Friday, 2 June 2017

Ships That Go Bump in the Night

When a heatwave is forecast for Pembrokeshire, Tom checks the tide times and we decide to head for the boat. I pack thermals, a winter hat and gloves and, at the last minute, throw in my bikini. We leave the berth at Neyland late afternoon, when the tide’s in our favour. There’s very little wind so we potter down the Haven with the engine running. Apart from a few commercial vessels, there’s almost no one else about and it’s a real privilege to have the waterway practically to ourselves. 

 We pick up a visitors’ mooring under the fort at Dale just after half past seven and sit in the cockpit enjoying the evening sunshine, sipping Prosecco - because, hey, we’re on holiday - and posting smug pictures to social media.

Mrs Smug-McSmugface
At 1a.m. we’re woken up by a tremendous bang. Strong winds have arrived out of nowhere and are blowing in completely the wrong direction for our mooring. Blue Nun keeps trying to sail off the mooring and is snapped back by the lines like a very angry dog on a very short leash. Tom and I are rolling around like two peas in a very rattly sieve as half a gale moans through the rigging. Pretty soon, I’m moaning too. It’s a long time since I’ve felt this seasick and I’m utterly felled; I can't stand, can’t think, can’t sleep, can’t do anything except lie there wishing the world would stay still. When dawn breaks, Tom casts off and we make a very lumpy crossing to a sliver of a bay on the other side of the Haven where we’ll be a little more sheltered. Apart from the huge swells rushing in from the open sea which roll us from side to side…

With the sun coming up, the cabin starts to get hot. I crawl on deck then have to crawl back down and find my bikini and factor 50 suntan cream (remember that skin cancer? Yep, once bitten…). At last, a day of fabulous weather on the boat and I’m too ill to enjoy it! Even when a message appears on my phone asking me if I can write an urgent homes interior feature I have to ask Tom to reply for me as staring at my screen makes me feel queasy.


Late afternoon, when the tide’s turned again, we decide to head back to our berth at Neyland. The strong wind is against us, so it’s a very choppy passage, but I cope! I come to life! I’m not sick! Hey, what the heck, we’ll spend the night on the boat in the marina! Tom cooks a lovely meal, I manage to eat some of it, and we turn in for an early night safe in the knowledge that we won’t be rocked around by massive waves… At 3 a.m. we’re woken by blinding flashes of lightning and a deafening barrage of thunder which continues for an hour. The next morning, we decide to go home for a rest.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Ups and One Down


There’s nothing like a new baby to make everyone smile and this year we’re very lucky to have not one but two new babies in our blended family; Rose and Si’s new daughter and, in a few weeks time, my stepson, Tom, and his lovely fiancee, Amey, expect their first baby.

When Tom and Amey decide to get in a few early cuddles with the newest arrival, the rest of us quickly get in on the act too. It’s very special to see Ma with her great-granddaughters but naturally, because we want to take photographs, Baby Joy decides she’d like a really long sleep and Bee wears herself out chasing Grandad round the garden! We get there in the end with some lovely memories captured in pictures.




The next day we're in Worthing visiting Father-in-law who’s tripped up on the device he’s designed to hold a mat in place to stop himself tripping up… He thinks his foot, which has borne the brunt of the fall, is probably ok. Tom and I inspect the damage and decide it’s not at all ok. After doing the medical rounds, FiL ends up being treated for a broken toe and a deep cut, but I’m pleased to report he’s on the mend now. Phew!


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Sea Stories

'Fish Shack' by Lane Mathias

Sometimes a story comes along that demands to be written; the opening scenes of my first novel, Turning the Tide, came to me when we were pottering around in Veryan, our vintage wooden boat. Little Spitmarsh, the struggling seaside town where the novel is set, was inspired by some of the sleepy places we visited during our first Epic Voyage. I also loved writing Follow A Star which drew me back to Little Spitmarsh. However, I also know how it feels to wrestle with a story; there were many times I felt like giving up with my second novel, Move Over Darling, so it was all the more satisfying when I finally typed ‘The End'.

