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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.   

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

On being a 'treat'

Last week I was the Choc-lit Friday Treat. I’ve never been a treat before – it sounds slightly wicked.

For those who have not signed up to Choc-lit’s mailing lists, a treat is a short story – a piece of flash fiction, really, from a Choc-lit author – often someone who has a new book out. It usually arrives in time to be read with morning coffee/tea, which is very civilised.

If you’re signed on to Choc-lit’s mailing list, and to receive the treats, you know about this. If you aren’t signed on, why not? It’s free, and it means you get those little treats arriving in your in box on a Friday – not every Friday – and a monthly newsletter with info about new books, events, the occasional chance to win stuff. If you hop over to the Choc-lit site you can sign up. But don’t go yet. I’ll give you a link at the end. 


Anyway back to my treat. As regular readers know, I’m not much for short fiction. I always blame it on the plotting requirements of romantic suspense, which need more room than 500ish words, which is true, but it’s also that I don’t have a big facility for writing short. It’s not my thing. Except sometimes it is. I occasionally get an idea, and then I enjoy putting it down in a short format. Which is what happened with this one. I wrote it when I was editing Summer in San Remo (a process that took on the proportions of painting the Forth bridge, it had so many stops, starts and beginnings again) which meant that I had it all ready when the book was finally released – which earned lots of brownie points with the lovely Lusana in the Choc-lit HQ (at least, I hope it did) and not a little astonishment.   

It’s a very romantic piece, set in Paris, and I particularly tailored it to include echoes of Cassie and Jake’s story in Summer in San Remo, although it’s not about them. That was quite satisfying to do, a little test of skill, like trying to complete a crossword – I’m not all that good at those, either – I won’t talk about what those were, because it would be spoilers, but if you’ve read both you will probably have picked them up, and if you’ve only read the treat, that’s a little added extra when you come to read Summer in San Remo. I hope you will read it. I think you’ll enjoy it.

To sign on for the treats, you need to email with Treat in the subject heading. If you ask nicely they might even be able to send you mine, if you haven't already read it.

You can sign on for the monthly news letter via the Choc-lit website.

The link to the CHOC-LIT site is HERE

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Launch day and cover reveal!!!

Tarrah! Here it is - the cover of my new e-book from Choclit

Summer In San Remo

Isn't it pretty?

And different?

That's because the book is different. Not the kind of thing I usually write, it's a chase around the Riviera involving confidence tricksters, mysterious strangers, cocktail parties, film crews,  picnics, shopping for shoes  ... A summer fling, if you, will.

Crime, but with a much lighter touch.

Not a dead body in sight.

The chance for some fun, in time for the holidays.

Available NOW from all e-book platforms.


Monday, 17 July 2017



On sale on all e-book platforms and of course, the COVER REVEAL.

It's a secret, but I think this guy may know something.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Research (and romance) can happen anywhere

I ran away to London again for the weekend. It will be the last for a while as my bank balance is screaming at me to step away from those nice hotels with the delicious breakfasts - one of my biggest weaknesses.  This trip was special as it was a reunion for people I knew when I worked in Eaton Square. It was lovely to catch up and see old friends from what was probably the best job of my career (Not counting being a writer, of course.)

As well as the reunion and a trip to see Andrew Scott's Hamlet at the theatre, I also managed a salon at Carlyle's House, in Chelsea, and a trip to the Hampton Court  Flower show. And took pictures.

The evening at Carlyle's House was lovely - a chance to have a brief look at the house, in all it's Victorian  splendor, and drinks in the garden - which had an apricot tree (shades of the Duchess of Malfi) The house would have hosted the likes of Chopin and Dickens in Carlyle's day. We weren't quite so august, but it was a good evening. The talk from Sarah Wise was on the Old Nichol, a notorious Victorian slum in Shoreditch - she had pictures and statistics that prove that you can't always believe the rumours and reputations that are handed down - appealing to me as an historian and a writer.  I prowled the area before the talk too, as it's the part of Chelsea that I chose for Kaz to live in Never Coming Home, and my hero in the novella I'm working on has a flat there. I was able to pick out the sort of place he would have, so that was useful. See - research everywhere.

