Hello.....

....welcome to my blog on writing, reading and living in London ......

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Choc Lit - a fabulous 'new' publisher of fiction

Last night I went to the launch of 'Up Close' a romantic suspense by Henriette Gyland. Set in Norfolk, with a delicious old flame who may not be all he seems, this is mystery at its chilling best. Henri is one of publisher Choc Lit's latest authors. Choc Lit is a rising star in the publishing firmament and I'm impressed by how their novels appear on the shelves and tables of all the leading bookshops - yes folks there are thankfully still some left.
Every time I'm at an airport I check out the bookstands and Choc Lit is right up there with the big boys. They produce romance, but always with a twist, sometimes humorous, sometimes with a mystery and a murder or two, and always readable. They do this by selecting their books by tasting panel - 80 odd readers around the world take part in choosing which of the many manuscripts submitted to them reach the shelves. Many thanks to Waterstones in Uxbridge who hosted last night and what fun it was to be surrounded by books and friends, and to be buying and holding a beautifully produced novel like 'Up Close' with its super atmospheric cover of mists and mystery combined. I understand Henriette has already been long-listed for a Crime Writers' Association award and good luck to her! I really can't wait to get into this book and am locking it in a cupboard until Christmas so I can sit down in front of a log fire and read it from cover to cover. Pure. Heaven. Pictured above at the launch are Evonne Wareham, a fellow Choc Lit author and Henriette (on the left).

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Winter Wonderland 2012 is it worth going?

Well, yes Winter Wonderland is, if you take it for what it is - one great big glorious fun fair. Don't expect it to be elegant and refined, it's a blousy barmaid laughing too loudly and showing her knickers, and all the better for it! We went yesterday, 8 December. There were dire warnings on the web about how crowded it would be. Yes, it was insanely busy and the rides were overpriced. However, you can enter and soak up the atmosphere for free and still have a fabulous time. Entrance costs you nothing, you only pay for the rides and food which wasn't bad quality - we had an excellent rich hot chocolate. We saw fabulous live bands including
, The Houndogs - check out their website. They are three brothers - Robert, Ian and David Wilson - playing terrific rockabilly who kept us all warm as we danced in the freezing cold to Elvis, Johnny Cash and other high energy favourites. They played like demons, and were lovely to chat to after. We bought a CD for a fiver, the best bargain of the day. As well as the bands there were gallons of mulled wine, expensive at £4.20 a cup but we needed it to chase away the cold. The fairground rides were spectacular just to look at, a huge big wheel, a small big dipper (if that isn't a contradiction!), a lovely traditional helter skelter and this star-shaped ride flinging people round and round in the sky.
The queues for these weren't overly long, probably because they're not cheap. The truly wonderful thing about Winter Wonderland is that you really don't have to spend a penny to enjoy yourself. The biggest joy was seeing family and friends of all ages simply having a terrific time - fathers flinging their toddlers up in the air, lovers kissing without a thought to who was observing, kids and one crazy old guy simply dancing to the music. There was candy floss and mulled cider, ice cream and German marzipan flavoured with Cranberry and booze and a host of tacky and some quite nice Christmas decorations and nick nacks to buy. Above all though, it was people having fun. As we walked away, back into the bitingly damp darkness of Hyde Park and looked back we realised we had spent not very much money and had a superb afternoon people watching and enjoying this massive fun fair for what it is - a Christmas pleasure-dome of sights, sounds and frolics. It's on till January and I'd go again, even when it is below freezing! I have written a romance set in a wintry snow bound Wales entitled - 'Leaving Home'. I may well have to write one now set in London at Christmas time!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Double jeopardy

Why not pop over to the Pocketeers blog today where we are counting down to Christmas with a heroine for
every day of Advent. Today's heroine touches on an interesting point of English law - double jeopardy, and as I am now writing crime it is something I find fascinating. Not long ago I was visiting Salisbury Cathedral and there, laid out in a glass cabinet, for all to see was the Magna Carta. This document is the basis for the laws under which we live that, for example, protect property and basic human rights. There were in fact a number of versions of the Magna Carter or Great Charter and therefore this wonderful old document perfectly preserved on vellum with superb calligraphy was not the only one. However, it did make the hairs on the back of my neck raise, to see one of the first examples of a Bill of Rights which encapsulates many of the basic laws and freedoms of not just the UK, but the world's democracies. Double jeopardy is a law which up until 2003 meant that you could not in the UK be tried more than once for a murder. So, if you managed to get away with it once, you could be safe in the knowledge that you had bucked the system for ever. The right not to be tried twice was however turned over after 8 centuries partly following the murder of young Stephen Lawrence, a model student whose mother Doreen campaigned for years to uncover Police mistakes and insist the perpetrators were brought to trial. One of them, Dobson, had been tried for Stephen's murder and acquitted. However, many years later, new evidence was uncovered - a jacket with blood and fibres which proved that Dobson must have been at the scene of the murder and had no innocent reason for being there. He was retried and jailed. This fascinating case is one of the reasons why I have turned to writing crime! Double jeopardy is a Hollywood film starring the actress Ashley Judd which explores this theme.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Is Singapore the most honest city in the world?

The recent story about a Singapore cabbie returning nearly 1 million dollars left in his cab would be remarkable in most cities, but not I feel in Singapore. I had a wonderful visit there a year ago to see my husband who works on cruise ships. The ship was in dry dock and I flew in the night before my husband became free. I therefore arrived on my own, after a 12 hour flight, at night time. When I came up the escalator from the MRT station at Tanjong Pagar I had no notion what to expect. If I had ascended at Green Park station at midnight looking lost and confused I doubt whether I would have felt at ease. Nor I imagine would I have been approached by not one, but two people, separately asking me if I needed help. But that's what happened in Singapore. I was politely and kindly directed to my hotel and had the feeling, that had I asked these kind strangers would have probably carried my cases and bought me coffee too! During the week we were there, we walked the length and breadth of the streets at all hours during the day and felt 100% safe. That's why I'm not at all surprised at this story. It's also why I'm set my latest police procedural story in Singapore. I'm over 10,000 words in and half in love with my Chinese detective Danny who looks remarkably like Aki Fukutomi on the recent Junior Doctors TV series. It's looking gooooood!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Lindy Hop Music Video - want to help?

