry. Fair enough, I've expressed an interest in both those.

As a suspense writer I find being stalked by advertisers a little on the creepy side. I'm sure there ought to be a story in there, but I can't think of one right at this moment. Be interesting if something does pop up. 

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Happy New Year?


I don't do resolutions - but I do have hopes for 2022. The obvious one is that we may at last get some semblance of normality back - but that is number one on everyone's list. I really do hope that I get that long postponed holiday in the South of France too, but again, that is dependent on things outside my control. 

One thing that is going to happen, that I am really looking forward to, is the release of the paperback version of A Wedding on the Riviera. It's been long delayed because of the virus, but it will be here this month. 

The main thing that I am hoping for is another book in the Riviera series - book four. I'm about half way through the first draft, so it is looking achievable, provided I am not de-railed. I know from experience  how easily that can happen - life gets in the way. Fingers crossed it won't happen this time and you will be enjoying Masie and Elliot's story before the end of the year. 

I'll keep you posted.