I’ve been ticking over with the novel that’s been taking me in a slightly different direction but progress has been slow. Even so, I’ve been happy to do the heavy lifting to get this novel going and then - contrary to all the advice to ‘finish the damn story’ - I was struck by an idea for a new Little Spitmarsh novel that, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it, refused to go away. Serendipity seemed to confirm my decision to go for it when a wonderful painting by the very talented artist, Lane Mathias appeared on my Facebook.  Fish Shack sums up everything I love about my fictional town, Little Spitmarsh. I snapped the painting up immediately and it now hangs above my desk to cheer me along on the days when the writing flows against, rather than with, the tide.


Sailing, a bit like writing, can flow. Or not. Our first shakedown cruise of the season in Blue Nun last weekend got off to a shaky start with missing items, a wasp’s nest in the making in the cabin and the usual wiring and engine glitches. Then, hurray, the tide turned in our favour. I didn’t need to wear my thermals at night, we had a sleepy little anchorage all to ourselves and a fair wind took us all the way back to the mooring under sail. The first adventure this year, in our small boat.


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Guest Author: Morton S Gray

I’m chatting today to Morton S. Gray, whose debut romantic suspense novel, "The Girl on the Beach" was e-published by Choc Lit in January 2017. I asked her a few questions about romance.

Why did you choose to write romantic suspense novels?

I think the romantic suspense genre chose me!
When I decided to explore creative writing, I studied for a Certificate of Higher Education in Creative Writing with The Open College of the Arts and the courses explored poetry, short stories, flash fiction, plays and memoir writing. During the same period, I went to a weekly creative writing class with Sue Johnson in Pershore, Worcestershire. Sue encourages you to explore too.

After this time of exploration, I concluded that I wanted to write longer fiction with a strong romantic element. I began to read a lot of books published by Choc Lit and couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to get a publishing contract with that publisher for my debut when I won their Search for a Star competition.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Most definitely. I fell in love with my husband the first time I saw a picture of him! We are a good example of a modern romance, as we met online and have been married fourteen years now. There was something about his eyes, his face, him… in that picture. I remember being so disappointed that he lived 200 miles away from me.
We emailed for a couple of months, so we knew a lot about each other before we ever met in real life. We met up halfway at Woodstock in Oxfordshire. I can still feel my gulp inside when I realised he was as gorgeous as his picture – tall, blond, solid, mmm… This couldn’t be happening to me.
I was, of course, wary, as I’d been badly hurt before. We wandered around the shops and chose things for an imaginary house, table, chairs, sofa, glasses, ornaments. I didn’t want to leave him.

What is the most romantic thing that’s happened to you?

I think it would have to be hubbie’s marriage proposal. He sent me the marriage vows, one by one by text message when he was working away in Sweden. To begin with, I thought he was joking and replied with some flippant comments. For example, to “all my worldly goods” I asked if I could use his digital camera (then a very new thing). It began to sink in that he was serious and, not only that, he was willing to move 200 miles north. I’m still madly in love with him. We are very lucky, or meant to be.

Biography for Morton S. Gray

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, the plot of which closely resembled an Errol Flynn film. As with many authors, life got in the way of writing for many years until she won a short story competition in 2006 and the spark was well and truly reignited.  She studied creative writing with the Open College of the Arts and joined the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers’ Scheme in 2012.

After shortlisting in several first chapter competitions, she won The Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition in 2016 with her novel ‘The Girl on the Beach’.  The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon.

Previous 'incarnations' were in committee services, staff development and training. Morton 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.

Contact Links
www.mortonsgray.com
Twitter - @MortonSGray
Facebook Page – Morton S. Gray Author - https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/
Purchasing links for “The Girl on the Beach” at http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-girl-on-the-beach/

“The Girl on the Beach” by Morton S. Gray

Who is Harry Dixon?