I have been contacted by the wonderful Ian Howorth. He is working on a truly exciting project to create a Brighton based music video involving two local bands. They are collaborating to perform Ella Fitzgerald's "When I Get Low I Get High". The bands being 'The Speakeasy Three' and 'The Swing Ninjas'.
They are filming in December at the Proud Ballroom formerly the Hanbury ballroom click here for some great photos on flickr, a superb venue pictured above which has finally fulfilled its potential as a performance venue. The music video will be very much a performance based one, centred around the collaborating groups but also focusing on the 20 or so lindyhoppers and jive dancers taking part, not to mention the 80 or so extras on top of that. Production wise, they've already secured all equipment, venue is paid for, make up, hair , costume and art dept is all sorted as well, so things are progressing well. They are shooting on motion picture cameras (Sony F3 and FS700) and will be employing industry standard grip equipment to allow a truly cinematic feel (think track and dollies and cranes) Here's where you come in. They've set up a kickstarter page to help them reach the last bit of funding they need to pay for a few expenses and catering for the shoot. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/344516429/the-speakeasy-three-are-doing-a-music-video If you could consider digging (deep as possible - sausage rolls don't come cheap you know!) in your pocket to help them along you will contribute hugely to a fantastic independent project promoting lindy hop and dance, which brings so much pleasure to so many people. Some of my happiest moments have been spent on the dance floor and I set my book 'Tango at Midnight' partly at a tango class. I've supported this film project myself as I love the whole idea, and can't wait to see the finished video. Good luck to all involved! By the way, it's a marvellous song, sung by the incomparable Ella who was one of my father's favourite singers.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

Author Kate Jackson Bedford who writes pocket novels and is a prolific short story writer for D C Thomson's People's Friend has invited me to take part in THE NEXT BIG THING blog event. This asks a series of questions about what is coming next in our writing life. So, here goes..... What is the title of your book? Yikes I don't have one yet! One will come to me, probably out of nowhere. Singapore will probably appear somewhere in the title as that's where the book is set. How did you come by the idea? I like books that pitch opposites together. My lady detective, Jessica is no nonsense, kick arse and likes to break the rules. Her new Singaporean partner, the rather gorgeous Danny plays by the rules and does his best to keep her under control - a difficult task. What genre does your book fall under? Definitely crime but with some romance to spice it up. Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it were a movie? That's a difficult one because Danny's Chinese and I don't know many Chinese actors. If I want to feel inspired though, I'll always think of Ryan Gosling, so here's a totally gratuitous photo of him! Sandra Bullock would play Jessica really well. Will your book be self-published or traditional? I'm aiming it at a traditional publisher but whether they'll accept it, who knows? How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? It's a work in progress that I started for National Novel Writing Month at the beginning of November. It's going too slow to be completed by the end of the month but I hope perhaps to have it half done by then. Who or What inspired you to write this book? A trip to Singapore to see my husband who was working out there made me fall in love with the place. It's an ultra modern city which has somewhat engulfed the past. But I like history and much of the book is set around the older parts of Singapore, in the shophouses of Chinatown. I also loved the stray Singapore cats, all very well behaved and clean and tidy like the rest of Singapore. They have the most curious fan shaped tails and my hero Danny has saved a lovely one upon which he dotes. I shall now be passing THE NEXT BIG THING baton on for 27 November to Hywela Lyn who writes for the Wild Rose Press and to romance writer P D Strange both of whom I met at the Festival of Romance. Over to you ladies....

Monday, 19 November 2012

What to expect at the Festival of Romance

I have just returned from this wonderful event and thought it might be worth recording what went on for others thinking of going next year. Bedford was much more interesting and picturesque than I'd imagined with the Park Inn hotel looking out over the River Ouse. We happily breakfasted watching rowing boats collide with each other! I had a stand at the Romance Fair where people sold books. This was in the historic Corn Exchange. That for me was the best bit because I was sharing with such wonderful authors. There was Gilli Allan with her books 'Torn' and 'Life Class'. She writes romance which is out of the ordinary. Then there was Caroline Bell Foster with her Carribean set books such as 'Saffron's Choice'. Also, poet Oscar Sparrow and Emma Calin who writes hot police romances. We were a wonderfully mixed bunch - thank you for your company! In addition, we did readings at a local coffee bar and in the shopping centre and there were costumed characters from historical novels both in Bedford and at the historical afternoon tea. It was a fabulous opportunity to network, great fun and I hope it will become an annual fixture as it has grown so much since last year. Many thanks and congratulations to Kate Allan, Festival Director for achieving so much.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Dressing for the Festival of Romance

Okay, so I know it is INCREDIBLY shallow to be focussing on dresses and shoes for the Festival which begins tomorrow. But of course, I'm doing just that! I blame my unconscious after all, I woke up this morning and while I was asleep had constructed an entire outfit in my head. That was truly the first thing that entered that very empty area of my anatomy. Sad but true. Blue, I have to let you know is the colour scheme for my day time wear on Saturday. There are some fabulous electric blues around at present especially in H&M and I am working them big time folks! Then for the awards dinner (most exciting, I have been shortlisted although my money's on one of my fellow shortlisters to win the award - it would be telling to say who though) I have a most gorgeous monsoon dress in cream. I can finally get into this after many years of having it so tight around my ample butt that I looked like a pair of shrink wrapped Granny Smiths. Not a good look. On more important matters, my flyers STILL haven't arrived but I do have oodles of business cards thank heaven. I also have biscuits shortly being delivered which have dinky little toppers which are pieces of rice paper with the cover of my book The Sanctuary embossed on them. They too have not quite arrived yet but I'm sure they will (crossed fingers and toes) shortly. Until then, quite frankly I am a nervous wreck, just hoping it's all going to be okay. Whatever, I'm sure we and the readers who join us will have loads of fun. So, come to sunny Bedford this weekend and chat about writing romance! Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

NaNoWriMo - how are you doing?

I've never done NaNoWriMo before, mainly because I hate being tied to producing a certain thing at a certain time. That of course changes if there is a call for submissions and I'm aiming for publication. In those circumstances I can write like a demon and have very often been successful because I am pushing at an open door. NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month is a collective activity where a number of people sign up and basically pledge that they will try and complete a novel in a month. It's a very good discipline and one that many successful authors in the distant past have achieved way before NaNoWriMo came into being. Dickens springs to mind as an author who wrote many of his novels as monthly serials. I cannot imagine what it must have been like in an age before word processors to have to come up with writing as sparkling as his on an ongoing basis when you couldn't even revise substantially. Perhaps that is why some of his writing is as fresh today as when it was first written. NaNoWriMo started on 1 November and I am pleased to say that I have already completed over 6000+ words. It's not a huge amount it's true but it's a not too bad start which I hope to improve upon. Most of all I feel that the 6000 words are ones I'm happy with so far and most of all ones I can build upon. I believe the secret to making NaNoWriMo work is to have pre-planned as much as possible. The work in progress I have is my Singapore novel, a crime novel which has been in gestation since this time last year. I blogged about Singapore which I found a fascinating place when I went on holiday there. I'm not a great planner on paper, but bit by bit I have mentally been storing information. Not only that but I have been waiting eagerly for the new D C Thomson Easy Reads which contain a new crime genre. I have managed to read the first one and now have a better idea of what they're after. As a result I now have a feisty kick-arse heroine - a Scotland Yard detective. She has been partnered with a smooth, cool Singapore detective who cut his teeth in the narcotics section. I'm so hoping that when finished, the Editor likes my book. But if not, at least it's been fun writing it. Good luck with your NaNoWriMo manuscripts, let us know how you're doing!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Yay! I've been shortlisted for Festival of Romance Award...

