Nourishment for the Soul (but no escaping literature)

Today I am calm, relaxed. I wanted to share that with you.

The reason?

I have just returned from a few days touring the Highlands. The North Coast 500 to be exact. And what has this to do with writing, you may ask? Well, it does us all good to get away from the desk occasionally, to be inspired by new locations, different ways of life.

Nourishment for the soul

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Location, location, location…

The brief…

location for bucket-list bridesLast year I received an invitation from three authors I know and whose books I love – Donna Alward, Nina Singh and Barbara Wallace – to complete the quartet to write a mini series called “Bucket List Brides”.

Four young women, attending a charity auction, bid on an adventure. What happened to them after that was entirely up to each author.

The auction…

Tnantucket island location with sunsethe auction was to take place at the Merchant Resort, a fabulous hotel resort complex on Nantucket Island.

I needed a suitably gorgeous resort location, a beach and the kind of cottage that an islander family could have lived in forever. It was time for a little online research. I disappeared down the Pinterest rabbit hole for more time than was strictly necessary and followed #nantucketisland on Instagram. But that wasn’t the beginning of the story. This is the beach – with the necessary sunset – where it all began.

This is play time. The best part of writing – apart from the moment you sit back and know the book is finished – and a visit to that island location is now very high on my own bucket list! Continue reading

Author’s Shadow

Twelfth Night mask I deliberately called this blog “Author Shadow” rather than “Author Discovered” because its subject is not new to me nor, even now, wholly understood.

Sometimes an author grabs you. You know nothing about them. You don’t know why. Yet they speak to you as if you know them – or they know you.

In some ways this author has been walking beside me, in the shadows as it were, nearly all my life. Yet, just occasionally over the years, lightning has flashed and for a tiny moment my mystery lady has been almost revealed. Continue reading

Incoherent English : a Pedantique-Ryter Rant

Incoherent English? Yes, another bee in the Pedantique-Ryter bonnet.

Radio 4 Today programme in the dock for incoherent speech

industrious bee on flowerIn a short interval between my summer educational tours, I happened to be listening to what the pundits maintain is the UK’s “must-listen” political programme — BBC Radio 4’s Today. I heard an interviewer ask a question that was incoherent.

To save that interviewer’s blushes, I shall not repeat the actual words used. The question was roughly along these lines:

“As a supporter of the Rational Incoherence Party, I’m sure our listeners will want to know whether you would support policy X.”

Question: who is the supporter of the RIP?
[Note: As far as I know, no political party admits to that name. Perhaps one of them should?] Continue reading

Learning to Write

For some while now I have been thinking about the ways we novelists learn to write. Then three conversations recently presented the issue to me in quite individual and thought provoking ways. And I am missing the chance to discuss it with friends and fellow authors. Missing it badly, if I’m  honest.

For this is the season that the Romantic Novelists Associationholds its annual conference as I write. And I am missing the panels, the talks, the workshops – not to mention the kitchen chats and the goody bags. So  all the stuff that I regularly count on to raise my industry knowledge, various writing skills and sheer enthusiasm is happening. Only. I. Am Not There.

So this blog is a sort of wish fulfilment. Were I at the Conference, I would be hunkering down in a kitchen with like minds and a decent bottle or two and… Well, you get the picture. Continue reading

Writing Energy Renewed

Writing energyRecently, I learned some things about my writing energy which seemed to have reached an all time low.

They surprised me. So I thought that some other writers might find my experience helpful. Or at least interesting,

writing energy magic, book, bluebell wood

As many readers know, I sometimes go off into the countryside as a Birdwatcher’s Companion. He’s a great chap to walk the hills with, knowledgeable and generous when I ask about plants and wildlife

But he’s also happy for me to go off into my own little fantasy world, if that’s where the mood takes me.

I really love going into sometimes quite Writing Energy early morning walkremote and even lonely places. For there is always the Back-Up Person with the Binoculars, on hand in case I fall down a rabbit hole.

No matter how tired I am when we start, it seems that I always come back with my writing energy renewed and a spring in my step. 

Writing Energy Lost

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Read aloud : an author’s critical editing tool?

Read aloud: as writing tutors advise

Almost every writing tutor — including Sophie and Joanna of this parish — will tell aspiring writers that it’s a really good idea to read aloud during the editing process, in order to judge whether the manuscript needs more work. Basically, if you fall over your prose while trying to read it aloud, you haven’t got it right. Yet.

Apparently, we and all the other tutors are guilty of logocentrism. (Is that another of those incomprehensible words that Dame Isadora was ranting about, a few weeks ago? Maybe, but I haven’t been able to ask her, because she’s off in one of the wilder parts of the world, advising some government panjandrums about communication skills. I imagine her audience is still reeling…)

Logocentrism — wot?

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Cakes, Crooks and Fallen Women. Controlling Characters?

So. It is Almost Out (just like one of Heyer’s hopeful young ladies of the Regency). The Highborn Housekeeper. My book about a noblewoman turned cook. A kind of Regency Nigella.
And funnily enough, my heroine resembles her, too. In my head.

Picture by Brian Minkoff-London Pixels

Controlling Fallen Women?The Ton's Most Notorious Rake by Sarah Mallory

A few years ago I wrote about the fallen women of Compton Parva. (That was my working title. It was published by Harlequin/Mills & Boon as The Ton’s Most Notorious Rake.)

One of the “fallen women” was Nancy, the big-hearted, big-bosomed earl’s daughter who was the mother hen of the group, looking after everyone.

Controlling Nancy? She was far too large a personality to be confined to a bit part in one book.
I fought it, I truly did, but no. She would NOT lie down. Continue reading

For the Love of Owls

owls,. Little owlFirst you should know: I love owls. When I was at college, I lived for a time in a cottage opposite a field. We had a visiting Little Owl. I first encountered it when I came home at dusk to find Something sitting on the stone wall that surrounded our garden. I thought a child had dropped a stuffed toy and I reached to retrieve it. Until it OPENED ITS EYES.

It was a Little Owl. And they are really small, as you see. 1.5 bricks tall, max. But the message was direct, unmistakeable and compelling: DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.

I’ve been a huge fan of owls ever since. Continue reading

Explicit Sex in Romances : how often, how necessary?

woman in bed uncorks exploding champagne, metaphor for explicit sexExplicit Sex in Romances: none, lots, somewhere in between?

Explicit sex in romances is a complete turn-off for some readers. They like the bedroom door firmly closed and refuse to read any romances where it is not. That, of course, is absolutely their choice. And I have written some romances that, in my opinion, worked very well without sex scenes. Indeed, one of them — Rake’s Reward — has been called “fizzing with sex” even though it contains no explicit sex at all.

But, equally, I’ve written romances with a lot of explicit sex on the page, even though that is bound to have lost me some potential readers.

So, are there any guidelines for authors here? Continue reading