Wednesday 19 June 2024

Chelsea Flower Show

 As I special treat I got myself an 8a.m to 8 p.m  ticket for the first members' day of the Chelsea Flower Show. Staying just moments away I fully intended to be there when the gates opened. But then the RNA Awards came along and my plans went up in smoke with a late night of celebration! I made it to the show a little later than planned and reading the runes on the weather did the marquee first. This was the voice of experience as once the rain began everyone came flocking in and I was ready to wander around the other exhibits under my trusty umbrella. The gardens were lovely - I got a few ideas for the Tuscan idyll I eventually want to create outside my back door. There were some drool worthy plants. I celebrity spotted Monty Don and Rachel De Thame being interviewed for the TV. I bought lilies and a mushroom growing kit and a few other odds and ends and had a good time, despite the weather. 



The Newt's Roman Villa garden
This is a hydrangea - I thought it was an azalea. On the plant of the year shortlist and on my wish list. 


An Italian Balcony - Venice, not Tuscany, but I'll take it. 




The lilies I hope are going to grow for me.
I'll try anf rememebr to post the results, and the mushrooms! 


Wednesday 12 June 2024

The Joffe Garden party

 As part of my fancy week staying in London I was able to attend my first publisher's party - a garden party no less, in the grounds of the Royal Overseas League, off Piccadilly. Luckily it was a lovely evening - the rain had stopped. The Choc-lit authors met up first in the pub around the corner and then it was on to the party. It was a lot of fun with the chance to meet and talk to the staff of the publishing house - including the man himself - Jasper Joffe - and other authors including a few friends from the Crime Writers' Association, as Joffe publishes crime as well as romance. It was the tenth anniversary for the publisher, although the Choc-lit family has only been with them just over a year. It was good to celebrate with glasses of bubbly and some very fancy - and tasty - canapes. We all enjoyed ourselves, photos were taken (I've stolen a few again) and the rain stayed away. Looking forward to doing it again next year. 

Meeting in the pub. 


Me. Carol Thomas, Jasper, Morton S Gray
and Jan Baynham

The Joffe authors. 

Wednesday 5 June 2024

What I did in Chelsea.

 My original plan for my recent London trip was a day at the Chelsea Flower Show. I decided to do something I'd had in mind for a while and book a couple of nights in the mansion block where I lived when I worked in Eaton Square. Then the awards were announced, and my new publisher Joffe invited me to their annual garden party and the few nights became a week. Cost a fortune, but I had a wonderful time. The apartment in the mansion block is the one that features in Summer in San Remo and Masquerade on the Riviera. It was good to re-visit old haunts.  I had a studio, which was fun and spent a couple of days flaneuring around the neighbourhood.  I did the RHS show - more of that in a future post -  and the party - more about that later too. I spent some time in the re-vamped Battersea Power Station - lots of shops, a very nice bookshop and lunch at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant. I accidentally had dinner in Tom Kerridge's London pub too, without realising. It was raining, I was tired after wandering around the show and the pub was the nearest eating place, at the end of the street. And very good it was too.  I ate icecream in several up market icecream parlours, went to a concert in Cadogan Hall, which was just around the corner,  a ensemble called Voces8 which I had never encountered before, and which was very enjoyable. As well as the flower show, Chelsea had it's own flower festival going on, with all the shops dressed to the nines, so the place was manic on Sunday with florists getting ready and then on all the days after with tourists taking selfies. I intended to take some too, but it was just too crowded! I had a wonderful, if expensive, time. Now I'm wondering if I can do it all again next year. 

There will be a full post on the flower show later - but until then these are a few of the friends I made along the way. 










Wednesday 29 May 2024

Well - I didn't win ...

 But I had a wonderful evening. 

It was great to be on my publisher Joffe's table to celebrate simply being nominated. Sue Fortin won the Jackie Collins but she is a friend so I have forgiven her. Next time! 

I enjoyed wearing my sparkly jumpsuit. I took the long gloves then forgot to put them on! I wondered if traveling on the Tube to the venue at Tower Hill from Chelsea at 4 p.m. in all my finery would be 'interesting'  but except from one young girl no one batted an eyelid. 

Anton Du Beke was an excellent celebrity presenter, along side the RNA's Brigid Cody and he was super generous in posing for selfies with everyone. There was food and drink and photos and excitement. Lots of gossip and laughter and the chance to see old friends.  Finalists had to arrive early for a photo shoot, but I haven't been able to get those photos to open! The tension built up from there until the moment when the envelope was opened. If you want to see - and read - all the winners you will find them on the RNA website. A real variety of popular romantic fiction. 

The awards were only the start of a fabulous week I spent in Chelsea. More posts over the next few weeks. 