Yes folks, 'The Sanctuary' has been shortlisted in the Best Short Romance category and I can't wait to go to the awards ceremony. I am in very good company as other excellent writers and friends such as Liz Harris (The Road Back AND Evie Undercover), Phillipa Ashley (Miranda's Mount), and Talli Roland (Build A Man) are also nominees. There is to be a glittering awards ceremony - HOORAY, any excuse to buy a new dress and shoes!!!! This will be held at the Festival of Romance Gala Dinner on Friday 16 November. If you haven't already booked for the weekend, do take a look at the website here where you can get details of all the fantast events such as a Romance Readathon and a Meet the Authors for coffee and cake where I will be present (I'm never far from a piece of cake!) I hope to see some of you there! Do let me know if you're coming, it should be a fabulous weekend.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Xanthos and Kalkan, Turkey

I have not posted for a while because I have been on holiday. As usual, I have found that being in a new place has inspired me with ideas for a new novella. I visited Kalkan in Turkey which has its own feral cats which are protected by the government as are the dogs which wander over the town as if they own it.
The coastline here is sublime, crystal blue seas, rocky inlets and more history than you can easily take in in one visit. A particularly beautiful drive takes you along the shoreline from Kas to Kalkan, with Greek islands in the distance, and steep hills covered in pines. The Lycian area of Turkey was once a thriving area of trade and the port at Patara carried silks and spices far afield. Sadly, the ancient port has silted up and there is now marshland where the mouth of the river used to be. Patara still has a superb beach, protected as a turtle nesting site it is devoid of developments, with miles and miles of beautiful pristine sand. Going in late October there was a terrific swell in the sea and waves which made it difficult to swim but I understand most of the time it is calm. The most extraordinary place we visited was Xanthos. It reminded me of a visit I made to Pompeii many years ago before that site was fenced off. You can just wander into Xanthos any time, night or day and out of season you get a real sense of history.
The amphitheatre is almost totally intact with amazing acoustics. A relief on one of the pillars depicts winged female creatures carrying babies and it is assumed that these represent souls being carried off into heaven - I found that a lovely idea, the thought that we would at the end of our lives be akin to what we were at the beginning. Sadly the relief is a copy as we Brits pinched the original which is now in the British Museum.
Xanthos itself (the name means yellow and may refer to crocuses which were in flower when we visited and which provide very fine saffron) has had a troubled history. Regularly raided and sacked there are sad accounts of the men of Xanthos fighting but losing to a Persian invasion. In desperation, gathering together their women, and children they put every one to the torch rather than having them captured and then fought till the last man died. So much drama has inspired me and I shall definitely set a novel in the area and have blogged further about my trip over on thepocketeers.blogspot.com.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The effects of a marvellous review.....

I crawled out of bed this cold, wet, Autumn morning NOT a happy bunny. For today I have to do edits on a story I am finding incredibly difficult. I thought it was going fine, my editor thought not - so I have to make a major plot change and rewrite. That and a couple of rejections lately have made me feel it might not be worth carrying on writing. Then, there was a Google alert. It took me to this, completely unsolicited review of my book The Sanctuary, on the review site Paperbacks and Frosting by Juliette Brandt. "This was an absolutely wonderful story. Everything about it made me feel like I could go out and do something to improve my life. I really enjoy stories like this that make you feel inspired. I wanted to go out and start taking care of animals even though that’s really not something I would have ever seen myself doing before! I felt like I was in Kimberley’s shoes and I could feel how the stress of everything else in her life was weighing down on her. This story was short and I read it in one sitting, but it was definitely worth the read. If you’re looking for something that you can read to escape your own life for a while and something that will make you feel better and more inspired to go out and do the things you want to do, then pick this book up.........I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for something sweet and quick to read. I’d love to read more by this author." That, to an author, is like getting a shot of adrenalin straight to the heart. It is so nice to know that someone has read and enjoyed one of my books and taken the time to tell people. I cannot tell you how it has inspired me to get down and tackle those edits. Juliette's review which you can read in full here, came at just the right time to turn things around for me. I can now go off with a lighter heart knowing that with some hard work and hard editing it will all be worth while!!!! Thank you so much Juliette and all you hard working reviewers out there.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Character Studies for writers - The Great British Bakeoff

Okay, so I admit, I am addicted to the Great British Bake Off. For those of you who haven't succumbed yet, this is a TV programme where 12 home bakers are pitted against each other in a variety of tasks from baking an innovative upside down cake (I liked the one with passionfruit myself) to making the best rum baba. This week the bakers had to construct a gingerbread house but were instructed to come up with something sensational. The winner built a Roman colosseum of over 100 separate biscuit pieces glued together with caramel.
One of the things that makes this programme so compelling for a writer is the character studies.
We have Kathryn whose every emotion is etched on her face and who came up with priceless sayings such as 'doughnut doom' for one of her efforts. Sadly she went out this week with a lamentable gingerbread Buckingham Palace that looked as if it was about to implode. Then there is the gorgeous John, constructor of the Colosseum who in a previous show had been going great guns until he cut his finger and ended up dripping with blood. Wonderfully camp, every girl's best friend, he was saved by accident & emergency consultant Danny. Danny, the best person to have around in a crisis, is quietly competitive, with a fierce ability to concentrate. But with a face that lights up in a girlish grin when her bakes please the judges. A lot of people's money will be on Brendan to win - at 63, the oldest candidate. He has an old school style and a self-assured technical knowledge. What Brendan though sadly doesn't have is flair. To my mind most of his bakes look shop bought, such precision and designs can surely only have been done by a machine. Brendan is like someone who has been programmed, but he's never going to wow anyone with his inventiveness. That brings me to my tip for winner - medical student James. Only 21 he is relaxed, kind to his colleagues (often seen hugging and calming down the slightly hysterical Kathryn) and has flashes of genius. This was nowhere more demonstrated than this week when his poorly planned gingerbread barn looked as if it was going to be a total failure. Suddenly he turned disaster around by giving it a spun sugar cobwebby makeover. Hey presto it became a derelict ghostly structure which the judges said tasted superb. It could have graced any Halloween party with its sweet spookiness. Just as in most good fiction this turning of disaster into triumph is a lesson for all writers and another reason the programme is so compelling. My vote to win is for you James - a hero if ever there was one. If you watch it, who do you think is going to win? If you can't get enough of the programme, here is the link to watch clips from all the series

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

One easy way to lose weight....

Let's be honest, being an avid reader, or an avid writer can result in a larger behind than one would want! I have lost over a stone and a half at Slimmers World but the closer I get to target the more I need to find new things to keep me from falling off the slimming wagon. Eating out with friends is one of the most difficult challenges - it plays havoc with a low fat diet. But, help is at hand in the form of a mushrooming of frozen yoghurt shops. Frozen yoghurt tastes every bit as lovely as the best ice cream. The best outlet I have found is called SNOG - a fantastically named place for a romantic novelist to hang out. The Covent Garden one pictured here is a stunning, colourful riot of way out furniture and psychedelic decor. But the best thing is that Snog yoghurt prides itself on having only natural ingredients being flavoured with agave nectar which is considerably sweeter than sugar, and more natural than artificial sweeteners. At only 97 calories for 100 grams and only 2 grams of fat this creamy, indulgent, swirly desert in natural, chocolate or green tea flavour is a slimmer's dream. Various toppings such as weeny chocolate hearts or nuts make it as sinful as your non-slimming friends would like, leaving you to go for low cal toppings like fresh strawberries, or my favourite, passion fruit. Next time I want to sit and write, I'll give up my usual coffee shop and go and have a snog! PS the bonus last night was that SNOG have some sort of deal on the go with London Fashion Week and the place was staffed by the most gorgeous young models!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

How The Smallest Dog in Britain can help your writing...