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.

For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …

But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.




*STOP PRESS!!*
I'm delighted to add that Morton is one of three Choc Lit Authors Shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association's prestigious Joan Hessayon Award.  Morton's, "The Girl on the Beach", Victoria Cornwall's "The Thief's Daughter" and Lynda Stacey's "House of Secrets", along with debut novels from eight more new novelists, will be contending for the Award.  The winner will be announced at the Romantic Novelists' Association Summer Party on Thursday 18th May.

Monday, 24 April 2017

An April Arrival

The last week of March passes with us fitting in a few urgent jobs ‘before the baby arrives’. Blue Nun is launched, I dash off to fit in a quick hair cut, I tidy every drawer and cupboard in the house because I’m fit for nothing else and I try not to ring Rose every five minutes to see if ‘anything’s’ happening. Nothing happens.

 After two weeks Rose is admitted to hospital and the waiting begins all over again. Two days and many more grey hairs later, the phone rings and I hear my son-in-law’s voice. ‘You have a new granddaughter,’ he tells me before we all start crying with happiness and relief.

Poor Rose has had a rough time of it, so I pop down to help out for a few days when Si has to go back to work. The first night I’m there I take the first night shift and sit up with this brand new person marvelling at her in all her tiny perfection. After all the speculation - boy or girl, names, hair and eye colour, personality - she’s here, a placid little soul (apart from the witching hours of crying!) with dark, thoughtful eyes and a pure gold dusting of hair. Welcome to the world, our new and very precious baby girl.


With all the comings and goings we've manage to spend some happy hours with this little miss, here seen out with Grandad and travelling incognito.



And finally, we squeeze in moment for ourselves and celebrate the good times with a walk up beautiful Carningli, Angel Mountain.


Friday, 17 March 2017

A March Miscellany

March begins with our wedding anniversary - St David’s Day - we take ourselves off for an overnight stay in a very comfortable hotel at Deganwy. Our room has magnificent views across the estuary to snow-capped mountains beyond, the sun shines, the food is glorious and the spa and swimming pool’s free to guests so we make the most of every second of our visit. After starting the year with so much illness, it’s wonderful to feel well at last!

Coming home, I find the latest (April) edition of The English Home waiting for me, with my words to Nick Carter’s gorgeous photographs of a sweet, nostalgic seaside cottage. Each commission presents a different challenge, but it’s always very satisfying to see the finished article in print. I’m currently working on two commissions for the magazine which are due to appear later in the year. Fiction-wise, of the novella I submitted in January, there’s no word. Perhaps with the current appetite for ‘grip-lit’, stories about two people overcoming misunderstandings to find their ‘happy ever after’ are out of favour? Whatever the reason, I’m more philosophical about the vagaries of publishing these days; I’m not going to give myself a headache trying to second-guess what ‘the market’ wants, but will continue to write what’s important to me.

March brings a new Llanelli Half Marathon, my tenth half marathon.  It’s raining - of course it is - but not too windy. I finish in 2:06:37, sixth in my class, a result I’m happy with.


It’s also time to scrub the boat and anti-foul in preparation for the new sailing season - where did that year go?


Yesterday, we enjoyed our fabulous Christmas present from Lily and Russ and Rose and Si; tickets to see Matthew Bourne’s stunning ballet ‘The Red Shoes’. We rounded off our day spending a couple of hours with Bee before her bath and bed-time. Never has one small person wrapped four adults so tightly round her little finger… but little does she know that competiton's on the way - the first of her new cousins (all being well) is due to arrive soon! 