Then the next day down to Hampton Court, and the flower show. And there was plenty there to attract a romance writer - from the rose of the year, to the vegetable plots, to the food tent with cakes and cocktails. I have a romantic suspense series on the distant horizon that is set in an invented village on the Welsh coast, and I am always on the look out for arts and crafts which might go on there among the normal inhabitants, not the ones who do dark deeds for a living. I collected some good ideas. And, of course, a cake covered in edible petals would be just the thing if there happened to be a wedding ...

This is Carlyle - a bit crooked,
but you get the idea. He was an historian and philosopher.

Carlyle's House. Chelsea. Mr and Mrs C were a Victorian
literary couple, hence the salons.

Hampton Court. I don't know if you can read the caption, but this is a combination of  sweet corn, runner beans and squash, traditionally planted by Native Americans and called Three Sisters - which made me think of the Nora Roberts Three Sisters Island books. Sounds like a very edible mixture too. 

This Alma-Tadema Style backdrop was on the stand with rose of 2017.
Is he proposing and she's being coy?

Rose of 2017 - perfectly named for a romantic novelist ...

... as you can see - Lovestruck.

I loved the colour combination of this. Need to investigate for the garden -
will the slugs leave it alone, though?

The cake with petals from Bee's Bakery - isn't it pretty

Looks like something that would go down
 well with members of the RNA, courtesy of Plants4Presents

I can never resist lavender. The stand from Downderry Nursery was fabulous. All colours from white through pink to deep purple.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

And now for something completely different ...

Cover reveal on publication day 18th July!!!

This is an exciting time for me - my first new book from Choc-lit in ages.

It's arriving on 18th July - Summer in San Remo - just in time for the holidays! One of Choc-lit's secret releases - no pre orders - and no-one sees the cover until it's ready to roll. But I have to tell you, the cover is gorgeous!!!!

 It's a little different from what I normally write. Actually, make that a lot different. It's crime, but not as I usually write it. This one isn't gruesome, or scary. No dead bodies. At all. No one falling from high buildings. 

There is someone falling in the swimming pool ...

Cassie and Jake have history - romantic history. And all the baggage that entails. And that's without some disappearing money and a mysterious stranger. On the Riviera.

You get the picture.

This is me, letting my hair down and having a little fun. Just for the summer. I hope readers will enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

But don't worry - the WIP in progress is back to the dark stuff.

Five dead bodies, and counting ...

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Something to read on the Beach?

No cover to reveal yet. 

As you know, I'm the Choc-lit author at the dark end of the selection box. The one that writes the scary, creepy stuff. Heroines in jeopardy, tortured heroes. Lots of dead bodies.

Don't get too attached to anyone, they might not make it to the end of the book.

Except that the next book that's coming out with my name on isn't like that. 

It's crime, but not the way I usually write it.

This one has sunshine and parties and cocktails and pretty clothes and picnics - and two ex lovers sleuthing on the Italian Riviera. And maybe falling for each other all over again?

I’m really excited, as I haven’t had a new book out in ages. Life, and all that stuff, getting in the way. It's called Summer in San Remo, and I'm hoping that it will be the start of a light-hearted series called Riviera Rogues. I don't have a cover to reveal yet, (Although I’ve seen the art work, and it’s gorgeous) but it should be out as an e-book next month. And then I’ll be able to say that I write in the sunshine and in the shadows.

But the next one is all sunshine.

Something different, just for the summer.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Alibi in the Archive Part Two

Saturday at Alibi in the Archive was a packed day. Starting with a fresh look at Sherlock Holmes from the inimitable David Stuart Davies, who had played a very convincing murderer in Ann Cleve's murder mystery the evening before, we next whizzed through  the publishing history of Agatha Christie's monumentally successful books - beginning with a three book contract in 1924, from David Brawn, who now looks after the Christie legacy.