I recently saw a report in the paper about Mini, reputedly the smallest puppy in Britain. Pictured sitting on an iphone (you can see her by clicking this link) she isn't much larger than a mouse. I am constantly thinking about writing and what makes a story something we want to read and this tiny dog made me think. Of all the millions of puppies which are born every day, why did this one make national newspapers? Obviously because it is different. I am at present critiquing a manuscript. It is well written, it flows, there are some nice touches of humour, some excellent observation, some well drawn characters. But, it has one major problem and that is that neither the characters nor the plotline is remarkable. These are the sort of people you might have as neighbours and what is happening to them is what could happen to anyone any day. In other words it is too reflective of real life and generally people read to take them away from real life. They are seeking something out of the ordinary. This is such a shame because the writer has real promise. They just need to make their story a bit more like the story of Mini. The reason that Mini the tiny puppy is remarkable is that she is different. If you can make your characters special, different, do extraordinary things, be extraordinary people you will be more likely to reach publication. Last night I watched the excellent British drama, 'Accused' written by the superb Jimmy McGovern, a BAFTA award winning British scriptwriter. Beware if you have recorded it to watch later, because there are spoilers coming up. In last night's episode the person we were most rooting for, a young prisoner who was ill rather than bad ended his life in his cell - a total shock, I didn't see it coming. His suicide had major repercusssions for the prison guard, a woman, who had asked one of her colleagues to keep the boy on suicide watch. The programme had me on the edge of my seat because the characters were remarkable. Faced with difficult situations, they made extraordinary decisions - in the end the prison officer released a new young prisoner in her charge because she finally cracked and believed that the prison, was an unsafe place. One thing you must do however, is make these untoward actions believable. The boy who took his life had lost his mother, become ill and ended up in prison. The prison guard had been betrayed by her colleague and the system. Both characters had motives for acting the way they did. Build your situations and characters carefully so that their actions fit with their personalities and echo their situations. This series involved crime and high drama. But even the gentlest of romances needs to have something out of the ordinary to make it remarkable enough for the reader to keep turning that page. Make it real, but make it remarkable too...

Friday, 31 August 2012

Lindy Hop in London

Okay, so I admit it, I am obsessed with dancing at present. My latest tryout was Lindy Hop. Said to have originated in Harlem during the Jazz era it was popularised by Hollywood (here's a short history from Wikipedia). I've heard of this dance so many times but have shied away mainly because learning a new dance is thoroughly daunting. You just know there's going to be that horrid bit where you look like a an elephant in a tutu with a great big sign, 'learner dancer' strapped to your wobbly behind. Well, not exactly, but that's how it feels. Then there's the other yikes bit where you sit in the corner hoping, just hoping that someone might come and ask you to dance. Well, now that I am a lady of a certain age I've got to the point where I swallow my inhibitions and just go and grab someone myself. I was told by a very nice guy last night that he appreciates being asked so that made me feel better. The two of us hopped and jumped (sadly due to my inexperience, not at the same time) but had a nice chat too - dancing is so civilised and such fun. He goes to lindy hop because of the music. If you want a taste of what lindy hop is all about, check out this you tube video I defy you not to smile while you're watching this. All the moves in hold are lindy hop. The thing I like about this video is it shows that this sort of dance goes on all over the city, off back streets, behind ordinary residential homes people are just out there having fun, keeping fit, meeting each other and enjoying themselves. Dancing is a great antidote to all the negative stories in newspapers. It's also fantastic for beating writers' bottom. Needless to say, I shall be out dancing again tonight - this time up in South Kensington at a nice, easy ceroc do.... PS the photo above is of my daughter dancing with last night's most fabulous dancer, she was great at it although she didn't think so (she doesn't read my blog so I'm safe posting it!)

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Big Blitz Jive - dancing in London

I have just found the Big Blitz Jive happening at the National Army Museum in Chelsea on 22 September 2012 and booked two tickets. It sounds like a fabulous evening. This quote from London Drum gives you a flavour of what's happening. "Swing and jive to the sounds of the big band in an authentic 40s-style dance night at the National Army Museum. Ladies can get themselves made-up at the 1940s make-up stand, and gents can treat their girl to a sepia-toned souvenir photo. So get your dancing shoes on, defy uncle Adolf and party through the Blitz!" So, we'll all be going a bit Betty Grable
and a tiny bit Veronica Lake! Believe it or not, there is some relevance here to writing which is what I spend most of my spare time at if I'm not dancing. This period is very popular in fiction. My own mother who is 91 now lived through the Blitz and I hope to do some blog posts in the future of her reminiscences of the war years. People pulled together and partied. It must have been extraordinary so it is no wonder it features in so many books and films even now. My own book, a romance set in the present day, The Sanctuary can be bought by clicking this link.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Dancing in London

I have, after a bit of a break, taken up dancing again. London is one of the best cities in the world to dance. Partly because hidden away in the South of my lovely city is the fabulous Rivoli Ballroom. The Rivoli shines like a twinkling diamond in the pile of dust and crowded dwellings that is South London. In the otherwise unremarkable area of Brockley you can spot guys and gals on a Saturday night in 40s and 50s gear sweating out on the street trying to recover from their exertions. Buy yourself a ticket for a mere £15 and hear a live Big Band, get a lesson (beginners VERY welcome) and then dance until you drop till 1am in the morning.
Built in 1913 as a picture palace, The Rivoli is one of the few dance halls in London with original 1950s decor. The dancers, especially on Jive Night go all out to recreate the fashions and hairstyles of an era which feels like it wants to have fun, fun, fun. You could easily imagine Diana Dors sashaying in on the arm of one of her gangster boyfriends. I love it, go on, don't be shy, give it a go! Here's where you can find out more about the Rivoli h ttp://www.therivoli.co.uk/

