Thursday 16 May 2024

Mystery v historical romance

 I recently finished  my first attempt at a murder mystery. 

I have to say it was far harder than writing historical romances.

Perhaps "harder" is the wrong word, for the focus is so very different. In the romance the research is all on costume and period features and once you've got that  in mind you are free to go and write the romance.

In a murder mystery I kept getting my cart before my horse, finding I'd repeated some clue more than once or worse still, missed one out! If and when I do another mystery, I shall be far more involved in the planning stage than I was this time. Truth be told I didn't really know where I was going when I set out. Now that may work out fine for the romance, but it doesn't do for a mystery story.

Lesson learned!

Thursday 9 May 2024

It shows in everything they do!

 Dialogue is important. to a writer and also to a reader.

Each character in the story should have their own voice. The reader should be able to recognise a teenage girl's dialogue from a business man's without being told which is which.

Working in some speech patterns helps readers grow familiar with particular characters.

Sometimes what is said is at odds with body language and this can be a Good Thing. We can signal disapproval with our faces, bodies and eye contact or lack of it. It doesn't have to be verbal to get the point across.

Showing signs of a character's emotions is more powerful than simply telling.

Men and Women are different, and it shows in everything they do and say - or don't say!

Thursday 2 May 2024

Should we let readers hang?


I had never heard of the Concluding Preposition Opposition Party but it does exist. I have heard of the American dictionary Merriam-Webster and in February 24 their offices stated it is OK to end a sentence with a preposition such as to, with, about, upon, for or of.

Many of us have been taught  the dim and distant past that a structurally sound sentence can't be made with a preposition placed at the end. It is true Romance Languages, derived from Latin, cannot form a structurally sound sentence with the preposition at the end. 

English is not a Romance language.

According to Merriam-Webster a 17th century poet called John Dryden popularized the rule created by grammarian Joshua Poole and the rule has lasted three centuries. Even in the cases where an ending preposition sounds odd, it's still grammatical, if not the best stylistic option.

Example: "That's what we're talking about" does sound better than: "That's about what we are talking"? Can't disagree with that. But most people would rejig the entire sentence rather than use such a formation.

Using "with" at the end of a sentence can leave the reader hanging with nowhere to go because of the meaning of the word itself. How prepositions are used can be important. I hear sentences such as “That is what we’ll go with” as dialogue in modern tv plays and series, and meaning is clear but the phrase is hardly elegant. It may be acceptable in conversation and perhaps newspapers but authors usually aim for clarity and eloquence in their novels. Cliffhangers are acceptable, but no author wishes to leave their readers hanging at the end of a sentence!

Friday 26 April 2024

A risky business

 Back home after a few days away on the north coast of Aberdeenshire.

It was windy and certainly cleared the head of all the winter cobwebs. The countryside is very clean and open with few trees and wide expanses of ploughed fields.  Every farm had a tractor, sometimes two, out ploughing and we guessed that what was going into the ground would be potatoes. When we were there last October we kept dodging huge wagon loads of potatoes going to market.

Just beyond the skyline in the photo the land drops away to the sea. There are some beaches, but not all are sandy and while we were lucky in October, this time we hit high tide at midday, which meant doing beach walks could turn out to be a risky business. 

The other deterrent was our dog. She revelled in the wide open spaces and went everywhere at a gallop, but she developed the habit of chasing sea birds along the tide line. Eyes glued to them, she twice ran into the sea and disappeared under an incoming wave. We decided we wouldn't risk a third time because nothing distracted her. Better safe than sorry.

Tuesday 16 April 2024

A worrying thought


We have recently taken on a new satellite box which allows access to things like UKTV play and others. Scanning the offerings, I notice how many remakes there are available. I knew The Killing was being remade for America and now I see other things too. Why is this? Do they think today’s audiences won’t relate to the original? Are there no good tv drama scripts available? 

