Category Archives: writing craft

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

Bristol research: Cricket, Cary Grant, Banksy…and Dracula?

It’s not often Cricket, Cary Grant and Dracula come up in the same conversation. Oh, and Banksy. But they do here, following my Bristol research trip.

Why Bristol research?

Bristol research curved terrace

Why not? It’s my home town so a research trip really appealed! It’s the city where I spent the first decades of my life. I am currently writing a book, set in the Regency, with scenes around the docks and in what was then South Gloucestershire, now just outside the city centre…

But more about the book at a later date

For today’s blog, I want to share with you my delight in a Bristol research trip where I discovered an area of the city that I only knew by name. Montpelier. Continue reading

Why romance writers turn to crime…

Changing genre to crime

Cover of Murder Among the Roses by Liz FieldingSince I made the major step to turn to crime writing (with just a touch of romance) I’ve noticed how many other romance authors have decided to turn to crime.

In my case, the story that became Murder Among the Roses (which is out in audio later this month) had been at the back of my mind for years. I had written a few thousand words, but had never had time to take a serious look at it. But it never let go. It was always there, a little voice nagging at me to get on with it.

It was lockdown, combined with the end of a publishing contract that did it. I realised that if I didn’t write it then, I never would. That gave me the push to take six months away from romance and go for it.

Crime needs more Characters

Cover of Murder Under the MistletoeIt was a sharp learning curve. Writing crime is a lot more complex than romance, no matter how many twists and turns it takes to get to the happy ending.

You need a lot more characters for one thing or, as I quickly discovered, the murderer is going to be obvious from about chapter two!

And some advice to anyone thinking of starting a series. You need to keep a very clear bible of who they all are, as they appear, and all the places you mention.

But, with the publication of the second of my Maybridge Murder Mysteries – Murder Under the Mistletoe – this week, I decided to ask a few other authors why they had been drawn to the crime genre. Continue reading

The joy of lists for writers (and for normal people too)

The to-do list

lists of listsThis weekend, with the revisions for my second crime novel on my editor’s desk rather than on mine, I spent the weekend working through lists: essentially my “to do list”, catching up on housework, the ironing and reading a “treat” book.

They were on my mental list of things to do and, mentally, I ticked them off.

One of the things I did, once the heavy lifting was done, was sit down with a cup of tea. The radio was on – I love the radio – and Weekend Woman’s Hour was playing.

shopping list

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Lucy Ireland Gray was talking about the 200 discarded shopping lists that she’d collected from shopping trolleys (we’ve all seen those) and picked up from the ground. They went on display at the Museum of London Brands, in Notting Hill. 

One of her friends was horrified that one of the lists might be hers. Not so much worried that her shopping list would betray her inner secrets, but that it would out her as a litter lout. 

Why do we make lists?

Continue reading

Deadlines, Distractions and Displacement Activities

There I was, trying to find something to blog about, but my head waswriters staring into space, distractions too full of deadlines and other distractions. It’s difficult finding time to write the darned book, let alone anything else.

Then inspiration struck. I am a published author. I have been writing to a deadline for decades. What on earth is my problem? So I decided to share some of the tricks that have helped me over the years.

Words from the wise?

Well, maybe. These are things that have helped me avoid distractions: some are tips from fellow writers, but they come from other sources, too. It’s a little tongue in cheek, perhaps, and it’s tips that helped me most when I was a working mother. Not all of it will work for you, but it helps to clarify the mind (or at least, it does mine).

Let me start with a quote:

Continue reading

Plotting the perfect crime…

Switching Genres…

Image by Davie Bicker from Pixabay

I’ve been a published romance writer for more than thirty years now. That’s seventy books for Harlequin Mills and Boon and a few more for other publishers.

I was in a groove – some people might call it a comfortable rut – but I was producing books that enough people loved to keep me in contract and an advance and royalties coming in.

It’s hard to give up that up just because you’ve had a story in your head for a very long time that refuses to go away.

When you’ve had that security for thirty years, to write a book in a totally different genre — crime — on spec, with no publisher, no advance or promise of publication is like stepping off a cliff.

Sink or swim?

Image by J Garget from Pixabay

Maybe it was lockdown, the sense that life was out of control and might never be the same again. The sense that if I didn’t do it now, then when? That if I didn’t take the risk, would I go to my grave regretting that I didn’t have the courage, or the self-belief that had the “do it now” bells ringing.

I’d delivered the last of the books on my current contract. I could take six months out for a passion project – I knew the story – inspired by a documentary I’d seen. I had my victim, I had my murderer, I had my “sleuth”.

I’d lived with them in my head for a long time. I could give them six months of my life.

The Beginning…

Continue reading

Formatting Back Matter : hints for Independent Publishers

fanfare of trumpetsBack matter is where the independent publisher can blow their own trumpet. It’s a great PR opportunity for an author to get readers involved and, crucially, buying more of the author’s books. So it’s worth doing it as well as you possibly can.

Back matter is probably the second-last thing an author needs to do before uploading her ebook. (The last thing is to update the Table of Contents.) Before doing back matter, you should have done all in the following list (click to see my previous blogs on how to do them):

What should be in back matter?

Back matter is very much at the discretion of the author but the following are often included: Continue reading

I’ve got a little list for when I’ve finished the book

When I say I’ve got a little list, it’s growing longer by the day.

Obviously, I always have lists of things I have to do – last month it included “Pay My Tax”, but also check my Public Lending Right statement, to see how much I’ve earned from the wonderful people who borrow my books from libraries.

Times are tough. Your library is a free resource and they’re under threat everywhere, so do make the most of them.

Public Lending Right for those who have never heard of it – and if you’re not a writer, why would you? – was spearheaded by the Society of Authors, an organisation that offers advice to, and lobbies for the interests of authors.

If you’re an author but not a member, Writer Beware gives information about scam merchants who try to rip off authors with fake competitions and dodgy publishers – the people who ask you to pay vast sums of money to publish your book and, having pocketed it, do nothing to sell it. Check them out before you sign a contract.

But back to my list

Continue reading

Formatting Table of Contents: for independent publishers

woman tearing hairThe Table of Contents (TOC) has led to much hair-tearing by self-published authors, me included. That’s partly because it should be clickable so that the reader can go to, say, Chapter 4, with a single mouse click or touch on the screen.

Why is a clickable TOC necessary?

Because ebooks are not as easy to handle as traditional print books. With print, it’s a doddle to hop back a few chapters or pages to check on something you want to know. With ebooks, not so much. So it’s a very good idea to give readers a table of contents that they can click in order to move between chapters.

Clearly a TOC is essential for non-fiction. Some authors maintain that it’s not necessary for fiction. I disagree. I think all fiction ebooks should include a clickable TOC. And note that Amazon agrees. Amazon KDP have been known to reject an uploaded MS if it doesn’t have a TOC. The KDP instructions say that a clickable TOC should be included.KDP intro to Table of Contents

So this blog is about how you ensure that your MS includes the clickable TOC that Amazon (and readers) want. Continue reading