Category Archives: writing

Sarah Mallory on creating your fictional new world

A Whole New World?

Creating a whole new world is one of the things I love about starting a new book.

the mappa mundi, a whole new world

The Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral

I love that moment when a story is forming in my head. The whole world is my oyster.

And yes, I admit food and wine are often involved in the initial creation process….

The past few weeks while I have been working on my new book have been particularly fascinating. It always involves lots of daydreaming as I think of plots and characters, but one of the most enjoyable parts of starting a new story is the setting.

When and where will my characters live in this new world?

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Buckingham Palace Garden : trees, family, courage

Buckingham Palace, garden front

Garden front, photograph by Elizabeth Hawksley

This week I had a great treat. I visited Buckingham Palace Gardens. For the first time they are open for members of the  public to explore on a so-called “self-guided tour”.

The idea has been so successful that demand for tickets outstripped supply. So there are now additional ticket for dates throughout July to September.

Indeed, it looks as if even the newly released  tickets have already sold out. But they urge you to check back for possible cancellations. Given the uncertainty of British Weather – that great Cleopatra, as Charles Lamb called it – I should think there may be plenty

Two go to Buckingham Palace

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Is your book dated? A writer’s cautionary tale

In the beginning…

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Many years ago, around about my fourth book, I created a town called Maybridge. It was an amalgam of the town I grew up in and a much larger town a few miles away.

Since then, it has provided the background for many stories. It may be no more than a brief visit by the hero or heroine. A shopping trip, a visit to the bank manager, a visit to A&E.

In a couple of books the heroine lives there, and we see her set off on an adventure that will change her life.

Image by Trang Dang from Pixabay

Sometimes I set a story in the town and, over the years, I have created a world with a river (the River May), a thriving foodie area with independent shops, a huge old coaching inn that has become a great craft centre (owned by one of my heroes, naturally), parks, major companies and history.

World Building

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Cutting while keeping your voice? Tips and trials

long line of duplicated bollards; need cutting?I’m currently finishing a first draft. And it’s too long. Much too long. It needs lots of cutting.

And therein lies a dilemma.

My first draft is definitely my voice, with all its good and bad points. One of my bad points is repetition. Duplication. Saying the same thing over and over again, but in different words.

ball and chain labelled sin; the sin needs cuttingDid you notice what I did there?
Yes, bad point number one to the fore.
Also in the first para of this post (sigh).

Problem is that, if ⁄ when I start cutting out the sin of duplication, I also risk changing the authorial voice so that it isn’t mine any more.

Oh dear.

Cutting habit words?

I can, of course, make cuts by removing my habit words and phrases.
Of which of course is one. I blogged about that a while ago. old habits to newBut, to be honest, removing habit words doesn’t reduce the overall word count by much. And I need to cut thousands of the blighters. So something more drastic is required. Continue reading

Punctuation and a New Challenge

owls, Little owlThe week before last I spent a blissful holiday in Dorset as a birdwatcher’s companion. We went on long walks in sea air and generally marvelled at the countryside. It was in full fig and glorious.

The Birdwatcher saw a couple of birds he didn’t expect, as well as one genuine rarity. And I spent a couple of hours communing with a Little Owl. It sat so still I worried that it was a stuffed toy. The Amiable Birdwatcher agreed that it might be a decoy to attract owls to that quarry as a des res, so took us back to check. And then, Sleepy Sam came out of his stupor to pursue a fly up one level on the rock face. So  after that, I stayed and watched him doze.

Punctuation – the Reckless Volunteer

writing energy magic, book, bluebell woodThe peace and quiet was very necessary. This last week I have been wrestling with new and exciting challenges. For I am to deliver an online course on punctuation next month and I have never done such a thing before. The online course, I mean.

Punctuation I had covered – or thought I did, anyway. Continue reading

Miss Pym and the Slough of Despond


I seem to have been circling round the novelist Barbara Pym most of my writing life. A friendly librarian steered me towards her books when I was still at school. By then I knew that, one way or another, I was going to write fiction as long as I lived.

“You will enjoy Miss Pym,” said the librarian. “All writers do.”

First Encounter With Miss Pym

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Flying Into the Mist

Autumn mist in LondonWhen I started writing stories, I always set off flying into the mist. Well, I was very young. Often – no make that always, at least to begin with – I ran out of steam. Can’t tell you how many snippets of unwritten novels I have in my filing system.

One of the things I have been doing during lockdown is reading my way through them. 

It was part of my general de-cluttering objective. And no, that hasn’t got very far at all, if you’re wondering. To be honest, I have binned very little yet.

Partly, this is because of how long it has taken me.

Stories Flying Into the Mist

I got back into the stories pretty quickly, to my surprise. Even more surprisingly, I remembered pretty nearly every one. Continue reading

A Close Shave (or the gentle art of Pogonomotomy)

  1. Cover Design and the Self-published Author
  2. An International Cover Story
  3. Designer Brief from Self-Publisher
  4. The mental image of a character : the influence of covers
  5. Female images : the message on romance covers?
  6. Designer Stubble: the Bane of Regency Book Covers
  7. Making Covers Work for You, the Author
  8. Covers: should images be historically accurate?
  9. A Close Shave (or the gentle art of Pogonomotomy)
  10. Series Covers : but what says Series Covers to readers?

Life is getting difficult for writers of Georgian and Regency romance

Shave? Our Regency heroes have traditionally been clean shaven. In fact a quick flick through Mills & Boon’s book of cover designs, The Art of Romance, has  only one cover with any facial hair on a man. It is a small, neat  moustache. I confess I haven’t read the book, but I am not convinced that he is the hero. However, a quick look in any street or on social media will tell you that beards are now becoming fashionable. Designer stubble is already creeping in, will full beards follow?cartoon shave for a penny

My latest Harlequin/Mills & Boon release is set in the Highlands in 1746, so I think we can get away with a small amount of facial hair…

but how about designer stubble? It is definitely considered sexy now, isn’t it?

Bridgerton character without a shaveIt  certainly  didn’t  put  off the  fans  of  Bridgerton!

To be fair, stubble isn’t as inappropriate as we might think, in some circumstances. Read on….. Continue reading

Springing into Summer, Today, Tomorrow, One Day Soon?

Today the Libertà hive are in celebratory mood, springing towards summer by relaunching our collection of novellas, Beach Hut Surprise.

In spring, says the poet, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. (Actually it was Tennyson in Locksley Hall, written when he was twenty-five and presumably knew what he was talking about. At least in the Young Man Department anyway.)

This spring, after a grim year of Covid 19 and at least three lockdowns, most of us, even the least romantic, are starting to think of Getting Out A Bit. It gives us hope. Continue reading

Non-Holidays : What I Didn’t Do on My Holidays

man holding no entry sign in front of faceHolidays? Wot holidays?
Just non-holidays, actually.

Towards the end of last year, Sophie blogged on the perennial school essay topic of What I Did On My Holidays. With Easter coming up soon, I’ve been thinking about holidays too. And I’ve realised how much I’ve missed over the last year of more or less permanent lockdown.
You might be feeling equally stir-crazy?

I haven’t been away from home for a year. But I should have been. I had holidays and trips booked. They had to be postponed or cancelled. So I’m going to muse on might-have-beens. Non-holidays, if you like.

After all, we writers use our imaginations all the time.
So why not holiday that way?

Lake District Non-Holidays (of the working variety)

Lake District in overcast weather. Non-holiday destination

Imagine walking down that beautiful hillside towards the water, smelling the freshness of the trees and feeling the breeze on your face. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to do that? Continue reading