Failure to Plan

My other half, who has worked for a mega multi-national organisation for more years than is good for him, is fluent in corporate speak. One of his favourites is failure to plan is planning to fail – a little gem about time-management, something which has never been my forte.

My WIP (work in progress) is currently zooming along at high speed but in a very haphazard fashion. This is because I’m a “pantser” – when it comes to writing I fly by the seat of my pants and I make my stories up as I go along – as opposed to a plotter who researches and constructs their novel – chapter by chapter in some cases – before starting.  

A first draft is allowed to be messy, it’s where you write down all your ideas and don’t worry too much about the finer details. However, a plotter will have a plan, while a pantser is constantly going back to join the dots to make their story work.

I can totally understand the need for some prior research if you’re writing a historical novel. I write contemporary fiction and look up my ‘facts’ as I go along. However, not having a cohesive plan does have its drawbacks when it comes to consistency or when a fact no longer fits the plotline. For example, at the very start of my WIP my heroine is attending an event which could only take place in the summer.  Several chapters in I mention something that implies we are in winter – so now I either have to find an alternative event or put her in the southern hemisphere to solve the problem of what she is doing, but there again she has to nip back to the UK pretty swiftly to deal with the initial point of change – the dilemma which sets the story off – so I have to delete the wintery weather, which then has other implications as the story progresses….

Of course a plotter would have little details like this sorted – they’d have a calendar, a timeline and full character profiles and CVs. They’d know exactly what their character was up to and where and when she was doing it.

However, I like watching my characters develop. My current hero has mesmerised my heroine but to be honest he hasn’t mesmerised me yet, therefore he needs more bulk to his personality; he has do something that will have the reader rooting for him. Looking good is not enough; my hero need more than finely chiselled features and few rippling muscles (although that does help). Therefore a fact he has kept hidden about himself until a later chapter will now need to come out sooner to evoke a little sympathy. So back I go again…

At the moment I am going back more than I am going forward, but that’s ok.  I’m more than a third of the way through the book now and I think my idea has legs so it’s worth perserving to see how far it’ll run.

Both hero and heroine have changed names, as have several minor characters. You can’t have too many names that begin with the same letter; sometimes a name that seems to fit at the start, no longer seems appropriate. Nationalities and occupations have changed. The sub-plot which kicked the book off has fallen a little by the wayside and will have to be brought back to the forefront  before the reader forgets all about it, and the secondary plot is  vital, not just to keep the reader engaged during a lull in the main action, but because I want the two separate storylines to come together at the end.  See I have done a bit of planning – even if it’s just in my head. I do know how this book will end – or at least I think I do…

So being a pantser keeps the story fluid and organic. My characters drive the story forward and although leap-frogging backwards and forwards to drop in clues as the story progresses might seem like a less constructive use of time, not having a set plan makes writing fun and unpredictable! I’m just as much in the dark as to what my characters are going to get up to next as I hope my readers will be. A heart attack? I didn’t see that one coming but it so works…

Comfort Reading with Angela Wren

In France, 1 April is known as Poisson d’Avril and according to the internet (so it may not be true at all) the idea of playing jokes on friends and family evolved from the tradition of giving the gift of fish at the end of Lent. So in keeping with the French theme, albeit very tenuously, I’m delighted to welcome self-confessed Francophile Angela Wren to my blog this week to discuss her favourite comfort reads.

Hi Rosie and thanks for inviting me to your blog today.  I know it’s April Fool’s Day today, but my book choices are genuine despite the title of the first one!

Peacock Pie by Walter de la Mare – This book, published in 1946, wasn’t bought for, or by, me.  But it has been in the family home ever since I can remember.  I love it because some of my earliest experiences on stage are wrapped up in it.  As I flicked through the pages when I picked it off my shelf, I had to stop at ‘Silver’.  Before I’d even looked at the page properly I found myself reciting the first stanza :

Slowly, silently, now the moon

Walks the night in her silver shoon;

This way, and that, she peers, and sees

Silver fruit upon silver trees…

I was surprised that I could still remember the lines.  I was 6 when I first recited it for a poetry speaking competition and took 3rd prize.  Later I had to learn ‘The Bees’ Song’ and a couple of years after that, ‘The Listeners’.  It reminds me of the unencumbered bliss of being a child

Island-Nights’ Entertainments by Robert Louis Stevenson – I discovered this little gem, published in 1907 and leather bound, in a box of books in a junk shop whilst on holiday with my parents.  It cost very little from my holiday money and, once I’d started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.  This and some of the poems I had to learn for Mrs Burns – my speech and drama teacher – probably turned me into the RLS groupie that I am today.   Stevenson has been with me all my life and I have just about everything he wrote, some stories in more than one edition!  I know that, at times of great stress or difficulty, I can pick one of his books from my shelves and become lost for a while in the magic.