I was particularly interested in Martin Edwards' talk on the Detection Club, which began in 1930 as an invitation only dining club for crime authors which is still going strong now, and the Crime Writers' Association, the professional body for crime novelists, begun in 1953 by John Creasey. The weekend was to celebrate the Gladstone Library acquiring the archives of both bodies. If you are interested in the luminaries and forgotten names who were once best sellers in the Golden Age of Crime, I recommend Martin's award winning book, The Golden Age of Murder, the product of years of passionate research, and it shows.

After lunch those with strong stomachs enjoyed Linda Stratmann's look at poisoners, particularly those of the Victorian era, Linda is disturbingly expert on arsenic and other delights! I've blogged before on the crime classics that the British Library is publishing - particularly the wonderful covers, based on vintage travel posters. A talk from Rob Davies from the British Library, provided the background on how the series came about, with a glimpse of what may be to come. After tea we had a look at clerical crime, with Kate Charles - priests, nuns, monks, ministers and rabbis, historical and contemporary, who all combine their calling with a little sleuthing on the side. It fell to Kate Ellis to round off the day with a look at the way past and present supply ideas for novels. Kate was also responsible for the after dinner murder mystery, which was great fun, with the actors getting into the spirit in costume and the whole thing revolving around the discovery of a corpse in a trench at an archaeological dig. I couldn't make up my mind which of two candidates was the culprit - of course I opted for the wrong one!

Sunday morning brought a illuminating and entertaining talk from Stella Duffy, who has taken on the job of finishing a partially completed Ngaio Marsh story - three chapters and some notes, set in New Zealand at the end of World War Two and taking place over the course of a single night. And that night being the midsummer solstice!!! I can't wait to see how she manages it. Her descriptions of researching places in New Zealand that are connected to Marsh, and the locations she may use was fascinating.

Two last sessions looked to the future - for the Crime Classics series and a past and present round up, with all the speakers.

As I've said, it was a really brilliant weekend. So brilliant, in fact, that they are now hoping to repeat it next year.

And if that gallop though the proceeding has whetted your appetite, I have a little surprise. The Library records it's talks, and a number from the weekend are already up on their 'cloud'. If you want to hear more from Martin, Linda, Ann and some of the other speakers, and they were all fabulous, then try this link HERE

You'll need to scroll to find the ones you want. Happy listening.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Gladstone Library and Alibi in the Archives.

I just had a fabulous weekend at the Gladstone Library in Hawarden, North Wales, for what now appears to be the inaugural Alibi In the Archives, weekend - but more of that later.

The Gladstone Library outside
First, the library - a library with rooms which has been on my radar for some while - highly recommended by other writers if you have a book to begin, finish or sort out in the saggy middle, I had a booking for a few days there in late 2014 but had to cancel when life got in the way, so this was my first visit and the chance to check it out. I wasn't actually staying in the guest rooms - they'd filled up before I organised my ticket - so I stayed in a nearby hotel with a day ticket for all the events and food. I have to say the food, surroundings, and general ambiance did not disappoint, and I now have to put a return visit on the bucket list. Whether that will be for a book or the day job  - we'll have to see.

The purpose of the weekend was to mark the  Library giving a home to the archives of the Crime Writers' Association and The Detection Club - a select, invitation only dining club that was begun between the wars and boasted some of the huge names in Golden Age crime fiction. It's still going strong and some of the crime names who are now members are not exactly dusty, either!

The Gladstone Library inside.
The programme focused on Golden Age crime, partly inspired, I think, by the crime classics currently being re-released by the British Library. I've blogged about them before. If you like classic crime and want to explore some authors who were very successful but have now slipped into obscurity, check them out.

The weekend started with some gentle after dinner sleuthing, when participants had the chance to pit their wits against Ann Cleeves, in a particularly devious crime scenario, a murder in a garden next to a large conservatory, enacted by some brave members of the audience and complete with a forensic report. I say it was devious, because I had no idea whodunit. I know who would have if I'd been writing it, but I didn't have a clue on the night. It was a lot of fun and a really good start to the weekend.

Ann was also one of the guest speakers the next day, giving some insights into having both her Vera and Sheltand novels turned in to TV series and talking about the circumstances that led her to chose the all important settings and how the characters developed.

