Wednesday 10 July 2024

What happened to our sunshine?

 Here in the UK the summer of '24 has been notable by its absence - although I gather we are promised some warmer weather later this month. 

Apart from the fact that it is COLD, the lack of sunshine was brought home to me while I was limping around Cardiff in the search for a frame for my second Jackie Collins finalist's certificate. The limp because of back and hip problems and the search because no one had what I wanted - the right size frame capable of standing up rather than being wall hung. Wilko, we miss you! I didn't find a frame, but I did notice large areas of stores given over to the goods of summer - picnic blankets, hampers, outdoor furniture and tableware, lanterns, barbeques - and the kind of food cooked on them - were pretty empty of customers, which was rather sad. All that bright cheerful merchandise sitting neglected on the shelves.  

So - where do we go for that summer feeling - other than leaving on a jet plane? You could try a book. Increasingly these days in the romance field, publishers are looking to issue two offerings  a year. Summer and Festive. Both designed to compliment the season, or get you in the appropriate mood if weather and circumstance are not coming up with the goods?

Do you buy the Summer book to read by the pool - or to replicate the feeling?  Does 'summer' in the title - and there are quite a few of them out there - make you disposed to buy? I have to say it does me - but I have always been one for warmth, sun and escape. 

When I was a kid and my dad went off on one of his Sunday day trips to a meeting - he was very involved in the national administration of his hobby, sea angling - mum and I often had an indoor picnic instead of Sunday lunch- all the picnic things, complete with table cloth on the living room floor. It was fun, and it didn't matter if it was cold or raining. 

If it won't happen you have to invent it - and a book is as good a place as any. Only one thing that worries me. If the summer season has been disappointing will all those retailers be starting their Christmas even earlier?

At least the weather is appropriate. 



Wednesday 3 July 2024

Managing expectations

 I've just finished reading a book - spooky goings on and ghosts - where it was mentioned several times that good things rarely happen in basements. Very true. Places where young women should not venture in the dark when the local serial killer is on the loose. 

It got me thinking about 'short cuts' in novels - ways of telegraphing expectations to the reader. This can be very obvious - publishers' obsession with covers showing women in red coats running thorough various landscapes to denote a thriller is an obvious one - but it can be more subtle than that. 

As in life - a phone ringing between the hours of midnight and 5 am is unlikely to be  a Good Thing. Basements are creepy - although for some reason a cellar doesn't have quite the same connotation, possibly because of the link in the mind to wine cellar? 

Attics mean secrets - storage for old papers, dressing up boxes, childhood debris. You can have a good time in an attic. I had fun in A Villa in Portofino making mine virtually empty, but of course there was still a room full of luggage.  A character who announces they are going up to the attic - well, you just know they are going to Find Something. Libraries and studies mean books and papers, desks and filing cabinets so more potential for secrets. Kitchens equal meals and baking - places of comfort. Similarly cafes. 

Town houses, cottages, mansions, lofts - all property that denotes a certain style of life and inhabitant. Writing seasonal and festive books gives you a whole lexicon of images from carved pumpkins to fairy lights and tinsel to set a scene. 

At the moment I am heavily into creating a garden. Now gardens can have multiple personalities. The one I am working on is a sanctuary - a place where a WWI veteran coped with his shell shock and decades later a woman running from an abusive marriage can find a refuge. But I also have in mind another story with a derelict garden, a creepy half ruined green house, maybe a falling down summer house ... 

Some things are great for signifying an activity or a mood - but it's also good to have a wide open canvas.