Friday, 17 August 2012

Free book download...... but look away if you are of a sensitive nature

Hi Independent publishing has always been tough. But, we have a fantastic independent publisher in Britain which has won awards and is run by an amazing woman, Hazel Cushion. She owns Accent Press, and one of their imprints is Xcite. Now, here is where you should look away if you are of a sensitive nature because Xcite produce erotica. They had been doing so before 50 Shades of Gray was even a twinkle in its author's eye. Xcite have produced a new range called 'The Secret Library'. This is designed with a strong romantic element in mind, basically they are romantic, whirlwind, crazy love stories with the bedroom door open. The print books have wonderful velvety and discreet covers. Here's a peek at 'The Thousand and One Nights' which contains three novellas. Please note the print novella is called 'The Thousand and One Nights' but, as that is also the title of the three-novella anthology, it has in addition been issued as a single title under the title 'Dark Nights' (because the hero is Sebastian Dark geddit!).
One of these by my very good friend Kitti Bernetti is available as a free download until 19 August, here's the UK Amazon link to download it and the US Amazon link and here's the cover.
If I were very clever I could have managed to create a link from these covers, but unfortunately I couldn't! Sorry. Anyway, here's the blurb: When Breeze Monaghan gets caught red-handed by her millionaire boss she knows she’s in trouble. Big time. Because Breeze needs to keep her job more than anything else in the world. Sebastian Dark is used to getting exactly what he wants and now he has a hold over Breeze, he makes her an offer she can’t refuse. Like Scheherazade in The 1001 Nights Seb demands that Breeze entertain him to save her skin. Can she employ all her ingenuity and sensuality in order to satisfy him and stop her world crashing about her? Or, like the ruthless businessman he is, will Seb go back on the deal? It is scorching hot, but if you can take the heat, you'll be doing independent publishing a big favour. Just remember, erotica is all in the imagination....

Thursday, 16 August 2012

What I did on my holidays....

Well, firstly I had a fabulous time. Secondly I found inspiration to write.... It's difficult arranging a holiday which a teenager and a 91 year old will both appreciate. However, this year seven of us family members rented a farmhouse in Umbria which is in the middle of Italy and the farmhouse was in the middle of nowhere. I knew when I chose somewhere far up in the hills it might have been hair-raising. However, the drive to the farmhouse up steep inclines, hairline bends and on an unmade road of scree and pebbles was pretty horrendous. At one point not only did I stall, but with everyone in the car, started rolling backwards! We were however saved by a Swiss guy who drove past with the greatest of ease and offered a tow if we needed it. When we got to the top, the views were worth it. We had a spectacular view from our patio where we had all our meals, and from where we could see in the distance the most wonderful medieval village, Santa Giuliana. Apparently this is being restored and apartments were up for sale. I have just discovered this website which gives photos. Fascinating as there was still building work going on and although I and my husband wandered around (here's a photo of him standing outside)
it was all closed up and we couldn't get inside the walls even to see the outside of the houses. It did however give me a fantastic idea of what a proper medieval town would have been like. It was totally impregnable. Sheer walls, tiny slits presumably through which arrows where shot and boiling oil might have been poured. On a hilltop site you not only get to see visitors hours before they arrive, as they come across the hill, but you can hear them. We could hear distinctly what was being said at a holiday home with pool way down the bottom of the hill. All walled up in their medieval village, the inhabitants must have felt very safe and be able to prepare beforehand for any invasion. We also had some wonderful visitors, a bevy of six little wild boar piglets who came around each evening to finish off scraps we threw down the hill. They were so cute although their mum who came one day looked pretty scary! It was a wonderful holiday and I know have a crime story worked out in my head involving 3 girls who holiday in a remote hilltop house, discover a crime being carried out and .... well, you'll have to wait for the rest until I write it!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Olympic news - should cyclists wear helmets or not?

With the saintly, Lord, Professor Sir Bradley Wiggins winning a Gold for Britain and being announced as our greatest Olympian ever, a debate has arisen over the wearing of helmets by cyclists. Bradley, recent winner of the Tour de France, has called for cycling helmets to be made compulsory. Now he's famous, people are taking notice. I love cycling. Did the London to Brighton a while ago and yes, I did wear a helmet. Occasionally it's true, I will rush out of the house and forget it but I now feel very undressed and vulnerable without it. I also have a friend who works with people who have brain injuries and she is totally and utterly convinced having seen people whose lives have been ruined through not wearing them, that we all should. The counter argument is that less people will cycle in Britain and we certainly don't have the highest numbers of cyclists in the world. Personally I think that's b******x. What stops more people cycling in London is small roads populated by aggressive drivers. I'm a car driver as well, but I do not shake my wrist at cyclists, cut them up or drive in their cycle lanes. That said, many cyclists here view themselves as sort of ninja Kings of the Road who dash in and out like maniacs and are about as welcome as a storm of bees in a jam factory. The Boris bikes are one of the best things to hit London in years and from what I can see anecdotally, the ranks are nearly always empty as loads of people use them every day. So, let's bring in compulsory helmets, save some of the NHS's hard earned cash with less accident cases taking up hospital beds and have more bike schemes. Go Bradley. Job done! By the way, a post wouldn't be a post without a writing plug so this is just to mention that I did a short story once which concerned two strangers who rode bikes and he accidentally chained his to hers outside a train station. It all ended happily ever after of course in that the People's Friend bought it for their magazine. You, though, can buy The Sanctuary from Astraea press by clicking this link..... I thank you!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Understanding the Olympics - cycling

I'm no great fan of sport so I thought the Olympics would leave me cold. However, dinner with friends reminded me that everything, even sport, can be interesting once you understand it. A friend had been to see the cycling road race & regularly visits the Tour de France. He explained the intricacies of the sport and now I am fascinated by it. The really interesting thing is the peleton - this link courtesy of Wikipedia explains it. Basically (and here I apologise to anyone who REALLY knows what they're talking about because this is very much a layman's explanation) the peleton injects a very strategic element into cycling. Peleton means little ball in French and is related to the English word pellet. It refers to the process by which cyclists will bunch together in order to cut down on the amount of wind resistance. Cyclists in the middle of the little ball or cluster of cyclists can experience 40% less wind resistance, thereby resulting in them getting a rest from the amount of work their muscles have to do. Then, when it is their turn, they will return to the front of the cluster and take their turn dealing with the wind and having to cycle harder. The extraordinary thing about this process is that opponents will make this formation together, benefitting everyone until that is the time comes to seek victory. However there are times when opponents do not act as suspected. I understand that what happened the other day when Mark Cavendish failed to win an expected gold medal for Britain and said, "it just seems like most teams are happy not to win as long as we don't win." As occasionally happens in life, we witnessed a serendipitous moment in relation to this. We were at the seaside recently and were mesmerised by a shoal of fish where the front runners would swim for a few seconds, then zip to the back of the group. This ritual happened over and over again during the ten minutes we watched them. I can only assume that they were practising a similar formation to racing cyclists, fascinating. So, now I know more about it, I am finding cycling a fascinating sport. Something I had never imagined it would be!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Victoria Coren explains why 50 Shades is so popular...