The Lost Girl by DH Lawrence– I came across my first copy of this book (the one in the pic is the first edition I bought later) as a twenty-year old.  I can recall reading it on the bus to work, and as I got to the most crucial point in the book, the Inspector demanded to see my ticket.  I just fished out a handful of tickets from my jacket pocket, slapped them in his open hand and went on with my reading.  The tears that had already formed began to cascade down my face but I kept on reading.  Eventually, I realised I was being spoken to, and it dawned on me that the ticket he wanted was the one in my book being used as a bookmark.  I thrust it at him and continued reading.  I did manage to get to the end before I had to get off the bus.  Each time I re-read this story, I see something new in it, but I always cry at that same page.  Have often wondered what the bus Inspector thought, though!

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorn – I studied this book for my English exams at school and was not especially impressed.  I came across this copy in a bookshop in my thirties and decided to read it again.  Realising I had missed so much of the essence of the writing, and the skill of the writer, I started to build a collection of Hawthorn’s books.  I have copies of his adult and children’s books – some of them very fine editions.  It was Hawthorn, I think, that turned me into the true book collector that I am now.  It was also Hawthorn that taught me that a book is for the words and that there will never be enough of them.

The Golden Reign by Clare Sydney Smith – Published in 1949 this little volume charts the life of T. E Lawrence following his return from Arabia until his death in May 1935 whilst serving in the RAF under the pseudonym of T. E. Shaw.  Written by the wife of his commanding officer it charts the friendship that developed between Mrs Clare Sydney-Smith and Lawrence through their letters, her remembered conversations, and some diary entries.  As a memoir it is one of the most fascinating I have ever read and I came across it by accident.  The foreword, written by Lawrence’s mother, states that the title was ‘his own name for the happy time’ he spent with the Sydney-Smiths.  Considering his vilification following his return to the UK, this book presents a picture of a very different man.

Bio

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre.  I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010.  My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.  My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.  I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.  The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Blurb for Montbel (Jacques Forêt Mystery #3)

A clear-cut case? 

A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.

When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques’ case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques papers and shut down the investigation.

Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?

Links

Amazon : AngelaWren

Website : www.angelawren.co.uk

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Twitter : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren

Contact an author : Angela Wren

Thank you very much Angela for taking part and sharing her love of some very classical and historical books.

Comfort Reading – Guest Tom Halford

This week I’m heading across the Atlantic to meet Canadian author Tom Halford. Tom lives in Newfoundland where I suspect the chilly winters provide ample opportunity for comfort reading!

Thanks for having me on your blog, Rosie. I really appreciate it.

When I think of my favourite comfort reads, I always think of the bildungsroman. The bildungsroman is roughly defined as the novel of development, and these types of books usually focus on a younger person coming of age.

Here are my top five comfort reads.

Of Human Bondage W Somerset Maugham

When I started reading this book, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I can remember sitting in my parents’ basement over the Christmas holidays. There was this dusty, smelly red-orange chair that I had stuffed into my bedroom. This was where I befriended Philip Carey, Maugham’s protagonist, who has to come to terms with the fact that he will never become a professional artist. He chooses a more practical path and becomes a doctor. This book had a strange effect on me. Even though the conclusion was ultimately about choosing to be practical, Maugham’s style and character development led me to be even more obsessed with writing novels. I come from a family where almost everyone is a dentist (this sounds like a joke, but it’s true). After reading this book, I knew that had to at least try to be a writer. If I became dentist, I worried that I’d never really be happy.

David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

Where was I when I read this book? I believe I was staying at my parents’ camp while I worked at a nearby campground on Lake George, New Brunswick. This was one book that I didn’t want to end. There are a number of parallels between Philip Carey and David Copperfield.  Both of them lose their mother at a young age. Both meet a host of characters both good and bad. I’m not sure why I was so drawn to these two books. I don’t have much in common with either hero, but they’re both great company, and they were my very good friends for a little while.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, JK Rowling

By the time I read the Harry Potter series, I was finally out of my parents’ house. My wife and I even own our own house now!

 Currently, I end up driving everyone to where they need to be and am in our van for roughly an hour and a half each day. In the fall, I listened to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in the van on a loaned copy from the library. Harry Potter is an incredible main character, and each one of the supporting characters are entertaining in their own way. Hagrid has to be one of the most likeable characters in any novel that I’ve read. I’m a big fan of Rowling as an author for a bunch of different reasons, but I’m stunned as to her ability to write so well in multiple genres. The Cormorant Strike series is another one of my favourite comfort reads, but I’m not including it in this list because it would be difficult to argue that it is a bildungsroman.

The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Samuel Pepys

 On that note, I’m going to argue that The Diary of Samuel Pepys can be considered a bildungsroman. It’s not a novel but a series of diary entries spanning from 1660 to 1669, so I’ll lose the battle in relation to the “roman” of bildungsroman. However, it is a book where the reader gets to see a clear development in Pepys. These developments are not always better for Pepys on a personal level. His relationship with his wife becomes increasingly strained, but he advances considerably in his professional life. So, even in relation to “bildungs”, I’m on shaky ground as well.

