Wednesday 26 April 2023

The Crime Cymru Festival

 A little late with the post this week - since travelling back from Aberystwyth on Monday it's been one of those days - twice. But I'm here now. 

I had a really great weekend. The Crime Cymru Festival finally happened, in person. Panels, social events, author spotlights - the festival had it all in a friendly and inclusive atmosphere. 

Aberystwyth is a lovely town. I used to travel there a lot in the dim and distant past, for work. It really hasn't changed too much The journey is long and trains were crowded, but I made it there and back without mishap. And it was worth it.  The sea was grey/blue and I had a view of it from my window. There were all sorts of events including trips around the archives, appearances from such authors as C L Taylor, Ben Arronovitch, Belinda Bauer and an on-line event with American mega star David Baldacci  . I concentrated on talks and panels that considered writing and Wales as I have thoughts of a new series set in my home country. The general opinion seemed to be that Wales was arriving in literary terms. No more requests to relocate your book to Cornwall or Scotland? We can hope.

The action was centred on the town library - a posh building with a modern interior - and the Museum which is housed in a beautiful Edwardian theatre. On Friday night that was the setting for a cabaret style quiz and a performance of a murder mystery written by Crime Cymru members Louise Mumford and Chris Lynch and played with aplomb - there is no other word for it - by the Warden players. The cast's impromptu promenade through the audience, ad libbing responses to tables full of crime writers and readers asking awkward questions was a high spot. It was all a great deal of good natured fun. 

On Saturday - fortified by fish and chips - the high spot of the evening was Claire Mackintosh and Phillip Gwynne Jones in conversation with Katherine Stansfield. I've read all Phil's books set in Venice and had the pleasure of reading Claire's The Last Party as a proof copy from my goody bag at the CWA conference in Torquay, so it was lovely to hear from both of them about their writing.  

On Sunday I had my own time in the spotlight - reading from Masquerade on the Riviera before the cosy crime panel when Jacky Collins - the famous Dr Noir herself - chatted with Cathy Ace and Rod Green, who took over the mantle  of MC Beaton after her death to carry on with the popular Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series. One of the most impressive things about the festival, alongside the friendly atmosphere and the ever helpful volunteers - many of whom were local residents -was the knowledge and preparation that the interviewers had put into the panels they were chairing. It makes such a difference when speakers are guided by perceptive questions. 

The organisation was seamless - or it looked that way from outside. I imagine the committee are now all lying down in darkened rooms to recover. Well deserved. 

It was over too soon, but I really had a great time. If you are a crime fan make a note - the next festival will be in 2025 - with an on line event next year. 

Fabulous weekend

 I spent the weekend in Aberystwyth at the first in-person Crime Cymru Festival. 

I had a wonderful time. Still getting my act together about being back home. Long post to follow later.

See you then. 

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Time lines

 The backbone of a book but one that's easy to get tangled. It can be micro or macro - the day that apparently lasts for 36 hours or the 12 month pregnancy. 

The manuscript I am currently wrangling, which is intended to turn into Riviera 5, was one I started some while ago and shelved because it wasn't talking to me. It's suddenly decided where it wants to go, so I am sorting out the 40,000 words or so that I already have. This is the point where I realised that the first day, when the heroine arrives on the Riviera to start a new job, seemed to be going on for rather a long time ... and unfeasibly long time, when I really thought about it. Cue some hard looks and determined back tracking to cut one day into two. 

Time lining is fiddly, but I usually enjoy working it all out. Bless my gnarled little bureaucratic heart. In my first published book the copy editor queried whether I had the villain in two places at once. I was able to point out, with flight plans, how he got from one place to another. I'd carefully worked it all out - and learned from that encounter that I needed to keep doing it. You learn something every time you have an edit - or at least I do. 