I have read many reviews of 50 Shades and by far the best is this one by Victoria Coren in the Guardian. Look away now folks if you are of a tender disposition because I am going to quote from Victoria's review when she says that, 'this is a book that puts the "b" into anal.' She also points out tongue in cheek that one of the main reasons the abusive Christian Grey is meant to be so attractive is his constant urging of Ana to eat! Buttermilk pancakes, syrup, bacon. Yeah Victoria, you're right that would do it for me too! A straw poll of the two ladies at present reading 50 Shades in the office also reveals that his million, squillionaire status and his tendency to do outrageously extravagant things like whisk Ana off in his private jet might have something to do with the fact that he still appears attractive whilst doing the sort of thing which would make your toes curl. Same straw poll came up with Bradley Cooper as a possible tip to play the piercing-eyed Christian. I do hope it isn't Bradley, gentle-eyed gorgeous hero of a number of delightfully funny comedies. I don't want him to turn into some control freak wierdo! For those who do not know of Victoria Coren by the way, she is the sharp-tongued, champion poker playing, journalist and presenter sister of the wonderful Giles Coren. His spiky column in The Times is one of the best things about the British weekend. I actually came to read both brother and sister through firstly being hugely entertained by the columns their father wrote in Punch decades ago. Alan Coren used to do a fabulous satirical column on Idi Amin which I would sneak away from lessons to read in the library at school. Here, courtesy of Wikipedia is a quote of his about Margaret and Denis Thatcher visiting the Falklands: 'Does not even the most sexually democratic of us, among which number I unquestionably count myself, not choke back the tiniest sob at the sight of poor old Denis stumbling along behind, struggling pitifully to hold his trilby on, as the PM strides across Goose Green with the wind managing only to make her hair look more Medusan, and the very mines praying she will not crush them under-heel?' The Corens - great fun, lovely to see the kids carrying on where their esteemed father left off. You thought for a moment there I had forgotten to plug my book. No such luck! Here goes, my book The Sanctuary, totally unlike 50 Shades, has nothing that would offend even your dear old maiden aunt. You can buy it by clicking this link.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

One of the best things you can do to your romance readers

I was delighted yesterday to almost make someone cry. She had been kind enough to read my book The Sanctuary. Her exact words were, "I was touched by your story, to the point of tears." Now that could just have been because it was so bad, but I hope she was crying in a good way. I love a good cry at a book or at the movies. I remember sitting in a cinema and wailing over "West Side Story", it's heart wrenching after all that exuberance - singing, dancing and falling in love when it all comes crashing down after the shooting. Then, of course, there was the bit in Bambie where his mother gets shot. That was so sad. Plus, don't even mention 'Breakfast at Tiffany's', where they go and find that poor cat, soaking wet in the rain. Here's a link to that scene which still does it for me, every time! What films or books have made you cry I wonder?

FABULOUS London Olympic Opening Ceremony

WOW, FABULOUS, AMAZING, QUIRKY, CONFUSING, HILARIOUS - Danny Boyle's opening ceremony was all of those and more. An extraordinary hotch potch of everything that makes up Britain today. What a stroke of genius to congratulate the workers of the NHS who are so often villified when in fact most of them do a fabulous job. How lovely and quirky to see both a posse of Mary Poppins's as well as our WONDERFUL Queen not taking herself too seriously. Tears ran down my face when Rowan Atkinson was playing the fool. Other tears were inspired by Akram Khan's totally moving choreography remembering those who couldn't be with us, reflecting a somewhat darker side of terrorism which occasionally blights our wonderful city.
Security has been so tight lately, thank goodness. My home city was celebrated with superb views of the Thames and Tower Bridge and now a new landmark, the Olympic stadium. Was the Olympic opening ceremony relevant, did it reflect us? Totally. So much of it rang bells. Yes, I do listen to The Archers, my sister does live in a rural idyll with farm animals down the lane and my brother-in-law does play cricket on a village green. Dizzee Rascal's rapping does blast out of the streets of Croydon near where I live and work and yes, I have seen Rowan Atkinson filming in London. Yes, I do know someone who volunteered at the opening ceremony. Yes, that kiss between two women on the clips of TV and films reflects that I know more than a few couples in civil partnerships - those things reflect Britain today as did Danny Boyle's wonderful, chaotic, stunning ceremony. Well done Britain, well done Danny, well done athletes, well done London!!!
Here's Daniel Craig trying not to laugh!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Beautiful Weymouth by the sea

One of the wonderful things about living in London is being able to get to other places easily. We have recently spent a couple of days in Weymouth, Dorset. What a fabulous place! I always feel inspired to write by the sea and have set many books, including The Sanctuary at seaside locations. By the way, it's still on summer sale at only .99 cents or .77 pence from Amazon. There's a donkey in my story which is about a girl who inherits an animal sanctuary. The donkey in the photo above is one of a group which gives children rides on Weymouth beach and I am indebted to writer Laura James who tells me that the lady who owns them has won awards - they certainly looked very happy as they mooched up and down the sands.
Weymouth is the quintessential English seaside location. Yesterday I kept on being reminded of the postcards of Donald McGill. There we were on the beach, roasting in beautiful sunshine, all turning into pink lobsters. There were fat people, skinny people, ladies of a certain age on deckchairs fast asleep, unwittingly flashing their knickers, children misbehaving and a punch and judy show. There was also the serious matter of the Olympic sailing which is coming to Weymouth this week. Another serious note were the many memorials on the seafront to the brave American and British troops who left from this idyllic sandy beach for the Omaha landings. Weymouth has a fabulous history and many beautiful Georgian houses as well as a peaceful historic harbour. Do visit if you get the chance. The other photo is of me swimming by Durdle Dor, a really fabulous ethereal location reached by walking along the cliffs. It was freezing but very refreshing. The three hour drive also gave me enough time to do some more editing on my next book with Astraea which I hope will be 'Take a Chance' a cosy crime set in an English country house owned by one Lady Margrave. Watch this space....

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Sanctuary and other Astraea Press books only 99 cents or .77p

I've just had a wonderful review for The Sanctuary on Amazon which is really super. Here's the link. The Sanctuary is described as a warm and uplifting story in the review. What's more, my publisher Astraea Press are having a summer sale and all books are only 99 cents or just .77p. So, if you haven't already got your holiday reads on Kindle etc, do go and have a look today. Astraea do sweet romances, romantic suspense etc. Perfect beach reads. Enjoy!

Friday, 20 July 2012

How to write a pocket novel

I couldn't go to the Romantic Novelists Association conference this year. However, one of those who did attend, Kate Jackson Bedford has posted up a really useful blog about one of the talks. Maggie Seed who is the editor of My Weekly pocket novels gave a presentation about what she looks for in a pocket novel. I have had six pocket novels published by My Weekly and People's Friend. These include 'The Sanctuary' a romantic mystery with a rescue dog and a troubled teenager thrown in. This is on the special low price of .77p for the summer!!! Buy now! Like all genres, to keep up with the times, pocket novels are changing to include more mystery, murder and mayhem but essentially they are still heartstopping romances. Kate's blog gave a very good round up of what they're looking for in submissions. They are a wonderful antidote to Fifty Shades of Grey! You will also find tips at The Pocketeers Blogspot. Happy reading and writing! PS - the photo above is of Douglas Booth and outrageously good looking young actor who has been the model for many of my pocket novel heroes. Sigh...

Thursday, 19 July 2012

What a writing retreat can do for you.