I've  borrowed the photos from Fellow finalist and Cariad Chapter member Jan Baynham and from the official photographer Katie Hipkiss Visuals. Ownership acknowledged with many thanks. 

Table awaiting guests.


My name in lights





Deep in conversation - and where did the sumo wrestler arms come from? 


Posing with Anton along with fellow Joffe contender Jan and her daughter Jo. 


Wednesday 22 May 2024

The RNA Awards

 Well, the awards event was on Monday so we know by now if I won, but as I will still be in London today and away from the nuts and bolts of creating the blog, I won't be talking about it until next week, as this post was written before I left. Are you with me so far? 

Whatever the outcome it is always a privilege to be chosen to compete for an award and the RNA awards, with the short lists selected by panels of ordinary readers, are particularly special - at least I think so. I admit I am a bit of a pot hunter - been that way since age 13 when I made up my mind to win what my dad called the Victor Ludorum at the school Eisteddfod. And I did - next time around. But the big prize for me, as a writer, is that people should enjoy my books. 

If you don't win you don't get to make a thank you speech - so I am doing mine here and if you've heard it before - I will be delighted! 

Thanks have to go to Lu, my long suffering editor, who deals with all sorts of holes and hiccups with patience and humour. To Berni for the lovely covers and for Choc-lit who took a chance on me over a decade ago and were willing to try the American style genre, romantic suspense, on a UK audience. Happily they seemed to like it!  Thanks to friends, inside and outside the RNA, for their help and support, listening to half soaked plot plans, patchy word counts and general moaning. To the RNA and the award organisers for the work they put in, all on a voluntary basis

But the  biggest thanks have to go to the readers who buy and enjoy the books, That is what makes it all worthwhile. 

Wednesday 15 May 2024

So - what are you going to wear?

 My mother was a dressmaker by trade. Fashion and sewing were her passion the way words and writing are mine. It's not surprising that I was a clothes-horse before I could walk. It was natural that if I had an event coming up, she would make something for me. In fact, we would sometimes sit down and review the next few months to make a programme. She was a fabric addict, collecting supplies in sales in advance of requirements which were stored in 'The Trunk'. It's big tin affair which now has the paperwork for my PhD in it, as I wanted somewhere to store all my precious hand written notes that I thought might be a protected in the event of fire. The fabric has migrated to other locations and I've donated some. When we were doing one of those reviews the trunk was always raided to see what goodies it might contain that could be used, without having to spend much more than the cost of cotton and a zip and maybe a pattern, if she didn't cut her own, or adapt one. During the war she had enough fabric stored to clothe herself, my grandmother and my aunt for the duration, when dress material, like many things, was scarce. You can imagine the size of the stash - I think it must have overflowed the trunk then. 

Now she's gone I am on my own. If I want a new outfit I have to buy it! One of the last things she made me was a floor length sequined dress for a convention ball in America. I still have it and planned to wear it for the Awards when A Villa in Portofino was nominated. Unfortunately when I tried it on, it had got a bit snug around the middle, so I wore the green jumpsuit I'd bought for a gala dinner at the RNA Conference. Not sparkly.


Now I am a nominee again for Masquerade on the Riviera and this time I am going sparkly - a jump suit I bought in the Phase 8 sale after Xmas. That was a speculative purchase, a bit like the fabric in the trunk. I knew I would have the chance to wear it somewhere, but I really didn't think it would be another trip to the awards.  It was a bargain, but like all Phase 8 garments much too long, so I have had to shorten it. Took a while, with much trying on and a brief panic over whether I had done the same leg twice, but it is now done and gives me a buzz every time I pass it hanging up in the spare room. 

It's black - or at least dark grey - and I don't wear much black these days as I think it doesn't suit me as much as it did when I was a teenager and wore it all the time - as you do. But well, it was a bargain, and I shall just have to go heavy on the blusher. I'm looking forward to wearing it, with some sparkly shoes and jewelry - may as well go all out. 

There is one big question though - if I can find them, do I wear my elbow length evening gloves?

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Where did Masquerade come from?

 Masquerade on the Riviera is currently a nominee for the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller of the Year, and I did threaten a couple of posts ago to talk some more about it. I'm over the moon to be in the contest for the second time! 


How did I come to write it? Well -  it's the fourth in the Rivera Series, which are my sunshine escapist romantic suspense books, so it already has siblings, but this one is a bit different. For a start it's partially set on the English Riviera. My editor did get a bit worried that we were not going to end up in France or Italy, but the book concluded in Monaco, so she didn't need to fret. 

