Wednesday 29 November 2023

Deep dive research

 At the moment I am researching. Yes, really. Lots of reading and a course on gardens with Cardiff university, which is fun and also very useful. Learning things that may go in this book, or the next, or maybe just stay in my head. Research is like that. 

When I was studying for the PhD I recall a panel discussion of some of the senior academics from the faculty, talking about that topic. One mentioned that your thesis would probably not contain half of what  you know. One of his colleagues admitted that in his case it was more like seven eighths. Like an iceberg, most of it is never seen.

I happen to believe that in-depth research adds richness to the finished product, even if the reader doesn't see it directly. Well - that's my story and I'm sticking to it, and don't anyone mention procrastination!

That conversation between academics came into my mind at the weekend when I was scribbling down a time line and family tree for the people who built and owned the house and garden that are going to be the centre of the work that will eventually be in progress. I knew I had to get it done, as there was a hole in my plans that was keeping me from moving on. By the strange alchemy that happens in writer's brains, bits and pieces from the garden course, books I had read and what I needed for the story melded together and I ended up with a full history for the people who came before her in the house that my heroine inherits. Will it make it into the book? I doubt it, at least not more than a line or two. But now I know, And it's going to make the story of Whitchwood House that much easier to tell. 

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Indie Love

 The mass signing was on Saturday 18th and I had a great time. The  Parkgate hotel is lovely, the event was fabulously organised by Alice and her team of terrific helpers and it all went much too fast. It was so good to talk to other authors and especially to readers. I have filed away lots of ideas of what romance readers might like to read in the future. It was a learning curve as I have not done one of these for years and then not in this country. The displays other authors had on their tables were amazing as were the give- aways and the books themselves. You can probably catch some pictures on Facebook - there are lots of them. 

I was bitterly disappointed to find that the pictures I took of my table were blurry. Don't know if it is the camera or that my hands were shaking with excitement! I've put the best ones below, which gives you a rough idea. A small blot in an otherwise exciting day. 

Hope I can do more in the future. 

Setting up

The finished table

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Indie Love: Cardiff


On Saturday 18th - next Saturday - I'm doing something I haven't done in a long time, and never before in this country - I'm part of a big signing of romance authors that's taking place at the Parkgate Hotel in Cardiff. There will be lots of authors there, writing all different types of romance and out to have a very good time. There will be many tables hosting those authors, books, swag, raffles, face painting, glitter! I'm not aiming  for the face paint and the glitter but I will be there for the fun. If you want to be there too and don't already have a ticket there are still a few tickets left, you can get in advance or buy on the day. 

I have books - including a new box of my latest in the Riviera series, recently arrived from my publisher. I have chocolate and I hope to be able to pick up a few more small goodies before the day. I have to say I have seen some of the swag that other authors are bringing and I am in awe. That stuff is amazing. I can't match it, but I am there to learn. I'm looking forward to meeting readers and other authors and I'm really hoping to chat to people about what they want in their romance reading. Like I said, it's a learning curve. At the moment the Riviera series is on hold while I explore a new idea. It will be good to find out what readers might  think of it. 

If you are going to be there, I look forward to meeting you. I have a feeling it is going to be one crazy day! 

Wednesday 8 November 2023

Wottcha reading?

 And why?

My house if full of paper - reading matter of all kinds. Looking around over the weekend I got to thinking about the different categories my reading falls into. 

Mostly it's relaxation, escapism. And increasingly that's electronic rather than paper - with the occasional burst of books from the library when I get the chance to browse. Usually romantic suspense, as it is my favourite genre, but I stray into rom com, historical, mystery and cosy crime on occasion. I have a weakness for Golden Age crime - the British Library imprints are always worth a look. I've read a lot of ECR Lorac and greatly enjoyed them.  

At the moment I have a lot of coffee table books on gardens. They are a result of the University course I'm taking, both of which - books and course - are research for the Work-That-Is-Going-To-Be -In -Progress. It's still marinating, but I hope I will be actually writing by Christmas. At the moment health stuff is getting in the way, but I will get there. 

What else? Apart for the backs of cereal packets and junk mail? Magazines? I'm not big on them, with the occasional dip into the house/lifestyle kind when I am looking for ideas for the revamping and renovations I am currently working my way through. Another thing that is keeping me away from the writing! 

A lot of the organisations I belong to send magazines as part of the membership package - Royal Horticultural Society, Crime Writers' Association, Society of Authors - I try to read them to keep up with  current events in my chosen world,  and for pleasure too. Always ready to learn something new. 

Brochures and catalogues are fun when they come with the junk mail. I have somehow got on to the mailing list for some very up-market dress shops in London - don't ask me how. Love to look, although the garments are usually out of my price range. Maybe not for my heroines? Is that how I got on the mailing list? Research? 

Reading is a huge part of my life. I'm edgy and bereft if I don't have a book on the go. My mum was the same, and I suspect my grandmother too. I know where my love of reading came from, and I'm very grateful for it. 

Wednesday 1 November 2023

The Christmas book

 As you know my Christmas book, What Happens at Christmas, has just been re-issued with a brand new cover and blurb. The story is the same though, so don't go buying it twice! 

There is a story behind how I came to write it. I'm not big on Christmas, although I like the traditional elements - carols, decorations and food. Especially food. Writing a Christmas romantic suspense novel - or any kind of Christmas novel - wasn’t on my immediate ‘to do’ list. I had toyed with the idea, and had conversations with friends over whether it was possible to do it. There are plenty of novels involving crime that are set at the festive season, but romantic suspense makes the crime so much a part of the love story - and then you need a touch of that Christmas magic …

It was an interesting challenge, something for the forward plan. Then, in the serendipitous way that books sometimes get hatched, I had Christmas lunch at a restaurant with some writing friends, and the conversation naturally revolved around writing, and somehow the topic of kidnapping came up – yes I know, but I did say these people were writers. Lunch ended and we all went our separate ways, but the talk about kidnapping stayed with me. By the time I got to my train home an idea for a plot had begun to stir.

I still wasn’t sure about actually doing anything with it, but the suspense thread had really begun to unravel in my head. Then a strong image of a hero and heroine began to form, and at that point I was hooked. The book was written over the holidays – some of it on Christmas day itself, which helped a lot with the Christmassy feeling! I really enjoyed doing it, so it became a little Christmas present to myself.

When the book opens neither Lori nor Drew is planning on a conventional Christmas, but they’re in no way anticipating the Christmas they actually get. Through an unexpected series of events, Lori finds herself making a Christmas for her four year old niece, and Drew finds himself involved in a TV kidnapping stunt for charity that has gone horribly wrong …

Add in a setting in the Brecon Beacons, a strong minded cat, a guest appearance from Devlin, who was the hero of my debut novel, Never Coming Home, a converted barn and a great deal of snow – and that’s the book. It doesn’t end at Christmas – the story unfolds over a year, until the following Christmas, but the core of the story – the part when Drew and Lori begin to fall in love - is in those first few snow-bound days in Brecon. I’ve tried to use the senses to create atmosphere, Christmas lights, flickering scented candles, log fires, starry nights, carols playing on the radio - and in the centre of it Lori and Drew - gradually becoming romantically aware of each other, over a few hours of peace in the midst of tension. Both Lori and Drew have their own back stories too – Drew in particular has very bad memories of Christmas past that he needs to deal with before he can move on.

Of course, there is tension, mystery, threat and danger and some characters come to unhappy ends – all the elements of romantic suspense. If you're looking for something edgy in your festive reading, you might like to try it.