Apropos nothing, other than a reminder to make the most of what we have, I really enjoyed reading Rebecca Rideal’s ‘1666: Plague, War and Hellfire’, a wonderfully vivid account of an extraordinary year. I still love the comfort of reading a few pages of nature writing before turning out the light, currently Robert Macfarlane’s ‘The Wild Places’, because I drift off to sleep feeling cosy. However, it’s Kate Gross’s words I keep hearing. Her ‘Late Fragments: Everything I Want to Tell You (About this Magnificent Life)’ is an oddly uplifting account of facing a terminal illness at far too young an age. She writes, ‘I shall end this by reminding you to put your superhero glasses on, to pay attention to the wonder all around you. To get your dodgy bottoms checked out. To always, always eat from your very best crockery, because where can we live but days?’

Friday, 17 February 2017

Guest Author Post: Kirsty Ferry

Kirsty Ferry
Today, I'm delighted to welcome fellow Choc Lit author, Kirsty Ferry to my blog to talk about her latest book, The Girl in the Photograph, the third in her Rossetti Mysteries series.  Here's Kirsty...

First of all, let me thank Chris for letting me invade her blog today. I know that Chris loves to write about beautiful homes and Interior Design, so in order to (hopefully) make this a bit more interesting than just the random ramblings of me as an author, I thought I’d talk about locations and, more specifically, the houses where two of my characters live.

I love doing research, and to me one of the most important things as I start a novel is to get an idea of the ‘personal space’ of a character. If I can’t imagine them in their house, then I might as well give up. After all, they’ve got to have a base, and as I have quite a cinematic mind, I like to imagine my people walking around, going to bed, making a cuppa, opening a bottle of wine… in short, doing all the things a human would usually do. I once got pulled up in a Masters Degree assignment by the tutor asking why I felt the need to identify all my characters with cake? My response (which was silent because I didn’t want to get into trouble) was, “why not?”

I suppose by deciding what someone likes to treat themselves with, is a similar thing to working out what makes a character tick. For instance Lissy, one of the characters who crops up in all three of my Rossetti Mysteries books, is simultaneously one of the most annoying and one of the most fun personalities I’ve ever explored. She lives in a lovely apartment in London, and to find her this house, I trawled though high-end estate agents’ websites and bolstered my ideas using Google Street View, until I finally found an apartment I could see her in – right down to the modern kitchen, the thick, cream carpets and the mezzanine floor. Lissy does like her champagne and is a bit of a fiend for chocolate biscuits – and my tutor would probably groan if she read that in the novel - but in The Girl in the Photograph, we also discover that Lissy is not averse to proper comfort food like family size bars of chocolate and indeed cake. So when I identified her with these habits, I immediately saw her in this lovely, modern kitchen with nothing out of place – but her chocolate biscuits are very easy to find in there, even though she pretends she’s bought them for her friends and not herself. Similarly, in The Girl in the Photograph, her ex-boyfriend knows her well enough to think he can win her back with biscuits, treats, and Fortnum and Mason’s Rose and Violet hot chocolate - which is a nod to the real girl beneath the slightly brittle, spoiled person she’s been in the first two books.

Lissy’s two friends, Becky and Cori on the other hand, find it impossible to have a very important conversation in Lissy’s pristine apartment, biscuits or no biscuits - so I had to take them outside, and into a nearby park – which suited both those girls much better, as they are both much more down to earth and live in much more of a muddle than Lissy. For The Girl in the Painting, I needed Cori to have a place in London too – and again by trawling estate agents (and accidentally clicking a button which generated a ‘chat’ with an agent before I screamed and quickly closed the browser down), I found a very beautiful Mews House which needed a little TLC. One comment I got back from someone who read the book pre-publication was rather scathing, as she said you’d never find a Mews House like I described in London – because she knew what the place was like and she knew all about Mews Houses…. I bit my tongue and kindly directed her to the estate agent’s website – so I could prove that yes, Cori’s house did exist, and yes, it was possible to get a place like that in London. The cushions and mismatched furniture that Cori loves so much are, however, her very own invention. I ended up discovering that, when I wrote about her.

