Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Swansea Market, Seasons Greetings

Our Christmas plans, for various reasons, have been kept to a minimum meaning a last-minute trip to do some shopping. Swansea, some fifty miles away, is our nearest large shopping centre, but we especially like the wonderful indoor market there.

We bought some lovely meat from the Gower Butcher...

The fresh fish is superb from any of the fishmongers...  

Anyone for cockles or laver bread?

And two good loaves from Jan Evan's Bakery - properly made bread with bite, substance and flavour...

This year’s had its difficult moments, but as we drove home through stormy weather I had plenty of time to reflect on how fortunate I am to have good food to eat, clean water to drink and a safe bed to sleep in. Wherever you are, however you’ll be spending the festive season, I wish you the same.

And finally...
Two writerly news items:
The result of the Coastal Romance Christmas Blog Hop has just been announced.  Congratulations to the winner, Lisa Wohlgamuth.
And, should you feel like treating yourself to some quiet reading time, a whole swathe of Choc Lit titles are currently on special offer across Amazon including Turning the Tide  for 98p or $.99 (not $99. as I mistyped earlier... not quite so bargainous!!).

Merry Christmas!

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Christmas Treat

Here's a little something to help get you in the mood for Christmas.  My publishers, Choc Lit, are currently giving away twelve romantic stories for the festive season and today it's my turn with my beach hut inspired story, Present Perfect. Only another three stories to go, so get in quick!  Merry Christmas!

12 Christmas romances with discount codes for House of Dorchester Chocolates.
Simply email info@choc-lit.com with the subject heading XMAS TREAT! You can also add your Smartphone number and get a text each day telling you that your Xmas TREAT! has been sent - plus a link to read on line from your Smartphone. No ereader required.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

In a Flash

‘Yesterday,’ reads the email, ‘we came up with the idea of the Twelve Days of Choc Lit Christmas.’ Then follows an invitation to get involved by writing a 500 word ‘Chrismassy and romantic’ short story. ASAP.

This is what my dad would have called a ‘free’ job and, as a carpenter, he was never short of people offering him work without payment. Writers too, I’ve noticed, get a lot of free jobs which we tend to accept if there’s any chance at all of increasing our ‘discoverability’ (what a word). The fact is there are an awful lot of authors out there pushing an awful lot of books and a glance at my royalty statement, which also happens to come in this week, tells me I could do with increasing my discoverability quite a lot.

It’s fortunate then that the rewards of writing, for me, are to do with that alchemy of creating something out of nothing; locations that seem real to me, characters I live with during the writing process and who often remain with me afterwards. The sheer sense of satisfaction that comes when all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. And the feeling when readers enjoy what I’ve written is pretty special too.

So, flash fiction – where to begin? I’m not a great believer in writing rules – those ‘always’ and ‘never’ lists seem to crush originality and stifle unique voices, but I do think stories, however short, should have a structure. I’m terribly drawn to fixing ‘broken’ people in my writing so my structure is to do with taking that poor broken character, helping them find ways to overcome their problems and, hopefully, leaving them in a much happier place.

I also begin with a strong visual image in my mind’s eye, like a ‘still’ from a film. For my Choc Lit story it began with a shabby beach hut – probably composted from my recent visit to East Anglia – but also linked to Little Spitmarsh, the sleepy seaside town that features in Turning the Tide and Follow a Star. In this case the beach hut was being buffeted by an icy winter wind which set the Christmas lights in the town swinging on their strings.  It was getting dark… and suddenly there was Tansy, bright as a spark in her enveloping orange coat, but sad, apprehensive and pondering on her problem. Then I got my first line; ‘You couldn’t exactly divide a beach hut in half, could you? ’

You can read on and find out what Tansy did next in my short Christmas romance, Present Perfect – and receive a free short story for every one of the twelve days of Christmas - by signing up here.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Coastal Romance Christmas Blog Hop

As a member of the Coastal Romance Facebook group, I’m taking part in our wonderful Christmas Blog Hop, organised by talented author, Annie Seaton. There are giveaways between now and Christmas Eve and a chance to win 26 great stories and a $100 Amazon gift voucher. But first this is what the coast means to me…

I’m far from being a natural sailor. I’ve sailed round half of Britain with my head in a bucket for the sake of a man who is never happier than when he’s surfing through molten glass waves with the wind filling the sails. I’m grateful for my creature comforts and that doesn’t mean a strip wash in a bucket or waiting for my teeth to stop chattering so I can pray for my freezing sleeping bag to warm up.
In calmer waters!