It was a packed weekend and I want to do it justice, so I'm going to stop there. Part 2 next week!

Link to the British Library Shop and the crime classics catalogue. HERE

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Just a walk by the sea

Sometimes you just need some space. On Sunday, after an overcast day, the evening cleared.

I went for a walk and took some pictures. You can't smell the elder flowers blooming in the hedges, or hear the sound of the waves, but the sea and the sky are still blue.

Just a walk by the sea.

Above Jackson's Bay - the beach used by the locals

The island of Steep Holm is just about visible on the horizon
 if you know where to look.

Whitmore Bay - or Barry Island  - the bandstand on the prom.
The Big Wheel in the Fairground

A last view over the beach and the sea

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Taking Snaps in London

On my recent trip to London I did a little research for a book that I really want to write - it's the one that harks back to the war, so it really has to be done soon, or one of the essential characters will be over 100! but it's not fully on the radar yet.  It's a romantic suspense - what I call a treasure hunt book and I know that it is going to feature locations around London, which gives me a chance to go out and prowl around the city in the name of research. 

St Stephen Walbrook
I made a modest start in The City, with one of my favourite churches - St Stephen Walbrook, designed by Wren, which I found by accident many years ago when sheltering from a sudden rain storm. There was a choir practising, and the whole thing sent shivers up the spine.
The other church I wanted to look at was St Mary's Woolnoth - which is a Hawksmoor church - not one I have looked at before, although it is only around the corner, but it has a
particular feature that I want to use. And no, I'm not telling you what that is. 

St Mary Woolnoth

I took pictures of both, which  will be useful when I finally do get the book in my sights. That area of London is dotted with churches, often on sites that have been used for some form of worship for a very long time. Despite being such a busy area, to me it has an underlying spooky feel. And in the evenings and at weekends when the offices are closed and the place is quiet that feeling is accentuated.  But that may just be the novelist in me surfacing. I also wanted to see the ruin of the Temple of Mithras - that one goes back to the Romans - I told you the area had been used for worship for a long time. I couldn't find it - I think it is part of a large construction project on Queen Victoria Street. Hopefully it is and  it will have emerged again by the time I want it - that is for yet another book that is in my head, and partially down on paper.

I'm hoping that taking pictures will store information in the memory banks that the subconscious will use to feed the plots of both novels, as they are still in the planning stage.    

Not the same colour as the one in Dr Who. And not as big. 
Whatever use I make of it, it was a pleasant morning. I also took a picture of an old police telephone box, - not the Dr Who kind, but similar.  I couldn't resist it.  A relic of the days before landline phones were commonplace, let alone mobile phones, and the police needed a way of communicating.  No idea what I might use that for, but maybe something will turn up.   

It's all research. 

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

On the road

Last week was a busy week, and a lot of fun. To London for the RNA Summer Party, at which the 2017 Joan Hessayon winner was announced - sadly not one of the 3 Choc-lit debut authors who were in the line up - but a win for a Welsh publisher! Kate Field was awarded the trophy for The Magic of Ramblings published by Accent.

It was a fab party, I got to stroke the trophy - all the past winners come over a bit 'precious' when in it's presence - it's hard to believe that it is 5 years since I won it!!!

I renewed my card for the British Library - looking forward to spending some time there later in the year, and did a bit of research, book related, not for the day job, but more of that next week.

The lovely Lusana from Choc-lit, sizing up
the room for the best layout 
Then it was down to Southampton for the second Choc lit road-show. An afternoon of talking, quizzes, chocolate and  a lot of laughter at Southampton Library, in the company of an enthusiastic audience of readers and a few hopeful writers who had the chance to pitch a book to Choc-lit as part of the proceedings. And all the attendees got a goodie bag to take away. I did manage to snaffle a bag, but not the contents - and I did sneak some of the chocolates, so that was probably a win:)

Goodie bags and book stall, waiting for the audience. 

