Wednesday, 29 June 2011

£10,000 a year

Here's a frivolous bit of news for the summer season - Ancestry.com reports that Kate Middleton and the author of Pride and Prejudice are "11th cousins, six times removed due to their 15th century common ancestor Henry Percy, who was the 2nd Earl of Northumberland."

So Kate has done better than Lizzie Bennet. Mr Darcy, delightful as he was, never had a title, though he did have £10,000 a year. There is a site that offers to calculate the purchasing power of the British pound from 1200 to date, and I entered £1000 and clicked. The answer came back as a staggering £53,800.

So, since Mr Darcy had £10,000 per annum, I multiplied the answer by 10, and got £5,380,000 or, in other words, almost six million a year. I'd be the first to admit that maths is not my strong point, and I'd love for someone else to do the sums.
Here's the link: http://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/ppoweruk

Can that be right? I wonder then, if Kate's prize capture can match that? But still, Lizzie never got to be called anything but Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy. Kate can now swan around as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

My promotional bit

It occurred to me last night when I couldn't sleep that I hadn't put the message out about my book on my own blog! How stupid could I be?

So - there's a trailer for it: here

The link to buy at Amazon UK: here
Amazon.com: here
from the publisher: here

Genre: Contemporary romance with ghosts
Blurb:
Melissa thinks she’s taking a huge risk in going on holiday with Rory Hepburn. He may be gorgeous, but she only met him three days ago. But when she sees the old watermill in rural France, she is delighted. Within ten minutes of her arrival, she sees the man in black, but thinks nothing of it. Concentrating more on keeping her secrets and sleeping alone, she is shocked when ghosts disturb her first night at the mill. Not just one ghost, but two. When Christophe arrives at the mill, the chic Frenchman regards Melissa as his soul mate, and Melissa knows she’s in real trouble.
A chilling tale, written with humour and drenched in the sights and perfumes of the rural Dordogne, this is a must-read tale for those who like a romance with a ghostly twist.

This my fifth published book, and my first contemporary tale. In many ways writing about character in this century is easier than writing about people in the sixteenth or eleventh centuries. There isn’t as much research required, though it’s important to get things like brand names, distances, food and fashion right - hairstyle or hemlines can speak volumes about a character’s personality today.

I wouldn't be surprised if you already knew I lived in Northumberland, a corner of England rich in castles and history, and that I visit France regularly for summer holidays. So you can believe me when I say I've walked, sat, eaten and enjoyed all the places I write about.


Excerpt One: Melissa arrives at the mill and loves it. She has a swift look around while Rory prepares a meal for her. (A bolly is what the locals call a verandah)

The white table already held a bowl of salad, a wicker basket of bread and the opened bottle of wine. He was fast and efficient. No sooner had she taken her seat than he put a plate of steak before her and offered the salad bowl.
She tilted her head back and smiled at him. How good to have a man prepared to cook for her. "This looks delicious. Does Jonny plan to do a lot of work here?"

He picked up his cutlery and cut into his steak. "The grand plan is for two bedrooms and a bathroom on the lower level so Jonny can invite friends. The bathroom's finished, but the rest is a muddle."

That meant no bedrooms on the lower floor, and only one on this level. An ugly suspicion bloomed in her mind. Melissa heaped salad onto her plate and replaced the steel salad servers carefully in the bowl. "Then am I right in thinking there is only one bedroom here?"

The chilly edge to her voice brought his head up.
His peacock blue eyes narrowed. "'fraid so. That isn't going to be a problem, is it?"

Dismay at his deception roared through her, and small flash of fear and timidity followed it. Yes, one bedroom most certainly would be a problem. She wasn't ready. Not yet. Talk about being taken for granted—the conceited ass expected her to tumble into bed with him without a second thought. She inhaled sharply. "It is presumptuous of you to assume I'll share a bed with you right away."

He stopped eating and stared at her, surprise etched into the lines of his face.
Had she misjudged him? Maybe she had jumped to the wrong conclusion. He'd be insulted if that was the case. So she offered a sweet smile and spoke gently. "Unless I'm wrong and you intend to sleep on the sofa?"

"Presumptuous?" His gaze darted across her face. Presumably he was trying to read her expression. He didn't know how to answer her. Melissa lifted her brows slightly, smiled without opening her mouth and waited.