I don’t care though. I love Pepys. Of any literary figure, Pepys is the most alive to me. I feel as though I have gone back in time between 1660-1669 and hung out with him. This was at a lonely time for me, before I’d met my wife (yes, I also read The Diary of Samuel Pepys in my parents’ basement), and reading about Pepys’s life was one of my most comforting reads.

Mean Boy, Lynn Coady

 Lynn Coady’s Mean Boy is more of a kunstlerroman (artist novel) than a bildungsroman, but I’m being loose with my definitions here so leave me alone. Of any book in this list, Mean Boy was one where I could closely relate to the narrator. Coady’s novel is set at a small university in Atlantic Canada, and it’s about an English major who is learning that his literary heroes are also fallible human beings. When I discovered Mean Boy, I had finally moved out of my parents’ house to a city about an hour away. I was reaching a point in my life where many bildungsroman end. I was the young, main character leaving the nest. Finding Mean Boy and spending time with the narrator Lawrence Campbell was important to me at the time. I don’t know if I’ve learned as much from any other book.

The comfort that I find in the bildungsroman genre is that the main character usually becomes a friend. I learn about his or her life from a young age, the struggles and the successes. In a way, I feel like Philip Carey, David Copperfield, Harry Potter, Samuel Pepys, and Lawrence Campbell are more than characters; they are good friends who I knew very well for a short period of time.

About Tom

Tom Halford lives with his family in Newfoundland, Canada. His novels are are set in New York State, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. He writes comedy and crime fiction.

He maintains a Twitter page: twitter.com/tomhalfordnove
And he maintains a Youtube account: youtube.com/user/CyrilTrout

Tom’s debut novel Deli Meat is published by Crooked Cat Books and available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Deli-Meat-Tom-Halford-ebook/dp/B07FF5ZDKW/

Thanks to Tom for sharing his choices and an education. The theme of finding friendship amongst characters will resonate with many readers and writers, and ‘Bildungsroman’ is definitely the word of the day!

Comfort Reads – Guest Jennifer Wilson

Today I am joined by historical fiction writer Jennifer Wilson, and there is a definite theme amongst her choices for her top five go-to reads!

Hi Rosie, and thanks for the chance to visit your blog today; it’s been lovely thinking about my five comfort reads, bringing back some great memories too!

The Animals of Mulberry Common, by Hilary Cannock

I know this isn’t the first book I ever read (Puddle Lane or fairy tales probably count somewhere for that), but this book has come with me everywhere I’ve ever lived for some reason. I just cannot let it go. It’s a tiny, pocket-sized book, about, unsurprisingly, the animals which live on the fictional Mulberry Common, and has plenty of action and adventure, as well as a hint of danger in some of the stories. But then, books for children often do have underlying danger, just look at what could happen to Peter Rabbit if Mr McGregor ever did catch him, not to mention the death and destruction throughout the Harry Potter series. I haven’t re-read this for a while, but just knowing it still sits happily on my shelf keeps me smiling.

Bloody Scotland, by Terry Deary

As a child, I adored history, and found the Terry Deary books a brilliant way in to learning about periods of history which simply weren’t covered at school. Being obsessed with Scottish History meant that this was an immediate favourite, and I was thrilled to bits when the author came to my school, and I was able to get my copy signed. It’s since been reissued as just a Horrible Histories Special on Scotland, but frankly, I think this title is more fun!

Despite having read this dozens of times, there are still cartoons and lines which make me laugh out loud, and I did refer to it when I was researching Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, so there’s definitely some solid facts in there, as well as the humour.

The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory

I love this book. The writing is brilliant, and I think the fact that Philippa Gregory is able to make you believe (spoiler alert) that Anne Boleyn might just be about to be saved, and sent to a distant convent, and not executed after all. I was given a copy to read by a colleague, despite not being interested in the Tudors at all, because she was convinced I would enjoy it. She was right. I devoured it in a matter of days, and that was it; I was hooked on the Tudors. As a result, I began reading as much fiction and non-fiction as I could (see below), and became absolutely obsessed with the era. Once I’d read a lot about the Tudors, I decided I didn’t want to move ‘forward’ in time, to the Stuarts, and decided to go ‘backwards’ instead, and that’s when I discovered the Plantagenets, and in particular, Richard III.

Whenever I’m sick, or stressed, this is the book I go back to. It doesn’t matter that I know the plot inside out; for some reason, on every re-read, I seem to find something I hadn’t noticed, and still enjoy it as much as the first time. It’s the perfect ‘ill read’, as I can open it at any point, read as much or as little as I like, and put it aside without even worrying about a bookmark for next time.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Antonia Fraser

This is one of the books I bought as a result of having read The Other Boleyn Girl, and again, however many times I read it, I find different nuances, or facts, that I go and research further in other places. It was also where I found ‘my’ Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, for Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, due to the stories, quotes and reported words. It’s another ‘ill read’ for me, like The Other Boleyn Girl, and I always enjoy going back to it.

