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Showing posts from 2018

Old year, new home

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Well, I'm on the move once more.  One of the beauties and the banes of renting instead of owning a  home is that moving is a regular occurrence, whether it be voluntary or forced. My current move is a bit of both, with my present flat going on the market early next year and my present job requiring me to live a little bit closer to my workplace.

Therefore, Christmas and New Year this year will be spent packing, cleaning,saying goodbyes and moving.  I've got three weeks off from work and so have been able to do things bit by bit instead of all in one go. Now, on the eve of Christmas Eve, my flat is looking rather bare, with boxes of all shapes and sizes lining the walls and the windows devoid of curtains.



That said, the Christmas tree is up in the corner and there are mince pies in the cupboard and some Prosecco to see in the New Year. And the weather may not be exactly festive, but I'm looking forward to getting out and doing some walking over the holidays.

I'm also us…

A different sort of writing

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While I'm still aiming my work at Harlequin Mills and Boon, and have some revisions pending on my current WIP, I've also been working on a story in a new genre, a time-slip.  A romance is still at the core of this story but there is a bigger canvas to paint on, so there is also an historical mystery and an element of crime in my book.

 To get some guidance in how to write a crime scene, I went on a writing course this last weekend at Lilleshall Hall.  The course was entitled Getting away with Murder' and was run by multi-published author  Stephen Wade.   As it turned out,  none of the people booked onto this course was actually writing a crime novel, but books and short stories that had a crime or the potential for one.  But that didn't matter; Stephen adapted his programme accordingly and everyone, including me, got such a lot of information and inspiration, and a clearer idea of how to proceed. Focussing on character, plot, settings and scenes, Stephen helped me to …

Wise words and old wives' tales

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Going for a walk in the autumn sunshine today, I noticed that the holly trees were bright with berries and it got me thinking : Does this indicate that our lovely summer is going to be followed by a bad winter?  So, when I got home, I went online and looked up this old wives' tale.  Nowadays, it is thought that early and abundant holly berries are a result of a good spring and a mild September rather than an indicator of future weather, although there are a host of other superstitious associated with holly that are quite fascinating.


Christian symbolism connected the prickly leaves with Jesus' crown of thorns and the berries with the drops of blood shed for humanity's salvation. In Celtic mythology the Holly King ruled over half the year from the summer to the winter solstice, at which time the Oak King defeated the Holly King to rule until the summer solstice again. Holly was also believed to have protective properties, being commonly brought into the house to guard again…

Signs of Autumn

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Taking a stroll along the Mawddach river today, I found I needed not only a warmish coat but also a hat and gloves. It wasn't cold exactly but there was a keen breeze and, as I walked, I noticed sure signs that summer is finally coming to an end.

The leaves on the trees are still green but their rustle was a dry one and they are beginning to fall.  Flowers have bloomed and faded, the river is full of water after the long hot summer, and the cricket field is being prepared for the last match of the season next weekend.


The heating isn't on at home yet but the mornings and evenings are feeling cooler now so it is only a matter of time. 

However, even though the heatwave is already a distant memory, my summer has been a productive as well as a pleasant one.

I took a fortnight off from one of my part-time jobs during August, with the goal of completing three chapters of one of my two WIPs. By aiming at a thousand words a day, and sometimes writing even more, I managed to do tha…

A literary trip to the past

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I'm currently reading a selection of books by Dorothy Whipple, having accepted an open invitation to 'read along' by author Clare Harvey, who is reading all nine of this forgotten writer's novels currently in print as part of her blog series My Summer With Dorothy.


I have to confess I'd never heard of Dorothy Whipple, or if I had, had forgotten her name. Maybe not surprising, as her heyday as a writer was in the 1930s and 1940s.  I'd heard of one of her books, They Were Sisters, because it was made into a 1945 film of the same name, and being a fan of old black and white movies, and of James Mason- oh, that voice! - I'd seen it but so long ago, I don't remember much about it.

As her books are rather expensive to buy, I ordered a few from my local library and was immediately transported back to the 1970s, when the mobile library that used to come around at 11am on the dot every Friday morning was the highlight of my week - when I managed to get that da…

RNA Conference 2018

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As a writer, the annual conference is definitely the highlight of the year for me and, surprisingly, it seems to come around quickly each time. This year was no exception and, from counting down the months, then the weeks, then the days, suddenly I was packing and wondering which shoes would go with which dress!



This year, the conference was in Leeds Trinity University, a campus just outside Headingly. Leeds is a lovely city but I didn't see anything of it beyond the train station. Horsforth, where the campus is located, was really nice though, and I enjoyed a short and pleasant walk from the train station to the campus with HMB author Rachael Thomas .









The conference sessions were useful and enjoyable and included a double presentation from Mills and Boon. This began with editors from the longer 'Trade' imprint giving a summary of the recent rebranding of the company, and concluded with the Series editors outlining the requirements of the different lines.






There was also a…

Baby Birds

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Over the last couple of months, we've been very busy on the nature reserve where I work answering phone calls from people who have found a baby bird and don't know what to do with it.  And the answer we normally give, unless it is injured, is do nothing and leave it where you found it.  The often harsh-seeming law of nature is that a third of baby birds don't make it, and that's why songbirds lay somewhere between 5 and 12 eggs, depending on the species.  The bigger the bird the fewer the eggs, with birds of prey only laying 2-3, or even just one.












The bird breeding season is balanced to perfection, with birds delaying the laying until the optimum time and then prioritizing the raising of their brood according to conditions. If food is plentiful and predators few, then most if not all the chicks will make it; if food is scarce and predators are many, then the adults will feed only the strongest and biggest chicks to make sure that some at least survive.