He put down his cutlery and picked up his wine glass. "What do you mean?"
She frowned. How could he pretend he did not know what she meant? "We are not lovers." She bit off each word. "We may become so, but right now I expect a room of my own." Heat rose through her skin, and her hand trembled on the rim of the table. She whipped it out of sight. Let him make of it what he would.

Rory swallowed too soon, choked and coughed.
He flung himself out of his chair, coughing, one fist to his mouth as he strode across the bolly. As the fit lessened, he thrust one hand against the oak upright supporting the roof and stood there, head down, breathing hard.

Annoyance did not stop her admiring the way his shoulders heaved with his breathing, or the graceful way he stood even when he was in some distress. His attention was not on her. It was the first time she'd seen him rattled, and his reaction interested her. When his breathing calmed, he slowly strolled back to the table and took his seat.

His eyes still watered a little, and he blinked rapidly to clear them. "Christ, I feel as if all sorts of pits are yawning at my feet. Would you believe me if I said I honestly hadn't thought about it?"

Melissa sipped her wine. She didn't believe him for a moment. "How could you ignore it? There is only one bed."
He winced, as if her words pained him.
Refusing to weaken, Melissa stabbed at her steak. How arrogant was he? Did he think every woman in the world begged to be bedded?

Birdsong sounded all around them in the warm green silence.
"Melissa."
Her heart flipped over at the sound. His deep brown voice stirred her senses just as it had the first time they'd met. She must get a grip, or she'd be lost. Her pulse ran fast and her chest tightened. This was important. She looked up, prepared to fight.
Watchful intelligence overrode his initial surprise. Now he sat back and sipped his wine and she remembered he was a successful solicitor, with an important and well-known law firm.

"Please don't feel under any pressure. We've only just met, and…I don't want to spoil things by rushing them. If you want to sleep alone, that's fine." He hesitated, as if he might add some comment, and then thought better of it. "There's a large squashy sofa in the living room. I'll sleep there."

The tension in her shoulders disappeared. She ought to be pleased he'd capitulated, but something rankled. She'd expected him to try and change her mind, persuade her. He might have tried. Part of her, inexplicably miffed that he hadn't, made her say, "We'll toss a coin for it. That would be fair."

He raised his wine glass and offered an agreeable smile. "I'll drink to that."
Instantly she regretted the surge of independence that made her make the offer, and hated the easy arrogance that allowed him to accept her challenge. He'd probably win, and she'd be the one on the sofa. She'd been outmaneuvered.
He had such charm and knew how to use it. Once, in a rare mother-daughter-sharing-secrets evening, she'd asked her mother what had led her to the one-night stand with Lt. Col. John Hazlerigg. Her mother had smiled, rolling the wine glass against her cheeks as she considered the question.

"Power," she'd said at last. "Not money, but a physical presence and an air of command. Charisma, allied with such certainty your knees—well, mine in this case—wobble and everyone knows he's the alpha male in the pack."
Melissa had spent the next week analyzing the concept, but reached no definite conclusion. Now that she'd met Rory, she understood something of her mother's explanation. There had been that odd tingling in the back of her knees when Jonny introduced them, and the way her heart skipped about in her chest when he spoke in that gorgeous voice.

If she'd ever met her father, she might have had some standard to judge by, but Hazlerigg was married and out of bounds. Mother had refused to inform her lover that he had fathered a child because he would have felt impelled to marry her. That would have ruined his career and broken the heart of his then fiancée.

Melissa's fingers twisted together around her wine glass. She rarely thought about her illegitimacy now, and had never betrayed her mother's secret. But the old, churning feelings returned whenever she was reminded of it. Tonight she had an additional worry. If Rory ever found out, what would he say? His parents would certainly hate her. Relationships could not survive without honesty, yet she was constrained by a promise never to speak of her father.

"This dressing is delicious." Her voice sounded brittle in her ears.
Not speaking of her father had been hurtful all through her childhood. When the other kids boasted of theirs, Melissa had nothing to offer and suffered agonies trying to hide the fact. Promising herself that the same sort of relationship would not do for her, she had vowed never to sleep with a man until she knew him really well. Maybe even until she was married to him. Adrian had been a terrible mistake.