The Story of Scotland, by Nigel Tranter

This is one of those perfect history books, which makes facts read as addictively as fiction, just like The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Scottish history always makes fascinating reading, but it can at times be a little complex, especially when you go back so far that the history itself isn’t 100% certain. The book writes every period as though it was a chapter of a novel, and makes it nice and accessible. I’ve never used this as a resource specifically, but I do enjoy my Scottish history, and have often used it as a ‘jumping off’ point, to then go and read more about a particular person, or part of history.

About Jennifer

Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history and historical fiction whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England for work reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.

She lives in North Tyneside, and is very proud of her approximately 2-inch view of the North Sea.

Website:         https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennifer-Wilson/e/B018UBP1ZO/

Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/jennifercwilsonwriter/

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/inkjunkie1984

Instagram:     https://www.instagram.com/jennifercwilsonwriter/

Comfort Reads – Guest Paula Williams

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘comfort’ as a state of physical well-being; in pluralthings that make life easy or pleasant. To me that term is synonymous with reading, and I think today’s special guest, cosy crime writer Paula Williams would heartily agree!

Thank you, Rosie, for inviting me to talk about my comfort reads.  It was incredibly difficult to pick just five to talk about because, to me, reading is the ultimate comfort activity.  Curled up, reading on a cold, rainy day when the wind is howling outside and I’m snug and warm – that’s my idea of bliss!

So, as I can’t include the entire contents of my bookcases/Kindle I’ve checked them out and found the following precious (to me)  books.

1. The Discontented Pony.   Noel Barr

This tops the list because this book was the reason I was such an early reader.  It belonged to my older sister and I loved it so much and used to beg people to read it to me.  But my mum didn’t have time (I have 5 siblings!) and my sister didn’t have the inclination.  So I learnt to read.  I don’t remember how, I only know I would spend hours bent over this book, trying to make sense of the words. The copy in the picture is not my sister’s. That disappeared years ago. (She doesn’t share my need to hoard books)  I found it in a charity shop many years ago and leapt on it with cries of joy. It has pride of place on my Treasured Books shelf ever since.

2. When We Were Very Young.  By A A Milne. 

Having just said that nobody in my family would read to me, my maternal grandmother used to read this to me when she was visiting or we went to stay with her.  I loved it and knew many of the poems off by heart. (Still do, in fact!)

It is the reason my eldest son is called Christopher.  There was never any doubt in my mind what my first son was going to be called, even before I became pregnant!  And, I’m happy to say, that he loves the book as much as I do – although I can’t help wondering if part of the appeal came from the fact that if I started reading the poems as a bedtime story, I would find it very hard to stop at just one. It was a brilliant way of extending bedtime.

Years later, I read the poems to my grandchildren, although they didn’t like them quite so much, with the possible exception of The King’s Breakfast, which I do with all the different voices.  How come I forget where I put the car keys yet remember in perfect detail every single line of that silly poem?

3. The Footsteps of Angels.  H.W. Longfellow

Hope it’s all right to include a single poem as my comfort read.  Now this really was a comfort read – at least it was when I was nine years old. 

 I’ve already mentioned my maternal grandmother and how she died when I was young.  I was devastated by her death as she was a gentle, bookish lady and we really enjoyed each other’s company.  She lived with us for the last year of her life and I missed her so much when she died.  Our household was a noisy, very boy dominated one, (I have four brothers and my sister was away at school for a lot of the time) and I treasured the precious quiet time my grandmother and I spent together.

After she died, I inherited many of her books, one of which was a book of poems by H.W. Longfellow which she’d been awarded back in 1907/08 for ‘Regularity, Progress and Conduct.”  It amuses me to see that Longfellow is described in the Preface as one of the ‘modern’ poets!

This book, like the other two, lives on the shelf allocated very precious books.  The pages are all brown and crumbling and the whole thing is falling apart but I still treasure it.

I learnt The Footsteps of Angels just after her death.  All ten verses of it!  I had the idea that I was learning it for her.  Reading it through now, I can see it’s very sentimental but at the time, it was a real comfort to grieving little nine year old me and brought me a little closer to my sorely missed ‘Nan’.

4. The Big Four.  Agatha Christie.

My mother introduced me to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers when I was about 12 and I have loved crime fiction ever since, both as a reader and a writer.

I hadn’t read any Agatha Christie for years although I really enjoyed most of the television productions, especially the ones with David Suchet as Poirot and Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.  But a couple of years ago, we were staying near Dartmouth in Devon and were waiting to take the steam train up the Dart Valley.  Of course, being as we were in the heart of ‘Agatha Christie’ country, there was a whole selection of her books on sale in the station shop.  I chose The Big Four as I didn’t remember the story – and I was totally drawn in.  I’d completely forgotten what a great story teller she was and couldn’t put it down.

That particular book brings back many memories, of my mother and, more recently, of a lovely holiday in a beautiful part of the world.

5. On Writing.  Stephen King.

I bought this book ages ago and resisted reading it for year, mostly because I’ve never read any of Stephen King’s fiction (nor seen any of the films), as I don’t enjoy horror stories.

