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AWARD WINNING AUTHOR

Writing in the Sunshine. Writing in the Shadows.


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Writing for the seasons.

But I don't do mists and mellow fruitfulness!
As you know, I like to write books where the sun shines. I'm very loud about that. Except that the one I have just turned into to the publisher has snow in it. (That last sentence has to be said in a hushed amazed whisper, by the way.) It's a Christmas novella so it's not really surprising that there might be some snow, even if I had to make it a freak blizzard in the Brecon Beacons - one of the super powers of being a writer is to control the weather. If it makes it thorough the publisher's reading panel - fingers crossed, it will be out for - drum roll - Christmas!!!

Of course, once a writer has a book off the runway they are usually thinking about the next one. As you know, if you have been paying attention, and if I've remembered to tell you, I have two new romantic suspense books half written, so the logical thing would be to finish one of them. But when did logic have anything to do with it? I took  an extract from one of them, the one with the highest body count, actually, (5 by the first page) to a workshop with the lovely ladies of the Marcher Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association and they made some helpful and encouraging  comments and generally gave it the thumbs up (I didn't mention the bodies.) so I could get going on that one, but I have another idea gnawing away, and I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to get rid of the little blighter, and horror of horrors, it's trying to set itself in Wales in the autumn. Which is not a recipe for sunshine. Although I am toying with the idea of a St Luke's Summer*. Got to get  my fix somehow.

But where is it coming from? I do not like autumn. I have a problem with September especially, for personal reasons, but nothing of the season particularly appeals. So why is the book insisting on it? I have no idea. It just seems to fit the atmosphere of the book. At the moment it has a Beauty and the Beast theme, with a house that has wandered in from Portmeirion in North Wales and an overgrown garden that has some big surprises under the weeds and brambles. And some spooky ghostly stuff. Will it go any further, or will it wander off to the back burner and wait its turn, letting me get back to the two half written ones, both of which are set in the summer.

We shall see.


*St Luke's summer is good weather around 18th October. I have to thank Suzette Hill for that little gem which, like a good little author,  I squirreled away for future use - like getting ambushed by autumn setting books.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Read a book day.


Did you know?

That today,Wednesday 6th September, is Read a Book Day?

I didn't - so many thanks to fellow Choc-lit author Victoria Cornwall for mentioning it.

So, what are you waiting for? Go and find one, buy one, borrow one. I won't say steal one because I'm very law abiding - I leave the nefarious stuff to the characters in the books. Choc-lit has a great selection to chose from. We write in a wide variety of genres so you're bound to find something you fancy and quite a few are £1.99 or even only 99p, if you read on Kindle. Or you can support your local library. Authors get a small payment for the books borrowed, so it's all good. The only place the author gets nothing from that particular sale is the second hand book shop, but if you must ...

Actually the expression 'Read a book day' begs a few questions. Do you have to read the whole book today? Do you start the book today and it's OK if you finish it later? Should you read just part of a book? Is that OK as long as you are reading something? An old favourite or something new? An author or a genre you haven't read before? I naturally think of fiction, because that's what I like to read and write, but does any book count - cookery, motorcycle maintenance, Gray's Anatomy? And what about poetry. You could certainly read bit of a poetry book today and get a complete experience, unless it's something like Paradise Lost, which might take a bit longer.

You can tell I'm an academic crossed with a novelist, can't you - always asking questions.

Having done some in depth research on your behalf - alright, yes, I googled it - apparently anything goes, as long as it's reading - and reading aloud and involving children is also a good idea. Reading apparently reduces stress. It certainly does mine, and I get quite twitchy when I don't have a book on the go, and my mum was the same. Is that learned or inherited, I wonder? At the moment I'm trying to avoid starting the latest Karen Rose - Monster in the Closet, because I know that if I pick it up there's a good chance that none of the things on the to-do list will get done, but I know I'll give in eventually. Anything to stop that twitch.

So - have a happy day reading a book. There's even a hash tag so you can tell us all about it.  #ReadABookDay 

Enjoy your choice - whatever it is.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Playing by Numbers

Authors will tell you that they don't do numbers. We're the people with the words, right? The only time you'll catch a writer with numbers is when they have to do a tax return, and then it's usually cowering in a corner under a pile of old receipts and credit card bills. Been there, about to do that !!!