How strange then to discover that it’s only through being completely out of my element, sailing this beautiful and wild coast of West Wales, that I have felt most alive. The artifice is gone, the modern world recedes, the soft support systems stripped away; you come face-to-face with yourself. It’s long lonely passages at sea, nights at anchor, gently rocking under a sliver of a new moon which have brought me happiness and love, given me the space and peace to make clear decisions and enfolded me during the pain of bereavement.

Those memories also worked their way into my imagination and into my writing; Turning the Tide began when I ‘saw’ an image of a troubled young woman sitting by the water’s edge. Move Over Darling, my second contemporary novel, is influenced by the Welsh coast where I live and for Follow a Star, which will be published by Choc Lit next summer, I couldn’t resist returning to the fictional seaside town of Little Spitmarsh, the location of Turning the Tide. Here’s a bit about Follow a Star

Sometimes your heart’s the only navigator you need… 

May Starling’s had enough of her demanding career and even more demanding ex. Responding to a ‘crew-wanted’ ad, she follows her dreams of escape only to find herself at sea with red-haired Bill Blythe. 

Bill warns May that close-quartered living can create a boiling pot of emotions, but even May is surprised by the heat building up inside the vintage wooden boat. And when May and Bill tie up at Watling’s Boatyard in Little Spitmarsh, May’s determined to test her new-found feelings on dry land. 

But May’s dream of escaping her former life is in danger of being swept away when several unwelcome blasts from the past follow her ashore, all seemingly hell-bent on reminding her that it’s never that easy to clear the decks.

For your chance to win a bonus prize of a copy of Move Over Darling simply leave a comment below saying who you’d like to be marooned at sea with and I’ll pick one lucky winner on Dec 8.

And you can enter the Coastal Romance Christmas Giveaway here























Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Paths, Tracks and a Hop

Stepson Two and I are spending the day in Oxford whilst Tom attends a study day at the Faculty of Music. We wander into the Bodleian Library where there’s a small but rather lovely exhibition celebrating 800 years of Oxford’s contribution to the art and science of medicine. I’m particularly moved by the original manuscripts there; Thomas Sydenham’s careful and caring observations of his patients (written in John Locke’s hand), Dorothy Hodgkin’s letter to her husband as she worked to unlock the structure of penicillin, and a host of neat notebooks which convey a vivid sense of immediacy despite the faded ink and yellowing paper. 

At the Ashmolean museum, I take myself to see ‘Flesh and Bone’ a stunning exhibition which bring together works by Henry Moore and - a personal favourite - Francis Bacon. I enjoy the Bacon paintings very much but leave feeling faintly covetous and wishing I could take Pope Innocent X 1965 home with me.

There’s also plenty of time for Stepson Two and I to drink coffee, eat cake and catch up. It’s fair to say that neither Tom nor Stepson Two have done things in what is supposed to be the conventional order, which, I suspect is due to them both being very clever at whatever they turn their minds to. Stepson Two is now employed turning horrendously dry maths into beautiful, deceptively-simple apps, but some of you may remember when he had a record deal with a major label and an album which – thanks to the sudden upheaval in the music industry and a change of management - didn’t see the light of day. So here, for old times sake, is a glimpse of the path that might have been taken. And Stepson Two in a top hat...

At the weekend we’re joined for my birthday by Rose, Si, Lily and Russ. Two days later, it would have been my dad’s birthday too (Ma always joked I was her birthday present to him). Amidst the laughter, I can’t help but feel sad for all the growing number of people in the room Dad didn’t get to meet. But if he could have seen us, I think he would have approved. 

Knowing that it’s Dad’s birthday puts a spring in my step for my Sunday morning long run. All the bad health news this year made me decide that I’d feel much better running again – so I did and it’s great. I’ve entered the Llanelli Half Marathon in March 2014 and, thanks to Tom, I now have a neat little GPS watch that tells me all sorts of useful stuff like how far and fast I’ve run and how many calories I’ve used. Short of actually patting me on the back and saying ‘well done’ it’s a great way to stay on track

And finally, I’m participating in the Coastal Romance Writers Christmas Blog Hop. Do come back on Friday for details of how you could win a $100 gift card and 26 books!