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Writing in the Sunshine. Writing in the Shadows.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

On location for What Happens At Christmas

A large part of the new Christmas e-book novella - What Happens at Christmas - is set in the Brecon Beacons National Park, in Wales. While the converted barn where the heroine stays for the holiday is invented, and I've also messed about with the weather, creating  some freak conditions to make sure I had oodles of snow on Christmas day, the hills and the scenery of the Beacons are real. As is the fact that the Park is a Dark Sky Reserve - making it an excellent place for star gazing. Very romantic, star gazing. At least, I hope it is. Abergavenny, the town where Lori, my heroine, does her last minute shopping for Christmas, is a real place too.

To give you a flavour of the setting - this week's blog has pictures. They wouldn't win any prizes for artistic impression, but they give you an idea. You just have to imagine it all covered in snow.

No - this one isn't Wales - it's Carlyle's House in Chelsea, in London.
This is the area where Drew, my hero, has a flat   
Now these are the Beacons - taken on a day in summer

Summer again.

This is a winter view, November and foggy.

You can see the fog over the hills to the right of the picture. 
And here we are, in Abergavenny
The hills lurk over the buildings of the town.
More lurk, and more fog.
The chickens in the roof of the Market Hall.
And this was the cake and gingerbread latte I rewarded myself with,
 after taking pix on a foggy day.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Stop Press


Just to say the lovely cover of Summer In San Remo is in the Author Shout Cover Wars this week.

Votes appreciated!

To vote, click here

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Outnumbered by books

I appear to have an addiction - cookery books. This was highlighted in the supermarket today when I exercised a great deal of will power and did not buy the Hairy Bikers new Mediterranean one. I very much wanted to, but  I was good, because you know - lots of other cookery books already. I have a sinking suspicion that I may eventually succumb - based on the recipes from said book that were reproduced in one of the Saturday papers that I read in Costa coffee, but for the moment, will-power rules.

I do make things from the books - sticky and dogeared pages testify to that, but mostly I just love looking at the pictures.

What else do I have? Well there is the TBR pile, or shelf. No make that shelves, but we all have one of those. History books - quite a lot of those - mostly to do with the day job, but some for books I plan some day to write - yeah, when the 48 hour day is invented.

Gardening. I have gardening. Not quite on the scale of cookery, but same principle.

Then I have what you might call the esoteric stuff - art and some spookyish stuff - symbols and folklore and a few about railways. Yes, they are all for books yet to be written too. And there are travel guides and plays - including two copies of the complete works of Shakespeare. A smattering of poetry and some classics left over from school and a few family hand me downs with book plates for Sunday school prizes for my mother and my grandmother. Which is where the reading thing came from. And signed copies of friends' books - they have their own shelf in the spare bedroom.

Which has made me realise that apart from the kitchen and bathroom, there is only one room in the house that does not have a bookcase/shelf in it and that's because it's too small to get a bed, my desk and a bookcase in there. Everywhere else there are books and that includes the hall and landing. Not many, but a few. And there are none in the airing cupboard, or there weren't, the last time I looked.

It's official. The house is full of books. I'm out-numbered. All I am is the live in librarian.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Writing Magazine - I wish I'd known ...

 I'm currently doing the last tweaks to What Happened at Christmas - now on pre-order, folks  - so I'm a trifle distracted, but not so distracted that I forget to tell you that  I'm appearing in this month's I wish I'd known column in Writing Magazine.

It's on special offer this month so you get a fab magazine, with oodles of writing chat and valuable info and insights and all for 99p!!

And me - on page 39, talking about the things I wish I'd known when I began my writing career.

Available now in a bookshop near you.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Snowdogs - Tails in Wales

Cardiff and the surrounding area is currently playing host to the Snowdogs - who are raising money for the Ty Hafan Children's Hospice.  I managed to take pictures of some of them, but there are 43 dogs and 57 pups, so I only scratched the surface. Here are a few of the Snowdogs on the trail. They will be in place until 26th November and then will be all together in the Capital Shopping Centre on the farewell weekend 8-10 December. Woof, Woof.

He's on the prom at Barry Island

Also on the prom

He greets you outside Central Station

Outside the Cardiff library

Pups - inside the library

More library pups

Another from the library. He looks very cheerful

Another library pup

The last library pup

A 'four seasons' Pup from St David's Centre
outside John Lewis

Another season - looks like summer

I think this one is spring

So he must be autumn :)
Rather a fearsome looking Snowdog
at the M&S end of St David's Centre

Pups from the M&S end of St David's Centre
I think he was my favourite - always been a sucker for fur.