Except you can't really get away from numbers, and I seem to have noticed them more than usual with the latest, which has gone into the publisher for vetting. Fingers crossed it will make it. If it does, it will be a Christmas romantic suspense. The idea about that arose partially from discussion with fellow authors about whether you could do romantic suspense and be Christmassy with it, and of course, you know how I love to play ...

But that is a story for another day and another post. Alcohol was not involved as I have been on the waggon since liver surgery last year.

Couldn't find anything
in the archive that
said 'numbers'
so went for cute instead. 
Back to the numbers. I always do a time line for books, and sometimes for events within books as I get myself in a muddle over who is where and when - and that has saved my bacon when a suspicious editor has enquired whether the villain really can be killing someone there on Thursday, because isn't he still in Italy? Well, yes he can, and I have a flight timetable to back it up. Whew!!

In the Christmas book, as the timing of events is a significant part of the story, and the time line goes through a whole year I needed to put the works on show, so each chapter has a date and sometimes a time on it. Cue lots of bits of paper and home made calendars. But that wasn't all. Somehow I managed to get three supporting characters pregnant. Do not go there!!!! One was  fine, as the pregnancy happened off stage, as it were, and we only heard about the results. The second I had to sort out my numbers to ensure that the lady's very brief appearance would coincide with the pregnancy beginning to show. In the third I completely lost it and found, to my horror, when I inspected the time line, that the pregnancy had gone on for 10 months. Quick reshuffling on that one!

You see, writers don't do numbers. Except sometime we have to ...

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Opening lines - and pinching stuff from Shakespeare.

Whole seminars are taught at conferences and writing courses on opening lines. They matter. An intriguing or memorable opening line can grab a potential reader and make them want to read the book. 

No pressure then.

An opening line might come to you out of the blue. I have a cracker – actually not an opening line, but the closing line of an opening paragraph that I think is intriguing enough to be workable. Problem is, it has no book attached to it and I’m not sure that it ever will.  Most openers have to be laboured over, or at least kicked about until they pass muster. The big writing tip on that one is to write the first line after you’ve written the whole book. Unless you’ve got that cracker lined up already, put something in place that is good enough to set the tone and come back to it. Jumping into a new book can be hard – all that blank paper waiting to be filled – it doesn’t need to be made worse because you can’t get the first ten or so words just right before you begin.

I don't think so.
And where can you go for help?  Well, there are those courses and seminars, but there’s always the option of looking at what other people have done. I’m a fan of the theatre, so I find plays quite inspiring and if you’re looking there, then you might as well go right to the top and consider Shakespeare.  An interesting number of the plays begin in the middle of a conversation – sometimes a quarrel, or a moment where action is moving from one point to another. The Comedy of Errors begins with someone being sentenced to death, which is pretty dramatic.  Often these conversations are between minor characters, talking about the main protagonists, building up to the big entrance for the star of the show. That one can get you into trouble though, as readers can get invested in the wrong people, thinking the story is about them. I’ve fallen foul of that one a number of times.

But the idea of beginning in the middle of something – where the action has already started taking place ‘off stage’ might just be something to get the thing going. What’s the point that is going to launch this story into its orbit? What are the essentials that the reader needs to know? How dramatically can that be conveyed? Is there a sentence that can sum that up?  Can you get the reader into the action and drip feed the back story in later? All ideas to play with.

And you can always come back to that opening line later.   



Wednesday, 16 August 2017

How I came to write that book

As you will have noticed from the gorgeous cover, designed by Berni, my latest book from  Choc-lit is a bit different – so first, a word of reassurance – I have not given up writing the romantic suspense. I enjoy indulging my dark side too much for that, but this is my more frivolous side coming to the surface. And I get to have a pretty, glamorous, sunshiny cover, which I am totally in love with, so it’s all good.
Summer in San Remo has got some stolen money and a mysterious stranger, so there is a little bit of a mystery about it, but it also has food, fabulous clothes, parties, swimming pools, luxury villas – and sunshine.
The book began life as a novella, which was then called A Hand Picked Husband, and which I wrote one year as my submission for the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, after a marvellous Riviera holiday in – San Remo. I had a lot of fun writing it, and the feedback was good, but no one was able to suggest where a book mixing romantic comedy and light crime might find a home, so it was added to the (very large) pile of manuscripts in the bottom drawer.
Fast forward a decade or so – yes, it was that long – and the call went out to the authors of Choc-lit for any novellas we might have stashed under the bed. I dusted off ‘Husband’, and put my hand up. It went through the Choc-lit tasting panel as it was, they liked it enough to give it the thumbs up, and I signed the contract.
And that was when the fun really began. I still loved the book – the chemistry between Cassie and Jake was still strong and the sparks still flew between them, but the book needed a lot of tweaking, not least because of the changes in technology. And then life threw me one of those curves when everything that can happen does. Work on the manuscript simply ground to a halt, and there it stayed for a long time.
But now I’ve finally got back on track, Summer in San Remo is up to date, and longer, but the sparks are still flying between Jake and Cassie and I still love the book. And in the meantime, I’ve had time to think about, and enjoy, writing light as well as dark, and to hope that I will have the chance to do more of both.  I’m hoping that this book will be the first of a series – called The Riviera Rogues. The first draft of book two is already written, with a brand new heroine and a hero from Summer in San Remo that you might not expect – I certainly didn’t.  It still needs a lot of work, and the panel hasn’t seen it yet. Fingers crossed that when they do they will like it and we might have a date again on the Riviera again sometime next year. 



Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Summer in San Remo Give away



I'm currently running a give away on the Tripfiction Facebook Page. If you haven't encountered Trip fiction yet, it's a site that features books by location, so that you can chose where you want to read and well as what. I'll give you a link to the giveaway at the end of the post. Nothing complicated involved, only likes and shares, and you could be in with a chance.

I had a lot of fun putting the give away together - it's got a nautical/beach theme, as you might expect for a summer holiday read.

There's a Summer in San Remo tote bag, fine for a trip to the beach, or some shopping in the city. A nicely nautical scarf/wrap, patterned with yachts, and a box of bath bombs from Lush. In the book Cassie finds that she may not have packed everything she needs for a trip to the Riviera, but she does have her Lush goodies - I chose a box with bergamot and lemon scents that seemed to fit with a setting on the Mediterranean. I think there may be some lavender in there too.

Still on the theme of scent - there's a small Yankee Candle - of course in the Italian Escape fragrance, and what might be my favourite piece in the pack, frivolous and fun, a money box shaped like a beach hut, complete with a seagull on top, just like the ones on the cover of the book.

I hope you'll wander over to the Trip fiction site and try your luck.

The link is HERE

You'll need to scroll down to the post for 2 August. The contest runs for a few more days, until midnight 13th August.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Anatomy of a Cover

As you know, a cover is a very important part of the presentation of a book. It’s what prompts the reader to take their first look. Getting a good one is important. My publisher, Choc-lit, is particularly known for the attractiveness of its covers, courtesy of their design wiz, Berni Stevens (who also writes vampire romance, when she has some spare time) 

I’ve loved all my covers, and Summer in San Remo is no exception. Some of that is because it’s been such a long time since I actually had a book out and having any cover is a thrill, but it’s also because the cover perfectly captures the essence of the book. A colourful, sunny summer read – which is a new direction for me. I love the way Berni has captured the essence of the ‘Old Town’ elements of the towns on the Riviera, the feel of sun, sand and beach, and the bougainvillea that trails over the edges. 

Flowers and beautiful gardens are one of the elements of the book, and although I haven’t mentioned bougainvillea – an omission I must rectify in the next one in the series, as the flower is one of the trademarks of the Mediterranean.  I remember bringing one home from a trip to Italy, many moons ago. Of course the British climate is a bit of a challenge, but I managed to keep it for a while in a very sheltered part of the garden, next to the back door, and it gave me a great deal of enjoyment while it lasted. The flowers mentioned in the book are mostly jasmine and roses, which I also grow. I have lots of jasmine plants – they grow from cuttings like weeds.

But this is getting away from cover art. Of course the focal point of the cover is the portrait of heroine Cassie, who looks perfectly at home there. I covet her blue dress. I’ve spotted one very like it in M&S and I have had to talk severely to myself to stop me buying it. Jane Lovering has been known to match her hair to her covers, so why can’t I dress like mine? Don’t answer that one!

All the elements of the cover combine beautifully, but you know the thing that really gets me? It’s the seagulls. I think they really are the finishing touch. The real thing, nesting on the roofs in the street – I live 10 minutes from the beach – are a bit noisy. Make that a lot noisy, and are hell on wheels on bin collection day, but on the cover of the book they really give it that quirky, beach holiday feel.  

So – that’s it. I’m in love with my cover. It says everything I wanted about Summer in San Remo.