"Easy enough to make here. Garlic is fresh and olive oil plentiful. What were you daydreaming about?"
"Oh, nothing special." She glanced up, smiled brightly at Rory while she tried to think of something to cover her lies. "Listening to the birds. They sound so close and there are so many. It's not like this back home, is it?"

Rory cleared the plates, and the break gave her time to regain her composure. Another glass of wine helped calm her, and when Rory produced strawberries for dessert, she exclaimed in genuine pleasure. When they were eaten, Melissa stretched out her legs toward the evening sunshine and let him clear the table. Two glasses of wine, a good meal and she was more at ease with herself.

Excerpt Two. Melissa volunteers to sleep on the sofa instead of Rory.
Melissa looked at her watch. It was well past midnight. The sofa was comfortable, but the unaccustomed heat kept her awake. Spending summer in a romantic old water mill in the Dordogne did have disadvantages. When she ran tentative fingers over her flanks, her skin was slick with moisture.

The warm breeze from the open window moved through the room, but brought little relief. Crickets chirped so vigorously they might have been sitting on the hearthstone five feet away. A cold drink would be good. She scrambled off the sofa and tiptoed across the floorboards, hoping she wouldn't step on any insect life. With her hands under the kitchen tap, she welcomed the gush of cold water, gulped some from her cupped palm and ran her damp hands over her face.
Fumbling her way through the shadows to the door, she released the latch and stepped outside.

That was better. Cool air breathed across her skin. Ignoring the quick rustle of lizards scurrying toward crevices in the old walls, she strolled to the chairs, pale and cold in the moonlight.
She sank into one of them, and flinched at the coldness of the plastic against her skin. Stars blinked above the massed ranks of dark trees. A breeze that never reached the valley floor swept across the topmost leaves of the tall trees in the meadow and produced the soft susurration in the air that was already familiar to her.
Rory slept in the big bed on the other side of the wall. He did not like their current sleeping arrangements. The tightening of his mouth, the flexing of his jaw muscles had shown that, and said very clearly that he'd let her have her way but he was not the kind of man who gave up easily. Had his pride suffered when she refused to share his bed? He had certainly been surprised. Would he try and persuade her, or sulk until she gave in?
It had been a good decision not to let Rory sleep on the sofa for then she would have felt beholden to him. Much better that she owed him neither gratitude nor thanks at this point.
She stroked her thighs. Already the slickness dried from her skin. A wisp of long grass whisked along the flagstones, breathed across her foot and vanished. Rory had shown her a shed snakeskin as a warning not to be frightened if she saw the owner one day. The fragile, almost translucent skin had been trapped between the stones of the bolly and the old drain not four feet from where she sat.

A cold breeze wandered by. Melissa hugged herself against the sudden chill. Perhaps this was a crazy idea after all. Flickers of movement caught her eye. For no reason, her heart thudded in her chest. With her teeth pressing on her lower lip, she stared at the western end of the bolly where one of the four oak pillars supporting the tiled roof stood out sharp and clear in the moon's glow.

Beyond them, the shrubs and rose bushes were gray against the dusty, moonlit ribbon of the drive. Nothing moved. She heard nothing but the soft sound of the breeze, yet her heart bounced faster, as if she were in danger. Muscles tense, she sat poised, ready to run.

The shadows made it difficult to see anything. The blackness moved and twitched close in against the house wall, less than ten feet away. A pale shifting blur morphed into hands and a face. Melissa's fingers clung to the chair arms while she strained to see through the darkness. Hair lifted on the back of her neck and goose bumps sprang on her arms. She stared at two pale blurs, one above the other, moving very close together. Sure it must be some young couple seeking privacy, she opened her mouth to call out. But some instinct held her rigid and silent. What if they weren't real?

Her heart beat so loudly that whoever lurked by the wall must surely hear it. She forced herself to inhale slowly and quietly. Her heartbeat slowed a little. The air around her was cold. It's always cold when—she slammed down on the thought about ghosts before it formed in her mind. She looked at the space between herself and the door, and the door and the dark, shifting shape.

She could reach the door. She had to.

The chair scraped across the flagstones and drowned the slap of her bare feet as she hurtled into the mill, slammed the door and rattled the bolt home.
Flexed from the hips, palms braced against the half glass door, she waited, mouth open, panting. Through the mottled glass and the wrought iron Perigourdine goose that guarded it, moonlight lit the grass beyond the bolly. Nothing moved. Her breathing slowed. She remembered she'd seen a baseball bat by the door and groped for it without taking her gaze from the door. The smooth wooden shaft came comfortingly to her hand.