I have said before - often - that writers can get a bit sniffy when asked about their inspiration, because often we don't actually know.  In this case, with my contrary nature, I knew I wanted the English Riviera setting, just to mix things up a bit, and once I was in Torquay then the town's most celebrated literary inhabitant was a no-brainer. In a bit of homage I went truffling though some of the most famous Agatha Christie  motifs - so - there is a body in a library, a lot of Egyptian artifacts, a slightly creepy gothic style house, with a secret passage.  I think Enid Blyton might have got a look in with that last one.


Visiting Torquay for that year's Crime Writers' Association conference added some local colour.  The heroine, Masie, was already in place as she had had a minor role in the previous book and was due for her time centre stage. Quite how Elliott got to be an Egyptologist I'm not certain, but as the book revolved around a cursed Egyptian necklace I suppose that was fairly obvious too, when you think about it. I am NOT an Egyptologist, so I had to research that one, which  I enjoyed. The academic
background is me, I suppose, the convoluted plot - I have no idea. The Masked Ball might owe a bit to Georgette Heyer - doesn't everyone know what a domino is - no not the game with the spots. The Monaco setting and the private yacht is pure wish fulfilment - one of the up sides of past me choosing to make the head of the detective agency which roughly cements the series together, into a billionaire. It was fun to write, and it is brilliant to know that the reader judges for the RNA Awards enjoyed it enough to put it into the final. 


That, after all, is why we write them - to give enjoyment to readers - although a few have said they learned a few things too - hopefully about Egyptology and artistic provenance and not stealing valuable jewels - which I hope was an added bonus.  

Wednesday 1 May 2024

First of May

 May Day - the date, not the distress call. Apparently that comes from the French m'aider - 'help me' and is a fairly recent invention, as is the designation of 1st May as International Workers' Day. It's been a Bank Holiday sine the 1970s but now rationalised to the nearest Monday. 

I'm thinking of something much older than all of these - Beltane - the Celtic festival between the spring solstice and midsummer. The start of summer, the coming of light, traditionally celebrated as a fire festival with beacons and bonfires. The light side of the celebrations are maypoles, Morris dancing and the crowning of a May Queen. Of course it is the darker side of the festival that interests me. I do write romantic suspense, after all, It has fascinated me since reading Mary Stewart's Wildfire at Midnight, many decades ago. The book is set on the Isle of Skye  with a series of murders and unexpected fires, with pagan overtones - very creepy. with lots of suspense.  

I always credit Mary Stewart with setting my taste in reading and I have nurtured the idea of a book featuring the pagan festivals for a long time. 

 I might actually be writing it at the moment. I'm indulging myself with the current WIP and a hint - maybe more than a hint - of the supernatural seems to be part of it. Not sure yet how it is going to work out - but all those folklore courses at the Lifelong Leaning Department of the University have to go somewhere. Beltane is a big draw, of course, but Midsummer might be a candidate as I think it may better fit my time line.

I'm inventing a village on the South Wales coast to go in the book so I can invent my own local celebrations to go with them.  I hope I can do it as well as Mary Stewart. 

Wednesday 24 April 2024

In Brighton, talking crime

 I've been in Brighton for a long weekend for the Crime Writers' Association Annual Conference.




 It was a bit disconcerting to be greeted at the station by a very large contingent of police along with three very enthusiastic sniffer dogs. What they were looking for I don't know, but they didn't find it in my bag, I am glad to say. 

I had a really good time. Lots of technical style talks - research techniques, police procedure, courtroom dramas, criminal psychology - I now know more about what makes a serial killer than I did before.

Be afraid ... 

The hotel was big and modern, right on the sea front. 



I had a very nice room but declined to pay for the upgrade for a sea view. Breakfast was spectacular. I adore hotel breakfasts and this was top ten class. Saturday afternoon featured a crime walk - the dark side of Brighton, including historic murders, bodies in trunks and a man who was on the run for seventeen years. I was a bit dubious as my back is still playing me up but I managed most of it before limping back to the hotel for a cup of tea. The gala dinner included the announcement of the long lists for the CWA Awards - the Daggers. It was a pleasant surprise to recognise the names of two Crime Cymru friends who had made the list  - Alis Hawkins in two categories and Matt Johnson in the true crime award, along with my new publishers, Joffe in the crime publisher of the year category. Bets were being taken on what would be served at the dinner - predictably it was chicken. The food was good and the company excellent and afterwards Elly Griffiths - a Brighton local - gave us a whistle stop tour of her local area. I learned things, saw old friends and made a few new ones. The proceeding finished at lunch time on Sunday. As I refuse to travel by train on a Sunday if it can possibly be avoided I stayed on until the following day, doing day-at-the -seaside things - fish and chips, ice-cream, a wander in the Lanes when I heroically avoided the vintage jewelers. 