But I’m so glad I put my prejudice aside. Because here is a man in love with writing and every time I get a bit down and think I’m not cut out to be a writer and that maybe I should give it up and take up crochet or something, I dip in to this and my world is restored.

And isn’t that the point of a comfort read?

Author Bio

Paula Williams is living her dream. She’s written all her life – her earliest efforts involved blackmailing her unfortunate younger brothers into appearing in her plays and pageants. But it’s only in recent years that she discovered to her surprise that people with better judgement than her brothers actually liked what she wrote and were prepared to pay her for it.

Now, she writes every day in a lovely, book-lined study in her home in Somerset, where she lives with her husband and a handsome but not always obedient rescue Dalmatian called Duke.

She began her writing career writing fiction for women’s magazines (and still does) but has recently branched out into longer fiction. She also writes a monthly column, Ideas Store, for the writers’ magazine, Writers’ Forum.

But, as with the best of dreams, she worries that one day she’s going to wake up and find she still has to bully her brothers into reading ‘the play what she wrote’.

Her debut crime novel, Murder Served Cold, is a murder mystery set in a small Somerset village which bears a striking resemblance to the one she lives in. (Although, as far as she knows, none of her neighbours are cold-blooded murderers!)  It was published by Crooked Cat Books in October 2018, and is the first in the Much Winchmoor Mysteries series, the second of which, Rough and Deadly, will be published soon!

Murder Served Cold can be bought at:  https://mybook.to/murderservedcold

Social Media Links

Blog. at paulawilliamswriter.wordpress.com

Her facebook author page is https://www.facebook.com/paula.williams.author.

Twitter.  @paulawilliams44.

Website  paulawilliamswriter.co.uk

Many thanks to Paula for taking part.

A Little Blog Post by the Sea

I’m not usually one to court controversy but there were a few bits and bobs on Twitter this weekend about book titles, so I just thought I’d jot down my thoughts. Joanne Harris, one of my favourite authors, upset a few people with a list of book titles she no longer wished to see, anything featuring the word ‘little’ – eg café, bakery, coffee shop, titles with The + one other word, and titles referring to a feminine relative – daughter, mother, sister.

I didn’t enter into the argument other than to like a couple of replies, simply because I actually (shock horror)  agree with some of the points Joanne was trying to make.  Book titles follow trends and I think it would be fair to say there is trend in the women’s fiction market for pretty pastel coloured books featuring a variety of ‘little’ business opportunities.

There’s no doubt that the ‘little’ in the title is meant to convey a quaintness, the romantic idyll, something warm and comforting and a lot of readers like that – as the marketing departments of the big publishing houses well know.  Include a ‘little’ something in the title and a reader can immediately identify the genre.

Cosy ‘little’ coffee shops abound between the pages of novels, but rarely do such wonderful places exist in real life.  Who wouldn’t want to escape to Cornwall and run a ‘little’ B&B? Well not me actually because running a B&B is bloody hard work, but I’m more than happy to read a fictitious account of somebody else’s attempt to revitalise Granny’s ‘little’ old cliff-top hotel – and dream on.

Likewise tea rooms, which always seem to have a faceless background crew so that the heroine, or hero, has plenty of time to run around the village doing other wonderful things – when of course the reality is that like the small café in the village where I live, there’s never enough customers to make the place a viable financial proposition running it single-handedly, let alone make enough money to employ wonderful support staff.

Any business run along ‘little’ lines is doomed to failure in the real world so maybe it is time to come up with some alternative descriptions. A quick check through the thesaurus reveals some interesting possibilities – besides the size connotations – diminutive, miniature, there is also the unimportant – trivial and insignificant. Perhaps ‘little’ isn’t such a comforting word after all.

Books are subjective. As writers we have to acknowledge the paying public don’t all want to read the same thing and everyone has different tastes and preferences.  I don’t want to knock escapism – after all I write it – but ‘a little’ diversity in titles could go a long way in elevating commercial women’s fiction to a more prominent platform, and perhaps even a wider readership.

I heard Joanne Harris give a lecture a few years back at The Winchester Writers Conference and she is an eloquent, inspirational and passionate speaker.   The novel for which she is probably most well-known, Chocolat, was first published in 1999 and the publishing world was very different then. The irony is if the book was being marketed today, I’ve a sneaking suspicion the suggestion might be mooted for The Little Chocolate Shop in France…

Guest Post – Lesley Cookman on Comfort Reading

As the nights draw in it’s the perfect time to return to some more comfort reads – the literary equivalent of putting on a pair of warm slippers.  Comfort reading is all about the books that evoke special memories or the books we return to time and time again. Today I am joined by best selling novelist and the ‘Queen of Cosy Crime’, Lesley Cookman who picks her top five.

 

My comfort reads all date from my childhood, as I’ve noticed so many others do.

The first is The Swish Of The Curtain by Pamela Brown. It concerns a group of children who set up their own theatrical company – The Blue Doors. There are follow up books, but it’s the first that tops the list. As a child with a desperate desire to be an actress, this spoke to me in spades, and I can’t remember how many times I read it.