In short, I put both Lissy and Cori in the houses I found for them, and before I knew it, they inhabited them, heart and soul. Which is why I love getting the location ‘right’ – because everything else just falls into place after that. And if you decide to give my novels a go, I hope that I have described the people and the houses well enough for you to imagine them as clearly as I did when I wrote about them. Characters have a terrible habit of taking over your imagination – so in my opinion, it’s nice to let them go ‘home’ at the end of the writing day!




The Girl in the Photograph

What if the past was trying to teach you a lesson?

Staying alone in the shadow of an abandoned manor house in Yorkshire would be madness to some, but art enthusiast Lissy de Luca can’t wait. Lissy has her reasons for seeking isolation, and she wants to study the Staithes Group – an artists’ commune active at the turn of the twentieth century.

Lissy is fascinated by the imposing Sea Scarr Hall – but the deeper she delves, the stranger things get. A lonely figure patrols the cove at night, whilst a hidden painting leads to a chilling realisation. And then there’s the photograph of the girl; so beautiful she could be a mermaid … and so familiar.

As Lissy further immerses herself, she comes to an eerie conclusion: The occupants of Sea Scarr Hall are long gone, but they have a message for her – and they’re going to make sure she gets it.

Biography

Kirsty is from the North East of England and won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition in 2009 with the ghostly tale 'Enchantment'.

Her timeslip novel, Some Veil Did Fall a paranormal romance set in Whitby, was published by Choc Lit in Autumn 2014. This was followed by another Choc Lit timeslip, The Girl in the Painting in February 2016 and The Girl in the Photograph in March 2017. The experience of signing Some Veil Did Fall in a quirky bookshop in the midst of Goth Weekend in Whitby, dressed as a recently undead person was one of the highlights of her writing career so far!

Kirsty’s day-job involves sharing a Georgian building with an eclectic collection of ghosts – which can sometimes prove rather interesting.

You can find out more about Kirsty and her work at www.rosethornpress.co.uk, catch her on her Facebook Author Page or follow her on Twitter @kirsty_ferry.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Buzzing About With Bee

On the train to Cardiff again!
February 1st sees me in Cardiff again where Lily and Bee have been struck down with a sickness bug. By Friday everyone’s on the mend so I come home, but on Monday Lily is so ill we’re all fearful of meningitis. To everyone’s relief, it’s ‘only’ a severe, acute sinus infection, but since Lily can’t even stand without feeling sick and dizzy, I dash down to help with the mini-hurricane that is twenty-month-old Bee.

Poor Bee has had a rotten winter with a series of horrible colds and a perforated eardrum which has temporarily affected her hearing, but not her ability to make herself understood. Just after 6 am Bee bursts in, thrilled to bits to find me on the futon in the guest room. What to do first? Empty Nana’s handbag, exclaiming with delight over every item or take Nana’s running shoes for a spin?




Bee’s not the type of child to sit passively in front of the TV, although she is partial to a bit of Teletubbies and Twirlywoos, so most of the time we play. We take it in turns to ride her teeny-tiny trike (yes, she’s insistent that Nana must have a fair go), we dive in and out of her teeny tent and when Bee can stand it inside no longer (she’s an outdoorsy girl), we go out exploring and greet every cat, dog, magpie, dustbin man (she’s great mates with the bin men) we meet along the way.



In the afternoon we have a little snuggle whilst Bee tucks into a box of Peppa Pig raisins. Duplo Peppa Pig is close to my hand so I can’t resist poking her snout in Bee’s raisins. ‘NO!’ Bee tells her, which amuses me greatly.

After more games, it’s tea, bath - with huge belly laughs from a very small person as she flings water over us - and then I put Bee to bed. She sits on my lap for a last cuddle and a cup of milk then I lay her in her cot and listen to her wriggling around getting comfortable before her breathing settles into soft baby snores. Being Nana doesn’t get much better than this.