I took some pictures - the pier, the pavilion. It's a very long time since I was in Brighton. It was very busy and very much a seaside town with lots going on. Last time I was at a CWA Conference - in Torquay - I used the town as one of the locations for the book I was just finishing - Masquerade on the Riviera - which is currently a nominee for the Romantic Thriller of the Year. There are no current plans for a book set in Brighton, but you never know.








Wednesday 17 April 2024

A J R Hartley moment

 Those readers of mature years will probably remember a Yellow Pages advert from the early 1980s in which an elderly gentleman tours bookshops in search of a book on fly fishing. He returns sadly home after a fruitless search and his daughter hands him a copy of Yellow Pages. When he finds a copy of the book  - well you know the story, or can imagine. 

Original Advert link Here

I had my own J R Hartley moment on Saturday when I finally got a copy of the Chinese version of Never Coming Home. 

Authors are supposed to get at least one copy of a book put out in their name, but somehow it never happened. I knew the book was out because I'd seen in on Amazon, but I never remembered to ask my then publisher and now water has flowed under that bridge...

I made up my mind finally to see if I could get a copy. Two orders were cancelled by Amazon, but I tried a third time - although the price had increased considerably!

This time it worked. Third time lucky and now I have it. No idea what it says, but I am thrilled with it. 


I don't expect the Amazon automated systems twigged that I was the author asking for my own book though. My very own J R Hartley moment. 




Wednesday 10 April 2024

The Cat is out of the Bag.

 


Well, now you know. I've been nursing this piece of news since February! 

The fourth book in the Riviera series, Masquerade on the Riviera has followed its sibling A Villa in Portofino into the finals of the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller of the Year Award. 

The Jackie Collins is one of a bundle of awards made annually by the Romantic Novelists' Association for books chosen by a panel of reader judges as best in their genre. This category is sponsored by the publishers Simon and Schuster in commemoration of their mega successful, much missed author. 

As you can imagine I am thrilled to be nominated for the second time. 

Will I win? 

Who knows?

The competition is strong and there are some fabulous books in the list. I'm just happy to be in their company. The knowledge that the nominees are chosen by ordinary romance readers is the icing on the cake. 

The awards will be made at a very posh ceremony in London on 20th May. I have a sparkly outfit, courtesy of the January sales, that I haven't worn yet. Only fly in the ointment is I have to shorten the legs. Sequins. That will be fun.  

In the next couple of weeks I'm going to be talking a bit about the book and the process of writing it. I'm looking forward to that. It was fun to write and it will be fun to talk about it again.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Hard shell, soft centre

 This post came about because I have read a number of books recently - crime, not romance- where I didn't find a single character I could like or identify with.

I disliked all of them.

Even the ones presented as the protagonist. 

Now yes, I know a lot of people would say that this is realism - that we don't always like everyone and that even protagonists have flaws. But I'm old school. There has to be someone in the cast to attach myself to. Someone who has some positive characteristics. 

This is one of the reasons why I write romantic suspense. It gives me the chance to explore the good stuff as well as the bad. Yes, it's crime, the bodies pile up and I can have real fun creating villains, but in the centre is a couple falling in love, and whatever happens to those villains - and I do tend to kill them off- there is always going to be a happy ending - or at least a positive one. The road to romance will be rocky - secrets, misunderstandings, the effect of past trauma, but it will end in the right place.

Am I expecting things to be too nice, too neat, with too much feel good factor? I don't think so. Those books with the dislikable characters left me discontented - sufficiently so that I am blogging about it. Fiction is just that, fiction. Creating a world where everyone is unpleasant, untrustworthy or downright nasty seems very negative to me. The real world is difficult enough, I don't need it in my reading matter as well. It's all too downbeat and leaves me with the feeling of having wasted time reading the book.  Actually, to be honest in two cases I bailed out at about the three quarter mark and just read the end. In neither case did I regret it. Am I getting to be a sloppy reader, one who can't stay the course?  I do give myself permission not to finish a book these days. Life is very short and there are so many good books out there. I'm just going to have to be a bit more careful in finding the upbeat ones! 

Wednesday 27 March 2024

But the detail is right.

 I've had a few discussions with groups of writer friends recently about books set in made up locations. Quiet a few writers I know, me included, use familiar real locations but re-invent them, with new features if necessary, to suit the story.  

One thing that I have noticed though - that even if the location is made up other details have to be as correct as possible. Which is why a fellow author has carefully researched a medical condition experienced by her heroine and why I spent half an hour earlier in the week checking out what long distance trains leave from Bristol Temple Meads station. The devil is in the detail.

Does it matter to readers? I think it does. 