I had a lovely time with Jan Brigden, Liv, who is one half of Isabella Conner, and Laura E James. Luckily the audience seemed to enjoy themselves too, so it was was worth the trip. The next show will be up north, Stockton on Tees, as part of their literature festival, and there is a whisper about a date in London in the autumn, If there is, I hope I'll be there. I took a few pictures, so you can get the idea of how it all went.
My fellow panelists
The chance to talk about yourself and your books - what's not to like? And it was good to start doing some book related things again and to tell people about the new summer book that is in the pipeline. coming soon, I hope.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Are you ready for this?

No, it's not a cover reveal, but I did think it was time I told you the title of the new book. As I've said, often, it is not romantic suspense. No dead bodies in this one. (You'll have to wait until Christmas for more of them) It does have a mystery in it, which is what gets the hero and heroine to the Riviera, chasing a couple of crooks. I had in mind all those romantic comedy films from the 40s and 50s  - glamorous settings and sunshine and fantastic scenery and beautiful people and luxurious villas and fast cars. And food. There's quite a bit of that too. It's a summer book. A holiday sort of book and I hope that it's going to be the first of a series. It had to have a holiday type name and after a meeting with my publisher at the London Book Fair, it got one. Very simple, but sums up everything about the book.

So, now, drum roll, please - It's going to be called Summer in San Remo and that's exactly the sort of mood I was after.

And the series title? Ah, now that was suggested by the lovely Kath, from The Nutpress, right here on the blog. The whole series will be  Riviera Rogues. All of them will have a mystery, sunshine and a holiday feel - and the rogues won't all be just the villains. Some of the heroes have a way to go before they win their heroine. Starting with Jake ...

I'm looking forward to a bit of lighthearted fun, in amongst the darker stuff, and I'm already thinking of all the places that can be categorised as 'Riviera'.

Oh, and that cover reveal? It will happen, I promise.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

There's a word for that.

I couldn't find a 'word' picture,
but this one is pretty.
New words. As a writer I'm always curious about those. I used to make up words as a child and had to explain to my puzzled Mum what I was talking about. Now, not so much.

But I am interested when I happen on something new. I'm not talking about those political constructions or the contractions of a person or a couple's name or names- usually involving celebrities - that often seem rather ugly, but the new inventions that can be useful to a writer, usually involving some kind of emotion.

The latest one I've come across is hangry. Which means, apparently, getting irritable because you are hungry. I found it in a book and thought at first it was a misprint, or an attempt to portray some sort of accent, until the context explained it. And then a couple of days later I was in a meeting and someone used it, and I was very pleased that I know what it meant. You can get a lot from book, not just the story.

Another one which I discovered and I've used in a book (which is part written and might some day see the light of day)  is ghosting - ending a relationship by simply fading away without explanation. It fitted exactly what I wanted to convey about the heroine's clearly now ex-boyfriend. The hero who is about to come into her life is a much better bet, even if he does have emotional and physical baggage and the sort of job ... Well, actually, he could end up ghosting her too. But he doesn't. At least I don't think he does. When I finish the book, we'll all find out. But I'm wandering, as usual.

My last new  word isn't that new, but has come to prominence recently because of The Archers. Gaslighting - emotional manipulation to isolate a partner and make them think they are losing it, big time.   It's a concept that's been in my rummage bag of ideas for a while but not surfaced yet. There is one partly ploted that might be classed as a form of gaslighting, so maybe it has surfaced, but not in the conventional form?

Anyway, that is for the future.  By then there will probably be more that I want to get my teeth into.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Being able to read

I was in a stationery store the other day. Writers, stationery - it's a thing. Anyway, there was a gratitude diary with pages to record things you were grateful for, with a series of questions to answer. I didn't buy it - such restraint, but it did make me think. And that got coupled with reading a short story from Veronica Henry. It's called The Apple Orchard and it's currently free on Amazon with a large chunk of her next release, The Forever House in the back. The short story is a bitter sweet one, a bit of a tear jerker, actually, and features a character who is unable to read. I don't think that's a spoiler, as he says it on the first page.

