I am writing this on Halloween. The shops are full of pumpkins and strangely wrapped sweets to give to trick or treaters..
Some of my neighbours’ houses have spooky decorations and carved pumpkins on the doorstep. They look like macabre heads. (The pumpkins, that is. Not the neighbours. Obviously.) It’s all very jolly in a perverse way.
It is a lovely feeling, a clean sheet with so many possibilities. New story, new characters, new settings. It’s the time I can let myself dream as I begin weaving the story.
That is the point I am at now.
I have an idea for the book and the settings will be Regency London and mainly (probably) at my hero’s country house. And it is summer.
I first began thinking about this idea in September, when my current work in progress was coming to an end. Now I wonder if I chose a summer setting because the seasons were changing? Maybe I was hoping to hang on to those hot days and balmy summer nights. But I shall be writing the story throughout the winter: bare landscapes, long nights, icy days.
It shouldn’t be a problem, I am a writer, aren’t I?
Writing Christmas Reunion in Pariswas a curious mixture of fun and anxiety. Maybe it’s always like that. There are always tough moments when you can’t see an ending, when you sit and stare at the screen and the words won’t come. But, mostly, like childbirth, you forget the agonies when all is delivered safely.
It all started when my editor asked if I’d like to write the first book in a three book mini-series – Christmas at the Harrington Park Hotel. My fellow authors, Kandy Shepherd (in Australia) and Susan Meier (in the US) were old friends. I was delighted to team up with them to work on the books that were about three siblings, each with their own painful past.
Emails flew back and forth as we worked on settings. The boarding school that James (my character) and his twin Sally had attended. The Harrington Park Hotel. The backstory of their parents, a stepfather, the moments that fractured a once happy family.
That was the fun part!
Paris…we’ve done that…
My story takes place in Paris, in the run up to the holiday, so I grabbed the chance to go and do a little research which I wrote about a few months ago.
This is the time of year when school children up and down the land are required to produce an essay, project or even, God help us, art homework on the subject of What I Did On My Holiday.
They are supposed to have had some wonderful new experience to share with their grateful class mates. At least, I suppose that’s the idea.
Might be a bit of a damp squib this year, I’d say. For a lot of people, anyway. But for some of us it was always torture.
Not necessarily because you’d had a bad holiday, either. Just because of the impossibility of a) selection and b) giving enough context without boring the pants off your class mates. Ten-year-olds make a tough audience. I speak from experience.
What I Did on My Holiday at Christmas
At my primary school one year we got the assignment when we went back in January as well. (My mother blamed the teacher’s Christmas-through-New Year hangover. Though she didn’t tell me that until after my 21st birthday.)
“On a gloomy March afternoon, sitting in the same high school classroom she’d been sitting in for thirteen years, gritting her teeth as she told her significant other for the seventy-second time since they’d met that she’d be home at six because it was Wednesday and she was always home on six on Wednesdays, Quinn McKenzie lifted her eyes from the watercolour assignments on the desk in front of her and met her destiny.”
Jennifer Crusie is famous for putting wonderful dogs in her books and this is no exception. Quinn’s destiny is a small black dog with desperate eyes and he isn’t a prop, a cute accessory for her heroine. He gets the opening line in Crazy For You, because he’s about to change her life.
Animals in books? Dogs, more dogs and a duckling or two
Georgette Heyer, seen here with her dog, was another author who used dogs, kittens, even ducklings to delight us. In a long scene in The Grand Sophy the ducklings escape, are recaptured and generally cause chaos.
Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay
Venetia‘s Flurry flew to her rescue when, shockingly, Damerel kissed her. Unfortunately Flurry desisted the moment he was commanded to “sit”, recognising a master when he heard one. But he was enough of a distraction for Venetia to extract herself. Once she’d done that, she was more than a match for the man!
And Ulysses, the disreputable mongrel Arabella foisted on Beaumaris, is a joy.
Back in 2019, the Libertà Hive met over supper and the odd glass 😉 to plot the future. We decided to write a Libertà Beach Reads anthology for summer 2020.
We didn’t know back then, of course, that beaches might be off-limits for a bit. But there’s no ban on beach reads. Writing them—and reading them, too—can be great fun.
As the evening wore on, amid much laughter and scraping of plates, we discovered the joys of Little Piddling, its history, its inhabitants… We also discovered some of the skeletons in our seaside town’s metaphorical cupboards (aka beach huts).
Beach Read challenge
We challenged each other to write the sort of stories we’d never attempted before. And we’ve all really enjoyed meeting those challenges. We even roped in two long-term friends of the hive, authors Louise Allen and Lesley Cookman.
was it really less than 3 months ago that we were in London, elbow-bumping at the RNA Awards? And cheering for Jenni Fletcher, winner of the Betty Neels Rose Bowl and the Libertà Books Award for the Shorter Romantic Novel?
Seems more like a lifetime, doesn’t it?
However, to cheer us up, and remind us that life really does go on, even in lockdown, we welcome Jenni to our blog this weekend.
Jenni is actually another Scot (yes!) from Aberdeenshire, though she now lives in Yorkshire with her family. She has published nine historical romances with Mills & Boon, ranging from the Roman to Victorian eras, and is currently finishing her thirteenth. She says that when she’s not reading or writing, she likes baking, eating the results of baking and cycling.
Judging from that willowy figure, she must do a lot of cycling 😉
Welcome to Libertà, Jenni, and congratulations again on your win. Over to you…
Jenni Fletcher remembers and reflects
A magic night…
The RNA Awards in March seem a really long time ago now. It was a wonderful night.
I was honoured when Libertà books invited me to write a guest blog, but at the time I was feeling a little too anxious to write anything upbeat.
Obviously a lot has changed for all of us since then. We’ve all had to adapt and find a new kind of normal.
For me, trying to write alongside homeschooling has been the biggest change of all, but it’s led to some positives, too. Continue reading →