Wednesday 31 May 2023

Out-take from Masquerade on the Riviera

 When you are working though a book with your editor there are scenes that don't make it - the book is too long, there is too much description, this scene doesn't work - there are all sorts of reasons. In the case of Masquerade on the Riviera there were a couple of places where my editor felt that background was slowing up the action. I murdered some darlings and she was much happier. It always hurts though, when things end up on the cutting room floor.  For this week's blog I thought you might like to read a couple of the outtakes. No real spoilers, just a couple of places where there was originally more. The first is a paragraph about some of the dates Masie and Elliot went on. I was sad to loose it, as I'd researched places I thought they might go. 

The second is a fuller version of the scene where Masie visits Elliott's flat - Saturday date night. An edited version is still in the book, but originally it was a little longer. 

Hope you enjoy them. 

1st extract

"Last week they’d visited the farmers market in the old Green Park station in Bristol on Saturday, coming back to Elliot’s place to cook what they had bought. On Sunday they’d found a pop-up antique fair in a comunity hall around the corner from Elliot’s flat. Elliott had bought a pair of heavy brass candlesticks for the mantelpiece in his bedroom and they’d made love by candlelight. A few weeks before that they’d got up at an ungodly hour to watch the hot air balloons take off at the fiesta at the Ashton Court Estate. They’d spent an illicit weekday afternoon off wandering around the Abbey like tourists and eating buns in Sally Lunn’s teashop. There had been an evening at a book launch for a member of the university’s History Department, and another at a poetry slam, but there had also been evenings binge-watching box sets in front of the TV. Both of them had a weakness for action films full of explosions and car chases.

They talked about all sorts of things, sometimes they didn’t talk at all and sometimes it was simply whispering in the dark."

2nd extract

        "Maisie wandered around the large open plan space. The furnishings were what she might have expected – modern but not minimalist, constructed on generous lines. Dark wood floors and pale upholstery and a couple of moody seascapes on the walls with a row of photographs of archaeological digs in Egypt – the distant pyramids in the background were the clue. The small display on what was probably an original mantel shelf included a scroll and a rock, a piece of carved masonry and a small sleek statue of a god – black wood and gilt with an animal head – a long snout and pointed ears. The collar around the statue’s neck reminded her of the Necklace.

Inevitably she was drawn to the high windows. This close to the centre of town there was no view to speak of, but the leaves of the street trees made a splash of green, echoed in the simple green blinds. Deep pink geraniums spilled off a tiny metal Juliette balcony. Somewhere close there was a sound of a saxophone playing, something familiar that she couldn’t quite recognise. The breeze blew in the music, the scent of garlic and baking bread, and a very slight undertone of traffic fumes.

Summer in the city.

Maisie leaned against the window frame, looking down at the street. She turned and smiled when Elliott brought her a chilled glass of wine and stole a quick kiss, then went back to her people-watching. There were neighbours coming home from work or laden with shopping, straggling groups of tourists, couples on the way out for an evening on the town. It was good to be part of it. At heart she was a city girl. She liked the people, the buzz, the movement.

‘Dinner is served.’ Elliott had laid a small table next to the kitchen alcove. Maisie let out a deep sigh as she walked over to take a seat. She was relaxed, except for that little tingle of awareness that was always there between her and Elliot. With this man she didn’t have to be anything. You can just be."

Wednesday 24 May 2023

All Change

 This post was inspired by today's shopping trip. Me, standing in the supermarket, feeling very grumpy because they had been moving stuff around again. Human beings don't like change - or this one doesn't. It occurred to me as I was clumping around, looking for where they'd hidden the flowers and thinking of subjects for a blog post. that change is a essential component of novel plots.  The classic is, of course, when the main character's life takes a sudden new direction. Often this is as a result of loss - of a loved one, a job, a home - or all of them. Or maybe gain. Who doesn't love an unexpected inheritance story? It can get a bit subtler too - the favourite trope of friends to lovers is about initiating change and perhaps being afraid to do so for fear of damaging something good. Resistance to change can make a whole plot - the community attempting to thwart a developer or team members reacting to a new boss.

At its essence change too often harbours a threat - even what looks like a positive change, like that inheritance, implies alterations in lifestyle, new responsibilities, choices to be made. 