Pup from the Capitol centre

More Capitol Centre pups 

And more

And another

The last one 

From the very top of Queen Street

He was outside the museum

There are lots more to see - at the other end of town, at Penarth and in the Bay and some of the local Cardiff parks and the airport. It would probably take a whole day to track them all down!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

About the new book.

Well, now you've seen the cover, maybe I'd better tell you about the new book. It's a Christmas book - the title kind of gives it away. I've never done one of those before. I'm not usually very big on Christmas, but it sort of happened. Books are like that. It's an e-book novella. Actually it's quite long for a novella - 60,000+ words so you'll be getting your 99p worth.

And you are going to buy it, aren't you? Pretty please? It's on pre-order at the moment from all the usual e-book retailers and publication day is 5th December.

But what is is about?

It's a romantic suspense, so not your usual feel good Christmas romance. Parts of it are very romantic and I hope you'll enjoy reading it, but be prepared for kidnapping, attempted murder ... all that festive stuff. A book for people who like something a bit different with their Christmas romance. The Christmas part is set in the Brecon Beacons, in a freak snow storm, although the book has a whole year time line and goes on to the following Christmas. The cover is gorgeous, thanks to the talent of the lovely Berni Stephens, who did wonders with my request for a hut. Watch that hut, it is significant.

It all starts when best selling author Andrew Vitruvius agrees to be kidnapped live on TV, for charity. And would-be author Lori France gets an unexpected visit from her sister.

Neither of them is going to get the Christmas they were expecting ...

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

What Happens at Christmas

Deep in edits for the Christmas romantic suspense, so no proper post this week, but I can show you my lovely cover.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Locations for Summer in San Remo - sort of ...

I like to do a short location tour for a book - just to give readers an idea of the look of places that appear. You can see the links for the ones for Never Coming Home and Out of Sight Out of Mind at the top of the page.

I haven't done one yet for Summer in San Remo, because I like to take my own pics and sadly health issues have stopped me from travelling abroad recently, so I don't have any up to date photos of the gorgeous locations I used from the Italian and French Rivieras. I had to rely on vivid recollections of some glorious holidays and a lot of Internet browsing. And that was such a lot of fun, and brought back some wonderful sunny memories. And a visit to the Riviera is top of the list as soon as I can get on the move again. When there will definitely be pictures.

I was thinking about this the other day, while drooling over holiday brochures. One of my secret addictions. There is a lot of drooling goes on, I can tell you. But you don't want to know about that.

Summer in San Remo is not set entirely on the Riviera though. The book opens in Bath. And Bath I have photos of, even if it is another country. So, here is a mini tour of  Cassie and Jake's home town. Imagine it has one of those signs that they hang outside bits of museums that are temporarily unavailable 'Gallery under re-construction' or similar. And I promise pictures of sunshine as soon as possible.

The Christmas Novella - have I told you the title? It's What Happens at Christmas - is set in London and in the Brecon Beacons, around Abergavenny, so I should be able to manage pictures of that.

And in the meantime - here is a taste of Bath.

This is at the side of the Abbey.
Poultney Bridge, which has shops all along it

Walcot Street, which is where Cassie's fictional office for her concierge business is located 

One of the side streets, which gives a good idea of the style
 of the buildings and the colour of the stone.
This has nothing to do with the story,
but it's such a posh pillar box I couldn't resist including it. 

So that's a few shots of Bath. The start of the Summer in San Remo tour.
To be continued ...

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like ...

... yes, Christmas. It's only just October, and the clocks haven't even gone back yet, but the twitter verse is awash with Christmas books. There's going to be a lot of fab reading sloshing about out there, people!

And I'm bobbing about squeaking 'And me! And me!' The Christmas novella - actually it's more small book, as it's over 60,000 words, now has a title - What Happens at Christmas. And I've had a glimpse at a few possible covers, so it is getting exciting. Until the edits arrive, of course.

spooky, not gory
But in the meantime it is still only the beginning of October and I'm currently knee deep in the thesis for the PhD. I haven't gone back to any of the uncompleted manuscripts yet, but I am kicking around an idea that is set at Halloween - so it's very seasonal. Doing some research on Halloween and spooky stuff is fun, excellent displacement activity and a change from writing about air raid shelters. And don't get me started on how the university computer system seems to have eaten one of my draft chapters. I'm looking at supernatural rather than paranormal, stuff that may or may not go bump in the night, and the usual mayhem.