I've just completed two fabulous on line courses offered by Cardiff University on historical gardens so that I can get my facts right in the WIP. For the most recent in the Riviera series Masquerade on the Riviera  I researched all things Egyptology (well, maybe not all, but a lot) because my hero was an Egyptologist and the plot turned on a cursed necklace that may or may not have been genuine. The same friend is off to Greece shortly with a list of questions to answer so she can be sure that the details of real places in her latest WIP are correct before she submits it to the publisher. Hmm - that piece of research may not be that much of a hardship - but you get the picture! 

Authors who write romance, any variety, are often accused of peddling illusions. Encouraging unrealistic expectations of life and relationships. Seeing the world through rose coloured glasses.  I think romance readers are better than that. Books are escapism. I'm unashamed of saying that about the ones I write. I think that readers understand, within certain parameters, that what they are reading is not necessarily a complete mirror of life. But the details matter. And so do emotional truths. Love, betrayal, pain of separation, joy of reunion, uncertainty, grief, achievement, simple happiness. Okay - probably not many of us are going to experience that meet-cute that sets up the romance or love at first sight, or even a marriage of convenience, but the feeling accompanying falling in love is exactly the same, whoever you are and whoever the object of your affections. If authors can get the detail right then the book is valid, however escapist the subject matter.  

Which is why we do our best to get the details right.

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Written by hand

 I am a dinosaur. 

My manuscripts are written by hand for the first draft. 


I say written - after years of note taking professionally and as a student my writing now resembles a kind of short hand - or maybe hieroglyphics!  If I want anyone but me to read it I have to print. And yes, sometimes even I can't read what I have written. Apparently for writers the connection between hand and pen and the act if writing can benefit the flow of words. All I can say is, it works for me. 

Handwriting is very personal. Your signature is still your most significant distinguishing mark. Even so, my handwriting, in the days when it was more legible, resembles my mother's'- taught in the same school system, but is nothing like my father's, brought up in a different area. I have to say that coming unexpectedly across a sample of their handwriting is one of those moments that can make you catch your breath with memory.  

This post was inspired by a recent Point of View broadcast on Radio 4 by Tom Shakespeare when he was musing on the art of writing and why his own handwriting had got so bad. I can't remember what  his conclusion was, I think it was that he was not called to write very much these days. I know he mused on whether the skill of writing might be endangered. Would future generations need it? Texts, computers, audio communications - maybe not. The thought of not being able to write to express my self disturbs me a lot. 

But then I am a dinosaur. 

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Food Glorious Food

 I have been noticing lately in my reading some distinct trends in what characters in books have to eat. 

Eating is a basic human requirement so it is not unexpected that it should happen in books. It is also often linked to social activity - meeting friends, going on dates, business meetings ... so double reason for food to make an appearance. 

So - what are the most popular foodstuffs for fictional characters? Based on my own reading?

Pizza

Donuts

Other sugary items such as cinnamon buns 

Eggs - often but not exclusively as breakfast items, often paired with toast or with sausage. 

Burgers 

You can probably guess that my reading tends towards the criminal side of the spectrum and police and law enforcement all over the world seems to run on dough and sugar - pizza and donuts.  

All washed down by oceans of coffee . 

I must admit to having been guilty of feeding my character pizza on occasions, but I would never offer donuts as I don't eat them myself. I don't drink coffee either, but recognise its popularity.


When my mum was still with us she always said how much she enjoyed reading about what people in books had to eat. In her memory I always try and include some meals and give descriptions. And I find it fun. Meals in the 'Riviera' series involve a bit of research to find out what local specialities would be applicable to the location.  There is a scene in Masquerade on the Riviera that has hero and heroine having dinner on the terrace, and I had a lot of enjoyment from creating both the setting and atmosphere and the food. That book also has a full scale afternoon tea in it - also fun. And I broke the mould on the coffee by giving Elliott a partiality to Oolong tea. 

I was going to say that I haven't managed a meal yet in the WIP, but then I realised that I have, but not in the way that you might expect. That's all I'm saying for the moment. We'll all have to hope that the book makes it into print and everyone will understand. 

Wednesday 6 March 2024

Families

 I mentioned this in a previous post. Friends and families are quite a thing in novels at the moment - especially found families - the ones you make, not the ones you are born to.

And that actually opens a whole can of worms. You have a 'new' family - what happens to the old one?