It made me think about being able to read, and how life would be if you couldn't, and all the things I have read, in the last few days, starting with that short story

  • Red Herrings - the magazine of the Crime Writer's Association
  • Part of the Waitrose Food magazine, the Boots Health and Beauty magazine, The Garden - which is the monthly magazine from the Royal Horticultural Society and The Romance Writers' Report, which is the magazine of the Romance Writers' of America.
  • Various sell by dates on items in the fridge and the instructions on the chicken I cooked yesterday.
  • The train information screen at the station
  • About 150 e-mails, and who knows how many tweets and F/B and blog posts
  • Screeds of my handwritten notes about Cardiff in World War Two
  • The first few pages of what  I hope will be the Christmas Novella - (just started to transfer it to type)
  • The side of the soya milk carton to confirm that yes, I had inadvertently picked the sweetened kind
  • About half of Tessa Dare's Do You Want To Start a Scandal?
  • The local free newspaper
  • Various party political literature for the up coming local elections, junk mail , my bank statement and credit card bill. 'I owe you how much?'

The list could go on.

The power to be able to read, and it is a power.

Something to be grateful for.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

It's all in the title.

A few tongue in cheek Welsh titles you might recognise.
The title of the book - that's the thing, along with the cover, that tells you what is likely to be between the covers - and whether you are likely to enjoy reading it. So - the title need to tell you something. It needs those buzz words that register in your brain to make you pick or click. There are a lot of jokes around at the moment about every book having to have the word 'Girl' or the word 'Cupcake' in the title, or maybe both.

But in our time-starved lives, buzz words can be a great help.

On the romance side, the current vogue for books set in places that can be thought of as comforting is clear in titles that use words like 'little' and 'cosy' and are set in bookshops, tea-shops, cafes, guest houses and beach huts. Summer, beach and sunshine are up there too. Maybe we're all looking for something small and familiar in a turbulent world? A while ago the fashion was for historic mansions and gardens, usually in need to renovations, but we seem to have downsized a bit lately.

On the thriller side, 'secrets' and 'lies' are very current - but then, secrets never go out of fashion. And, of course, those words that conjure atmosphere, like 'dark', 'silent', 'dying', 'evil', 'scream'. You know that you might be sleeping with the light on if you chose one of those.

I'm a sucker for titles with destinations in them, but they have to be sunny and what I consider to be glamorous. Antarctica probably wouldn't do it for me. Mysterious would - I enjoy Elly Griffiths' books set in the Fens, with more than a touch of the spooky about them, and I am incubating a few set in my native Wales that I hope will draw on some of the folklore and supernatural elements that are part of the Welsh landscape. Land of Legends is the theme chosen for this year by Visit Wales and there are a couple of links at the bottom of the post that you might like to explore.

And don't get me started on TRAINS. They are becoming an addiction. Anything with Orient Express in the title gets me, and the classic mysteries that are set on trains, and I have just finished Andrew Martin's Night Trains, non fiction, and sub titled 'The rise and fall of the sleeper', in which he attempts to re-create some of the famous night train journeys of the past, with varying degrees of success. I really enjoyed it. I've never traveled on a sleeper. It's on the bucket list.

And I just remembered that what I hope will be the Christmas novella has an opening scene involving a train. And it's set in the Brecon Beacons.

I think I've wandered a bit from my start point of titles. My preoccupations are showing as I need to make a start on editing and tidying up that novella if it's going to get submitted for a chance at the Christmas list.

And of course, it will need a good title.

Visit Wales - Land of Legends
Literature Wales - Interactive map

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Guilt trip - get your tickets here.

Flowers are one of my guilty pleasures -
but an orchid is a plant, so that doesn't count.
This post was inspired, if that is the right word, by one that fellow Choc-lit author Victoria Cornwall did on the Novel Points of View blog, on Guilty Pleasures. She asked a collection of writers for theirs, and the result was some fun confessions! There's a link to blog at the bottom of this post, if you want to check it out.

Mine would have been expensive hair products, fresh flowers and astrology magazines, if I'd got my finger out to tell her when she asked. As I've said, it's a fun idea - but it also got me thinking - while I was drying my hair, actually - back to the fancy hair products - why do things that give us pleasure have to make us feel guilty? And a bit more about guilt in general.