Something creaked behind her. Melissa whirled on a sharp indrawn breath. The bat cocked and ready, she watched the door to the hall open. A large, shadowy form ambled into the living room. "Wha's the matter? Did you shout?"
"There's somebody out there."
"Out where?"
"On the bolly." She flung out an arm and rattled her knuckles on the goose guard. "Ow."
Rory ducked his head, ran both hands over his face. Straightening his shoulders, he walked toward the door. "I'd better have a look."
Melissa stepped aside. He stooped, fumbled for the bolt in the gloom and pulled the door open. Melissa held out the baseball bat. "Take this."

Rory blinked at the three feet of pale, solid wood and made no move to take it. "I could kill someone with that."
"Take it." She thrust it into his hand. It seemed imperative he have some protection. There was something nasty out there.
Reluctantly, Rory hefted it and stepped across the threshold. "Put the lights on."
Melissa pushed the door curtain aside and ran her palm down the bank of switches. Light bloomed inside the mill, and floodlights snapped on at each end of the bolly. Startled birds squawked, complained and clattered about in the trees.

"There's nothing here, Melissa. Come and look." He sounded wide awake.
Suddenly aware that she was wearing only a tee shirt, Melissa whipped the door curtain across her hips and peeped around the doorjamb.

Moonlight emphasized the broad shoulders tapering down to a lean waist and flat stomach. Wrinkled, striped boxers hung low on one hip. His hair stuck up about his head, and the baseball bat dangled from the fingers of one hand. The width of his chest and the prominent muscles of his arms and thighs were reassuring.
"They might—" Her breath caught in her throat as all her initial attraction to Rory rushed back and choked her. She coughed and tried again. "They might have gone round the back of the mill."

Strong men, smart heroines, make for a good story.

There now. I can rest easy. I've done my promotional bit. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Looking for summer

There's a strange feeling about reading your own work back. That's what I've been doing tonight, and reading it on hard copy, rather than a screen.
In the first eight chapters, I've found about eight typos that need correcting, but apart from that I'm not too worried. The corrections will be made. As for the story - it is what it is. I don't doubt I could make it better, but I've moved on from this segment of Matho's story. I've completed the second, and I'm now thinking about a third segment, and I don't really want to go back to the beginning just yet. I want to find out what happens to Matho when I take him to France.

I'm in that relaxed time when I'm slowly reading around the period and letting my subconscious work on the story. Maybe by the time I go to France on holiday, I'll be ready to rough out a draft. Writing about France while I'm in France has a certain appeal, and there'll be lots of time to spare. Last July we found it so very hot we didn't go far. That sort of heat comes as a shock to the British system, used as we are to cool climes.
I remember a few occasions when I went to the downstairs section of the mill because it was so much cooler there. We went for walks early in the morning, because by ten the heat was starting to build, and didn't slacken until perhaps eight in the evening. That leaves the middle hours of the day to lounge around, and that's when the laptop comes into its own.
We've had nearly three weeks of horrendous winds here in the north, followed by grey, cool days. For the last few days we've had heavy rain. Now I'm more than ready for a few weeks of sunshine and being warm, and holidays can't come soon enough. I'm aready thinking of which clothes to wash in preparation for packing, what to wear on the journey, shall I take paperbacks on buy something for my e-reader, shall I buy that little white jacket that looked so pretty in the Land's End catalogue...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Holiday from writing



Publishers Weekly here has published interesting facts on ebooks over the last two years. It isn't really a surprise to learn that fiction is the best seller, but I wasn't expecting the Literary/Classic genre to come out as the top-seller genre.


Perhaps the fact that many classics are free or exceedingly cheap has something to do with its high place among the other genres. Science Fiction - well, given the tecchie aspect, I suppose I should have expected those readers to take to ebooks like a duck to water. Christian Inspirational is the next highest category, higher than romance. So much for the oft heard claim we've heard over the last few years that romance outsells any other fiction genre! Not in ebooks, it seems.