I've had several occasions when I've scratched my head  over what to do with the protagonists' parents. You can deal with siblings by not giving them any, but I had very supportive parents who would never have let me flounder around in the trouble I have dropped my hero or heroine into. This might be the reason that this bothers me when writing. I can't just ignore the parents. So, sorry, but they have to go. Divorce and loosing touch is an option, but then they are still THERE. The obvious thing is kill them off - heartless but convenient - but there are only so many fatal car crashes you can stage - and I know I wince a bit when I am reading and come across yet another one. It's a dangerous business having kids in fiction. Emigration is a possibility and I have used that for a sibling that I carelessly allowed my hero to acquire. Other than that - I've made the parents older - to allow for natural causes, I've staged a fire, a drive by shooting, an accident on an archeological dig ...

Or you can keep them around and make them a problem in themselves. I must say I have a bit of a weakness for books where the family is trying to coerce the protagonist into something and there is an on-going battle. Always good to be able to cheer for the protagonist. 

And if all else fails, there's always that fatal car crash ... 


Wednesday 28 February 2024

Nowhere you would know

 Setting - we have all read those reviews that say that the setting is almost a character in the book, but sometimes using real places is problematical. If you are writing fantasy, the place doesn't exist, if you are writing crime, residents might not take kindly to the idea of a succession of serial killers in their midst, or you might need to alter the geography a bit for reasons of plot - put a house where no house exists, or something bigger - a beach, an office block. That's where authors start messing with the landscape. It has a  posh title - world building.  Completely necessary in the case of fantasy writers. The rest of us - well, it's useful. 

The sea and the shoreline will be in the WIP
but not quite where it is now. 


It's in my mind because I'm doing that in the WIP. The geography is very loosely based on where I live, but there were lots of features I wanted that I have to add - and it's fun. It also occurred to me how many of my friends  and fellow authors do the same thing.  A setting that is real, but invented, if that makes sense. 

I've read reviews that have taken a very hard line with writers who interfere with real geography - I remember one, a long time ago, pointing out that a particular stretch of highway did not have a shopping centre alongside it. I think that, sadly, the book only got one star as a result. Although most readers are a little more forgiving - suspension of disbelief - anything that pulls a reader out of the story is a bad thing, which is why authors take refuge in "I made it up."  

And as I said. It is fun. It can also involve a lot of displacement activity - like the afternoon I spent drawing plans of the location of a house and garden that does not exist. And you know about authors and displacement activity ...

Wednesday 21 February 2024

It's all in the background

 If you read romance - or crime for that matter - your main focus is, of course, on the story and the development of the characters. But what about the other things that add to the enjoyment of a book - what you might call texture?  I've been making a list from some of the romance books I have read recently.

Gardens seem to be a perennial favourite (See what I did there?) Often derelict, or with history.

Houses/buildings - inherited, falling down, haunted 

Animals - dogs and cats are the top players, but really anything with four legs will probably work, preferably cute and fluffy. 

Landscape - not location, which is a bigger thing, but those touches that tell you about the surroundings - the bleakness of the moor, the slickness of the New York apartment.

Food - we all need to eat and books that heavily involve the preparation and consumption of  delectable eats are a thing. A restaurant or bakery, or coffee shop or even just baked goods of some sort. Afternoon tea - a favourite of mine. 



Costume - knowing what a character is wearing can tell you a lot about the personality - the aging hippie, the buttoned up business man. 

Weather - I recently came across the term pathetic fallacy - which I haven't heard since studying poetry in Uni. It's attributing emotions to inanimate things - sadness and rain, sunshine and happiness. 

Family and friends - sometime found family. A source of support, or aggravation. More of this in a later post. 

Events - the village show, the opening of a museum, an ominous anniversary. 

All these - and you can probably add a lot more - pull the book together. They also tend to be the kind of things that need a bit of research. And you know all about authors and research ....

But that is completely another story. 


Wednesday 14 February 2024

Memorable days!

 
Of course you know that today is Valentine's Day. The most romantic day of the year - or so the card shops and florists would have us believe. It's a day of red hearts and red roses. Also jewelry, sexy underwear, sweets and chocolates, cuddly toys, donuts, even a pork pie! Basically anything really that can have a heart fixed on it, be produced in red, or in a heart shape.  It is of course predictable that the cynics amongst us will mutter about consumerism but everyone else is just getting on with enjoying it, although it can, of course, be a sad occasion if you don't have anyone to celebrate with, for whatever reason.  

It's not the only 'romantic' date that happens in January and February though - the cold wet grey months of the year. This year is leap year - traditionally a time when women can propose. For those of us in Wales there was St Dwynwen's Day, the Welsh Valentine - rapidly catching up - Marks and Spencer was offering St Dwynwen's Day roses this  year.  Then in January there's the Eve of St Agnes - traditionally a time when girls might dream of their lovers, and the subject of  poem by Keats  and several Pre-Raphaelite paintings, telling the story of lovers Madeleine and Porphryro. If you are into the significant dates of the pagan year, at the beginning of February Imbolc is the start of the gradual unfolding of spring, the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. And St Brigid's Day, now a Bank Holiday in Ireland, celebrates the goddess of home and spring.