A few years ago a friend of mine, Giselle Green - an incredibly talented writer - invited me to a writing retreat with her and a couple of friends. I was sceptical. How on earth would I cope somewhere which had no connection to the internet, no telephones and no TV. Did such places still exist on earth? Well, they do and they can be fabulous for a writer. It's an opportunity to get away completely. Most retreats are either in the country or by the sea. Our retreat is in amongst wonderful gardens and here they are.
Tucked away from the real world they are an opportunity to concentrate on your writing in a way you simply don't get at home. I wrote most of my book, The Sanctuary at this retreat. If you're sitting in front of a PC people never feel you're working and writing time can be so easily curtailed by a phone call or other work and pressures. We each have our own little self-catering room so that tea and coffee is on tap whenever you want. It also means that one of us cooks and invites the other over in the evening. So, after an isolated day writing, reading and making notes we can get together for a gossip and a laugh. I'm a very early riser and do my best writing between 5 and 10am but by then I'm pretty pooped. When I'm on retreat I can have a nap and then be ready to write again in the afternoon. I simply can't follow that pattern when all the demands of house, children etc crowd in on me at home. I had a truly wonderful time. I managed to iron out a lot of the difficult areas of the crime story I'm writing and now have only 10,000 words to go till the end. What's more I made a new best friend while I was there. That's his picture above. He's a red siberian pedigree cat with an amazing yowl of a miaow, and the skinniest cat I've ever seen. Anyhow, I should be off writing those 10,000 words now so, goodbye and if you get a chance to go on retreat, grab it!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

HAIL in July and how it can help our writing...

Hi - we have been having the most appalling weather in England. Here is a photo of hail which fell this week. It was so bad that people were getting up off the sofa and opening their front doors to remark upon it. One thing it did was make me think about IMPACT in writing. One of the things I do as a published writer, is to critique other peoples' manuscripts. If people ask me the one most common mistake new writers make, I would say that it is to have a novel without incident. We read novels because we want to see something happening, to feel something. I will give you an example. One novel I was required to critique was about a relationship which had happened years before and ended in divorce. The hero and heroine were thrown together again, she was forced to work for him. He had a small son from a different relationship who had nightmares. Part of working for him in his house was that they had to live together for a period. That, and only that is all I can remember of the novel. Nothing happened. There were no incidents of note, no heartstopping moments, no revelations. They just poodled along drinking tea and chatting and having the occasional meal. It was competently put together, the timelines worked, the dialogue was realistic, the characters were believable. BUT they had virtually no history that was revealed to the reader, they had nothing to drive them or give them motives. This meant that there was no incident in the book and therefore no impact. Looking at that hailstorm made me think how people in our road had reacted, they felt scared that we might be flooded and it had shaken them out of their routine. We read to experience that process of getting out of the ordinary. So, to make a novel interesting give it 'incident' make characters feel and do extraordinary things. They must be believable but they must also be extraordinary for us to be interested. Otherwise you risk ending up with 50 to 100,000 words which are, frankly, no more interesting than every day life. I thought of this only recently when I watched the film Million Dollar Baby. The heroine is totally driven due to coming from a poor background and having a hideous family. She wants to be a boxer to escape. She wins fights, she ends up terribly injured. The hero turns from being a curmudgeonly old misery to helping her on her journey and finally to taking a life changing step to help her in her bedridden plight. The film is full of incident and excitement, packed with backstory, it tugs at the heartstrings. THAT is what your book should try to do... In my book 'The Sanctuary' I have an inheritance, a family mystery and a marital breakdown THINGS HAPPEN. Make things happen in your writing and you are sure to be published. Good luck!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Guest Blog: Welcome Carol MacLean!

Thanks, Cara, for inviting me to guest on your blog so that I can promote my new E-Book 'Wild For Love' published by Astraea Press. I am a writer based in Scotland, writing pocket novel romances for 'My Weekly'. As Cara's blog theme is writing, reading and living in London I wondered how I would make a link with my book which is set in Glasgow. Hmmm - yes, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee brought the whole country together in a very happy celebration (I didn't get quite as far south as London but had a lovely time in Yorkshire over the holiday weekend). Let's not forget that the Olympics will be followed by the Commonwealth Games to be held in Glasgow. So there are links. However when I re-read the blurb for my book I realised I didn't need to worry. The hero, Jake, is a Londoner born and bred. Phew! Here is the book hook: Polly is an ecologist, passionate and uncompromising about wildlife rights. Against her better judgment she falls in love with Jake, heir to a London media empire, whose development company is about to destroy a beautiful marsh. Can love ever blossom between two such different people as Polly battles to save the marsh? The story is set against the stunning scenery of Scotland as Polly learns to compromise for love and Jake finally finds the life he has always desired. I've written a few pocket novels now but Jake is my favourite hero - he's gorgeous and sexy and if I wasn't married, I'd love to meet him in real life. I'm very fond of Polly too - she makes mistakes, is hot-headed and opinionated but in the end, as the saying goes...love conquers all. If you would like to read Jake and Polly's story, you can get it straight from Astraea: www.astraeapress.com Or from Amazon Books: www.amazon.co.uk If you enjoy it, please review it on Amazon or leave a favourable comment on Astraea's facebook page. Thanks! carolmaclean.blogspot.co.uk

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

London, the Olympics, Hampton Court Flower Show etc

As all blogs have a theme and this one is about writing and living in London I thought I'd update people on what's going on in London at the moment. Well, of course the Olympics are dominating everything. All the underground signs in the centre of town are now labelled to cope with the hoardes of visitors and practically everywhere you go has dire warnings up about road closures. Greenwich for the showjumping, Box Hill for cycling, and Hampton Court for something I can't even remember. We went there last week for the flower show which is such a fabulous day. We got sun (amazingly) and I wanted to buy everything from a fishpond with perspex windows - not sure if that was so they could see out or we could see in - to a set of wonderful modular seating which was far too big for our tiny bit of green paradise. I so wanted it but if we'd got it we wouldn't be able to move in the garden. Anyhow, here are some photos of those gorgeous plants, food for the soul... Other latest news is that I have booked for the Festival of Romance, yaaaayyyyy! In November in Bedford, this is a wonderful chance to meet and chat to romantic novelists. I'm really looking forward to it!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Why did 50 Shades of Grey make it so big?