I appear to have given myself a holiday from writing. Not a conscious decision, but its definitely happening. I finished the wip perhaps three weeks ago and since then haven't written anything except blogs, reviews, e-mails, that sort of thing. One excuse - if I needed one - is that Shadows came out 24th May, and while I worked on promotion for that, writing - as in starting a new work or continuing another - took a back seat. I try to remember to check Twitter and Facebook every day, and I've made a couple of trailers for You Tube. And then of course, there's the tennis. First Roland Garros, and now Wimbledon. And yesterday Rafa made it through the first round.



Sits back and relaxes.



Friday, 17 June 2011

Pheasants and SHADOWS

For those who may never have a holiday in England, this bird is a pheasant. Its body is about the size of a football and when the sunlight gleams on all those irridescent feathers, its a handsome creature.

Today I thought I'd give you another excerpt from SHADOWS and I've chosen the very first night at the mill, when Melissa has opted to sleep on the sofa in the iving room rather than share a bed with Rory. So, here we go....


Melissa looked at her watch. It was well past midnight. The sofa was comfortable, but the unaccustomed heat kept her awake. Spending summer in a romantic old water mill in the Dordogne did have disadvantages. When she ran tentative fingers over her flanks, her skin was slick with moisture.
The warm breeze from the open window moved through the room, but brought little relief. Crickets chirped so vigorously they might have been sitting on the hearthstone five feet away. A cold drink would be good. She scrambled off the sofa and tiptoed across the floorboards, hoping she wouldn't step on any insect life. With her hands under the kitchen tap, she welcomed the gush of cold water, gulped some from her cupped palm and ran her damp hands over her face.
Fumbling her way through the shadows to the door, she released the latch and stepped outside.

That was better. Cool air breathed across her skin. Ignoring the quick rustle of lizards scurrying toward crevices in the old walls, she strolled to the chairs, pale and cold in the moonlight.
She sank into one of them, and flinched at the coldness of the plastic against her skin. Stars blinked above the massed ranks of dark trees. A breeze that never reached the valley floor swept across the topmost leaves of the tall trees in the meadow and produced the soft susurration in the air that was already familiar to her.
Rory slept in the big bed on the other side of the wall. He did not like their current sleeping arrangements. The tightening of his mouth, the flexing of his jaw muscles had shown that, and said very clearly that he'd let her have her way but he was not the kind of man who gave up easily. Had his pride suffered when she refused to share his bed? He had certainly been surprised. Would he try and persuade her, or sulk until she gave in?

It had been a good decision not to let Rory sleep on the sofa for then she would have felt beholden to him. Much better that she owed him neither gratitude nor thanks at this point.

She stroked her thighs. Already the slickness dried from her skin. A wisp of long grass whisked along the flagstones, breathed across her foot and vanished. Rory had shown her a shed snakeskin as a warning not to be frightened if she saw the owner one day. The fragile, almost translucent skin had been trapped between the stones of the bolly and the old drain not four feet from where she sat.

A cold breeze wandered by. Melissa hugged herself against the sudden chill. Perhaps this was a crazy idea after all. Flickers of movement caught her eye. For no reason, her heart thudded in her chest. With her teeth pressing on her lower lip, she stared at the western end of the bolly where one of the four oak pillars supporting the tiled roof stood out sharp and clear in the moon's glow.

Beyond them, the shrubs and rose bushes were gray against the dusty, moonlit ribbon of the drive. Nothing moved. She heard nothing but the soft sound of the breeze, yet her heart bounced faster, as if she were in danger. Muscles tense, she sat poised, ready to run.

The shadows made it difficult to see anything. The blackness moved and twitched close in against the house wall, less than ten feet away. A pale shifting blur morphed into hands and a face. Melissa's fingers clung to the chair arms while she strained to see through the darkness. Hair lifted on the back of her neck and goose bumps sprang on her arms. She stared at two pale blurs, one above the other, moving very close together. Sure it must be some young couple seeking privacy, she opened her mouth to call out. But some instinct held her rigid and silent. What if they weren't real?

Her heart beat so loudly that whoever lurked by the wall must surely hear it. She forced herself to inhale slowly and quietly. Her heartbeat slowed a little. The air around her was cold. It's always cold when—she slammed down on the thought about ghosts before it formed in her mind. She looked at the space between herself and the door, and the door and the dark, shifting shape.
She could reach the door. She had to.