It is gradually getting lighter in the mornings and evenings, even if the weather may not be anything special. It's a time for hope, that spring and summer are not that far away.


Happy Valentine's Day. 


Sunday 11 February 2024

Stop press

Just an up date to say that my multi award winning debut romantic suspense NEVER COMING HOME as been re-issued with a new title and a new cover. It's still the same story. 

IF YOU ALREADY OWN IT, PLEASE DON'T BUY IT AGAIN! 

I hate to disappoint readers. 

If you haven't read it you can get it now on Kindle Unlimited. 

How it was.
How it is now.




Wednesday 7 February 2024

Dual time lines

 Books with dual time lines - a thread set in the present - or near present - and one set in the past, are popular with readers. Two stories that  link together, where the past has consequences in the present. Juggling two narratives  can be complicated, but very satisfying to achieve. And as I said. readers like them. There is one issue though  that always comes up when a group of authors who write this kind of book get together - how to make the connection.  

The classic is the discovery of an old diary. Or a cache of letters.  A photo album might work, and possibly a portrait or a painting - but that is more likely to be used in a time slip or time travel when the protagonist ends up physically in another time.

The problem with classic is that it can feel like cliche. And no author likes to feel that they are offering their audience cliches. A lot of discussion goes into trying to think up something new, but it is hard, maybe impossible.

And really, does it matter? 

Readers are happy to find books that offer their favourite tropes.   Enemies to lovers, marriage of convenience and so on.  It is a positive choice. So if you read dual time line are the letters or the diary simply part of the 'trope' of the genre? Are they even part of what makes the style attractive to a reader? Are writers worrying too much about feeling cliched?

I'm currently debating the question because the book I am working on, while not strictly a dual time line does have an element of the past influencing the present and I have to make the connection. I have found a way, I'm not saying any more, because spoilers but it still depends on a paper record - not that far away from the letters and the diary.   But I really can't think of a way around that. 


Wednesday 31 January 2024

Just a bit spooky?

 I don't know if you've noticed, but there seems to be a  lot of this about at the moment, several in the form of podcasts that have morphed and expanded. 

The Battersea Poltergeist began that way and  a play (event?) asking Do You Believe in Ghosts? has been visiting theatres for several months. 

The idea attracted my attention as there are no less that three spooky presentations listed in the current programme for the New Theatre in Cardiff. Uncanny - I Know What I Saw, which is a live version of Danny Robins podcast of the same name, Most Haunted Live  ditto for the TV series. A play 2.22, which is Danny Robins again, was on last week. He seems to be a thing at the moment as The Battersea Poltergeist was down to him too. 

People seem to enjoy being scared. You note I say people. Not me. When The Uncanny shows up on my radio late on Saturday nights I have to turn it off, or sleep with the light on. Just the theme tune, from Lanterns on the Lake, creeps me out! 

There have always been plays with creepy themes - The Woman in Black is a classic and there are a couple of thrillers doing the rounds And Then There Were None and Murder in the Dark, both  also coming to Cardiff, that will probably chill a few spines. The exploration of 'real life' spooky stuff is new though.

And it has made me wonder - as you do. Traditionally publishers are said to dislike supernatural elements in books - although it never did any harm to the likes of Shakespeare - I'm not sure why this is. Maybe because it's not 'real' or not supposed to be? 

As there seems to be more interest, I'm wondering what I can do with  this. It won't be really scary stuff - but I would like to include some Welsh folklore in future books, and some of that can be classed as supernatural.  Then there are things like Tarot Cards, Standing Stones, Hedge Witchery that might also find their way in. 

I can only see where the thought takes me.  


Wednesday 24 January 2024

Where to Begin?

 The opening of a book is important - has to be in the right place. I'm pondering this at the moment for the WIP, 

It has three time lines - the heroine's, which is more or less contemporary with some back story. The historical mystery that folds around the whole thing, which begins just after World War Two. I have that one covered, as all is not revealed until the last third of the book. At the moment hero and heroine both start in the present but Nathan's story really begins six years ago, with a life changing event that has long repercussions. 

I'm now wondering if I should begin there, which raises the issue of writing a prologue. 

Prologues seem to be like Marmite, loved and hated in equal measure. I have read comments from readers who say they will not read them, and agents and publishers are said to hate them. The main argument against them seems to be that they are an information dump, loading the reader with backstory that would be better - and shorter - told as part of the main story. Prologue as tell, not show? 

Am I just info dumping? 