 

The second is I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith, given to me at the age of twelve by friends of my parents who belonged to a book club. I got all their cast offs… The first line out-Rebeccas Rebecca in my opinion: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink…” A journal, written in three different exercise books by a seventeen year old girl. Thoroughly immersive, romantic and inspirational. How many girls started journals as a result of reading this book? I did. I even used Dodie Smith as the subject of a thesis at university.

 

The third is Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K Jerome. My father had a copy, which I inherited, and now have two more of my own.  My parents and I used to read passages out loud to one another and end up in paroxisms of laughter. I am delighted to say that my own adult children still do that – from choice! Amazing. Written in 1889, the language is surprisingly modern, and aficionados only have to say “The Cheese!” or “Uncle Podger!” to one another to be lost in helpless mirth.

 

The final two are both series, from which I can’t single out one book. Monica Edwards’ Romney Marsh series, better known as the Tamsin and Rissa books have a lot to do with my now writing a series about a group of friends. The first I was given was the Summer of the Great Secret, about the Kent Coast, smuggling and –Ponies! That was the other love of my life, although I wrote a lot as well, but that was just something you did, not a great ambition. When I managed to fracture my pelvis two years ago, I re-read the entire series – and, incidentally all the others mentioned here.

 

And last, the Ngaio Marsh Roderick Alleyn series. My parents had all her books currently published, and between us we bought each new one as it came out. It started off as a familiar theme – the aristocratic detective, a la Albert Campion and Peter Wimsey. But Alleyn soon developed his own distinct personalility, as did his wife, son and sidekicks. And he moved with the times. The rather grating treatment of “the lower classes” was dropped as attitudes changed. The other thing that particularly chimed with me was that Marsh received her “damery” as she called it, for her services to theatre in New Zealand, and several of her books have a theatrical setting, about which she  was incredibly knowledgeable. Marsh is the reason that I now write a mystery series, and I have just re-read her entire canon, beginning to end.

About Lesley

Lesley Cookman writes the Libby Sarjeant Mystery series, and Murder And The Pantomime Cat, a short, is coming out for Christmas 2018. She also writes the Alexandrian series, set in an Edwardian seaside town.

You can find out more about Lesley and her books at http://www.lesleycookman.co.uk

Guest Post – Comfort Reads by Morton S Gray

As the nights draw in it’s the perfect time for some more comfort reading. Today’s special guest is fellow romantic novelist, Morton S Gray. Morton is currently writing a series of stand-alone novels set in her fictional seaside town of Borteen. The Girl on the Beach and The Truth Lies Buried are joined by Christmas at Borteen Bay released on 13 November, all published by Choc Lit. Over to Morton.

 

Thank you for having me on your blog, Rosie. As I understand it, I have to choose five books which I turn to for comfort when I have that feeling of being overwhelmed by life.

 

Number One has to be Wintercombe by Pamela Belle. I have read this book countless times. My paperback of the novel is in pieces from overreading. This tale set in my favourite period of history, the English Civil War. The story captures my imagination and I can easily think myself into the role of Silence, the heroine of the book with her realistic maxim of “Make, do, mend.”

 

 

Number Two is Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve read this book at least five times and got something different from it each time. For those of you who have seen the admittedly delightful film of the same title starring Julia Roberts, the book is so much more. It is the tale of a woman, newly divorced, who sets out to rediscover herself in Italy, India and Indonesia. Having once been in this situation of feeling lost after a divorce, I can relate to the heroine and the text is also peppered with observations about life and spirituality.

 

Number Three I decided should be a classic and it was a close run thing whether to choose Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, or the one I have chosen, which is North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Even though this book was originally published in 1855, after being serialised in 1854, it still reads wonderfully and I just adore the hero, John Thornton and the heroine, Margaret Hale. The book shows the industrial North of England and its conflicts in the mid-19th century as seen by the heroine, Margaret Hale, the daughter of a minister who moves to the fictional industrial town of Milton from the South.

 

Number Four is Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon. I love this book because it is a true comfort read, a happy ever after gentle tale with dogs, where the people involved in a local dogs’ home discover loyalty, companionship and unconditional love.

 

 

 

Number Five I’ve chosen because it is the only book I can ever remember giving me so many laughs and I mean absolutely belly laughs! I laughed so much when reading it that my husband and my mother read it too and both laughed just as much. So, if you need more laughter in your life try The Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook by Matt Dunn.

 

 

 

Thank you for inviting me over to your blog. I do hope your readers discover something new to enjoy in my choices.

 

About Morton by Morton

Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

Her debut novel The Girl on the Beach was published after she won Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon. This book is available as a paperback and e-book.

Morton’s second book for Choc Lit The Truth Lies Buried is another romantic suspense novel, the book tells the story of Jenny Simpson and Carver Rodgers as they uncover secrets from their past. This book is available as an e-book and will be issued as a paperback in 2019.