Well actually, no. My body count has been going down lately. Only two in the overgrown novella - well, it is Christmas - and so far this one only has three. I must be getting mellow in my old age. The two works in suspended animation are much gorier though, and I will get back to them.

At present I'm thinking spine tingling, rather than blood thirsty. I'm still getting to know the hero and heroine - he's called Lucas and is rather gorgeous and very mysterious. She's on a quest to find out about a possible inheritance - at the moment she's called Darcy, but I'm not sure that's right for her. There's a big house, set in a slightly spooky village - in Wales, of course - and a dog, and a secondary romance and two different sets of very nasty villains and a lot of scarecrows and tarot cards, hence the research.

If it looks like becoming more than a diversion from the air raid shelters, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

How bossy do you like your heroes?

I'm reading an American romantic suspense at the moment. I'm going to finish it, as I want to see how the plot works out, but I'm having a bit of of trouble with both hero and heroine - mostly the hero. He's bossy, overwhelmingly possessive, short tempered, a womaniser and might have criminal connections. The heroine isn't sure, as she doesn't really know him that well. He's told her that she's going to have his babies, but other than that ... She can't resist him though, because he makes her feel safe - oh, and he's filthy rich and sexy as hell.

Now at this point I'd be on the bus and heading for the hills, but of course the heroine can't resist him and doesn't think she's good enough for him. And if she ran, he'd only come after her and haul her back, possibly by force.

Now the only thing I can subscribe to in all that is that he makes her feel safe, which is one of my go-to qualities in a hero. Protective, but not smothering. The book is by a top rank author, so there must be readers who do go for that type of hero, but it isn't me. Even my very alpha types are not that bossy. I'd cut them down to size if they were. My heroines have to have room to be themselves, and the hero has to be man enough to let them. I also like vulnerability in a hero, even if it's kept between him and the reader, by way of access to his thoughts on the page - maybe it's best that way - it's the reader's secret ...

For me there's nothing so entertaining as an alpha who is falling in love and doesn't have a clue why he feels like he was just hit by a truck. Which probably makes me a sadist? It wouldn't fit with a bossy hero.

It clearly takes all sorts both as readers and writers, which is as it should be. We don't all have the same taste in men, on or off the page, thank goodness.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Peer Review

I spent a lovely day last week with the ladies of the Marcher Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association  at The Courtyard Theatre, in Hereford. As usual the company, the gossip, the laughter and the food were good - I love the fish pie for lunch and this time people also had cake! I was too full of fish pie to have one of my own but got fed slivers from other people's and very nice they were too. Next time I'll save some space.

This meeting was a bit different from usual, though, as it was a critique workshop, and instead of making ourselves at home at a couple of tables in the cafe, we'd actually got a room. This is the second time I've done this - so not as scary as last time, but a bit scary, because I don't do much in the way of critiques - I don't have a critique partner and no one usually reads my stuff until it goes to the publisher. The first time wasn't too bad - lots of confidence building comments on a romantic suspense that I wasn't too sure about. I'm working on it again, but other things keep elbowing it out. It will happen.

This time I took the first pages of what might be the next Riviera Rogues book.  There were seven of us, and part of the fun is trying to match the writer with the critique piece, as they are anonymous when they arrive. Some were fairly easy to guess, but there were a couple of surprises from people writing outside their usual genre. I have to say they were all fabulous. I wanted to read them all and comments seemed like nit picking. Happily the other felt the same, but we soldiered bravely and everyone got feedback, and we had a lot of fun. I'm not going to divulge details, but I really hope all the books make it into print, because I do want to read them all.

And mine - well the feedback was positive, but the big question was - how are you going to work the plot out? And thereby hangs the tail, because although the book is finished it's the one with the plot that is ... well, let's say at the moment it needs a lot of suspension of disbelief. I will sort the bugs out, because I want Nadine and Ryan to have their story and also to catch up with what has been happening to Cassie and Jake two years into their marriage.

I'll have to give the matter deep thought. Very deep. 

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.