I'm not talking here about the big stuff - guilt that involves crime, or those deeply personal ones that centre on things done and spoken, or not done and not spoken, but those little nagging  'Coulda Shoulda Woulda' ones we all seem to carry around, The ones that involve too many cream cakes, or not enough exercise, or 'Just one more chapter and then I'll ...'

 Why do we do that?  And why do things that we enjoy doing have to make us feel that we should not enjoy them? From personal experience, the guilt trip tends to be towards the negative - the things not done. But the whole thing is negative, and self sabotaging and energy sapping. So why do we do it? Are our brains programmed that way, or is it upbringing?  Where does this feeling that you are not allowed to have any fun, and that however much you do, it is not enough, come from?  Being a major offender, I don't have answers, except to say that I really do think we should be kinder to ourselves.

And of course, guilt is a gift to a writer. The guilty secret - where would we be without it? It opens up so many possibilities - retribution, revenge, blackmail, domestic chaos. But it's probably the guilt bit that has the most possibilities for examining the emotional turmoil of your characters, and emotional stuff is what makes the book tick - at least, it does for me.

So perhaps having that personal experience of guilt, even if it is only that I haven't got round yet to potting up the plants I bought at the show last week, is worth something after all. The plants are quite happy, I'm watering them and making sure they are comfortable, so I really don't have anything to feel guilty about, do I?

Victoria's Guilty Pleasures post

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

At the RHS Flower Show in Cardiff

Authors are allowed out sometimes, and I regularly take my chance at an escape when the Royal Horticultural Society's travelling flower show arrives in Cardiff, sometime in April. It's a bitter/sweet day out, as I have memories of going there with Mum, and last year I was just getting over a major operation, so it was a very quick look. I'm happy to say that this year, in the sun, I had an excellent time - and the show was very good this year. I spent too much on plants, but that's a given.

Happily the memories of my Mum are fading away from the miserable hours spent sitting beside hospital beds, into the good ones, like the day, at another sunny Cardiff show, when we had two ice-creams for lunch. That's two each. I can still see her grin, and her emphatic nod, when we'd both finished the first one and I asked her if she wanted another. She loved ice-cream. And no, I didn't have one, this year, as my jeans are getting snug. I bought another plant instead.

The flowers were lovely, the gardens had the theme of myths and legends, which brought out some interesting ideas, and there seemed to be an even better selection of craft stalls this year. The lady selling sun hats was doing a great trade. I was looking for a chance to sit down - that's one of my only complaints, the RHS shows are not over provided with places to sit - so I wandered into the part of the marquee where a talk was taking place, and found myself listening to a fascinating half hour on the National Garden of Wales and it's Regency heritage. And now I know what the connection is between the garden and pirates, nutmeg and the television series, Taboo. And I have another location to put on my 'places I must visit' list.

I took pictures, so now I'm presenting my gallery of the show.

Enjoy. I did.

The tulips were especially good this year

I couldn't resist snapping this - a reminder of the
Choc-lit cartoon tour bus
I loved the colour of these.
One way to fill a bicycle basket.
Yes, this was a garden. A representation of standing stones.
And it won a medal. 
A more conventional display garden
Can you see the metal owl?
I took this one because I was thinking of Jane Lovering and of the owl in her latest book
Have you met Skrillex yet? 
This was another medal winner - a depiction of the story of  Blodeuwedd
who was made of flowers and got turned into an owl. 
As this was Wales, and the theme was legends,
there were a few dragons about.
More lovely colours
I bought a bulb to grow these, but mine will be pink, I hope. if the slugs don't get them first.
And I can't remember what they are called!

The garden of my dreams is going to have an olive tree in it.
As it will also be in the South of France, I think it's going to stay a dream

This display said everything about spring to me.


Can you read the label? I loved this.
And the cacti were good too.
My grandfather used to grow cacti. As a kid, I was not very impressed.

lipstick pink peonies.

This is more like my real garden, but tidier.
And not so many slugs.

The food crops on this stand in the marquee were spectacular.

Hosta - I love the cool green

Another dragon
I have all the ingredients to create one of these. Now I need the time!