I wonder how long it will be before they do a remake of Cleopatra or Lawrence of Arabia. On second thoughts, films of that calibre would probably be far too expensive to remake today. I have fond memories of Ryan’s Daughter but the thought of that on a little screen is sobering. It would be diminished somehow.

Another thing I notice is how many tv dramas are centred on women and women’s lives. Sometimes it seems as if men are being written out of life. Police chiefs  always seem to be female on tv dramas. I wonder if "they" think along the lines of seeing it often on tv makes it acceptable and normal. If they accept that argument, then perhaps we have so much violence on the streets because we've seen it "normalized" on tv. It's a worrying thought.

Wednesday 20 March 2024

More flames on the fire

 Occasionally I check for Book related news and 

this morning caught a snippet that sent a shudder through me.

It seems Omid Scobie, often known as "Meghan's mouthpiece," is writing a new book.

It will follow the story of a "young American woman who leaves a press role at the White House for one at Buckingham Palace. He will be co-writing the tome with US young adult fiction author Robin Benway, with it being billed as a "fun, fish-out-of-water romantic workplace comedy."

Scobie is 42 years old and must have made a lot of money out of writing books in the last decade. This one is going to be fiction. 

The pic is near Picton in New Zealand, just in case someone thinks it is Scotland.

Tuesday 5 March 2024

To my shame...

The Best Books of 2023: Historical Fiction

(according to Waterstones.)

The Fraud by Zadie Smith

Taking inspiration from a real-life nineteenth-century imposture trial, Smith's immersive first historical novel weaves together the stories of a Scottish housekeeper with a novelist cousin, a formerly enslaved valet unexpectedly thrust into the limelight of a legal case and the missing heir to the Tichborne baronetcy.

North Woods by Daniel Mason

A novel with the quality of a spell, this mesmeric tale takes a single house in the woods of Massachusetts and those who inhabit it across four centuries to explore the countless ways in which the past lives on in nature, memory, language and the human heart.

Victory City by Salman Rushdie

A luminous epic that spans a quarter of a millennium and begins in fourteenth-century India where a girl is tasked by a goddess with giving women agency in a patriarchal world.

The Glutton by A. K. Blakemore

In this rich and absorbing tale of depravity, pleasure and class, Blakemore serves up another glorious evocation of the past, as a hungry peasant embarks on a curious crusade in revolutionary France.

Sharpe's Command by Bernard Cornwell

Another unputdownable entry in the mega-selling Sharpe series as Britannia puts her faith in our maverick hero to defend her troops from French forces in early nineteenth-century Spain.

The New Life by Tom Crewe

A tender and powerful tale of passion, progress and personal freedom that re-imagines the lives of the two men who published the first English medical textbook on homosexuality, Crewe’s beautiful novel is filled with nuance and forensic insight into love.

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff

A tour de force of historical storytelling, as a fleeing servant girl finds herself adrift in a world she can scarcely comprehend.

The Armour of Light - The Kingsbridge Novels by Ken Follett

A sweeping story of industrial unrest, oppressive government and the spectre of revolution in the tinderbox of the late eighteenth century

Wolves of Winter - Essex Dogs by Dan Jones

The siege of Calais and pirate ships spell new dangers for the Essex Dogs as the Hundred Years' War rages on in the second part of the gripping trilogy from the popular historian and broadcaster.

Atalanta by Jennifer Saint

The bestselling author of Ariadne and Elektra brings the formidable Atalanta and her adventures amidst the Argonauts to vivid life in another sweeping re-imagining of Greek myth.

Weyward by Emilia Hart

A woman fleeing an abusive relationship heads for Weyward Cottage and makes a startling discovery about her ancestors in this bewitching debut perfect for fans of Bridget Collins.

Well, there you go. The first ten and to my shame I have to say I have not read any of them!

Mystery v historical romance

 I recently finished  my first attempt at a murder mystery.  I have to say it was far harder than writing historical romances. Perhaps "...