Christmas at Borteen Bay is published on 13 November 2018 and is Morton’s first Christmas novella. It is set in her fictional seaside town of Borteen and follows the story of Pippa Freeman who runs the Rose Court Guesthouse with her mother and local policeman Ethan Gibson as they unravel a family secret as Christmas approaches.

Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified clinical hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.

 

You can catch up with Morton on her website www.mortonsgray.com, on

Twitter – @MortonSGray, her

Facebook page – Morton S. Gray Author –  https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/morton_s_gray/

 

 

 

 

http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-girl-on-the-beach/

http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-truth-lies-buried/

https://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/christmas-at-borteen-bay/

Thank you Morton for a very varied selection of novels. I’m really enjoying finding out what books other authors take comfort in, although I’m realising my to be read pile is growing!

 

Meet Joan Livingstone

I think most writers are natural-born eavesdroppers, curious nosey-parkers with enquiring minds. Like squirrels hoarding nuts for the winter, we store snippets of overheard conversations or amusing anecdotes to transform and embellish into something far more intriguing.  So, imagine working as a small town journalist – the stories you could tell! This week I am joined by Joan Livingstone who talks about how her former job influences her writing.

How Journalism Shaped My Fiction

Isabel Long, the protagonist of my new mystery, Redneck’s Revenge, was a former long-time journalist before she became a private investigator. So was I although I didn’t become a P.I. I write about one.

Redneck’s Revenge is the second in my Isabel Long mystery series. The first was Chasing the Case, which was released last spring.

Both books are set in the small, rural hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, where I got my start in the newspaper biz. I was hired as a correspondent — paid by the inch — to cover the hilltown where I lived, Worthington, Massachusetts, population 1,200.

I had no previous experience, but that didn’t seem to matter to the editor who hired me. The experience grew into a 30-year career that ended after I was the managing editor of an award-winning newspaper in New Mexico, The Taos News.

But back to the start, I reported first on Worthington and eventually I covered several towns, plus did regional stories. I loved breaking a news story and getting to know what people did. I went to town meetings and covered what interested the community from truck pulls to school events to country fairs. I covered fires and what little crime there was. I did profiles. A few of my stories went national. I even went to the White House.

One of the greatest benefits was listening to the way people talked and writing it down. I believe it has paid off with realistic dialogue in my fiction.

It also gave me insight into how people behave, and certainly I had a total immersion into the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, which I use as a setting for much of my fiction.

By the way, since Isabel snagged a bunch of cold case files from her newspaper, it was an opportunity for me to write news stories again — although for made-up subjects.

Here’s the start of one with the headline: Caulfield man dies in house fire.

CAULFIELD — A Caulfield man died when his house burned to the ground in an overnight fire discovered by his daughter Wednesday morning.

Officials are investigating the blaze that killed Chester “Chet” A. Waters IV, 69, who ran a junkyard and a vehicle repair shop on his Maple Ridge Road property located on one of the town’s back roads.

Caulfield Fire Chief Roger Dickerson said no one called in the blaze because of the home’s remote location and the time the fire apparently broke out. He said Annette Waters found her father’s body when she arrived to work in his garage.

Back to Isabel, who also covered the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts until, like me, she moved up to being an editor. She lost her job managing a newspaper when it went corporate. (To set the record straight, that didn’t happen to me.) In Chasing the Case, Isabel decided to revisit her first big story as a rookie reporter — when a woman went missing 28 years earlier from the fictional town of Conwell.

She relies on the skills she used as a journalist for that case and the one she has in Redneck’s Revenge, especially since it takes her to an unfamiliar town and group of people.

So what skills would Isabel find transferable? Certainly, breaking down the elements of a story and figuring out who to contact. Good interview skills are a must. Developing a network of sources for tips is another. And she’s got to be good kind of nosy.

Here I’ll let Isabel explain. She and her ‘Watson’ — her 92-year-old mother who lives with her — have just finished meeting with Annette Waters who wants to hire Isabel to find out how her father, Chet Waters, died. The cops say he was passed-out drunk when his house burned to the ground. Annette says he was murdered.

“What’s your gut feeling?” I ask my mother when we’re done.

“Gut feeling? There’s definitely something there. But I’m not sure what it is at this point.”

“I agree. But even though this happened only three years ago, it’s gonna be harder to crack this case. I don’t know anybody here.”

“What did you do when you had to report on a story in a place where you didn’t know anybody?”

“I followed the leads I had. One person led me to another. Yeah, yeah, I hear you. I should do the same for this one. Well, I have Annette to start me off.”

And there are times when a journalist has to be a bit brave. For Isabel, that means talking with somebody who has something to hide — like maybe murdering another person. By the way, she’s really good at that.

Joan Livingston Bio

Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Redneck’s Revenge, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the second in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first is Chasing the Case.

An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and most recently the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.

After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long series.