 Our 'human…

Some recent good reads

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Occasionally, I go through phases of reading purely for pleasure and two books I enjoyed recently were An Ordinary Gift and Fairlights by the wonderful Jan Jones.

These are romances, beautifully written, with gripping plots and a twist of the supernatural that, for me, really added an extra element of satisfaction.  An Ordinary Gift is a gentle love story with a hint of time slip and a tension that at times lifted the hairs on the back of my neck :

"New job. New town. New house. Everything Clare needs for a fresh start. She could do without the ghosts, though... Determined to put an unhappy love affair behind her, Clare moves to Ely in the Cambridgeshire Fens to catalogue an early music library. But why does the house she rents in this ancient city feel so familiar? Who is singing Gregorian chants that only she can hear? And what can she do about her growing attraction to Ewan, the site manager of the library, when neither wants a rebound relationship?"



What I especi…

Definitely a heatwave!

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Admittedly, at 22C degrees indoors and just 18C outdoors, the heatwave seems to be more  applicable to southern England than to northern Wales!  But here too, it is glorious summer weather at the moment.  I've got a day off today, (which I've devoted to writing but more of that later) after working over the weekend at RSPB Ynys Hir near Machynlleth. It's been heavenly on the reserve during this lovely season, when birds are singing and nesting, bees are buzzing and butterflies fluttering, and a carpet of wildflowers is covering the woodlands.

As per every spring, a pair of Oystercatchers are nesting on a wall outside one of the estuary hides. They've bred there for the last five years and, despite their choice of site being completely exposed, have raised their young successfully nearly every time. Currently, they are sitting on three eggs, the male and the female both taking turns to do the sitting.  Osytercatcher eggs are large so the incubation period is long, aroun…

Not quite a heatwave . . .

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At least that's what the weather people say but it's certainly felt like one recently, with cloudless blue  skies, hours of sunshine and temperatures actually reaching double figures, even here in north west Wales!  I've been lucky enough to have the last few days off work so, after my morning writing sessions, I've been taking a stroll along the Mawddach in the afternoons. It is really tranquil and inspiring at this time of year, and it is lovely to see signs of early summer at last.




The trees along the river are bursting into bud, wild flowers are lining the paths, and the bleating of lambs and the sound of birds are a perfect accompaniment to a bit of head-clearing and gentle exercise.  And this afternoon, I saw the surest sign of all that summer is definitely on the way - the preparation of the cricket pitch on the Marian fields ready for the start of the playing season.



My walk today was especially satisfying because I finished the first 'dirty' draft of m…

Writing aides

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We all use them and they come in many shapes and forms.  Having taken a week away from my WIP, I returned to it this morning and, as always, found it difficult to get going again.  Writing romance is a bit like being in a relationship - absence may or may not make the heart grow fonder but it is definitely out of sight, out of mind sometimes!  So as I sat there 'making notes' I got to thinking about the props and aides that writers rely on and I discovered that I am a real creature of habit - I don't need many aides but they are always the same ones, viz:




Coffee (obviously)
A cocoa bar (it used to be chocolate before I became a vegan)
Notepad and pen (essential for those 'why' questions)
A diary (as I like to record my word count and my thoughts about my progress, or lack of it, every day)
My invaluable little pink timer (this really works for me if I'm stuck. Setting it to a twenty minute countdown magically gets me writing, anything, even if I end up deleting…

Changes

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I suppose Spring is a natural time for change, more so than any other season, and this month has seen my temporary job ending - along with winter it seems - at Lake Vyrnwy nature reserve.  One of the most stunning locations in the UK, it is beautiful no matter what time of year, but winter is particularly spectacular. Many places can seem bleak in February, but the splendour of the snow-covered hills and the torrent of water over the dam made for a breathtaking last few days on site.







While in between jobs, I have signed on as a volunteer at my nearest nature reserve Ynys Hir.  This wetland reserve near Machynlleth, with far-reaching views out over the Dyfi estuary,  is host to both water birds and woodland birds, including red list species like lapwing. Right outside the visitor centre are some feeders and many people go there simply to sit around the log burner, with a cup of the centre's very good coffee, and just watch the common varieties that come to feed - and the not so co…

Reading outside the Lines

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Do you - like me - read primarily within the genre you want to write?  Harlequin Mills and Boon publish several diverse lines, from historical to suspense, medical to nocturnal.  Aiming at the line that most interests me - Presents or Modern - I tend to read mostly within that line too, enjoying books that were published several years ago, sometimes decades ago, and also keeping up with current trends and new authors.

I was interested recently to see that Harlequin are running a new Blitz in February, this time on Romance (http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com) and it got me thinking of the books I've read outside of my chosen line and what made me place them on my book shelves, alongside the numerous Moderns.



Liz Fielding is an author who has published over sixty books in the traditional and contemporary lines but her writing somehow refuses to be typecast.  She brings a freshness and humour to her work and has been doing so ever since her first book was published, as she says &qu…

Resolutions

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As someone who doesn't normally make New Year resolutions, this year I find myself making several.  And, while I aim to keep all of them, top of the list is to complete a book.

I once blogged here about the importance of always finishing a book  (April 2016 ) but for the last couple of years, I've been unable to do that. The reasons why have been many and varied but, on reflection, the main one has been a lack of focus and determination following a run of rejections.  Keeping going, keeping believing, fending off doubts and finding inspiration, let alone actually sitting down and putting fingers to keyboard, can be hard at such times.  Who was it that said that success is 99% persistence?  They might be right but alongside persistence is the support of fellow writers and friends who are there backing you every step of the way.  And, even more importantly, believing in you when you don't always believe in yourself.

So to all those fabulous people I'd like to say a HUGE…