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