Travelling is actually one of the things that can get the time line in a knot - air travel in particular involves so much add-on time at airports at both ends, as well as the flight itself. That's how the new manuscript managed to have an extra long day. Stories with several plot lines can get muddled too, as events in each one have to keep up with each other. I've never had trouble with the twelve month pregnancy - not quite. Readers of the most recent Rivera books will have noticed that they all take place in the same time space - 2019. That was my way of avoiding the problem of the pandemic and lockdowns - so Cassie's pregnancy is a feature of all of them. At some stage that baby is going to have to be born. I think I have found out how I m going to do it. 

Looks like Rivera 5 might have it's own time line, plus one that stretches back over 3 previous books! Figuring that one out is going to be fun. 

Wednesday 12 April 2023

He's behind you!

 Last week I went to the pantomime - the one starring Ian McKellen as the dame - Caroline Goose aka Mother Goose. It was great fun, with all the usual ingredients - like the audience participation - with a modern gloss. Instead of being down on the farm Mrs. Goose runs an animal sanctuary in an old branch of Debenhams. 

I wanted to see this as friends had recommended it and I've been a fan of Sir Ian's for over 50 years, when I saw him in Cardiff in his breakout production of Richard II. We're both getting on a bit now. As were much of the audience for the panto. It made me reflect on my history of pantomime-going. I'm guessing that many of the audience also hailed from the time of the traditional production. I can't recall ever seeing Mother Goose before. Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk and, of course, Cinderella were the staple fare. 

Pantomime was my first introduction to theatre. Mum always got tickets, but we had to wait until late in the run - in February- when they were cheaper. In those days the emphasis was on spectacle - I remember dancing fountains and ponies pulling Cinderella's coach. The Principal Boy was always a girl - and  that was the part I wanted with its mix of cavalier and Georgian finery. I never wanted Cinderella's party dress - it was the thigh boots, wasp waisted tunics in velvet and brocade and the hats with extravagant plumes worn by Prince Charming and his side-kick, Dandini that appealed to me.  

Pantomime was childhood, but there are other memories too. Roll on the years. I was working in London and only came home for a few days at Xmas. John Nettles, another of my collection of favourite actors, was appearing as the villain - I think it was the Demon King. I'd heard good things and really wanted to see it. The only opportunity was Boxing Day and there was no public transport. I tentatively asked Dad, the family chauffeur, if he would like to go. He said yes so I treated us to the tickets. Mum and I wondered what he would make of it - his first time in a theatre - turned out he really enjoyed it, which doubled my own enjoyment. The following year I got tickets again - no John Nettles this time but we all wanted to go. Dad died  suddenly and unexpectedly in September and the first time that his death really sank in was when I realised that there would be no second trip to the panto. 

Not having grandchildren I don't usually do panto these days, but as most of the audience last week was very much in the older age groups I did not feel out of place. As I said it was fun, and stirred a lot of memories. 

Wednesday 5 April 2023

A Week of Celebration.

 Last Tuesday saw the publication of Masquerade on the Riviera, the fourth in the Riviera series. 

It was a lovely day.

In the morning on Tuesday it was the usual flurry of social media that accompanies a launch and in the evening I had a celebratory dinner with two good friends.  Many thanks to Kath for the flowers and the

photo of me looking somewhat bedraggled - it was a very wet evening - but suitably smug as the author of a new book. The smugness was justified when I got home and found that Masquerade had a best seller flag on Amazon which it retained for several days.   There were lots of congratulations and good wishes from fellow authors, a few guest blog posts and some very complimentary reviews. An author is always worried about whether the readers will like a book - and you are the ones that matter, after all. Masquerade is a bit different as it leans towards cosy crime and the Golden Age of crime fiction at the beginning, but it does end up on a millionaire's yacht, so I still have the glamour factor. 

On Thursday I treated myself to a trip to see Mother Goose - the pantomime starring Ian McKellen, one of my all time theatrical heroes. A good time was had by all. More of that next week. 

On Tuesday this week was the monthly meeting on the Cariad Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association.

As promised in the Acknowledgements of Masquerade, there was cake. Chocolate and salted caramel, and it was very good. There were more flowers - thanks Jan - lots of fun, gossip, sharing of news and technical talk.  

A very good day.