My going-home present.  Apparently it's a fire collage.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Getting Started

A chilly wind’s prowling round the outside of the house today, tearing up anything that’s not firmly rooted and screeching through the thinnest of window gaps. I’m wearing three layers to stay warm; it’s taken both me and Tom the best part of three weeks to shake off one of the nastiest colds ever to strike so I’m doing my best to avoid a repeat performance. After the enforced slow start to the year, this is a flavour of what we’ve been up to.


We’re hoping that this year’s marmalade marathon will see us round to next January… but we say that every year.

Coming out of hibernation, we’ve been reminding ourselves of the fabulous beaches on our doorstep.


My next half marathon is only six weeks away so I’m gradually picking up the mileage. Last year, during the Poppit Sands Series, I met my awesome running buddy, Helen. We’re both busy women but try to do a long run together every couple of weeks. It’s great to have encouragement and support, especially on tough hill climbs.


I finally pressed ‘send’ on my latest novella - but not until it had been subject to Tom’s intense scrutiny… always a nerve-wracking time.


Now, I’m in the strange uncertain world of my next novel. Because of the way I work, always kicking off with a mental image, like a ‘still’ from a film, I spend a lot of time faffing around wondering who the heck these people are and where they’re going. However, my freelance feature work has taught me a lot about the evolution of every piece I write. After three novels, two novellas, numerous short stories, some poetry and a respectable body of feature articles, I’m hoping I’ve finally learned how to ride the highs and lows of the creative process. 12,000 words in, I know enough about the new novel to see that it’s a step away from my usual genre and I’m really excited to see how it will shape up. I’ve got started, now ‘all’ I have to do is keep going!


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Guest Author: Victoria Cornwall

This week it's my great pleasure to welcome a guest, fellow Choc Lit author Victoria Cornwall, whose debut novel, The Thief's Daughter is out now. I'm reading it at the moment and can thoroughly recommend it.  Here's Victoria to tell you about her novel the inspiration behind it.

Victoria Cornwall
Inspiration for a novel comes from many sources, a passing conversation, a newspaper article, a photograph, even an obituary. I suspect if you asked ten authors what inspired them to write their book you would get ten different answers. For me, a novel often begins with a location, whether it is a house, place or room and my debut novel with Choc Lit, The Thief’s Daughter, was no different. Although at the time I was a little breathless and in need of a drink!

For many years I have attempted to walk the Cornish coastal path. Unfortunately, the lack of time, rather than a lack of desire, has meant I have only completed a quarter of the 296 miles so far. During one walking session, I came across a very narrow, oddly named inlet called Pepper Cove. Its name was a clue to its murky past, as in times gone by it had been used as a drop-off point for smuggled spices.

Victoria walking the Cornish coastal path

I wasn’t surprised that it had been used for smuggling. Smuggling was rife in many parts of England during the 18th and early 19th century, when taxes were high, the coastline was poorly guarded and poverty-stricken communities were driven to earn money in any way they could. Cornwall was no exception, and its numerous miles of coastline meant there were many landing places to take advantage of the disorganisation of the establishment. At one point, it was said that more goods were smuggled into England than arrived by legitimate routes.


Pepper Cove
Pepper Cove spurred me on to research more and the characters of Jenna and Jack slowly emerged when I learned the true extent of the smuggling trade and the environment that helped it to run out of control.

The Thief’s Daughter is set in 18th century debt ridden England. The Bloody Code threatens all with the hangman’s noose, whilst corrupt thief-takers thrive. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers.

Jenna grew up in a family of thieves, but has always resolved to be good. However, when her brother, Silas, asks her to pay his creditors and secure his freedom from the debtor’s prison, Jenna feels unable to refuse and promises to help in any way she can.

Jack Penhale is drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre. As they discover each other’s secrets, they learn their lives are more entangled than they first thought.

As the line between housekeeper and employer becomes blurred, love and loyalty are tested to the limit, while her blood tie tries to tear them apart.





Website: www.victoriacornwall.com
Twitter: @VickieCornwall
Facebook: www.facebook.com/victoriacornwall.author
Instagram: www.instagram.com/victoria_cornwallx
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