Category Archives: a writer’s life

Risk and Rewards of Re-reading Fiction

Old library with pile of books and vintage alarm clock on top of them on a desk.This last few weeks, I’ve really been experiencing the risks and rewards of re-reading fiction. As regular readers of this blog will know, I am deep in Project De-cluttering.  This is long overdue and requires me to find room on my bookshelves to put many, many books that are currently sitting in piles on tables, desk, clavichord and, I’m afraid, even the floor.

Find room on bookshelves? Easier said than done.

Part of the solution has been to install a new set of shelves on a small wall space in my newly refurbished spare room. (The refurbishment was responsible for starting Project De-cluttering, to be honest. Pure desperation.)

So far, I’ve cleared the spare room of books-on-the-floor and books-on-the-blanket-box and bedside table. It turns out that the new shelves offer the perfect space to gather my ultimate classics from a lifetime of reading romantic novels.

But deciding which books get a place Is a major problem. Ideally many books will need re-reading and I am much too willing to slip into a beloved fictional world and forget – well, everything. Continue reading

Reverted Books and Digital Publishing

Secondhand Books

I have been a published author for thirty-two years. I’ve had bestseller stickers at Amazon and won a number of awards. It’s been a great career.

Sadly, though, my publisher’s business plan was to put up a book for a month and then it was gone. If a reader wanted to find a copy, they had to hunt it down in a library or look on secondhand bookshelves.

Then a publishing revolution occurred with the arrival of digital publishing and suddenly it was all about the eBook. Continue reading

Saying Goodbye to Too Many Books : Culling Hurts

A mountain of books, some flying off into the air.This last few weeks has been traumatic for me — I have been saying goodbye to too many books. Culling hurts.

The immediate cause has been simply building work. All the books from one room have been under a tarpaulin for the duration. Now the builders have gone, the room itself gleams with fresh paint, clean carpets and a new en suite shower and loo.

3 hard-backed books bound in blue. held together with twine. On top of them is a cup and saucer, bearing a red heart logo and holding a bunch of blue forget-me-knots The books, however, are higgledy piggledy and covered with dust. Much of that, I have to admit, both dust and disorder, settled in long before the building work started.

And that leads me on to  the deep-seated long term cause. Both darker and more complicated, it involves memories, energy levels and some serious avoidance issues. And a neurotic cat. Continue reading

Noir at the Bar : crime, alcohol, the ideal mixture?

Noir at the Bar, I’m told, first appeared in Philadelphia in 2008.

The full story is here.

Brits, not slow to adopt anything that takes place over a drink in a pub, quickly caught on. It’s now a popular pastime for crime and mystery writers all over the UK.

Crawley Festival of Words

Elly Griffiths, Barbara Nadel and Derek Farrell at Crawley Festival of WordsCrawley, my nearest big town, has a month-long Festival of Words in March and it includes a very popular crime weekend.

There was a crime panel hosted by Derek Farrell – author of the Danny Bird Mysteries — who was talking to Elly Griffiths and Barbara Nadel.  Caroline Green gave a workshop on writing “killer characters”. Spooky readings were the Saturday night treat in the ancient cloisters. The culmination of the weekend was Noir at the Bar, held in an oak-beamed pub called the Old Punch Bowl.

Was I nervous?

Crawley Crime Weekend ProgrammeWhen I received an invitation to appear at Noir at the Bar and read from one of my own books, I leapt at the chance. Who wouldn’t? I’m new to this genre and I need the exposure as a “crime” writer. The terror, the why-did-I-say-I’d-do-this regret would come later…

I’m applying the same technique to a couple of gigs I’ve signed up for at CRIMEfest next month. I have never moderated a panel before, but they say that doing something that scares you is a good thing… Continue reading

The Romantic Novel of the Year Awards 2024

Celebrations for the RNA Awards 2024

This week, the Romantic Novelists’ Association announced their shortlists for the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards 2024

…which means I can now share the news that The Night She Met the Duke is a finalist in the Historical Romantic Novel category. Woohoo!

And it’s not just me: there are any number of familiar names amongst the finalists, this year, including Louise Allen and Kate Hardy   I am in illustrious company!

Wow. Just…wow

There I was, minding my own business one evening when my phone pinged. It was an email from the Romantic Novelists’ Association, informing me that I am a finalist in the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards 2024: Historical Romantic Novel category.

For those who might not know…

Continue reading

Spring means Yellow Daffodils. Or does it?

Daffodils in Liz's gardenOn Friday 5th April, driving to Monmouth for a Society of Authors’ meeting, I was ambushed by yellow daffodils. Everywhere. But then, Monmouth IS in Wales and the daffodil is the flower of Wales.

However, the ones shown right were in Liz’s garden. Thank you for the pic, Liz. They’re lovely.

As you drive down the A40 dual carriageway from Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth, there are daffodils, thousands of them, on the verges. In places, the central reservation is both wide and steep—we are blessed (?) with loads of hills round here—and even those vast banks are covered in yellow daffodils.

Be quick if you want to see them, though.
They’re starting to go over, especially where they’re in full sun.
Sun? Wot’s sun, I hear you cry? We only have rain 🙁 True. More on that later.

Yellow and only yellow?

Continue reading

Lord Byron : what I didn’t know about the man

A few years back I took part in an event at this venue –

Rochdale Town Hall 1909

Okay, not quite that long, perhaps. This is a postcard of Rochdale Town Hall from 1909 and I was there in 2012. However the building is still as impressive as it was at the turn of the 20th century. It has recently undergone a massive restoration project and is well worth a visit, if you are ever in the area.

So why was I there?

I was taking part in a celebration for this man on his 224th birthday.

Lord Byron

It’s Byron. Of course. He was 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale, in case you were wondering about the connection. Continue reading

Clothes and character : does fashion matter?

Blogging Inspiration and Regency clothes

AI generated picture of three cats dressed in historical costume.

AI generated image by GrumpyBeere at Pixabay

Joanna recently blogged about blogging, and where we could find inspiration. All very helpful but I envy the fact that, as an historical novelist, she has photographs to share from costume exhibits at the museums she has visited.

Lovely dresses, shoes, uniforms as well as what her characters wore beneath them. So much fascinating detail to write about.

Regency fashion is such an important part of the pleasure in reading books set in an era when clothes and character are inextricably linked.

As someone who has always written contemporary novels – and with a very low personal fashion threshold – I tend to find dressing my characters a bit of a challenge. Continue reading

For the love of owls : Sophie Weston reprise

owls,. Little owlDear Readers: Sophie is currently hors de combat with a broken arm so we’re republishing one of her inspiring nature blogs: this one is about owls (from 2019). Enjoy.

First 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

Divided by a common language? Britspeak vs USspeak

divided by a common language, half and half apple“Divided by a common language” was, I thought, something that Churchill (more from him below) said in relation to the UK and the USA. Checking, I found I was wrong. It was George Bernard Shaw, echoing Oscar Wilde. Never mind who said it. This week, I’ve been finding out how right it is.

It happened like this…

I had submitted a contemporary urban fantasy novel to a New York publisher. The editor came back asking for the full MS. (Cheering in Maitland Manor, natch.) But this publisher specifically asked that all submissions be in US spelling. That made me think.

question markWhat if the US editor doesn’t understand my Brit language? After all, my MS had pavements and lifts instead of sidewalks and elevators. I decided I’d go through the MS and change all the offending words and phrases from British English (BrE) to American (AmE). Wouldn’t take long, I thought.

Er, no. Continue reading