Thursday 23 February 2023

A Sentimental Journey

 Last week I did one of my favourite things and ran away to London. It was something of a special trip, one of memories and nostalgia. 

First off was the journey itself, as I treated myself to a posh lunch in first class on the GWR Pullman from Cardiff to Paddington.  This was the bitter sweet bit as I used to do this with my mum, many years ago. The first time we did it we were travelling in standard class and they announced that those who wanted could come forward to have lunch. I looked at her and she looked at me ... 

We did it several times after that, and then they stopped the service and now my lunch companion is long gone. 

The Pullman has recently been re-instated for certain trains, so I was on the 13.18 out of Cardiff and in the dining car last Wednesday. Lunch was lovely - crab salad, chicken supreme and marmalade sponge with custard. I hadn't intended to have pudding, but I think it was the custard that did it.  Plus the memory that the first time we had sticky toffee pudding. Don't remember the rest of lunch, but that pudding stays with me. The service on Wednesday was friendly and efficient and it was a memorable experience even if slightly tearful for a few moments. Would I do it again? Yes! So now I am stuck with another expensive habit!!!

I had a few days wandering old haunts in the city, a little shopping, discovering that my Oyster card still works and had nearly £20 credit on it was a nice surprise, and I went to the theatre for the first time since before the pandemic. Strange and exciting to be back in the theatre again after so long. The play was Lemons, Lemons, Lemons ... with Aiden Turner and Jenna Coleman. It was a fast paced two hander that went down well with the audience. How would you conduct a romance with only an allowance of 140 spoken words a day? An idea to ponder for a romantic novelist. 

On my last day I had lunch with the London and South East Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association. It was wonderful to spend a little time with long time friends (I have an embargo on the expression "old friends") who I had not seen for a very long time. Laughter, gossip, more good food at The Duchess pub in Duke Street and the chance to chat.

Then it was the station and home - and the proofs of Masquerade on the Riviera were waiting ... 

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Today's post will be a little late!

 I'm currently on the very last stages of proof reading for Masquerade on the Riviera, but  as soon as I am done there will be a post on the weekend I just spent in London.

Some bitter/sweet memories, a theatre trip and a meeting with old friends. 

See you soon. 

Wednesday 15 February 2023

Bells and whistles

 The edits are done, for the moment. There will be some tidying up next week, I think, but it's almost there. 

One of the last things to be added are the Dedication and Acknowledgements - alright, yes, that's two things. When I am writing them I often wonder how many people actually read them. 

As a reader I find them fascinating - a little glimpse into the writer's life. The Dedication is often very personal, a thank you or a memorial to someone who is or was  significant to the writer. Friends and family usually figure heavily.  Loved ones who have passed on are often commemorated as influences. Family can also feature in the Acknowledgements often with thanks for patient tolerance of author distraction and increased absence as deadlines loom, or apologies, ditto. Dogs and cats also appear, often credited for their vital assistance. 

Acknowledgements are also the place to thank your experts - the people you have consulted for specialist information.  I find those particularly interesting- it's often surprising who has helped and with what. I've had help with forensics, Italian, and for the new one, matters Egyptian. It is scary approaching people, although I have to say it gets easier when you have a few books published, even if you are not a household name. And everyone I have approached has always been willing and gracious in sharing their expertise. It's traditional to point out that any mistakes are down to the author - if you are using facts to write fiction it can happen. Not many of us have the chutzpah of best selling crime writer Harlan Coben who often blames his experts! But if you are a writer of that stature, you can get away with it! 

Agents, publishers and editors often get a mention - if you are an aspiring writer it can be a good source of information on who represents or publishes who - although of course that's no guarantee that they will be interested in your manuscript - but they might.  

The newest addition to the extras is the thank you letter. It is good to be able to thank your readers. You are why we do it, but it is also a plea for those all important reviews. That's not the author looking for flattery - reviews can apparently open up all sorts of opportunities with those mysterious algorithms. Don't ask me how, I have no idea, but if you do have a moment to spare and you enjoyed the book, or even if you didn't, your review counts.  

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Whether Weather?


Spring is one the way. 

I'm a bit late today. Spent most of yesterday with my tribe - the Cariad chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association - tea/coffee and cake, then lunch and a very instructive workshop on newsletters from Imogen. Do I need a newsletter? A question to ponder. 

I've been doing chores this morning and time got away from me - wanted to get the washing out while it was still sunny!!! That's what got me thinking, because on two mornings running, when opening the curtains to greet the day and my two visiting magpies, I was greeted by heavy mist. Very atmospheric. The eclectic brain of the writer, which is always running a background programme in any situation of 'Can I use this?'  made me wonder. I'd love to use it - not sure how. Anyway the sun is shining now and the washing is out and here I am, thinking about weather. And whether it makes a difference? 

How far does it impinge on enjoyment of a book? As you know, my thing is sunshine, Both as a reader and a writer and generally as a human, I respond to light and warmth.  My mood is definitely cheering up as spring approaches.  I have written a Xmas book and appreciated that for that one, snow was essential, but it is not my special thing. If you have any pretensions to writing about situations with glamour and fun, which I do in the Riviera series, then sunny days and places seem essential. Other writers have made use of the weather in special situations. Think of Sherlock Holmes and you inevitably think of heavy fog. I'm trying to remember of books where storms and rains are essential - I'm sure there are obvious examples, but my mind is blank on that one at the moment. Wuthering Heights might not be a book at all without the moor. Gothics certainly need to plug into light and dark and weather extremes. I know reading about cold or heat affects my mood. It's an essential but unobtrusive part of the location and setting. I remember making it rain in my debut published book because the hero was depressed and I wanted to help convey the mood. I can do bad weather.

Despite the love of sunshine, that urge to produce a Gothic novel is still rumbling around in my head. I have an idea. Maybe it will grow - we will have to wait and see. 

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Cover Story

 Well the big news today, apart from the fact that I have finished the second edits, bar the shouting, is last Thursday's cover reveal. 

Here it is, and isn't it lovely. 

Authors tend to get quite excited about cover reveals - with justification. That, and the blurb for the back of the book, or the e-book introduction, is its shop window display. Getting it right is important. It is a bit ironical that unless you are an indie author that part is done by other people. The potential reader doesn't see anything produced by the author until they open the book itself. The process varies from publisher to publisher but of course it is governed by professional acumen - what the publisher thinks will best portray the title in accordance with the market, the genre and the publisher' s view of where the book sits in its list. The cover also has to be eye-catching and understandable as the small 'thumbnail' that appears on internet sites. All that is a tall order.

My calling card for the 'Riviera' series is glamourous escapism - and my covers reflect that. My publisher is very good about making sure the authors are involved in the process, (I have heard that some are not) although of course they have the deciding voice. We are also lucky that the house designer is very good at interpreting the books. She's done my covers for over ten years now, and they are all brilliant. In the case of this book I had the usual three possibilities - they were gorgeous - literally - very bright colours and all featuring enigmatic masks. I would have been delighted with any of them and said so. Then this one turned up - very different, but much more in line with the others in the series. I could see what the publisher had in mind. The masks, while very striking, were just that little bit outside the arc of the series. I had to agree that although I loved the others, this was the one to chose. The only problem was that the girl on the cover had short dark hair. I mailed back that heroine Maisie has curly auburn hair and it was quickly changed. The result was perfect. When I opened the e-mail it was if Maisie was walking off the page towards me. 

I hope readers will love it as much as I do,