Wednesday, 25 May 2016
I'm delighted to say my new serial, 'A Croatian Adventure', has started today in The People's Friend. It is set in Vodnjan where we had a lovely holiday a couple of years ago and visited the harbour at Fazana and the amphitheatre and market in Pula. I found the country to be interesting and varied and although people say it can be like Italy, I found the whole flavour of Croatia somewhat different. A little less busy perhaps and the people less familiar to us, simply because we haven't met so many Croatians back in the UK, nor visited Croatia as much as we have Italy. I'd recommend Vodnjan as being a nice quiet place to stay and we were in a wonderful apartment just beneath the bells of the church. It was fabulous to open the kitchen window in the morning and have breakfast to the sound of church bells which I love. If you are adventurous, you can actually cycle into Pula. For us very unfit types mind you, it was a challenge as it's not exactly round the corner. One day, we cycled in, had lunch there, then bought fish in the market for dinner. This wasn't perhaps thought through very well, as we then had to cycle back in the heat of the day with a large raw fish in a steaming hot pannier. We worried all the way back about whether it would be fit to eat and cycled as fast as we could! It wasn't one of our best plans, but we ate the fish grilled with herbs. Not only was it delicious, but we lived to tell the tale! Vodnjan has a rather extraordinary collection of mummified saints in its local church which is an extraordinary thing to see. Dressed up to the nines and looking as black and as if they are made of leather I had rather wanted to weave them into my story somehow. I didn't manage it unfortunately but maybe another time! 'A Croatian Adventure' is my first venture into writing a series as it follows the life of one of my characters, Mel, who first appeared as a children's nanny in my last People's Friend serial. This time she has branched out to take a job with a Croatian businessman who has a vast array of lavender fields around his villa. But, there is something decidedly odd happening at the Villa Lavanda, with his Japanese wife Hiroko a virtual recluse, and one of the other staff at the Villa, Greg Brodie who is not all he appears to be. There is romance and mystery. I can see from having written my second in a series of stories, what a challenge it must be to write a long running series. For a start, you have to be organised - not one of my strongest attributes. I imagine that if you have many serial episodes or novels tied together with the same characters and places, you'd be required to operate a fairly robust filing system. Remembering how old everyone is, how they are related to one another, what their particular experiences are in case you have to refer to them again in a later story would take some doing. I might have to get my act together and create a proper rolodex file as I'm thinking I might take one of the characters, Izzy and transport her off for a gap year to Malaysia and Borneo. There will of course be romance, adventure and crime - that much will be common to all of this series of adventures!
Friday, 29 April 2016
So, having for a long time avoided writing competitions like the plague, I thought I'd have a go. I wanted a new challenge and the Crime Writers' Association is a very reputable body. The Margery Allingham competition has an excellent brief which is to pen a mystery in 3,500 words. Simple, straightforward and wide enough to afford many possibilities. I had entered only a handful of other competitions. They're often designed to promote a particular product or place. One I entered promoted a magazine in Kent. It was a shorter length which can be more challenging, and had to feature a Kent landmark. Another asked for a story in 500 words about the Northern Lights. Narrow challenges like that are all very well but if you don't win the comp, are difficult to place elsewhere. So, with a nice 'loose' brief I decided to enter and... was delighted to receive the e-mail telling me I was one of 12 in the longlist. I was actually longlisted last year, but they didn't put it on their website so I didn't trumpet it to the world. This year they have and here is the link to it. Writing competitions are a mixed blessing. They are time consuming, most charge a small fee, and it's difficult to know exactly what they're looking for if they don't print much in the way of winning entries. The upside is that you can turn the germ of an idea that has been knocking around in your subconscious into something real even if it isn't something you could find a home for elsewhere. I'm sure I couldn't for example have placed my story in a women's magazine. I enjoyed writing it though and I now have a finished product. Even if it doesn't win, I am at present reworking it to form a chapter of the current novel I'm writing. I'd always envisaged that, as I was writing it, anyway. Being shortlisted has given me the confidence that it might just have legs and that it might possibly run as a longer work. I'd have my fingers crossed if it didn't stop me typing!