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.