The chair scraped across the flagstones and drowned the slap of her bare feet as she hurtled into the mill, slammed the door and rattled the bolt home.
Flexed from the hips, palms braced against the half glass door, she waited, mouth open, panting. Through the mottled glass and the wrought iron Perigourdine goose that guarded it, moonlight lit the grass beyond the bolly. Nothing moved. Her breathing slowed. She remembered she'd seen a baseball bat by the door and groped for it without taking her gaze from the door. The smooth wooden shaft came comfortingly to her hand.

Something creaked behind her. Melissa whirled on a sharp indrawn breath. The bat cocked and ready, she watched the door to the hall open. A large, shadowy form ambled into the living room. "Wha's the matter? Did you shout?"
"There's somebody out there."
"Out where?"
"On the bolly." She flung out an arm and rattled her knuckles on the goose guard. "Ow."
Rory ducked his head, ran both hands over his face. Straightening his shoulders, he walked toward the door. "I'd better have a look."

Melissa stepped aside. He stooped, fumbled for the bolt in the gloom and pulled the door open. Melissa held out the baseball bat. "Take this."
Rory blinked at the three feet of pale, solid wood and made no move to take it. "I could kill someone with that."
"Take it." She thrust it into his hand. It seemed imperative he have some protection. There was something nasty out there.

Reluctantly, Rory hefted it and stepped across the threshold. "Put the lights on."
Melissa pushed the door curtain aside and ran her palm down the bank of switches. Light bloomed inside the mill, and floodlights snapped on at each end of the bolly. Startled birds squawked, complained and clattered about in the trees.

"There's nothing here, Melissa. Come and look." He sounded wide awake.
Suddenly aware that she was wearing only a tee shirt, Melissa whipped the door curtain across her hips and peeped around the doorjamb.

Moonlight emphasized the broad shoulders tapering down to a lean waist and flat stomach. Wrinkled, striped boxers hung low on one hip. His hair stuck up about his head, and the baseball bat dangled from the fingers of one hand. The width of his chest and the prominent muscles of his arms and thighs were reassuring.

"They might—" Her breath caught in her throat as all her initial attraction to Rory rushed back and choked her. She coughed and tried again. "They might have gone round the back of the mill."

**************************************************************
There's a trailer for this on YouTube. Have you seen it yet? Click
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGml0vxiJU8

SHADOWS is available from Amazon http://tinyurl.com/6xjxb7j
and Sapphire Blue http://tinyurl.com/5uykp67

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Promotion is vital these days

I've discovered software on my computer that allows me to make trailers fairly easily. In the last fortnight I've made two, one for SHADOWS, and here's the one that went up last night: Banners Let me know what you think of it! (I think I'd better re-make the original Dark Pool trailer, which now looks crass beside the other two!)



As for writing, I haven't done any for some time. There's no great angst about it; I'm just having a rest from writing every day by dealing with visuals and matching sound to them. It's a pleasurable thing to do and therapeutic, too. It started as promotion for my new release SHADOWS, which isn't three weeks old yet - still a baby! Because I didn't have a publication date, I was fairly laid back about preparing the sort of promotional tours that authors do these days. When I received a date at the beginning of May, it was a bit late to get on blog tour lists, and even then there was a fortnight's delay. I was lucky to have friends who gave me a mention on their blogs!

So I thought trailers might help, and hopefully they will.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Flying Body Parts

There’s a lot being said today about flying body parts. Before you turn aside in dismay, let me assure you I'm thinking in literary terms. For example, how many times have you read the sentence ‘her eyes flew to the door’ or ‘her hand flew to her throat’?
They're both classed as culprits.

Yet the phrases are so popular they could be challenged as clichés. We all know what they mean and we pick up all the nuances of fear and surprise that the author intends. Why, then, are so many editors, authors and critique partners busy telling each other that her eyes didn’t really fly to the door, did they? Suggest re-word the sentence.

Is it because readers are so literal-minded these days? If I write ‘her eyes turned to the door’ is that acceptable? It may be, but it is also unexciting. There’s no implied urgency, no feeling of any kind; the sentence is bland. If I write her eyes turned fearfully to the door, is that going to bring the criticism that eyes can’t turn fearfully? They can’t turn in fear, either, but isn’t all this a bit unnecessary? if the reader will understand, what's wrong with bringing a bit of creativity to our writing?