These are 'threats' that everyone might experience - the domestic kind.   Nothing to do with serial killers or crime - but of course you can layer that on top just to make it even more interesting. 

Asking your characters to deal with changes is what makes them real and relatable. Human dilemmas that readers can recognise. A murder, or meeting that special someone is a dramatic incident, but it's how the protagonists deal with the consequences  that make the story. Characters need to grow. That's what the hero's journey is all about. It can be an actual journey, but it is principally about what happens inside. A life progressing on an even keel would be  very boring story. It's the job of writers to throw spanners in the works, and we really enjoy it. Catch you hero and heroine at a crossroads and then wait and see. Then you've got a story. 

(And yes, I did find the flowers - eventually)


Wednesday 17 May 2023


 Reader will probably have noticed a few changes to the Choc-lit branding now that the group has moved under the Joffee banner, with a new pink logo. 

Other changes are also in hand.

The focus now is promoting the books  exclusively through Amazon For those who subscribe  to Kindle unlimited, you can now read the Riviera series, as well as my previous stand alone titles, as part of your subscription. 

Wednesday 10 May 2023

Pomp and Circumstance

 Thinking about a post today, it really had to be about the Coronation of King Charles III. It was spectacular and moving and intrigued me, as an historian. As I don't have a television - long story - I walked to the library where I watched it in the company of a number of library patrons and staff. We had two big screens, comfy seats and refreshments - which all added to the enjoyment. 

I'm sure a lot of people watching who are not history nerds found some of it puzzling - all the formalities with swords and orbs, the oaths and pledges of allegiance - but it all makes sense when you consider how far back a lot of the ceremony stretches. Often the new king would have won the throne in battle, he (and it was usually a he) would be one of a group of nobles, all with family ties, any one of whom might have had some claim to the throne themselves, or thought they had. The ceremony, in a religious setting in eras where religion was a much greater part of everyday life, would have all been designed to cement the monarch's position. Awe, solemnity, oaths -  trappings designed to emphasise that the king was more than simply one of the nobles. The fascinating thing is possibly that we are still doing so much of that many centuries later, and using artifacts that are hundreds of years old. 

Equally fascinating are the changes that have taken place since the last time the ceremony was performed. Seventy years ago the Second World War had ended less than a decade before, the country was still subject to food rationing, the NHS had only just been founded. Very few people had phones, televisions or cars. TV transmissions had only just been rolled out to the Cardiff area and all broadcasts were in black and white.  Of the ceremony itself , although it was a queen who was being crowned there would have been fewer women in evidence - and certainly not in official roles. It is a very different world now. I doubt if many people in 1953 would have believed the changes that would come. 

A glimpse of the past. One of the things that makes historical fiction so popular among readers?

Wednesday 3 May 2023


 Dictionary definitions of 'Inspiration'  vary, but run on the lines of a feeling of enthusiasm which stimulates new and creative ideas. 

It is a word almost inevitably applied to any kind of creative activity from art to literature. It's the necessary spark that sets the thing in motion and keeps it going. Writers - many of my acquaintance anyway - tend to get a bit sniffy though at the idea that it is a constant process. Authors do not in general sit around waiting for inspiration to strike, unable to work without it. You don't have to be in the mood - you just have to get on with it. 

That said, you do have to have a direction in which to travel. I've been bemoaning the fact that while I had an opening for Riviera 5 and have had it for some time, the book was refusing to go any further.  It didn't matter what I did with it - threats, promises, bribes, it was not having it. 

Then I had another idea - a stand alone, nothing to do with the Riviera, something set in  Wales and exploring a couple of threads that I'd had in mind for some time. Right then - probably time for something new, just for a change of pace. I've been researching, making notes, sorting out characters and timelines and generally doing the fun stuff that doesn't actually involve any writing

I was all set to make that my summer project. 

You can guess what happened next. Riviera 5 suddenly elbowed it's way back into the picture, jumping up and down and shouting  'Look at me! Look at me!' 

So now I am writing Rivera 5. Actually writing. It is a Christmas book - but it can't be for this Christmas as it should be with the publisher by now, but it is moving, so that's fine. The other book isn't going anywhere - I'll get to it, but I strongly suspect that it's existence was what took me back to the Riviera. 

I've said it before and I'll undoubtedly say it again - the human mind is a strange and complicated place.