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AWARD WINNING AUTHOR

Writing in the Sunshine. Writing in the Shadows.


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.

Lilies.

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!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Just one line ...

A few weeks ago writer Sophie Weston gave a workshop to the London Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association. I'd have loved to be there, but I'd already used up my London allowance, so couldn't make it. But like all good things, people who were there talked about it on social media. And one of the points that came out of it was the idea of plotting with dialogue. Just a few words that kick off the plot, or turn it in a new direction. And that struck a chord, as that often happens to me. I can hear a line or two, and then the whole book sort of unfolds itself. I have no idea where the dialogue comes from - well, I suppose it's from my subconscious, but I hear the words as if someone is saying them.

There are two lines from the new book that did that. Actually, when it started it was two books, and I didn't know that they were going to combine themselves, but somehow that happened too.

The first line was supposed to be the first line of Book A and it was 'I have to have a husband by this time tomorrow.' I can still hear Cassie, my heroine, saying it that way. It's a strange start to a contemporary - something that sounds like it might belong in an historical. In the final article it isn't actually the first line, as Cassie strides into her office before saying it, and it now reads 'I have to have a husband by tomorrow morning.' because I realised that 'this time tomorrow', although it sounds more dramatic, would be too late, as by then she and Jake will be well on their way to London to get on with the plot. Jake is the hero, as you might have guessed. And practically the whole of the plot came from that single line.

The other line, which was from an exchange that didn't have a Book B to go with it, was 'Don't just stand there, take your clothes off.' Somehow that scene got incorporated into Cassie and Jake's story. She says it to him, by the way and it sets the tone for their relationship through the rest of the book. And I had so much fun writing the scene that went with it. All the scenes, actually, even the sad ones.

The book was one of those where large chunks just flowed onto the page.

And it all came from hearing a few lines of dialogue in my head.