An idiom is, according to the dictionary, a group of words established by usage and having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words. Such as: over the moon, see the light, kick the bucket, lay one’s cards on the table. Are these expressions classed as idioms? They’re very close to it. Certainly they meet the first part of the definition. But we can deduce what is happening when we say her glance flew across the room, so perhaps these aren’t idioms, but merely idiomatic use of language. If such a subtle distinction exists!

Perhaps it comes down to all things in moderation. I read a sentence once that claimed a young lady tossed her chin over her shoulder. Another claimed that her two legs took her down the street. Now I know what the authors intended, but it was a clumsy way of expressing it. Some expressions work, and others don’t. In trying for originality, laudable in itself, it is easy to come up with an expression that may well make readers splutter and giggle.
So if your flying body part has been tried and tested down the years, if it works, then use it. If it doesn’t abandon it. It would be a shame if we became constrained in our use of such a rich, multi-faceted language.

Friday, 10 June 2011

To smile, or not to smile?

Usually I agree with writing tips, but I fell across this one the other day and I wondered…

"a reminiscent smile rose to his lips". No! He can't see himself smile. He can only feel the reminiscence, and if he smiles, he smiles.
I let it simmer on the back burner for a couple of days. Often time allows a different perspective, but not this time. Surely the character can feel himself smile and most of the time knows what kind of stupid, goofy or reminiscent look he exhibits to the world? He uses muscles to smile, throw a punch or shoot a filthy look at an enemy. We all put on a mask for the world, and we use it knowledgeably.

If the POV character observes another character he may assume he knows the reason for the reminiscent smile. He may be wrong, of course. We all pick up signals from another’s body language and friends who know each other well can usually tell why one of them is reacting in the way they do.

Like everything else, there are always exceptions to every rule. Perhaps it is time for writing tips to be written in a less dogmatic way, or else readers should interpret them more loosely. I can’t remember if I’ve written any that are so black and white, but I hope not. But certainly, I disagree with the paragraph in italics above. What do the rest of you think?
Pic: Durham Castle and Cathedral (World Heritage site)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Trencarrow Secret

Today I introduce good friend and critique partner Anita Davison, who has a book published in three day's time. Anita describes her story, and then tells you a little about herself ~

Trencarrow Secret by Anita Davison
Victorian Gothic Romance

Isabel Hart is afraid of two things, the maze at Trencarrow where she got lost as a young child, and the lake where her brother David saved her from drowning in a boating accident.

With her twenty-first birthday and the announcement of her engagement imminent, Isabel decides it is time for her to face her demons and ventures into the maze. There she sees something which will alter her perceptions of herself and her family forever.

Isabel’s widowed aunt joins the house party, where her cousin confides she is in love with an enigmatic young man who surely cannot be what he pretends, for he is surely too dashing for homely Laura?

When Henry, Viscount Strachan and his mother arrives, ostensibly to use her ball as an arena for finding a wife, Isabel is determined not to like him.

As more secrets are revealed, Isabel doubts she has chosen the right man, although her future fiancé has more vested in this marriage than Isabel realizes and has no intention of letting her go easily.

Will Isabel be able to put her preconceptions of marriage behind her and take charge of her own life, or is her life destined to be controlled by others?

Anita tells us about herself ~
I was born in London, a city which has a unique atmosphere; a sense of time passed that I connected with, even when I was young. When the other children on the school trip coach were throwing the contents of their lunch boxes at each other, I was staring out of the window at the ancient buildings, imagining men in wigs and heeled shoes coming out of coffee houses and climbing into sedan chairs on the cobbles outside St Pauls Cathedral.

Strangely it was walking through Paternoster Row with a dear friend, discussing books of course, when the idea for the story of Trencarrow Secret came to me. One requirement of modern writing, is you cannot simply write a story, it has to be categorised, put into a box so it is instantly recognised. My critique group, and my agent, say time and again that romances are the largest market in the fiction genre. In an attempt to break into the world of traditionally published authors, I chose to step outside the world of Restoration London and into the heads of characters of another era. I haven’t managed it yet, as Trencarrow Secret is Inde Published, but I still have some stories to tell which may make it.

