....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!