I've opened a book three times with events that take place before the main action, and it seems to have worked. I suspect that the new WIP will be the same as I seem to have got caught up in the idea, and it really is where Nathan begins. Actually, I suspect that it won't really be a prologue, it will be chapter one, because I can see it working out over a longer space than a prologue and introducing some major characters who feature later in the book - and it will be much better, I think, to introduce them in person  now than have to explain them later.  

So I will write it. This is the first draft, after all. We'll see if it works. 

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Crime tropes?

 Last week I was musing about romance tropes - the scenarios that let readers know what they will be getting when they pick up a book. It's a topic often discussed. 

Crime tropes - not discussed so much, but I think they do exist, 

I've had a go at a list. 

Death/murder - there can be books with other crimes. but let's face it we do like a dead body, or five. 

Troubled protagonist - addiction, marriage problems, loner

Unidentified victim  - need to determine who your dead body is before you can find out who killed them. A classic on this one is Agatha Christie's Body in the Library. Where the hapless Colonel and Mrs Bantry  have no idea who the dead girl is. Enter Miss Marple, stage right ...

Mysterious poison - more of a Golden Age motif as forensics advance

Lost heir - Josephine Tey's Brat Farrar is a classic. Can only be historical now, with the arrival of DNA testing. 

Forced proximity - this one can be a romance trope too - in the crime case it is a group of people cut off from the outside world - snow, floods, And you know what will happen - And Then There Were None ...

Courtroom dramas - a trope or a setting? 

Unreliable narrator There is a classic on this - Dame Agatha again, but I won't risk a spoiler.

Amateur sleuth beloved in 'Cosy' mysteries. These days they often have lifestyles/hobbies that add to the layering - dog walker, gardener, baker. 

Falsely accused  who has to be exonerated. 

The Too Stupid to Live Victim. The one who goes into the creepy empty house when there is a serial killer on the loose. 

A villain who taunts the police

A key witness who lets it be known they have information but delays to allow enough time for them to become the next corpse.  (I really hate that one!) 

I'm sure there are more, but that's not a bad start! 


Wednesday 10 January 2024

Tropes?

 When any  group of romance writers get together the topic of romance tropes often comes up - a shorthand tag that lets readers know what they will be getting inside the covers. I've had several conversations on these lines lately, which inspired a list - some of them are classic, some new, some a bit saucy, I know some readers chose their reading solely on the basis of their favourite scenarios, What you see is what you get! Are your favourites here?


Marriage of convenience - classic, tends to be historical but not always. Morphed in contemporaries into fake relationship? 

Secret baby - also classic

Grumpy/sunshine - this seems to be a newish one

Only one bed - now we're getting towards saucy. 

Falling for the boss - This used to be CEO/secretary or doctor/nurse - perhaps a little old fashioned now?

Forced proximity - can include the two above, but any scenario where the protagonists can't avoid each other works

Second chance romance - a nice one to write as there is HISTORY! 

May/December - maybe not so popular these days?

Friends to lovers - this has lots of possibilities. Likely to be small town with interesting supporting characters?

An embarrassing one night stand that has repercussions - maybe linked to secret baby???

Enemies to lovers. Maybe me, but I don't seem to have come across so many of these lately. Maybe my reading habits have changed. 

Fairy tales - Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella being the most popular. 

Reverse harerem - now that IS saucy! 

I've seen a few lists that include sports romance, amnesia, billionaires, blind dates, royalty - but they seem to me to be more towards plot/setting than trope.

I'm sure I have missed a few, but it is fun to try and remember  them!  




Wednesday 3 January 2024

Welcoming the New Year

 Traditionally New Year is the time for change and resolutions. So- what about this new one then?

I can't say that 2023 was a memorable year. Several nagging health issues sapped my strength and will power, so there has been little writing and no progress on the programme of renovating the house.  The whole twelve months seems to have evaporated. I am hoping for better for 2024. There was a new book in March and I did have some good times with friends at writing events.

The 4th Riviera

Attending IndieLove in November was a high spot that I very much enjoyed. 

Blurry!


There were re-issues of vintage books, but very little new writing took place, except for this blog. There have been a few green shoots as I tried out a new idea on a workshop of fellow writers in October and got a good reaction and the kind of comments  I was hoping for. I've researched garden history - yes, it will have an historic garden - and I'm excited about the concept, if I can summon the stamina. I have a new consultant so I  am also hoping that medical tests at the end of 2023 will result in a diagnosis and a better outlook.  

So 2024 has a New Year's Resolution. Very simple.

Write a new book! 

Alongside that, fingers crossed that the house renovations will be starting again. 

I doubt if any new work will be let out into the world until 2025, but I'll do my best to keep at it and keep you up to date! 

Monday 1 January 2024