Joan Livingston on social media:

Website: www.joanlivingston.net.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoanLivingstonAuthor/

Twitter: @joanlivingston

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/JoanLivingston_Author

Goodreads: www.Goodreads.com/Joan_Livingston

 

Book links to Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge:

 

http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

http://mybook.to/rednecksrevenge

 

ISABEL LONG’S SECOND CRIME MYSTERY

REDNECK’S REVENGE

Her next case. She’s in it for good.

Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over. Then cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo.

Encouraged by her Watson — her 92-year-old mother — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case.

The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband.

Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.

 

Guest Post Sophie Weston on Comfort Reading

Today I am joined by romantic novelist Sophie Weston to talk about the five books she considers her favourite ‘comfort reads.’  Sophie, in the guise of Jenny Haddon, was chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association from 2005-2007 and has sold over 12 million books in 27 languages across 100 countries. Over to Sophie.

Five Comfort Reads and Why

I survive because of comfort reads. Ever since I was a child books have dug me out of the dark places. They have soothed me in a turmoil of worry; reminded me of the good moments in times of sadness; sustained me over a long, wearying haul. When I travelled abroad for work a lot, I would choose a good fat book for company, so that I could walk around in a more rewarding world for at least an hour a day. At home, my bathroom has a collection of some of those special titles, which are never, under any circumstances, to be taken out of the house. Guests are welcome to read those books, but never to take them away, not even for an hour in the park.

I don’t really have favourites, but five special ones, in the order in which I first met them, are:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Victorian children’s book about children with a side order of Gothic mansion and even a ghost. I loved it when I first read it because the ten-year-old heroine, Mary, is plain and very bad tempered, especially when she’s frightened, but resourceful and good at learning. Great on Yorkshire landscape and grumpy natives. Wonderful gardening lore, too. One for when my problem solving is running dry.

 

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

Another plain, resourceful girl. (Could there be a theme here?) This one’s a debut novelist. She is shy, blunt, awkward and a keen observer of the Regency beau monde and she’s produced a roman à clef which her clever publishers expect to take the ton by storm. But there’s a fly in the ointment. Her villain is modelled on a Duke – and now her family want her to marry him. He’s not so keen. Gloriously funny, emotionally truthful, great characters, every single one of who has at least one redeeming feature.  Great for restoring tolerance; and also reminding the writer that once your story is out there people may well run with it in directions you never intended – and IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson

Imminent war and refugees in London, 1938. Chilly British academics, a loving Austrian family, and a self-obsessed (possible) genius, plus a long-wounded and difficult aunt, and an open-hearted shoe-salesman. There’s even a refugee psychiatrist (“the soup-slayer of Belsize Park) and a tea shop that will live in your memory. This is a story about love and kindness in pretty much all their aspects. But at the heart of it is a classic love-story between an utterly straight-forward, emotionally honest young scientist and a corkscrew up-tight professor. A book to warm your hands at, when you feel the world is too cruel to endure.

Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

I’m a huge fan of pretty much every book in Pratchett’s Discworld. This isn’t even my favourite but it’s the one about vampires. Now I hate vampires – all that phony glamour brainwashing people and turning them mindless! Here the bloody-minded fight back hard, led by the redoubtable Granny Weatherwax. And yes, there’s a plain heroine, Agnes who’s the youngest of Granny’s trio of witches and makes the tea. When a dashing vampire – he lounges on the air as if it’s a sofa ­– falls for overweight, unconfident Agnes, she loathes him and, to his astonishment, resists in her own unique way. A book to make you laugh and think; also a hugely, satisfying defeat of the hip, cool, modern and too damned pleased with themselves. My surrogate revenge book.

Tomorrow’s Ghost by Anthony Price

Price wrote mystery cum spy novels, set in the Cold War. His first protagonist was academic maverick David Audley, a military historian and, like our espionage industry Price continued to mine the academic establishment, along with the military, for his recruits. He twice won a Crime Writer dagger. But this book is different. The protagonist is neither a soldier nor an academic, not even a man! She is the widow of a marriage on the point of fracture, a square pen in a round hole, professional, intelligent, problem-solving but not quite comfortable with her colleagues. As a result the story about the hunt for an IRA/KGB assassin – exciting and full of twists that are a master class in plotting – takes second place to her own feelings and challenges. And the ending brings both elements together in the most astonishing yet perfect and satisfying way! Victorious in the deepest possible way. And heart breaking. My book to restore perspective.

About Sophie by Sophie

Sophie couldn’t wait to go to school to learn “to write properly” – she already had so many stories in her head. But stories come when the will and she wasn’t published until a bout of illness had her penning a short romance aimed at Mills & Boon. She recovered and went back to the day job but what Emma Darwin calls that itch of writing kept urging her back to the keyboard, resulting in 50-ish romances, including To Marry a Prince (but that one’s by Sophie Page) and, coming soon, a romantic comedy, Vertical Sex. That title came to her in a dream, by the way, and it’s total marmite among her friends, though booksellers say they like it. She says the book insisted.

myBook.to/PrincesBride

Thank you so much for joining me Sophie. I love the title of the new book, but then I also like Marmite! Another great list of books.