Isabel Hart evolved, beginning as a Jacobean character, she turned into a Regency one, eventually finding her own time in late Victorian England. Her reserved character belonged in the rigid, uncompromising days of the British Empire, and I gave her strong reasons for seeing life as many of us do when we are young; in black and white, where right and wrong are clearly defined and there is no blurring of the two. Trencarrow Secret is a love story, and during one fateful summer, Isabel discovers that marriage is no fairytale, but an enigmatic and unique bonding of a couple which may appear unsatisfactory to outsiders, but each comes with its own chance of success.

Isabel’s romantic illusions are dispelled and she comes to realise that people, even those closest to her, are flawed and make mistakes. She has to find the capacity to forgive and move on – and to continue to love them anyway because that’s what families do. Through her unique relationship with her brother, David, Isabel struggles through revelations, self doubt and danger before she finds her soulmate.

The Hart's summer home in Cornwall is a house I have visited often - also the village of Marazion and St Michael's Mount have not changed much since the late 19th Century, which made them easy to portray realistically. I tend to write about places I know so I can portray them with a level of credibility.

Writing historical fiction is complicated and challenging, but my spirit lives in the past and I cannot imagine myself writing anything else.

Trencarrow Secret is scheduled for release on 10th June 2011
Available here: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/

Trencarrow Secret Blog: http://trencarrowsecret.blogspot.com
Anita’s Blog: http://thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.com

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Danger Zone

Danger Zone for writers: what is a chav? I’ve asked this question myself, and never got a definitive answer. The Guardian article proves the point – a chav is many things to many people. The fact that the answers are so widely different is worrying if you are a writer trying to pin down a facet of modern UK culture. Take a stance, depict your version in writing, and few will agree with you.

Writing historical novels is much the same. Try looking for the facts in primary sources, and you’ll discover that often they don’t agree in day or date, sometimes not even in year. (Aways tricky when the change over date from one year to the next used to be in the Spring rather than 1st January.) Names are spelled as the owner chose to write it that particular day. Mary Stewart, or Marie Stuart? If you’re an English speaker, you’ll probably go for the former. If you lean towards French, and her signature, you’ll go for the latter. Was her mother Mary of Guise or Marie de Guise? Was the birth on the 8th December, as most reports claim, or on 7th December as Leslie, who had special access to official records, states? Whatever the true record, and there may have only been minutes involved in a time when clocks were not as numerous as today, Mary always believed her birth date was the 8th. Even the date of her father’s death was in doubt for years until they found his coffin in seventeenth century with the death date inscribed on the coffin lid.

Reports came from military men in a hurry, who could be forgiven for mistaking the date of their letter, or the date of an engagement. I doubt they carried diaries or calendars in their doublets. They reported what other men told them, which may have been inaccurate or given a spin in the hope of impressing a master or commander. It is likely, and understandable, that even commanders put things in the best light when they wrote to King Henry VIII. Secretaries wrote what their masters dictated, even if they knew it to be a blatant untruth. Monks wrote pieces that would please their patrons. Private diaries can be wonderful, but it needs to be remembered that Chinese Whispers distort the most accurate report when it is handed on verbally until it reaches the diarist.

So, read widely, pick and choose, use your imagination and interpret the facts as best you can. There’ll always be someone who disagrees with you!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Arrogance

There's an author out there who thinks women's writing is unequal to his. Any woman, anywhere. V S Naipaul made his feelings known during an event at the Hay literary festival recently.
He won the Man Booker prize in 1971 for In a Free State. I've never heard of it, and I don't think I've read one of his books - his name was one of those on the library shelves I always passed by afer having scanned the content to see if it was of interest.
He says he can tell by reading a paragraph or two if the piece is written by a woman. What gives it away? 'Sentimentality, their narrow view of the world.' He couldn't possibly share Jane Austen's 'sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world.'
He doesn't consider any woman writer his equal.
I shouldn't be at all surprised if women give his books the old heave-ho after reading such drivel.
Helen Brown, Telegraph literary critic says: 'It certainly would be difficult to find a woman writer whose ego was equal to that of Naipaul.' She went on to quote George Eliot: 'Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.'
On another topic, I don't know why Blogger has suddenly become so dffiult to use. It won't let me copy and paste from my own files, let alone from anywhere else, which means I have to do this on site as it were, and type everything out. Nor can I go back and change what I've typed. Oh, yes, and another little trick - I have to go to Edit Posts to publish my post even though there's a big button saying PUBLISH on this page.
Now it won't let me shorten the url. Grrr.