There are rumours that the delectable Ryan Gosling, my favourite actor may play Christian Grey in the film that will inevitably made of '50 Shades of Grey'. The 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon is a puzzler I was trying to explain to my 91 year old mum. She couldn't get her head around why a book which in her day would have been unthinkable in polite society had become so popular. What on earth has brought erotica slap bang (if that's the right phrase to use!) into the mainstream so that respectable grandmothers are buying it in Tescos? It is extraordinary that a very niche area of writing should suddenly sell squillions of books. So, I tried to explain. Firstly the author E L James worked in television first so had a background in PR and had built up a sizeable following on social media networks when she supplied her book initially on a print on demand basis. This meant that once it started selling, the publishers knew it was worth taking a risk. Then, her book was originally written as fan fiction, a genre I had to explain to my dear mama. This, I told her is where people cannot get enough of their favourite genre. Fan fiction is a sort of homage to things people already love like Dr Who or the Alien films. 50 Shades was a homage to the phenomenally successful Twilight series and so neatly jumped on that bandwagon. It was very clever of E L James to put together two protagonists - Christian who is a millionaire and into some seriously adult stuff with Anna who is somewhat virginal and unworldly. The two would be unlikely to get it together in just the way that the two protagonists in Twilight had their seemingly insurmountable difficulties. This is ideal for a searing romance. Give your couple huge differences and then find a way to get them together, it's classic Romeo and Juliet stuff. Why erotica? Erotica is already selling big time particularly with the advent of Kindles. E L James was extremely savvy to pander to that trend even though authors such as Kitti Bernetti , Lucy Felthouse , K D Grace and Kay Jaybee have been writing and selling it for years. I explained to my aged relative that 50 Shades is therefore a perfect storm which has come together in our interesting age of social networking, self-publishing and the advent of bookselling in the supermarkets so that you can now buy erotica with your frozen vegetables. I haven't read 50 Shades myself but have read reviews of it, good and bad. The amazing thing for me is what a fantastic story there is behind its success. Even that respected newspaper The Independent is running an article claiming 50 Shades might start off a baby boom. If you'd written a novel about a woman who decides one day to write a smutty book that would be read around the world by grannies and twenty-somethings, readers would never have believed it!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Tom Cruise is 50

So, Tom Cruise is fifty. Everyone from the Huffington Post, to the New York Daily News is focussing on his marital difficulties. His fiftieth just made me think of how many of his films I have thoroughly enjoyed. My favourite with an 86% rating on the film site Rotten Tomatoes is Collateral. Cruise plays the mean, driven, psychopathic but at the same time incredibly attractive contract killer Vincent perfectly. The best thing about this film is the juxtaposition of Jamie Foxx's sweet, shy, thoroughly decent taxi driver, Max - a decent guy pitted against a ruthless one who has nothing to lose. Max, who is kidnapped by Vincent to act as his driver during a spree of killings has everything to gain. Right from the start, you are desperate for Max a warm but weak man to become stronger and conquer Vincent. It's a classic fairy tale like George and the dragon or David and Goliath. True, Cruise's character is the attractive, smooth-talking, brisk alpha-male and Max the mild-mannered taxi driver is totally beta in comparison. But as the story unfolds, Cruise's character forces Max into standing up for himself. Max NEEDS those lessons in life so badly and you know that without Cruise exploding into his life he would never have found the impetus to stand up for himself, grab the girl and attain alpha male characteristics himself. The film was an object lesson in good story telling. Above all, as we're saying Happy Birthday to Mr Cruise, it was a great acting tour de force from both men. A thoroughly satisfying use of two hours of my life which is all you can really ask from a film. As a writer, (my latest is The Sanctuary published by Astraea Press) this film was an object lesson in characterisation with two leads at totally the opposite end of the spectrum. I could watch it again and again. Thank you Tom, and Happy Birthday!!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Moleskine - a few of my favourite things

I was thinking today about the essential tools of the trade of a writer. These are some of mine. Moleskine notebooks - I absolutely love them. The label on the front bills them as 'Legendary notebooks' and so they are. They are apparently based on a kind of plain black notebook once manufactured in France and used by artists, writers and thinkers on their travels. Oscar Wilde and Bruce Chatwin are famous possessors of the precursors to the Moleskine we know today. When the small French paper producers started going out of business in the 1980s, these essential tools looked to be lost to the world. Until that is, a company in Milan decided to revive them. Anyone who has seen the gorgeous paper and stationery available in shops in Venice will not be surprised that it was an Italian company which revived the tradition. Today, they come in all sorts of colours and sizes and there are online communities which worship these super little books. The Moleskines are a model of simplicity in design. Useful vessels for jottings down reminiscences and sketches they are also ideal for saving small souvenirs such as train tickets and receipts from memorable lunches. Moleskines can be all things to all men. Tiny scrapbooks, places to jot poems, they are slender and light. For me, they are somewhere to collect story ideas and newspaper cuttings. I ALWAYS keep a Moleskine in my handbag. At present I am using a red one for my notes on the cosy crime book I am writing and a pink one for the historical romance I am part way through. Many of the notes for my latest book, The Sanctuary available here from Astraea Press were jotted down in a Moleskine. Team them with a bunch of coloured pens and I am in stationery heaven. Long live the Moleskine!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Inspiration in art - Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

There was some truly wonderful art at the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy in London's Piccadilly which I visited recently. These paintings evoked emotions and kickstarted the imagination - wonderful fodder for a writer. Hope you like them. It goes on until 12 August so you still have time to visit.
The still life was so beautiful, totally tranquil and a painting I would have loved to own. The house with the neat garden was fascinating. From a distance it simply looked like an impressive old house that you'd love to live in. When you got closer, you saw the decay, the smashed windows and the cracked walls. The whole set up oozed mystery. It would make the most wonderful cover for a book. For a romance (and now crime) writer I found both paintings inspirational in creating moods and ideas. Finally, the head which looked as if it should have sat on a Grecian temple was made out of matchsticks, brilliant and again, deceptive from a distance. I loved the whole exhibition and will definitely go next year. Have you found inspiration and ideas in art? You can buy my latest book The Sanctuary by clicking on this link.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Novelicious results

Absolutely delighted and jumping up and down to say that Jan Sprenger, a wonderful writer I am lucky enough to number among my friends has been placed in the prestigious Novelicious comp! Competition was extremly stiff. There were 200 entries and 20 were shortlisted. I read many of them and the standard was very high. Jan has won the Public Vote Runner Up place for 'Vicki's Work of Heart'. I am not surprised in the least that Jan did so well, she's bright and bubbly and has a terrific sense of humour that comes out in her writing. Hers is a very original voice. I remember her talking to me about this book and it's always fascinating to hear about something in the early stages and then see it come to life. Well done Jan!!!! The champagne's on me next time we meet. You can read her brilliant entry here.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Love on the Orient Express

People often ask writers, where do you get your ideas from. Occasionally, you can just be lucky... It happened to me and my husband this weekend. We were popping across to London to visit friends and as we came into Victoria we spotted the most beautiful train. Cream and brown with little lamps at the windows. It was the stately, legendary Pullman carriages of the Orient Express. We sprinted around to the platform to find it had just arrived from Venice (sigh). Now I know the Agatha Christie story, 'Murder on the Orient Express,' but my husband turned to me and said, 'what about Love on the Orient Express as a book title?' Immediately I could see all sorts of possibilities and was desperate to look inside. Luckily, the kindest, nicest Orient Express train manager was standing there and he showed us inside and let me take photos. Each carriage - they have names like Lucille, Ione and Perseus - has its own individual design featuring hand wrought marquetry, lush carpets and beautifully upholstered seats. The train manager, gave us a potted history of the train and a deluxe brochure to take away. My dream would be to go to Venice but at £2000 a pop it might take some saving up to achieve. Until then though, I can always write a book about it now I have the research material...